These parts of Acts pertain to the famine of 48 in which Helena played such a prominent role.
The controversy which begins in Antioch was the same discussed by Josephus when Ananias and Eleazar debate the need for Izates to be circumcised. This is totally appropriate in context. Historically, this was the beginning of a broader debate about circumcision within Judaism. Since that debate was represented in the Pauline literature, later Acts paints a Christian veneer over the debate and reframes the history as a church affair.
Additionally, in the story of Queen Kandake's Ethiopian eunuch, Eisenmann believes the author of Acts is actually speaking about Helena of Adibene. Kandake is a euphemism, and there is the invocation of the Sabean/Sabean word play (baptizers vs. Yemenites, roughly). She is "Ethiopian" because she is "Arab" generally, but also a daily washer. The historical Kandake died before the common era.
The eunuch then is Izates. He followed Ananias's advice and did not circumcise, but then he is later convinced to do so (i.e.: he cut his skin but shouldn't have, hence the derogatory).
The Talmudic discussion of this uses similar language to Philip's "Do you understand what you are reading?" invoking Genesis (incidentally, this same topic calls Izates a son of Ptolemy).
The meaning of this, in Eisenmann's view, is that Philip is the one who converts Izates to the strict sect of Judaism which becomes proto-Christianity. Of course, Helena joins him. In this sense, Philip is the famous "Evangelist" for accomplishing a major conversion. Moreover, Izates is the actual "Agbar", not the third century Edessan caricature of Doctrine of Addai.
My own view of this is as follows:
- The removal of the Boethusians to Bashan occurred no later than 6 AD, and Philip the Tetrach who rules that domain has some family connection to them.
- The Boethusians, as Beit Honiyyo, introduce proto-Gnostic elements from Leontopolis to the Essene and Samaritan sects of the Transjordan, creating the Nazarene sect.
- Philip is converted to the Nazarene sect.
- "John The Baptist" is no real person, but is the allegorical teacher associated with a set of sects in Transjordan who experience a regional great awakening due to displeasure with Rome and Herod. Including the arrival of both Egyptian and Babylonian Jews in Bashan with their on unique traditions of Judaism.
- Izates and Helena are converted - by Philip the Tetrarch - to the Nazarene persuasion.
- The dirty secret of Josephus and the AD 30s is that Antipas and Herodias had Philip killed for political reasons, but were supported by Jews unhappy with his sectarian leanings.
- This, plus Antipas's troubles with Nabatea, can be described as a general usurpation consistent with his ambition to rule all Judea.
- There was no John the Baptist to kill. Antipas killed Philip, and persecuted the Nazarenes, Essenes, etc. generally
Then, Helena chooses to infuse the Nazarene sect with wealth, in addition to sponsoring other sects. The House of Hillel keeps baiting her, but she can't help but keep supporting these sects.
Helena's sponsorship funds the proto-Christian community, which takes off in the 50s with a messianic expectation for James and Simon, recognizing Theudas and Helena as the Holy Mother and Child. With James's, later Simon's deaths, the movement reorients and splits. Versions of it are immensely popular after the Temple's destruction, which validated the sect in spite of its failed messianic implications.
Pauline literature is written later, as heads cool, to deradicalize former cult adherents (i.e.: it's okay to start living the gentile lifestyle now).
Three stages to Christianity:
1) Nazorean sect = Leontopolis proto-Gnosticism to Bashan where it mingles with Essene and Samaritan sects
2) Christian sect = The influence stemming from the conversion of the Adiabene royals to the Nazarene sect
3) Pauline corpus = Deradicalizing Christians, steering towards Philo's template, after the trauma of the temple's destruction fades into memory.
This is why Josephus even mentions Helena and Izates. You'd never know why anyone should care based on the current version of Antiquities. However, by seeing these narratives represented in Acts, we can understand that they're essential to Christian origins and probably at one point there was a copy of Josephus which place the role of the Christian cult in leading to the Jewish revolt into context.
"We can thank the Christians for this disaster" is something I imagine which could never survive the redactions of orthodoxy. However, this may very well have been the context for Josephus mentioning the story of Izates's conversion to Judaism.