30 Mar 2014 
#85 Could Antipas-Herodias' wedding, John the baptist's arrest & execution and Jesus' crucifixion have happened in 35-36 AD?

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Some scholars and amateurs profess Jesus was crucified in 36 CE, thinking it happened soon after John the Baptist's execution, which itself occurred not too long after the wedding of Herod Antipas & Herodias.

Jesus' crucifixion happening soon after John's death is evidenced only by the gospels, as also the Herodian wedding causing John's demise:

Lk 3:19-20 "But Herod the tetrarchwho had been reproved by him [John the Baptist] for Herodias, his brother's wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he shut up John in prison."

That is ironic, because these proponents of the late executions won't trust the gospels on other matters, including when they show that these two slayings happened much sooner than 36 CE.

I) They put forward two main arguments:

1) Because Josephus' Antiquities indicates:

XVIII,5, 2 "Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army [in 36 CE] came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod [Antipas] slew him, who was a good man, ... Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him."

they postulates the battle in question had to come soon after John's execution by Herod Antipas for two reasons:

A) After a long time, John the Baptist would not be remembered.
My counter arguments:
John the Baptist was a very popular figure according to:
a) Josephus (Ant., XVIII, 5, 2): "[John the Baptist] was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; ... Now when others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion [likely against Antipas because of his planned wedding with Herodias], (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death."
b) The gospels:
- Mk 1:4-5 RSV "John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins."
- Lk 7:28 RSV "I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John;"
c) Acts of the apostles:
- 18:25 RSV  "He [Apollos of Alexandria, in Ephesus, around 52 CE] had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John."
- 19:3 RSV "And he [Paul, in Ephesus, around 53 CE] said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John's baptism."
d) The Mandeans trace their origin to John the Baptist.
In conclusion, John the Baptist was very much remembered in the whole 1st century AD

B) Jews would not hold a grudge (against Antipas, about what he did to John) for many years and seek revenge. And then rejoice when the recipient(s) of that grudge is/are apparently punished.
My counter arguments:
But people (Jews included) are known to do just that:
a) In places like Corsica and the Peloponnese, family members can hate another family for some evil act committed against their ancestor(s) generations ago.
b) Did many Americans not have a grudge (for many years) against Bin Laden, after what his organization (al qaeda) did in September 11 2001, and wished him killed? And when it happened, after many years, rejoice?
c) Would the parents (and their friends) of a child, who got kidnapped and killed, not have a grudge against the guilty for many many years and wished him being executed. And get some consolation when finally the criminal is put to death?
d) Did Jews not have a grudge for many years against surviving Nazis who murdered their compatriots/relatives/friends during world war II? 
In conclusion, people can hold a grudge against other(s) for many years after this/those later one(s) did bad things to them or to (a) person(s) dear to them.
2) Because the literal translation of a part of Antiquities' XVIII, 5, 1 ("... So Aretas made this the first occasion of his enmity [definitively Antipas/Herodias planned union, according to the preceding passage] between him and Herod, who had also some quarrel with him about their limits at the country of Gamalitis. So they raised armies on both sides, and prepared for war, ..." Whiston's translation) does not imply the enmity did not last for many years (nine according to my research) between Antipas' wedding with Herodias and the defeat from Aretas' army.
So what is that literal translation? Here is a proposed one:
ο δε αρχην εχθρας ταυτην ποιησαμενος
this was made the start of the enmity
περι τε ορων εν γη τη Γαμαλικη,
about the borders in the land of Gamalike
και δυναμεως εκατερω συλλεγεισης
and each mustered forces
εις πολεμον καθισταντο
there was a state of war
"The start of the enmity" is, according to what precede, the impending marriage of Antipas with Herodias, implying him divorcing Aretas' daughter. So that "start of the enmity" is not "about the borders in the land of Gamalike", which could have occurred at a different time, much later.
And when would have happened a dispute about the borders of Gamalitis (as commonly translated)?
Most likely after the death of Philip the tetrarch in 33-34 CE, when that part of his territory, between Aretas' possessions around Bosra (or Busra) and Antipas' Galilee would have been contested and before it got annexed to Syria.
See map below:

Other modern translations do acknowledge (despite the poor Greek of Josephus) the existence of several sources for the emnity, the first one being the impending divorce forced on Aretas' daughter.
a) From Louis Feldman: "Aretas made this the start of a quarrelThere was also a dispute about boundaries in the district of Gabalis and each mustered forces. So they raised armies on both sides, there was a state of war."
b) From this website"This was the start of their enmity and there was also their border dispute about Gamalitis, so both sides prepared for war,"
Let's note "there was a state of war" or "both sides prepared for war" suggests there was some delay between the state/preparation of war and the battle itself.
II) Now, let's look at positive arguments in favour of the Antipas/Herodias' wedding, John the Baptist' arrest & execution and Jesus' crucifixion happening way before 36 CE.
1) From Josephus' Antiquities XVIII:
A) The future Agrippa I meets Antipas & Herodias some time (years?) after they got married (6, 2). Then,
B) Agrippa sojourns in Tiberias for some undetermined time (years?) (6, 2). Then,
C) Agrippa goes to Antioch and stays with his friend Flaccus, president over Syria, (died either 33 or 35 CE) for some unspecified duration (years?) (6, 3). Then,
D) When Flaccus is still alive, Agrippa goes to Ptolemais and then Alexandria in order to raise money for himself (6, 3).
E) Agrippa arrives in Italy in early 36 CE (5, 4)
Of course, times of Agrippa' stays in Tiberias & Antioch are not known (as also when after the wedding he met Antipas with Herodias), but I doubt Josephus would have mentioned these sojourns if they were short.
2) Except at the beginning of his rule, Pontius Pilate was very harsh against any gatherings of Jews (outside the feasts in Jerusalem). Josephus narrated Pilate's two bloody & deadly interventions, once against Jewish protesters (Wars, II, 9, 4 and Ant. XVIII, 3, 2) (the "second event"), sometimes in the early part of Pilate's ten years rule other Judea (fall 26 to winter 27 CE), and one against a Samaritan prophet & followers (Ant., XVIII, 4, 1-2) in 36 CE.
So it is very unlikely he would have allowed then crowds of Jews to visit John the Baptist.
However, at the very start of Pilate's governorship, one event made Pilate, despite his threats, acting fairly & peacefully, as if God was protecting the Jews against death and his temple against defilement (Wars II, 9, 2 and Ant. XVIII, 3, 1).
I think this first event, most likely to raise great expectations, made possible John the Baptist's huge popularity with the many Jews going to see him (and later a certain royalish welcome near Jerusalem).
Essentially, there  was a short (timewise) window of opportunity for these gatherings between the first event and the second one (a bloody mass beating against many Jews protesting against the Romans using the sacred temple treasure). After that, any big expectations would have dwindled and any non-traditional mass gatherings avoided for fear of repression.
3) According to the gospels,
A) In Mark's gospel, 

