biblical identifications Damien F. Mackey Revised History Era King Hezekiah Judah post-graduate Tiglath-pileser John R. Salverda

All posts tagged biblical identifications Damien F. Mackey Revised History Era King Hezekiah Judah post-graduate Tiglath-pileser John R. Salverda

Joseph (Apostle) Barnabas and Joseph of Armathea

Published June 14, 2018 by amaic
Image result for apostle barnabas


 Damien F. Mackey



“[Barnabas] was a good man – that is: he was upright, honest, honourable, without unjudged sin in his life. God Himself is described by the Lord Jesus as good (using exactly the same Greek word), and for a man to be described in the Scriptures as good is a very great honour- the only other person in the New Testament given this designation, I believe, besides Barnabas, is Joseph of Arimathea”.

 Derek Cooper



Leading up to the feast-day, yesterday (11 June, 2018), of the missionary Apostle Barnabas of the Book of Acts, I was musing to myself who otherwise, in the various Gospels, might Barnabas have been.


With the buzz-words/phrases good (Acts 11:24: “For he was a good man”) and selling one’s property (he “sold a field he owned, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostles” (4:36-37) in mind, I thought of “the rich young man [or ruler]” of the Synoptic Gospels.


Good: ‘Why do you call me good?’ (Mark 10:18) and

selling one’s property: “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me’.” (v. 21).


Soon I found this brilliant article on the Internet written by Harry Whittaker:

in which the author asks (and answers) the question of vital interest to me:

  1. Was the Rich Young Ruler Barnabas?

When Jesus spoke of the difficulty for the rich to find a place in the kingdom of God, his disciples, utterly astonished, asked: “Who then can be saved?” As they saw it, if a man with all the advantages of ease and comfort could not prove himself worthy of everlasting life, what dope was there for those beset with all the cares of a life of toil and anxiety? And was not material prosperity the outward sign of God’s blessing? So surely the scales were loaded in favour of the rich.


Jesus answered: “With men it is impossible (that the rich should be saved), but not with God: for with God all things are possible”-which surely means that God has the power to save even the rich whose wealth is actually such a big spiritual handicap.



But this rich man had chosen to go away from Jesus, and so this saying that God has the power to save even the rich was left hanging in mid-air, so to speak-unless He proceeded to do just that with this earnest young man who said: ‘No, you are asking too much, Jesus. I cannot do what you require of me.’ In this fact, then, there is surely good presumptive evidence that ultimately God did save this rich man, in vindication of Christ’s assertion that God can save even a rich man in love with his riches.

The ominous saying with which this incident concluded is also worth pondering here: “many that are first shall be last; and the last first.” The first phrase was a palpable warning to the privileged twelve, the one of whom (Mk.14 :10 RVm.) was to become last of all. But who was the last one who was to be given a place among the first?

It is to be noted that, whatever else, this would-be disciple did not lack honesty. Unlike so many of Christ’s more recent disciples, he did not somehow manage to persuade himself that “Sell all that thou hast and distribute to the poor” really meant something else less exacting and a great deal easier of achievement. When a man is frank and honest regarding the demands of Christ there is hope for him, even though his response be inadequate. But when he succeeds in throwing dust in his own eyes so as to persuade himself that he is fulfilling the Lord’s commands, when really he is doing nothing of the sort, he is in dire spiritual danger.



A Levite

It makes an intriguing study in circumstantial evidence to bring together the various lines of argument which support, without completely proving the conclusion that this young man was Barnabas, who later became Paul’s companion in travel.

First, it is possible to go a long way towards establishing that this rich ruler was a Levite (as, of course, Barnabas was; Acts 4:36).

Many readers of the gospels have mused over the fact that Jesus quoted to his enquirer the second half of the Decalogue-those commandments which have to do with duty to one’s neighbour. Why did he not quote the others (more important, surely) which concern a man’s duty to God? But if indeed this enquirer were a Levite, then by virtue of his calling, the first half of the Decalogue would find fulfilment almost as a matter of course.

It is also worth noting perhaps —though not too much stress should be put on this-that apparently it was when Jesus was near to Jericho that the rich young ruler came to him; and at that time, as the parable of the Good Samaritan shows, Jericho was a Levitical city.

Much more emphatic is the fact that apparently Jesus did not require of other disciples that they “sell all, and give to the poor, and come and follow him.” Once again, if the man were a Levite, all is clear, for “Lev! hath no portion nor inheritance with his brethren; the Lord is his inheritance ” (Dt.10 :9). Thus a Levite with a large estate was a contradiction in terms, and when Jesus bade him be rid of this wealth, he was merely calling him back to loyalty to other precepts in the Law of Moses.

Barnabas, it is interesting to observe, was a Levite of Cyprus. So apparently the letter of the Law was observed by his owning no property in Israel. The “inheritance” Moses wrote about was, of course, in the land of Promise. So that estate in Cyprus was a neat circumvention of the spirit of the Mosaic covenant, and now Jesus bade him recognize it as such.

Jesus went on to quote also from Moses’ great prophecy concerning the tribe of Levi: “There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time …” In spirit, and also in detail, this is very much like Deuteronomy 33 :8,9: “And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim (‘ If thou wouldst be perfect. . .’) and thy Urim be with thy holy one . . . who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children .. .”

Even more impressive is the Lord’s demand that this earnest seeker sell all and come and follow him, for this is exactly what the Law prescribed when a Levite wished to give himself to full-time service of the sanctuary (Dt. 18 :6-8). There must be first “the sale of his patrimony,” and the devotion of the proceeds to the sanctuary. Instead of the temple Jesus substituted his own poor disciples, the new temple of God. But this was to be done only if the Levite came “with all the desire of his mind.”

Perhaps also there is special significance in the fact that when Jesus quoted the Commandments he put one of them in the form: “Defraud not” (Mk.10 :19), as though with reference to the commandment forbidding the withholding of the wages due to a poor employee (Dt.24 :14,15). But it could refer to the dutiful devotion of one’s resources to the honour of God, a responsibility specially incumbent on a Levite who rejoiced in excessive wealth.

More specific identification?

It is now possible to explore further and find clues suggesting identification of this rich Levite with Barnabas, who when he came to prominence in the early church is mentioned as selling an estate and putting the proceeds into the common fund for the benefit of the poor brethren – which is precisely what Jesus had told the rich young man to do (Acts.4 :36). The Greek word used to describe the estate Barnabas disposed of is the same as was used by Jesus (Mk. 10:29).

And apparently it was then that Joseph was given his new name Barnabas, “the son of exhortation,” that is, the man who did what he was exhorted to do. The rich young man was also a “ruler,” that is, a member of the Sanhedrin. There is fair evidence that Saul of Tarsus also was a member of the Jewish Council Here, then, is a likely explanation of the singular fact in Acts 11:25 that it was Barnabas who went off to Tarsus specially to find Saul at a time when Gentiles were being added to the church at Antioch. These two remarkable men had apparently been colleagues in the Sanhedrin (see “Acts”, by H.A.W., ch. 34).

