Portrait of an Antichrist


I am Barabbas, and this is my story.

At the request of the leader, Simon Barabbas, I, Yehudah ben Menashe, have recorded for posterity his life story, from his own words, from records, and from memories. Finished in Alexandria to where I had escaped during the Great War between the Jews and the Romans.

I, Simon Barabbas, was born in Gitta, near Shechem, during the reign of the emperor Augustus. My father was Abba or Babas, also known as Cathlas, whose Roman name was Antonius. My mother was Rachel. Though we were regarded as Samaritans, our ancestors were said to have been priests of the Edomite god Koze, before their enforced conversion to Judaism. They named me Simeon, or Simon: an extremely common name. I was Simon BARABBAS, also known as Simon Bar Giora (as they say in Transjordan), or Simon Bar Poras, that is, ‘Son of the Proselyte’. Addition by Yehudah: How Simon later came to be known as JESUS BARABBAS will be explained. The Samaritans were a mixture of peoples brought in by the Assyrians centuries ago when the tribes of Israel had been taken into captivity. They were Babylonians, Chaldeans, Elamites and Syro-Mesopotamians. My proselyte father was conversant with the religions of these mixed peoples, as well as with Judaïsm. We adhered to all the Jewish rituals and feasts, sometimes even more strictly than did those in Judaea. Our interests, though, were primarily nationalistic. We longed for the return of the halçyon days of David and Solomon, those Lions of Judah, when Israel was ruled by no foreign power, but ruled the world. Our particular heroes, though, were kings Saul and Ahab, and Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, rather than law-giving priestly types like Moses and Samuel. Saul and Ahab had even ruled over Egypt and they had uttered prophecies and had consulted wizards and mediums. Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, worshippers of the great storm god, Baal, were known in Egypt as Akhenaton and Nefertiti. Baal, “the Lord”, was there called Aton, from Hebrew Adonai, “Lord”. The enlightened pair created a wholly new city, Akhetaton, in honour of their god, Aton, and with it an entirely new vision – they themselves being the incarnations, respectively, of the god Baal and the goddess Astarte. My family, due to its Samaritan background, still continued to consider Mount Gerizim, rather than Jerusalem, as the sacred place for worship. And we accepted as holy only the five books of Moses, the Torah, and not the many other ones acknowledged by the priests and the scribes in Jerusalem. Our ancestors had often spoken of the prophecy of the sorcerer and magician, Balaam, in the time of Moses, that “a Star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel”. Consequently, my people were deeply interested in the sorcery and soothsaying of magicians influenced by the Elamite and Babylonian traditions still prevalent in Samaria. Was not Elam, the eldest son of Noah’s son, Shem, reputed to have been the first magician from whom arose the Persian Magi? Indeed, a seer known as ‘the Elamite’ had foretold to my parents that a son would be born to them who would fulfil this very star prophecy of Balaam. I was later identified as that predestined child, as SIMON BAR KOCHBA, or “SON OF THE STAR”. In manhood, my trade was as a coppersmith. We acquired our copper from Cyprus. I was familiar with the heat of the furnace and the blast of the bellows. Born strong, this hard work only increased my natural strength. I was popular, too, with the people, a born leader of men. As I worked, I dreamed of one day leading Israel against our hated Roman oppressors. I was skilful in alchemy and was able to read livers: a Babylonian or Chaldean skill passed on to the Romans. Thus I could discern the future. I was able to cast spells by sorcery and bring on familiar spirits through dreams. These abilities led to my being in demand by people who would normally have considered my coppersmith status as marking me too low and unworthy for them to speak to: refined ladies who consulted me about whom they should marry, Herodian and Roman officials, and even some members of the Sanhedrin. Addition by Yehudah: Whilst the ancient sage, Sirach, was correct in saying that “the wisdom of the scribe depends on the opportunity of leisure; only the one who has little business can become wise”, and that “the smith, sitting by the anvil, intent on his iron-work” will never learn the deeper mysteries, as “he struggles with the heat of the furnace; the sound of the hammer deafens his ears” – and though “without them no city can be inhabited” and “they maintain the fabric of the world”, “they cannot expound discipline or judgment” and “are not found among the rulers” – Simon Barabbas was, however, a notable exception to this sapiential dictum. I was able to master all forms of ancient wisdom and mystery, both eastern and western, and this led to my mingling with both the greatest and the least. My ability to perform magic of all kinds amazed everybody, as did my renowned ability to swallow fire and to blow it out from my mouth. Another skill that I developed was the casting of bronze, and later of silver, coins. During the reign of the emperor Tiberius, I was attracted by the forceful personality of that most mysterious of all prophetic characters, Yohanan, or John, known as the Baptist, who wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist and who lived on desert food. John was warning Israel of the “wrath to come”. His talk was all about retribution and a day of judgment. We were fascinated by his apocalyptical words: “Even now the axe is laid to the root”. He spoke like a true revolutionary, putting into words our very own thoughts about liberation. At one stage it seemed that all of Israel was flocking to hear John. I hastened to receive John’s baptism, and I became for a while one of his most ardent disciples, along with my closest companion, Dositheus. We were encouraged to seek isolation in the desert, as John himself had done, to find God, and to understand our mission, and so we went to live in the southern wilderness regions, the Negev desert, and the oasis of En-geddi, and around the western Lake of Asphalt or Dead Sea. Before very long, however, we became disillusioned with John’s teachings. He did not continue to impress us as being the one who would or could lead a revolt against our enemies, though Herod the king, who was also utterly fascinated by John’s speech, was worried that he might. John mysteriously talked about a “Lamb of God” who would deliver Israel. This did not inspire us at all, however. We were awaiting a saviour from the House of David. We were thus expecting one who was a Lion; yet here was our prophet-leader John telling us to look out for a Lamb. What we had learned by now was what our mission was not – it was not the same as John’s. Still, our rupture from him led us for a time to feel frustrated and alienated, like David when he became isolated and a fugitive. I, along with Dositheus and my brothers, Demetrius and Elisha, ‘sons of Babas’ as we were known, and other of my companions, such as Menahem, or Hymenaeus – the heroic son of the legendary Zealot leader, Judas of Galilee – and Yehonathan bar Be’ayan, wandered in the regions where David himself had roamed as outlaws with his band of companions, in the same deserts and in the land of Edom from whence my ancestors had come. Like David, we learned to live in caves. These were especially prolific on the west bank of the Dead Sea. There, in time, we began to organize our group into a sturdy band of revolutionaries, fellow metal workers, brigands, the lawless – anyone who was willing – preparing ourselves for the future insurrection against Rome. We developed an inner core of Thirty, just like David’s Thirty Warrior heroes. Nabataean tribesmen also fought alongside us, though more often against us. We survived on our wits, by robbery, by attacking wealthy caravans, by threats and by murder. I was bold, I was courageous, I was feared for my brutality. We had decided to store in caves the booty that we had begun amassing, including weapons, sacred and magical texts, devotional items and correspondence. We thought to build up a cache of supplies and wealth for a time of future troubles. Later we would resort to building underground tunnels and hideouts in many strategic places throughout Israel. Amenophe, an Egyptian Jew whom we had befriended, of similar revolutionary views to ours – and who would turn out to be a great survivor – enticed some of us to go with him to Egypt to dwell with him there for a time. Dositheus, however, soon returned to Samaria with the bulk of our band and there he eventually began spreading a false report of my death. He succeeded in installing himself as leader of our group, naming himself ‘the Standing One’; the one who would not experience corruption. Meanwhile, back in Egypt, Amenophe had opened up many doors for my companions and me. He introduced us to an aristocratic Jew who would later become the prefect of Egypt, Tiberius Severus Alexander. On his advice I even for a time studied Greek literature at Alexandria, with the help of translators. I, too, was named Alexander, after Alexander the Great. Addition by Yehudah: But the Egyptians mis-pronounced Simon’s family name, Barabbas, as either Carabbas or Barcabbas. Amenophe also introduced me to a famed priest magician named Pancrates, at Heliopolis, the home of the Phoenix. Under his expert guidance I was able to refine the magical arts, such as the power of levitation, and also the secrets of alchemy that I had begun to practice. Pancrates showed me books of spells and I witnessed the magician priest conduct bizarre rituals. Amenophe told me that Pancrates even knew the art of causing people to have dreams, become sick, and die. Addition by Yehudah: Later, an imperial Roman would fall completely under the spell of this Pancrates and would sacrifice his lover, Antinous, according to the priest’s advice, so that that same Roman could restore his own youth. And I learned there in Egypt other arcane wisdom known only to initiates, such as the ability to pour liquid stone. It was due to this secret alchemical skill, known to but only a select few, that the Egyptians had been able to set at an extremely high elevation, but with relative ease, the largest of the great pyramid blocks. And they also cast, in that same fashion, some of their large stone statues. My brother Demetrius, a silversmith, took particular interest in statues and he, soon, would adapt these Egyptian skills to create statues of the goddess Diana at Ephesus, which practice became most profitable for him as well as for our cause. We also learned there in Egypt about secret societies and how to form guilds linking smiths and masons. We realised that we would need a network of support if we were successfully to challenge the Roman occupancy of Israel. And we came to appreciate the importance of using, amongst one’s inner circle, a secret and coded language known only to adepts. Most happily of all for me there also, in Canopus, I, at last, found my feminine counterpart. She was the sorceress, Helena. My divine Helena was, like the great Queen Jezebel, a Phoenician. She was a slave courtesan and prophetess, serving well-to-do Roman officials in Egypt. Helena introduced me to some of these Roman notables. She and I would be inseparable for decades to come. Upon our return to the land of Israel, we found that Pontius Pilate was now prefect in Judaea. My overriding concern at this time was to wrest back the leadership from Dositheus. But, since he had a strong grip, I bided my time, believing it better to dissemble, and, pretending friendship for Dositheus, I accepted the second place. Soon, however, I began to hint to our inner Thirty that Dositheus was not as well acquainted as he might be with the magical arts and the wisdom of Mount Gerizim. Nor was he conversant with our secret inside language developed in Egypt. I hinted that I myself was the Standing One. Addition by Yehudah: Dositheus, when he perceived that Simon was depreciating him, fearing lest his reputation among men might be obscured (for he himself was supposed to be the Standing One), moved with rage, when they met as usual at a meeting, seized a rod, and began to beat Simon; but suddenly the rod seemed to pass through his body, as if it had been smoke. On which Dositheus, being astonished, says to him, ‘Tell me if thou art the Standing One, that I may adore thee.’ And when Simon answered that he was, then Dositheus, perceiving that he himself was not the Standing One, fell down and worshipped him, and gave up his own place as chief to Simon, ordering all the rank of thirty men to obey him; himself taking the inferior place which Simon formerly occupied. Not long after this Dositheus died. Under my leadership, now, we intensified our revolutionary activities with a strong force of followers. For instance, we incited riots whenever the Romans marched with their emblems through Samaria and Jerusalem carrying military standards with their graven images depicted upon them. Pilate hated the Jews and was wont to offend their sensibilities. Anyway, these actions ultimately led to many people going to Caesarea to protest against him. When Pilate ordered his troops to surround the protesters, they bared their necks saying that they were ready to die rather than to see the Law trampled upon. Pilate backed down on this occasion. It was clear to me that, inevitably, this bitter tension between Jew and Gentile would one day explode into an outright War. And indeed, as soon as things had quietened down a bit, Pilate sent in an armed force which mingled the blood of unfortunate Jews with their Temple sacrifices. They hunted down my band, too, for having incited several riots. We were defeated and scattered. I myself was captured by the Romans with two of my men and we were thrown into prison on the charges of insurrection, murder and robbery. Addition by Yehudah: Another charge Simon faced at the time was that of attempting to counterfeit official coins. My treatment in prison could have been far worse, but the superstitious Pilate, and to a lesser extent his wife, Claudia Procla, or Procula, who had heard of my reputation, had become fascinated by my prognostications, even though Pilate himself personally loathed me. He would usually send his wife back and forth to inquire from me on his behalf. She had the gift of being able to read the future through dreams. As I languished in prison, I learned that my brothers Demetrius and Elisha, reliable men, had now taken control of the revolutionary movement in Samaria and Transjordan. Helena was safely with them. I also received reports whilst in prison about John’s “Lamb of God”. He was in fact a man from Galilee, a carpenter, known as Jesus the Nazarene, who, with a band of disciples, roamed the land working astonishing miracles. Jesus