Australian Marian Academy of the Immaculate Conception

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King Chilperic I a ‘Nero and Herod’

Published April 22, 2018 by amaic

Image result for chilperic I


Damien F. Mackey



“Gregory calls him “the Nero and Herod of our time,” and loads him with abuse. He ridicules his poems, and according to his own story overwhelms him with an avalanche of contempt …”.

Ernest Brehaut



King Chilperic I lived (according to the conventional view) from c. 539 – 584 AD, and was said to have been a Merovingian king of Soissons.

Gregory of Tours (considered to have been the king’s contemporary), called Chilperic the Nero and the Herod of his age.


And according to the following site, King Chilperic was an early ‘gangster’:


Chilperic: The Original Gangsta’


Chilperic, the “Nero and Herod of our time” as quoted by Gregory of Tours, was the king of Soissons from 561 until his assassination in 584, an event Gregory seems to cherish, as it ended the reign of “this wicked man”. Gregory’s description of him is very unfavourable throughout the book. From the onset, Chilperic is described as a greedy man who inherited his late father’s treasury, and bribed all the prominent Franks to his side. (IV. 21) He also lusted after women, as he asked for the hand of Galswinth, the sister of his brother’s wife, even though he had a number of wives. He told his messengers to inform the people that he had gotten rid of the other wives, in order for him to marry someone with his own ranking, and with a large dowry. He went back and forth between Galswinth and his other trophy wife Fredegund, before ultimately choosing Galswinth. Ultimately, Galswinth died and within a couple of days, he was asking Fredegund to sleep with him again, and there was strong suspicion he killed Galswinth. (IV 27-8) He charged outrageous taxes for people under his control, and felt no contempt for the poor, rather burdened them with more debt, and banned them from the churches. (VI.46)

Chilperic was also described by Gregory of Tours as being a man of uncontrollable rage and violence. He burned much of the districts around Tours, and marched on Rheims burning and destroying almost everything in his path. (IV. 47) When his brother Sigibert was killed, Sigila, who was associated with Sigibert’s death was captured by King Chilperic was burned by red hot pincers, and had his limbs torn limb by limb. (IV. 51) Obviously not trying to win a father of the year award, Chilperic had his son Clovis stabbed to death, had his wife Fredegund brutally murdered, and had his daughter thrown into a monastery. (V.1 ) And the woman who testified against Clovis was burnt alive. People who attempted to desert his city would be cut down and slaughtered by the thousands, and he even poked out people’s eyes for disobedience. In an exceedingly cruel act, Leudast, a man who had fallen on the King’s bad side, and was not allowed to take residence in the city, had his scalp chopped off. Still alive, Chilperic ordered that he receive medical attention until he healed, and then would be tortured to death, done by having a block of wood wedged behind his back while being bludgeoned to death by being repeatedly hit in the throat by another block of wood. (V1.32)

Chilperic was also described as an intolerant man, as he forbade his son Merovich from seeing Sigibert’s widowed wife, whom the King had banished to the city of Rouen and stole her treasure. When they refused to come out of church, Chilperic lied to them in order for them to come out, and took his son home with him, refusing the two to coalesce. When he still chose to defile his fathers wishes, Chilperic had his son held in exile in a narrow, roofless tower for two years. After these two years, Merovich was forced to become a priest and sent to live in a monastery. Merovich decided to take his life rather than allow his father to constantly dominate his life, so he had his friend Gailen kill him. In retaliation, Gailen was taken by Chilperic and had his hands, feet, ears and nose cut off, and was tortured to death. Anyone who was associated with Merovich were also tortured to death. (V1-18)

One aspect of judgement that Gregory of Tours holds against Chilperic is in regards to religion. Chilperic attacked and destroyed churches along the way, and made a mockery of the Lord. He even argued Gregory’s religious views by stating to him that there should be no distinctions of Persons in the Holy Trinity. For him, they should all be referred to as God, as if he was a Person, and the Holy Ghost, Father, and Son were one. Gregory of Tours viciously debated his assertion, stating that anyone who agreed with Chilperic would be a fool. Chilperic even begged to the Bishop of Albi to believe his views. (V.44) Gregory of Tours dislike of Chilperic also stems from the fact that the King accused him of levelling wild accusations about his wife. Gregory shows that his judgements of Chilperic are due to the fact that he has been a victim of the Kings outrage. (V.49) Chilperic eventually turned towards Gregory and asked for a blessing to be performed on him. This newfound religious aspect, moved Chilperic to convert a great number of Jews to be baptized, and even carried out a number of baptisms. However, many “converted” Jews resorted to their old faith. He even gave to the churches, and the poor in an effort to show good grace. (V.34)

Overall, by bestowing the unfortunate name of “Nero and Herod” of our time, Gregory of Tours is claiming that King Chilperic was an evil, demonic tyrant, who lusted for power, and reviled in torturing others. His standard of judgement is being a victim himself of Chilperic’s outrage, and having witnessed grave atrocities. Personally, I see a direct link between Chilperic and a later tyrant, and the first tsar of Russia, Ivan Grozny. Ivan IV was a man similar in many ways, in that he had numerous wives, some whom strangely disappeared, but lusted after one in specific, Anastasia Romanov. More than that, he was a man who disliked the woman whom his son was dating, beat her until she had a miscarriage, and murdered his own son “accidentally”. He even set up the “oprichnina” and had thousands of fleeing citizens to Novgorod cut down and massacred. He was fascinated by torture, and seeing others in grave pain. Much like Chilperic, he would remove people’s eyes, much like he did with the two architects who made a beautiful church monument that outshone all others, and Ivan even found religion later on in life. Aside from my ramblings about similarities, overall I think Chilperic was a brutal man, who committed many acts of greed, gluttony and death, in order to elevate his status, and force obedience from other people. Too call him Nero is a very harsh comparison, but by looking at many of his acts, including the murder of Leudast, it may be deserved, as he was a man not afraid to torture, maim, and kill for his own personal enjoyment. Overall, Gregory is correct in looking down upon Chilperic, as he was a bad man.