The same passage describes Barnabas as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (11:24). The linking of the last two phrases suggests a special gift of faith through the leading of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor.12:9). Then was it through God’s power and guidance that Barnabas was brought to his great act of renunciation of considerable wealth? This link[s] excellently with Christ’s comment on the rich young ruler: “With men this impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” The extreme rarity of the same kind of decision in these days makes it more evident than ever that Barnabas’ act of faith was a gift from God.

A further detail about Barnabas now takes on clearer meaning. The first missionary journey began from the instruction: “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2). That perfect tense prompts the enquiry: At what earlier time had these two been called by Christ? The call of Saul was, of course, on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9:15). But when had Barnabas been called? The answer to this enquiry is either that the call of the rich young ruler is what is referred to, or else there has to be an assumption that there was some other direct call of Christ which neither Gospels nor Acts mention at all.

Is there also some special significance in the fact that it is only Mark’s record about the rich young ruler which tells that “Jesus, looking on him, loved him”? John Mark was “sister’s son to Barnabas” (Col.4:10).

O.T. anticipations?

Two unexpected hints from the Old Testament remain to be added to this accumulation of circumstantial evidence. Mark 10:22 has this: “And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved.” The Septuagint Version of Isaiah 57:17,18 is most remarkable: “On account of sin for a little while I grieved him, and smote him (with a hard demand); and he was grieved, and went on sorrowful in his ways. I have seen his ways, and healed him, and comforted him, and gave him true comfort (paraklesis: son of exhortation): peace upon peace to them that are far off and to them that are nigh (Barnabas’ preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles as well as to Jews).”

Again, the words: “With God all things are possible” (Mk.10 :27), are usually assumed to be an allusion to Genesis 18 :14; but more likely the reference seems to be to Psalm 62:11: “Power belongeth unto God.” The context here is rather impressive: “Surely men of low degree (the apostles) are vanity, and men of high degree (this wealthy ruler) are a lie … if riches increase set not your heart upon them. God hath spoken once, twice have I heard this (the first and the second call of Barnabas).”

These Old Testament resemblances are certainly very remarkable. Are they to be written off as coincidences or interpreted as the fruits of inspiration? If the latter, they add evidence of an exceptional kind to the identification proposed here.

The conclusion drawn from a study of this kind varies with the individual. Points of evidence which are nearly decisive for one are of negligible value to another. But it is surely remarkable that in such very brief records concerning two men so many points of resemblance or connection can be traced.






Epistle of Barnabas and Gospel of Matthew




“The connection between Barnabas 4:14 and Matthew is, indeed, striking”.


Jimmy Akin




The Epistle of Barnabas was not included in the list of the canonical books of Scripture. Despite that, it was well regarded by some Church Fathers as we read in New World Encylopedia’s “Epistle of Barnabas”:


The Epistle of Barnabas, also known as Pseudo-Barnabas, is a Christian work of the late first or early second century, written to dissuade its readers from being influenced by Christian Judaism or even to consider the Jews as sharing in God’s covenant. It was written in Greek and currently contains 21 brief chapters, preserved complete in the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus where it appears at the end of the New Testament.


The epistle goes farther in its anti-Jewish stance than earlier Christian works, by arguing that God’s covenant with Abraham and Moses was never established with the Jewish people as a whole, due to their sins. It was ultimately omitted from the New Testament canon, although and it was cited by several early Church Fathers as having scriptural authority. Today, it is included in most collections of the Apostolic Fathers.




In the early church, the Epistle of Barnabas was read in some churches and several of the Church Fathers accepted it as scripture. Toward the end of the second century Clement of Alexandria cited the Epistle as authoritative, as did Origen. By the beginning of the fourth century, however, the “Letter of Barnabas” was in the process of being rejected from the books of the emerging Christian canon. By the time of Eusebius (c. 325), the canon was fairly well established, though not yet formalized, and Barnabas was not included in the lists of canonical books. Eusebius considered it as “spurious” (H.E. iii.25.4) and rejected it. The first complete list of New Testament scriptures, by Athanasius of Alexandria (367 C.E.), also omitted Barnabas. It also failed to make the authorized list of the Third Synod of Carthage in 397.[1] Thus, the epistle ultimately disappeared from the scriptural canon.


However, its place, along with the Shepherd of Hermas, at the end of the Codex Sinaiticus (330-350 C.E.) shows that the Epistle of Barnabas was highly regarded in some Christian communities. Saint Jerome considered the letter “valuable for the edification of the church,” but stipulated that it was “reckoned among the apocryphal writings.” In the West the letter stands beside the Epistle of James in several Latin manuscripts of the New Testament. In the East, a list maintained by the ninth-century patriarch of Jerusalem mentions the epistle in a list of books that are antilegomena—”disputed”—along with the Revelation of John, the Revelation of Peter and the Gospel of the Hebrews. In this way, the letter found its way into the category in which it now stands, useful for study by Christians, but not scripture. The epistle was lost until the early nineteenth century. It has since come to be included in the modern collections of the Apostolic Fathers. ….



It cites, in fact, the Gospel of St. Matthew as Scripture (ch. 4:14)”, according to New Advent:


From the dogmatic point of view the chief importance of the epistle is in its relation to the history of the Canon of the Scriptures. It cites, in fact, the Gospel of St. Matthew as Scripture (ch. 4:14), and even recognizes as in the Canon of the Sacred Books (gegraptai), along with the collection of Jewish writings, a collection of Christian ones (ch. v, 2), the contents of which, however, cannot be determined. The author regards several apocryphal books as belonging to the Old Testament–probably IV Esdras (ch. xii, l) and without doubt Henoch (ch. iv, 3; xvi, 5). In his Christology, his soteriology and his doctrine concerning justification the author develops the ideas of Paul with originality. It has been wrongly said that he regards the pre-existent Christ as only a spirit in the image of God. Without explicitly asserting the consubstantiality and the true sonship, he evidently acknowledges the Divine nature of Christ from before the Creation. The eschatological descriptions are decidedly moderate. He is a millenarian, but in speaking of the Judgment to come he simply expresses a vague belief that the end is approaching.



Jimmy Akin ( has more to say about the interconnection between:


The Epistle of Barnabas and the Gospel of Matthew


In its entry on the (apocryphal) Epistle of Barnabas, the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary states:


Although Barnabas 4:14 appears to quote Matt 22:14, it must remain an open question whether the Barnabas circle knew written gospels. Based on Koester’s analysis (1957:125–27, 157), it appears more likely that Barnabas stood in the living oral tradition used by the written gospels (Treat, J. C. (1992). Barnabas, Epistle of. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 1, p. 614). New York: Doubleday).


