Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

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Irish1975
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Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by Irish1975 » Thu Apr 25, 2019 9:52 am

James Valliant and C.W. Fahy have published a book, Creating Christ, endorsing the hypothesis that the Flavian emperors, along with their family, priests, and officials (above all Flavius Josephus) crafted the cult and the narrative of Jesus Christ more or less as we find it in the NT Gospels. https://www.amazon.com/Creating-Christ- ... way&sr=8-1

The best known advocate of the Flavian hypothesis is Joe Atwill, author of Caeasar's Messiah, but there are others too.

What appears to be new in the book by Valliant and Fahy is some striking archeological evidence concerning the iconography of the earliest Christians. It is well known that Christians rarely used the cross as a Christian symbol before the 4th century. A far more common symbol, which appears some 70 times in the catacomb of St. Priscilla alone, is the anchor: especially an anchor flanked by fish, or with a dolphin encircling the anchor.

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&aut ... oVLBQXrkxI

The first ancient ruler to use this symbol, apparently, was Alexander the Great's successor in the East Seleucus I, who declared himself to be the son of Apollo. The dolphin and anchor appears at Delos as a symbol of Apollo. But the first Roman emperor to adopt the dolphin and anchor was Titus, who minted the image on his coins in abundance:

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&aut ... bSV-nelxRI

Titus, of course, was recognized as the fulfillment of Jewish messianic prophecies by Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius, just as second Isaiah had identified Cyrus the Great as the Lord's anointed in Isaiah 45.

The niece of Titus, Flavia Domitilla, is one of the earliest known Christian saints buried in Rome, where there is a catacomb named for her. She married her cousin Titus Flavius Clemens, a consul, who (according to Cassius Dio) was executed by Domitian (Titus' younger brother and successor) for "atheism," ie, "going over to Jewish opinions." At the same time, Domitian banished Domitilla to an island. Many have speculated that Titus Flavius Clemens is none other than the famous Pope St. Clement, known to later tradition as the first definite successor to Peter as bishop of Rome, and also alleged as the author of the epistle 1 Clement.

Check out Miguel Conner's interview of Valliant and Fahy, along with Robert M. Price, for more about their book and its possible significance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5e45YUuj2a0
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Irish1975
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by Irish1975 » Thu Apr 25, 2019 9:53 am

I'm digitally inept, so if anyone wants to post images of dolphin and anchor imagery, or related stuff, I'd be grateful.
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andrewcriddle
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by andrewcriddle » Thu Apr 25, 2019 12:49 pm

AFAIK catacomb dolphin images tend to be dolphin and trident rather than dolphin and anchor Image
catacombs

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John2
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by John2 » Thu Apr 25, 2019 1:47 pm

The niece of Titus, Flavia Domitilla, is one of the earliest known Christian saints buried in Rome, where there is a catacomb named for her. She married her cousin Titus Flavius Clemens, a consul, who (according to Cassius Dio) was executed by Domitian (Titus' younger brother and successor) for "atheism," ie, "going over to Jewish opinions." At the same time, Domitian banished Domitilla to an island. Many have speculated that Titus Flavius Clemens is none other than the famous Pope St. Clement, known to later tradition as the first definite successor to Peter as bishop of Rome, and also alleged as the author of the epistle 1 Clement.
I buy that. I would also add the freedman Epaphroditus, who was Nero's secretary and is said to have died around the time Domitian was persecuting Christians c. 95 CE. I think he is the same Epaphroditus Paul mentions in Philippians (in the context of "those of Caesar's household") and also Josephus' patron, and I'm starting to lean towards the idea that he wrote Luke/Acts. Not that I want to get into all of the reasons for it here, just wanted to say I find what you wrote in the citation above quite plausible.

But I don't buy the idea that Vespasian, Titus or Josephus had anything to do with Christianity (other than mentioning Christians in the latter's case) or the production of gospels, as per Atwill.
Last edited by John2 on Thu Apr 25, 2019 2:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by John2 » Thu Apr 25, 2019 2:15 pm

Regarding Flavius Clemens, I also think he could be the Clement Paul mentions in Php. 4:3. And as for 1 Clement, someone like Flavius Clemens would have had the status and resources to be a leader of the Roman Church and to compose and send out a huge ass letter like that. My thinking is that as someone who was close to Domitian (since he married his niece), he would have seen the writing on the wall and wanted to put everything out there before it was too late. And if he had known Paul (as per Php. 4:3), it would explain why 1 Clement lauds him.
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MrMacSon
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by MrMacSon » Thu Apr 25, 2019 4:20 pm

I don't think things such as vague iconography or lack of use of the cross until the 4th century, etc, endorses the hypothesis that Flavians crafted the cult and the narrative of Jesus Christ more or less as we find it in the NT Gospels.