had unheard of power. He was rumored even to have raised the dead and to have cured those blind from birth. I was determined to learn the secrets of his magical arts and to adopt his name, Jesus, so as to acquire his power. Many believed this Jesus to be the very Messiah, the longed-for one, a Son of David, and it was said that he and his followers would soon be able to lead a revolt against Rome and that no one would be able to withstand them. They were considered to have all the powers of the heavenly angels on their side. “I have come to bring not peace, but a sword”, Jesus was reputed to have said. And: “I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing”. At last, here was some really belligerent talk! Some of Jesus’ disciples were well known to me, they having also received the baptism from John. I speak, for instance, of the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew. They, too, were looking forward to the deliverance of Israel. There were, amongst their number, some zealots and sicarii, too, such as Judas, with whom I had shared many secret conversations, and Simon commonly known as ‘the Zealot’. Their ambitions were the same as mine, but they tended to operate more secretly and subtly than I did, with their cloaks and daggers. I was somewhat too lawless for their liking, too brutal a man. I also learned during my prison confinement that Jesus of Nazareth had even influenced some of my own relatives in Samaria, turning them away from their traditional belief in Mount Gerizim as the most holy of sites. A clairvoyant woman there whom I knew very well – she had had five husbands – was thus converted by the words of Jesus and she became a most ardent disciple of his. By the time that I saw her again, she had transformed into a complete Judaïzer, proclaiming Mount Jerusalem as the true place of worship. Though it was not entirely clear to anyone that Jesus expected Jerusalem as we knew it to continue. He was all mysterious talk about the destruction of the Temple and a new form of worship, not in a specific place, but in spirit and in truth. It sounded to me very much like Akhenaton’s and Nefertiti’s vision, which I so greatly admired. But whether Jesus meant the same sort of thing, no one was really sure. There were other sayings of this mysterious Jesus, too, that those who were looking to him in hope could just not grasp at all. For instance, he told his listeners to love their enemies, and to do good to those who hated them, and to turn the other cheek when struck. I recall feeling sick in my stomach when these words were reported to me as I languished in my prison cell under callous Roman guard. Imagine how threatened Pilate and the mighty Romans would feel from a mild and timid Lamb leader like this! And indeed, in the end, Jesus went meekly like a lamb into captivity. He was captured by the Temple guard at about the time of Pentecost and was taken before the high priest, whilst his disciples scattered. Simon Peter, or Cephas, had actually drawn his sword in retaliation and had cut off the right ear of one of the high priest’s slaves, Malchus, which Jesus was then said to have restored by his magical powers. Anyway, the talk was that Judas Iscariot had betrayed Jesus to the Jews for a handsome sum of money, having come to realise that Jesus did not fulfil the requirements of a messiah. This was a wise decision on Judas’s part, I thought, for I, too, had become convinced by now that Jesus the Lamb, enlightened though he was, could no more be the saving one than John the Baptist had been. Addition by Yehudah: Unfortunately, Judas apparently later regretted his action and hanged himself. Whilst in prison I had also come to the conclusion that, unless I freed myself, there would be no one in Israel capable of leading the revolt against Rome. During the trial of Jesus for blasphemy by the high priest, Joseph Caiaphas, I quickly devised a scheme, recalling a little known custom that had hardly ever been used, based on Isaiah, of granting amnesty to prisoners during certain major festivals. But I modified this to the release of just the one prisoner. I sent out secret messages to my friends to spread the matter speedily among the people. Moreover, I made sure that Pilate heard about ‘my law’. I knew that, were he to mention it publicly, my supporters scattered amongst the crowd would immediately shout for my release rather than Jesus’s, and would threaten the people to do the same. The priests, who were determined that Jesus should die, would willingly take up the catchcry, even though they personally had no love for me, Barabbas. Pilate would have no choice but to release me and to condemn Jesus to the Cross. And this is exactly what happened. When Pilate paraded Jesus before the people, saying in Latin: ECCE HOMO, “Behold the Man”, the crowd, sternly prompted by my men, went mad and bayed for Jesus’s blood. When I was brought forward as a possible one to be liberated, they screamed for my release. It was then that I first laid my eyes on this Jesus the Lamb of God. He had been most cruelly tortured by the Romans, and looked like he was ready to expire. He was a mass of blood and torn flesh. But his courage and defiance were striking. Indeed, there was a real strength about him, I had to concede. He conveyed an ethereally serene and peaceful expression amidst all of this chaos and shouting and his own personal agony. He, though a mock king, truly carried himself like a real king. Addition by Yehudah: Later a very strange story indeed would circulate in Alexandria in relation to this drama. Not for the first time, in this garbled story about a mock king as reported by Flaccus, the characters of Jesus and Simon – here called Carabbas – were completely confused: There was a certain madman named Carabbas … this man spent all his days and nights naked in the roads, minding neither cold nor heat, the sport of idle children and wanton youths; and they, driving the poor wretch as far as the public gymnasium, and setting him up there on high that he might be seen by everybody, flattened out a leaf of papyrus and put it on his head instead of a diadem, and clothed the rest of his body with a common door mat instead of a cloak and instead of a sceptre they put in his hand a small stick of the native papyrus which they found lying by the wayside and gave to him; and when, like actors in theatrical spectacles, he had received all the insignia of royal authority, and had been dressed and adorned like a king, the young men bearing sticks on their shoulders stood on each side of him instead of spear-bearers, in imitation of the bodyguards of the king, and then others came up, some as if to salute him, and others pretending to wish to consult with him about the affairs of the state. …. In such fashion did later folklore manage to trivialise this most dramatic of trials in Jerusalem. When I, Simon Barabbas, was released to the crowd, I was greeted like a conquering hero. And my popularity with the masses has never really waned since then. What happened after that, though, threw all of Jerusalem into chaos. As Jesus was dying on the Cross, along with two brigands well known to me – one of whom, Dismas, even argued for Jesus’s innocence whilst in utter agony, and was promised salvation by Jesus – the sky darkened in the most ominous fashion. It looked like the end of the world, the prophetic day of great wrath. Then, as Jesus expired, a massive earthquake rent the land. Many persons were killed, and countless cattle. The earthquake destroyed the most sacred part of the Temple and split in twain the curtain. Had not Jesus threatened to destroy the Temple and then rebuild it? Clearly, this Jesus was no ordinary man, many began to utter. Even gentile Romans were saying this about him. Addition by Yehudah: Caiaphas and the priests managed to disguise from the people this fact about the ruin of parts of the Temple and the inner court, and they continued to act as if nothing had happened, still offering their customary abundant sacrifices. They slew some of the followers of Jesus and hounded the others at every opportunity. But Jerusalem was in turmoil, rife with fear and rumours. Strange phenomena occurred, with reports of the dead appearing everywhere. Many people now left Jerusalem in dire panic and settled elsewhere. And I myself fled the city with my companions and returned to Samaria, which I hoped to use as my base for future activity. There I employed all of my considerable powers and magic, as well as some heavy-handed tactics, to win back the Samaritans to my cause. Soon I was acclaimed there as someone great, as Simon ‘Elymas’, or the Elamite, meaning Simon the Magician – or Simon Magus. The Samaritans were ready for a real leader and they, almost to a man, embraced me. Anyone who did not, we harassed relentlessly. Meanwhile, Pilate was beside himself with worry and agitation. The priests had insisted that he place armed guards over the tomb of Jesus in case his followers came and stole away his body and then spread stories that Jesus was still alive. Addition by Yehudah: Moreover, Pilate’s wife Claudia Procla had now left Pilate. This is how I heard the story: Claudia Procla, after having received extraordinary dreams or visions about Jesus and having conveyed these to her husband, had received a pledged assurance from Pilate, in the form of a ring, that he would not sentence this Jesus to death, since he told her that he was convinced of Jesus’s innocence. During the time that Pilate was pronouncing the sentence, Claudia Procla, in disgust, sent him back the pledge which he had given her, and in the evening she left his palace and joined the friends of Jesus, who concealed her in a subterraneous vault in the house of one Lazarus at Jerusalem. Later in the same day, it is told, a friend of Jesus engraved the words, Judex injustus, “Unjust Judge”, and the name of Claudia Procla, on a green-looking stone, which was behind the terrace called Gabbatha. Subsequent extraordinary events saw the followers of Jesus become greatly emboldened, even though they had formerly – for a time after the death of Jesus – suffered disillusionment and alienation, cowering in hiding as the Jewish leaders unleashed persecutions and stepped up security with the assistance of the Romans and Herod. But with tales of a resurrected Jesus now sweeping the city and its environs, and even unto Samaria, and with a whole series of miraculous events occurring, for example, many foreigners speaking in tongues and being understood by all, then the followers of Jesus became unstoppable. They no longer feared anything, be it torture, imprisonment or death. They boldly proclaimed that Jesus, who had died on the Cross, had risen from the dead. Addition by Yehudah: And they insisted that Jesus had said that he would rise again on the third day, but alas, as they lamented, they had not taken him at his word. I, having personally seen the man, and having also learned of the Osirian mysteries in Egypt about resurrection, understood that it was possible that one might be resurrected like the Phoenix, that death could not hold a chosen one like this Jesus, a Standing One, just as death had not been able to contain the pharaohs of Egypt. With the desertion from Jerusalem of so many, and with the authorities powerless to do anything about these fervent ones, led by Simon Peter, James and Yohanan, or John the Beloved, who was well known to the priests, they virtually took control for a time of various parts of the city. But once things had settled down a bit, the Jews resumed their fierce persecution of the disciples, killing some of them. This led to their dispersion from Jerusalem. Addition by Yehudah: The first to be killed, stoned to death, was the eloquent Nathanael, whose Greek name was Stephen. Apparently Jesus had foretold this, when he had once wondrously proclaimed to Nathanael that he would see heaven thrown open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. Paul of Tarsus, who would become our most bitter enemy, was an official witness to this stoning. The disciples spread themselves throughout the land, going out to all the regions in pairs. It was with the greatest anticipation, and with some trepidation, I must admit, that I, who feared no one, awaited their inevitable arrival in Samaria. The first disciples of Jesus whom I met were Thaddeus and the amiable Philip. They were proclaiming a new baptism now, a baptism of the Holy Spirit, a baptism of fire and spirit. We had never heard of a Holy Spirit. This baptism apparently superseded John’s baptism by water. Simon Peter and John the Beloved also came to Samaria working powerful miracles. I saw this before my very eyes, for instance the curing of a man blind from birth. How I now longed for their powers of laying on of hands so as to be able to pass on this potent Holy Spirit, in addition to my own magic. I thus received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the hands of Philip, and it was then that I took the name of BAR JESUS, meaning “Disciple of Jesus”. To me, having the name meant acquiring the magical powers of Jesus. But, since I soon realised that I myself was unable to perform the same miracles that Simon Peter and John had displayed for all to see, I offered them money that I had made in order that I, too, might receive this power of the Holy Spirit. Simon Peter, who could be very kind and even paternal-like when he wanted to be, actually shocked me on this occasion with his angry response. Addition by Yehudah: Peter’s words to Simon were: “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee, for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” Simon Peter warned me that if I thus refused to repent, terrible things would befall me, saying that I would become blind for wanting to pay for the gift of curing the blind. Then I begged him: “Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.” Addition by Yehudah: Since that day, the term simony has been coined, so to speak, to describe someone who pays for spiritual favours. Simon and we his followers also became known collectively as Simonists. But we were known, too, as adherents of ‘the teachings of Balaam’. Even more insulting to me was John the Beloved, who, though of a retiring nature, could suddenly erupt like a volcano, unleashing a fiery diatribe. Addition by Yehudah: Had not Jesus called John and his brother, James, sons of Zebedee, “sons of thunder” – Boanerges in Greek? John called me “an antichrist”, and “a false prophet”, and he spoke likewise of my brothers, and of Helena, and he began warning his followers to avoid us like the Egyptian plague, saying that Helena and I were the fountain-heads of all the errors and false doctrines in the land. And, quoting the Book of Wisdom, of which he was so practised, John proclaimed that Wisdom would never enter into a crafty soul like mine. But I had my own Sophia, or Wisdom personified, in my Helena, my muse