The connection between Barnabas 4:14 and Matthew is, indeed, striking. Barnabas 4:14 states:


Moreover, consider this as well, my brothers: when you see that after such extraordinary signs and wonders were done in Israel, even then they were abandoned, let us be on guard lest we should be found to be, as it is written, “many called, but few chosen.” (Holmes, M. W. (1999). The Apostolic Fathers: Greek texts and English translations (Updated ed., p. 283). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)


If the last bit of this is a quotation from one of the Gospels, it can only be from Matthew 22:14, for this verse has no parallels in the other Gospels.


However, the idea that Barnabas is borrowing this from oral tradition is extremely implausible. The author introduces the quotation with the formula “as it is written”–not “as it is said.” This not only implies he is using a written source but also that he regarded it as scripture, for “it is written” is a standard formula for introducing scripture quotations.

The probability is thus that Barnabas was quoting Matthew’s Gospel, and that would let us establish a terminus ad quem (roughly, a latest possible date) for Matthew if we could establish when Barnabas was written.


It was clearly written after the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, for Barnabas 16:3-5 refers to that event:


(3) Furthermore, again he says: “Behold, those who tore down this temple will build it themselves.” (4) This is happening now. For because they went to war, it was torn down by their enemies, and now the very servants of their enemies will re-build it. (5) Again, it was revealed that the city and the temple and the people of Israel were destined to be handed over. For the Scripture says: “And it will happen in the last days that the Lord will hand over the sheep of the pasture and the sheepfold and their watchtower to destruction.” And it happened just as the Lord said.


Precisely how long afterwards Barnabas was written is not clear, but it is certainly early. In fact, it is likely the first surviving piece of Christian literature written after the destruction of the temple. In The Fathers Know Best, I date it to around A.D. 75.


The fact that Barnabas records the destruction of the temple as a past fact (“And it happened just as the Lord said”) but Matthew presents it only as a future fact, with no notice of the prophecy’s fulfillment, suggests Matthew was written before 70.


[End of quotes]


Akin’s “Matthew was written before 70” accords very well with Fr. Jean Carmignac’s estimation of “… Matthew around 50 …”. See e.g. my:


Fr Jean Carmignac dates Gospels early


and it also accords with John A. T. Robinson’s view that the entire New Testament was written before the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD (Redating the New Testament).


I fully accept the Rev. Robinson’s reasoning that: “If the new testament books were written after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, why is such a significant event not mentioned?”


Barnabas (rich young man) also Matthew?



This, I suggest, was the happy outcome of the “rich young man” – fully committed discipleship.



More buzz-words


Serving as an aid to connecting the “rich young man” of the Synoptic Gospels with the apostle Barnabas in Part One of this series were what I called certain “buzz-words/phrases”, such as good and selling of one’s property.

For Barnabas is called a good man, and he sells his property to assist the apostles.

Joseph, the original name of Barnabas, will become another buzz-word in Part Three, in which Barnabas will be (albeit tentatively) connected with Joseph of Arimathea, also called good.


One could add the further buzz-word of rich, relevant to the young man, the apostle Barnabas, and Joseph of Arimathea.


Other buzz-words/phrases can now be included, as we ponder whether or not our composite rich young man-Barnabas-Joseph of Arimathea might also be Matthew. In Part Two (a) I had, with this possibility in mind, noted that the non-canonical Epistle of Barnabas had certain likenesses to the Gospel of Matthew, that, for instance: The connection between Barnabas 4:14 and Matthew is, indeed, striking” (Jimmy Akin).


Now, a most significant buzz-word which may well link the rich young man to the apostle Matthew is to be found in Jesus’s looking intently with love in each case.

Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller (CP), writing for The Jerome Biblical Commentary, explains the Greek word used in the case of Levi, or Matthew (article, “The Gospel According to Luke”, 44:61): “At once Jesus turns away from everything else and peers intently (theaomai) at Levi, detecting his noble and genuine compunction”.

Presumably, somewhat earlier, Jesus had gazed lovingly on the rich young man, who, at that stage, was not yet prepared for wholehearted discipleship (Mark 10:21-22): “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me’. Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions”.


There is also, in the case of Levi, a return to the buzz-phrase, selling of one’s property – for Levi, as we are told, “left everything”.

Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller again (loc. cit.):


…. Levi. Usually considered to be the same as the apostle Matthew …. Lk alone states that Levi “left everything” behind to follow Jesus. This addition, along with the word “rising”, is expressed by an aor. participle, indicating the continual and ready disposition of discipleship …. The income Levi renounced must have been large, if he was able to spread a banquet for the many invited guests.


This, I suggest, was the happy outcome of the “rich young man” – fully committed discipleship.


A connection now between Barnabas and the apostle Matthew would account for why Barnabas is called an “apostle”, despite arguments such as the following by David Huffstutler:


Was Barnabas an apostle? This question is important because it is related to the larger question of whether or not apostles exist today. If the NT gave a pattern of apostles being added to the original Twelve (and Paul), could there be apostles today?


I explained in previous posts that the Twelve and Paul had a unique apostleship that singled them out from others that were called apostles in Scripture. In this post (and more to come), I will examine who else was called an apostle in the NT and the meaning of the term apostle as it applied to these individuals.

In Acts 14:4, Luke refers to “the apostles” who, in context, are Paul and Barnabas (cf. Acts 13:50). Ten verses later, Luke is more explicit and refers to “the apostles Barnabas and Paul” (Acts 14:14). Barnabas was clearly an apostle. But in what sense? Was he an apostle like the Twelve? Was he an apostle to the Gentiles in the same sense as Paul? Could the term apostle mean something else in this context?


Part of the difficulty in explaining Barnabas as an apostle lies in the fact that Paul, too, is called an apostle in Acts 14:4, 14. If Paul was an apostle in much the same way as the original Twelve, to call Barnabas an apostle alongside Paul seems to color Barnabas with the same apostolic hue as Paul. But this reasoning does not necessarily follow.


Luke typically describes Barnabas as an individual who was distinct from the twelve apostles (Acts 4:36; 9:27; 15:2, 22). These verses and others demonstrate that Luke consistently used the term apostle to refer to the Twelve.1 Luke’s use of the term apostle with reference to others such as Barnabas and Paul is exceptional.2 This is not to say that Paul was not an apostle, but it is to say that whether Paul, Barnabas, or anyone else, Luke did not typically call these men apostles. More likely, Luke used a more generic use of the term apostle, albeit with reference to two notable individuals. One scholar refers to Acts 14:4, 14 and explains this use of apostle as follows: “In this broad usage, then, an apostle was a first-century evangelist who bore witness to the resurrection of Christ, an itinerant missionary sent by Him to make disciples of all nations.”3 Barnabas was an apostle in the sense that he was sent to proclaim the gospel with Paul (cf. Acts 13:1–3).4


In short, Luke described Barnabas as someone distinct from the Twelve. He was sent with Paul to proclaim the gospel, and in this sense, he was an apostle. He cannot be used an example of someone who received an apostleship that was the same as the Twelve or Paul and thus be used as precedent for anyone to claim a similar apostleship today.


[End of quote]


It is tentatively suggested here, however, that Barnabas may have been a fully-fledged apostle, one of the actual Twelve, namely, Levi-Matthew.