Finally, Ernest Brehaut (1916) has designated king Chilperic I “the forerunner of the secular state in France”:


Gregory calls him “the Nero and Herod of our time,” and loads him with abuse. He ridicules his poems, and according to his own story overwhelms him with an avalanche of contempt when he ventures to state some new opinions on the Trinity. The significant thing about Chilperic was this, that he had at this time the independence of mind to make such a criticism, as well as the hard temper necessary to fight the bishops successfully. “In his reign,” Gregory tells us, “very few of the clergy reached the office of bishop.” Chilperic used often to say: “Behold our treasury has remained poor, our wealth has been transferred to the churches; there is no king but the bishops; my office has perished and passed over to the bishops of the cities.” [note: see p. 166 (Book VI: 46)] Chilperic was thus the forerunner of the secular state in France. ….



Gamaliel and Nicodemus

Published April 18, 2018 by amaic
Image result for sts gamaliel and nicodemus


 Damien F. Mackey



“According to tradition, Gamaliel and Nicodemus

buried Saint Stephen outside … Jerusalem”.

 Dr Taylor Marshall



According to Orthodox tradition, Nicodemus and Gamaliel were saints, and were very closely connected. Thus, for example, we read at:


Finding of the relics of the Righteous St Nicodemus

Commemorated on August 2


Saint Nicodemus was a prominent Pharisee who believed in Christ. The Savior explained to him how man is regenerated through Baptism, but he did not understand how a man could be born again. When the Lord reproved him for his ignorance, he accepted it with humility (John 3:1-21).


Nicodemus came back to Christ from time to time, defended Him to the Pharisees (John 7:50-52), and brought spices to anoint His body (John 19:39). After being cast out of the synagogue for his belief in Christ, Saint Nicodemus went to live with Saint Gamaliel at his country house, remaining there until his death.


The relics of Saints Stephen, Gamaliel, Abibas, and Nicodemus were transferred from Jerusalem to Constantinople in 428 and placed in the church of the holy deacon Laurence (August 10). ….


“Saint Nicodemus went to live with Saint Gamaliel at his country house, remaining there until his death”.


I want to suggest now the possibility that Gamaliel was Nicodemus.

In common here was:


  • a perfect contemporaneity;
  • strict Pharisaïsm;
  • membership of Sanhedrin;
  • upholder of law and legal method;
  • being a teacher in Israel;
  • somewhat secretive or cautious;
  • a degree of sympathy to the Way of Christ;
  • a burier of the (Christian) dead.


The scripturally better-known Nicodemus emerges as a secretive follower of Jesus Christ, whose body he helps bury. Gamaliel, “an advocate of the nascent congregation of Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem and is called “a Pharisee, a teacher of the Law, held in honor by all the people”” (see below), comes across as being extremely cautious and measured, he having given the Sanhedrin an account of (i) John the Baptist (according to my):


Gamaliel’s ‘Theudas’ as John the Baptist

an account of (ii) Judas Maccabeus (according to my):


Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part Two: Gamaliel’s feeble account of Judas

each of which descriptions I personally would describe as being a feeble and uninspiring understatement.


Dr Taylor Marshall has also written about Gamaliel and Nicodemus together:



In my new book The Catholic Perspective on Paul, I discuss the Catholic tradition that Gamaliel of the Jewish Sanhedrin in the book of Acts is accounted by the Catholic Church as a Catholic saint. He is listed in the Roman Martyrology as a saint to be exact. ….

Let me just say that this Catholic tradition is important when study Saint Paul since Paul studied under Gamaliel.

Related to this topic is today’s forgotten memorial of the discovery of Saint Stephen’s relics. Our wonderful parish priest Father Phil Wolfe, FSSP discussed this tradition in his homily at Holy Mass.

According to tradition, Gamaliel and Nicodemus buried Saint Stephen outside of Jerusalem. The soul of Saint Gamaliel appeared to the presbyter Lucian in AD 415 and told him where to find the relics of Stephen and those of his own body. The relics were found on 3 August AD 415. The relics of Saint Stephen were translated several months later to Jerusalem proper on 26 December AD 415 – which is why we celebrate the feast of Stephen on the day after Christmas.

Just in case you think I’m crazy, it’s even attested to by Saint Augustine, who lived at this time.

Here’s the traditional account:


THIS SECOND festival (August 3), in honour of the holy protomartyr St. Stephen, was instituted by the church on the occasion of the discovery of his precious remains.

In the year 415, in the tenth consulship of Honorius, and the sixth of Theodosius the Younger, on Friday the 3d of December, about nine o’ clock at night, Lucian was sleeping in his bed, in the baptistery, where he commonly lay, in order to guard the sacred vessels of the church. Being half awake, he saw a tall comely old man of a venerable aspect, with a long white beard, clothed in a white garment, edged with small plates of gold, marked with crosses, and holding a golden wand in his hand. This person approached Lucian, and calling him thrice by his name, bid him go to Jerusalem, and tell bishop John to come and open the tombs in which his remains, and those of certain other servants of Christ lay, that through their means God might open to many the gates of his clemency. Lucian asked his name? “I am,” said he, “Gamaliel, who instructed Paul the apostle in the law; and on the east side of the monument lieth Stephen who was stoned by the Jews without the north gate. His body was left there exposed one day and one night; but was not touched by birds or beasts. I exhorted the faithful to carry it off in the night-time, which when they had done, I caused it to be carried secretly to my house in the country, where I celebrated his funeral rites forty days, and then caused his body to be laid in my own tomb to the eastward. Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night, lieth there in another coffin. He was excommunicated by the Jews for following Christ, and banished out of Jerusalem. Whereupon I received him into my house in the country, and there maintained him to the end of his life; after his death I buried him honourably near Stephen. I likewise buried there my son Abibas, who died before me at the age of twenty years. His body is in the third coffin which stands higher up, where I myself was also interred after my death. My wife Ethna, and my eldest son Semelias, who were not willing to embrace the faith of Christ, were buried in another ground, called Capharsemalia.” Lucian, fearing to pass for an impostor if he was too credulous, prayed, that if the vision was from God, he might be favoured with it a second and a third time; and he continued to fast on bread and water. On the Friday following Gamaliel appeared again to him in the same form as before, and commanded him to obey. As emblems of the relics he brought and showed Lucian four baskets, three of gold and one of silver. The golden baskets were full of roses; two of white and one of red roses; the silver basket was full of saffron of a most delicious smell. Lucian asked what these were? Gamaliel said: “They are our relics. The red roses represent Stephen, who lieth at the entrance of the sepulchre; the second basket Nicodemus, who is near the door; the silver basket represents my son Abibas, who departed this life without stain; his basket is contiguous to mine.” Having said this he disappeared. Lucian then awaked, gave thanks to God, and continued his fasts. In the third week, on the same day, and at the same hour, Gamaliel appeared again to him, and with threats upbraided him with his neglect, adding, that the drought which then afflicted the world, would be removed only by his obedience, and the discovery of their relics. Lucian being now terrified, promised he would no longer defer it.

