And the Early Jewish Believers in Jesus
Stephen Andrew Missick
" הכהן תפלוס יהוחנן/בר ברת יהוחנה/יהוחנה ".
The Ossuary of Joanna the Apostle of Jesus Christ with an Aramaic inscription
Hebrew/Aramaic inscription says “Johanna granddaughter of Theophilus, the High Priest”
At the time of Jesus, Jews in the Holy Land were buried in caves and their bones were interred in limestone boxes called ossuaries. Many important ossuaries have been found such as the ossuary of “Simon the Builder of the Temple.” (Inscribed in Hebrew and Aramaic.)
The Ossuaries agree with the New Testament account that Jews of the Holy Land were Tri-Lingual. The inscription are in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek. A burial cave in Kidron Valley discovered in 1941 by E. L. Sukenik, belonging to Cyrenian Jews and dating before AD 70, was found to have an ossuary inscribed twice in Greek "Alexander Son of Simon." Under the Greek, in Hebrew letters it reads Alexander QRNYT” most likely meaning Alexander the Cyrenian. This means we have the ossuary and mortal remains of a person mentioned in the Bible. Alexander, the son of Simon, who carried the cross for Jesus Christ.
Two other important ossuaries were discovered. The ossuary of the high priest Caiaphas, who condemned Jesus to crucifixion and the reputed ossuary of “James the Son of Joseph, the Brother of Jesus.” (In Aramaic “Ya'akov bar-Yosef akhui diYeshua.”) After a month of so after its discovery, the James ossuary became a subject of controversy. While the ossuary is authentic, the Aramaic inscription’s authenticity was debated in the scholarly community. (Certain scholars believe that the last two words “brother of Jesus” were added by a forger.) Finally, the Israeli government seized the artifact and charged its owner Oded Golan with forgery. However, he was acquitted. On March 14, 2012, Jerusalem Judge Aharon Farkash stated "that there is no evidence that any of the major artifacts were forged, and that the prosecution failed to prove their accusations beyond a reasonable doubt." He was particularly scathing about tests carried out by the Israel police forensics laboratory that he said had probably contaminated the ossuary, making it impossible to carry out further scientific tests on the inscription. The Israeli police used pink putty to make an impression of the inscription. The putty stained the ossuary pink and stripped out the patina through which it could the inscription could be scientifically tested and dated.
It is my belief that the artifact was deliberately defaced and damaged so that it could not be tested again. If the artifact was shown to be genuine, this is strong support for the Biblical account and raises attention to James the Just, the Brother of Jesus. Many Jews view their identity in not being Christian. Some radical Jews go so far as to identify themselves as Anti-Christian. (Micky Weinstein is an example of this group.) A prominent person who is Jewish and “Christian” at the same time and indeed one of the founders of Christianity makes certain Jews uncomfortable. Defacing this historical monument was an attempt to make James go away. Certain Jewish people felt uncomfortable with the attention James was gaining. They responded by questioning the authenticity of the monument. Then they seized it and defaced it so that it can no longer be verified scientifically. If the James artifact was not authentic they doubtlessly should have been able to prove it in the several years of the course of the trial and it wouldn’t have been necessary to strip of the patina to prevent it from being tested again.
Regarding the Caiaphas Ossuary, Both the ossuary and the Aramaic inscription on its side, which read "Joseph son of Caiaphas", appeared authentic. The especially beautiful ossuary is twice inscribed "Joseph, son of Caiaphas" and held the bones of a 60-year-old male.
For those interested in the topic of Ossuaries, I strongly recommend Jesus and the Ossuaries: What Jewish Burial Practices Reveal about the Beginning of Christianity by Craig A. Evans. This is a very readable (as opposed to many scholarly books, which are sometimes written in a dry and unreadable manner) and fascinating book.
