Is it true that the Catholic Church deliberately set out to deceive its followers, while simultaneously mocking their gullibility? Was a gargantuan cover-up actually the work of Saul/Josephus, the quicksilver-quilled historian who wrote most of the secular and the spiritual accounts of first century Judaea? Those are among the questions said to be answered in a new e-book from controversial British author Ralph Ellis. Jesus, King of Edessa will certainly challenge many readers, not simply because of the sometimes-complex evidence explored, but also because it attempts to overturn just about all orthodox notions about the New Testament and the history offered therein.
Ellis first argued that Saul (St. Paul) was actually Josephus Flavius, the first century Jewish historian, in his 1997 book, Jesus, Last of the Pharaohs. In the years following, he encountered so much blow-back to this particular notion that he chose to revisit his arguments and to produce still more evidence in his book, King Jesus. This radical conflation of characters, he now argues, is not merely an interesting aside, but is central to understanding who Jesus really was. The most significant consequence of this new identification and the associated changes he has proposed in historical chronology was that all of the gospel accounts actually occurred in the AD 50s and 60s—some 20 or 30 years later than orthodoxy would have it. This dramatic reevaluation of biblical chronology has been vigorously challenged by a diverse array of both orthodox and freethinking critics, but, undaunted, Ellis, citing the Vulgate Cycle of Arthurian legend, persists that the ancient texts have backed him up. As he tells it, when writing the history of Joseph of Arimathaea, the author(s) of this vast Arthurian tome came across an insurmountable chronological problem. Joseph needed to be active during the siege of Jerusalem, and so the standard literary solution to the problem was to make Joseph go to sleep for three days and yet wake up forty years later. Such are the many problems that orthodox biblical chronology imposes on the true history of this region.
In his book, Cleopatra to Christ, Ellis believes he has provided more important illumination on the subject. Jesus was, he wrote, a descendent of Cleopatra of Egypt. Even more radically, Jesus was, claims Ellis, a direct descendent of Queen Thea Muse Ourania, who had been given to King Phraates IV of Parthia (Persia) as a diplomatic bride by Emperor Octavian. Queen Ourania, it turns out, was exiled from Parthia in AD 4 and, subsequently, made her way with 200 courtiers and 600 cavalry to Syria. And they did so just as the Star Prophesy gained popularity in Rome—the prophecy that claimed a new king would be born under an eastern star, an eastern monarch who would rule the whole Empire. So, in AD 4, says Ellis, we do indeed have a royal family who was on a journey and living in a state of poverty, perhaps in a stable, whose new infant son was born under the Eastern Star and would have been visited by the Magi. The Magi, Ellis reminds us, were the Parthian priesthood and king makers, and so they would be interested only in an infant who had an element of Parthian royal blood. And when tracking the history of that same infant within the many chronicles of Saul/Josephus, it was apparent that he grew up to become Jesus of Gamala, who is also called King Izas of the Adiabene. And that means, Ellis argues, we at last know who Jesus was—“he was Jesus-Izas, a minor prince of a land called Adiabene.”
However, although these identifications may be controversial and thought-provoking, eliciting a great deal of debate in conferences and within the blogosphere, there was nothing sufficiently tangible here to really challenge the traditionalist believer, because you could not put a historical finger on any of these characters. Jesus of Gamala and King Izas had no city, no palace, no mosaic images, no records, and not even a contemporary coin to their name. And where was this mythical land called Adiabene? It certainly did not sound like the location in Iraq, to which it was ascribed. Thus Jesus of Gamala and King Izas seemed to be merely literary phantoms from the not-entirely-reliable quill of Saul/Josephus, and as such they could easily be dismissed by the Christian faithful as nothing but literary devices created by Saul/Josephus for his own nefarious purposes.
King Abgar of Edessa
So who was Jesus? Well, according to Ellis, the previous books in his series were all perfectly correct, and, moreover, the new book sets out to confirm his previous research. Jesus was indeed descended from Queen Thea Muse Ourania; and this Egypto-Parthian queen did indeed get exiled from Parthia in AD 4; her husband-son was indeed the semi-mythical monarch called King Monobazus-Izas of Adiabene. There is one crucial difference with the previous books though. His new evidence establishes that the lands of Adiabene were not in Iraq, where Saul/Josephus appeared to be pointing. In fact, Ellis concludes, Saul/Josephus was being ingeniously duplicitous here, in concealing the true location for his semi-mythical land called Adiabene. In reality the Saul/Josephus’ character called King Monobazus-Izas of Adiabene was a delightful—but incredibly deceitful—nickname for King Abgarus of Edessa.
Abgar who? King Abgarus of Edessa, it turns out, was a central character within first century Syrio-Judaean history and within the biblical accounts, so why was the king or this city never mentioned. Because, reasons Ellis, both Saul/Josephus and the Catholic Church did not want anyone to know anything about King Abgar, so they deleted him from their history. Saul/Josephus, for instance, writes an entire history of first century Judaeo/Syria but never once mentions King Abgar or the powerful and influential city of Edessa—a city that became the first and the greatest center of early Nazarene Christianity. But how can this be? It is inconceivable that Saul/Josephus did not know of Abgar and the exploits of his famous wife and sons, and their many connections to the biblical story, so how is it possible he does not mention them? Well, he does mention them, on numerous occasions, but he calls this Edessan monarch King Monobazus-Izas of Adiabene. Why? Because the true history of King Abgar was deeply troubling for what Ellis calls, the new fairy tale that Saul/Josephus was peddling: “the disingenuous and mendacious fable called the New Testament.”
