Category Archives: Uncategorized


(All novitiates, wannabe proselytes, and non-describites

see Abram’s Historical Writing Facebook Page for details)

INFO on my other books, see AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE; also, GOODREADS.  Look for: “The Matthias Scroll” and “A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity” and coming December 1, 2017, “A Select Second Edition of The Matthias Scroll.”

The Great Jesus Whodunnit Mystery Contest

CLUE #10


Those who have read my book, “A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity,” may be aware that immediately following John’s execution by Herod Antipas (See pages 87-94), the Baptist’s (literally: “immerser’s”) following along with Jesus’ disciples gathered on the southern shore of Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) to mourn his death. My study, is the first to “excavate” the circumstances and textual evidence for this event, one which is of critical importance to the consequent developments. The date was early April (beginning of Hebrew Nisan) of 31 CE, the sixth of the tithing cycle.

Jesus arrives at the scene of the gathering, having been in retreat, and assumes a recognized role of leader, addressing the large group, as he stands by the water’s edge. Not far out is Simon/Peter’s fishing boat.

His eulogy is  resonant with praise, redounding to John for his fearless defamation of the tetrarch’s conjugal apostasy. Nor would Jesus let them silence John’s voice. Jesus, although in the most precarious of circumstances, echoes his cousin’s dangerous sentiment:

As Mark 10 informs us, he proclaims the very words which led Antipas to arrest and execute John:  “No woman may simply divorce her husband.” So saying, Jesus has publicly asserted Herodias is an adulteress, and theirs is an incestuous lovenest.

When he then turns and enters the water, wading toward the fishing boat, with the disciples already aboard and waiting, we may correctly infer from Matthew 14:24 the mourners took it as a sign he was calling upon them to join him in a memorial immersion ceremony. As they wade toward him and grasp his tunic, Jesus struggles against the choppy waves near the shore (Matthew 14:24-25) and hears them hailing him, “King of the Jews” (John 6:15).  He is desperate to free himself from their grasp (John 6:15) and to stop their calling him “King of the Jews.”

CLUE #10

Jesus was desperate to stop John’s followers and his own disciples from calling him “King of the Jews.” Why?


CLUE #9 of  “The Great Jesus Whodunnit Mystery Contest” is now posted

also on Facebook:  Abram’s History Page


If you have followed the first eight clues of the “Great Jesus Whodunnit Mystery Contest” my guess is you are an individual who fearlessly unlocks the gates of secrecy concealing millennia of Christian dogma. I won’t be giving too much away to sum up your investigation’s success so far: A. There were no Jews who ever testified Jesus said he was “King of the Jews.” (So none of them accused him of sedition, the capitol crime). B. Jews who supposedly preferred “Satan’s spawn” (Bar-abbas) choosing his life over Jesus (God’s son, as the Gospels portray) had no basis for identifying the Jews with Satan. Jesus never called the Hebrew People satanic and constantly sought his disciples’ return to the traditions of the Hebrew community. C. Upon looking into the matter (the Gospel texts), you have discovered there was somebody else who did want to kill Jesus. He was the tetrarch of the Galilee. D. His motive for wanting to kill Jesus required the necessary Roman charge of sedition just as was inscribed atop the cross (perchance a legal charge he may have brought) which is as as yet unlinked directly to him. However, you have learned from a neighbor about an individual whom the tetrarch did execute for being “exactly like Jesus.” E. Upon investigating this other fellow’s grim fate, you have learned that he had made provocative speeches decrying the tetrarch’s adulterous marriage, insulting both him and his sinful wife. What you now have garnered about that marriage: When he took her to bed as his wife, the tetrarch was already married to an Arab woman named Phaesalis, the daughter of a famed Nabatean warrior king, Aretas who fled from the lovenest of his new bride. Indeed, the tetrarch’s new wife was especially offended because she was accused not only of still being married–but to the half brother of her own new husband. Philip, in fact, was quite alive enough to complain bitterly he had never given her a divorce, nor would he grant her one. Well, the Romans had done that even if the administrative ceremony  stood little stead with the one who had put himself at risk, snarking his castigations. Even more precarious to his well-being, he had mustered his faithful following to cheer on the warriors of Aretas when they entered the Galilee to avenge Phaesalis’ humiliating banishment from the palace home. F. AND, so, as your investigation has revealed, he indeed went too far, inciting his followers to support the Nabatean’s revenge in a military incursion. SEDITION!  and was guilty of a Roman capitol crime…falling prey to the legal talons of the tetrarch’s eagle, let loose upon him by the administrative laws of Rome.

But, were John’s set of circumstances cast in the same mold as Jesus?

Clue #9  (Context)

Time to let the “gnat” out of the bag. (Didn’t think I could keep his identity a secret forever, did you?) John (uh-huh) later called the “Baptist,” Jesus’ beloved cousin who was born just six months before him to his aunt Elizabeth, had publicly scorned the un-sanctioned marriage (Ok, the tetrarch was Herod the Great’s  son, Antipas who basically stole his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias) and went on to incite northern Galileans (according to Josephus) to support Aretas’ revenge for humiliating his former, true wife, Phaesalis. Forget the head on the platter and that sexy dance by the daughter, please.

Now we come to some serious investigative stuff. When you examine the “neighborhood”of Antipas’ palace not too many days after John is executed, you receive a report from different local palace workers who have overheard Antipas. He is very upset about something.

He has heard that after he executed John there was a gathering of his followers, and a new leader (Jesus) appeared. Somebody who seemed to speak to the mourners appeared to console and even take his place. Antipas wants to know everything about him. Here’s some of what they can tell him, as your investigation of the Gospels reveals:

First, you may be surprised that Antipas doesn’t even know who he is. Therefore he asks, “Who is this I’m hearing about?” (Luke 9:9).

Sarcastically, he wonders aloud whether John has come back to life, since word has reached him that they all went into the water with him just like they always did with John. But then his spies who were at the gathering say what they overheard: he spoke of Antipas’ city council as bending whatever way the political winds might blow, scoffing they only appreciated people who dressed like they belonged in a palace…or only cared when it came to judging others–then solemnly warned God would judge them by their own false accusations of John.

If Antipas, upon hearing these reports, would have dismissed Jesus as a harmless annoyance, he was soon forced to change his mind–inasmuch as a matter of serious proportion arose. Jesus had just about completed his words with a profound homage to John, declaring for all to hear: “Truly, I say to you, there has never been anyone greater than John!” when he paused and looking directly at Antipas’ spies a ways from the water’s edge, as they waited for him to finish so they might return to their tetrarch with the report, proclaimed, “And not only may no man divorce his wife, but no woman may divorce her husband. And if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery!” (Mark 10:11-12)

CLUE #9: Antipas has learned that Jesus echoed the insult to Herodias for which he executed John. He wants to kill him for “being another John.” But what does the tetrarch need to do in order to build a case against Jesus which will stand the test of Roman jurisprudence. (Accusing the tetrarch and his wife are not a capitol offense, and there must be a supportable capitol charge for an execution).

The Great Jesus Whodunnit Mystery Contest!

For me there is no better way to welcome the change of season than with a new “dedicated” Facebook page, focused, for the time being, on sharing the ideas central to my published historical books on the life of Jesus. (One is about to be released: “A Select Second Edition” of The Matthias Scroll further exploring the thesis of my study.) As for the new FB page, it’s tagged “Abram’s Historical Writing” and I hope my FB friends, and others who are interested, will find time to visit and put in their own thoughts. To kick things off I’m having a CONTEST! The winners are those who follow clues I present incrementally (you should check daily) then, in a month or so, upon my supplying the final piece to the ancient puzzle, attempt to solve the mystery which all agree has tantalized scholars for the better part of two millennia. The crime? Jesus’ crucifixion. The mystery: Whodunnit, and why.

Your “solutions” are to be sent to my email address, just prior (or, perhaps not long after) my announcing the actual launch of my new book, the Select Second Edition of “The Matthias Scroll,” bearing the subtitle, “Jesus’ life as he would have remembered it.”


The prize to those “detectives” whom I determine to be basically correct, shall be a free, signed, softcover edition.

(Ruled out at the beginning: The Romans did it because Jews who hated Jesus told them to. Frankly, this proposition is more than specious blather. It constitutes a crucifixion coverup which is exposed in my forthcoming book for the first time–and which you shall be equipped to solve with the clues provided over the coming weeks!)

To be sure, both Jews and Christians are commonly nervous when their beliefs are subject to analytical scrutiny. Relying as so many of us do on faith, we reserve a very personal place for our religious beliefs, above the maelstrom of historical controversy. To ameliorate that concern, as an individual who explores spiritual paths, I should reassure all, that I have no desire to dismantle anybody’s religious beliefs. SO PLEASE DON’T RISK READING MY WORK IF IT IS GOING TO CAUSE YOU SLEEPLESS NIGHTS! Otherwise, for those who are confident, as I am, that God shall survive my inquiries and conclusions, permit me to invite those who choose, to join this expedition to meet the historical Jesus.

Prefatory Remarks:

Put on your favorite sleuth’s garment! I am not going to present the facts as I see them in the manner of a barrister making his argument. No doubt, that is a safer literary model. State the reasoned conclusion at the outset, introduce the evidence, support it with witnesses and rely on the jury–you, the reader, to either be persuaded or not. But what I’m suggesting in these next pages is my presentation of “clues,” for you to discern, which when linked to their subsequent occurrences slowly become an ominous parade of misfortunes leading to the catastrophe of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Your bonus, if you draw the correct conclusion as to why and by whom he was murdered on the cross (sent privately to my email) shall be a free softcover copy of my new book, the Select Second Edition of The Matthias Scroll, scheduled for release in October.

However, anybody who states that his execution was done by the Romans at the behest of “some Jews” ( as noted above) is automatically disqualified. Only if you follow the statement of clues, passages and commentary from the Gospels, shall you solve the question I have posed: How would Jesus’ have remembered what actually happened during the last eighteen months of his life, leading to his arrest and crucifixion?

