Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?

By G. R. S. Mead

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WE have already seen that Epiphanius, filled with fiery zeal to play the Hercules in defence of his own special form of Church orthodoxy, is possessed of a magnificent confidence in his own ability to smite off every head of the many-necked hydra-serpent of heresy, and so to cauterise the stumps that no head shall ever again grow therefrom to give articulate utterance to error.  His self-confidence, however, is so overweening, that he at times becomes quite reckless; so much so that he has bequeathed to posterity a mass of interesting evidence which would otherwise have entirely disappeared, and which enables the independent thinker to raise a number of questions of the greatest importance for the unprejudiced historian of Christian beginnings.

Even with regard to our general subject of enquiry, we have already seen that the Bishop of Salamis has had the hardihood to work the name Panther (Pandera) into the canonical genealogy of Jesus. Does he, however, give us any further information which can in any way explain his extraordinary behaviour in this matter? Strange to say he does, and that, too, information of an


even more startling nature; but before we bring forward the astonishing passages in which Epiphanius boldly weaves the Jewish Jannai date tradition, which contradicts the whole of traditional Christian history, into his elaborate exposition of the date of Jesus according to canonical views, we must supplement what we have already said about the general character of our author as a heresiologist, by quoting from the sober and moderate opinion of the greatest student of the writings of this stalwart champion of Nicene Christianity whom scholarship has so far produced. Lipsius, in his admirable article[l] on this interesting Church Father, writes as follows:

"An honest, but credulous and narrow-minded zealot for church orthodoxy, and notwithstanding the veneration in which he was held by episcopal colleagues, and still more in monastic circles, he was often found promoting divisions, where a more moderate course would have enabled him to maintain the peace of the churches. His violence of temper too often led him, especially in the Origenistic controversies, into an ill-considered and uncanonical line of conduct; and the narrow-minded spirit with which he was wont to deal with controverted questions contributed in no small degree to impose more and more oppressive fetters on the scientific [sic] theology of his times. . . .

"His frequent journeys and exhaustive reading enabled him to collect a large but ill-arranged store of historical information, and this he used with much ingenuity in defending the church orthodoxy of his

[1] "Epiphanius of Salamis," in Smith and Wace's "Dict. of Christ. Biography."


time, and opposing every kind of heresy. But as a man attached to dry literal formulas he exercised really very small influence on dogmatic theology, and his theological polemics were more distinguished by pious zeal than by impartial judgment and penetrating intelligence.  He is fond of selecting single particulars, in which to exhibit the abominable nature of the errors he is combating.  When one bears in mind that his whole life was occupied in the Origenistic controversy, his refutation of the doctrine of the Alexandrian theologian is quite astonishingly superficial, a few meagre utterances detached from their context, and in part thoroughly misunderstood, is all that he has to give us by way of characterising the object of his detestation, and yet at the same time he boasted of having read no less than 6000 of Origen's works, a much larger number, as Rufinus remarks, than the man had written.  His credulity allows the most absurd relations to be imposed upon it; a heretic was capable of any abomination, nor did he think it at all necessary quietly to examine the charges made. . . .

The accounts he gives of the Jewish Christian Gnostic sects . . . exhibit a marvellous mixture of valuable traditions with misunderstandings and fancies of his own.  His pious zeal to excel all heresiologues who had gone before him, by completing the list of heretics, led him into the strangest misunderstandings, the most adventurous combinations, and arbitrary assertions.  He often frames out of very meagre hints long and special narratives. The strangest phenomena are combined with total absence of criticism, and things which evidently belonged together are arbitrarily


separated.  On the other hand, he often copies his authorities, with slavish dependence on them, and so puts it in the power of critical commentators to collect a rich abundance of genuine traditions from what seemed a worthless mass."

