I have received a number of queries over the past  year about what we can actually know about Jesus’ father.  Can we know if it was actually Joseph?  What about the rumors that Jesus was born out of wedlock?  That his father was actually a Roman soldier?  Whose name was Pantera?  Is this latter simply a slander against Jesus and Christianity?  Could it be historical?

My friend, New Testament scholar, and occasional guest poster James Tabor (about whom you can read here: TaborBlog – Religion Matters from the Bible to the Modern World (jamestabor.com) is just now finishing a new book of some relevance to the question, called:  The Lost Mary: How the Jewish Mother of Jesus Became the Virgin Mother of God (Knopf).  James has agreed to write a three-part thread on the question of Jesus’ biological father.

I’ll run the three posts back-to-back-to-back.  Here’s #1.  You may find these views convincing or controversial, but you should certainly find them informative and interesting!


Was Jesus’ Biological Father a Roman Soldier?

James D. Tabor


Part I

As a historian I work with the obvious assumption that all human beings have fathers. Stated like that, this doesn’t sound too shocking. So, what about the biological father of Jesus? Unless one assumes Jesus had no father, the options seem to come down to either Mary’s husband Joseph or some other named or unnamed male. What can be said of either possibility?

I have spent quite a bit of time investigating the various possible threads of historical evidence that might relate to this question. Perhaps the one most referenced comes from the late 2nd century philosopher Celsus who spins a salacious tale about Mary committing adultery with a Roman soldier named Pantera that he say he heard from the “Jews.”[1]  I consider that idea wholly unlikely, although I have tried to trace down what we can say about that name Pantera.

If you ask just about any scholar in my field of Christian Origins you will be told that the the expression “Jesus the “son of Pantera” was an anti-Christian pun or malapropism, on the Greek word parthenos or “virgin”—and had nothing to do with the name of the reputed biological father of Jesus. Since the Christians were hailing Jesus as “son of the Virgin” (Parthenos), these Jewish and Greco-Roman critics sportingly said he was “son of the Panther”—or so the argument goes. Panthers were known for their sexual prowess, so such a pun was intended to be both humorous and insulting—implying that Jesus’ father was a lusty animal. According to this explanation, Pantera was not even a real name, but just a clever linguistic gibe invented to oppose the Christian claim that Jesus was “son of the Virgin.”

We now know such was not the case. This dismissal of Pantera as a “pun” was first suggested in the 19th century by a German scholar Karl Nitzsch, and his explanation somehow became like a mantra to explain the name and it is repeated by scholars and in popular books alike.[2] Yet, there is not a shred of ancient evidence to support this explanation of the name, even by the harshest enemies of Jesus who used it in accusations that his mother committed adultery. Quite the opposite is the case.

Many readers might be familiar with the numerous tales in Greek and Roman literature about various “divine men”—heroes, philosophers, or demi-gods, whose conceptions were attributed to a god impregnating their mother. The long list includes Hercules with his marvelous feats of strength, Plato and his wisdom, Alexander the Great as conqueror of the known world, and Apollonius of Tyana with his wonder-working powers.[3] These sorts of extraordinary legends are found throughout ancient cultures—whether Greek, Roman, Egyptian, or Hebrew, and their clear purpose is to emphasize the extraordinary significance of the child born. The ancient world did not share our scientific biological understanding of pregnancy and birth. Miracles were part of their everyday lives—and miraculous tales of such conceptions and births were common.[4] These two accounts in Luke and Matthew of Mary’s pregnancy “through the Holy Spirit” can easily be read in this broader cultural context. As such they can be understood less as scientific reports and more as ways of affirming God’s special destiny for Mary’s firstborn son Jesus.

If we begin with our two birth stories—those of Matthew and Luke—both are quite clear that Joseph is not the father. In fact, that seems to be the whole point of both stories. Luke narrates Mary’s side of things, whereas Matthew relates things from Joseph’s viewpoint, but the point is the same. Mary is pregnant “of the Holy Spirit” and Joseph is not the father. Later, when Jesus is an adult, and speaks of God as his father, he is sarcastically attacked by some of his enemies who declare to him, “We were not born of fornication, we have one Father, even God” (John 8:41). They are evidently picking up on the local gossip that Mary’s pregnancy was not from Joseph. They also call Jesus a “Samaritan,” implying his father was of questionable pedigree (John 8:48). The Samaritans claimed to be remnants of the northern tribes of Israel—sometimes referred to as the “Lost Tribes”—who remained in the land after the Assyrian captivity in the eighth-century BCE. They were generally considered by the Jews in the time of Jesus as a mixed race whose ancestry could not be verified. The two charges are thus related—being born illegitimately or born of a Samaritan father with no established pedigree.