Check regularly for clues!


CLUE #1:

We have a written, Gospel account describing a legal proceeding, the so-called “hearing” of Jesus the night of his fateful judgement by Pontius Pilate. It is a record of the grim events according to Matthew, Mark and Luke. All concur the Jewish witnesses refused to testify they had ever heard Jesus claim to be “King of the Jews” (Mark 14:55 and//’s) and therefore, based on Hebrew law, there was no legal basis to put him to death. As a result Caiaphas (the High Priest) became irate and said, “Why do we still need witnesses!” (Matthew 26:65).

If the account is correct, the Jews who are often blamed for abetting Jesus’ execution, were attempting to frustrate the demand the sentence be carried out. One may even suggest their intentions were to win Jesus’ a reprieve by denouncing him as a disturbance, rather than verify he was a leader of sedition against the empire. But what clue do we have that the one who recorded the events in Caiaphas’ house that night, was himself providing a reliable account?

You, the detective, should seek him out as a witness to what occurred in a famous earlier scene where he was shown to have Peter’s full faith in his unshakeable credibility. Don’t let the fact deter you that his identity is unknown in the setting you find.

CLUE #2 (context)

From the hearing at Caiaphas’ house (see Clue #1), Jesus is brought for a verdict before the Roman procurator of Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate. Towards the end of the pre-determined scene of judgment, the Gospels describe near-maniacal Jews pleading for the freedom of a prisoner (alternately, in the four Gospels: an “insurrectionist,” “bandit,” “murderer”) named Barabbas, rather than the freeing of Jesus, whose release Pontius Pilate supposedly offers as a traditional Passover figleaf to the Jewish populace. In the Gospels’ doctrinal version, long taken at face value, the voices of high priests on hand at that moment express their dissent from freeing Jesus, and clamor in screeching voices, “Crucify him!” sometimes, repetitively inciting a maniacal crowd. (Matthew and Mark both state that the high priests persuaded the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas.) Indeed, based on a superficial reading, one wonders how the high priest–oh, there was only one, so the Gospels got that wrong–well, how he managed time off when his most auspicious duties during the sacred first day of Passover demanded he attend the Temple services. Also, where was that enraged mass of angry Jews when Jesus was interrogated in Caiaphas’ house, then later, carrying the cross to Golgotha after departing the scene of judgment? Nowhere to be found! (Along the empty street, on the way to his crucifixion, the Roman guard has to require a passing Cyrene, a non-Hebrew to lift the dragging end of the cross and expedite the ascent.)

All of which brings us, my fellow detectives, to our next clue. If we are to believe the Gospels are guilty of falsely implicating the Jews in the crucifixion of Jesus, what was the motive?

CLUE #2:

There was no such attested name as “Barabbas” except as is found in the Gospels. “Bar” in ancient Aramaic means “son of” and “abbas” means “father.” If Jesus was, according to the Gospels, the son of God, our CLUE #2 IS: the name “Barabbas”

How does it help explain the Gospels’ blame of the Jewish People for Jesus’ death?


 CLUE #3:  (context)

Permit me to assume that most who have recognized “Barabbas” as an eponym for “son of Satan” may ascribe the contempt for Jews as “crucifixion-complicit” to natural wrath directed toward God’s cosmic antagonists. Who wouldn’t blame Satan for killing God’s son, if Satan was available to blame? Of course, the assumption that it was the Jews, requires an absolutely necessary historical surmise: Jesus had experienced many confrontations with Galilean Pietists, an arrogant branch of super-observant Pharisees living in the north. He had traded insults with them on more than one occasion. But did the genre of his aggravation ever reach the same level of antipathy manifest in the “Barabbas” accusation? Did Jesus ever teach his disciples that the Jewish People were Satan’s spawn? If the opposite is true, and Jesus taught his disciples to appreciate their Hebrew heritage, then you must search for other clues to explain the Christian dogma’s harrowing apparition of evil with its false accusation.

Ultimately your clues shall lead to the cause of the crucifixion itself.

CLUE #3: Find evidence (at least one Gospel passage) that Jesus repeatedly taught his disciples that though they were Jews who had strayed from the tradition, they could learn Torah and return.

CLUE #4: Did Jesus see himself as the actual “Son of God?”

There was one recorded instance in the Gospels when Satan did try to kill Jesus. Find this passage and hypothesize a historical episode beneath the midrash as a first step in perceiving how Jesus saw himself.

 CLUE # 5: (context)

We have reached the first milestone in the Great Jesus Whodunnit Mystery.

If you have followed the clues to this point, you have ascertained that the blame placed on the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion was a coverup of the crime orchestrated at the behest of another (as yet unknown) personage or authorities–and perpetrated for motives still to be ascertained.

Again, to avoid confusion, I must acknowledge most people well-versed in the standard explanations offered by the church, especially in more recent Papal ecumenical pronouncements, have this stultified impression:

Supposedly, the High Priest Caiaphas, acting out of a tidal surge of Jewish contempt toward Jesus, handed him over to Pontius Pilate for judgment. Pilate then acquiesced in agreeing to the sentence of crucifixion.

One important contradiction to that scenario, hopefully reached in your even rudimentary assessment of the clues, is that the authors of the Barabbas literary patch, with its associated Jewish priests and crowd braying their hideous demand for Jesus’ crucifixion stands out as an editorial emendation, recognizably so from the fact that the witnessing Jews at Caiaphas’ hearing refused to testify Jesus was guilty of sedition. Nonetheless, the fact the Gospel insert is motivated by seething contempt requires we follow the trail to discern the source of malice which led the Gospels to subsequently portray the Jews as “Christ-killers.” In other words, it is highly suspicious that the Jews were made to look guilty when they were not. Our question must first be what made them such a good choice as scapegoats? Why would the early followers of Jesus, including at least some of his own disciples, be prepared to believe (or stipulate) there was Jewish responsibility for killing Jesus and let it become part of their religious canon?

Who, indeed, were they covering for? And, were they doing so wittingly, or not?

The first part–why would the followers of Jesus hate the Jews enough to consider them his probable murderers is obvious. Numerous instances of clashes between the Pietists and Jesus constitute a sad record of that interaction. Since it is not a “mystery” but an established, repetitive motif, permit me to summarize its central features.

1. The community of Pietists in the Galilee, an offshoot of the more moderate southern Pharisees (even mocked by them in the Talmud as exhibitionistic), rejected the “locals” who lived in the same northern towns, taking their ignorance of Torah observance and synagogue culture as signs of possible doubtful Hebrew lineage. This was reflected in their refusal to eat meals together, or to allow their families to “intermarry.” In the Gospels the disparagement is frequent, but a few examples which make the point are: Jesus being criticized for teaching “sinners,” (Mark 2:17) and the Pietists saying they are “fruit from a rotten tree.” (Matt. 7:18)

This exclusion was not a genre we appreciate from a modern perspective. Back then, two important temporal events were coinciding, deeply affecting every Jew. One was the year seven of the tithing cycle, when all anticipated prophesies of old could come true, and the other was a growing belief that the coming fall harvest holiday (the Feast of Booths/Sukkot) would be the advent of God’s return to the midst of His People to usher in His Kingdom as in the days of Moses. On the calendar, the year was 31 when Jesus was teaching and healing. He would die in spring of 31, the Hebrew month of Nisan. The Hebrew New Year, occurring in the fall (about five months post-crucifixion) still 31 of the Common Era (a calendar instituted later on), would be on the first of the Hebrew month of Tishri. With it would commence one of the two temporal events just noted: The beginning of the seventh year of the tithing cycle, the second, just 15 days later.

Why is this important for our investigation? Because the antipathy toward Jesus’ disciples and followers which would exclude them as doubtful Hebrews did NOT simply keep them from sharing meals–it kept them out of God’s coming Kingdom, anticipated to eventuate in that Rosh ha-shannah through Sukkot period.

Therefore, the hate felt by Jesus’ followers toward the Jews was for shutting the gates to God’s Kingdom.

Jesus is quoted as saying as much: Matthew 23:13-14.

Certainly there was Pietist contempt for Jesus followers reflected in their arrogant exclusion of them as doubtful Hebrews. But it was not hate. The disciples were a small and powerless group, at most an annoyance. Therefore, as interesting and as important as the Pietist role may be in ostracizing Jesus’ followers, to ascertain the motive for murdering Jesus, we would best look elsewhere.

(Note to my detective squad): If you have gotten stuck on clue #3, here’s the gist. Jesus was teaching his disciples they could, with his guidance and Torah study, return to the Jewish “family,” that is, the Covenantal fold from which they had strayed–therefore he certainly was not intending them to join the ranks of Satan.

As for Clue #4: Here, I must apologize. The clue as formulated, gets ahead of our inquiry, and is a misstep. The scene to which it refers is known as the “Temptation” and in Luke (4:9-12) takes place on the Temple Mount.

YES, we shall have a look at its significance in developing our “whodunnit” case. Just not quite yet, except, for now, to fully dismiss Jesus’ perceiving the Jews as Satan’s spawn. Simply, as dramatized, Satan’s ploy is to get Jesus to jump off the Temple precipice, proving he is God’s son–but actually to kill himself. For us what matters is there’s not even the slightest whisper of a hint that Satan is connected in any way to the Jews. If the author had it in mind to echo a hateful sentiment of Jesus, he would have done it. He held back because he knew it wasn’t true.

In sum (before moving on to the “Whodunnit” phase of the investigation) we have fully put to rest the villain-ization of the Jews as “satanic” according to Jesus. Although Jesus does denounce the Pietists for themselves being descendents of defiled lineages ( as one among several examples, Matthew 23:31) “You are the sons of those who have murdered prophets” he NEVER equates the Jews with Satan (as does the Barabbas slander).