Junia the Apostle
Theophilus was the High Priest in the Second Temple in Jerusalem from AD 37 to 41 according to Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews. He was a member of one of the wealthiest and most influential Jewish families in Iudaea Province during the 1st century. A growing belief points to this person as the person to whom the Gospel of Luke is addressed. Theophilus was the son of Annas and the brother of Eleazar, Jonathan, Matthias and Ananus, all of whom served as High Priests. He was also the brother-in-law of Joseph Caiaphas, the High Priest before whom Jesus appeared. In addition, his son Matthias served as the next to the last High Priest before the destruction of the Temple by the Romans. Archeological evidence confirming the existence of Theophilus, as an ossuary has been discovered bearing the inscription, "Johanna granddaughter of Theophilus, the High Priest". The details of this ossuary have been published in the Israel Exploration Journal. Therefore Theophilus had at least one other son named Jonathan, father to Johanna. Johanna appears twice in the New Testament in the Gospel of Luke. First as one of women healed by Jesus who travels with Jesus and the disciples to Jerusalem. Her second appearance also in the Gospel of Luke is on Easter Sunday when she and other women visits the empty tomb. Joanna is a feminine given name deriving from Koine Greek Ἰωάννα Iōanna from Hebrew יוֹחָנָה Yôḥānnāh meaning 'God is gracious'. Variants in English include Joan, Joann, Joanne, and Johanna. Other forms of the name in English are Jan, Jane, Janet, Janice, Jean, and Jeanne. The earliest recorded occurrence of the name Joanna, in Luke 8:3, refers to the disciple "Joanna the wife of Chuza," who was an associate of Mary Magdalene. Her name as given is Greek in form, although it ultimately originated from the Hebrew masculine name יְהוֹחָנָן Yehôḥānān or יוֹחָנָן Yôḥānān meaning 'God is gracious'. In Greek this name became Ιωαννης Iōannēs, from which Iōanna was derived by giving it a feminine ending. (The original Latin form Joanna was used in English to translate the equivalents in other languages; for example, Juana la Loca is known in English as Joanna the Mad.)The variant form Johanna originated in Latin in the Middle Ages, by analogy with the Latin masculine name Johannes. The Greek form lacks a medial -h- because in Greek /h/ could only occur initially. The Hebrew name יוֹחָנָה Yôḥānnāh was borne by men in earlier centuries, but in modern usage it has become feminine, to provide a Hebrew equivalent for the name Joanna and its variants. The Christian Arabic form of John is يوحنّا Yūḥannā, based on the Syriac form of the name. For Joanna, Arabic translations of the Bible use يونّا Yuwannā based on Syriac ܝܘܚܢ Yoanna, which in turn is based on the Greek form Iōanna. Sometimes in modern English Joanna is reinterpreted as a compound of the two names Jo and Anna, and therefore given a spelling like JoAnna, Jo-Anna, or Jo Anna. However, the original name Joanna is a single unit, not a compound. The names Hannah, Anna, Anne, Ann are etymologically related to Joanna just the same: they are derived from Hebrew חַנָּה Ḥannāh 'grace' from the same verbal root meaning 'to be gracious'. Joanna is a woman mentioned in the gospels who was healed by Jesus and later supported him and his disciples in their travels. She was the wife of Chuza, who managed the household of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. Her name means "Yahweh has been gracious." In the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions, she is a saint. She is considered some so-called biblical scholars as a disciple who later became an apostle. In the Bible, she is one of the women recorded in the Gospel of Luke as accompanying Jesus and the twelve: "Mary, called Magdalene,.. and Joanna the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources".
Some scholars believe that Joanna is the Aramaic name of Junia, who is mentioned in the Epistle to the Romans and that her husband Chuza also used the Greek name Andronicus.
Several Jewish people had a Jewish name, in either Hebrew or Aramaic, and a Greek name.
An example could be Peter, who was known as Simon Kepha in Aramaic and Paul, who had his Jewish name Saul, but also used the Greek name Paul. So, some scholars believe that Junia was the Greek name of Joanna and that Andronicus was the Greek name of Chuza.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 16:7: “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” The phrase translated "of note among the apostles" (KJV) can be read two ways, as illustrated by the two readings in the NIV; "outstanding among" (NIV main text) or "esteemed by" (NIV footnote). In this passage, Junia is seemingly described as “an Apostle” and this is how certain of the Church Fathers understood the text. Chrysostom wrote: "O how great is the devotion of this woman that she should be counted worthy of the appellation of apostle!"