Herod the Great had ten wives but one of them, Malthace, was a Samaritan. She was the mother of Herod Antipas and Archelaus, his two most prominent surviving sons whom the emperor Augustus appointed over the Galilee and Judea respectively.[5] We have seen how he and his son Antipas desperately sought some kind of legitimization of their lineages through marriages to women with a priestly pedigree.

Many scholars do not find implications of scandal connected with Jesus’ birth in these texts of Mark and John. Presumably, their assumption is that Joseph was the biological father of Jesus and nothing about the pregnancy was out of the ordinary. In this case the idea that Joseph was not the father was a pure invention of Matthew, followed by Luke, toward the end of the first century; then a hundred years later, Jewish enemies of the Christians came up with the slander that Mary had committed adultery and was driven out by her husband Joseph.

I think this has things completely backward. There is something oddly irregular about Jesus’ birth from the start. Matthew includes four women in his genealogy—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba (Matthew 1:3-6) when such male lineages almost never include women. Each of the four is known for some kind of questionable sexual behavior—but all are connected to prominent men connected to the lineage of king David.[6] It as if Matthew wants to hint to the reader—don’t be too quick to judge Mary for her pregnancy, God used these other women connected to the house of David in major ways, despite the irregular nature of their pregnancies. At the same time Matthew makes it clear that Joseph, whose line he is tracing, is the “husband of Mary, of whom [i.e., feminine pronoun in Greek] Jesus was born.” (Matthew 1:16). Likewise, as we have seen, Luke begins his genealogy with the assertion that Jesus was “supposedly” of Joseph (Luke 3:23). That is likely why Mark does not mention Jesus’ birth at all and leaves Joseph completely out of his story. For Mark, Jesus is a Davidic “son of Mary,” and that is all that counts. Although the theologically embellished birth narratives in Matthew and Luke develop a generation after Jesus, they preserve a historical core—Mary becomes pregnant before her marriage to Joseph, Joseph is not the father, so Jesus’ status as a son of David must come from his mother.

The second-century CE Christian writer Tertullian, who is considered the founder of Latin theology, has an interesting passage in which he imagines how Jesus enemies will be punished on the day of judgment for saying he was “the son of a carpenter or the harlot, a Sabbath breaker, a Samaritan and a demon-possessed man . . .”[7] The reference directly echoes the controversy between Jesus and his Jewish opponents in chapters 8 and 9 of John’s gospel, clearly showing that the illegitimacy retort by Jesus’ enemies was based on rumors that his mother was a harlot.

These implications, or outright charges, of illegitimacy are not limited to our New Testament gospels. There is good reason to think this slander might have dogged Jesus and his mother Mary their entire lives. It seems to just pop up, here and there. The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, a text that some date to the early second century, discovered in 1945 among the Nag Hammadi codices, is a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus, most of which are not included in our New Testament gospels. Saying 105 is most interesting:

Jesus said: He who shall know father and mother shall be called the son of a harlot.[8]

This can also be translated as a question: “Will they call him the son of a harlot?” Since these cryptic sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas have no context, we cannot be certain of their wider meaning, however, the clear implication seems to be that Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus could be seen in in such a negative way.[9] Some have interpreted the saying as referring to the Gnostic notion of despising physical birth—i.e., “hating one’s mother and father”—but in that case one would be more likely called an “orphan” rather than “son of a harlot,” the precise charge that we find is circulating about Jesus’ birth.


[1] Celsus’s work titled On the True Doctrine, has been lost. What survives is a detailed refutation by the early third-century Christian apologist Origen, titled Against Celsus. In refuting Celsus’s arguments Origen quotes his entire work, paragraph by paragraph—and then adds his responses bit by bit. By collecting all these quotations, and assembling them, scholars have been able to reconstruct Celsus’s original work.