Such is the impartial and judicious estimate of the value of Epiphanius for our own day which Lipsius, after many years of most careful study of the writings of this puzzling Church Father, gives us. For his contemporaries the Bishop of Constantia was a most excellent and pious defender of the Faith, and for future generations of the Church he was a saint who went about working wonders, the recital of which out-miracles even the marvels of the gospel-narratives. It is no part of our task to read the shade of Epiphanius a sermon on literary morality; such a thing was not invented in his day in theological circles. We must take him as we find him, a profoundly interesting psychological study, and so make what we can out of his (from a critical standpoint) marvellously instructive heresiological patch-work.  We thus leave the cult of Saint Epiphanius to those who may be benefited by it, and proceed to quote the most astonishing "logos" - as Epiphanius himself would have called it had he found it in an earlier Father - of this champion of Nicene orthodoxy and saint of Roman Catholicism.

In treating of the Nazoraei, the Bishop of Salamis enters into a long digression to prove that the statement in Psalm cxxxii. 11- "The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it, of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne" - is a Messianic


prophecy fulfilled in the person of Jesus. This, he says, is denied by some, but he will clearly show that it duly came to pass. He then proceeds with his argument as follows ("Haer.," xxix. 3):

"Now the throne and kingly seat of David is the priestly office in Holy Church; for the Lord combined the kingly and high-priestly dignities into one and the same office, and bestowed them upon His Holy Church, transferring to her the throne of David, which ceases not as long as the world endues.  The throne of David continued by succession up to that time - namely, till Christ Himself - without any failure from the princes of Judah, until it came unto Him for whom were 'the things that are stored up,' who is Himself 'the expectation of the nations.'[l]  For with the advent of the Christ, the succession of the princes from Judah, who reigned until the Christ Himself, ceased. The order [of succession] failed and stopped at the time when He was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Alexander, who was of high-priestly and royal race; and after this Alexander this lot failed, from the times of himself and Salina, who is also called Alexandra, for the times of Herod the King and Augustus Emperor of the Romans ; and this Alexander, one of the anointed (or Christs) and ruling princes placed the crown on his own head. . . . After this a foreign king, Herod, and

[1] These quotations of Epiphanius refer to the Septuagint translation of Genesis xlix. 10, which, however, the Authorized Version renders: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be."  Here "Shiloh" stands for "the things stored up," and "gathering" for "expectation."


those who were no longer of the family of David, assumed the crown." [1]

This passage is perhaps the most remarkable in the whole range or Patristic literature; it might very well be called the "Riddle of Epiphanius" par excellence, for it is the most enigmatic of all his puzzles.  It is remarkable for many reasons, but most of all because no Father has given more minute indications of the date of Jesus, according to canonical data helped out by his own most positive assertions, than Epiphanius.  Nevertheless here we have the Bishop of Salamis categorically asserting, with detailed reiteration, so that there is no possibility of escape, that Jesus was born in the days of Alexander and Salina, that is of Jannai and Salome: not only so, but he would have it that it needs must have been so, in order that prophecy, and prophecy of the most solemn nature, should be fulfilled that there should be no break in the succession of princes from the tribe of Judah, as it had been written.  There is no possible way of extricating ourselves from the crushing weight of the incongruity of this statement of Epiphanius by trying to emend the reading of the text; for not only does the whole subject of his argument demand such a statement,

[1] I use the most recent text of W. Dindorf (Leipzig; 1859-1862), who took as the groundwork of his edition the valuable and hitherto unused MS. in St. Mark's Library at Venice (Codex Marcianus 125), which is dated 1057 A.D.  The MS. contains a much more original text than any of those previously used for our printed editions, the oldest MS. previously employed bearing date 1304 A.D.  As Lipsius says: "With its help not only are we enabled to correct innumerable corruptions and arbitrary alterations of text made by later writers, but also to fill up numerous and very considerable lacuna."


but he supports it by a number of subsidiary assertions.