If the Jews didn’t do it–somebody else did. Ok, Pontius Pilate was the “Hit man.” But he went along for the ride. It’s time to do what any good TV detective does when questioning the neighbors and ask, “Is there anybody who might have wanted to kill Jesus? Has anybody said they intended to kill him if they got the chance?”

Keep in mind, even if you come up with evidence pointing in the direction of a possible suspect, we’d still be looking for a motive. If you come up with a name, you must link it to a possible motive.

CLUE #6 and CLUE #7 (context)

In Clue #5 you have already begun attempting to identify the true culprit, the one who wanted Jesus dead. You have eliminated a satanic Jewish People or even group of malevolent Jews, recognizing they were likely scapegoats for some kind of crucifixion coverup, and now are on the track of the one who did it.

Our next clue is a passage in the Gospel of Matthew (23:24), quoting Jesus as he rebukes Pietists (super observant Pharisees of the Galilee) in a verbal duel, “You would strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” he declares. The Greek term for “swallow” was often used figuratively and meant “engorge” or “fill up with” in this context.

So, we are now to inquire who was the gnat and who the camel?

Here, I shall play the role of Dr. Watson. In that third decade of the first century, the Nabatean warrior king, Aretas, was pictured on his coinage, rather uniquely, with a camel. His “camel” nickname pronounced by Jesus would have been instantly recognized, as would have been the identity of the “gnat.”

Before you identify the “gnat” here is what you must know about Aretas. He had a daughter named Phaesalis who married a famous, powerful half-Jewish leader from the Galilee. They were together in a beautiful palatial home for years when her husband fell in love with another woman. That other woman was not only married, but was married to the man’s half brother, born as they were to different mothers. When her husband refused to give her a divorce, she managed to get one from the Roman administration. Pietists the Galilee over approved because she had a noble Hebrew lineage and would be an eligible Jewish queen one day. But it was not a divorce according to Torah law–and the “gnat” happened to be strictly observant.

When Aretas’ daughter Phaesalis fled her home and took refuge in Nabatea, Aretas mustered his camel warriors for an attack on the Galilee. Meanwhile, the “gnat” went around saying everybody should welcome his camel warriors and aid in his revenge until the incestuous and adulterous marriage was ended.

The region of the Galilee had swallowed the camel (filling up with its warriors) and Aretas had burned many villages–until the powerful leader of the region had the gnat arrested on grounds of sedition, for inciting the crowds to overthrow him. More than sedition, the insult to his wife as an adulteress was his motive for arresting the “gnat.” But it was the charge of sedition that legally empowered him to sentence him to die.

CLUE #6:

Identify the “gnat”

Identify the “important half-Jewish Galilean leader”

As in every decent criminal investigation of an unsolved murder, the detective queries the neighbors. “Do you know an individual who threatened to kill the victim?” Indeed, only one such overheard threat exists in the Gospels. The witness’ testimony is the Gospel text necessary to grasp the next clue.

CLUE #7: Cite evidence in the form of a witness’ testimony that the Galilean leader wanted to kill Jesus.

 Clue #8 (context)

Here I must again be “Dr. Watson.” The “gnat” could not be executed simply for insulting the Galilean leader. His tetrarchy (a hint as to his identity) was totally subordinate to the Emperor Tiberius’ Roman law. Although the “gnat” had derided said Galilean tetrarch, publicly reviling his wife’s unholy bond with her living husband’s brother…it was NOT a capitol crime (Matthew 14:4) But when his speeches turned to incitement, popularizing northern support for Aretas’ incursion (Josephus: Ant.18:5:2) the offense became “sedition against the Empire,” a crime punishable by death. Thus, the “gnat” was executed.

CLUE #8: If you have found the evidence required in clue #7, and are prepared to argue the northern tetrarch ruling the Galilee wanted Jesus dead, you still have not established a motive. Find textual evidence that he identified Jesus as being the same as the “gnat” and infer the probability that, if so, he would intend to do exactly as the witness testifying in clue #7 stated he said he would. (Note: Again, even if he harbored feelings toward Jesus believing he was “the same as the gnat” you have yet to show any basis for a charge that Jesus insulted his adulterous matrimony or acted seditiously. In other words, you the detective must shortly search for clues something happened to cause him to cast jesus in that light!)


On or about September 15th, IUniverse will release a significant Select Second Edition of “The Matthias Scroll,” which fully unearths, for the first time, the historical crucifixion coverup which became the cornerstone of Christian theology.

It will be available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and retail booksellers. Please click on my Facebook Page for further information and do comment on this blog.

The linguistic excavations of “The Matthias Scroll” have now accomplished what many are recognizing as a major breakthrough in New Testament studies, recovering an altogether different, long-lost tract from beneath the Gospels’ doctrinal text. The identification of Matthias (Acts I:21) as the unnamed witness who recorded a detailed report of events as they unfolded, including the hearing inside the High Priest’s house where Jesus was interrogated by Caiaphas, the judgment by Pilate, and his final hours on the cross, stand alone as historic testimony to what actually occurred.


Controversial biblical scholar makes startling assertions about life of Jesus
New study promises to become cornerstone of Gospel analysis

NEW YORK – In his recently-released nonfiction book,  A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity  (published by iUniverse), author Abram Epstein uses critical analysis to reach the New Testament’s historical core in order to provide a “three-dimensional” biographical portrait of Jesus, a feat most New Testament scholars have long-considered impossible.

Offering fresh translations and interpretations, Epstein crosses linguistic hurdles solving millennia-old riddles. In the process, he illuminates the drama of Jesus’ life and death, revealing hitherto unknown episodes which shaped his last 18 months, finally leading to his capture, crucifixion and interment.

“If he were reading today’s typical Gospel commentaries,” Epstein suggests, “Jesus would see them as patchwork caricatures. My study reconstructs Jesus’ life as he would have remembered it, enabling us to appreciate him as a human being.”

Praise for A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity:
“Delightful and provocative! Epstein has constructed a novel portrait of Jesus’ life based on New Testament passages juxtaposed to the Judaism of his time. Applying his own method of interpretation, the author challenges the Gospel account, recovering biographical dimensions of a pre-Christian, humanized Jesus. Joining the tradition of ‘the search for the historical Jesus,’ what results is a readable, provocative thesis.”
– Shaul Magid, Professor of Jewish and Religious Studies, Indiana University

“A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity”
By Abram Epstein
Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 200 pages | ISBN 9781491775080
Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 200 pages | ISBN 9781491775073
E-Book | 200 pages | ISBN 9781491775066
Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

About the Author
Abram Epstein, a New Yorker, has served as Director of Education for several synagogues and actively participated in the Manhattan Educators’ Council. His graduate studies at New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center focused on ancient Near Eastern religions and biblical Judaism. He is a recipient of the university’s prestigious Founders’ Award for academic accomplishment and has a screen credit as historical consultant for “The Seventh Sign” starring Demi Moore. His other books include,  The Historical Haggadah, and The Matthias Scroll, with a reportedly controversial sequel,  A Select Second Edition, scheduled for September release.



5.0 out of 5 stars

 good to make you think

Verified Purchase. Amazon

I didn’t believe everything in this book, but it is a good to make you think. This book will be controversial but makes a good analysis of the life of Jesus. I am a christian minister, as well as a retired physician, so I study a lot of christian history & theology. This book can shake you up some but that is good. We must not be complacent about religion because “God has more light & truth to break forth from His word”. We don’t know everything yet & must keep our minds open to new findings & new knowledge-thought. RAG

5.0 out of 5 stars

Five Stars

By Amazon Customer

A very plausible explanation of Jesus life mysteries

4.0 out of 5 stars

A Book Teeming with Theory and Conjecture … And Most of it Makes Sense

Not everyone will find this book about Jesus easy to read. Author Abram Epstein takes the events recorded in the four Gospels and examines them in relation to their original Jewish context, revealing a Jesus plagued by self-doubt and self-loathing due to the illegitimacy of his birth and unwanted claims of his divinity by his disciples. His examination uncovers plausible references as to the true nature of Jesus’ mission, assigns a new identity to the beloved disciple, explains the true cause of Judas’ ultimate betrayal, underlines the dire urgency behind Jesus’ repeated admonishments to Simon Peter, and demonstrates the schism within the not-so-tight-knit group of Apostles. Thought-provoking and insightful, Abram’s “A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity” is teeming with conjecture … and – taken in the context with which it is presented – most of it makes sense! I recommend this read for anyone interested in being open to a new interpretation of the four Gospels and getting a closer look at the historical life and times of Jesus.


A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity

Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and coming soon to other retail booksellers.


Because Jesus’ last two years comprise a drama characterized by  hitherto unrecognized events, my investigation (“A Documented Biography of Jesus…”) has the aspect of an unfolding mystery story. Really, the mystery has been created by the Gospel text, as its passages alchemize the tragedy of Jesus’ gruesome end, turning his crucifixion into eternal life and salvation. In their attempt to conceal the terrible reality of what happened, the Gospel authors and editors, obscure historical  recollections beneath their falsehoods and exaggerations, whitewashing clues in the purifying font of what was the fledgling theology: Christianity, as it would be called.

(Among other notable 2015 occurrences, I would consider the recovery of the Matthias recollections, a preserved substratum of the Gospels recovered by my work, one of foremost significance in the field of New Testament studies. His role is fully explicated in my latest book, and he is also the leading figure in my historical novel, “The Matthias Scroll.”)

Naturally, no writer is enthusiastic about “giving away too much” of the story line of a new book. Still, I realize an academic work about Jesus may be more accessible to the lay reader with a little help. Therefore, those who have an interest in the subject may find their appetites whet by the following “firsts” –though the book provides a  far more thorough and engaging discourse. Therefore, I am disclosing some of the contents, while emphasizing the complete historical account of the weeks before and after his death still awaits in “A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity.”

The setting:

With the Seventh Year completion of the tithing cycle, in the year 31 CE, Jesus sought to restore his disciples’ path to God’s anticipated Kingdom, imminent in the minds of most observant Jews of the north. It would be a time when the land was again free of Roman occupation, an ideal age under the rule of a descendant of King David as the ancient prophets envisaged.

