Jesus’ Caesars

Busts of Vespasian and Titus in the British Museum

or The Coming of the Father and the Son

The chief priests answered,
“We have no king but Caesar.”
So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

(John 19:15-16)

Is there any significance in the fact that apostate Jerusalem was destroyed by two generals, a father and a son, founders of a new Roman dynasty?


Daniel 9 follows the sevenfold Covenant structure. [1]

Jeremiah’s prophecy awakens Daniel. (Day 1)
Daniel confesses the sins of his people. (Day 2)
Their exile from the Land is just. (Day 3)
The Law of Moses brought curses from heaven. (Day 4)
Daniel intercedes for Israel. (Day 5)
The man Gabriel blesses Daniel. (Day 6)
Gabriel’s prophecy of Israel’s future. (Day 7)

The chapter begins with the words of an earthly angel concerning Israel’s past 70 year captivity (70 referring to the bull sacrifices of Booths, and also to the number of Sabbaths being restored to the abused Land of Canaan), and it ends with a heavenly angel’s exposition of Israel’s seventy week (490 year) future.

So, the final section concerns Israel’s Succession under the Restoration Covenant, as the Israel of the “latter days,” the period of the “resurrected” Temple. Gabriel’s speech itself follows the same structure, predicting the Alpha and Omega of a new Jerusalem.

CreationArk / Light / Sabbath – Genesis

Seventy weeks (sevens) (Transcendence)
have been decreed (Hierarchy)
for your people (Ethics)
and your holy city, (Oath/Sanctions)
to finish the transgression, (Succession)

The first takes the past 70 Sabbaths and projects this multiplied shabua into the future, hence the phrase is literally “seventy sevens.” Since this concerns the redemption of Israel from bondage (through vengeance), this is also an allusion to Lamech’s vengeance in Genesis 4:24 (and by extension, Jesus’ mercy in Matthew 18:22). Notice the holy city as the Bride at Sanctions.

Division – Veil / Waters / Passover – Exodus

to put an end to sin, (Transcendence)
and to atone for iniquity, (Hierarchy)
to bring in everlasting righteousness, (Ethics)
to seal vision and prophecy, (Oath/Sanctions)
and to anoint the most holy. (Succession)

Notice that this second stanza of the final cycle corresponds to the second cycle of the chapter: Daniel’s confession of Israel’s sin. Vision and prophecy, the “eye and tooth” (sight and speech witnesses), the curses of the Mosaic Law, would finally be sealed up, themselves cursed, buried, covered on the final day of coverings.

Ascension – Altar & Table / Land & Fruits / Firstfruits – Leviticus

Know therefore and understand (Light)
that from the going out of a word (Waters)
to restore and to build Jerusalem (Grain and Fruit)
until an anointed one, (Rulers)
a commander, (Swarms)
there shall be weeks: seven, (Mediators – Jews)
and weeks: sixty-two. (Nations – Gentiles)

Ascension, as usual, brings the opening of the Covenant scroll. James Jordan’s translation of this section was very helpful. It allowed me to see that the seven weeks concerned the “sacrificial head” of Israel, and the remaining weeks her new ministry of witness among the Gentiles. The structure here alludes to both the Creation Week and also Israel’s festal calendar.

Testing – Lampstand / Rulers / Pentecost – Numbers

And she [Jerusalem] (Creation)
will return and be rebuilt (Division)
with plaza and moat, (Ascension)
but in troubled times. (Testing)

Testing, as is common, is only a three-and-a-half. Like Adam, Israel will fail the test at the centre of history. The rebuilding in line 2 seems odd until we understand that the erection of the altar by Ezra (priestly head) and the wall by Nehemiah (kingly body) reinstituted the Jew-Gentile divide. The reference to plaza (or street) and moat images Jerusalem, the holy city, as a Tabernacle, a tent with a cleansing laver of living water. Moreover, and more cleverly, it also alludes to the Land and the Sea on Day 3.

Maturity – Incense /Swarms / Trumpets – Deuteronomy

And after the weeks sixty-two, (All nations, Noah to Melchizedek)
shall be cut off (Abraham)
an anointed one (Moses – face to face with God)
and shall have nothing. (Aaron – No land)
And the city and the sanctuary (David and Solomon)*
the people (Assyria and Babylon)
of the coming commander (Angel of the Lord)
shall destroy.