It is hardly necessary to point out that the Bishop of Salamis is in error as to the continuity of the kingly line from Judah, and as to the cessation of the kingly and high-priestly office with Jannaeus. The priestly line had no connection with Judah, and the line of kings had long ceased, before the Hasmonasan Aristobulus, who was of priestly descent and not of Judah, assumed the crown in 105 B.C.; he did not succeed to it.  Jannaeus also assumed the high-priestly office.  On the death of Jannaeus, Alexandra became regent, and subsequently her sons Hyrcanus II. and Aristobulus II. enjoyed in succession the combined kingly and high-priestly dignities.

When, moreover, Epiphanius says that Alexander placed the crown on his own head, we are at a loss to understand him; some MSS., however, read "his" simply and not "his own" head, and this would mean, presumably, that Alexander placed the crown on the head of Jesus; that is to say, at his death the succession passed to Jesus.

So much for this part of Epiphanius' argument; but what of his extraordinary assertion that Jesus lived in the days of Jannai?  So far, apparently, no commentator has been able to make anything out of it. The learned Jesuit Dionysius Petavius (Petau)-in the second edition of Epiphanius (Paris; 1622)--whose notes have been added to every subsequent edition of this Father, can make nothing of this "ghastly anachronism," as he calls it. He tries to arrive at a solution by transposing some of the sentences, but when he has done this, he


honestly confesses that he has no confidence in his attempt, for he finds precisely the same "confusion of history'' repeated by Epiphanius in another passage.  Indeed, so far I have been able to discover no commentator who has grappled with this Riddle of Epiphanius. They all leave it without remark where Petavius abandoned it in despair. Even "the valuable contributions to the criticism and exegesis of the Panarion," as Lipsius calls them, added to OEhler's edition[l] by Albert Jahn, breathe no word on the matter; while, as far as I am aware, Lipsius himself has not referred to the subject.

Petavius honestly admits that his attempted emendation of the text by a transposition of several of the Canonical sentences is perfectly illegitimate, for he has to reckon with precisely the same statement repeated further on in the voluminous writings of the worthy Bishop.  In treating of the Alogi, who rejected the fourth Gospel, Epiphanius enters into a long discussion concerning the date of Jesus ("Haer.," li. 22 ff.).  Without the slightest attempt at style or clarity, he piles together a mass of assertions to show that Jesus was born in the forty-second year of Augustus, "King" of the Romans; not only so, but he knows the month and the day and the hour. Epiphanius apparently counts the "first year" of Augustus, that is of Octavi[an]us, from the date of the murder of Julius Caesar, 44 B.C., and therefore makes the date of the birth of Jesus fall in B.C. 2, when Octavian was consul for the thirteenth time with Sil[v]anus.  This leaves Herod, who died in B.C. 4, out in the cold, and with him the murder of the

[1] In his "Corpus Haeresiologicum," vols ii., iii. (Berlin; 1859-1861).


innocents and much else which the compiler of the first Gospel thought of importance; but this does not seem to bother the Bishop of Salamis, for he appears to have no suspicion of the conclusions which can be drawn from his confident assertions. This, however, is a very minor point.

In giving the age of Jesus at the beginning of the ministry as thirty years, Epiphanius follows evangelical precedent, but he adds a remark that is not without significance ("Haer.," li. 23).  "It is because of this,"[1] he continues, "that the former heresies which grouped themselves round Valentinus and others fell to pieces; these set forth their thirty aeons in mythologic fashion, thinking that they conformed to the years of Jesus."  There are those who would be inclined to argue the very opposite; but this need not detain us, except to remark that Epiphanius, after adding the further precise number "three" for the years of the ministry, uses a two-edged sword when he proceeds to say:

"For it is in the thirty-third year of His advent in the flesh that the passion of the Alone-begotten comes to pass, of Him who is the impassible Logos from above, but who took on flesh to suffer on our behalf, in order that He might blot out the writing of Death against us."[2]

In the midst of these categorical assertions the Bishop of Salamis in a most confused paragraph writes: 

"From the time that Augustus became Emperor, for

[1] That is, the exact number of thirty years.