Diotima, the Ennoia. The followers of Jesus even went so far as to accuse me of fomenting revolts against Rome. They had by now adopted Jesus’ philosophy of compromise, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”. My encounter with Simon Peter and John had really shaken me up, though, as I had long harboured a brotherly affection for Peter, a man of genuine courage and strength, and I had hoped to be part of the disciples’ company, but was then so vehemently rejected by them. Addition by Yehudah: Later I would learn that the resurrected Jesus himself had spoken of Simon to the disciples. Apparently it was told in this context: …. James the Greater and one of the disciples were sent to the pagan regions north of Capharnaum. Thomas and Matthew were dispatched to Ephesus, in order to prepare the country where at a future day Jesus’ Mother and many of those that believed in Him were to dwell. They wondered greatly at the fact of Mary’s going to live there. Thaddeus and Simon were to go first to Samaria, though none cared to go there. All preferred cities entirely pagan. Jesus told them that they would all meet twice in Jerusalem before going to preach the Gospel in distant pagan lands. He spoke of a man between Samaria and Jericho, who would, like Himself, perform many miracles, though by the power of the devil. He would manifest a desire of conversion, and they must kindly receive him, for even the devil should contribute to His glory. Simon Magus was meant by these words of Jesus. …. It is this same Simon Magus whose story I am now recording for posterity! This was just one of the many encounters that I was to have with Peter and John in Israel, and with Peter also in Rome. In fact our confrontations became legendary, and the accounts of them wholly exaggerated. For instance, regarding my powers of levitation, wild stories began to circulate amongst the disciples of Jesus that Peter had found me in Rome flying about above him, and that, as he had prayed, I had fallen to the ground like Lucifer falling from heaven. Addition by Yehudah: This fable later became embellished so that Simon’s supposed fall had actually killed him. The story probably arose from the sudden demise of Dositheus at the feet of Simon. Anyway, we Simonists derived great mirth from such fanciful tales as these. Many times it has happened that legends about Simon Bar Abbas and Simon Bar Jonah have become confused. And Simon’s name, ‘Barabbas’, of disputed meaning, but often rendered as “Son of the Father”, has led to much confusion with “Jesus Son of the Father”, as the Nazarene was called, given that Simon Barabbas was also called Jesus. ‘The die had now been cast’ and there could no longer be any association between the followers of Jesus and we Simonists. Our growing hostility towards the disciples also coincided perfectly with King Herod’s increasing pressure on them, to root them out. Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate had once united to convict Jesus during the reign of the emperor Tiberius. But now, with the death of Tiberius and the departure of Pilate, some say by suicide, a new era was dawning in the world and it would be a most favourable one for me. King Herod recognised in me a perfect ally in his persecutions against the disciples of Jesus. But he also admired my ability to cast horoscopes and he was aware of the prognostications that I had formerly made on behalf of Pontius Pilate. My star was now right in the ascendant as Herod and I became the best of friends. I cast his personal horoscopes and he even gave me in marriage his sister, Salome, whose first husband had died. Herod and I shared that common Edomite or Idumean background. Addition by Yehudah: The Edomites were considered by the Jews to be a most brutal race, descended from the red, hairy man Esau, the twin brother of Jacob. King Herod also greatly increased my power in the land, making me governor of Trachonitis and placing me over a strong force of Edomites, to police his laws. He also put me in charge of manufacturing weapons for the Romans. Addition by Yehudah: In a strange act of maladministration, the Roman officials had laid it upon the Jews to manufacture weapons for them. But – and especially as the time for war drew nearer – the Jews began to store up these weapons for themselves. Later, they would cause the Romans no end of misery, serving almost to annihilate the cream of the Roman legions in the East. I was becoming universally known by the epithet by which the wise Jewish Rabbi, Akiba, always entitled me: Simon Bar Kochba, or “Son of the Star”, the star of Balaam. Addition by Yehudah: Actually, Simon had skillfully led the influential Rabbi Akiba towards this conclusion by explaining through astrology that a new star had indeed arisen in the firmament and that it indicated a great leader and savior of the Jews, a messiah. The Herod family that I now served was famed for producing some of the greatest builders of all time, they having built cities in honour of the emperor Augustus at Caesarea, Sebaste, and, in honour of Tiberius, Tiberias – as well as Machaerus, the mighty fort of Masada, Jericho, and, of course, the great city of Jerusalem, which became world famous under their régime. Rumours had begun to spread that King Herod was now contemplating assisting the successor of the emperor Tiberius with transforming the Holy City into a city of Zeus, or a Jupiter Capitolinus, to bring the troublesome Jewish inhabitants fully under Roman control. His close friendship with influential Romans saw to it that he would receive enormous funds for his project. And of course there was the usual relentless taxation. Herod told me privately that he – in league with the Romans – was intending to re-name Jerusalem in honour of the god Jupiter and to populate it with a Roman garrison, and even to expel all religious Jews from the place. King Herod was no lover of the Jews at all, but was basically – like many of the educated Romans – a Graecophile. Anyway, I disguised my horror at such suggestions as these about the proposed transformation of Jerusalem into a city for Gentiles and I once again bided my time. My period in prison had taught me about patience. Hatred of the Romans still consumed me, as did my hatred of the disciples of Jesus. Unknown to Herod and the Romans, I myself also secretly envisaged a wholly new Jerusalem according to the vision of Akhenaton’s and Nefertiti’s new city of Akhetaton. It would be a Jerusalem ruled by me and by my consort, Helena. But perhaps also renamed, the City of the Star? Meanwhile the Romans, sure enough, began testing the waters by increasing their pressure on the Jews towards the realisation of their own ends. They went so far as to set up their statue of Jupiter in the Temple court, with Roman eagles at the gates. This caused uproar throughout the land, and was really what made inevitable the Jewish Revolt or later war with Rome – or what the Jews called the Roman War. A delegation of Jews went to Rome to complain bitterly about this affront. I found myself in the most awkward dilemma. On the one hand, I wanted to be amongst my fellow revolutionaries and carry the fight against Herod and the Romans. But, I had also learned to cultivate the patronage of the great and mighty for my own purposes; men like Sergius Paulus, for instance, the procurator of Cyprus. For the time being, I would be the faithful servant of King Herod. I even minted coins in his royal name, sometimes stamping over old Roman coins. Herod, for his part, furnished Salome and me with various choice farms and estates throughout the country. I engaged some of my brothers to look after these on my behalf. My secretary and record-keeper was one of Herod’s most competent servants, the gifted scribe Yehudah ben Menashe, who had long followed my career with interest. He knew all the subtleties of speech and arguments and all of the scribal nuances, such as acrostics and cryptograms and the like. His subtleties greatly assisted us in our efforts to acquire secrecy and anonymity. Addition by Yehudah: Yes, indeed, I was well versed in Solomonic wisdom and the writings of the great seer, Jesus ben Sirach, or “Ecclesiasticus”. Just as my scribal knowledge assisted the Simonists, for our part, so did John the Beloved, using similar knowledge, communicate secretly with the followers of Jesus through cryptic writings which became ever more mysterious as the persecutions against them increased. Naturally, the Jews and the followers of Jesus, alike, despised me as the worst kind of traitor for courting Herod. They perverted my title, Bar Kochba, by re-casting it as Bar Kozeba, “Son of Deception”, or “Son of the Lie”. Addition by Yehudah: Simon’s many names would become a source of confusion especially to those not living in Israel. For instance, the prominent Roman writer, Agrippa Castor, wrote on the one page of the two prophets, “Barcabbas and Barcoph”, not realising that this was the one wise man, Simon – both Barabbas and Bar Kochba. And I have already mentioned that confusion often arose about the two Simons, Barabbas and Bar Jonah, owing to my master’s many names. For the short period of time that was left to King Herod, I learned much diplomacy from him. He was wily and cunning, a master of intrigue, who knew how to ingratiate himself with the most influential people of the time. And he even managed to make the Jews think that he was on their side. Herod was never beaten, even after his having suffered utter humiliations and reversals. King Herod always found a way back. Addition by Yehudah: These characteristics were typical of the Herods. Had not Jesus referred to Herod Antipas as “that fox”? As I have remarked, the Herods were amongst the most energetic builders of all time. Culturally, they were philhellenists. I was most intrigued with what Herod might now do with Jerusalem, after he had greatly embellished the Temple and fortified the city. This was of the greatest concern to the Jews of course. Tensions were now building to fever pitch in the city and King Herod and the Roman procurator frequently had to intervene with strong-armed tactics to keep things quiet. The disciples of Jesus, for their part, were predicting terrifying things for the world. For example, one called Agabus, who had escaped from the persecution in Jerusalem and had gone to Antioch, had foretold that there would be a severe famine over all the world. And this shortly happened, during the reign of Claudius, who, in turn, had begun expelling Jews from Rome because of growing insurrection there, but especially in Alexandria, by the agency of our friend Amenophe. The rains wholly failed, and so there was no harvest. The drought was exceptionally severe, for not only Palestine, but in Syria too, where the normal rainfall is much more abundant. There was no food to be had anywhere, nor any seed corn, and so the famine continued on into a second year. The slender reserves of the inhabitants were consumed and they were reduced to eating herbs. Debility and pestilence followed. As all the sheep and goats had died, the people lacked not only food, but clothing as well, because there was no wool from which to make it. The treasury became empty. Due to the Herod’s lavish building programs, no one could now pay the taxes. This all began to take its toll on King Herod, who was now ailing badly. And, with it, his behavior was becoming more and more erratic. He wanted once and for all to put an end to those in his own family who opposed him, and also to the disciples of Jesus who were keeping alive the legacy of the man whom Herod Antipas had once thought was a reincarnation of John the Baptist. Addition by Yehudah: There was more to all of this. The disciples of Jesus had been spreading the word everywhere, and writing about it, that Jesus was the very Child-king whom Herod the Great had tried to have exterminated many years before, but whose family had fled to Egypt. Jesus of Nazareth, they said, and not Bar Kozeba, “the son of deception”, was the true ‘star out of Jacob’ of whom the sorcerer Balaam had been compelled to testify. Decades later, at the trial of Jesus, Herod Antipas had actually come face to face with him, but had, unlike Simon Barabbas, been quite unimpressed by the ragged, beaten figure standing before him. He had expected a masterful magician; a man who could turn any situation to his own advantage. So, in disgust, Herod had sent Jesus back to Pilate. But, since Jesus was truly risen, so his disciples were saying, then he had really managed to elude the murderous Herod family, now in adulthood, as he had done before, in his infancy. There is no doubt that the figure of Jesus the Nazarene began greatly to haunt the deteriorating Herod. He wanted to put an end to the memory of him once and for all, so he struck out at his disciples, killing James the brother of John the Beloved. We cheered Herod for this, of course, as did all of the Temple aristocracy. So Herod struck and struck again. Simon Peter was imprisoned. But he managed to escape, miraculously, it was said, by the power of an angel. King Herod searched for Simon Peter, and, when he could not find him, he had his guards executed. Meanwhile Simon Peter had escaped to Caesarea. And that was the last persecution that King Herod was allowed against the disciples of Jesus. Coming to Tyre and Sidon on another matter of revenge in relation to his family – at the time of the Vicennalia games at Caesarea in honour of the emperor – an enfuriated Herod was prevailed upon by his chamberlain, Blastus, to sue for reconciliation. He took his seat dressed in his royal robes. As he spoke, the people cheered and acclaimed him as a god. But he fell ill and died. Addition by Yehudah: The people kept shouting, “The voice of a god, and not a mortal!” And immediately – some say because he had not given the glory to God an angel of the Lord struck him down – he was eaten by worms and died. Before long Herod Agrippa, who had grown up in Rome, replaced his deceased father in Israel and came to wield great power there. I continued my alliance with the Herod family until the War broke out, when Herod Agrippa and I would go completely different ways – he treacherously siding with the Romans against us. At about this time, too, Salome and I divorced. But I still had my goddess, Helena, and we now determined, like Akhenaton and Nefertiti had, to rid ourselves of all the resistant prophets, especially, in our case, the followers of Jesus. We did everything that we could to gainsay their teachings and to prevent them from speaking publicly and winning converts. My brothers Demetrius and Elisha did likewise. We would anticipate where the disciples were going to be, and would go there and stir up trouble for them, sometimes managing to get them arrested and beaten. Learning from the wily Herods, who were masters of diplomacy and survival, I had continued to befriend important Roman officials, for example Marcus