It certainly suggests, however, that Christianity was not up and running by the end of the 4th first or even the 4th century as we are led to believe.
Last edited by MrMacSon on Fri Apr 26, 2019 11:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Irish1975
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by Irish1975 » Fri Apr 26, 2019 9:25 am

FWIW, I think the Flavian hypothesis deserves more consideration than it is usually given, both by historicists and mythicists. That is not to say that I think there is enough evidence to make it necessarily the best, much less the only correct theory of the origins of the Gospels. Even if it is true that the Flavian regime played a role in their composition, we may never have sufficient evidence to reach that conclusion. But the fact that the earliest Christians we know of in Rome, in the catacombs, used the very symbol that Titus had printed by the million on his coins as cult propaganda, is at least something to puzzle over. I think it is strange to dismiss it out of hand.

Some obvious reasons why Rome is important to consider in the theory of Gospel authorship and early Christianity:

1) All 4 gospels, by general consensus, were composed during or shortly after the Jewish revolt against Rome, i.e. in the era of the Flavian emperors.

2) gMark contains multiple Latinisms (census, centurio, denarius, legio, modius, praetorium, quadrans, sextarius, speculator, flagellum) indicating a Roman or at least Italian authorship.

3) The political ideology of the NT is overtly pro-Roman. The true messiah is not a Davidic, Maccabean freedom fighter, but an otherworldly prince of peace who teaches humility, payment of taxes, and non-violence. His apostles teach reverential submission to those who wield the sword.

4) The narrative arc of the NT, in the crucial transition from the Gospels to the story of the Church in Acts and Romans, positions the church of Rome as the destination of the most important apostles and earliest believers. 2 Peter and 2 Timothy depict Peter and Paul as writing from Rome. Thus, the first readers of the NT were aware of the fact of Roman primacy, even if the 2nd century editors were ignorant of, or deliberately concealed, the original causes of that primacy.

5) Relgious cults were essential to Roman statecraft, and emperors paid a great deal of attention to the cults of their own divinity, or of the divinities with which they were associated by birth or adoption. By extension, those who served or were under the direct power of the emperor had every motivation to promote such cults. If the court of Augustus sponsored the composition of Virgil's Aeneid, it is not impossible to imagine the courts of Vespasian and Titus being somehow involved in the production of one or more of the Gospels.

6) If Vespasian and Titus did in fact promote their own cults by appropriating and transforming the Jewish myth of the messiah, specifically for Jewish consumption, their successor Domitian clearly reversed course, and may have suppressed that particularly legacy. Ruling longer than Vespasian and Titus combined, he favored the traditional Roman gods, particularly Jupiter and Minerva, and his first act as emperor was to deify his brother Titus according to pagan custom. After Domitian's tyrannical rule and assasination, the Senate sought to destroy the records and memory of his reign. It may be, therefore, that both the earliest Christians in Rome and the emperors after Domitian (with the possible exception of Hadrian) found Titus' association with the Jewish messiah embarrassing and worth concealing.
Last edited by Irish1975 on Mon May 06, 2019 11:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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John2
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by John2 » Fri Apr 26, 2019 2:09 pm

I feel like I gave Atwill a fair shot, and I think in the big picture Christianity (and Jesus, more or less as he's presented in Mark and Matthew, allowing for artistic license, which I think is natural enough to expect) already existed before Josephus and Titus were even born and when Vespasian was a kid and therefore has nothing to do with any of them.
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Re: Archeological evidence for the Flavian Hypothesis?

Post by John2 » Fri Apr 26, 2019 2:26 pm

In other words, I think Mark was written by Mark, who was a follower of Peter, like Papias says. And Matthew (or at least what Eusebius, who had access to Papias, took to be Matthew) was written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek by however many people (one of which I think was combined with Mark and became the canonical orthodox version and others became the Greek Jewish Christian versions cited by church fathers), like Papias says.
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