After this last vision, he repaired to Jerusalem, and laid the whole affair before bishop John, who wept for joy, and bid him go and search for the relics, which the bishop concluded would be found under a heap of small stones, which lay in a field near his church. Lucian said he imagined the same thing, and returning to his borough, summoned the inhabitants to meet the next day in the morning, in order to search under the heap of stones. As Lucian was going the morning following to see the place dug up, he was met by Migetius, a monk of a pure and holy life, who told him, that Gamaliel had appeared to him, and bade him inform Lucian that they laboured in vain in that place. “We were laid there,” said he, “at the time of our funeral obsequies, according to the ancient custom; and that heap of stones was a mark of the mourning of our friends. Search elsewhere, in a place called Debatalia. In effect,” said Migetius, continuing the relation of his vision, “I found myself on a sudden in the same field, where I saw a neglected ruinous tomb, and in it three beds adorned with gold; in one of them more elevated than the others, lay two men, an old man and a young one, and one in each of the other beds.” Lucian having heard Migetius’s report, praised God for having another witness of his revelation, and having removed to no purpose the heap of stones, went to the other place. In digging up the earth here three coffins or chests were found, as above mentioned, whereon were engraved these words in very large characters: Cheliel, Nasuam, Gamaliel, Abibas. The two first are the Syriac names of Stephen, or crowned, and Nicodemus, or victory of the people. Lucian sent immediately to acquaint bishop John with this. He was then at the council of Diospolis, and taking along with him Eutonius, bishop of Sebaste, and Eleutherius, bishop of Jericho, came to the place. Upon the opening of St. Stephen’s coffin the earth shook, and there came out of the coffin such an agreeable odour, that no one remembered to have ever smelt any thing like it. There was a vast multitude of people assembled in that place, among whom were many persons afflicted with divers distempers; of whom seventy-three recovered their health upon the spot. Some were freed from evil spirits, others cured of scrophulous tumours of various kinds, others of fevers, fistulas, the bloody flux, the falling sickness, head-aches, and pains in the bowels. They kissed the holy relics, and then shut them up. The bishop claimed those of St. Stephen for the church of Jerusalem, of which he had been deacon; the rest were left at Caphargamala. The protomartyr’s body was reduced to dust, excepting the bones, which were whole, and in their natural situation. The bishop consented to leave a small portion of them at Caphargamala; the rest were carried in the coffin with singing of psalms and hymns to the church of Sion at Jerusalem. At the time of this translation there fell a great deal of rain, which refreshed the country after a long drought. The translation was performed on the 26th of December, on which day the church hath ever since honoured the memory of St. Stephen, commemorating the discovery of his relics on the 3rd of August, probably on account of the dedication of some church in honour of St. Stephen, perhaps that of Ancona. 1 The history of this miraculous discovery and translation, written by Lucian himself, and translated into Latin by Avitus, a Spanish priest, (native of Braga, then living at Jerusalem, an intimate friend of St. Jerom,) is published by the Benedictin monks in the appendix to the seventh tome of the works of St. Austin. This account is also attested by Chrysippus, an eminent and holy priest of the church of Jerusalem; (whose virtue is highly commended by the judicious author of the life of St. Euthymius;) by Idatius and Marcellinus in their chronicles; by Basil bishop of Seleucia, St. Austin, 2 Bede, &c. It is mentioned by most of the historians, and in the sermons of the principal fathers of that age. St. Stephen’s body remained in the church of Sion till the empress Eudocia, wife of Theodosius the Younger, going a second time to Jerusalem in 444, built a stately church to God in his honour, about a furlong from the city, near the spot where he was stoned to death, into which she procured his body to be translated, and in which she was buried herself after her death, in 461. St. Austin 3 speaking of the miracles of St. Stephen, addresses himself to his flock as follows: “Let us so desire to obtain temporal blessings by his intercession, that we may merit in imitating him those which are eternal.”

Our corporal necessities were not the motive which drew our omnipotent Physician down from heaven, but the spiritual miseries of our souls. In his mortal life he restored many sick to their health, and delivered demoniacs, to give men a sensible proof of his divine power, and for an emblem that he came to relieve the spiritual miseries of our souls, and to put an end to the empire of the devil over them. In like manner, when through his servants he has bestowed corporal blessings on men, he excites our confidence in his mercy to ask through their intercession his invisible graces. We ought to pray for our daily bread, or all necessary supplies of our bodily necessities; but should make these petitions subordinate to the great end of our sanctification, and his divine honour, offering them under this condition, as we know not in temporal blessings what is most expedient for us. God offers us his grace, his love, himself: him we must make the great and ultimate end of all our requests to him. If some rich prince should engage himself to grant us whatever we should ask, it would be putting an affront upon him, if we confined our petition to pins or such trifles, as St. Teresa remarks.