Antonius Felix, the procurator of Judaea, for whom I had found a suitable wife, Drusilla, the sister of Herod Agrippa, and also, as mentioned, the proconsul Sergius Paulus, a highly intelligent man who had a great interest in religion and secret mysteries. These friendships were the cause of my going to Rome in the first place, accompanied as always by Helena. There my fame increased as I worked many miracles and cast horoscopes before the Romans. Helena and I became friends with some officials close to the new emperor, Claudius, and we learned about the need for a ruler to be a god. We were also secretly told by these Romans that, before one could create a perfect city, one must needs burn down the old one. I wondered if that was what Jesus himself had meant, with his talk about destroying the Temple and creating a New Jerusalem. Or, alternatively, one could follow the inspired example of Akhenaton and Nefertiti and build quite a new city on virgin ground. And then force the populace to worship them. The Romans in fact perceived godlike traits in me. Eventually they erected a statue in my honour on the banks of the River Tiber. Addition by Yehudah: That fine statue no longer stands. It was completely obliterated by Roman soldiers when the Roman War broke out. I took a particular interest, too, in the Roman military, knowing that one day, soon I hoped, I myself would be challenging it, or personally taking control of it. I learned about formations, defences, drills, weaponry and flame throwers – also the famous Greek fire. I came to the conclusion that I could, with my coppersmith skills, devise ingenious mechanical techniques and devices to blow away my enemies with fire. Sergius Paulus had business again in Cyprus, and also in Ephesus, and he asked Helena and me to accompany him there, firstly to Ephesus. After a while I settled Helena in Thyatira, where she had relatives, and then I went off to Cyprus to find Sergius Paulus. It was there at Epaphos that I met the wretched Saul of Tarsus, a one-time persecutor of the followers of Jesus, or the Way as it had become known, who had become a believer under the most extraordinary circumstances. Addition by Yehudah: As the story goes, Paul, armed with judicial powers from the Sanhedrin, had set out for Damascus completely zealous in his work of stamping out the influence of the followers of the Way as they were now calling it. On the journey he had a vision of Jesus and was struck blind for a time. The vision told him to cease his persecutions and to begin to serve the resurrected Jesus. He was also told that he would meet with one Ananias in Damascus, who would cure him of his blindness. And that is apparently what happened. The disciple Ananias employed that special power of the Holy Spirit of which I was so desirous, and he relieved Paul’s blindness, after which the fanatical Paul became the most zealous of all of Jesus’s disciples. We hated him most of all of them. I was horrified to find Sergius Paulus there listening intently to Paul’s preaching. Though I myself was never impressed by his ramblings, and even his friends were mystified by much of what Paul would teach and write, the Roman proconsul was so taken in by Paul that he was now actually contemplating becoming a follower of his. I was violently opposed to this of course. I did not want to lose the patronage of so powerful a benefactor as Sergius Paulus. Moreover, Paul had also been casting out spirits from slaves skilled in divination, from whom their masters in the region had derived much profit. Some of these, such as Demetrius, were relatives and supporters of mine. By now there were many in Israel and Syria, and beyond, who wanted Paul killed – I myself most especially, and of course the Jewish priests and Sanhedrin whose firm ally he had once been. I found myself beginning to detest Paul of Tarsus even more than I did the Romans, with many of whom I had managed to ingratiate myself. On this occasion, I deliberately contradicted Paul’s view of the resurrection. But it was the cunning Paul who would actually come out the better in the encounter. Paul, who had none of the kindness or paternalism of Simon Peter, now let loose upon me the worst diatribe I had ever experienced, worse even, being more public, than John’s earlier tirade. Addition by Yehudah: Paul said to Simon: “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?” And so on. No stronger term could be, or has ever, been used by a disciple of Jesus than that which Paul used against me, “son of the devil”. And it was shortly afterwards that I suffered the greatest trial of my life, like a man cursed. I was – just as Paul had been on the way to Damascus – struck blind. This was a most fearful experience and it rendered me totally helpless. Sadly this phenomenon, recently foretold by Paul, led to my benefactor Sergius Paulus’s being converted to their Way. It also became the pretext for the Egyptian, Amenophe, to come back to our land and to resume the leadership of our group. The Egyptian now believed himself to be the reincarnation of Joshua. When I look back on it, my blindness may have been an unexpected blessing, because it enabled me fully to formulate my new religion, a fusion of east and west. This was my new vision. Like Akhenaton – who had also been struck blind in the end – I had found, in Helena, my Nefertiti. Our religion would be completely our own. And it would be centred in the holy city of Jerusalem, the new “Babylon” as Simon Peter, and now John the Beloved, were wont to call it. I would be a ruler god and Helena would be my goddess, or female principle. It meant nothing to me that John the Beloved was now calling Helena a “Jezebel”, since Nefertiti and Jezebel had been as one. Addition by Yehudah: Here is a synopsis of what Simon had come to ‘envisage’ during his blindness, what Paul and John would call a gnosis: In the beginning God had his first thought, his Ennoia, which was female, and that thought was to create the angels. The First Thought then descended into the lower regions and created the angels. But the angels rebelled against her out of jealousy and created the world as her prison, imprisoning her in a female body. Thereafter, she was reincarnated many times, each time being shamed. Her many reincarnations included Helen of Troy; among others, and she finally was reincarnated as Helen, a slave and prostitute in the Phoenician city of Tyre. God then descended in the form of Simon Magus, to rescue his Ennoia, and to confer salvation upon men through knowledge of himself. “And on her account,” he says, “did I come down; for this is that which is written in the Gospel ‘the lost sheep’.” For as the angels were mismanaging the world, owing to their individual lust for rule, he had come to set things straight, and had descended under a changed form, likening himself to the Principalities and Powers through whom he passed, so that among men he appeared as a man, though he was not a man, and was thought to have suffered in Judaea, though he had not suffered. “But in each heaven I changed my form,” says he, “in accordance with the form of those who were in each heaven, that I might escape the notice of my angelic powers and come down to the Thought, who is none other than her who is also called Prunikos and Holy Ghost, through whom I created the angels, while the angels created the world and men.” The most radical element was the identification of Simon now with the Supreme, and of his consort Helena with the female principle. Only the adept ones, the inner circle, would be privy to the secret language and doctrines of the Simonists or Balaamists. To all intents and purposes, to the outside world, we were strictly adhering Jews, keepers of the Mosaïc Law. Our sacred rites, considered licentious and disgusting by the followers of the Way, became the model for religious rites everywhere and they were emulated by many. Even by some of the followers of the Way, much to the abject horror of Simon Peter, John the Beloved, and of course Paul. The clairvoyant sorceress Helena promoted these sacred rites most enthusiastically in Thyatira and won over many converts, even amongst the followers of the Way. Once I had recovered from my blindness I knew that I, at last, had the full power of the Holy Spirit that I had so ardently sought. I was now able to give out confidently to my followers that I was in fact one in union with the Holy Spirit and so I could do anything – that I had become invincible. Addition by Yehudah: Simon was also being called – based on an interpretation of Barabbas, actually a name of uncertain precise meaning – “Son of the Father”, the title that Jesus the Nazarene had adopted. At last, now, I knew what Jesus had meant, to live in spirit and truth. I had been fully liberated, resurrected like Jesus. Had he himself cured me as he had cured so many during his time on earth? Along with the restoration of my physical sight, my spiritual sight had been brought to perfection. I shed my long-held preoccupation with Mount Gerizim, which had now completely lost its fascination for me. Jesus had been right about this, too. I, Simon Bar Kochba, must have a new city from which to rule: Jerusalem, yes, but now a New Jerusalem, a re-made Jerusalem as Jesus had envisaged, but perhaps also with a new name. Demetrius, Elisha and I greatly stepped up our efforts to harrass Paul, giving him constant opposition in Ephesus and its environs and wherever he went. But, then, as Paul became more and more confined by the Roman authorities, and then taken to Rome, John the Beloved emerged right to the forefront and was ever more outspoken against us. Addition by Yehudah: About four years before the War with the Romans began, John, citing a revelation from Jesus, began to proclaim the end with great insistence: the end of Jerusalem and its Temple and the priesthood. Like a new prophet Jeremiah, “Terror on every side”, John proclaimed monotonously, “Woe, woe, woe to Jerusalem”. And, just as with the prophet Jeremiah, everybody mocked him and imitated his cry. He would receive lashings from the authorities, at the instigation of the procurator of Judaea, Lucceius Albinus, successor to Porcius Festus, but this did not deter him. He was then based at Patmos, where he had been confined, and at Ephesus, where seven churches were under his priestly jurisdiction. Paul had administered other communities in the region, not wanting to tread on John’s toes. Later, as the War intensified, John was confined to Jerusalem, until the very end. What greatly exacerbated the tension between the Jews and the Romans, leading to the increasing activity of the Jewish Zealots – who modelled themselves on the Maccabees, and who were fanatically opposed to the Roman occupation – was a succession of provocative Roman procurators, now the true rulers of Palestine. Marcus Antonius Felix, for whom I had assessed, through horoscopes, the most appropriate wife for him, Drusilla, crucified countless numbers of these Zealots, in an effort to rid the country of them. They were now led by our former ally, Menahem, he being strongly supported by the priest Eleazer ben Jair, who had become their spiritual leader. A similar group, the Sicarii, armed with short daggers, sicae, and dedicated to the removal of their political opponents, had also been gaining adherents and increasing their activities. Their leader was John of Gischala, son of Levi, who, growing envious of my power and popularity in the land, had issued orders for his dagger men to assassinate me, as they had the high priest, Jonathan – possibly with the connivance of Felix, who detested Jonathan. John of Gischala had issued similar orders regarding my Helena. Felix had imprisoned Paul at Caesarea where he was held for two years after he had found himself in trouble from a mob led by our supporters. Some of the Roman officials were wondering if Paul were actually the legendary renegade Egyptian, our ally Amenophe, the would-be leader of the people into the wilderness. For, it had been during Felix’s governorship that Amenophe had really got to work. He had won over the people by his promises to perform Joshuan-like miracles of parting the River Jordan and miraculously bringing down the walls of Jerusalem, in order to wrest back the city for the common people. Amenophe’s boldness made him a hero amongst the oppressed poor, who generally supported us. After leading his followers into the wilderness for a time, Amenophe then came into the environs of Jerusalem, taking a crowd of lightly armed people to the Mount of Olives, and promising that at his word the walls of Jerusalem would fall so that they would enter the city and wrest it from the Romans. Felix went out to meet them with heavily-armed infantry. Sadly, Amenophe’s force of about 4000 was soundly defeated by the Romans, and many were slaughtered. But Amenophe himself managed to escape. Porcius Festus came next after Felix. He was a somewhat more honest administrator, at least by comparison with Felix, generally treating the Jews with surprising lenience. But he had no understanding whatsoever of the ways and customs of this part of the world. Moreover, the fires that Felix had lit in the land were beyond being doused by now. Soon after Festus’s arrival there arose a dispute between the Jewish and Syrian inhabitants of Caesarea. It was decided by the imperial rescript in favour of the Syrians. This embittered the Jews still more. The situation was not improved under the next procurator, Albinus, whose corruption was rampant. The Jews regarded him as nothing less than a criminal. He did try to check the disciples of Jesus, especially John the Beloved, who was beginning to irritate everyone of us with his incessant cries of “Woe, woe, woe”. Just when we thought that Felix’s imprisoning of Paul might quieten these Christians, as they were now known, who we feared were disheartening the people, John suddenly emerged in Jerusalem with a fellow “witness’, as the pair called themselves. But the final straw to break the camel’s back regarding the tension between the Romans and the Jews was when Festus’s successor, Gessius Florus – compared to whom his predecessors appeared as paragons of virtue – began openly to plunder the land, robbing individuals, sacking towns, and taking bribes from bandits. Naturally I managed to ingratiate myself with Florus, whilst also looking for opportunities to undermine him. Later when he took 17 talents from the Temple treasury and sold off some of the Temple furnishings, the Jerusalem Jews could contain themselves no longer. Addition by Yehudah: With supreme sarcasm and contempt they passed around their community a basket to take up a collection for the “indigent” Florus. He took bloody revenge on them for the insult and turned part of the city over to his soldiers for plunder. Since the priests tried to control the Jews during these incidents and counseled them to patience, the meek attitude of the people, who