The work of Ezra and Nehemiah will be reversed by the anointed one (“Messiah”). His cutting off will render the altar obsolete. Then the coming commander will tear down the walls which Nehemiah’s men, with swords and trowels, built up. There is a double witness here (as is common, again!), a vision and a prophecy, but we shall deal with that in part II. Also, if we align these seven lines with a different fractal, the first seven books of the Bible, the “coming commander” corresponds to the “Captain of the Lord’s hosts” in Joshua.

*City and Sanctuary alluding to David and Solomon at “Ruling Lights” was a bit of a squee moment.

Conquest – Laver / Mediators / Atonement – Joshua

And its end (Genesis – Transcendence)
shall be in the flood, (Exodus – Hierarchy)
and to the end (Leviticus – Ethics)
there shall be war. (Numbers – Sanctions)
Desolations are decreed. (Deuteronomy – Succession)

The “Social” flood here corresponds in this structure to the Physical flood in the cycle from Adam to Noah. It is “The Great Day” of coverings. The Temple was unprotected when it was vacated by the Spirit. Ezekiel saw the glory depart under the Old Covenant. Under the New Covenant, the Shekinah was the indwelling Spirit in Christians gradually barred from meeting in the Temple. Jordan wisely observes that the destruction of the Temple was never a sin of the Gentiles, but a punishment for the sacrileges of the priesthood. [2] Aptly, Gabriel has moved back to a fivefold “closed” scroll. The waters would close, like the veil of the abyss, over the Herodian Pharaohs who sewed the torn veil back together.

Glorification – Shekinah / Rest / Booths – Judges

And he shall cause to be mighty (Initiation)
a covenant for the many (Delegation)
for one week, (Presentation – Firstfruits)
and in the middle of the week (Purification)
he shall end sacrifice and offering. (Transformation – Plagues & Plunder)
And on the wing of detestables is one causing desolation, (Vindication)
until the end decreed is poured out on the desolated.” (Representation)

The “wing” refers to the “corner” of Israel’s priestly robes, and thus appears in the Atonement line of this stanza. Israel’s priesthood and the Roman destroyer seem to be conflated here, as cause and effect.

It is strange that this mention of the Covenant being ratified comes at the end, but not strange that the final desolation ends the process. What is going on here?

*  *  *  *  *


“Come, let us go down…” (Genesis 11:7)

The clueless see Genesis 11:7, among other verses, as evidence of polytheism in ancient worship of Yahweh. The literary structure makes it plain that the “us” is an allusion to the legal testimony of two witnesses required to make an executable judgment. (Abel’s blood cries from the ground at the same point in that structure.) The witnesses are revealed to us now as the Father and the Son.

However, under the New Covenant, it is no longer the Father and the Son who are the witnesses but the saints. This is possible because the saints have now witnessed both the Father and the Son.

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do,
that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
(John 14:9, 13)

When the Son forgave the “sin of wandering astray” committed by the Jewish people (under the leadership of godless rulers), the cycle given to us in Daniel 9 at Maturity was divided in two. It became a three-and-a-half. Instead of the entire city and Sanctuary being destroyed, the judgments were limited to warnings, to signs. Only the veil was torn in the Sanctuary. Only the rocks were split on the mountain. The next three and a half years saw a witness to the Jews, the fire of Pentecost, and ended with the judgment of a Herod whose voice the people claimed to be that of a god. But another Herod replaced him. The full judgment was postponed. As the apostles testify,

If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah. (Romans 9:29)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance… And count the patience of our Lord [towards Israel] as salvation. (2 Peter 3:9, 15)

So, there is a “postponement” of the seventieth week, but only for one generation. Is there a precedent for this? Yes. In the postponement of Israel’s conquest of the promised Land due to their lack of faith. The delay was the same period, around 40 years. [3] This allowed time for the Lord to take a remnant of Old Israel’s flesh and create a new generation according to the Spirit.

This is precisely the delay we witness in the book of Revelation. Four angels are ready to wipe Jerusalem off the face of the Land, but they are told to wait until the saints are sealed, martyred and ascended. Only then is there “no more time,” no more delay.

This brings us to roles of General Vespasian and his son General Titus as earthly servants of the Father and the Son in heaven. It seems that just as God referred to King Nebuchadnezzar as His “servant” in the destruction of the city and the Sanctuary (Jeremiah 25:9), this role would be reprized as the last of the four empires completed its guardian role of the people of God. Only, the Jews were no longer the people of God. The Church was.

This week it has been reported widely that one Joseph Atwill, an American Bible scholar, is visiting the UK to present his controversial theory that the Gospels were the invention of the Roman aristocracy, namely, Titus, to pacify zealous Jews.