David Flusser also links:

Gamaliel and Nicodemus


The Pharisee Gamaliel is mentioned twice in the New Testament (Acts 5:34; 22:3). In Acts 5:34 he appears as an advocate of the nascent congregation of Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem and is called “a Pharisee, a teacher of the Law, held in honor by all the people.” Then, in Acts 22:3, Paul says that he was “brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel.” Indeed, Gamaliel was an important spiritual leader of the Pharisees and a Jewish scholar. He also is well known from Jewish sources.


The Pharisees were one of the three main Jewish parties in the first century: the Pharisees (the Jewish sages); the Sadducees (a small but mighty party of high priests, rationalists who “say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit,” Acts 23:8); and the Essenes (a sect whose writings are the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered beginning in 1947).

If we want to understand Gamaliel’s defense of the Apostles, we have to know the political implications of Jesus’ trial. The Apostles were arrested by the “high priest and all who were with him, that is, the party of the Sadducees” (Acts 5:17-18). The Temple guard brought the Apostles before the Sanhedrin “without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people” (Acts 5:26). Evidently the Sadducees knew that the sympathy of the Jewish people in Jerusalem was on the side of Jesus’ movement of disciples. When finally the Apostles were brought before the council, the high priest questioned them, saying: “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (Acts 5:27-28).


The Apostles, preaching the gospel in Jerusalem, could not avoid mentioning the active role of the Sadducean high priest in the trial of Jesus, which led to Jesus’ crucifixion. Indeed, when we read the Gospels, we see that the high priests were the main instigators of Jesus’ death. One of the aims of Jesus’ last visit to Jerusalem was to sound a note of warning about the future destruction of the Temple: Jesus did not accuse the Romans, but the Sadducees, whose source of power was their rule over the Temple. The Sadducean high priests were not loved by the people. They were a small, aristocratic and wealthy party of high priests. Therefore, they were very nervous about Jesus’ prophecy of doom, since the people, who did not love them, were in this point on Jesus’ side: “all the people hung upon his words” (Luke 19:48). ….



It is unlikely, I think, that there were actually two contemporary Sanhedrin teachers of Israel of such similar descriptions, and so I would look to fuse Gamaliel and Nicodemus into one.

Gamaliel’s ‘Theudas’ as John the Baptist

Published April 18, 2018 by amaic
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Damien F. Mackey


‘For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and nothing came of it’.

Acts 5:36


How to fit in this “Theudas”?

Rabbi Gamaliel refers in quick succession, in Acts 5:36 and 5:37, to two people in the past who had risen up in Israel and had attracted a significant following, but each of whom were killed, and their followers dispersed.

The second mentioned of these two was “Judas the Galilean” – whom I have identified with the great Judas Maccabee, thus giving me cause to refer to what I considered to be “Gamaliel’s feeble account of Judas”.

The first mentioned by Gamaliel was one “Theudas”, who had emerged supposedly earlier than “Judas the Galilean”. The Greek of Acts 5:37 leads in with μετὰ τοῦτον, which is reasonably translated as “after him”, “after this man” (namely, after Theudas).

This would place Theudas historically before the “census” at the time of Judas.

The problem is that the only known Theudas who had caused a stir in Israel was located by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus to a time significantly later than that of Judas the Galilean. Tim Claason describes what he calls:

Theudas And His Problem

According to the 1st century Jewish-Roman historian Josephus, Theudas was a messianic claimant who instructed his “deluded” followers to take all their possessions and follow him to the Jordan River, where he would divide the River, presumably to provide passage across it; one might speculate that there was a ritual attached to this process, particularly considering Josephus’ characterization of Theudas, namely that he was a magician and charlatan (Antiquities 20).

Theudas’ following must have been large enough, or his message poignant enough, to attract the attention of the governor at the time, Cuspius Fadus, because Fadus ordered a group of soldiers to attack and kill Theudas’ followers. As for Theudas, he was beheaded, and his remains were paraded around Jerusalem, further amplifying his significance – after all, the decapitated head of an insignificant nobody serves no purpose except to stink up the room, but the decapitated head of an important adversary would have more impact, especially in Jerusalem – the Jewish social, economic, and religious epicenter of the day.


When Theudas came on the scene, sometime within 2 years of Fadus’ crackdown in 44CE, it was in the aftermath, or at least the context, of this reform. It would have been clear to citizens that violent swindle would not be taken lightly under Fadus; perhaps it was in this context that Theudas’ scam was born. Instead of armed robbery, Theudas made promises to his followers, or employed sum magic trick to make it seem he was dividing the Jordan River (my personal speculation is that it was the dry season, and Theudas had an elaborate scheme to temporarily dam water flow). The prerequisite for Theudas’ followers was probably monetary, as he convinced them to bring their possessions with them.

Consider this detail in light of Matthew 19:21:

Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give

to the poor,and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come,follow Me.”

Josephus is vague about what explicit crime Theudas committed, except to say that he implied Theudas was scamming people. The religious undertones, notably the mention of dividing the river, coupled with his congregation of followers and the mystical associations must have concerned Fadus, given increasing tensions between Rome and the area Jews; a messiah would have been problematic for the Romans, because it would have given people a rallying point. Clearly, Theudas was a threat. ….


To Jesus defenders (which is to say, practically everyone), assuming they know anything at all about this Jordanian charlatan (they probably don’t), Theudas is an anomaly – a one-off parallel who means nothing to anyone except those combing through obscure Josephus passages looking for kinks in the impervious Jesus armor. Nothing to see here folks.

Yet, if one is so emboldened to pursue this insignificant, irrelevant anomaly, one finds much curiosity.  For example, Acts of the Apostles 5:36 resurrects Josephus’ anecdote in order to castigate Theudas, who post-dated the supposed narrator Gamaliel in Acts 5 (Acts 5 was supposedly based 7 years prior to Theudas).