   But Jesus’ disciples’ ignorance of synagogue culture, Hebrew prayer, Torah commandments and Temple traditions made them conspicuous as possibly doubtful Hebrews–and raised suspicions about their teacher. His healing on Shabbat (the Sabbath), though nowhere prohibited in the Torah, was contrary to custom–as was his compassionate touch of those with possible diseases of “punishment” such as lifelong infirmities, ranging from atrophied limbs, to blindness, paralysis, or leprosy. Only offering assurance and hope that when God’s Kingdom commenced, all would be healed, Jesus’ words were exaggerated by his own disciples as if pronouncing forgiveness of sin, thus revealing his divine authority as the son of God.

   Against the backdrop of increasing antagonism towards him, here is a sample of the recovered sequence of episodes deeply affecting his life.

 Based on restored text, published in my work for the first time:

1.  Jesus performs an exorcism on a congregant in the Sea of Galilee’s lakeside Kfar Nahum synagogue –a man whom he takes for possessed –but who is normal, only screaming at him out of terror.

2. Word spreads to Nazareth (his mother’s home) that he is evil, having tried to silence a devout Jew to keep him from exposing him as evil.

3. At a wedding in the nearby village of Cana, his mother tells him, “If you keep acting crazy, nobody will marry you.” He understands: People would suspect he didn’t know the identity of his father. (People believed a person who couldn’t identify their father went crazy–and most Nazareth neighbors hadn’t recalled seeing Joseph for years.)

4. From his mother’s warning, Jesus now knows he was born of adultery and that Joseph, who stopped coming to Nazareth when he was twelve, was not his biological father.

5. Faced with the question of how he should feel toward his mother for what she had done when she was only sixteen, he has the vision recorded as “the Adulteress Woman” –and he does not condemn her.

6. He now thinks that his teaching Torah may not have been inspired by God’s holy spirit, and may have been mouthed by the satanic voice of his unknown father –possibly a foreigner, or an idolator –and certainly an adulterer. What the Pietist Jews of the Galilee, that extremist offshoot of the more mainstream Pharisees, said about him was ringing true: He feared he had been promising his Torah-ignorant disciples entry into the Kingdom of God as if he were anointed with divine authority.

7. Overwhelmed by the sense of his own sin, for exalting himself as God’s anointed, Jesus steps toward the edge of the Temple mount, and contemplates leaping to his death. In the distance, from the precipice, he sees his cousin John, whose mother Elizabeth was Mary’s mother’s sister.

8. Seeking Covenantal purification of his defiled ancestry, Jesus stumbles down the mountain to John’s welcoming embrace.

9. John says, “God can raise descendants of Abraham from these river rocks.” And with that Jesus is immersed, cleansed in the rushing waters of the mikveh (as Jews called it for a millenium or more, and which Christians renamed the “baptism”).

10. Having repented any transgression he may have made, for seeming to his disciples  a “master over Torah law” or equating himself with God –or having the authority to invite them to enter God’s imminent Kingdom –Jesus now atoned.

11. He told them: Anybody who changes a letter of the Torah will be least in God’s Kingdom;

declaring, the Torah will be sacred forever.

12. Further, he stopped all healings, recognizing they were interpreted by others as acts of forgiving sin (the diseases being seen as punishment by God). The only time he offered a paralyzed man his compassionate touch again, was when he was lowered through the broken open roof of Matthias’ house–broken open because Jesus did not want to let in those seeking his healing. And the words he addressed to the afflicted individual were conspicuously not words of forgiveness: “You will walk again,” Jesus said to him, offering the hope typical of all Jews that their suffering would end when God’s Kingdom commenced. To make sure he was not misunderstood, he added “It’s easier to tell him that than to get him to stand up and walk,” a bit of sarcasm at his own expense.


   Generally known is the fact that other rabbis of Jesus’ era had made themselves conspicuous as healers with messianic powers, but at most only bore the brunt of popular mockery, not suffering official sanction nor the unimaginably gruesome punishment of crucifixion. Among the many historical issues surrounding Jesus’ last two years, therefore, one of the most contentious argued by scholars is what Jesus had done to cause his arrest –and why he was put to death. “A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity” fully recovers Jesus’ last eighteen months and has the first complete, elaborate description of the actual events leading to his arrest, capture and crucifixion.



Jesus’ Life As He Would Have Remembered It a paper by Abram Epstein


                                   Jesus’ Life As He Would Have Remembered It

                                                           a paper by Abram Epstein

   The following is an extrapolation of key biographical episodes in the life of Jesus  reconstructed with textual evidence in my forthcoming book, A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity. Those interested in my textual analysis supporting argued assertions, other than Matthias’ role which is provided below, should refer to the book.

  Before beginning the drama of Jesus’ historical life, the reader is encouraged to become familiar with Matthias, named by Simon to replace Judas Iscariot after the crucifixion. I assert he was not only a regular companion of Jesus, as Simon says in Acts I:21, but was the only one who witnessed everything that happened to Jesus firsthand from the time of his arrest. Further, as his friend and confidant, Matthias’ recollections are well-preserved as subtext beneath the Christianizing enhancements of the Gospels. His voice is once again heard in my work.

   My position holds that Matthias’ name was expunged –in a fashion not dissimilar to the suppression of his entries–because he rejected the fledgling theology anointing Jesus messiah king, and celebrating his death as a model of salvation. The overwhelming evidence for this supposition is the story of Jesus’ life as it emerges from beneath the layers of midrashic theology superimposed by the earliest devotees in their postmortem desperation to messianize their fallen teacher. That story, as you will now read, is completely contrary to the church message in every major tenet of its doctrine–leaving little doubt its author, Matthias, had been exorcised as if he were a demon in their midst. The preservation of what he contributed is owed to one inescapable truth: His recollections were of what Jesus said and did. Therefore, they could be Christianized, but not deleted.

(NOTE: This paper does not include a historical account of the crucifixion, entombment, or the aftermath, which Matthias also witnessed and recorded. His version of postmortem events, as detailed in my book, comprises a serious challenge to standard Christian theology.)

A brief summary of relevant facts supporting the Matthias-source as a subtext in the Gospels and asserting he was the only witness among the disciples at the Caiaphas hearing, and judgment by Pilate:

   Matthias, a personage of importance in Jesus’ life, according to Acts I:21 became the twelfth disciple replacing Judas Iscariot after the crucifixion. His choice as a replacement of Judas Iscariot is documented in the New Testament (Acts 1:21–26). The relevant passage describing the moment reads:

    [Simon said] “We must choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the lord Jesus was traveling around with us, someone who was with us from the time when John was baptizing until the day when he was taken up from us—and he can act as witness to his resurrection…” then they [voted]…and Matthias was listed as one of the twelve disciples [also called “apostles” after Jesus’ death].

   Matthias’ role in creating the “new testament” is explicit. Simon says as much, with the words, “He can act as witness …”

   Based on further documentation, one may infer he was expected to record the disciples’ recollections of Jesus’ teaching and life. As the group’s scribe, he would take down their “witnessed” testament.

   (Note: Fictionalized in my historical novel, The Matthias Scroll, Matthias eventually sets about writing his own private scroll, determined to faithfully preserve Jesus’ memory, recording the events as they actually happened.)

More Footprints Leading to Matthias’ Historical Identity

   In John 13:23, at the “Last Supper,” Simon asks “the disciple Jesus loved” to inquire of Jesus who he meant would betray him.

   Sitting at his side during the dinner, this mystery disciple’s relationship with Jesus is such that he is presumed by Simon to know more about Jesus’ preoccupation with the betrayal and impending arrest than any of the others.

   After Jesus’ arrest, when he is taken to the fateful hearing before Caiaphas, Simon is excluded, but “the disciple” is permitted to enter. Only when “the disciple” intercedes with a formal request, based on knowing Caiaphas personally (John 18:15–16), is Simon permitted to even enter the gated exterior courtyard. The relevant passage indicates the individual’s administrative stature, plainly a man with authority, such as that of Matthias, purportedly a Sanhedrin scribe.

Simon-Peter and another disciple followed Jesus to Caiaphas’ house (the hearing chamber). Since the disciple was known to the high priest (he) went with Jesus inside, but Simon was standing outside the door (courtyard gate). So the disciple, being known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman watching the gate, and brought Simon in (to the courtyard).

   There, a fire had been lit and Simon was able to stay warm, along with the “servants and guards.”

   Several significant conclusions concerning the identity of “the disciple” emerge in this Gospel setting. First, he remained at Jesus’ side, just as he had several hours earlier at the Last Supper. Therefore, we may infer it was the same person. Furthermore, having the stature of a scribe, he enabled Simon to enter the gated courtyard of the high priest. Of undeniable importance, the so-called disciple has enough political weight to be included at the hearing to witness the proceedings.

   No other member of Jesus’ circle is present as the interrogation begins—and plainly, only that individual could later provide any information about what occurred.

   Recognizing his scribal status, one may logically infer that whatever record the Gospels make pertaining to Jesus’ appearance before Caiaphas is drawn from the account subsequently offered by “the disciple”–arguably Matthias– and revised in Simon’s version.

   Not only was Matthias the single member of Jesus’ entourage to witness the hearing before Caiaphas, but he, alone among the group, saw the grotesque mockery and derision at Pontius Pilate’s Praetorium and Gabbatha scene of judgment.

   Therefore, his detailed account would again constitute the only record of the event.

   Two more chronicled appearances place him at the scene of the crucifixion and at the “empty tomb,” with both accounts concealing the actual history beneath a heavy theological gloss.

   As the only witness among Jesus’ companions at the Caiaphas hearing, the judgment by Pilate, and the crucifixion, one may conclude that Matthias, having the skills of a scribe, could render a historical account of what actually occurred.