But I now need to account for the multiplicity of names for my much filled-out, and un-named, “rich young man”.

Initially I would like to recall that biblical characters at this time may have had more than one name, for example a Hebrew and a pagan name.

I had suggested that, in the case of John the Baptist, he may also have been known as Theudas:


Gamaliel’s ‘Theudas’ as John the Baptist

In this series, the rich young man will have accumulated, by Part Three, the following names:







Whilst, obviously, it is not ideal having so many names with which to cope, Barnabas and Levi can be considered as kind of nick-names, because we know that that was so of Barnabas, and our composite character, being a Levite, might have, for that reason, been called “Levi” – who, as we read from Fr. Stuhlmueller, is considered to have been Matthew anyway.


If Peter could likewise have been named Simon and Cephas, three names, then it is not unreasonable that Matthew had also carried the name Joseph (plus nick-names).



Barnabas also as Joseph of Arimathea



“God Himself is described by the Lord Jesus as good (using exactly the same Greek word), and for a man to be described in the Scriptures as good is a very great honour- the only other person in the New Testament given this designation, I believe, besides Barnabas, is Joseph of Arimathea”.


Derek Cooper


Whilst Derek Cooper does not specifically conclude here that Barnabas, originally named Joseph (Acts 4:36): “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas …”, was Joseph of Arimathea, the thought has crossed my mind.


Here is Cooper’s useful account of “Barnabas” and his character:


I want us to consider Barnabas this afternoon. There is, of course, a lot that could be said about Barnabas and what we talk about this afternoon has to be selective. I have chosen 6 aspects of Barnabas and his character, so I will split this talk into 6 main sections.


But first of all, we’ll just start with brief basic introductory details. Barnabas’s real name was Joseph; Barnabas was a nickname- we will talk about that in a minute. Barnabas was Jewish by race, in fact he was a Levite, he came from the island of Cyprus, though he seems to be living in Jerusalem at the time when we first read of him. We know nothing of his family except that he had a sister, she had a son- who was therefore Barnabas’s nephew- and he was called John Mark [Col 4:10].


Acts 4:34-37


“Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it , and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”


We first come across Barnabas during those exciting early days of the church. Not long after the Lord Jesus died and rose again from the dead, and the disciples were empowered on the Day of Pentecost- perhaps Barnabas was there on that day- for a time after that there was this period of sharing. The rich sold possessions to support the poor, and here we find Barnabas mentioned as selling a field, and giving the money to the apostles for the distribution. He wasn’t alone in this generosity; he was one of many that did this. Now, this is not a point I want to major on this afternoon, but we SHOULD note his example of generosity to the Lord and his people.


Barnabas- the Son of Encouragement


As we said, his real name was Joseph. Barnabas was his nickname. The apostles noted him, and he had so impressed them that they gave him the nickname of Barnabas. Barnabas is, I suppose, a Hebrew word, but because the reason for the apostles giving him this name was important, the Holy Spirit saw fit to translate it- the meaning of the name Barnabas is added in Scripture. Different English translations give a different emphasis- I have seen “Son of Consolation”, “Son of Encouragement”, “Son of Exhortation”, “Son of Comfort”. The Greek word translated “consolation”, “encouragement”, “exhortation”, “comfort” means literally “a calling alongside to help”, and these different emphases are all contained within the word.


The Word used for the Holy Spirit as a Comforter [parakletos] comes from the same stem- in fact, it is virtually the same word.



1. Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement


We will take Barnabas as the Son of Encouragement [and this is my 1st section: Barnabas- the son of encouragement]. In order for him to be given a name like this by the apostles and a name that stuck, he really must have impressed them by the encouragement and help that he gave, and he must have impressed them over a period of time. He must have spent some time with the apostles, actively encouraging the believers.


It is perhaps easy to forget that the events recorded in the first few chapters of the Acts are events that happened within a very short time of the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus.


The believers in Jerusalem had had traumatic times, to say that they had had their discouragements is to put it mildly. Their world was turned upside-down – in fact, a disaster (it seemed) at that Passover time when their Lord and Master, the one they were expecting to be their king, and presumably therefore that they were trusting to lead them to the defeat of the Romans and recovery of the kingdom- HE had been taken and executed by the joining together of the religious and political rulers, normally enemies, but joining together in opposition to God. Then, even after they realized the wonderful truth that the Lord Jesus had risen from the dead, they still lived in fear of the hostile authorities. But they had a man of encouragement among them.


How valuable that is. Someone to turn their thoughts away from the difficulties and problems of the way, and point them to the Lord himself- to remind them of who He is, the greatness of His person, and what He has done, and to point them also to the blessing of their relationship with Him. Barnabas was such a man. And he had clearly been encouraging them for sufficient time and with sufficient power that the apostles themselves could call him “son of encouragement”.


As we look at Barnabas further we will see examples of his providing encouragement to others.


Let’s think about today for a moment. In many ways, THESE are discouraging times for believers. The church is fragmented, and seems to be fragmenting further, the attention of unbelievers is towards things of this life, their work perhaps, or more often towards being entertained, interest in Christianity in this country seems to be at an all time low, gospel work (including with children) seems to be getting harder. There is much to discourage. In days of discouragement, we need follow the example of Barnabas, we need to encourage one another with an encouragement that is centred on the Lord- the one who is coming soon to take us to be with Him.


2. Barnabas- the risk taker


We read of him next in Acts 9 in connection with Saul. Saul was a highly educated, strict and very zealous Pharisee with a certainty of the rightness of his beliefs. He was absolutely sure that the new Christian religion was completely wrong, those who followed this teacher called Jesus were following a false Messiah. They were abandoning the faith of their fathers, were heretics and should be eliminated. And being a man of action, Saul decided to deal with the problem himself. He participated in the murder of Stephen in Acts chapter 7, then got together a band of like-minded thugs and attacked the Christians with the full force of his misplaced zeal. He “made havoc of the church” (Acts 8:3). Saul seems to have been based at Jerusalem and many of the Jerusalem Christians fled, taking the word of God with them- so helping the spread of the truth, of course.


I can only conclude that Saul considered that he had made such a good job of dealing with Jerusalem Christians that he would spread his net wider … Damascus, it was quite a long way and it was outside of Israel. …. Anyway, Damascus it was, and so he obtained letters from the chief priests to the synagogues in Damascus so that they might know that he had official backing in dealing with this error in the harshest possible way.


We all know, of course, the way that the Lord Jesus spoke to him on the Damascus road and temporarily blinded him. We know of Ananias’s reluctance to go and see Saul when God told him to- because Saul’s reputation had preceded him. We know also that Saul was truly saved and, it would seem, after witnessing in Damascus, spending time in Arabia, returning to Damascus, Saul then went to Jerusalem . Of course, his one wish was to find the believers. The trouble was that is exactly what they thought he would try to do.


Acts 9:26-28


“And when Saul was come to Jerusalem , he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.”