Once Acts’ author, via his re-crafted version of Gamaliel, completed the polemic against Theudas, he turned his attention to the subsequent radical, Judas of Galilee, who in reality died nearly 40 years earlier than Theudas, thus creating the infamous Theudas Problem.

Some time ago Theudas appeared…After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt.

The choice consumers have regarding this timeline dilemma is to either admit Acts copied Josephus’ Antiquities (Josephus mentioned Judas after Theudas in Antiquities 20, despite acknowledging Judas preceded Theudas), or to invent another lie, that Acts was referring to a different Theudas … or a different Judas. Considering the author locked himself into Judas being active around the time of the census (which he was), the more economical lie is that there must have been some other Theudas.

Honest traversal of this data compels one to admit the most self-evident conclusion is that Acts indeed copied Josephus, and this was simply a quality assurance failure on the part of Acts’ author(s).

Life would be simpler if, at this point, we could simply stick a fork in Theudas, and call the matter done; however, this Theudas shows up again, in the same timeframe, in Clement of Alexandria’s Stromateis 7.17:

Likewise they allege that Valentinus was a hearer of Theudas. And he was the pupil of Paul. For Marcion, who arose in the same age with them, lived as an old man with the younger [heretics]. And after him Simon heard for a little the preaching of Peter

I puzzled over this passage for some time, because it implied that Paul’s Theudas was nearly contemporary to Josephus’ Theudas. Of course, these two men could be completely different people, but given Acts’ need to specifically call out Theudas as some two-bit impostor, I don’t think so. The fact that Clement built an explicit bridge between Theudas and the heretics is also noteworthy.

My original point of curiosity here is that Clement places Simon Magus after Marcion.  No other tradition creates such a chronology.

There are many possibilities here for why (or whether) Clement believed this chronology, but the most economical solution is that Clement committed a simple error in his reconstruction of chronology.

But how incorrect was Clement?  My speculation is that Clement committed more than one error here.

Specifically, I believe Theudas was not a hearer of Paul; Paul was a hearer of Theudas! ….


What to make of all this?

Did the writer of Acts 5 get his history all wrong and upside down?

And who exactly was this enigmatic Theudas?


“The parallel between this story and the New Testament is obvious; Theudas resembles John the Baptist in consequential ways – not just in geography, prophesy, or the notable reference to dividing of the Jordan River (perhaps a reference to Joshua 3:15-17), but also in the celebration accompanying his beheading”.

Tim Claason

Whilst Flavius Josephus has made a mess of the subject of Theudas, in my opinion – (we read earlier: “Josephus is vague about what explicit crime Theudas committed …”) – I do not think that the author of Acts 5 has confused the issue.

But I do believe that Acts 5:37 needs an amended translation.

Instead of Judas the Galilean coming “after him [Theudas]”, the μετὰ in μετὰ τοῦτον can be amended to read the equally permissible (if perhaps less common), “besides”.

Thus, “besides him”, or, “as well as [Theudas]”, there was “Judas the Galilean”.

That way, Theudas does not have to have pre-dated “Judas the Galilean”.

There is nothing to indicate from Acts 5:36 that this Theudas was a revolutionary.

All that we know about Theudas from the taciturn (in the cases of vv. 36 and 37, at least) Gamaliel is that:

a while back;

a Theudas;

who claimed to be somebody;

drew 400 followers;

but was killed.

Now this description, overall, could apply to John the Baptist.

He was of recent memory.

He may have had, like other Jews, a Greek name as well – in this case, Theodotus (= Theudas).

Though John never big-noted himself, he did claim to be a one whom Isaiah had foretold (John 1:23): “John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.'””

Though we learn that (Matthew 3:5): “People went out to [John] from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan”, the Baptist would have had his own smaller band of disciples as well – 400 seems to be a reasonable figure for this.

He “was killed” (by beheading).

Josephus confirms that Theudas was a “prophet”, but also calls him a “magician”.

Tim Claason has made a connection between Theudas and the dubious (for him) Baptist:

The parallel between this story and the New Testament is obvious; Theudas resembles John the Baptist in consequential ways – not just in geography, prophesy, or the notable reference to dividing of the Jordan River (perhaps a reference to Joshua 3:15-17), but also in the celebration accompanying his beheading.

Could Theudas be part of the inspiration for a more fictionalized Gospel character? Or does he provide insight into a raw and unsanitized version of pre-Orthodox Christianity? ….

Regarding the name, “Theudas”, we read at:

At the time there was a prevalence for having both a Greek AND a Hebrew name, with the Greek name having the same or very similar meaning as the Hebrew. This pattern shows up in the Jerusalem ossuaries and the ‘Goliath’ family in Jericho [e.g. ‘Theodorus’ (gk) for ‘Nathanel’ (hb)]. With this in mind, ‘Theudas’ could be Greek for a wide range of Hebrew names: Jonathan, Nathanael, Mattathias, Hananias, Jehohanan, etc. In one case, the synagogue ruler in Ophel was listed under his alternate Greek name “Theodotus”. ….

“’Theudas’ could be Greek for a wide range of Hebrew names: … Jehohanan”.

Now Jehohanan (var. Johanan) is Hebrew for John.


Pompey the Great: ‘Roman Alexander’?

Published April 7, 2018 by amaic
Image result for pompey the great


 Damien F. Mackey


Conventional ancient Roman history/chronology needs to be subjected to revisionist scrutiny just as we found to have been the case with ancient Egypt and the Near East. This article will be a continuation of efforts towards trying to determine whether the seemingly impregnable fortress of conventional ancient Roman history is firmly based, or if it, too, might be susceptible to breaches when revisionist pressure is applied.



My three-part series:


Jesus Christ was the Model for some legends surrounding Julius Caesar

found me arriving at the conclusion that the renowned ‘Julius Caesar’ was largely – if not entirely – a composite figure, based upon, among others, Jesus Christ; Alexander the Great; and Octavius (Augustus).