   Why was his name expunged from the Gospels?

   As noted above, the evidence indicates he refused to exalt a glorified, supra-human Jesus.

   As common sense suggests, whatever occurred to terminate Matthias’ function as the group’s scribe must have been tantamount to an emotional rupture. Almost certainly, the rift would have been accompanied by anger and, quite probably, mutual recrimination.

   This author’s surmise that Matthias had been Jesus’ friend suggests he well-knew and rejected the messianic enhancement by Simon. More spiritual perjury than a simple act of exaggeration, Simon’s postmortem exaltation of Jesus exhibited the very same reverence which ultimately enabled Antipas to charge him with sedition. On the road to Jerusalem for that fateful Passover, he had warned Simon to stop proclaiming him God’s chosen king, or he would be killed. After his death, Matthias would not have helped spawn that twisted memory of who he was, a glorified image which Jesus had tried desperately to dispel.


 In the Gospels, it is worth noting that the Greek for “disciple,” “mathetes,”  may indicate lack of belief in a teacher. In Acts 19:1, the term is applied to those who were ignorant of the holy spirit. Based on the Greek usage, one may conjecture that the Last Supper reference to “the disciple” originally relied on a finely drawn, disparaging vernacular.


   Finally, there is the post-Crucifixion “Parable of the Wedding Banquet” (Matthew 22:11-14). According to the text, the wedding of “the king’s son” is “crashed” by a guest who the king recognizes as an interloper, conspicuously not wearing the proper wedding garment (of belief in Jesus as the son of God). As he is thrown out, the king declares, “many are called, but few are chosen.” The only disciple “called”–that is, invited, was Matthias, by Simon, to fill the place of Judas Iscariot. The others were “chosen” by Jesus when he was alive.


   For those who may not be familiar with the New Testament, the canonized Christian scripture  comprises four Gospels, each a separate version of Jesus’ life,  and a partially historical work perhaps by the author of Luke,  called “Acts,” followed by Epistles, letters to early church communities, authored mostly by  Paul, a major apostle and shaper of early Christian theology, as well as seven letters by others, and the so-called Book of Revelation. All four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as they are called, tell the same general story: Jesus, a young man, was baptized by his cousin John, undertook a ministry of miraculous healings, taught a group of disciples and devotees lessons about righteousness, was castigated by Galilean adversaries for equating himself with God, traded insults with local Jewish leaders labeled, “Pharisees,” and revealed his true identity as God’s son to those who would have a role in the coming Kingdom of God. Finally,  he was arrested and crucified and disappeared from his tomb–a sign  that his life and death was a model of salvation. This pretty much sums up the main drama according to Christianity on which its theology is based.

   This paper will offer an altogether different account –and, as noted earlier, does not include my elaborate treatment of events during and after the crucifixion, portrayed in my novel, The Matthias Scroll and analyzed in my forthcoming documented biography of Jesus.

   We may with some measure of certainty open the curtain on the gloomy sequence of events around  the year 30. Tiberius was emperor as he had been since 14 when his predecessor, Augustus died. Under Augustus, Herod the Great’s three sons, Archelaus, Antipas and Philip inherited what had been a unified principality of Judea, with each granted administrative rule over a discrete region. Archelaus was given the lion’s share, as ruler of the south, including Jerusalem and holding the high title “ethnarch,” until the year six when he was ousted by the Romans and replaced by the first of Jerusalem’s Procurators, Coponius. That was likely the year when Jesus was born.  Antipas was made Tetrarch of the Galilee, Perea and the Decapolis, with Philip having the area mostly to the north and east of Hula, including Caesaria Philippi.

   Here I ask the reader to indulge my penchant for occasional prose as a literary vehicle suited  to vivid  description.

  Imagine, if you will, the personal pride Antipas was feeling. Perhaps sitting looking out one of his palace windows set in the heights of Tiberius, founded by him in honor of the new emperor, his heart would be pounding at the thought of what was about to happen. For the first time he was truly in love. His amour, Herodias, daughter of Aristobulus, would join him in a matter of days–for news had just reached him that Rome had granted her a divorce despite the fact her still- living husband had refused. His half brother Philip, and fellow tetrarch, was always so unreasonable! Yes, that’s right. Antipas, the tetrarch of the galilee, was marrying the wife of his half-brother Philip–though he was still quite alive and had never agreed to give her a divorce.

   Who else, you may wonder was opposed?

   Well, for one, there was Phasaelis. She was the esteemed daughter of the renowned Nabatean warrior King, Aretas–referred to by Jesus as “The Camel.” Phasaelis was at this very juncture (one imagines) on the lower floor closing her last bag for her courtiers to load on the wagon which was about to depart poste haste for the outskirts of Macherus, and a waiting escort by a Nabatean general to her father’s consoling arms. She was Antipas’ current wife, now humiliated to the point of regional warfare.

   Of course you might expect the strictly observant community of Galilean Jews, lumped together by the Gospels with more liberal Pharisees of the south, to also vehemently protest the conjugal heresy so imminent.

   Who were they?

   The Gospel of Matthew (23:5), says the so-called regional Pharisees wore extra-long tephillin (phylacteries) and extra-long tsee tzeet (ritual fringes) and stood all the time while praying, which echoes a passage in the Talmud (Sotah 22b) disparaging the type of Pharisees who performed their religious obligations ostentatiously. The Talmud lists their many exhibitionistic traits and labels them “foolish Pietists.” Hasidim, or Pietists as I think we should call them, traced their roots back to the group of observant Jews who fought alongside Judah Macabee in the Hanukkah War two centuries earlier. And we know that is how they saw their personal history from the way they reacted to Herodias.

   You would think they would demand Antipas’ future bride be given a divorce by her husband Philip according to Torah law–in order for them to approve their wedlock. Least of all should it be a divorce sanctioned only by the Roman court! Still, you’d never know it from their apparent glee as their long payot, one imagines, waved back and forth while they raced about telling each other the good news.

   They were ecstatic. Herodias, as it happened, was a true daughter of Macabbean  royal lineage. It might be adultery if she married Antipas. It might even be incest. But she would be their Jewish queen! What is more, they would hardly protest the marriage when the tetrarch expressed his gratitude for their support by selecting their leaders as administrative advisors, earning them the derisive label, “Herodians,” in the Gospels.

  And that brings us to Jesus’ cousin John, known to Christianity as “the Baptist,” who certainly did protest.

   By publicly deriding Antipas and insulting Herodias, for marrying his halachically (that is, according to Jewish law) undivorced wife, John had allied himself with supporters of Aretas, as he prepared an attack on the Galilee to avenge his daughter’s humiliation. According to Josephus in Antiquities (book 18 chapter five) John’s strident incitement of his fairly large following was soon to become the basis for a charge of sedition.The Gospel of Mark (6:17-18) corroborates the risk John took in ridiculing Herodias, so that Antipas had found a legal basis for avenging the perceived insult to his new wife.

   Turning the  sundial forward, we arrive at late spring of 31.

   Jesus, a young man about 26 years old, had been joined by a group of acquaintances, mostly fishermen from the Kinneret village of Beit Zaida, whom he adopted as his students.  Before long, their number would grow to twelve and they would become known to us as his disciples.

  Telling from his curriculum, they were ignorant of Torah law, synagogue prayer, and had no special reverence for the Jerusalem Temple. But they knew that the coming Rosh ha-shannah of the year 31CE–the seventh in the tithing cycle–many Galileans were expecting to witness the advent of God’s prophesied Kingdom and they didn’t want to be left out.

   During the early months of Jesus’ ministry, he would attempt to teach them Torah mitzvot (commandments) as well as correct Hebrew prayer and synagogue custom.

 As Jesus taught his group the Ten Commandments  (Matthew 19:16-19:20), perhaps on Shavu’ot (the Feast of Weeks), the Galilean Pietists were preparing for God’s arrival, elevating the purity of their houses to the level of the Jerusalem Temple, anointing themselves a pseudo-priesthood.

All the while, Jesus was inculcating his students with various concepts concerning the Jewish style of prayer, correct behavior in a synagogue, and giving charity (Matthew 6:5-6:8; Luke 6:30), but his frustration at their ignorance and detachment was obvious, so much so that

 on one occasion, after Shabbat services, he told them, “Don’t babble like Gentiles when you pray (Matthew 6:7). Quite likely he was similarly motivated to subsequently note Isaiah’s more ancient edict that there was nothing wrong with praying in private (Matthew 6:6).

   But  Jesus persisted, observing  rituals associated with “shemitah”–the Seventh Year of the tithing cycle (occurring that fateful year, 31-32 CE) and instructed his devotees to end all grudges and debts, exactly as the Torah commanded. Much of his teaching concerning prayer and tradition was to enable his disciples to join in observing the Jewish holy days (especially Rosh ha-shannah, the New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement). The traditional Yom Kippur message was clear: To be forgiven by God –and be worthy of entering the Kingdom –one had to forgive debts and grudges toward acquaintances.

   Further emphasizing the Torah’s commandments, he proclaimed the towering importance of the “Shema” which states,  “Listen Israel, Adonai your God, Adonai is your only God. You shall love Adonai with all your heart…” which Jews then and now recognize to be a central Covenantal vow, and he added Torah’s profound call to social morality: “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40 quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18).

   Sukkot (the Feast of Booths) was the expected occasion of God’s return to the midst of the People. As the prophet Zechariah (14:21) had said: “(On that great Sukkot) every metal pot in Judah and Jerusalem shall be holy to the Lord” (meaning clean as Temple vessels) and outside Jerusalem, too, hands would be washed before eating, just as they would be in the Temple precincts.

   Such was the state of Pietist preparation for God (though it was not even Sukkot, much less the “Great Sukkot”) when Jesus and his students entered a courtyard of a house for supper. Seeing some of his disciples failed to wash their hands under the entrance cistern spigot, one of the Pietist neighbors asked Jesus how it was they did not follow the tradition but ate with defiled hands (Mark 7:1).