It is easy to imagine. The Jerusalem believers hear that Saul, the one who had caused such havoc among them, who had caused them so much suffering, they hear that he is back in town, and is claiming now to be one of THEM. They just did not believe him.


No, there is no way that any of us want to meet him. There is no way we are going to let him discover who we all are, and where we meet together. He may SAY that he is a believer, but how do we know that it is not a trick.


The scriptures say that they did not believe that he was converted; they did not believe that he was saved. The assembly leaders, the apostles and James the Lord’s brother- they all, it would seem, reacted in the same way- they did not believe that Saul was saved, and they were not prepared to risk their lives in checking it out. It was much safer to keep him at arm’s length.


It is to Barnabas’s enormous credit that he wasn’t willing to let this situation go on. He was willing to go and meet a man who had been an enemy of Christ, a hater of believers, who had probably killed or imprisoned many of his, Barnabas’s, family and friends, who had disturbed the whole lifestyle of the assembly. How did he know that Saul’s claim wasn’t just part of a trap? How did he know that Saul and his mob wouldn’t take him and kill him? I think it unlikely that he had different information about Saul than Peter and the rest had, but HE would take the risk. He was willing to go to Saul, put aside his prejudices and find out where he really stood at that time. And he was willing to be convinced. His mind wasn’t closed.


He had so much of a heart for other believers that he wanted them all to be one, to be united, to be together. He may have perceived that if Saul were truly converted then with all the energy and zeal that he showed, there was a real danger (if he were not accepted) of there becoming, in practice, 2 separate fellowships. We know, of course, that the church has since then fragmented, but we see Barnabas here right near the beginning taking very real risks, he is prepared to face real personal danger, danger that others with greater status and authority than he had weren’t willing to face, he would do this in order to bring Saul in and so maintain the unity of God’s people.


I would like to make an application from this. We know that sometimes, sadly, it is necessary for there to be separation from other believers. God’s word is very clear about that. But let’s make sure that we separate from others only when it is scripturally essential, and that we have an ATTITUDE that is similar to Barnabas’s here, an attitude that does all it possibly can (scripturally) to maintain the unity of God’s people. Although in Barnabas and Saul’s case it was an issue of drawing another believer in (rather than of separation) the general principle is the same.


3. Barnabas – the one to be trusted


Let’s move on a little while. Saul has gone from Jerusalem , and as Christian believers moved around and witnessed for the Lord, so the church grew – the scriptures mention that to begin with they were witnessing to their fellow Jews only. But at Antioch, a place now in southern Turkey – a big city near to the Syrian border – the believers began witnessing to Greeks.


Acts 11:19-24


“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.”


Many of the Greeks were turning to the Lord. The assembly at Jerusalem heard about it. Now, what were they to make of it? The Jews knew that they were a special people. They knew that God has specially chosen them, and they had become proud of their status- they had some difficulty in realizing that God could accept people from other nations too – on the simple basis of faith.


Peter himself clearly HAD had problems with this. But he had learnt from the incident with Cornelius in chapter 10 and the vision that God had given him just before the visitors sent by Cornelius came to the door- he had learnt that God was no respecter of persons, and that people from any nation were acceptable to Him. But there were many at Jerusalem who had real difficulty with this. I can imagine that the Jerusalem Christians felt that the news from Antioch was exciting, but it was also somewhat alarming. How should they react – was the Lord really saving Gentiles in great numbers? If so, what sort of guidance should they give them?


The issue was crucially important, so the leaders of the assembly at Jerusalem chose someone to investigate, someone they could as a group trust. Of all those believers in Jerusalem … they chose Barnabas.


This speaks volumes for Barnabas, doesn’t it?


Clearly his beliefs were in accord with theirs – he believed what they believed, or they wouldn’t have chosen him. Later incidents show the real concerns that were felt by the Jerusalem believers about Gentiles being added to the assembly and I am sure that Barnabas would have shared these concerns, or they wouldn’t have chosen him for this sensitive role. Clearly he was a man that they as a group could trust. They knew that he would make a thorough and objective assessment of the situation, that he would not distort the facts to suit his preconceived notions, they knew he would not tell only half the story.


Barnabas went to Antioch and Barnabas listened, and Barnabas was willing to be persuaded. The natural tendency of the Jews was to be opposed to contact with Gentile dogs, but Barnabas listened, weighed up the evidence before the Lord (no doubt) and was persuaded. And I want us to think about this. Sadly, as we all know, difficulties arise among believers today, and sometimes there are matters that need to be looked into. Are the rumours about a particular situation true? Are the stories about a particular person correct? We should be ready to approach such situations willing to observe, willing to listen to all sides, willing to put aside OUR prejudices and to be guided by the Holy Spirit.


Of course generally speaking, being consistent is a very good thing, but it is not a very good thing if it makes me stubborn and unwilling to really listen to another’s understanding and to consider issues openly before the Lord – being ready to have a change of mind if necessary. I am sure that none of us likes to be wrong, none of us likes to be seen to be wrong, and it is easy to get entrenched in a position. Is it possible that sometimes we don’t want to admit that maybe we got it wrong, just maybe we aren’t actually as right as we would like to appear.


If it is necessary to look at a difficult situation let’s make sure that we base our opinion on the situation, not on our preconceived notions or what we hear from others. Sometimes what we are told can be simply wrong, sometimes it is distorted because it is based on selected facts. Let’s be honest about difficult situations, let’s look for and give as COMPLETE a picture as we can, not a distorted view.


Barnabas stayed at Antioch for some time, saw what was happening, investigated thoroughly, was delighted to see what the Lord was doing, and he encouraged these new believers to cling to the Lord.


He was able and willing to put aside his prejudices- which other Jewish Christians found so difficult (as we see later on- in Acts 15, for example).


4. Barnabas – recognising and encouraging potential in others


Acts 11:25-26


“Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”


We’ve thought of


  • Barnabas- the Son of Encouragement
  • Barnabas- the risk taker
  • Barnabas- the one to be trusted


In verse 25 we see another quality in him. He recognized and encouraged the potential of others. He had introduced Saul to the suspicious believers at Jerusalem, he had watched him and he assessed him, and he realized that here was a man with enormous potential in service for the Lord. And it was Barnabas who takes the trouble to go and search for him, so that he could be used to the full.


It is important, isn’t it, that we have a recognition of our gifts and make sure that we use them. Surely, it is not honouring to Christ for any of us to be so humble that we are unwilling to recognize gift in ourselves – that is a false humility – the Lord has given to all as he wishes, though sometimes we may need a Barnabas to encourage us and to point the way forward, and so help the use of our gifts.

Barnabas did this for Saul. Saul had gone back to Tarsus, he had returned to his home town. Perhaps he had gone home specifically to witness to his own family and old friends, but now Barnabas could see a need and he recognized the man who could fill it. He personally went to find him and brought him back to Antioch. Back at Antioch they met for a year with the assembly and used their teaching gifts for the benefit of those who met there.