did not react against the soldiers, was interpreted by the latter as scorn. Slaughter ensued. Whilst the Jews withdrew to the Temple precincts and soon cut off the portico passageway between the Temple and the fortress Antonia, Florus, who was momentarily not strong enough to check the rebels, was forced to withdraw to Caesarea. The revolt against Rome had become formal. Every available man now mobilised for battle. Eleazer and Menahem stationed themselves at the mighty fort of Masada in the south. John of Gischala commanded his troops in Galilee, in the north; though the priests favoured there the traitorous Joseph, son of Matthias, whom John rightly suspected of disloyalty. I, myself, with my troops, assisted with the fortification of Jerusalem itself, whilst now administering the land as both prince and king. My much-anticipated time of destiny had finally arrived. Still the Jewish authorities, who had never really liked to work with me, considering my perceived lawlessness and brutality, looked instead to Eleazer and the Zealots for their defence, and even to the hateful John of Gischala. They nevertheless had to contend with the fact that I was now the single most powerful man in the land, with the strongest and most able army. It was I, Simon Barabbas, who had emerged as the real leader of the Jews. Moreover, I now began to issue coins in my own name, Bar Kochba, depicting the Temple of Yahweh with the Messianic star, my star of destiny, over the roof, and the Ark of the Covenant inside, and proclaiming “The Liberation” and “The Redemption of Israel”. Addition by Yehudah: Simon Bar Kochba’s coins would be the very last representations ever made of the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant, before the Temple was destroyed forever by the Romans. This was meant to give heart to my people – these wise of the land who had no doubt by now that I, Simon Barabbas, was the longed-for messiah of Israel. But I, like David and Solomon, ruled the land with an iron fist. I would stand no insubordination or indigence, threatening my allies with dire punishments if they did not send me supplies and troops without delay. Jews in other parts of the empire now prepared also to break out in open revolt against Rome. We began marshalling ourselves mightily for the inevitable backlash. After sporadic individual skirmishes throughout the land, during which the troops of Florus were routed, we realised that we would need a far more concerted and unified effort when Gaius Cestius Gallus, the Roman legatus of Syria – whose aid Florus had summoned – led a powerful Roman invasion of Judaea and came up along the old Beth-horon road, where Joshua had once scattered his Canaanite enemies thanks to the miracle of the sun. My faithful ally Amenophe, a true survivor, had earnestly studied the Joshuan strategy in detail and knew intimately the narrow Beth-horon road, Upper and Lower. Thanks largely to Amenophe, the reincarnation of Joshua, we were eventually able to gain the ascendancy and rout the forces of Gallus when they retreated from Jerusalem. Upon their retreat, we lions mauled them savagely and took back to our dens a huge supply of Roman booty. Addition by Yehudah: Had not the great Pharaoh ‘Shishak’, or Thutmose III, Solomon’s son by the concubine Isis, brazenly come by this same narrow Beth-horon road, much to the consternation and near mutiny of his generals? It was a fearfully narrow road, one that could be defended by only a handful of men. The Egyptian generals, when discussing with the Pharaoh the dangers of the road also name Araunah, or Oronim, had argued: “Shall our van¬guard be fighting while our rearguard is yet standing yonder in Araunah not having fought?” Now our own time, centuries after ‘Shishak’, would prove just how amaz¬ingly correct had been the estimate of the Egyptian generals: what they were afraid of indeed happened to the Roman army of Cestius Gallus which climbed the Beth-horon ascent on its way to Jerusalem. After having emerged from the defile, Gallus was camped with the van of the army at Gibeon when they were attacked by our Jewish forces. He succeeded in checking the attack; but at the same time we succeeded in cutting off a large part of the Roman rearguard as they were mounting towards Beth-horon, and carried off many of the baggage mules. Though Gallus reached his goal and laid siege to Jerusalem, he had to lift the siege prematurely owing to the loss of his baggage. But the real disaster caught the Romans during their retreat, after they had become involved in the defiles and begun the descent. As it was recorded: “While even the infantry were hard put to defend themselves, the cavalry were in still greater jeopardy; to advance in order down the road under the hail of darts was impossible, to charge up the slopes was impracticable for horses: on either side were precipices and ravines, down which they slipped and were hurled to destruction; there was no room for flight, no conceivable means of defence; in their utter helplessness the Roman troops were reduced to groans and the wailings of despair . . .” Nightfall hindered the complete destruction of the Roman army, the greater part of which suc¬ceeded in descending under cover of darkness with the help of a ruse, after abandoning all their machines of war, which were willingly collected by we the victors. Thus we had at the beginning of our great Revolt against Rome won a convincing victory. Rome and Jerusalem were now to be in a state of open War for the next several years. This battle was also what first made the authorities consider Simon as a fine military commander, rather than a mere leader of brigands. Simon had helped in defeating the advance by attacking from the north. He had put the hindmost of the army into disorder, and carried off many of the beasts that carried the weapons of war, and led them into the city. However, he was rejected a commanding position by the Jerusalem authorities, for they did not want a popular leader of a rebellious peasantry if they were to moderate the revolt and negotiate with the Romans. The foolish Jewish leaders, however, refused to recognize me as the man to lead them. In particular the high priest, Ananus ben Ananus, or Artanus, was hostile towards me, considering me a contemptuous man of low breeding. So I, in equal contempt, and in a furious rage, left Judaea with my loyal band and moved back to my place of origins, to Samaria in the toparchy of Accrabatene, where for a while we robbed the houses of wealthy people. Addition by Yehudah: Someone then wrote of Simon. “But as for the Acrabbene toparchy, Simon, the son of Gioras, got a great number of those that were fond of innovations together; and betook himself to ravage the country; nor did he only harrass the rich men’s houses, but tormented their bodies, and appeared openly and beforehand to affect tyranny in his government. And when an army was sent against him by Artanus, and the other rulers, he retired to the robbers that were at Masada”. Those supposed robbers included the sicarii, led by the priest Eleazer ben Jair. Thus, fortuitously, Simon and we his followers were entrenched in the south, when Vespasian arrived with a huge force from Antioch in the north. When news of the disaster reached the emperor of Rome he quickly appointed the soldier Vespasian as governor of Judaea. Vespasian, too, was a very able commander, but I knew that I would be able to match him, since I had long now studied the Roman military tactics and had well grasped the difficulties that the Romans would encounter in our land. Moroever, had I not just acquired a great reputation for myself by playing a leading part in the embarrassing debacle for the Romans at Beth-horon? Not surprisingly, Vespasian succeeded in reducing much of Galilee within a year, and even further south. The Jewish leaders there proved no match for him. Vespasian next moved toward Jerusalem via the Jordan Valley, seizing and burning rebel quarters en route. The Jews were forced to flee to caves and hide in the subterranean tunnels that we had built. But it was destined that I, not Vespasian, should have the victory, and fate intervened to send him packing to Rome. At this time a series of civil wars broke out there. These were so fierce that Roman troops had to be called in from all parts of the empire, with Roman army fighting Roman army. The empire began to fall apart and seemed all of a sudden to be in its death throes. Rebellions broke out throughout Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt. Addition by Yehudah: It was during this period of the withdrawal from the land of major Roman forces that many who had no heart for the War, fled the land. Among these were the majority of the Christians, who believed by so doing that they were obeying a command by Jesus, to flee the land when the pagan armies came up and surrounded it. Whereas Simon considered that the temporary retreat by the Romans was due to his fate, the Christians considered it to be a miracle, for, how else to flee when surrounded by armies? The Christians fled eastwards to the land of Perea, settling mostly in Pella. What even further exacerbated the situation for Rome was that our Roman opponents in the land during this time of turmoil proved to be totally inadequate for the task. The procurator was now Tineius Rufus, whose local garrison of two legions, the VI Ferrata and the X Fretensis – plus some troops stationed at the fort of Beth-shan, or Scythopolis – was coming under such pressure that the nearest territories to the trouble spot despatched as many soldiers as could be spared. Rufus sought the assistance of the new legatus of Syria, Publicius Marcellus, who arrived with additional troops from the II Gallica. Roman manpower was being stretched to the limit, and the once mighty Romans were suffering defeat after defeat at our hands. Addition by Yehudah: Taken from various notes. During this period, as the Jews faced the very real prospect of the obliteration of their religion and culture, our master and leader, called Simon Bar Kochba began to change the face of resistance. In the decades since one lauded sect leader – Jesus of Nazareth – had been executed, there had been a succession of messianic claimants; when one failed to deliver, or was removed by the occupying powers or by schisms within the Jews themselves, another proclaimed himself in their stead. Bar Kochba had the ability of no other to draw together a more organised, measured opposition to the Romans. Slowly, sporadic acts of violence or sabotage became a more concerted campaign of attack. Rome’s plans for Jerusalem were exactly what Bar Kochba had been waiting for. When a new star was seen it was claimed as an endorsement that Simon was the new messiah, the Prince of Israel who would lead his desperate people away from slavery under the Romans. His name was thus changed to Bar Kochba – ‘son of the star’ – confirming his fulfilment of an ancient prophecy. Rumours circulated that dramatic miracles had been associated with him: that he could uproot trees with his bare hands, that he could belch flames from his mouth. Our Bar Kochba was a passionate demagogue, and although he had a local reputation for both ferocity and prodigious strength, he was compelling, intelligent and ruth¬less; it was a potent combination. His ever-increasing numbers of followers were willing to cut off their little fingers as a demonstration of their loyalty and courage. Tales of his heroism drew more supporters to his side. Despite some con¬tinued opposition within Judea, Bar Kochba, unlike most other rebels, began to draw adherents not just among the religious zealots but from previously less actively political communities across Judea. There were still those stubborn intellectuals who scoffed at Bar Kochba’s messianic claims, but his movement was supported by a number of Jewish scholars, including the elderly and respected Rabbi Akiba, and it grew in influence and effect. Against a background of escalating brutality in Roman retali¬ation for minor offences, his creed seemed more and more persuasive. Slowly the Jews, whose defence had so often been weakened by rifts, moved towards a semblance of unity under one leader. As the War proceeded Bar Kochba had 400,000 fighting men behind him. The situation had exploded into open conflict. The Jews of Judea believed that their coreligionists across the east would surely support them against the Romans. With Bar Kochba at their head, many believed that the yoke of Rome might yet be overthrown. All experience suggested that this was a naive hope; yet writers of the time report that, although there was not the simultaneous uprising the Judeans might have hoped for, trouble did soon spread, not just within the country, nor only into neighbouring communities in adjacent territories, but throughout the eastern empire. This was not yet sufficiently coherent to be a serious threat to Roman dominance in the region, but it was worrying for the Romans that support for the Jews was extending less into Jewish communities elsewhere than into other, non-Jewish but disaffected Roman possessions. Jewish commentators reported with bitterness that all over the empire, those hostile to the Jews saw the revolt as an excuse for further outbreaks of violent hostility against them. To begin with, the experienced Romans on the spot considered the outbreaks to be containable; but the initial response by the prefect, Tineius Rufus, was soon revealed as inadequate. The attack on the Jews was prosecuted with the utmost savagery, yet the Romans failed to bring the campaign to a conclusion and Roman casualties began to reach un¬acceptable levels. It took the occupying forces too long to realise that the opposition was better organised, better sup¬ported and better provisioned than it ever had been before. It did not fight according to rules, nor did it wear a uniform, but it became obvious that there was, in effect, an army fighting for Judea. Slowly the numbers of Romans on the ground began to seem inadequate. For every rebel executed, another rose in his place. This intelligence was fed back to the emperor; finally he acted, and when he did it was with drastic measures. The emperor’s response to events in Judea was out of character. As the situation started to spin out of control, he appeared to have reacted too slowly to events as they were reported to him; and then, when he did act, he did so with atypical harshness and with little idea of the fighting conditions which would await his legions. He had taken part in difficult campaigns against the barbarian tribes of middle Europe, so he understood military tactics. But Judea was a very different place from the thick forests of Dacia, and the Jews quite different in psychology and motivation from the barbarian forces. The Romans’ opponents here were not so ill-prepared. Judea was a land largely of villages, not cities; its com¬munities were small and spread out, and