   Aware the Torah specifically said it was permissible to eat in an unwashed state outside of Jerusalem  (Deuteronomy 12:15), Jesus responded to their criticism (in essence):

   “You wash the inside of your pots–but your own insides are filthy. You give tithes to the Temple letting your own parents go hungry. You say these students are unclean? What goes into their mouths and into the sewer is not nearly as unclean as the crap that comes out of your mouths” (Matthew 15:10-12; Mark 7:11-7:13).

   Talk about politically incorrect. But he was young, audacious–and knew Torah law.

The  Pietists, in turn, venting aggravation at Jesus for teaching Torah to a group they considered  doubtful Hebrews,  challenged him by referring to themselves as descendants of Abraham–as if his disciples were not (John 8:39 and 8:41).

   In fact, ignorant locals living in the north, especially those who knew nothing about Torah or prayer, were considered  “doubtful” Hebrews by the Pietist community. Transplanted populations had been forcibly intermixed by Assyrians and Babylonians during eras of conquest and their progeny were not only the Samaritans, but others suspect of hybrid ancestry. The label attached to locals like Jesus’ disciples was often am ha-aretz, “locals,” which could imply Torah ignorance–or doubtful lineage.

    Jesus, on more than one occasion found himself replying to their insinuation saying, “you can tell the tree by the fruit (that is, their Hebrew lineage by their righteous deeds) (Matthew 7:15-20).

   But the Pietists refused to eat with them, touch them without washing, invite them to their homes…even talk to them…and Jesus’ disciples soon doubted they would be welcome in God’s Kingdom, despite their teacher’s assurances.  Determined not to lose their allegiance, Jesus began to exaggerate his spiritual authority in public, sometimes in contests with the Pietists.

   One example was his healing of those seeking his touch on Shabbat, which rabbinic rulings discouraged unless of an emergency nature. Making his point halachically, Jesus argued that  Torah permitted Shabbat care of hurt animals–and therefore so too, human beings (Matthew 12:11-12:12).

   If respect from his group was what he sought, Jesus got more than he bargained for.

   To his students, who resented being ostracized by observant Jews, he actually had demonstrated he was master over the Shabbat and had the authority to change Torah law.

   An even more consequential impression Jesus gave resulted from his offering consoling

words and a soothing touch to people with lifelong infirmities, supposed diseases of punishment. When Pietists accused him of thinking he could forgive these afflicted individuals their sins, he hesitated to continue giving that impression. But when his disciples saw him reluctantly show compassion to a  leper, a man known to require God’s forgiveness, letting him grasp his tsee tseet, they began to whisper he had special powers. Their sense of awe that their teacher had turned out to be the messiah was mounting.

  Socially excluded from the community of observant Hebrews, Jesus’ utterly ignorant disciples were thus  comforted by the realization they were the chosen courtiers of God’s messiah king on earth.

   To others, more typically a shomer-Shabbat (observant) merchant class of the Galilee, Jesus was suspected of having an evil agenda. One such person happened to be attending a service at the Kfar Nahum synagogue just prior to the Rosh ha-shannah of 31CE when Jesus and several of his disciples entered. Immediately becoming irate,  perhaps terrified by rumors he had heard, the congregant started screaming, “I know who you are! You have come to destroy us!”

   Jesus, doing what any good rabbi–in those days–would do, put his hands on the man and said, “come out of him.” Unfortunately, the  fellow was not possessed. He was just misguided and very upset. So, when he collapsed on the floor, seized by terror, the result was that everybody insisted that Jesus intended to silence the poor soul to prevent his exposing his satanic identity.

   What a Rosh ha-shannah that turned out to be. As Jesus and his disciples made their way to the Nazareth family synagogue, catcalling Pietists were mocking him, saying, “It’s you who needs an exorcism. Why don’t you do to yourself what you did to the man  in Kfar Nahum!” (Luke 4:23) And many readers may be familiar with his retort, “If Satan  is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:26)  meaning, “if I were satan why would I want to get rid of one of my employees–a demon in my own workforce…” so to speak.

   A short while later, inside the Nazareth synagogue, where there were neighbors who still had not come to resent or fear him, he read from the Torah and the haftarah from Jeremiah as knowledgeable congregants still do, chanting God’s promise that those who once suffered exile would be forgiven by God, and returned to the Hebrew family. They were words that cried out against the social stigma of Covenantal doubt, a wall of separation ostracizing his disciples.

   Approaching the synagogue toward the conclusion of the service, accompanied by several of Jesus’ siblings, just as he exited, his mother Mary took hold of his tunic. She was angry. She had had enough of his drawing attention to himself and made a determined attempt to separate him from pleading supplicants seeking his touch.

   Perhaps one may single out this moment as a turning point when Jesus began to truly ponder the impression he was making on others.

    Rosh ha-shannah of 31 was over–and Yom Kippur’s curriculum mostly comprised teaching the commandment of forgiving others in order to be forgiven by God. Jesus indeed set the example by escorting his disciples to a family wedding in Cana, ostensibly forgiving any grudge toward his mother for humiliating him in public outside the Nazareth synagogue.

   On the way, he called attention of his students to the Sukkot (hut-like shelters for the Feast of Booths) just being built in yards they were passing. Referring to the rumors and gossip (“winds”) about himself, he said, “…the winds blew…and everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand”(Matthew 7:25-26).

   When they arrived, the wedding party was all but over and his mother met him at the door, expressing her annoyance. Seeing he brought a (conjectured) wineskin as a gift, she said, “It’s already too late.”

  His answer, as I have reconstructed the Christianized text, reflected a still chilly relationship. It was, “What’s it to you or me, woman? It’s not my wedding.”

   As you may be aware, though the passage occurs only in the Gospel of John, we have reached a famous moment.   

  Retrieving the historical pearl of truth inside the Christianizing midrash, one may surmise Jesus poured his wine gift into the entrance vessel used for hand washing prior to eating. Mixing water and wine (though not in vessels meant for hand washing) was standard practice at meals, and festivities, but the less wine you had, the more watery the mixture became.

   People who thought Jesus was pretending to be like God –having heard the rumors that he claimed to forgive sin and to be the master of Shabbat –would likely have joked his “turning the water to wine” was meant to show he was like the High Priest in Jerusalem. On Sukkot, just a few days away, the High Priest would mix water and wine on the altar in a libation ceremony asking God to turn the rain of winter to bountiful vineyards and wine.

   (Note: The Christianized version in John describes Jesus turning water to wine as the first great sign he was the messiah. I regard the historical underpinning of this episode to have major significance and it is fully reconstructed in my book, A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity.)

   Laughing at him behind his back, for acting like he had divine powers, taking him for a “shetufi,” a crazy person, Jesus’ mother, Mary, knew what they were really thinking: “Shetuki is shetufi.” A popular idiom meaning, a person who does not know the identity of his father acts like a crazy person.

   And so she apparently went over to him, and said something. We have only his irritated reaction in the Gospels (reconstructed) and it was: “What do I care. It is not my time to get married.”

   Inferring from these supposed words of Jesus, the gist of her remark must have been: “If you keep acting like this, no one will marry you.”

  They were not simple words. They meant, “If you keep acting like this, people will say you do not know who your father is.” In short, no woman with established Hebrew lineage would marry a man whose paternity was doubtful, and could have been contaminated by foreign or sinful ancestry–as they were already gossiping about him.

   My carefully reconstructed sequence of events makes this significant assumption: It was this very exchange with his mother when he first knew that Joseph was not his biological father.

  The results were an emotional explosion. As an immediate result, the following things happened:

  1. His disciples suddenly left without him, probably made uncomfortable at the sight of Jesus coming apart at the seams. (The possibility the disciples joined him and his family as they all went together to Kfar Nahum is minimal given John 7 indicates his disciples had gone on without him.)

2. As the party came to an abrupt end, Jesus joined his mother and several sons of Joseph, cousins he had mistaken for half brothers, departing together for a (presumed) lakeside residence in Kfar Nahum.

   Their conversation is recorded in the Gospels:

3. Sarcastically, his supposed “brothers,”  that is Joseph’s sons, said to Jesus: “Why don’t you go to Jerusalem and work your magic there for the whole world to see? Somebody like you shouldn’t keep it a secret!” (John 7:2-7:5)

 4.  Deeply hurt, he replied, “The world cannot hate you. But the whole world hates me. I am not going to Jerusalem for the Festival.” (John 7:7)

   The world could not hate Joseph’s sons because their lineage was Hebrew beyond doubt –whereas Jesus’ lineage, as he now knew, was contaminated by an unknown paternity, possibly foreign and most certainly sinful, since his mother had committed adultery and he was its progeny.

  Still, in a remarkable scene, known as the “Adulteress Woman” Jesus apparently related a vision to Matthias, a vision in which he refused to condemn an adulteress brought before him for judgment. Mine, I believe, is the first study to identify her as his mother (John 8:1-8:11).

   Left alone in Kfar Nahum, he did finally decide to go to Jerusalem. It was Sukkot, the Feast of Booths, prophesied to commence God’s Kingdom. And it was the occasion when every Jew was determined to overcome yetzer ra, the satanic voice beckoning from within to follow temptation.

   Having reached Jerusalem, Jesus ascended the Temple mount and stood on the precipice. With his brothers’ words still ringing in his ears, it was the first time that he was clearly aware how others saw him. On that Sukkot, his yetzer ra, tempting him, was, in the words of the Gospels,  offering him the chance to replace God and rule all creation (Matthew 4:9). And he recognized the voice. One may infer he felt his unknown father, the adulterer who spawned him, had tempted him to mislead others.  If Jesus had exaggerated his healing powers, or given others the impression he could forgive sin, that defamed God – even if unintentionally. If his disciples believed he was superior to Torah law and could overrule Shabbat halacha (law)–that too was a terrible sin…and if he had misled them to think he was the messiah?  Let them find him dead on the rocks below as proof he had no divine authority, and was no son of God! Desperate to show he was only a mortal like others, to silence forever that self-exalting paternal voice tempting him from within–and end their falsehood that he believed himself imbued by God with any super-human divine powers, Jesus was about to commit suicide. That was to be his atonement. Then something happened. He suddenly sensed God was accepting his cry for forgiveness; that he was granted his teshuvah (second chance). Stepping back from the steep precipice, as a last recourse, he made his way to his cousin John, who was immersing pilgrims in the Kidron below.

