Josephus on Paul of Tarsus
I previously wrote an article arguing that Paul of Tarsus was a Herodian prince and wish to revisit the subject to add a new potential Josephus reference to Paul. My prior article mentioned the below quote from Josephus (identified by Prof. Eisenman as a reference to Paul of Tarsus).
And now Jesus, the son of Gamaliel, became the successor of Jesus, the son of Damneus, in the high priesthood, which the king had taken from the other; on which account a sedition arose between the high priests, with regard to one another; for they got together bodies of the boldest sort of the people, and frequently came, from reproaches, to throwing of stones at each other. But Ananias was too hard for the rest, by his riches, which enabled him to gain those that were most ready to receive. Costobarus also, and Saulus, did themselves get together a multitude of wicked wretches, and this because they were of the royal family; and so they obtained favor among them, because of their kindred to Agrippa; but still they used violence with the people, and were very ready to plunder those that were weaker than themselves. And from that time it principally came to pass that our city was greatly disordered, and that all things grew worse and worse among us.
Antiquities XX 9:4, emphasis added. Before getting into the activity described in the quote, let's discuss the players. "Agrippa" in the passage was Herod Agrippa II (27-93 CE), the last Herodian king. He was also of Hasmonean descent. Costobarus almost assuredly was a descendant of Antipater ben Costobarus, a nephew of King Herod the Great married to his Hasmonean daughter Cypros. Herod's other Hasmonean daughter, Salampsio, was married to Phasaelus ben Phasael, another nephew of Herod. I suggest that Saulus (aka Paul of Tarsus) was a descendant of Phasaelus and Salampsio. That would make both Saulus and Costobarus members of the elite Herodian-Hasmonean subclan along with King Agrippa II. This subclan also included King Agrippa I, King Herod of Chalcis, King Aristobulus of Chalcis, Herodias bat Aristobulus (wife of Herod Antipas), Mariamne bat Aristobulus (successively the wife of Crown Prince Antipater and Herod Archelaus) and Queen Salome of Chalcis (who famously did the dirty dance for Herod Antipas). In my view, Jesus the Nazarene was also a member of the Herodian-Hasmonean subclan. See Herodian Messiah for theory.
The above Josephus passage gives us a datable historical marker. Joshua (Jesus) ben Damneus became high priest in 63 CE or three years before the Great Jewish Revolt commenced. I'll circle back to this issue but it's problematic because Paul never officially left Rome after arriving there in 57/58 CE. Further, we don't receive a clear picture of exactly what Costobarus and Saulus were doing in the Sanhedrin other than instigating a fight. Three sections earlier in 9:1 Josephus relates the execution of James the Just by the Sanhedrin. Many scholars read Josephus as saying the execution of James the Just led to the Great Jewish Revolt; however, Josephus places the words "all things grew worse and worse among us [Jews]" not directly after the death of James but, rather, directly after telling us about the Sanhedrin brawl started by Costobarus and Saulus. How could a fight in the Sanhedrin started by a couple of Herodian royals lead to the downfall of the Jewish people? The central casus belli of the fight is never disclosed by Josephus.
In my view, Josephus has dissembled the connection between the brawl started by Costobarus and Saulus and the execution of James the Just by the Sanhedrin. The sentence before Costobarus and Saulus start their brawl in the Sanhedrin, Josephus tells us "Ananias was too hard for the rest, by his riches". Ananias executed James the Just. I suggest Costobarus and Saulus were fighting opponents in the Sanhedrin in support of Ananias as he imposed his will on the others to execute James. Costobarus and Saulus acted as leaders of the Brown Shirts during Ananias' extra-judicial execution of James. (Apologies to anyone who finds the mixed metaphors disturbing.) We find the same allegation that Paul of Tarsus was part of the gang in the Sanhedrin that executed James the Just recounted in another source, The Recognitions of Clement 1:70. Finally, notice that Josephus disapproves of the actions of Saulus saying that he got together "a multitude of wicked wretches".
'There was a man who was a Jew'
This brings us to another potential Paul reference in Josephus that I've never seen written about. This one is found at Ant. XVIII 3:5 and reads,
There was a man who was a Jew, but had been driven away from his own country by an accusation laid against him for transgressing their laws, and by the fear he was under of punishment for the same; but in all respects a wicked man; he then living in Rome, professed to instruct men in the wisdom of the laws of Moses.
Can this discussion be of anyone other than Paul of Tarsus? Recall the charges of Pharisees against Paul for being a liar in regard to Jewish law; See incident where Paul was hauled before proconsul Gallio (brother of Seneca) in Achaia, Greece. Acts 18:12-17 and see also Galatians 1:20 (Paul denying he is a liar in letter, which means this is an accusation previously made against him). Finally, this plays into my contention that James addressed the following statement in his epistle to Paul: "Do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth." James 3:14; See Herodian Messiah at page 174. Clearly Josephus knew the identity of the individual whom he criticizes but intentionally omitted the name. Again, we have classic Josephus obfuscation. He wishes to criticize a fellow Jew of some importance but intentionally withholds information so as to create plausible deniability of the criticism. Josephus criticized many important Jews in his histories including Herod the Great and prefect Tiberius Alexander (Philo's nephew from Alexandria), to name but a few. In my view, Josephus was forced by his Roman masters to use coded references when criticizing those connected to Jesus.
There is one more interesting element to this veiled Paul of Tarsus reference. One verse prior, Josephus tells a long story about some Roman matron named "Paulina" who was a woman of "great dignity" but was seduced by deception. Ant. XVIII 3:4. The Paulina incident comes out of nowhere seemingly unconnected to any information given by Josephus before or after. This work was supposed to be about the Jewish people. Josephus used the words "great dignity" only ten times or less in his histories and then only in reference to Jewish individuals. The prophet Daniel is one that Josephus refers to as having great dignity. Ant. X 11:5. The Hasmonean "sons of Babas" are another case of Josephus applying the "great dignity" label. Ant. XV 7:10. I suggest that "Paulina" referenced by Josephus was a woman of Herodian-Hasmonean royal blood and, thus, a close relative of Paul of Tarsus. Josephus pretends to be horrified by the account of a Roman male debauching this noble Jewess by deception; however, I further suggest his motive in telling the story is to defame the family of Paul of Tarsus. The histories of Josephus were intended to be read by the elites throughout the entire Roman Empire.
Josephus places this incident about "a man who was a Jew" in Rome during the reign of "Tiberius" Caesar saying that this certain Jew (aka Paul of Tarsus) was responsible for the expulsion of the Jews from Rome. No expulsion of Jews from Rome happened during the reign of Tiberius Caesar. There is some support for an expulsion of Jews from Rome during the reign of Tiberius Claudius Caesar (aka Claudius Caesar), reigned 41-54 CE. I suggest Josephus means Claudius in the above passage. If so, that means Paul made a trip to Rome unrecorded in Acts.