[2] I thank my graduate student Chad Day for first pointing out to me the origin and/or promotion of this idea by Karl Nitzsch, “Über eine Reihe talmudischer und patristischer Täuschungen, welche sich an den mißverstandenen Spottnamen Ben-Pandira geknüpft,” Theologische Studien und Kritiken 13 (1840) 115–20. Joseph Klausner (1874-1958) was a Jewish historian and professor of Hebrew Literature at Hebrew University. In 1922, he published his study of the life of Jesus in Hebrew, Yeshu Ha-Notzri (Jerusalem: Shtibel, 1922). It was translated into English in 1925 as Jesus of Nazareth; His Life, Times, and Teaching, trans. Herbert Danby (London: Allen and Unwin: 1925). Although some scholars doubted the explanation on philological grounds—parthenos and pantera are not closely homophonic—it was repeated endlessly, with no serious investigation, until it achieved the status of a scholarly imprimatur. See, for example, Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2000), p. 117. Even John P. Meier, whose research on Jesus tends to be one of the most thorough in terms of evaluating sources, relying upon Klausner, seems to accept this explanation of the “name” Pantera, see A Marginal Jew, pp. 96.

[3]For some samples of such tales see my compilation, “Divine Men, Heroes, and Gods” https://pages.uncc.edu/james-tabor/hellenistic-roman-religion-philosophy/divine-men-heros-gods/ , as well as Charles H. Talbert, “Miraculous Conceptions and Births in Mediterranean Antiquity,” The Historical Jesus in Context, eds. Amy-Jill Levine, Dale C. Allison, and John Dominic Crossan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 79-86.

For comparisons to the kind of tales that develop around Jesus see, Smith, Morton. “Prolegomena to a Discussion of Aretalogies, Divine Men, the Gospels and Jesus.” Journal of Biblical Literature 90, no. 2 (1971): 174-99.

[4] See the insightful summary of ancient evidence, including that of our New Testament Gospels, by Andrew Lincoln, “How Babies Were Made in Jesus’ Time,” The Biblical Archaeology Review 40.6 (Nov/Dec 2014):42-49.

[5] Josephus, Jewish War 1. 562.

[6] Tamar posed as a prostitute and got pregnant by Judah, son of Jacob (Genesis 38); Rahab was the prostitute that aided the Israelite spies in conquering Jericho (Joshua 6); Ruth was a Moabite woman who crawled into bed with Boaz—grandfather of king David (Ruth 3); and Bathsheba, mother of Solomon and Nathan, committed adultery with king David (2 Samuel 11).

[7] Tertullian, De Spectaculis 30. This is my translation of the Latin: “Hic est ille, dicam, fabri aut quaestuariae filius, sabbati destructor, Samarites et daemonium habens.”

[8] Appendix 1 contains a fresh translation of the Gospel of Thomas in William Schneemelcher, ed., Gospels and Related Writings, translated by R. McL. Wilson. Vol. 1 of New Testament Apocrypha. Rev. ed. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1991), pp. 511-522.

[9] See Funk’s comment, reflecting the majority opinion of the Jesus Seminar Fellows, that this saying has to do with disputes with rival Judean groups over Jesus’ legitimacy, in Robert W. Funk and Roy W. Hover, The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus (New York: HarperOne, 1996), p. 526.

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2023-09-19T21:47:13-04:00September 23rd, 2023|Historical Jesus|

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  1. Phil September 23, 2023 at 9:07 am

    A general question for Bart for consideration for the blog: tell us something about John 3 v 16, that verse we former evangelical know so well. You’ve showed us in the past how the term ‘son of God’ was by no means unique or exclusive to Jesus. It seems it is only John’s gospel starts to refer to Jesus as the *only’* begotten. What should we make of this verse?

    • BDEhrman September 28, 2023 at 7:17 pm

      Yes, it summarizes a lot of John’s message: God sent his unique (it doesn’t mean “only begotten” but “unique”) son into the world (incarnatoin, as in John 1:1-18) to provide salvation to all (not just Jews) who believe in him.

  2. rezubler September 23, 2023 at 10:57 am

    Dr. Tabor, The early and permanent disappearance of Joseph in the birth narratives always bothered me. Jesus never mentions Joseph. Also, Jesus had almost no interaction with Mary or his siblings – so the lack of family dynamics, compared to other ‘famous’ figures allows for much speculation. J.S. Spong claimed that since there was no authoritative mention of Jesus’ parents names in the earliest (pre-2nd temple destruction) writings, the name Joseph was chosen for its symbolic nature by the author of Matthew to connect Jesus more closely to the Jewish legends. In your book the “The Jesus Dynasty”, you laid out quite a few family scenarios, but it was also curious that James the Just also had almost nothing to say about his parents. As much as blood-lines seem to have been important to the Jewish religion, the lack of any early interest of the birth of Jesus (and James) is puzzling!