  Greeted as “my dearest cousin,” and immersed by John in those purifying waters, Jesus felt that if he had no father he knew, God would be av ha-rahamim –a father of mercy and he, like Solomon, born of adultery, would be loved by God. It was the single most important moment in Jesus’ life. He had been redeemed. And his cousin John had become God’s instrument in saving him. He would love John for that more than any other person in the world. John’s reassuring words were: “God can raise descendants of Abraham from these river rocks” (Luke 3:8).

   (To the traditional Christian, Baptism emulates Jesus’ death through the meta-symbolic act of drowning and his rebirth into the immortal, saved state, that manifests in the individual’s emergence from the watery tomb to the “born-again” life. Notably, these exegetical understandings were part of the post-crucifixion theology. Baptism was never explained or advocated by Jesus during his life, not his own, nor as having a ritualized purpose for others.)

  The satan within Jesus–to call it that –namely the voice of his unknown paternity met its match.

From the time of John’s mikveh (Jewish ritual immersion, later called the “baptism”) Jesus never again did anything to call attention to himself as a supposed miracle healer. In fact, he did no more historically authentic healings. All other Gospel accounts of “amazing cures” and dramatized episodes of his divine intervention, including the resurrection of Lazarus, were messianized miracle stories intended to win proselytes.

  Only on one occasion was a paralytic brought to him, and he refused to open Matthias’ door so that, according to the Gospels, the roof had to be broken open for him to be lowered inside. And then Jesus told him (Luke 5:19-23 as reconstructed): “(on God’s Day) Your sins will be forgiven,” and in a personal display of compassion and his own human limitations, he expressed a near-maudlin disappointment that this afflicted individual was beyond his ability to help. The reconstructed text states: “It’s easier to tell him his sins will be forgiven, than to get him to stand up and walk.”

  As for teachings that could be twisted to suggest he considered himself master over Torah law,

Jesus delivered one of the Gospels’ most powerful orations (Matthew 5:17-18 reconstructed):

        Think not that I am here with you to abolish the Torah and prophets. I am not with you to abolish them but to teach you to keep them. For truly I say to you heaven and earth will pass away before a yud (Hebrew’s smallest letter) or tittle (diacritical Torah markings)will pass away from the Torah…Therefore, whoever breaks the least of these commandments will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Following this diatribe intended to end all doubt about his self-exaltation and divine prerogative to supercede Torah law, Jesus got word of John’s arrest for sedition.  The die was cast. His harangues against Antipas’ adulterous marriage to Herodias, as Jesus knew, were the real reason. But John had crossed a line by encouraging popular allegiance to Antipas’ half-brother, the northern tetrarch, Philip, preceding the incursion by Aretas to avenge Phasaelis humiliation.

   Among John’s followers were many who knew of Jesus, and there was a risk that he too might be a target if he was rumored to be cut from the same cloth, saying anything against the marriage.

   Extremely careful not to express political antipathy which could be labelled  rebellious against Rome or the tetrarch, Jesus despaired over John’s incarceration. Reflecting his apparent  trepidation to espouse God’s imminent Kingdom in too literal terms, wary that his words would be twisted by eavesdroppers to sound like a political call for  Antipas’ overthrow–Jesus resorted to lessons given only in metaphorical parables.

  In some of  literature’s most poetic passages, he generally represented God as a landowner or king, with the main theme being Adonai’s promise to return the downtrodden to the Covenantal fold. Even as he encouraged his disciples to claim their Hebrew heritage, most of the twelve  lacked the literary acuity to grasp the symbolic allusions and thought Jesus was giving them coded messages, prompting them to further spread the so-called “good news” God’s anointed had come among them.

   Increasing his difficulties, the three lakeside villages, Chorazin, Beit Zaida and Kfar Nahum  banished him for creating a public disturbance, and he told the disciples to go their own way while he retreated to  Matthias’ house.

   Worth noting is Christianity’s explanation that this episode constituted the “Sending Away of The Twelve” the early church precedent for apostolic activity after Jesus’ death (Mark 6:7-13).

   The winter of 32 had just given way to spring when word reached him that John had been executed.

   Recovery of scattered text comprising Jesus’ lakeside eulogy for John represents, what I submit, is an important advance in Gospel analysis.   

   Elaborately reconstructed in both The Matthias Scroll and my next book, A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity it began: “No greater man than John has ever been born.”

   Towards the end of his mournful remarks, Jesus courageously echoed the very same sentiment which led to John’s execution, declaring to the assembled crowd, “It is unlawful for a woman to divorce her husband.”

   In fact Jewish women in 1st century Judea never did, and Jesus had only one possible woman in mind when he made his proclamation: Herodias. With Herodians in the crowd keeping an eye on him, word of his apparent insult quickly travelled to Antipas.

   Back at the lake, Jesus had turned and entered the Kinneret to clambor aboard his disciples’ fishing boat –but was impeded by John’s memorial crowd, following him into the water, grasping at his tunic–and most significantly, hailing him “King of the Jews”–a coronation which would empower Antipas to avenge the insult to Herodias, just as he had with John, for presumed sedition. According to the Gospels, he desperately tried to free himself from their grasp (John 6:15).

   A fugitive, Jesus received word from Joanna, whose husband Chuza worked in the Tiberias Palace “Antipas says you’re another John and wants to kill you…” Jesus replied, “Go tell that fox, I have no intention of dying at his hands” (Luke 13:31, reconstructed).

  Fleeing, Jesus, the fugitive departed Ceasaria Philipi where he had found brief sanctuary, making the Pesach pilgrimage to Jerusalem. En Route he asked Simon, “Who do you say I am?” When Simon finally admitted “You are King of the Jews,” Jesus said: “If you keep telling people that, I will be arrested and killed. And if you keep calling me lord, even if you say we ate and drank with you… I will say I never knew you!…You are walking at the side of a man–not a god! Get behind me satan!” (Luke 13:22-27; Mark 8:33 with clarified wording.)

   All of which brings us to the final tragedy which in its misshapen, historically eviscerated form became a dogmatic cornerstone of  Christian religion. Jesus entered Jerusalem as a fugitive, not in the fashion of a prophesied messiah heralded by crowds shouting “hosannah,” and he did not turn over money changers tables –but, sat with Matthias next to him at the Passover meal, and soon realized Judas was departing to inform the authorities he was there. Seeking refuge in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed not to be arrested.

  But, of course, he was.

  Inside Caiaphas’ the High Priest’s  residence,  a hearing was held. It was late Thursday night, the first night of Passover, 32CE. No disciples of Jesus were there. Simon, who gained entrance to the exterior courtyard, thanks to Matthias’ political connections, warmed himself alongside servants at an open fire. Inside, Jesus was brought forward and interrogated, with witnesses, possibly Herodians who had been at the eulogy.

   (Note: The identity of these Jewish witnesses is uncertain. If not Herodians, they may have  been officials of the three towns who banished Jesus for being a troublemaker, perhaps summoned by Antipas to appear at the hearing, and not there of their own volition.)

   The charge was that Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews.

   Asked by the High Priest, Caiaphas to  say whether he was or was not the messiah-king, Jesus replied, “You have said it…”

   This phraseology was the legal counter-accusation that those testifying against him were “bearing false witness. ” Jesus’  rejoinder would likely have made a stunning impression. The nearby Jewish witnesses, whatever their flaws, would have been loathe to violate one of the Ten Commandments–and according to Torah law be subject to the very punishment their false testimony would cause the accused.

   Still, one may wonder why Jesus didn’t simply say:  “I do not claim to be, nor am I the messiah.”

   In fact, though the textual restoration is conjectural, he may have answered the question, saying:

   “No matter what I say, you will think I am guilty. If I tell you I have never claimed to be King of the Jews, nor thought of myself as such, you will not believe me” (Luke 22:67).

   Whether or not he spoke in his own defense, according to Jewish law, a death sentence required at least two eye-witnesses. Two would have to say, “I saw and heard him claim to be King of the Jews.”

   Amazingly, according to the Gospels, none of the witnesses said so.

   Selectively, here is how the Gospels describe the problem in getting the Jewish witnesses to provide testimony supporting a guilty verdict: “Now (Caiaphas) sought testimony against Jesus necessary to put him to death, but could get none–and their testimony did not agree” (Matthew 26:59-60; Mark 14:55-56).

   Despite the High Priest’s determination to obey Torah law regarding witnesses, he had  failed. Caiaphas, paying little heed to what else the witnesses said, since it didn’t matter, tried to get Jesus to confess to the actual charge: “Tell us if you are the messiah/King of the Jews!” he ranted.

   But seeing his demand still went unanswered, he then declared to those who apparently refused to bear false witness, “It is better that only he die–than all his followers with him” (John 18:14).

And, with that, Jesus was mocked and slapped and led to Pontius Pilate the  “procurator” and adjudicator of capital cases heard in the environs of Jerusalem.

   The text (Luke 23:6-16) describes Pilate as facing a legal issue since Jesus was a Galilean and “belonged to Antipas’ jurisdiction.” As a result of Jesus’ place of residence, the passage states, Pilate “sent him over to Antipas who was in Jerusalem at the time.”

   Antipas is then said to have interrogated Jesus, as he and his own soldiers “treated him with contempt and mocked him, then arraying him in gorgeous apparel, a purple robe of royalty, sent him back to Pilate” (Luke 23:11).