[2] Cf. "Coloss.," ii. 14: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us."


four years, more or less, from [the beginning of] his reign, there had been friendship between the Romans and Jews, and contributions of troops had been sent, and a governor appointed, and some portion of tribute paid to the Romans, until Judaea was made [entirely] subject and became tributary to them, its rulers having ceased from Judah, and Herod being appointed [as ruler] from the Gentiles, being a proselyte, however, and Christ being born in Bethlehem of Judaea, and coming for the preaching [of the Gospel], the anointed rulers from Judah and Aaron having ceased, after continuing until the anointed ruler Alexander and Salina who was also Alexandra; in which days the prophecy of Jacob was fulfilled: 'A ruler shall not cease from Judah and a leader from his thighs, until lie come for whom it is laid up, and he is the expectation of the nations'[1] --that is, the Lord who was born."

We may conveniently omit any discussion of the precise dates of the various changes in the political relationship between Roman and Jew; the point that interests us is that Epiphanius repeats categorically his puzzling statement about Jannaeus and Salome and the date of Jesus, and again brings this into the closest relation with what he regards as a most solemn prophecy and promise in "Genesis."  There is no possible way of escape from the conclusion that Epiphanius is arguing most deliberately that the kingly and high-priestly offices were transferred immediately from Jannai to Jesus, so that there should be no break in the succession.

[1] Epiphanius quotes this with a different reading from his previous citation.


ancient traditions, but not found in canonical scripture, were actually part and parcel of the orthodox evangelical record. This was his way of disposing of inconvenient early traditions to which, we must suppose, even in his day, a wide circulation was still given.

Can it then be that Epiphanius did not invent this astonishing statement as to the birth of Jesus in the days of Jannaeus, but that he is simply carrying out his plan of weaving inconvenient data into an orthodox texture?  I have little doubt myself that this is the case. But think of the magnificent inconsistency of the thing; try to imagine the state of mind that could seriously weave together those gorgeous incongruities!  Truly a heavy retribution for those who developed the "in order that it might be fulfilled" theory of history.  Epiphanius is dazzled with his own exegesis of prophecy; the Church was the legitimate heiress of the royal and high-priestly dignities of Jewry, bequeathed to her by Jesus Himself!  A brilliant idea had come to him, and he would work it out for the greater glory of the Church.  He accordingly sets out to argue the unbroken line of succession of the princes from Judah, in the face of all history, for the Hasmonsean or Maccabbean dynasty was not from Judah at all, since Mattathias himself was the son of John, a priest of the order of Joarib, and long before then the kingly line had ceased. Why, then, if the Bishop of Salamis can so easily set the plainest facts of history aside in support of his theory, should he hesitate to have brought down the combined offices to the days of Herod, for Herod made the Hasmonsean Aristobulus III. high priest about 36 B.C., and this might have given Epiphanius a chance to argue that


Aristobulus was really the legitimate king and priest combined, Herod being an upstart?

Why should Epiphanius have hit on Alexander, of all people in the world, as the person to whom Jesus succeeded in these combined offices?  True it is that Alexander as a historical fact did combine these offices in his own person, but so did his son Hyrcanus II. in 67 B.C., from whom subsequently his brother Aristobulus II. wrested the titles, until in 63 Pompey constituted Syria a Roman province, leaving Judaea, Galilee and Peraea to the restored high priest Hyrcanus in subordination to the governor of the province, while he took Aristobulus and his children with him to Rome.  Revolt followed on revolt in favour of the Maccabaean dynasty, but the hopes of Jewish patriotism were finally put an end to by the elevation of the Idumaean Herod to the kingly dignity in 37 B.C., and Herod made it his business to wipe out the remaining male descendants of the Hasmonaean princes, and finally succeeded in his task of extermination about 25 B.C., when he put to death the sons of Baba. 