  3. Smosher11 September 23, 2023 at 12:11 pm

    Dr Ehrman, I recently listened to a podcast in which you said something to the effect that Jesus had no desire to bring his message to the Jews outside of Israel (paraphrasing). Wouldn’t passages like Matt 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-18 contradict that thought? BTW, that episode comparing the the teachings of Paul to those of Jesus was really eye opening, thank you.

    • BDEhrman September 29, 2023 at 10:45 am

      Yes, good point. But it is usually thought that those passages were reflecting what happened *after* Jesus’ day, that they are not things that Jesus himself actually said. (The Mark 16 passage was not originally in Mark; the last twelve verses were a later scribal addition, as we now know)

  4. OmarRobb September 24, 2023 at 11:17 am

    Hi James,

    We are clearly using the same raw data to present two very different interpretations. However, I would like to comment on the methodology here:

    1# “They are evidently picking up on the local gossip that Mary’s pregnancy was not from Joseph”.

    Is this really evident? Isn’t there any possible valid interpretations for this data?

    2# “They also call Jesus a “Samaritan,” implying his father was of questionable pedigree”.

    Is this really the only implication that could derive from this data?

    3# “There is something oddly irregular about Jesus’ birth from the start”.

    We do have claims by Matthew and Luke about Jesus birth, which they presented about 60 years after Jesus, and probably didn’t pick momentum except many decades after. But we need more than claims to conclude irregularities. If we got some rumors today about something, then we need “more” valid data to conclude that “there is no smoke without fire”, otherwise we would be dealing with infinite number of propositions because humans are so talented and addicted in presenting infinite number of rumors.


    • OmarRobb September 24, 2023 at 11:19 am


      4# “It as if Matthew wants to hint to the reader—don’t be too quick to judge Mary for her pregnancy”.

      Taking Matthews theology; is this really the highly likely interpretation for this data, or are there many other interpretations that at least are equal in validity or maybe even higher?

      5# “That is likely why Mark does not mention Jesus’ birth”.

      Is this really the likely deduction?

      6# “clearly showing that the illegitimacy retort by Jesus’ enemies was based on rumors that his mother was a harlot”.

      Does the data in John “clearly show” that the rumors about the illegitimacy of Jesus was circulating at the time of Jesus?


      The issue here is that the related raw data can have many other valid interpretations. Selecting some interpretations that aren’t the likely ones and to present them as though they are clearly evident can lead to serious disputes.

      • Robert September 24, 2023 at 7:13 pm

        OmarRobb said: “Does the data in John “clearly show” that the rumors about the illegitimacy of Jesus was circulating at the time of Jesus?”

        The data in John only suggest that this rumor may have been circulating at the time that John’s gospel was being written. Do you now accept why the grammar in John’s gospel suggests this implication?

        • OmarRobb September 29, 2023 at 8:18 am

          1# Thank you for being precise in your sentence: “this rumor may have been circulating at the time that John’s gospel was being written”. So, we can agree that John verses aren’t conclusive for these rumors at the time of Jesus.

          2# Regarding: “grammar in John’s gospel”. I am assuming here that you are referring to John 8:41: {…. We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself”}.

          However, you and I have discussed this subject before, and I don’t really want to return back to it. I will just highlight my position here and you may highlight your counter position and I will leave it as such: If we took John 8:41 within its “context” then they are not hinting that Jesus is illegitimate, but they were defending themselves from Jesus’s direct and hard attack.

          If they said: “how we will allow an illegitimate to tell us about our father”, then this is a clear attacking hint, but the context was speaking about Jesus attacking them and telling them that they are the sons of the Devil, and they were defending themselves by saying: “we are not illegitimate children”.

  5. stevenpounders September 24, 2023 at 3:02 pm

    You state without question that that birth narratives of Matthew and Luke preserve a historical core. Why do you think this is true?