it was hard to pinpoint where attacks were coming from and how they were being organised. Bar Kochba made certain that opportunities for large-scale engagements were impossible, forcing the Romans to re-organise themselves into small fighting units. The terrain was rough; bands of rebels appeared, attacked and were spirited into the landscape. Individual fighters were captured, tortured and put to death but no inroads were made into the hidden Jewish strongholds. For every village laid to waste by the Romans, another would produce its own small band of fighters. The Romans learned that their best-trained and best-equipped fighting forces might come to grief against partisans fighting on their own territory and for a cause for which they would willingly sacrifice themselves and their families. We Jews, centring our resistance in and around Jerusalem, had succeeded in liberating our country. This was a great victory. I greatly strengthened the City now with a third northern wall. Successful actions against the Romans gave us control of strategically important coastal lands. We confiscated imperial estates and redis¬tributed them to Jewish peasant communities. We issued our own Hebrew coinage, some of it created by over¬stamping existing Roman coins. It was an act of huge and inspiring significance. With the coinage now Hebrew, not Roman, the question formerly put to Jesus about the imperial coin, eliciting his ‘render to Caesar’ comment, had become completely redundant. Addition by Yehuda: I later learned from discussions in Egypt with Roman soldiers who had fought in this War that Simon Bar Kochba was a man greatly feared by them. The common soldiers imagined that he was a demigod, a Titan, of massive size, who could blow away his enemies by spewing fire from his mouth. Even some of the officers believed the same. They had all wondered if they had embarked upon a war that they could not possibly win, and that nothing less than a horrible death awaited them in the land. Meanwhile, Caesar had finally stabilised his position in Rome. The civil wars had petered out. And Rome once again turned its eagle eye towards Israel. General Titus was appointed as Commander-in-chief to prosecute the War. Meanwhile the treacherous Herod Agrippa had now joined the fight on the side of the Romans, as well, lending his own troops to the Roman war effort. His sister Berenice, with whom Herod Agrippa was said to have had incestuous relations, had become the mistress of Titus. The Romans began to bring in massive reinforcements, as well as bolstering up the legions of Rufus and Marcellus. From Egypt arrived the XXII Deitoriana. The III Cyrenaica, III Gallica and IV Scythia were also partially in¬volved, meaning that the fragile stability of the other eastern provinces was under threat with their diversion. Roman emperors had been destroyed by movements which started within the army, and many good generals suffering heavy losses and uncertainties had faced mutiny in the ranks. A protracted campaign was always a hazardous prospect and it seems extraordinary that the emperor, however provoked, should have become embroiled in such a war of attrition. So much of Rome’s pride and self-definition was sustained by the certainty of military pre-eminence; yet as war escalated in Judea, the whole empire watched and saw that mighty Rome could not prevail. Addition by Yehudah: The Roman army had two great fighting strengths. It could fight efficiently on the plain, in set-piece formation battles, and it had also developed the manoeuvrability and the advanced weaponry for hand-to-hand fighting in woods and forests, where the more crude spears, slings and long, hacking swords of opponents could not so easily be brought into play. The lethal short sword which the legionary was taught to use in a stabbing motion and the javelin thrown at a visible enemy were the standard weapons that made Roman soldiers so effective. Siege machines and the famous shield cover of the testudo had become the stuff of military legend, enabling legions to break down the defences of cities. But in Judea the Romans had to act within a military landscape very different from those in which they could invariably win the day. Skir¬mishes were fought in desert and hilly, inaccessible reaches with natural fortifications. Siege machines may have been used to gain access to groups established on hilly plateaux, but we insurgents also dug into a network of subterranean caves from which we could fight a most awkward war. As one historian would note: “The resistance fighters did not dare try conclusions with the Romans in the open field, but they occupied the advantageous positions in the country and strengthened them with mines and walls, in order that they might have places of refuge whenever they should be hard pressed, and might meet together unobserved under ground; and they pierced these subter¬ranean passages from above at intervals to let in air and light.” These subterranean passages had been developed by we Simonists and our allies over decades. Urgent recruitment campaigns were undertaken back in Italy, particularly aimed at the robust country boys who could endure the conditions of Judea. Senators toured the provinces, exacting a levy of young men to fight in the unpopular war. Emergency measures were set in place; sailors were trans¬ferred from their ships into military service. It was increasingly hard to hide the fact that Rome was embroiled in a military debacle. It was not a disaster – yet – but there were already significant losses of men and esteem, and the financial price of a prolonged campaign was beginning to bite back home. This was our great achievement! Rome even went so far as to summon its best general from Britain, to replace Tineius Rufus and to take control of the legions in the land. He was Sextus Julius Severus, the experienced and resolute governor of Britain. Severus turned out to be a terrible opponent, who sneered at my awesome reputation. He, appreciating better than any of his colleagues, that the standard Roman military tactics would not bring about a victory in the land, at least not soon, determined to crush the very life out of the land, from one end to the other; a distance of some 1600 stadia. It was clear by now that every effort was necessary to restore power, and that the months of travel which would be necessary to move Severus to the east were not likely to see any resolution of the situation. Severus crossed Europe during autumn and winter and arrived in the Judea sometime in midwinter, bringing his own troops with him to add to the forces now in place. His only brief, as we came to learn, was to annihilate the resistance, by whatever means were necessary. He turned out to be a formidable opponent, indeed, quick to adapt. Addition by Yehudah: Sextus Julius Severus would quickly rule out the possibility of conventional warfare, instigating forceful counter-insurgency measures; his aim, he said, was to ‘crush, exhaust and exterminate’ the Jews by starvation, enclosure and ambush. Given that it was impossible to identify more than a few clear military bases, the vast Roman army set about destroying the entire population of Galilee and Judea. Severus’s long march afforded us substantial time in Judaea to dig in for hard resistance against the Romans. When finally Severus arrived, he galvanised the Roman war effort with great skill. Re-visiting the northern places that Vespasian had attacked, Severus now began to starve out the inhabitants who had taken refuge in strongholds and desert caves, taking with them any valuable documents including my correspondences with them. The new wave of more competent Roman forces overran Galilee once again and destroyed towns and villages controlled by John of Gischala. He was forced to flee in dire haste for his life, he and his band, out of Galilee, with the Romans hotly in pursuit of them. Thus he fled ignominiously to Jerusalem. But the cunning wretch typically failed to tell the Jerusalemites what had really happened in Galilee, pretending that he was simply marching to Jerusalem to strengthen the resistance against the Romans. John had captured my Helena and had brought her with him into Jerusalem. He would use her as his bargaining tool to lure me into the City, so as to destroy me as he hoped. Such was the insane madness of the man, who, in a time of capital crisis in the land, was incapable of thrusting aside personal ambitions for the sake of uniting with my forces against the invader. Addition by Yehudah: As it was written. “Simon stayed contemptuously aloof from the Jewish authorities, firstly in Masada, and then in the hill country, and he proclaimed liberty for those in slavery, and a reward to those already free. He gathered power quickly as more people and influential men joined him. He soon dared to venture into the flatlands, constructed a fort in a village called Nain, and stored food and booty in caves. It was obvious that he prepared to attack Jerusalem. However, Simon first attacked Idumea and his intimidating army met no real resistance. He marched into Hebron, robbed the grain stores of towns and villages, and plundered the countryside in order to feed his vast troops. By this time, he was followed by forty thousand people not including his soldiers. Simon’s success began worrying the Zealots in Jerusalem. Since they did not dare fight in open battle, they laid an ambush”. What most worried me at the time – even more than the effective generalship of Severus – was the fact that John of Gischala was holding my Helena in Jerusalem. And he kept feeding out to me reports that they were making sport of her. I realised that this was a trap to induce me to lay down my arms and surrender. But I knew that Helena, proud like Queen Jezebel, would want me to be defiant to the last, as I knew she would be. I was now filled with a daimonic rage. Leaving my fort, I marched on Jerusalem, taking captive everyone whom I found trying to leave the City. I tortured some and killed others, sending them back into the city with the message that I would do likewise to all Jerusalem if they did not let Helena go free. Addition by Yehudah: John of Gischala had set himself up as a despotic ruler after overthrowing lawful authority. In order to get rid of him, the Jerusalem authorities now, finally, decided to ask Simon to enter the city and drive John away. The people were now appropriately acclaiming Simon as the savior and guardian that he truly was. On the eve of Simon’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, there was a storm the likes of which none of us had ever witnessed before. And, accompanying this, there were terrifying heavenly manifestations of gilded soldiers and angels in the skies above the City, with their loud cries and warfare adding to the terrible din of the storm. The ground shook and everyone trembled. Surely this was a foreboding omen. There was a terrifying storm on the eve of my victorious entrance into Jerusalem. It was accompanied by awesome heavenly manifestations. Heaven and earth shook unnaturally. Whilst the people cowered in fear, I knew that the whole thing was a cosmic portending of my arrival, at last, as the messianic star, the conqueror and savior of Jerusalem. Addition by Yehudah: I shall never forget the proud Simon in this moment of jubilation for him. He wore on his face an expression of pure triumph and joy, by contrast with the terror and fear manifested by the rest of us. He knew that his star of destiny had finally arrived and that it stood right above Jerusalem. But this was to be the last that I ever saw of Simon and how I shall ever remember him. In the chaos of the storm, and amidst skirmishes outside the city, we became separated. Simon had always urged me to finish his memoirs. Amenophe and I were together, and we fled with several others to the fort of Masada. And it was there that I was able to write most of this history. Eventually letters came from Simon in Jerusalem bidding Amenophe and me to go to Alexandria and there try to stir up support for our cause. We promptly went to Egypt, hoping to catch up again with our friend, Tiberius Julius Alexander. Instead we were captured by the Romans and thrown into prison. There, and upon my release, I, Yehudah ben Manashe, was able to complete this, my story of the life of the messiah, Simon Bar Kochba. The rest of what I have to write can be gleaned only from snippets of information that I have been able to gather, as events now would become extremely murky and lost in the mists of legends. And, anyway, other histories of the Roman siege of Jerusalem have already been written. Simon, acclaimed by the people as their savior and guardian, was ushered into the city by friends under cover of the violent storm. They hailed him as “King of the Jews”, yet John of Gischala continued to control most of the city. Resisting both were fanatical Zealots, who turned the Temple itself into a citadel and anticipated divine deliverance at the final hour. John the Beloved and his fellow witness were also confined in the City, preaching woe and urging surrender. There are various tales about what happened to them. According to one account, John was spirited out of Jerusalem by some friends in a coffin, and thereby went to the Romans to beg them to spare the City. Other sources tell that he was killed by a stone from a Roman catapult whilst inside Jerusalem during the siege. Yet another account has it that John was slain by the Jews, who left him unburied, and greatly celebrated his demise. But that he afterwards rose up before their very eyes. Factional strife ceased only when Titus’s four legions besieged the city for five months but by then the situation had become hopeless. Eventually breaching the formidable walls of the city, the Romans overwhelmed the hungry defenders. The Temple itself was burned to the ground and the city gutted. A few hundred Sicarii extremists continued resistance further south, in the fortress palace of Massada. But after a three year siege they, too, were defeated. Their mass suicide is renowned. That, too, would have been the fate of Amenophe and me had we remained in Masada. As for the noble Simon, well there are various accounts of his fate as well. One is that he was captured by the Romans and beheaded, and that his head was paraded in front of the Roman commander and his jubilant troops. Rumour has it that a great serpent was coiled round Bar Kochba’s neck, and that the Roman commander is supposed to have looked on it with some awe, saying, ‘If this god had not killed him, who could have overcome him?’ But the account that I believe to be true is that Simon escaped into one of the subterranean passages of the city that he himself had built by means of stonecutters. Clothed in the garments of a Jewish king and messiah he rose out of the ground at the very spot where the Temple had stood, filling the Romans who witnessed this with a terrible fear and dread.