Turn the matter over as one will, there seems no escape from the conclusion that there was some other deciding factor in the mind of Epiphanius besides the simple fascination of his dogmatic theory, strong as that was. It would seem that the Bishop of Salamis was overjoyed to find that he could kill two birds with one stone, enhance the glory of the Church, and slay an ancient foe who had greatly inconvenienced him in the past. This ancient foe was the tradition that Jesus had lived in the days of Jannai; it was this inconvenient tradition which Epiphanius thought to dispose of by working it into his dogmatic theory and elaborating it


in historic terms. The horrible incongruity of his statements does not seem to have in the least disturbed the self-complacency of the Church Father; least of all does he seem to have had any suspicion that he was handing on to posterity the very thing which he desired to slay once for all.

Whence, then, did Epiphanius derive this tradition?  It might be argued that he got it from the "Essenes," or from some other of the allied communities with which he had come into contact.  But of this we cannot be sure, for we have no precise data upon which we can go.  This much, however, we may say with confidence, it derived originally from Jewish sources, and formed no part of the tradition based on the Hellenized Christianity of Paul and the Evangelists.  Indeed, we have already seen that this is not the only instance in which Epiphanius has treated Jewish tradition with a similar subtlety of finesse.

Our great heresiologue is arguing against those who venture to assert, as indeed they must if they follow the clear statements of the Evangelists, that Mary had other children besides Jesus.  He says ("Haer.," lxxviii. 7) that such an assertion is due to the ignorance of those who are not acquainted with the Holy Scriptures and who have not studied the "Histories."  The truth of the matter is that the Virgin was given to Joseph, because the lot so fell out, referring presumably to the story preserved in the apocryphal "Gospel of James" and elsewhere.[1] She was not given to Joseph to wife in the

[1] "Gospel of James," ix.; "Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew," viii.; "Gospel of the Nativity of Mary," viii.; "History of Joseph the Carpenter," iv.


ordinary sense, for he was a widower and of extreme old age.  It was "on account of the law," whatever that may mean, that he was called her husband.  For "according to the succession from the tradition of the Jews," it is proved that the Virgin was not given to Joseph for the ordinary purpose of marriage, but in order that she might be kept for the testimony of the future, that "the dispensation of His advent in the flesh was not [a] bastard [birth]." For how, Epiphanius goes on to say, could a man of such great age (as he assumes Joseph to have been) have a virgin to wife, after he had been so many years a widower?  For this Joseph was the brother of Clophas, and son of Jacob surnamed Panther.  Both of these were sons of this Panther.

Now it is to be observed in the first place that Epiphanius distinctly refers to a certain "succession from the from the tradition of the Jews," that is to say, apparently a tradition handed on from generation to generation to his own time, and afterwards he asserts that this tradition proves that Mary was legally married to Joseph, in order that there might be no charge of bastardy with regard to the miraculously-born Jesus.  Whereas we know on the contrary that this was what the Jewish Pandera tradition did not state, but the very opposite.  The Bishop of Salamis is arguing against the accusation of bastardy, and meets the charge with his usual boldness by invoking as witnesses on his side the very sources which make most directly against his assertion. Nor can there be any escape from this, for immediately afterwards he dextrously inserts Panther (Pandera) into the genealogy of


Jesus on the father's side and here it is interesting to observe that, as Joseph is said to have been very old,[1] say some eighty years, and that Joseph was son of Panther, Panther is to be placed about 100 B.C.

Epiphanius, then, beyond all question knows of the Jewish traditions concerning Jesus; he knows of the name Ben Pandera and also of the Mamzer legends.  But this is not all, for, in arguing for the perpetual virginity of Mary, he goes on to tell us, that Joseph had six children by his first wife, four sons and two daughters, and the former were the "brethren" mentioned in the Gospels. The eldest son was called Jacob, otherwise Oblias (sic), who was a Nazoraean (he means Nazir), commonly called the "brother of the Lord."  He was the first Christian bishop.  This son Joseph begat when he was forty years of age, and after him were born Jose, Simeon and Judas, and two daughters Maria and Salome.[2]

If Joseph had been a widower so many years before he married the Virgin as to make Epiphanius exclaim over their number, we must suppose that his widowhood dated from about his fiftieth year, and that perhaps he was eighty when he entered on his second purely legal nuptials.  This would make Jacob some forty years old at the time of the birth of Jesus according to the common reckoning (B.C. 4), and one hundred

[1] Cf. "History of Joseph the Carpenter," where Joseph is called "widower" (ii.), and "a pious old man" (iv., et passim), and where he is said to have been 111 years old when he died (v.).