It seems that Joanna, the grand-daughter of the High Priest, married into nobility when she married the steward of Herod. (She was the great-grand daughter of Annas, the High Priest Emeritus, who was behind the crucifixion of Jesus.) Then both she and her husband became followers of Jesus Christ and she became one of the “holy women” who followed Jesus. Later, she became a traveling missionary and when to Rome. If she died outside of the Holy Land, her body was brought back to Jerusalem for burial.
(This reminds us of Helena of Adiabene, who was buried in Jerusalem. Adiabene (from the Ancient Greek Ἀδιαβηνή, Adiabene, itself derived from Classical Syriac: ܚܕܝܐܒ, Ḥaḏy’aḇ or Ḥḏay’aḇ,) was an ancient kingdom in Assyria, with its capital at Arbela (modern-day Arbil, Iraq). Its rulers converted to Judaism from Ashurism in the 1st century. Queen Helena of Adiabene (known in Jewish sources as Heleni HaMalka) moved to Jerusalem where she built palaces for herself and her sons, Izates bar Monobaz and Monobaz II at the northern part of the city of David, south of the Temple Mount. Helena became a convert to Judaism about the year 30 CE.According to the Talmud, both Helena and Monbaz donated large funds for the Temple of Jerusalem. Adiabene occupied a district in Assyria between the Upper Zab (Lycus) and the Lower Zab (Caprus), though Ammianus speaks of Nineveh, Ecbatana, and Gaugamela as also belonging to it.Although nominally a dependency of the Parthian Empire, for some centuries, beginning with the 1st century BC, it was independent. In the Talmudic writings the name occurs as חדייב,חדייף and הדייב, which is parallel to its Syriac form "Hadyab" or "Hedayab." Its chief city was Arbela (Arba-ilu), where Mar Uqba had a school, or the neighboring Hazzah, by which name the later Arabs also called Arbela. Helena moved to Jerusalem, where she is buried in the pyramidal tomb which she had constructed during her lifetime, three stadia north of Jerusalem. The catacombs are known as "Tombs of the Kings." A sarcophagus with the inscription Tzara Malchata, in Hebrew and Syriac, found in the nineteenth century by Louis Felicien de Saulcy, is supposed to be that of Helena. Helena’s remains were discovered in a sarcophagus and not an ossuary. The royal palace of Queen Helena is believed to have been discovered by archaeologist Doron Ben-Ami during excavations in the City of David in 2007. The palace was a monumental building located in the City of David just to the south of the Temple Mount and was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. The ruins contained datable coins, stone vessels and pottery as well as remnants of ancient frescoes. The basement level contained a Mikveh.
Helena’s conversion shows that Aramaic peoples were drawn to Judaism and that Mesopotamia was a fertile mission field for early Christianity. There may be truth to the stories of Thomas and Thaddeus evangelizing Assyria and Babylonia. If this is true, then perhaps the Odes of Solomon and the Peshitta Version of the Bible do date to the late first and early second century.