We see once again, in verse 30, that Barnabas becomes a trusted representative of the assembly – this goes back to our last point. Although not FROM Antioch – really only visitors to the city, he and Saul are so trusted that they are chosen by the saints at Antioch to send economic relief to the assemblies in Judea.


Let’s move on to chapter 13.


Acts 13:1-3


“Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”


As these brothers served the Lord and fasted the Holy Spirit spoke to them. Here I just want to briefly note 2 things in passing. Firstly, that they were getting on with their business for the Lord when he speaks to them. And secondly, that they were so in touch with the Lord that he COULD speak to them. If we feel that the Lord doesn’t speak to us as much as we would like, perhaps we should consider the example of these men here at Antioch.


Barnabas- handing over responsibility


Here in chapter 13 the Holy Spirit sets aside Barnabas and Saul for his work, and they begin their missionary journey. I don’t intend talking much about their journey together, but I want us to notice this:


Acts 13: 2, 7, 13, 43


“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”


“Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.”


“Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.”


“Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”


It is “Barnabas and Saul” who are set aside for this work. It is “Barnabas and Saul” who visit Sergius Paulus the ruler at Paphos on Cyprus , but after that the scriptural record changes- we no longer read of “Barnabas and Saul”, we read of “Paul and Barnabas”.


Saul becomes Paul, but not only does Saul have a name change, the missionaries have a change of leadership. Barnabas was no longer the main character, he handed over to Paul.


And so this is my 5th section:


5. Barnabas – handing over responsibility


We have already talked about the way he could see potential in young Saul, now he sees this potential come to fruition- he could see the way that the Lord was using Paul- and he, Barnabas, takes the back seat. I am sure that there was no resentment there at all. I am sure that he encouraged Paul to take the leadership. The Son of Encouragement was again practically encouraging the younger man to fulfill his potential for the Lord.


An obvious, but important, lesson for us to always bear in mind as we work for the Lord is this- that it IS work for the Lord. It should never be an ego trip for ourselves. We are not here to make a name for ourselves – even in the good things we do – it’s the Lord’s work, to be done for his glory.


We come on now to a couple of serious mistakes that he made, and this is my sixth section:


6. Barnabas – his mistakes


Acts 15:36-40


“And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; and Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.”


The first concerned his nephew, John Mark. Mark had accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey, but had left them early on and returned to Jerusalem. Some time after the journey was finished, and Paul and Barnabas had returned to Antioch, Paul suggested that they re-visit those places that they had been to on their journey. Barnabas was keen to take Mark along. In fact, the scriptures say that “he was determined to” do so. Paul thought it unwise because of his previous experiences with Mark. Neither was willing to give way, and Barnabas left the work in Antioch and went off with Mark to Cyprus. We read no more of him in the Acts or of his activities.


No doubt Barnabas thought that although Mark had made a serious mistake when he deserted them at Perga, he had matured and could be trusted this time. I’m sure that he believed that the proposed visits would be good for Mark and his spiritual development- I am sure that he wanted to encourage the lad.


One of the saddest things about this is that Barnabas was not willing to give way on this. It is difficult to see how they could have gone ahead through the difficult and dangerous situations that would face them, with someone that Paul was not comfortable working with. And there comes through here, even in someone like Barnabas who showed such discretion and wisdom at other times, there comes through a stubbornness which was damaging to his effectiveness in the Lord’s work. The Lord’s work continued, of course – Silas was chosen to accompany Paul, but Barnabas missed out. A stubbornness, an unwillingness to give way to others on non – fundamental matters is sadly a very common characteristic, not only in the world, but among believers too.



Gal 2:11-14


“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”


The second mistake of Barnabas that we read about has a sort of opposite character to the first. In this case he gave way on something that WAS fundamental.


Many Jewish believers had problems giving up their ingrained Jewish view of Gentiles, even Gentile believers. We mentioned before that the Lord had given Peter a lesson on this just before he visited Cornelius, and Peter had come to understand that Jews and Gentiles were one in Christ, that Gentiles were not unclean. So when Peter left Jerusalem and visited Gentile believers in Antioch he had no problem eating with them and treating them as equals.


But when some other Jews came from Jerusalem, Jews who didn’t have the same understanding that Peter had, when they came, rather than resisting their views and standing up to them, Peter stopped eating with the Gentile believers and withdrew from close contact with them. Paul writes to the Galatians that “even Barnabas” (as though he’s surprised by it), even Barnabas went along with Peter in this hypocrisy.


Here the issue WAS fundamental – and on this point Barnabas gave way. Paul when he realized what was happening publicly rebuked Peter. As we have just seen, when discussing taking John Mark with them Barnabas refused to give way on something non – fundamental, but here he does give way – but on something that was fundamental.


The issue of agreeing together with other believers is one of the most difficult we face. When should I insist on what I believe to be right, and when should I give way to others who believe something different to be right? Most of the disagreements and divisions among Christians have something of this in them.


The question of making a stand on some issues and giving way on others is a difficult one and requires much prayer. To a large extent it is a question of correctly judging what is fundamental and what isn’t, and that can only be done quietly before the Lord with His word.


I’ve got another scripture to mention.


1 Cor 9:5-6


“Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?”


I find it interesting that Paul should mention Barnabas here. There is no evidence from scripture that Barnabas had been anywhere near Corinth. Paul and Barnabas’s missionary journey that they made together was to areas of what is now Turkey. Corinth was in Greece. Paul’s first visit to Corinth was during his second journey, made with Silas. Paul’s Corinthian letter was written some time after that. Why does he mention Barnabas? Presumably the Corinthians believers had heard of Barnabas, they knew about him, or the passing reference to Barnabas wouldn’t have made much sense to them. How did they know of Barnabas? In spite of their big “bustup”, at the very least I assume that Paul must have talked positively about Barnabas when he was at Corinth, and told the Corinthians of the work that they had done together.


Bit I’d like to take this a bit further. The mention is of him and Barnabas both being people who worked for their living while serving the Lord. It’s written as though this was the way that Barnabas CONTINUED to serve the Lord, even though no longer with Paul.


So, it seems likely to me that Barnabas and Paul were still in contact, with Barnabas continuing his service for the Lord – in Cyprus or elsewhere. I find it difficult to believe that they did not sort out their difficulties together – but apart from speculating from this scripture, there is no evidence that they did.


I would just like to take the opportunity to remind ourselves of the main points I have been making from the life of Barnabas.


  • Firstly, Barnabas was the son of encouragement who encouraged the believers during very difficult times, a very valuable service.


  • We then saw that he was willing to risk his life to bring Saul to the frightened assembly in Jerusalem- something no-one else was willing to do; he did it to bring believers together.


  • Thirdly we noted Barnabas as one who could be trusted by the saints- particularly to investigate the difficult and sensitive issue of the bringing of Gentiles into the church.


  • Then we noticed how Barnabas recognized and encouraged the potential in others- he saw a need in Antioch , he had seen Saul’s gifts and he went many miles to get Saul so that he could do a work in Antioch for the Lord for the benefit of the saints there.