I believe that he is still alive.


Not so. The real story is that Simon Superstar was captured by the Romans and paraded in their triumphal procession in Rome, being scourged all the way. Then, when the procession reached the Temple of Jupiter, he was summarily executed. Jesus the Christ, the real Messiah, had led all of his enemies – including death – in his own triumphal procession to the Cross, and had nailed them to it. Whereas He had then risen into glory, the one whom Pilate had released in his stead, Simon Barabbas, the false messiah, had risen from the ruins of Jerusalem only to meet with an ignominious death. [A large part of ben Menashe’s ‘history’ of Bar Kochba towards the end of the above article has been taken almost verbatim from Elizabeth Speller’s Following Hadrian, Headline Book Publishing, 2002, pp. 193-201].

13th October 2011


Profiling Barabbas


Damien F. Mackey

Barabbas was born Simon (or Simeon) Bar Abbas. He was the son of a Samaritan convert to Judaism, whose non-Hebrew name was Antonius. His mother was Rachel. Simon Barabbas was thus known as ‘Simon Son of the Proselyte’, or Simon Bar Giora (Bar Piora). The family was somewhat eclectic: Samaritan, Jew.

Hence, Simon – like so many ‘Jews’ of the time – was influenced by the great John the Baptist. He was baptised with water.

But, again like many in Israel at that time, he held a view of messiahship that was radically unlike that being heralded by the Baptist (although it would become properly manifest only in Jesus), leading to a “Lamb of God”. So Barabbas, as a young man – approximately during the ministry of John and the public ministry of Jesus of Nazareth – became involved, as a leader, in a popularist uprising against the secular powers (Rome and the Herods), hoping to restore to Israel the glorious Davidic era. In the course of his military actions, Barabbas robbed and murdered.  But he was well-known and well-received amongst many of the Jews. Perhaps he was then something of a Robin Hood type, favouring the poor – though also quite murderous. Anyway, the revolt was quashed by the Romans who imprisoned him, only for Pilate famously to release Barabbas during the Trial of Jesus and unjustly to condemn the Nazarene.

Barabbas then grew in fame and popularity and was considered the people’s hero. This charismatic rebel was as if a Messiah to them. And this began to go to his head.

We next meet him as Simon the Magus, the famous magician, who had (Acts 8:9-10) “previously practised magic in the city [of Samaria] and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, ‘This man is the power of God that is called Great’.” Nonetheless, our eclectic subject was highly impressed by the Pentecostal Apostles, just as he had formerly been by John the Baptist. And so he asked for, and received, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, apparently at the hands of Philip. It was then, too, that he received the further name of Bar-Jesus, here meaning a ‘Disciple of Jesus’.

Unfortunately, however, Barabbas was – like Judas Iscariot – a self-serving type of Christian, who sought to make gain out of his discipleship. He was now akin to the seemingly pious Christian who sets himself up as a visionary and gains a large following as a seer and wonderworker. So was this Simon. He was the classical example of those of whom the Lord had spoken who had once been set free from “the unclean spirit”, but whose clean and swept house was later to be re-occupied by the same spirit bringing with it “seven other spirits more evil than itself” (Matthew 12:43, 44, 45).

According to Tradition, also, Simon had “studied Greek literature in Alexandria, and, having in addition to this great power in magic, [he] became so ambitious that he wished to be considered a highest power, higher even than the God who created the world. And sometimes he “darkly hinted” that he himself was Christ, calling himself the Standing One, which name he used to indicate that he would stand for ever, and had no cause in him for bodily decay.

We recall that the magician was highly charismatic and popular, but only through the agency of the Devil. Saint Peter had Simon well worked out and warned him (Acts 8:21-23); “… your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness”. It was a warning that seemed to shake the magician (v. 24): “Pray for me to the Lord that nothing of what you have said may happen to me”. Saint Paul was even stronger, straight out calling the magician “You Son of the Devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy”, no stronger term being imaginable (Acts 13:10). For the magician, now in Paphos, was attempting to lure away from the Gospel the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus (vv. 7-8). As Paul had once been, the magician was struck blind for a while (v. 11). But Paul had been a sincere apologist against Christianity. Simon was not sincere.  Simon had now become a full scale heresiarch, preaching an eclectic Judaeo-Christian-pagan Syro-Babylonian from of syncretic religious mysticism. Some say that he was the first Gnostic. I would agree with this. Much of his thought, as explained by the Church Fathers, strikes me as Platonic ethereal. It probably had a heavy dose of Samaritanism, too, which would not be surprising given Simon’s Samarian background.  In fact, Simon Magus is said to have exalted Mount Gerizim in Samaria over Mount Zion, as the Samaritans did. I think that discerning scholars might also discover roots of Islamic thinking here, since the Hagarists have argued for a profound Samaritan influence in Islam.

Whereas true religion has the New Adam and the New Eve, the eclectic mystery religion instituted by Simon (or, rather, the Devil) also had a notable woman as a consort to the notorious Simon. This was Helena. She would be a good candidate for Saint John’s “that woman Jezebel” (Revelation 2:20). In the ancient accounts of Simon there is a large portion common to almost all forms of Gnostic myths, together with something special to this form. They have in common the place in the work of creation assigned to the female principle, the conception of the Deity; the ignorance of the rulers of this lower world with regard to the Supreme Power; the descent of the female (Sophia) into the lower regions, and her inability to return. Special to the Simonian tale is the identification of Simon himself with the Supreme, and of his consort Helena with the female principle. Hippolytus says the free love doctrine was held by [the Simonians] in its purest form, and speaks in language similar to that of Irenaeus about the variety of magic arts practiced by the Simonians, and also of their having images of Simon and Helen under the forms of Zeus and Athena. But he also adds, “if any one, on seeing the images either of Simon or Helen, shall call them by those names, he is cast out, as showing ignorance of the mysteries.”

So Simon even apparently made his mark in Rome. In other words, he had now become a famous world figure and wonderworker. As Roman oppression increased, though, and the Jews became ever more restless, they fomented the so-called First Jewish Revolt during which Simon was a – if not the – key figure. And he was for a while spectacularly successful. He was obviously a military leader of some considerable talent. No doubt he had learned much from the Romans themselves. As Simon Bar Giora he must have assumed some sort of governance in Israel, having minted his own coins depicting “The Redemption of Zion”, exactly as did Simon Bar Kochba, a captain who also had his own magical tricks, ostensibly blowing away his enemies with fire spewing from his mouth. One of his many magician’s tricks!

Simon was by now a King-Messiah, a pseudo-christ.

Every dog has his day. Simon Superstar prevailed against the Romans for three and a half years. Then he lost everything: his dream; his City; his Temple; his powers; and his life. He was one of those fire-spewing leaders whom the true Christ had publicly paraded in his triumphal procession, slaying him with the breath of his mouth – God’s little Lamb prevailing over the mighty dragon.

Such is ever to be the fate of the false christ.

Barabbas “Son of Perdition”

“Give us Barabbas!”, from The Bible and its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons, 1910



Damien F. Mackey


So, who was Barabbas? Where did He come from? Where did He go?

These three questions that we read at: http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2009/09/who-is-barabbas.html

will engage our interest in this article, in which I try to imagine Barabbas beyond the little that we know about him from the Gospels. I shall endeavour to paint a much vaster portrait of Barabbas from other parts of the New Testament that I think could just possibly be referring to him. And also from history. I shall be concluding that Barabbas, far from being the uncouth and dirty oaf as he is often depicted (e.g. Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ), was a strong and charismatic revolutionary leader and a highly religious man, who sided with the common people and the poor. Hence he was a most worthy choice for the type of Messiah that the Jewish people were anticipating to free them from Roman dominance. Jesus Christ on the other hand, whose view of Messiahship was of the Suffering Servant type (of Isaiah 53), as explained by Pope Benedict XVI in his book on Jesus of Nazareth, was not the kind of Messiah that the majority expected (even in the case of St. Peter), or wanted, and hence the loud clamour for the release of the popular Barabbas.

  1. A.    As an Insurrectionist Leader and False Messiah



What we already know of Barabbas

Essentially this Barabbas was an insurrectionist and it may be in this context that he had murdered. Let us return to the above blog account of Barabbas for more information about him, firstly from the Scriptures:

All four of the gospels refer to Jesus’ fellow prisoner, Barabbas, by name. First, I’ll present the four accounts and then some commentary:

Matthew 17:15-26:

Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered  together, Pilate said unto them, “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?” For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask for Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, “Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?” They said, “Barabbas.” Pilate saith unto them, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” They all say unto him, “Let him be crucified.” And the governor said, “Why, what evil hath he done?” But they cried out the more, saying, “Let him be crucified.” When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.” Then answered all the people, and said, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Mark similarly provides an account. Mark 15:6-15:

Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired. And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them. But Pilate answered them, saying, “Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. And Pilate answered and said again unto them, “What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” Then Pilate said unto them, “Why, what evil hath he done?” And they cried out the more exceedingly, “Crucify him.” And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.

Luke also has an account. Luke 23:13-25:

And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, “Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: no, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him.” (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) And they cried out all at once, saying, “Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:” (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.) Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying, “Crucify him, crucify him.” And he said unto them the third time, “Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.” And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.

Finally, John also has the account. John 18:38-19:16 Pilate saith unto him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, “I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” Then cried they all again, saying, “Not this man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber. ….

There are no further references to Barabbas in the text of the New Testament.

Then follows a summary of this:

[Barabbas] was a robber (John’s account), a notable prisoner (Matthew’s account), someone who had (with others who were also imprisoned) made an insurrection/ sedition and committed murder in the insurrection (Mark’s and Luke’s accounts). So, this man was a true brigand and a captain of them. His name appears to be taken from “bar abba” meaning “son of the father” (although some have suggested “bar rabbi” meaning “son of the teacher.”

Supposedly, He participated in the ‘insurrection’, – what “insurrection”? The “insurrection” wherein fanatically ‘religious’ Jews sought to overthrow Herod’s Roman supported ‘secular’ governance -in an unsuccessful attempt to re-establish the ancient ‘theocratic’ form of governance as was instituted by David’ (after the Lord rebuked the ‘anointed’ king Saul and replaced him with David?

Already this provides us with a broader possible view of Barabbas as a man who had led an insurrection against the pro-Roman government of the land in the hope of restoring a more theocratic type of rule as in the halçyon days of King David. Many Jews, especially the sicarii and those associated with them, would have thrilled to this idea.

Barabbas the brigand, yes; Jesus of Nazareth, no.

But the days of King David were long gone. And now Jesus the Son of David had arrived. And it was his form of Messiahship, and his form of governance and kingdom that God favoured. This meant that a revivified old Davidic form was no longer relevant, making of Barabbas a false messiah. Had not Jesus himself warned of the arrival of false Christs?

“For false messiahs [christs] and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Mathew 24:24; cf. Mark 13:22).

Indeed Barabbas was, as we shall find, the very epitome of one of these.

Our source tells of a view proposed by some today that Jesus and Barabbas – far from being true and false Messiahs, respectively – were actually one and the same person. Here is the outlandish argument followed by, thankfully, the rejection of it:

…. I was a little surprised to see a rather bizarre comment in my comment box attempting to promote a novel view:

The argument (Roland’s)

“Anathema” continues even unto this very day… to wit, ‘Christian’s’ regard towards “Jesus Barabbas” (originally written in the Greek Gospel according or attributed to Matthew (27:17). But is such regard justified?

Is the depiction, contained only in the Holy Gospels, of “Jesus Barabbas” accurate or true?

Standing on the stage of ecclesiastical history’s most dramatic and celebrated hour, like a potted plant of poison ivy, Jesus Barabbas said nothing whatsoever to anybody (nobody said anything to Him), -yet He is incongruently released (because Pontius Pilate honored a Jewish ‘custom’ -of releasing one prisoner during the Passover, -never before or since exercised).

Nevertheless, He is described as being “notorious”… to whom?

I’m sure young Saul of Tarsus had something to say (and do) when ‘the messiah’ came riding on an ass into Jerusalem that fateful day…

It certainly wasn’t “Jesus Barabbas”, -which, by the way, “Jesus” was His ‘name’, -”Barabbas” is what He was ‘called’. ‘Barabbas’ is not a surname (any more than is “Christ”), it is, rather, an Aramaic appellation, the meaning of which is: Bar = Son + Abba = Father (as in the Father of us all or ‘God’).


[Signed] Roland, a reluctant iconoclast.


Rejection of it

There are numerous errors in this comment. First, the name is just Barabbas (not “Jesus Barabbas”). Second, the fact that we don’t have any historical record to which to tie this particular notorious criminal is hardly surprising: we don’t have any significant records of the crimes of the day – so treating historical silence as significant is an error. Third, the whole comment is riddled with misplaced sarcasm and innuendo, compounding those errors through what seems to be some sort of iconoclastic pride. I have no idea who Roland is (or why he was using the handle “Barabbas126″ to post the comment), but I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has encountered this same deviant view anywhere else. Actually, we are going to consider later (in B.) that Barabbas did in fact also have a ‘Jesus’ name – though it was an adopted name, not how he was originally called.

Pitiful little is known about our character under the identity of Barabbas. Our source has come up with just these bits and pieces from further research: I scanned through the early church writers to see if there were any interesting legends about him. I mostly came up empty. Tertullian describes him as “the most abandoned criminal” (Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 42) Cyril of Alexandria describes him as “a notorious robber” and “a dangerous and brutal criminal, [who was] not free from blood-guiltiness” (Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, at John 18:40) Augustine calls him “the robber,” “the murderer,” and “the destroyer [of life]“(Augustine, Tractate 116 on John’s Gospel, at John 19:1) Even Faustus (whom Augustine opposed) called him “the notorious robber” (Faustus quoted in Augustine’s Reply to Faustus, Book 14, Section 1) Chrysostom provides a characteristically colorful description:

“For which was right? to let go the acknowledged criminal, or Him about whose guilt there was a question? For, if in the case of acknowledged offenders it was fit there should be a liberation, much more in those of whom there was a doubt. For surely this man did not seem to them worse than acknowledged murderers. For on this account, it is not merely said they had a robber; but one noted, that is, who was infamous in wickedness, who had perpetrated countless murders”.