a long delay between Herod Antipas & Herodias marriage and the battle in 36 CE is implied in this following account. It is abnormally long and detailed, with some legendary items and probably drawn from John's latter followers. But, in passing, it provides a valuable piece of information:

6:19-28 "So Herodias
[Herod's new wife, presented as ambitious and scheming by Josephus]
nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him ... On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias
[young Salome (whose father was Herodias' previous husband), later married to Philip, the king (tetrarch) of Cesarea Philippi, who died in 33-34 CE. Why later? Salome could not have performed a dance in front of a court of men as a married woman (to a king!) or as a royal widow. That would have been most improper, even scandalous]
came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl,[a married woman or widow could not be called a "girl"]
... At once the girl hurried in to the king ... He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother."
B) In Luke's gospel, 
Jesus' ministry is said to last one year (4:19) and starts at the latest in 29 CE (3:1), with John's execution happening during that ministry (9:7), when Antipas & Herodias were married (3:19).
C) In John's gospel,
the first visit in Jerusalem during Passover by Jesus at the beginning of his public life is about 27 CE (2:20a) and John the Baptist is said "finished" (5:33-35) before the second Passover (6:4).
As I can see, these are fairly independent indications from each gospel, showing that Antipas-Herodias' marriage, John the Baptist's end and Jesus' crucifixion happened much earlier than 35-36 CE.
III) Additional remarks:
1) If both sides prepared for war, how to explain it took a long time for the battle to take place:
It can hardly be a coincidence the battle happened right after Antipas made Vitellius, the president of Syria, furious against him.
Here is what happened, according to Josephus' Antiquities XVIII, 4, 5:   
To maintain peace with the threatening Parthiates, Tiberius sent Vitellius to negotiate a treaty with the king of Parthia. The meeting was successful. Herod Antipas, who was also there, informed Tiberius about it, before Vitellius could do so. For this reason Vitellius was furious at Herod and looking for revenge.
Soon after, Aretas attacked the army of Herod. Why then? Aretas must have thought that Herod lost his Roman support: Tiberius wanted peace and Vitellius would not do a thing for Antipas.
At first, Aretas was wrong: Tiberius (because Herod Antipas was "in great favour with Tiberius" (Ant., XVIII, 2, 3) and a client king of the Romans) did order Vitellius to retaliate against Aretas. But when the Roman army was marching towards Petra, Tiberius died and Vitellius "recalled his army" (Ant., XVIII, 5, 3).
Let's also note, the armies then (when Herod Antipas was on the Euphrates river with Vitellius) were most likely only in a state of war (that is watching each other for years) but not actively at war. If they were, Herod would have staid in Galilee.
2) According to Josephus, the client kings (including Herodians) did have permanent armies:
Wars, V, 2, 1 "Now, as Titus was upon his march into the enemy's country, the auxiliaries that were sent by the kings marched first, having all the other auxiliaries with them; after whom followed those that were to prepare the roads and measure out the camp; then came the commander's baggage, and after that the other soldiers, who were completely armed to support them; then came Titus himself, having with him another select body; and then came the pikemen; after whom came the horse belonging to that legion."
Herod the Great had an army:
Antiquities XVII, 10, 3: "[some time after Herod the Great's death] Rufus and Gratus, who had three thousand of the most warlike of Herod's army with them, who were men of active bodies, went over to the Romans."
According to Josephus' life, Agrippa II had an army:
71 "... At the same time also there came forces, both horsemen and footmen, from the king, and Sylla their commander, who was the captain of his guard: this Sylla pitched his camp at five furlongs' distance from Julias, and set a guard upon the roads, ..." which Josephus fought twice with 2000, then 3000 men (72).
And also, 74 "It was not now long before Vespasian came to Tyre, and king Agrippa [II] with him; but the Tyrians began to speak reproachfully of the king, and called him an enemy to the Romans. For they said that Philip, the general of his army, had betrayed the royal palace and the Roman forces that were in Jerusalem, and that it was done by his command. When Vespasian heard of this report, he rebuked the Tyrians for abusing a man who was both a king and a friend to the Romans; but he exhorted the king to send Philip to Rome, to answer for what he had done before Nero."

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {36 CE} {Aretas} {dating} {Josephus} {John the Baptist}
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