My revision (based on the efforts of many) has already successfully undertaken some necessary folding of Egyptian and Mesopotamian history.

For respective examples of this, see my:


Egypt’s Old and Middle Kingdoms Far Closer in Time than Conventionally Thought



Bringing New Order to Mesopotamian History and Chronology

Apart from the inestimable benefit of getting rid of the artificial ‘Dark Ages’ – P. James et al., Centuries of Darkness, being a leader in the field here – such revisionism can serve to make more realistic certain ancient genealogies. For instance, it was found that the conventional Egyptian history, in the case of some detailed genealogies of officials serving a string of named pharaohs, ends up with a whole lot of octogenarian persons, or older, still actively functioning in office. Similarly does the received Roman Imperial chronology create aged but still active characters: e.g. John the Evangelist, in his 90’s (according to a tradition) vigorously chasing a young man on horseback; Yohanan ben Zakkai still going at 120 (highly unlikely), straddling the supposedly two Jewish Revolts.


Now, reverting back to the Roman Republican period again, I turn to a brief consideration of Julius Caesar’s famous contemporary and fellow triumvir, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, or, as we know him better, Pompey ‘the Great’.


Is Pompey also a composite?


If there is any value in the conclusions that I reached about ‘Julius Caesar’ in my series, “Jesus Christ was the Model for some legends surrounding Julius Caesar”, then that, I believe, must put extreme pressure on the validity of ‘Pompey the Great’ himself, Caesar’s fellow triumvir (along with Crassus). More especially so as Pompey, too, like Julius Caesar, was – as we shall shortly learn – likened to Alexander the Great – Pompey perhaps even more explicitly so than Caesar was.

Fields tells of it in Warlords of Republican Rome. Caesar versus Pompey (2008, p. 67):


Meteoric Rise


His flatterers, so it was said, likened Pompey to Alexander the Great, and whether because of this or not, the Macedonian king would appear to have been constantly in his mind. His respect for the fairer sex is comparable with Alexander’s, and Plutarch mentions that when the concubines of Mithridates were brought to him he merely restored them to their parents and families. …. Similarly he treated the corpse of Mithridates in a kingly way, as Alexander treated the corpse of Dareios, and ‘provided for the expenses of the funeral and directed that the remains should receive royal interment’. …. Also, like Alexander, he founded many cities and repaired many damaged towns, searched for the ocean that was thought to surround the world, and rewarded his soldiers munificently. Finally, Appian adds that in his third triumph he was said to have worn ‘a cloak of Alexander the Great’. ….


It is interesting to learn that the original name of Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’, who, like Pompey, would desecrate the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem, was likewise “Mithridates” (


And (p. 98):


In a sense Pompey personified Roman imperialism, where absolute destruction was followed by the construction of stable empire and the rule of law. It also, not coincidentally, raised him to a pinnacle of glory and wealth. The client–rulers who swelled the train of Rome also swelled his own. He received extraordinary honours from the communities of the east, as ‘saviour and benefactor of the People and of all Asia, guardian of land and sea’. …. There was an obvious precedent for all this. As the elder Pliny later wrote, Pompey’s victories ‘equalled in brilliance the exploits of Alexander the Great’. Without a doubt, so Pliny continues, the proudest boast of our ‘Roman Alexander’ would be that ‘he found Asia on the rim of Rome’s possessions, and left it in the centre’. ….


Pompey is even supposed to have gone so far as to have tried to emulate Alexander’s distinctive appearance:


The marble bust of Pompey is in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (Copenhagen). Its somewhat incongruous appearance, the round face and small lidded eyes beneath the leonine mane of hair, is because Pompey, the most powerful Roman of his day, sought a comparison with Alexander the Great, whose distinctive portraits were characterized by a thoughtful facial expression and, more iconographically, locks of hair brushed back high from the forehead, a stylistic form known as anastole, from the Greek “to put back.”


Did Pompey absorb – like I argued may have been the case with Julius Caesar – not only Alexander-like characteristics, but also general Hellenistic ones?

And might that mean that the famous event of Pompey’s desecration (by his presence therein) of the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem, supposedly in 63 BC:


The capture of the Temple mount was accompanied by great slaughter. The priests who were officiating despite the battle were massacred by the Roman soldiers, and many committed suicide; while 12,000 people besides were killed. Pompey himself entered the Temple, but he was so awed by its sanctity that he left the treasure and the costly vessels untouched (“Ant.” xiv. 4, § 4; “B. J.” i. 7, § 6; Cicero, “Pro Flacco,” § 67). The leaders of the war party were executed, and the city and country were laid under tribute. A deadly blow was struck at the Jews when Pompey separated from Judea the coast cities from Raphia to Dora, as well as all the Hellenic cities in the east-Jordan country, and the so-called Decapolis, besides Scythopolis and Samaria, all of which were incorporated in the new province of Syria. ….


may be in fact a muddled version of that real historical incident when Antiochus (Mithridates) ‘Epiphanes’ most infamously desecrated the Temple by erecting an image of Zeus in his own likeness on the altar?



Part Two:

Republic spilling into Empire


What a complete mess is conventional ancient history! Kingdoms, dynasties and rulers duplicated, or triplicated. History and culture having a “strange afterglow” centuries later. Impossible “Dark “Ages” procrusteanising time periods by extension. BC characters and events mysteriously projected into AD ‘time’. 

And, in this case, the Roman Republic flopping over into its Empire.


Dolly Parton put it well: It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it” (9 to 5).


There is that strange re-duplication, about 60 years later, of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome. But it seems that the history books also ‘know’ of a ‘third’ bloody capture of Jerusalem in Roman history – one which is thought, however, to have preceded the other supposedly two assaults by Rome in the Neronic and Hadrianic (so-called) imperial eras. It is considered to have occurred in Republican times, in 63 BC, when Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey ‘the Great’), one time ally of Julius Caesar, captured Jerusalem and killed 12,000 Jews. This is quite a massive event, to say the least, yet it is often mentioned only in passing. See my article:


Pompey the Great: ‘Roman Alexander’?