    • JDTabor September 29, 2023 at 7:48 am

      Thanks Steve, I would not want to assert hardly anything is without question in our business. Ha! These birth narratives are clearly reflective of the common Hellenistic pattern of miraculous or supernatural birth from the gods, perhaps Luke more so than Matthew, but in the case of Jesus, taking all the other evidence, such as Mark 6:3–our earliest evidence on the “family,” and the other strands I mentioned, it seems to me the question of a father other than Jesus is on the table. My post was an attempt to investigate what we might know of the one name that comes up regionally (Sepphoris), and relatively early in setting, with the rabbis I cite from the Tosefta.

      • hsourceofthebible October 1, 2023 at 4:46 pm

        Matthew (and Luke), it should be said Sir, was aiming to introduce Old Testament Typology through the birth of Jesus. Specifically the birth of Moses story is intertwined into the latter two Synoptics and tightly so, and the Mosaic Typology replete with a Pharaoh and fleeing to Egypt is seen. So it is in this context that we have to look at the names also. Miriam is Moses’s sister. Jochebed is his mother. Mary is Jesus’s mother and Joseph is his earthly father. The Pharaoh (in this case Herod the Great) wanted the babies killed. It is possible that Jochebed became Joseph in the typology or because Joseph (Son of Israel) went to Egypt and returned and Matthew refers to
        “that it might be
        fulfilled which was spoken of
        the Lord by the prophet, saying,
        Out of Egypt have I called my son”.
        The favorite born out of Egypt for Israel is Joseph.
        The other idea would be that Joseph of Aramathea who is the equivalent of Priam(Hector’s father) who receives the Body of the Christ, is also a typology for Joseph.
        Generally speaking, this ends up becoming a cherry-picking exercise of the Gospels. Maybe this is unavoidable.

        • JDTabor October 2, 2023 at 10:26 am

          Thanks for this comment. In general I do not go in much for typologies of this type, though obviously there are patterns from biblical materials (rival sisters, favored and unfavored brothers, children promised to childless woman, et al), but more of the “this is like that” type–as in Matthew.I don’t find any of the broadly applied mimetic stuff convincing, e.g. your Priam=JoA kind of thing. I remember hearing Bart on some YT interview recently talking about Apollonius of Tyana and all the parallels–then he made the very important observation–but if you actually READ Philostratus and say Mark, side by side, you will see very few core similarities. Certain plots and sequences for stories are almost universal–not so far as Campbell or Eliade go, but in terms of the cultural currents that my teacher Jonathan Smith identified for Hellenistic religion…patterns, etc. I highly recommend Morton Smith’s famous JBL article, “Prolegomena to the Study of Aretalogies, Divine Men, the Gospels and Jesus” https://doi.org/10.2307/3263759. Also his book with Moses Hadas, Heroes and Gods.

          • JDTabor October 2, 2023 at 10:26 am

            So far as cherry-picking, yes, that surely happens, but mainly with evangelical types thumbing through the texts of the gospels and “picking” Mt, Lk, Mk, or John–as the “one” they want to “use” for this or that sermon or class. I heard this all my like: “Let’s turn to Matthew, I like the way he puts things.” I think most of us who try to work on these texts, Bart, Dale, Robyn, Dom, Paula (fun to drop these first names!), are very careful with how they use this or that text or pericope or even phrase. Back to the father of Jesus…this is a much broader task–trying to put together all the major texts we have, along with any archaeology that might shed light, on the use of the name Pantera…

  6. magnificentbeast September 26, 2023 at 12:05 pm

    It seems like there was insecurity surrounding paternity at the very least. I wonder if there are any sources at all on the number of 1st-century bastards or orphans?

    • JDTabor September 29, 2023 at 6:11 pm

      I would say more than one might think…probably in every culture and time. I even know folks who do expanded DNA tests and find a father they thought was theirs is not their family line…often they are glad to know “the truth,” but other times it is a bit devastating! But in terms of the Jewish culture of the time our best evidence might be the ways in which the Rabbis address all the possible outcomes of pregnancies…mamzer, foundling, silent one, et al. I touch on this in my post.