  • Fifthly, and following on from there, we see how on their missionary journey together Barnabas soon takes the back seat and allows (I’m sure encourages) Paul to take on the leadership.


  • We then looked at a couple of mistakes that Barnabas made- firstly he tried to insist on his way when he shouldn’t have done, but gave way on a fundamental issue on another occasion.


In spite of these mistakes, there is so much that is positive in Barnabas that we would do well to think about and emulate.


Here’s a scripture that gives us a clue to his effectiveness for the Lord:


Acts 11:24


“For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith”


He was a good man- that is: he was upright, honest, honourable, without unjudged sin in his life. God Himself is described by the Lord Jesus as good (using exactly the same Greek word), and for a man to be described in the Scriptures as good is a very great honour- the only other person in the New Testament given this designation, I believe, besides Barnabas, is Joseph of Arimathea.




Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. He was full of faith. He had a real day to day practical dependence on the Lord whom he knew he could trust. He was full of faith – he could and did lean on the Lord.





Chedorlaomer and Chlodomer

Published April 25, 2018 by amaic


Image result for the five foolish kings


 Damien F. Mackey



“… Chlodomer shared in the fourfold partition of his father’s kingdom in 511 …”.

Encyclopaedia Britannica




The name of the supposed C6th AD Frankish king, Chlodomer (Clodomir or Clodomer, c. 495 – 524 AD), immediately hit me – on first hearing of it (only recently) – as being almost identical to the biblical name, Chedorlaomer.


And the belief that the kingdom which Chlodomer “shared” involved, as in the above quote, a “fourfold partition”, has not done anything to diminish this first impression.

For Chedorlaomer, too, was part of a fourfold coalition of kings (Genesis 14:1-11):


At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley). For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert. Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away.


Dr. John Osgood was able, from this historically detailed text, to begin to determine a solid foundation for the archaeology of Abram (later Abraham). See my article:


Better archaeological model for Abraham


Chlodomer, like Chedorlaomer, attacked in an easterly direction, with the assistance of three other kings (Chlotar I, Childebert I and Theodoric I):


…. In 523, with his two full brothers, Chlotar I and Childebert I, as allies, he attacked his eastern neighbours, the Burgundians; their king, Sigismund, was captured and put to death together with his family. In the following year, Chlodomer resumed the attack, this time with his half-brother, Theodoric I ….


But it was Chlodomer who, like Chedorlaomer (“For twelve years they had been subject to Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled”), appears to have been the leading king of the four-man coalition (Britannica, emphasis added):


The eldest son of Clovis I by Clotilda, Chlodomer shared in the fourfold partition of his father’s kingdom in 511, receiving lands in western and central France; his was the only one of the four kingdoms to form a single geographical unit on both sides of the Loire River.

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. ….


Part Two:

His bad wife, Fredegund


“Gregory credited himself with this last role – admittedly more a paradigm than biography – so that he could demonstrate what Marc Reydellet has observed: ‘Gregory of Tours covers himself in the robe of the prophet in order to cast anathema on the diabolical couple Chilperic and Fredegund, the new Ahab and Jezebel’.”

Martin Heinzelmann


It is amazing how many kings of the (supposedly) AD era have been described as Ahab-like, or as Nero-like, or as Herod-like, whilst any number of queens, especially those named Isabelle, have been likened to Jezebel or Herodias – so much so that I was prompted to ask:


Isabelle (is a belle) inevitably a Jezebel?


Now, the wife of king Chilperic I, whilst not actually named Isabelle, but Fredegund, has been described in Martin Heinzelmann’ book, Gregory of Tours: History and Society in the Sixth Century (p. 43), as one of a “diabolical” pair with her husband, Chilperic, and also as “the new … Jezebel”.

According to the following, she was:



(mid 500s – 597)

Assassination-obsessed Queen


…. Here is the most cartoonishly evil woman I have ever come across: Fredegund. This woman was a 6th-century Merovingian queen consort with a penchant for killing people. Her notable life went roughly as follows:


  • She works her way into the palace of Chilperic I as a serving woman for the queen, Audovera.
  • Chilperic I, although married to Audovera, takes Fredegund as a concubine.
  • Fredegund convinces him to divorce Audovera and send her to a nunnery.
  • Fredegund then quietly kills Audovera.
  • Chilperic then marries another woman, Galswintha.
  • Galswintha turns up strangled in her own bed.
  • Chilperic marries Fredegund a couple days later, presumably getting the hint.
  • Fredegund kills Chilperic’s brother Sigebert (the two brothers had been fighting). She also tries to kill Sigebert’s son.
  • Chilperic turns up mysteriously dead.
  • Immediately thereafter, Fredegund takes all his money, skips town, and starts living in Notre Dame Cathedral (sanctuary, indeed!) under the protection of Chilperic’s brother, Guntram.
  • Three years later she tries to assassinate Guntram.
  • Ten years later, Fredegund dies (how, I do not know).


If Fredegund had a foil, it was Galswintha’s sister (and Sigebert’s widow), Brunhild. For forty years, the two of them fought — resulting in endless warfare and, you can be sure, at least one assassination attempt. In the end, Brunhild outlived Fredegund, but even from beyond the grave, Fredegund had the last word.


Mackey’s comment: Brunhild has, too, for her part, been described as a ‘Jezebel”:


Queen Brunhild the ‘second Jezebel’


The article continues:


Sixteen years after Fredegund’s death, with Brunhild now a sixty-something woman, Fredegund’s son killed her in as brutal a manner as I’ve ever heard. First, torture on the rack. Next, each of her extremities was tied to a different horse, and they were all set to run in different directions, tearing her apart. Lastly, they burnt her body.

But none of these are the craziest thing Fredegund ever did.

“Hey Rigunth, go pick out some jewelry from that treasure chest.”

So what is the craziest thing she ever did? Well, you see, she had a daughter, Rigunth. Rigunth, as princesses do, was looking forward to one day being queen herself. One day, exasperated by her daughter’s “I want to be queen nowww” whining, Fredegund told her to go look inside Chilperic’s treasure chest and pick out some jewelry for herself.

When Rigunth poked her head in the treasure chest, Fredegund slammed it shut on her neck. Had servants not stopped her, she would have killed her own daughter.


“Vengeance” is also well to the fore in the following lively account of queen Fredegund:


…. The Frankish Queen Fredegund is a rare exception to this rule – and, oddly enough, it’s not because historians portray her in a positive light. No, with this chick it’s because she truly was an utterly-bloodthirsty vengeance machine who rested at nothing short of the completely over-the-top torture deaths of all who stood in her path, obliterating dumbasses across the continent of Europe until every single human being – from King to Bishop to Peasant – who stupidly wound up on her bad side immediately found themselves face-down in a pool of their own blood surrounded by knife-wielding assassins, poisonous beverages, and/or well-sharpened instruments of painful torture and horrible mutilation.

She is one of history’s most violent and bloodthirsty queens, and her entire life was centered around the one primary tenet of unquestionable badassitude – Live for Revenge.