Strange that it is nowhere referred to in the Bible.

Hence, I suspect that there also needs to be a folding of some Roman Republican history with early Roman Imperial history. There was, for example:


  • a Pompey the Great (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus) also at the time of Caligula (see A. Barrett, Caligula – the Corruption of Power, p. 237) about a century after (presumably) the Republican Pompey. And there was then also a
  • Marcus Crassus; the same name as the ‘earlier’ Pompey’s fellow consul (see Mackay, p. 135). Moreover, Caligula may have been murdered by a
  • Cassius Longinus (Barrett, p. 162); the same name as the chief conspirator against Julius Caesar.


All very strange indeed and desperately needing to be explained. ….


King Herod ‘the Great’, Sulla, and Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’

Published April 5, 2018 by amaic
Image result for antiochus fall from chariot


 Damien F. Mackey



“… it was Herod’s lot to play a role corresponding to that of Sulla

in the parallel Roman revolution”.

Martin Braun


Somewhere in his New Chronology, Anatoly Fomenko muses – as I seem to recall, at least – on who the dictator Sulla may have been in Fomenko’s parallel revised universe.

And I have wondered the same.

And I had liked the idea as suggested by Fomenko, based on the name only, that Sulla of Roman folklore may have been King Saul. But Fomenko had admitted to not having been able to add much more to it than that.

And nor have I been able to. There does not appear to be a fit between Saul and Sulla.


More promising, it seems, would be a comparison of Sulla with Herod ‘the Great’.

This would also include who I believe to be an alter ego of Herod’s:


Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’ and Herod ‘the Great’

Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’ and Herod ‘the Great’. Part Two: ‘The King’ of Daniel 11


the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ – hence the inclusion of that name also in my title.


In his 1958 article, “King Herod as Oriental Monarch: Ancient History and the Modern British Mind”, Martin Braun had pointed out several likenesses between Sulla and Herod:


…. Maybe one of these days we shall be given a revaluation of Sulla in which his cruelty will appear balanced or even outweighed by his many good points as a political realist.


There is much food for thought in this connection in a recent book, The Life and Times of Herod the Great, by Stewart Perowne.1 For Herod (d. 4 B.C.E.) [sic] was a sort of Palestinian Sulla, in that he restored and kept order among the Jews for some thirty years through a regime of stick-and-carrot. An expert at Realpolitik, he combined the role of conquering adventurer with that of time-serving diplomatist, of Sulla Bonaparte with that of Talleyrand. Besides, there is to his credit a massive achievement as administrator and builder, as colonizer and protector of frontiers, as promoter of trade and international intercourse. Since the scales today are in any case heavily weighted against his Jewish subjects—the Gibbonian tradition that Judaism is a virulent form of religious exclusiveness having been reinforced or replaced of late by the Toynbeean charge of national fanaticism—Herod is in a position now to cut a pretty fine figure. For has not nationalism come to be regarded as the arch-heresy of mankind? And in an age that puts a premium on administrative efficiency and material welfare, when the dread of anarchy leads men to bow before any tough-minded autocrat, Herod will indeed seem to deserve his cognomen of “great”.


Whatever we may think of Herod as a king and a man, there can be no question but that his forceful intervention in the destinies of the Jews had such far-reaching consequences as to place him among the most important historical personages of his time.

To appreciate this, Herod’s career must be seen in the context of the great Jewish revolution which, sparked off by Antiochus Epiphanes (the Seleucid king of Syria whose attempt to Hellenize the Jews provoked the Maccabean revolt) and culminating in the destruction of the Second Commonwealth, not only entailed the transmutation of the Jews into a Diaspora nation, but also paved the way for the acceptance of a Judaic form of religion by the whole Mediterranean world. In this movement it was Herod’s lot to play a role corresponding to that of Sulla in the parallel Roman revolution.


What he, like Sulla, meant to achieve was the restoration and perfection of a system that had broken down: the kind of Hellenistic monarchy aimed at by the Hasmoneans. Yet in undermining the twin pillars of the theocratic establishment—High Priesthood and Sanhedrin—and in applying utterly ruthless coercive methods, he unwittingly created the conditions which led to the speedy annihilation of his own life work by the disruptive forces which he had but temporarily tamed or driven underground. Herod’s political failure thus constitutes a classic instance of what Hegel called the “cunning of Reason.”




Further to this, here is a stunning comparison of Sulla, ‘Epiphanes’, and Herod:

Lectures on the history of Rome (from the earliest times to the …, Volume 2, p. 392), edited by Leonhard Schmitz:


[Sulla] retired to Puteoli, where he is said I to have been attacked by phthiriasis, the most disgusting of diseases: his body was covered with ulcers out of which vermin grew. I believe that the fact of his having had this disease cannot be denied; and he deserved such a punishment. It occurs chiefly in the case of tyrants, such as … king … Herod, Antiochus Epiphanes …. Sulla wasted away from this disease; but he died in consequence of an accident. ….


So perhaps did Antiochus Epiphanes (2 Maccabees 9:7):


“Moreover being filled with pride, breathing out fire in his rage against the Jews, and commanding the matter to be hastened, it happened as [Antiochus] was going with violence that he fell from the chariot, so that his limbs were much pained by a grievous bruising of the body”.


Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’ and Herod ‘the Great’

Published March 24, 2018 by amaic

Judas Maccabeus – Judas the Galilean

Published March 24, 2018 by amaic


“In 19 CE [AD], the time must have seemed right for action.  Judas’ popularity soared, and the call against Rome was a strong rallying cry.  God would deliver the Jews from the hands of the invaders just as He had done in the days of Judas Maccabee”. 