Crown of Thorns
Just how does Ellis connect these Edessan monarchs with the biblical family and with Jesus himself? The new book offers plenty of details. In fact, once the author starts making his comparison, a veritable volcano of information seems to erupt from the region confirming his connections. Ellis says he had no idea, before starting this investigation, how prolific and authoritative the Armenian and Syriac Christian chroniclers were. Forget the politically correct claims that Islam maintained the enlightenment through the Dark Ages. In reality the science, astronomy, and philosophy of Greece was maintained by the Syriac intellectuals who lived as dhimmi serfs under their Muslim overlords. So, this identification for Jesus is not merely an interesting possibility, the author believes it provides incontrovertible proof that Jesus was actually a son of King Abgar—a prince of Edessa.
Ellis’s radical new theory offers even more information about the biblical Jesus, including contemporary coins and a statue showing exactly what he looked like. One telling detail of the new pictorial evidence is that the Edessan monarchs were always depicted wearing a ceremonial Crown of Thorns.
Thus the famous crucifixion apellation (“King of the Jews”) for Jesus, Ellis argues, was not simply to mock a carpenter who claimed to be a king, it was actually a mockery of an Edessan monarch who had lost a battle with Rome. And to emphasize who was right and who was wrong in this dispute, it is suggested that the Romans dressed Jesus up as a defeated Edessan monarch, complete with his rather peculiar-looking Crown of Thorns—a crown said to be central to the true theology and beliefs of this Edesso-biblical family, as well as intimately linked to the Scottish Stone of Scone. This is why, he explains, that this crown was being so denigrated; it was not simply because it looked strange, it was because it was symbolic of an ancient belief system that had emerged from Egypt thousands of years before and had matured in Greece for hundreds more years. This was a creed that was envied and feared in equal measure and that left its mark on lands as remote as Ireland and Scotland.
The gospels, Ellis argues, were not wrong in what they recorded. In fact, he says, the revised history of this region demonstrates that they are almost entirely correct—it is simply our perception of these events that is wrong. In reality, he says, all of the gospel events happened in the turbulent AD 60s, not during the comparatively tranquil period of the AD 30s. More importantly, Jesus was not a pauper-carpenter—he was a king, for that is what the titles ‘christ’ and ‘messiah’ mean: they refer to an anointed king of Israel, which is why this great leader was called the King of the Jews. In reality, claims Ellis, Jesus was an Edessan prince who was taking advantage of turmoil within the Roman Empire to advance his claim to rule the world.
The Star Prophesy
In AD 65, Nero had kicked his wife Poppaea to death, and from then on he was a dead man walking and everyone knew it; consequently many influential and powerful Romans began jostling for power and for the rule of Rome. One of the contenders for the imperial throne, says Ellis, was Jesus-Izas, the prince of Edessa. How do we know this? Because the great prophecy being spread in the Roman corridors of power at that time foretold that a star from the east would become the Emperor of Rome. The Roman chroniclers report the Star Prophecy quite soberly. The following is Ellis’s conflation of the reports by Suetonius and Tacitus.
“In most (Jews) there was a firm persuasion that in the ancient records of their priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers coming from Judaea were to acquire a universal empire. This prediction referred to a Roman Emperor, as events showed, but the Jews applying it to themselves broke out into rebellion.” (Tacitus, The Histories, 5:13) (Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Vespasian IV)
The rebellion mentioned here is the great Jewish Revolt of the late AD 60s, the revolt led by both Jesus of Gamala and by King Izas of Adiabene-Edessa (who Ellis says were, in reality, the same person). The ‘universal empire’ referred to is the vast pan-national empire that Jesus, purportedly, wanted to establish. This princely Jesus-Izas, Ellis reminds us, was directly related to the royal lines of Egypt, Rome, and Parthia, and could potentially have united the entire known world into one vast empire. And who would be the leader of this great empire? In Judaic traditions this same prophesy was known as the Star Prophesy of the East but who was born under the Eastern Star at this very time? The gospels say of these same events: “There came Magi from Parthia to Jerusalem, saying: ‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.’ ” (Matt 2:1-2)
Ellis, of course, argues that Jesus was a king of Edessa in the AD 60s, who very nearly became the emperor of Rome.
In the view of Ralph Ellis, this historical truth undermines everything the Church has been trying to peddle over the last 2,000 years about their pauper prince of peace. In reality, he says, Jesus-Izas was a warrior prince of great wealth and even greater ambitions. And so, he insists, the New Testament’s distorted version of Judaean history was not simply a parody of the true history of this region, devised for literary amusement, it was also Roman propaganda. Rome was exasperated with Judaeo-Nazarene agitation in its eastern provinces and having comprehensively wiped Judaea off the map, it decided to give the surviving populations in that region a political double punch—courtesy of Emperor Vespasian’s quicksilver-quilled wordsmith, Saul/Josephus, the biblical Saul, or St. Paul.
In what the author believes “was a triumph of mendacity over honesty,” Saul/Josephus produced The Jewish War, a secular history of Judaea declaring that Rome was grievously provoked and was therefore justified in destroying Judaea. But there were also the divisive creeds of Orthodox and Nazarene Judaism to tame and quell. Thus Saul/Josephus wrote and edited a religio-spiritual history of first century Judaea, which eventually became a kind of Judaism-lite, or simple Judaism—a new Rome-friendly version of Judaism that any Roman gentile could join, which is now known as Christianity. And who could Saul/Josephus employ as the hero figure of Judaism-lite? Well, this just had to be the infamous hero-villain of the Jewish Revolt, who Ellis says the historical record called King Jesus-Izas, the ambitious king of Edessa.