   If one wonders whether Jesus had been a fugitive from Antipas, the passage stating, “(Pilate) sent him over to Antipas…” leaves no doubt he was nearby waiting for him with his contingent of personal guards.

   So it was, that sharing a laugh at the sight of the foolish-looking king, according to the Gospels, “Antipas and Pilate became friends with each other…for before this they had been enemies” (Luke 23:12).

   In consonance with his role as tetrarch, as we now discern, Antipas had charged, according to Roman law, that Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews. The evidence is Caiaphas’ demand for his specified confession to claim to be king; Antipas deriding his “kingship” by bedecking him in royal apparel and treating him as a mock king; and, the charge itself spelled out on a wooden sign affixed to the top of the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.”

   Sadly, his disciples had ignored Jesus’ reprimands of their misguided reverence, coronating him king and providing Antipas a legal basis for doing to him what he had done to John, having him arrested and executed for the same reason, the insult to his adulterous marriage, articulated during the eulogy.

   Here then we arrive at the moment of the great lie–when Jews were blamed for the death of Jesus.

   Contrary to historical verities, the Jewish role as depicted in the Gospels’ scene of judgment before Pilate is a theological atrocity.

   Although the Jews who refuse to testify against Jesus are no longer present at the trial before Pilate–and no Jews accompany Jesus as he then drags the cross to Golgotha, out of nowhere there appear a hateful mob of ghoulish elders and priests to drool at the sight of his travail. Intending to demean Jewish elders and priests, the Gospels all join in the invention of Barabbas, a murderer (Mark 15:6) whose release is requested by the fictitious, bloodthirsty Jews  instead of Jesus (fulfilling the emperor’s customary pardon of a criminal in honor of Passover).

   Inherent in his criminal nature, Barabbas is more than just a rebel against Rome, he is covenanted with a different power–the devil, not God. This idea is expressed in the fantasy name “Bar-Abbas,” meaning “son of the father.”

   As tormented and twisted as Jesus on the cross, Christian scripture invents the mob of demonic Jews, choosing  to save the devil’s son instead of the son of God.

   Stylistically, the author of the Barabbas libel, has undammed rivers of bloody hatred, with Passion play choirs singing “crucify him, crucify him,” as if there was even one such ghoul present, when every Jewish eyewitness refused to testify that Jesus claimed to be king.

   What blame for Jesus’ fate do those Pietist “Herodians” pandering to Antipas deserve? Probably less than his own disciples deserved for setting the wheels in motion leading to the  cross.

   Whether they were the witnesses at the high priest’s hearing, or it was other Galilean Jews summoned to testify, the Jewish refusal to testify to Jesus’ sedition was an attempt to mitigate his punishment–suggesting, as they did at the hearing, that they knew him only to be a rabble-rouser, hardly a capitol crime.

   As for Caiaphas, his remark made as an aside, “better that one man die than all of them” suggests Pilate had let him know prior to the arrest that handing over Jesus was a tradeoff for the lives of his companions. One should judge him accordingly.

   As a disheartening epitaph of the luminous young teacher, I offer this reflection:

Even as Jesus’ last Christianized gasp on the cross in John 19:30 reverberates, “it is accomplished” the Gospel coverup becomes a requiem for the historical Jesus, and a thematic interment of everything he believed.

   In the aftermath of Jesus’ crucifixion, rather than admit they unintentionally fostered the charge of sedition, leading to his arrest and execution, his disciples declared he was still alive in heaven. Promoting a salvation theology, they thus saved themselves from the unbearable truth of what they had done; abetting the murder of their beloved, remarkable teacher, one they believed God had sent to save them; one who should never have died for them or anybody else.

   But I would not end with what others did wrong–rather with the magnificent example of courage Jesus showed, truly an example to us all. When he chose to speak out against a woman divorcing her husband at John’s memorial gathering, echoing John’s fateful criticism of Herodias for her incestuous and adulterous wedlock to Antipas–we bear witness to Jesus’ true character. He would not let the cousin who had spoken up for him–giving him a restored lineage and Covenantal purification– be a voice silenced. As John had spoken for Jesus, so Jesus now spoke for his deceased, beloved cousin. It was a decision that cost him his life, as he knew it could.

   Not that his courage to speak out for what he believed should surprise us. Jesus’ teaching students who were fully ignorant of Jewish religious culture, and were considered to be of doubtful Hebrew lineage, was bold, if not brash, in that era.

   Demonstrably, he recognized a likelihood his intentions could be misunderstood, repeatedly stating his instruction was meant for Jews, not Gentiles. His goal was to restore to the Hebrew community some whose ignorance had caused their appreciation of the Covenant to become frayed and forgotten.

   Among his disciples several may well have felt a renewed appreciation of their ancient Covenant, returning to observance of Torah law and tradition as he taught and demanded. But the majority, under Simon’s sway, did not, rather seeking a different path to redemption, especially after his death. The postmortem consequence of Jesus even teaching disciples of doubtful lineage cannot be understated. The fledgling church, with the aid of its arch theological alchemist, Paul, eventually changed Hebrews of uncertain lineage to all people, universalizing Jesus as a messiah sent to save mankind.

  But was Jesus a universalist?

  Yes and no. As a Jew, he absolutely was. The Torah and the prophets envision all mankind

as fully equal before God. The ruach ha-kodesh, the holy spirit, in Jewish tradition and Torah is the “great equalizer” giving all people the same potential to find fulfillment and inherit the blessings of life. But as a Torah-observant Jew, Jesus would never have abdicated his heritage and history in order to attract gentile proselytes, nor would he have “universalized”the supposedly provincial Jewish religion as a prelude to any other belief system’s ethereal realm of salvation.

   Four years after his death, Antipas and Caiphas and Pontius Pilate were banished by Rome.

Maybe God was watching.


About a month away: “A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity”

When a Christian scholar writes about Moses, or a Jew, about Jesus, I believe we may have some explaining to do. Because my intention has never been to dismantle anybody’s religious beliefs, offering a few words about the genesis of my thesis seems appropriate. As those who join in prayer on Rosh ha-shannah and Yom Kippur know, we Jews ask God “al tikach ruach kodshecha mimenu” Do not take Your holy spirit from us. Like most other Jews, I had given the nomenclature little extra thought, until, years ago, I was confronted by its pronounced importance in the Dead Sea Scrolls. As I detail in my forthcoming book, “A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity,” the holy spirit is, in fact, a Jewish concept at the heart of God’s relationship with the creation, imbuing worthy recipients with a transcendent awareness of God’s will. (Although the holy spirit occurs throughout the Hebrew Bible as a principle aspect of interaction with God, following Jesus’ death it was largely taken over by Christianity as a doctrinal component of the Trinity. ) If Jesus was attempting to restore his ignorant disciples to their Hebrew family with words of Torah, believing the commandments were imbued with ruach ha-kodesh (the holy spirit) his aspiration, given their disaffection, may have been futile–but his goal was steeped in the deepest Jewish tradition. Therefore, given his was the voice of a profound Jewish spirituality of the first century, I could not fathom why he was vilified, arrested and put to death. It made no sense. Determined to know why he suffered so grim a fate–and to find and return the lost Jewish spirituality executed with him, I set out on this intellectual journey. After two years of graduate research for a leading scholar, while attending New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, I became aware of the many profound issues hovering over New Testament studies. Perhaps most provocative, although least often verbalized, was the question of how Jesus saw himself–and whether he believed he was anointed by God as the messiah. Dating back to the late 1700’s almost all serious scholars, of whom the majority were Christian theologians, had recognized the Gospel passages in which Jesus asserted his messiahship were editorial enhancements. Further, it was generally conceded he had never promulgated the model of salvation theology which we know–and his devotees formulated postmortem–as Christianity. Naturally, Jesus’ reticence about his divine identity and mission might have threatened faith in him, had not that very faith become the precondition of salvation according to the church –and that included justifying his grim demise as God’s plan. Almost of equal weight as an incendiary question was what Jesus had done to be arrested. (Indeed, notable theologians had asked the same question as I more than a century earlier.) Other rabbis of his era had made themselves conspicuous as healers with messianic powers, but at most only bore the brunt of popular mockery, not suffering official sanction or the unimaginably gruesome punishment of crucifixion. The paper just above, “Jesus’ Life As He Would Have Remembered It,” extrapolates main dramatic episodes as portrayed in my novel, “The Matthias Scroll,” and which are critically analyzed in my forthcoming nonfiction book, “A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity.” Hopefully, all will be moved by the historic account of this tragic drama as it is told for the first time.

Dateline: April 2015 PRESS RELEASE


New novel reveals historical drama of Jesus’ life

The Matthias Scroll” by Abram Epstein, presents startling, document-based biography

NEW YORK – Author Abram Epstein introduces a profoundly different Jesus than Christians or Jews have known before in his new novel, “The Matthias Scroll: A Lost Testament Unearths the Secrets of History’s Most Notorious Injustice.”

A suspenseful and deeply moving narrative, “The Matthias Scroll” reveals hitherto unknown events leading to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. It illuminates what happened to Jesus during and after his interment, without romanticizing his death as a model of salvation.

When the disciples glorified Jesus’ crucifixion, Matthias (see Acts I:15-26) swore their Gospels would not bury his friend beneath falsehoods of their new religion. What the murderers had done to his friend’s body on the cross, he would never call God’s plan.

The contest between Matthias and the other disciples would be a struggle for the survival of Christianity itself, having at its heart the issue of how Jesus saw himself.

From this first-ever historical account,  readers will glean a visceral sense that they have met and appreciated Jesus for the first time. More information, and a link for ordering, may be found at

Praise for “The Matthias Scroll”:

“Shaped with a deep sense of the history, this controversial but fascinating work offers a vivid portrayal of Jesus as a respected teacher of his generation, at the moment when Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity were born.”

                   Professor Michael Berenbaum, eminent historian, rabbi, and author

The Matthias Scroll  by Abram Epstein is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and other retail booksellers