[2] The "History of Joseph the Carpenter" gives these names as Judas, Justus, James and Simon, and the daughters as Assia and Lydia (ii.) ; and Assia is further mentioned as apparently the elder of the daughters (xx.).


and seven years old when he was martyred by Jewish zealots in about 63 A.D.,[1] a somewhat advanced age, even for a rigid ascetic. But it is unnecessary seriously to follow Epiphanius in his wild assertions in the interests of an ever-developing dogmatism.

The point that interests us most deeply in his bold statement is the question of the names of these supposed step-brothers and step-sisters of Jesus. Jacob, Joseph, Simeon and Judas are all common enough Jewish names, and so are Miriam and Salome.  But Epiphanius seems to be up to his tricks again and to have worked the names of Mary and Salome into the family of Joseph, just as he has worked Pandera into the genealogy of Jesus.  For while we can find some data in the canonical records which may enable us to conjecture some reason for Epiphanius bringing forward Jacob, Joseph (Jose), Simeon and Judas, as names of "brethren of the Lord," there is nothing to warrant his introduction of the names of Maria and Salome.

Salome is only mentioned ("Mk.," xv. 40) as a woman and present at the crucifixion, and afterwards ("Mk.," xvi. 1) as a visitor to the sepulchre.  Nothing else is known of her, though there are many conjectures, of which the principal is that she was a sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  In support of this view may be cited a reading of the Peshitta version of Jos. xix. 25 (cf. also the Jerus. Syr. lectionary), and a presumptive unlikelihood, on account of the similarity of names, that Mary the wife of Clopas was a sister of the mother of Jesus."[2]

[1] See Cone's art. "James" in "Enc. Bib."

[2] See Moss' art. "Salome" in Hastings' "Dictionary of the Bible."


In the "Gospel of James " (xix.), however, Salome is the name of the midwife who delivered Mary; while in the "Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew" there are two midwives, Zelomi and Salome (evidently a double).  "The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew" (xlii.) also contains the following interesting passage: "Now when Joseph came to a feast with his sons, James, Joseph, and Judah, and Simeon, and his two daughters, Jesus and Mary, his mother, met them, together with her sister Mary the daughter of Cleophas, whom the Lord God gave to Cleophas her father and Anna her mother because they had offered to the Lord Mary the mother of Jesus."  One might almost fancy that a twin of Epiphanius had had a hand in the redaction.

On the other hand we have seen that in the Jewish legends, Miriam the mother is said to have been related to Helene (Salome), and we know that Simeon (ben Shetach) was the brother of Salome (Alexandra).  Can it then be that here again Epiphanius is influenced by Jewish tradition? If so, it would be a strong confirmation of our hypothesis with regard to the Helene puzzle, for here in Epiphanius we find that the name Salome appears undisguised.

It thus is not only certain that Epiphanius was acquainted with such main factors of Jewish tradition with regard to Jesus as the by-name Ben Pandera and the 100 years B.C. date, but it also appears probable that he was acquainted with the other details.  Nor is this surprising, for not only did Epiphanius know some Hebrew,[1] but he also spoke Aramaic or Syriac. More-

[1] Though not as much as he had the credit of knowing. "His learning was much celebrated," says Lipsius; "he was said to have

[footnote continued on p 407]

spoken four languages,--Hebrew, Syriac, Egyptian, Greek, and also a little Latin, for which Rufinus satirised him with the remark that he thought it his duty as an evangelist to speak evil of Origen, among all nations in all tongues." Art. sup. cit. 


over, he was a Jew by birth, and his parents remained faithful to the Law till the day of their death.[1]  He was born in Palestine at Eleutheropolis, and was converted in early youth to Christianity.  The exact date of his birth is unknown, but may be conjecturally placed about 315 A.D.  After spending some years among the monks of Egypt, Epiphanius, who was still only a youth of twenty, returned home, and founded a monastery near Besanduke, over which he presided until elected to the see of Constantia in Cyprus in 367 A.D.  He thus spent no less than fifteen years of his boyhood and thirty-two years (335-367) of his manhood in Palestine, with which indeed he was closely connected till the end of his long life in 403.