  7. fefferdan September 29, 2023 at 12:03 pm

    My leading candidate for Jesus’ father is Zechariah. Assuming Mary was not miraculously pregnant immediately upon the Annunciation, this fits the biblical narrative neatly. When she asks “how can this be” the angel responds by telling her about her kinswoman Elizabeth. She hurriedly travels to Zechariah’s home and a few months later returns to Nazareth (at least acc. to Luke) pregnant. The idea of Zechariah being the father also recalls various OT narratives in which a providential male fathers children with two special females (Hagar and Sarah, Leah and Rachel, Peninnah and Hannah, etc.) Why not the same with Elizabeth and Mary? Could it be that Jesus was actually the Messiah Son of Aaron expected by the Qumran community… and became the Son of David only after he was adopted by Joseph?

  8. kellygene63 September 30, 2023 at 1:01 am

    All we can do is speculate, or take or best guess from the evidence, or believe in the miracle birth. Now I don’t believe in these type miracle stories in the Bible, but if I did, I got ask dark questions, was mary asked or giving a choice, if she had no choice in the matter then god took her freewill away with a divine pregnancy, not sure how woman today would like just waking up pregnant one day magically. I don’t think the Roman Pantera was the father, I put low probability on this story but not impossible we have seen more crazy stories on daily news but I’m amazed about how much we know about this random Pantera soldier that’s only reason I would give it any credit, he’s like a Jesus a nobody who becomes a story, If I had to choose I put my money on Joseph as most likely father.

    • JDTabor September 30, 2023 at 10:00 am

      Yes, I understand and going the “Joseph” route is certainly the easiest…but I continue to think the Pantera name out there is significant given the variety of sources from different periods and contexts…

  9. Serene October 4, 2023 at 3:20 pm

    Thank you for offering so much to discuss, James.

    “Matthew includes four women in his genealogy—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba (Matthew 1:3-6) when such male lineages almost never include women. Each of the four is known for some kind of questionable sexual behavior—but all are connected to prominent men connected to the lineage of king David.”

    They are also not Jewish, with maybe one exception. King David represents a prophet *king* whose rise was cemented with marital and handmaiden coalitions with various tribes (like Herod the Great or anyone with tribes.)

    Bathsheba means “daughter of Saba”, so she has some Arab (wealth/education). Her father El‘iam — is the high-level El theophoric that’s Aramean, like the fabled “Abraham”. Solomon is theophoric like JeruSLM to a Canaanite god under henotheism rooting him in place.

    Is the Lord to humbly-born David just a voice in his head? The Levant had been under the control of God Kings since the 14th C BCE mayor of Jerusalem addressed Akhenaten as My God. It’s Aretas’ tomb’s *central* statue of Isis — her symbols, the dove and morning star, like in the recently discovered triad stele, that is the key — Aretas is Jesus’ father.


  10. hsourceofthebible November 28, 2023 at 9:58 am

    Is Pantera perhaps a denigration aimed at linking Jesus with Dionysus? Possibly from the time when the authors of the 2nd and 3rd Maccabees were still prominent. Or when their descendants resisted the newly emerging religion? This is because Dionysus rode a panther and is depicted as such.

    • BDEhrman December 2, 2023 at 2:05 pm

      I’m not sure how it would work? Jesus is the son of Dionysus because Dionysus rode a panther?

  11. hsourceofthebible December 2, 2023 at 5:54 pm

    Prof. Ehrman, Dennis McDonald links Joseph of Aramathea to Priam.
    Matthew introduces Joseph from the Old Testament and through this instrument sends him to Egypt to make Jesus akin to Moses and the Mosaic typology with killing babies and all, as Moses was proto of the impending Messiah. The Jews did not believe this story and therefore linked Joseph(father of Jesus) as a Pantera who was a Sidonian which is the city of Jezebel, a tool used to denigrate King Ahab the Omrid who established Samaria by purchasing a threshing floor. Dionysus worship was brought to Alexandria by Ptolemy Philopater who gave citizenship to those who worshipped Dionysus and 3 Maccabees decries this. A later Ptolemy Auletes further enhanced this cult. Now Dionysus rode a Panther.
    Animals sacred to Dionysus — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysian_Mysteries#Animals_sacred_to_Dionysus
    and here with a Panther drinking vessel —
    Frankincense is also offered to Dionysus. Myrrh is sacred to Nabatians of Petra.

    An important side link is that Jesus in Mark 7 went to Sidon and said “Ephphatha” — “Be Opened!” to a deaf man noteworthily in a private setting. Related to this, I noticed also the Dome of Dionysus — https://beckerexhibits.wustl.edu/did/win_rb/Kircher1673p84.htm and the use of music.