 Daniel T. Unterbrink



Mark Twain is alleged to have remarked: “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes”. That sure appears to be the case with Judas the Maccabee, and, close to two centuries later, Judas the Galilean.


Here I take some illustrative sections from Daniel T. Unterbrink’s “Judas the Galilean”:


…. In the year 4 BCE [BC], two learned teachers of the law gazed out upon their students, an army of young men thirsting for righteousness.  Every day this throng of Israel’s future sat and listened to the wizened Matthias and his younger partner, Judas, preach the Kingdom of Heaven.  The relationship between the two wise men can be argued as well as their ages, but the pattern of the Maccabees suggests that Matthias was the older father figure (or literal father) and Judas, the son.  How they came to the Temple, to this point in the history of Israel can be deduced from what preceded them.



In 25 BCE …. A movement was forming that was based upon the distant exploits of Mattathias and his son Judas Maccabee (170 BCE).  In this new Jewish sect. a leader named Matthias taught about the true meaning of God’s promises, freedom from pagan influences and the equality of all Jews.  Whether or not Matthias began in Jerusalem or among the cities of Galilee, we will never know.  But his teachings did bring him to Jerusalem by 4 BCE, along with his son, Judas.

….  According to the Slavonic Josephus, Matthias and Judas said this to their followers:

“Come, men of Judaea, now is the time for men to behave like men, to show what reverence we have for the Law of Moses.  Let not our race be shamed, let us not bring disgrace on our Law-giver.  Let us take as the model for [our] exploits Eleazar first and the seven Maccabee brothers and the mother who made men [of them].  For, when Antiochus had conquered and subjugated our land and was ruling over us, he was defeated by these seven youths and [their] old teacher and an old woman.  Let us also be worthy of them, let us not prove weaker than a woman.  But even if we are to be tortured for our zeal for God, a greater wreath has been plaited for us.  And if they kill us, our souls as it leaves [this] dark abode will return to [our] forefathers, where Abraham and his offspring [dwell].”  (After War 1.650) (Emphasis mine)

The passage emphasizes that the current freedom movement should be modeled upon the Maccabee uprising.  Note that there is also an emphasis on family: a father, a mother and seven brothers.  It is quite probable that Matthias was the father and Judas the son.  However, it also implies that there were other brothers involved.


It is clear that Judas the Galilean had sons because Josephus mentioned the crucifixion of two sons, James and Simon, in Ant. 20.102 and the stoning of another son, Menahem, in War 2.433-434.  It is quite probable that Judas also had brothers who helped carry on the movement when he himself was killed.

Included among the prisoners were the authors of the sedition, Matthias and Judas.

A trial of sorts was arranged, but the sentence had already been passed.


The sentence of death was the expected outcome.  Herod had Matthias and his followers burnt alive.  Josephus stated in the War that both rabbis were killed, but in Antiquities mentioned only the death of Matthias.  What most likely occurred was the execution of the movement’s leader, Matthias, and a number of his followers.  Those remaining, including Judas, were imprisoned in order to dangle their fate in the face of the seditious.  In short, Judas was an insurance policy against any other rebellious acts against Herod.  A second powerful motive in imprisoning Judas involved Herod’s desire for true mourning at his own death.  Josephus stated that Herod planned to kill a great number of people at the time of his death so that there would be mourning throughout Israel.  Judas and his followers may have been part of this plan.  Either way, it was just a matter of time until Judas would meet the same fate as Matthias.

Judas and his fellow prisoners were spared an eventual death for only one reason: Herod the Great had died (4 BCE), and his insane orders of mass murder were not obeyed.  In terms of stability, the death of this tyrannical yet able administrator rocked the country.  But it also presented a great opportunity for those who had been persecuted and oppressed for so many years.  Herod’s death coincided with the Passover feast, a time when pilgrims flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.  This left Herod’s son, Archelaus, with a dilemma: how could he gain firm control of the government without offending the masses?

The crowds sensed that Archelaus was not dealing from strength and that he might be swayed by their desires.  They asked if he would ease their annual taxes and remove all taxes related to sales and purchases.  These were very serious requests, for a king must have revenues to rule effectively.  Even so, Archelaus assented to their will, pretending to agree to these requests.  And a segment of the people, those who mourned the death of Matthias, asked one other favor: release those who had been imprisoned by Herod.  And once again, Archelaus agreed.  Judas was now a free man.  (Some argue that Archelaus did not release prisoners as he promised.  That may be true for his tax promises, for these promises could only be realized sometime in the future.  But the release of prisoners could be made now.  Josephus also mentioned that Archelaus replaced the High Priest upon the requests of the crowd.  This plea, too, could be accomplished at the present and was therefore acted upon.)

Archelaus soon realized that any concession to the followers of Matthias and Judas was fruitless, for these fanatics could never be won over by friendly intentions.  In this, he was correct, for this new movement had no intention of meekly following the Herodian dynasty.  In fact, they wished to upset this structure in order to fully implement their theocracy.  Predictably, tensions arose and the military slaughter began.  Judas escaped with a group of disciples and headed to Galilee, to the city of Sepphoris.

Judas had witnessed the execution of Matthias and many of their students and had just fled from a massacre in Jerusalem.  His thoughts must have been upon the security of the small group he now led.  In a bold move, he attacked the armory with its large cache of weapons.  His followers were now well armed and could defend themselves from all except the army of Archelaus.  His reliance upon these weapons of man diminished as he witnessed the awesome power of Rome.  Consistent with guerrilla warfare, Judas and his bandit followers blended into the countryside as the Roman army marched upon Sepphoris, burning it to the ground, enslaving all its inhabitants.  Surely, this sight hardened Judas against Rome and the Herodian sycophants.

But safety depended upon guile and resourcefulness.  The message of fealty to God and refusing to be a slave to human masters (Rome) was transmitted to eager ears throughout Galilee on a small-scale basis.  Judas did not draw too much attention to himself by setting up base in any city.  Instead, he moved throughout the countryside, always prepared for a quick getaway.