Books about Junia:
The Lost Apostle: Searching for the Truth About Junia by Rena Pederson
Junia: The First Woman Apostle by Eldon Jay Epp
Jesus, Wealth, and Women
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9
What do we do with this passage? We all know that Jesus was poor. What does this mean? Usually, it is taken to mean that Jesus left his infinite riches in heaven before he became incarnate. What if Jesus was wealthy? Most religious leaders are from rich or upper class families. This includes Buddha, and Indian Prince, Moses, an Egyptian prince. Martin Luther’s father was born a peasant but had acquired wealth, which he used for his son’s education. John Wesley and the Methodist movement began in the prestigious Oxford University. The so-called “prophet” Mohammed gained wealth by marrying Khadijah, a wealthy middle-aged woman. Rodney Stark argued that Jesus was raised in privilege by virtue of his education. Most Jews of Christ’s day were illiterate. Note how in the Sermon on the Mount, when addressing the unlearned masses, Jesus says “You have heard it said” (Matthew 5:43) referring to the law, but when he addresses the Pharisees he says to them “have you not read” (For example Luke 6:3). At the time of Martin Luther, only 4% of the population could read. At the time of Jesus, with a highly literate people like the Jews, you are still looking at a less than 20% literacy rate among Jewish men in the land of Israel. Jean-Pierre Isbouts in “Young Jesus” argues that Jesus was not what we think of as a carpenter but rather was from a farming family. If you look at Jesus’ parables, very few parables are taken from the carpentry shop. Most are from agriculture. Isbouts theory is that Jesus was from a farming family. They found work in the building of the city of Sephoris. There Joseph and Jesus acquired skills as “tektons” builders/carpenters. And there, Jesus was recognized as “gifted” by the Jewish elders of the city and was given an education. After the death of Joseph (theorized by Isbouts to have been in a construction accident), Jesus left Sephoris and began working as a traveling handyman/carpenter until he heard the call of John the Baptist. (For more information about Sephoris see Jesus & the Forgotten City: New Light on Sepphoris and the Urban World of Jesus by Richard A. Batey.) Isbouts and Stark agree that Jesus’ education was exceptional and that Jesus was educated and was not an unlearned peasant. So, how did Jesus acquire and education? In the Gospel of Luke, Mary offers two turtle doves in Luke 2:24. This was an offering given by the poor in accordance to Exodus 13:2 and 12 and Leviticus 12:8. A lamb is the required offering. Two doves are a concession for the poor. Now we need to remember that the Magi gave a gift of “gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:10). (We cannot be certain of when the Magi arrived but it was definitely after the circumcision of Jesus and after marry performed her purification rites after her giving birth to Jesus.) How much gold were they given? The scripture doesn’t say, but it is most likely that this was a gift fit for a king. I believe that it was enough for Joseph and Mary to provide Jesus with an education, and perhaps his brothers as well. James and Jude both wrote portions of the New Testament. Also, while the Arabic Infancy Gospel of Thomas contains many absurd stories about the childhood of Jesus, in one of the stories, there is a story of Jesus in school being given an education. Whether or not Jesus was wealthy, he had wealthy benefactors, including Mary of Magdala and Junia, and perhaps Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemas as well. The Bible clearly states this in Luke 8:3. Stark notes that while Jesus rarely used examples from carpentry, he often used examples “involving wealth: land ownership, investment, borrowing, hiring servants and tenants, inheritance” and etc. Jesus attracted wealthy people and wealthy people supported him. Now, Jesus did warn that “you cannot serve God and Mammon” (Luke 16:13). Jesus also said, “I tell you, use unrighteous mammon/worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9) We must not allow money to become our god or an idol, but wealth can be made to serve God’s Kingdom. (These issues are explored by Peter Brown in Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD and Through the Needles Eye by David Servant.)
It is also important to note that many wealthy people were attracted to the teachings of Jesus and the preaching of Paul and other of the Apostles. Paul wrote the Corinthians and stated that among them were “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Paul didn’t say that there were not any educated, wealthy, or from nobility, just that not many were, at least not in Corinth. One wealthy convert could bring in twenty or so poor people who worked as servants in his household who followed him in his conversion. So you would see prominent people brought into the church. Another example is Erastus of Corinth. Erastus held a political office of high civic status. In 1929, an inscription mentioning an Erastus was found near a paved area northeast of the theater of Corinth. It has been dated to the mid-first century and reads "Erastus in return for his ship laid the pavement at his own expense." This inscription has important implications relating to the social status of the members of the Pauline churches. He is mentioned in the New Testament at Acts 19:22, Romans 16:23, and 2 Timothy 4:20.
Regarding women, we see wealthy women following Jesus such as Joanna, Mary Magdalene and Susanna. In the New Testament, we see prominent and wealthy women continuing to be attracted to the message of the Apostles. This includes Lydia, the first convert in Europe (Acts 16). An Priscilla, who educated Apollos in the faith (Acts 18:26). (In the Epistle to the Romans, we see Paul send personal greetings to 15 women and 18 men who were prominent in the Roman congregation. This seems like a large number of women if women were indeed in a subservient position.) In the Bible we see women prophetesses in the daughters of Phillip the Evangelist (Acts 21:8-9).