  12. hsourceofthebible December 2, 2023 at 8:30 pm

    Hi Prof. Ehrman, Coincidentally, I noticed also that you are offering a course on Joseph. If Matthew knew Mark(gospel at least or also the man) as it is widely believed so, and he was also fulfilling Hosea 11:1 —
    “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.
    But the more they were called,
    the more they went away from me.[a]
    They sacrificed to the Baals
    and they burned incense to images.
    It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
    taking them by the arms;
    but they did not realize
    it was I who healed them.”

    That is why there is Joseph as Ephraim is “the Son of Joseph”. And Matthew refers to it in 2:15 —
    “where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”. Thus Hosea premises the name Joseph.

    The real conundrum is around Joseph of Aramathea and whether Matthew knew that Mark saw him as Priam like which interplays the two related ideas.

    • BDEhrman December 4, 2023 at 11:55 am

      I think you lost me. Where does Hosea refer to Joseph? (Ephraim and Joseph were two different sons of Jacob)

  13. hsourceofthebible December 4, 2023 at 2:13 pm

    Hosea 11 1 is said to be the Prophecy that was fulfilled by Jesus in Matthew 2. Hosea 11 1 refers to baby Ephraim who is the second son of Joseph and receives the Blessing from Jacob and he is brought from Egypt to Jacob. (by Joseph?)There are the 9 earlier sons of Jacob plus his two grandsons Ephraim and Manasse who from the Tribes. Joseph is the son from Egypt — so “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Ephraim(who is in Egypt), who is the son of Joseph ben Jacob).
    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephraim
    “In these sources Jacob is regarded as being sufficiently just that God upholds the blessing in his honor, and makes Ephraim the leading tribe.”
    Now Jesus too is made the son of another Joseph to fulfill this and also comes out of Egypt. So why does Jesus’s father have to go to Egypt, — for this he introduces the “Massacre of the Innocents” by Herod ala Pharoah of Mosaic typology. That is why Matthew names Jesus’s father Joseph! (so Messianic Judaism accepts Jesus)
    Further Joseph of Aramathaea, like Priam is a Father Archetype.

    Luke I,II authors (who came later) knew Matthew but dropped Egypt kept Joseph.

    • BDEhrman December 5, 2023 at 8:26 pm

      Ah, my bad about them being brothers. But Hosea is referring to the exodus event with the nation of Israel being the son of God. The exodus, for Matthew, is a foreshadowing of the final act of salvation brought by the other Son of God.

      • hsourceofthebible December 5, 2023 at 11:22 pm

        Dear Prof. Ehrman,
        I agree partly but I hope for convergence. Matthew checkboxed multiple prophecies. Yes. Israel can refer to both the nation and to Jacob.
        “When Israel was a Child I loved him” can be either Jacob or the nation. Matthew introduces the Massacre of the Innocents by Herod to mimic Pharoah and parallel Exodus to send Jesus to Egypt and fulfil “Out of Egypt I called my son” can be either Ephraim OR Exodus! To fulfil the return of Jesus like Ephraim, the father has to be Joseph.
        We must also note that Exodus 1 says “All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” (Ephraim means to be fruitful and to multiply
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephraim#Biblical_criticism) Hence Joseph is also the symbolic father of the Israelites of the Exodus!!(like of Ephraim) So the name of Jesus’s father being Joseph is all too tight a fit. If Joseph had been introduced by Mark that is different, but Matthew introduces Joseph, hitherto unknown.

  14. hsourceofthebible December 6, 2023 at 8:34 am

    The Joseph Tribe lines are noteworthy — “Biblical scholars regard it as obvious, from their geographic overlap and their treatment in older passages, that originally Ephraim and Manasseh were considered one tribe – that of Joseph.[11] According to several biblical scholars, Benjamin was originally part of the suggested Ephraim-Manasseh single “Joseph” tribe, but the biblical account of Joseph as his father became lost.[12][13] A number of biblical scholars suspect that the distinction of the Joseph tribes (including Benjamin) is that they were the only Israelites which went to Egypt and returned, while the main Israelite tribes simply emerged as a subculture from the Canaanites and had remained in Canaan throughout.”

    But I do think that in the context of your upcoming seminar on Joseph being the father and this sudden discovery during the Christmas season — this is indeed a miracle!

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