We don’t know much about where one of the world’s most epic vengeance-mongers actually came from. We’re pretty sure Fredegund (also known as Fredegond, Fredegunda, or simply Freddie) was Frankish, meaning that she was simultaneously French, German, and Belgian without actually being any of those things, and that when she was in her late teens she was sold as a slave to the wife of King Chilperic of Souissons – a guy who at the time sort-of ruled a piece of the Frankish Kingdom (when Chilperic’s dad died, he’d divided his empire up among his sons rather than putting one kid in charge of the entire kingdom…


Well Fredegund wasn’t all that particularly interested in being a servant-girl to the Queen, so instead … she seduced King Chilperic, hooked up with him, then convinced him to divorce the Queen and send that annoying primadonna off to live a life of celibacy in a convent somewhere. Unfortunately for Freddie, once the king was divorced he decided to marry some annoying Visigoth Princess instead, so once again Fredegund worked her magic and had that bitch strangled to death in her sleep. After all the competition was dead or nunnified, Chilperic decided it was in the best interest of self-preservation to marry Fredegund, a woman who had now somehow awesomely gone from slave-girl to Queen of the Franks in the span of like a year and a half.


Well, naturally being the Queen was great and everything, but now Fredegund had a new problem to worry about – the hardcore sister of the recently-strangulated Visigoth Queen just so happened to be a … warrior-babe named Brunhilde, and Brunhilde was not a very happy girl. Brunhilde also just so happened to be a Queen in her own right, married to Chilperic’s brother Siegebert, a guy who was in charge of another part of the recently-divided Frankish Kingdom (still with me here?), and before long the two factions were in the process of stabbing each other in the face repeatedly and without mercy in an all-out war that stretched from Paris to Berlin.


Frankish troops like Fredegund would have routinely led into battle.


Long story short, Chilperic/Fredegund fought an epic seven-year war with Siegebert/Brunhilde, with either side sending their mailed knights charging spears-first into combat …. After a hard-fought campaign, Fredegund defeated her rivals, crushed them in battle, then had King Siegebert whacked by stabbing him in the kidneys by a pair of assassins while he was in the process of giving a speech about how he was going to get revenge … [on] Fredegund once and for all (I’m not sure if she planned the timing to work out like that, but it’s badass either way). With the rival King dead, Fredegund overran the rest of Siegebert’s men, captured Brunhilde, destroyed her cities, and then had Siegebert’s top government official (who was admittedly a greedy evil bastard known as “The Breaker of Wills”) executed by being systematically dismembered joint-by-joint with white-hot pokers and knives ….

Fredegund also planned to have Brunhilde whacked as well, but while she was trying to figure out some sort of awesome new cruel and unusual punishment to carry out some … [one] … broke Brunhilde out of prison and snuck her out of the realm. …. Fredegund eventually tracked that guy down and had him stabbed to death by his own servants, then had his kid poisoned to death by an evil chef just for good measure.


With Brunhilde sort-of out of the way, Fredegund continued her mad rampage to consolidate power for her, her husband, and their now-newborn son. First she went after the sons of Chilperic’s first wife (you know, the poor girl Fredegund had already exiled to a monastery), killing them by infecting them with dysentery until they died of their own explosive diarrhea. Then she went after some alleged conspirators and other people that talked trash about her, having them executed on torture racks and then throwing their broken bodies to wolves or lions. After that she attacked the clergy, most of whom weren’t all that cool with things like torture-related deaths and were stupid enough to say something like that out loud – first she whacked a dude named Mummolus the Perfect (who, let’s face it, couldn’t have been all that bad), then she publicly yelled at a Catholic Saint (and then silently watched the guy get stabbed and slowly bleed to death in his own cathedral), and, as if that’s not enough, she then tried to ice the Bishop of Bayeux for investigating the murder and sticking his stupid face where it didn’t belong (snitches get stitches).


…. Fredegund’s primary method of disposing of her enemies was by hiring easily-bribeable men to poison or shiv her enemies for her. Thanks to her own personal charm, a collection of dirty secrets that would make Nick Fury want to high-five her, and a nearly-limitless amount of gold at her disposal, the Queen of the Franks routinely hired everyone from Dukes and Priests to slaves and brigands to take up oleander-coated daggers and shank douchebags in her name. Her personal favorite method of execution was to hire a band of thugs armed with heavily-poisoned Swedish eating utensils known as scramsaxes (it even sounds like an IKEA thing) to fall upon her target in the woods … rob them, and leave them to die slow, agonizingly-painful deaths. Then, when the brigands would return to report the kill, Fredegund would have those …. whacked as well, regardless of whether they completed their mission or not (though it’s worth mentioning she’d just behead them with axes at dinner parties if they succeeded, whereas if they failed it was much worse… one poor cleric who failed to execute Brunhilde was punished by having his hands and feet cut off and then being thrown in a hole).


A scramsaxe.


Eventually Fredegund’s enemies got a little fed up with all this nonsense and had her husband Chilperic assassinated (some people thing this was Fredegund’s doing as well, but this seems unlikely). With her husband dead and her son still too young to rule, Fredegund fled Soissons to Paris, moved into the cathedral of Notre Dame, and took on the role of Queen Regent, where she controlled the day-to-day operations of the realm. Now officially in charge of the Kingdom, she ruled with an iron fist, forging alliances, sending armies into the field, and utterly crushing anyone who she considered a threat to either herself or her son.


For the most part, things were pretty successful – she ruled solo for a decade, captured several cities near Paris, allied with the powerful Kingdom of Burgundy, won the throne for her son, and beat … Theodebert who was acting up and causing all sorts of trouble – all of which are notable achievements for anybody, let alone a woman ruling undisputed in the … Middle Ages. She did have a little trouble with her daughter though… Fredegund unwisely tried to marry that poor girl off to the Visigoths, but instead of accepting her into their tribe they just robbed her of her dowry and sent her back to Paris empty-handed. The girl lived at home for a while, and, as can tend to happen with teenaged daughters and their mothers, they didn’t really get along. The highlight of this feud was one time when the daughter came out and said she should be the Queen Regent and Fredegund should retire – Fredegund, who was in the treasure room picking out jewels at the time, asked the daughter to grab something for her out of a particularly-huge treasure chest. When the daughter reached in, Fredegund closed the chest on her head and choked her … until she got her act together. As if you needed more … about this woman, this story was so popular during the Middle Ages that Fredegund is sometimes cited as a possible inspiration for the Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella.


Fredegund eventually sorted [things] out with her kid, handed the reins off once her son was old enough to take over as King, and then died peacefully in her bed in Paris in 597 AD. She’d ruled for 40 years, killed everyone who opposed her, and lived for revenge in a way most action movie heroes could only dream about. The only person who’d successfully eluded her wrath was that annoying do-gooder Brunhilde, but Fredegund’s son eventually settled that … once and for all as well – he captured the 60 year-old queen, put her on the rack for three days, then had her drawn and quartered by horses. His mom would have been proud. ….



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”.