There are indications that Jewish women belonged to a traditional society in Israel, there is some interesting evidence of leadership of Jewish women among the Jewish diaspora community. A marble plaque discovered in Smyrna bears the inscription “Rufina Ioudaia, head of the synagogue, built this tomb for her freed slaves and the slaves raised in her house.” This inscription comes from the second century BC and describes a woman as being the leader of the synagogue.
In the non-canonical Acts of the Apostles, we also see women attracted to the preaching of the Apostles. There is the story of Saint Thekla, a disciple of Saint Paul to whom the village of Maloula in Syria is dedicated. In the Acts of Thomas, a Indian princess named Mygdonia is converted to faith in Christ. In the year 203, the famous church leader Perpetua of Carthage was martyred for her faith in Christ along with her servant Felicity and several other early Christian leaders.
Why is it that women were attracted to Christianity? First, Jesus himself elevated the status of women. Secondly, we have the concept of “in Christ there is no male or female,” sexual equality taught by the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians. Also, Jesus discouraged divorce. And early Christians and Jews of the first century were opposed to the heinous practice of abortion. (Later some rabbis seem to condone abortion, but this teaching is not reflective of Jewish teaching at the time of Christ.) Later on in the early church, since Christians did not discard female infants, Christianity continued to be female dominant.
The Gospels Success among the Jews
“On Christmas Eve were about nine million Jews living in the Roman Empire (which had a total population of about sixty million), about 90 percent living in the larger Roman cities west of Palestine. In addition, at least several million Jews lived in cities to the east of Palestine; there was a large Jewish community in Babylon.” Rodney Stark p. 33-the Triumph of Christianity. Stark argues that for several centuries the Jews did respond positively to the Gospel and the links between Jews and Christians were close. He notes that Romans prohibited Jews and Christians from intermarrying in 388 and that governments seldom bother prohibiting things that are not taking place. He notes that a substantial Jewish Christianity persisted. John Chrysotom (lived 349-407 AD) railed against Christians frequenting the synagogue, which shows us that the church and synagogue were still greatly intertwined at the start of the fifth century. This is also seen in the fact that the Quatradeciman Christians continued to celebrate Passover and appealed to the example of John and his disciples from whom they inherited this practice.
The issues of wealth in the early church, and the prominence of women and the continued dominance of Jewish Christianity in early Christianity are explored in Rodney Stark’s “The Rise of Christianity,” “The Cities of God,” and “The Triumph of Christianity.” These three books are highly recommended.
Stephen Andrew Missick
Reverend Stephen Andrew Missick is the author of The Assyrian Church in the Mongol Empire, Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church in India, and Socotra: The Mysterious Island of the Church of the East which were published in the Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies (Volume XIII, No. 2, 1999, Volume XIV, No. 2, 2000 and Volume XVI No. 1, 2002). (See www.jaas.org.) He is the author of The Words of Jesus in the Original Aramaic: Discovering the Semitic Roots of Christianity, The Secret of Jabez, Saint Thaddeus and the King of Assyria, The Ascents of James: A Lost Acts of the Apostles, The Hammer of God: The Stories of Judah Maccabee and Charles Martel, The Ennead: The Story of Osiris the Vindicator, the Beloved Enchantress Isis and Horus the Avenger and Christ the Man. He is an ordained minister of the gospel. He graduated from Sam Houston State University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rev. Missick has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and has lived among the Coptic Christians in Egypt and Aramaic Christians in Syria. He also served as a soldier in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and 2004. While serving as a soldier in Iraq he learned Aramaic from native Aramaic-speaking Iraqi Assyrian Christians. Rev. Missick is the writer and illustrator of the comic book “The Assyrians: The Oldest Christian People,” the comic strip Chronicles: Facts from the Bible and the comic book series The Hammer of God which are available from www.comixpress.com. The Hammer of God comic book series dramatizes the stories of Judah Maccabee and Charles Martel. He has also served as a chaplain in the Army National Guard in Iraq during his second deployment in 2009 and 2010. He participated in an archeological excavation of Bethsaida in Galilee in 2011 and went on a missionary trip to Uganda in 2012 and India in 2013.
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