Everything, therefore, is in favour of his being acquainted with the Jewish traditions concerning Jesus, and we may be confident that the sources of these very curious scraps of information, dropped in the course of his indiscriminate and indiscreet polemic, are the same as those from which the Talmud compilers and Toldoth writers drew-the living oral tradition of Jewry.

But before finally leaving this very interesting but impolitic champion of Church orthodoxy, we must bring forward another passage from Epiphanius, which, though having no immediate bearing on our subject, is of the greatest possible importance for the critical study of Christian origins.

[1] Photius, "Bibliotheca," cod. cxxiv,


We have already stated that all the editions of the "Panarion" prior to that of Dindorf were based on MSS. which had been greatly bowdlerized and "emended."  The very early Codex Marcianus 125, however, has enabled us to correct much of this "emendation" and to supply many very important lacunae.  The following is one of the censured passages ("Haer.," li. 22).

"The Saviour was born in the forty-second year of Augustus, King of the Romans, in the consulship of the same Octavi[an]us Augustus (for the thirteenth time) and of Sil[v]anus, according to the consular calendar among the Romans.  For it is recorded in it as follows: When these were consuls (I mean Octavi[an]us for the thirteenth time and Sil[v]anus), Christ was born on the sixth day of January after thirteen days of the winter solstice and of the increase of the light and day. This day [of the solstice] the Greeks, I mean the Idolaters, celebrate on the twenty-fifth day of December, a feast called Saturnalia among the Romans, Kronia among the Egyptians, and Kikellia among the Alexandrians.[1]  For on the twenty-fifth day of December the division takes place which is the solstice, and the day begins to lengthen its light, receiving an increase, and there are thirteen days of it up to the sixth day of January, until the day of the birth of Christ (a thirtieth of an hour being added to each day), as the wise Ephraim among the Syrians bore witness by this inspired passage (logos) in his commentaries, where he says: ' The advent of our Lord Jesus Christ was thus

[1] Epiphanius presumably means that it was called Kronia by the Greeks, Saturnalia by the Romans, and Kikellia by the Egyptians, or, at any rate, by the Alexandrians.


appointed: [first] his birth according to the flesh, then his perfect incarnation among men, which is called Epiphany, at a distance of thirteen days from the increase of the light; for it needs must have been that this should be a figure of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and of His twelve disciples, who made up the number of the thirteen days of the increase of the light.'

"How many other things in the past and present support and bear witness to this proposition, I mean the Resurrection birth of Christ!  Indeed, the leaders of the idol-cults, filled with wiles to deceive the idol-worshippers who believe in them, in many places keep highest festival on this same night of Epiphany, so that they whose hopes are in error may not seek the truth.  For instance, at Alexandria, in the Koreion[1] as it is called--an immense temple--that is to say, the Precinct of the Virgin; after they have kept all-night vigil with songs and music, chanting to their idol, when the vigil is over, at cockcrow, they descend with lights into an underground crypt, and carry up a wooden image lying naked on a litter, with the seal of a cross made in gold on its forehead, and on either hand two other similar seals, and on both knees two others, all five seals being similarly made in gold. And they carry round the image itself, circumambulating seven times the innermost temple, to the accompaniment of pipes, tabors and hymns, and with merry-making they carry it down again underground. And if they are asked the meaning of this

[1] That is the temple of Kore. This can hardly be the temple of Persephone, as Dindorf (iii. 729) suggests, but is rather the temple of Isis, who in one of the treatises of the Trismegistic literature I called the World-Maiden.


mystery, they answer and say: 'To-day at this hour the Maiden (Kore), that is, the Virgin, gave birth to the aeon.'