Atwill asserts that Christianity did not really begin as a religion, but a sophisticated government project, a kind of propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire. “Jewish sects in Palestine at the time, who were waiting for a prophesied warrior Messiah, were a constant source of violent insurrection during the first century,” he explains. “When the Romans had exhausted conventional means of quashing rebellion, they switched to psychological warfare. They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system. That’s when the ‘peaceful’ Messiah story was invented. Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to ‘give onto Caesar’ and pay their taxes to Rome.” [4]

As one reviewer summarizes: “According with Atwill, the main purpose behind Titus concocting the Gospels was to defuse the virulency of the Sicarii movement (backing Jesus) and to convince the Judaics that the God-Messiah they were expecting was non other than Titus himself and ‘to give Caesar what belongs to Caesar’; in short, to defuse the rebellion in Judea and turn the revolting Judaics into pacifist subjects of Rome and the God-Caesar.”

To make his case, Atwill’s book, Caesar’s Messiah, has to deliberately leave out much of the New Testament from discussion. It is likely all the bits he cut out and left on the floor were picked up by Reza Aslan for his book Zealot, which is just as one-eyed, and its premise just as ridiculous.

However, unlike Aslan, Atwill, educated by Jesuits in Japan, does have a gut sense of the way the Scriptures speak. The latest edition “adds Atwill’s latest discoveries of numerous parallel events in sequence which ultimately reveal the identity of the true authors of the Gospels.” One review criticized some of his more minor typological observations (which would actually be standard fare around here!) yet it is Atwill’s major observation which I find astounding. Being an atheist, and also apparently unaware of the explicit and implicit Hebraic structures of the New Testsament, he comes to the wrong conclusions. Yet the truth he has uncovered is worth sharing here because it sheds some light on this twice mentioned “commander” in Daniel 9.

Atwill’s most intriguing discovery came to him while he was studying “Wars of the Jews” by Josephus [the only surviving first-person historical account of first-century Judea] alongside the New Testament. “I started to notice a sequence of parallels between the two texts,” he recounts. “Although it’s been recognised by Christian scholars for centuries that the prophesies of Jesus appear to be fulfilled by what Josephus wrote about in the First Jewish-Roman war, I was seeing dozens more. What seems to have eluded many scholars is that the sequence of events and locations of Jesus ministry are more or less the same as the sequence of events and locations of the military campaign of [Emperor] Titus Flavius as described by Josephus. This is clear evidence of a deliberately constructed pattern. The biography of Jesus is actually constructed, tip to stern, on prior stories, but especially on the biography of a Roman Caesar.”

How could this go unnoticed in the most scrutinised books of all time? “Many of the parallels are conceptual or poetic, so they aren’t all immediately obvious. After all, the authors did not want the average believer to see what they were doing, but they did want the alert reader to see it. An educated Roman in the ruling class would probably have recognised the literary game being played.” Atwill maintains he can demonstrate that “the Roman Caesars left us a kind of puzzle literature that was meant to be solved by future generations, and the solution to that puzzle is ‘We invented Jesus Christ, and we’re proud of it.’” [4]

So, if a typology-savvy reader overlays Josephus’ The Wars of the Jews onto the ministry of Jesus Christ, a “third text” will appear. Atwill takes great pains in his attempt to prove that Titus was the predicted “son of man.” Despite his backward conclusions, I believe he is onto something. There is a very fine correspondence. The delayed role of the first “commander” in Daniel 9 was completed in the second. The conquest of Jerusalem did indeed follow a “deliberately constructed pattern,” but it originated in heaven, not on earth. The priestly campaign of Jesus, under the authority of the Father, led to the kingly campaign of Titus, under the authority of his father. [5] The seventieth week occurred twice because of the longsuffering of God, who always requires a double witness. [6]

[1] For a structural analysis of the entire book, see Daniel’s Long Shadow. Also, James Jordan’s commentary on Daniel, The Handwriting on the Wall, is a must have. Forget the rest.
[2] See James B. Jordan, The Abomination of Desolation, Part 1.
[3] See The End of Shadows.
[4] Ancient Confession Found: “We Invented Jesus Christ.”
[5] For a brief historical rundown on the destruction of Jerusalem, see Sin City – 1.
[6] This also allowed Jesus to fulfill the “head and body” pattern predicted in Daniel 7. The High Priest approached the veil twice on the Day of Atonement: once for the priesthood, and a second time, “in like manner,” for the people. In the middle of the “first” 70th week, the head was cut off. In the middle of the “second” 70th week, it was the body, the martyrs, who were cut off. This is the structure of the Book of Revelation.

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