"In the city of Petra also--the metropolis of Arabia which is called Edom in the Scriptures--the same is done, and they sing the praises of the Virgin in the Arab tongue, calling her in Arabic Chaamou, that is, Maiden (Kore), and the Virgin, and him who is born from her Dusares, that is, Alone-begotten (monogenes) of the Lord.  This also takes place in the city of Elousa [? Eleusis][1] on the same night just as at Petra and at Alexandria."

Here again Epiphanius, to prove a dogmatic point and display his learning, lets a most important fact escape him. We have read many speculative opinions on the symbolic rite of "crucifixion" and the "resurrection from the dead," but have never seen this striking passage of Epiphanius quoted in this connection.  Here we have a definite statement that one of the most widespread mystic festivals of the ancients was connected with a rite of "resurrection," and that in Egypt the One who was "raised from the dead," and returned from the underworld or Hades, was sealed with five mystic crosses on forehead, hands and knees (? feet).  This symbolic rite represented a macrocosmic mystery, Epiphanius tells us; but was there not also an analogous microcosmic mystery?  And if so, must it not have been familiar to all those mystic schools and communities, Essene, Therapeut, Hermetic and Gnostic, which are so inextricably interwoven with nascent Chris-

[1] The only Elousa I can discover was a small place in Aquitaine,


tianity?  Do we not meet with innumerable references to the mystic "again-rising from the dead" among the Gnostic circles; do we not also possess long quotations from one of their esoteric writings which finds the closest analogies with this central mystery of man regenerate in all the mystery-rites of antiquity?  Do we not further possess the ritual of a very early Christian mystery-drama, or form of initiation, in which "the things done" closely resembled that of the passion-the crucifixion?[1]

We need hardly direct the attention of the observant reader to the aplomb with which Epiphanius categorically asserts that the exact record of the birth of Jesus was to be found in the official Roman Fasti; this may be well paralleled by the like assertion of Justin that the trial of Jesus was to be found in the official Acts of Pilate.  The wish was father to the thought, and there is an end of it.  But may there not be some further reason for Epiphanius making so much of this Epiphany?  Can it be that the similarity between it and his own Gentile name, Epiphanius, may have flattered the vanity of our pious but credulous heresiologue? Who knows?

Distracting, therefore, as the Bishop of Salamis is for the student of history, he occasionally lets fall a scrap of information which is of greater value than anything we can procure from other and more sober sources. And so in concluding our review of some of those "blunders" of his, we thank him for his over-zeal, and forgive him his total lack of historical honesty.

[1] See my " Fragments of a Faith Forgotten," "The Naaseni," pp. 198-206, and "The Acts of John," pp. 426-444.


As we have frequently referred to the Apocryphal Gospels, or "Histories," as Epiphanius prefers to call them, it might be opportune to append in this place a curious passage from the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy.  The form in which we now have this Gospel is of course very late, but it frequently works up ancient matter.

In the middle portion of this apocryphon, which professes to give a detailed story of what happened to the Holy Family during their three years' sojourn in Egypt, ch. xxv. reads as follows:

"Thence they went down to Memphis, and having seen Pharaoh, they staid three years in Egypt; and the Lord Jesus wrought very many miracles in Egypt, which are not found written either in the Gospel of the Infancy or in the Perfect Gospel."

Now the last of the Pharaohs was Cleopatra, whose tragic death occurred in B.C. 30. There is just the faintest possibility that this detail may have been taken from some ancient source; but on the face of it, it seems to be the story-telling of some imaginative monk, following out his normal association of ideas (Egypt-Pharaoh), the naive adornment of a tale.

If, however, as some think, this Gospel came from Coptic circles, then the possibilities of our first hypothesis would be slightly increased, for dwellers in Egypt might be supposed to hand on local tradition, even while transforming it out of all recognition.  But who can recognize with any certainty the flotsam and jetsam from the shipwreck of history that may have come into the hands of late legend-makers?

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