- Chrysostom, Homily 86 on Matthew, Section 2, at Matthew 27:11-12

On the whole, though, the early church basically leaves Barabbas alone. A couple (Origen and Rabanius) describe him as figuring the Devil, while Pseudo-Jerome goes so far as to associate him with the scapegoat which was freed. I’m told the “Gospel According to the Hebrews” is an apocryphal work that takes the “son of the teacher” interpretation as opposed to “son of the father,” but generally the apocryphal works also pretty much leave him alone or simply parrot the canonical accounts. Gill provides similar comments, and adds:

“The Ethiopic version adds, “the prince”, or “chief of robbers, and all knew him”; and the Arabic, instead of a “prisoner”, reads, a “thief”, as he was”.

He also points out that this name was a common name among the Jews, providing various citations to folks by that name. There does not seem to be much more out there on him.

[End of quotes]

Now, supplementing this with Wikipedia’s  article, “Barabbas”


we read that:

Barabbas is a figure in the Christian narrative of the Passion of Jesus, in which he is the insurrectionary whom Pontius Pilate freed at the Passover feast in Jerusalem.

The penalty for Barabbas’ crime was death by crucifixion, but according to the four canonical gospels and the non-canonical Gospel of Peter there was a prevailing Passover custom in Jerusalem that allowed or required Pilate, the praefectus or governor of Judaea, to commute one prisoner’s death sentence by popular acclaim, and the “crowd” (ochlos) — which has become “the Jews” and “the multitude” in some translations — were offered a choice of whether to have Barabbas or Jesus Christ released from Roman custody. According to the closely parallel gospels of Matthew (27:15-26), Mark (15:6-15), and Luke (23:13–25), and the more divergent accounts in John (18:38-19:16) and the Gospel of Peter, the crowd chose Barabbas to be released and Jesus of Nazareth to be crucified. A passage found only in the Gospel of Matthew has the crowd saying, “Let his blood be upon us and upon our children”.[1]

The story of Barabbas has special social significances, because it has historically been used to lay the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus on the Jews, and to justify anti-Semitism—an interpretation dismissed by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2011 book … [2][3]

Biblical record

Matthew refers to Barabbas only as a “notorious prisoner.”[4] Mark and Luke further refer to Barabbas as one involved in a stasis, a riot.[5] John 18:40 refers to Barabbas as a lēstēs (“bandit”), “the word Josephus always employs when talking about Revolutionaries”, Robert Eisenman observes.[6]

Three gospels state that there was a custom at Passover during which the Roman governor would release a prisoner of the crowd’s choice: Mark 15:6; Matthew 27:15; and John 18:39. Later copies of Luke contain a corresponding verse (Luke 23:17), though it is not present in the earliest manuscripts, and may be a later gloss to bring Luke into conformity.[7] The gospels differ on whether the custom was a Roman one or a Jewish one, as part of the Jubilee.[8]

No custom of releasing prisoners in Jerusalem is recorded in any historical document other than the gospels. An Ancient Roman celebration called Lectisternium involved feasting and sometimes included a temporary removal of the chains from all prisoners.[9] However, J. Blinzler associates Barabbas’ release with a passage in the Mishna Peshahim 8,6 which says that the Passover lamb may be offered ‘for one whom they have promised to bring out of prison’. (J. Blinzler, The Trial of Jesus, 1959, pp218ff.)


Barabbas’ name appears as bar-Abbas in the Greek texts. It is derived ultimately from the Aramaic בר-אבא, Bar-abbâ, “son of the father”. According to early Greek texts, Barabbas’ full name was Jesus Barabbas.[10] Later texts shorten his name to just Barabbas.

Abba has been found as a personal name in a 1st-century burial at Giv’at ja-Mivtar, and Abba also appears as a personal name frequently in the Gemara section of the Talmud, dating from AD 200–400.[11] These findings support “Barabbas” being used to indicate the son of a person named Abba or Abbas (a patronymic).

….Bar-Abbas is a well intentioned believer whose actions in a Jewish resistance movement make him a kind of Dietrich Bonhoeffer figure. His heroics, and the type of resistance he sought, are what led the crowds to call for his release over the more passive resistance offered by Yeshua of Nazareth.[12]


Benjamin Urrutia, co-author of The Logia of Yeshua: The Sayings of Jesus … opposes the notion that Jesus may have either led or planned a violent insurrection. Jesus was a strong advocate of “turning the other cheek” – which means not submission but strong and courageous, though nonviolent, defiance and resistance. Jesus, in this view, must have been the planner and leader of the Jewish nonviolent resistance to Pilate’s plan to set up Roman Eagle standards on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The story of this successful resistance is told by Josephus — who does not say who the leader was ….

[End of quote]

Now there is a very strange story that we read in Flaccus’ account of the writings of Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of the Apostles, about a certain Carabbas, that seems to be a confusion of Barabbas (the name) and the mistreatment and mockery of Jesus and his kingship. The whole thing is wrongly taken as being totally unrelated to the incident recorded in the Gospels – but I would consider it to be a later reference (albeit grossly distorted) to the trial and mistreatment of Jesus Christ:

Writings of Philo of Alexandria, Flaccus, VI:36-39:

36: There was a certain madman named Carabbas … this man spent all his days and nights naked in the roads, minding neither cold nor heat, the sport of idle children and wanton youths; 37: and they, driving the poor wretch as far as the public gymnasium, and setting him up there on high that he might be seen by everybody, flattened out a leaf of papyrus and put it on his head instead of a diadem, and clothed the rest of his body with a common door mat instead of a cloak and instead of a sceptre they put in his hand a small stick of the native papyrus which they found lying by the wayside and gave to him; 38: and when, like actors in theatrical spectacles, he had received all the insignia of royal authority, and had been dressed and adorned like a king, the young men bearing sticks on their shoulders stood on each side of him instead of spear-bearers, in imitation of the bodyguards of the king, and then others came up, some as if to salute him, and others pretending to wish to consult with him about the affairs of the state. 39: Then from the multitude of those who were standing around there arose a wonderful shout of men calling out Maris!; and this is the name by which it is said that they call the king of the Syrians; for they knew that Agrippa was by birth a Syrian, and also that he was possessed of a great district of Syria of which he was the sovereign ….

Cf. Matthew 17:

26: Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. 27: Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. 28: And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. 29: And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!



Finally, I should like to recall a tradition – most important for this article – that: “Some sources also say that [Barabbas] was later killed while taking part in another revolt against the Romans”.

referred to in various places on the Net according to which Barabbas later fell into the hands of the Romans again (http://www.gospel-mysteries.net/barabbas.html)


Conclusion 1. A More Complete Barabbas

Buzz words for Barabbas: He was notable or notorious, an insurrectionist/murderer, a leader or captain, a fanatically religious Jew, a believer, who resisted the Romans and the Herods, and who wished to return to a theocratic state as of old. He was imprisoned by the Romans, but set free by Pontius Pilate. Later he fell into the hands of the Romans again. He was also designated a prince and a false messiah figuring the Devil.

We now pass from traditions relating to Barabbas – presumably more or less true – to speculation as to who else he may have been based largely on the descriptions offered by these buzz words.

What may have been Barabbas’s alter egos in the New Testament and in history?

I am going to propose that the rebel’s name was actually Simon, Simon Barabbas (‘Simon Son of Abbas’). In so doing, we can align him with various supposedly individual characters of the name Simon (albeit a most common Jewish name) who figure in the New Testament and in Jewish history; colourful characters indeed who fit the above buzz words.

Our first match will be with the notorious Simon Bar Giora, who led the insurrection against Rome in 66-69 AD (conventional dating). Simon Bar Giora immediately fits our Simon Barabbas as to (a) name structure; (b) chronological range; as a (c) charismatic revolutionary leader; (d) a possible or would-be “prince”, (e) fiercely religious, who (f) resisted the Romans. Another key factor, as we shall read, is that Simon Bar Giora had previous ‘form’ as a bandit, “already apparently known as a partisan leader”. So, we can imagine him as a young man, as Barabbas, and later as a fully mature Bar Giora, now of vast experience (and wickedness).

Now, previously, I had in various articles identified this Simon Bar Giora with the even more famous Simon Bar Kochba (‘Son of the Star’). Though history separates Bar Giora (First Jewish Revolt) from Bar Kochba (Second Jewish Revolt) by some six decades or so, I have argued that there was in fact only the one major Jewish revolt. The 66-70 AD revolt had been so devastating for the land of Israel and its people, and for Jerusalem, that it is hard to imagine that there could have arisen such another major revolt merely a generation and a half later – and still with reference to the Temple. (We shall read below: “Despite the devastation wrought by the Romans during the First Jewish-Roman War … which left the population and countryside in ruins …”). Common to the two (supposedly) revolts that history books describe, the Jews against Rome, was (i) a leader, Simon; (ii) an Eleazer; and (iii) an approximately 3 years duration. Above all, it is apparent from Bar Kochba’s coins that the Temple was still standing in his day and that the Ark of the Covenant was still in it! (“These coins tell us more. In the first place, they show us the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant inside it”. See below).

Moreover, my previous argument was that St. John’s Roman persecutor, some say Nero, some say Domitian, was one and the same emperor, Nero Domitianus. Domitian is frequently referred to as Nero Redivivus. In this way, I have historically ‘folded’ Bar Giora’s 66 AD revolt with Bar Kochba’s 132 AD revolt. Elsewhere I have tentatively put a case for Nero’s also being the emperor Hadrian (both Grecophiles, great builders, homosexual, and vicious). Both sent their best general, who had experience in Britain, to crush a Jewish revolt.

This composite scenario that I am envisaging now lands us with a plethora of Simon Bartype names (Bar Abbas; Bar Giora and Bar Kochba) for our leading character. I tentatively suggest that the character’s original name was Simon Bar Abbas (Barabbas), that Bar Giora, variously Bar Piora (‘Son of a Proselyte’), was how he was sometimes described, and we know (and shall read below) that Bar Kochba was the messianic name given to him by his great admirer, Rabbi Akiba.

Simon bar Giora

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_bar_Giora“)

Simon bar Giora (alternatively known as Simeon bar Giora or Simon ben Giora or Shimon bar Giora) d. 70 CE, was a leader of revolutionary forces during the First Jewish-Roman War in the 1st century Judea.


Simon bar Giora first became notable in the First Jewish-Roman War, when Roman troops marched towards Jerusalem in 66. Simon helped in defeating the advance by attacking from the north.[1] He put the hindmost of the army into disorder, and carried off many of the beasts that carried the weapons of war, and led them into the city. However, he was rejected a commanding position by the Jerusalem authorities, for they did not want a popular leader of a rebellious peasantry if they were to moderate the revolt and negotiate with the Romans.[2] As a result, Simon gathered a large number of revolutionaries and started robbing houses of wealthy people in the district of Acrabbene:

But as for the Acrabbene toparchy, Simon, the son of Gioras, got a great number of those that were fond of innovations together, and betook himself to ravage the country; nor did he only harass the rich men’s houses, but tormented their bodies, and appeared openly and beforehand to affect tyranny in his government. And when an army was sent against him by Artanus, and the other rulers, he and his band retired to the robbers that were at Masada.[2]

Simon stayed safe from the Jewish authorities in Masada until Ananus ben Ananus was killed in the Zealot Temple Siege, after which he left the fortress for the hill country and proclaimed liberty for those in slavery, and a reward to those already free. He gathered power quickly as more people and influential men joined him. He soon dared to venture into the flatlands, constructed a fort in a village called Nain, and stored food and booty in caves. It was obvious that he prepared to attack Jerusalem.[3] However, Simon ben Giora first attacked Idumea and his intimidating army met no real resistance. He marched into Hebron, robbed the grain stores of towns and villages, and plundered the countryside in order to feed his vast troops. By this time, he was followed by forty thousand people not including his soldiers.[3] Simon’s success began worrying the Zealots in Jerusalem. Since they did not dare fight in open battle, they lay an ambush, capturing his wife and some of her entourage. They expected Simon to lay down his weapons in exchange for her freedom. However, Simon grew very angry, went to Jerusalem and took everybody leaving the city captive. Some he tortured, some he killed and he cut of the hands of others, sending them back into the city with the message that he would do likewise to all Jerusalem if his wife was not released. This frightened the Zealots so immensely that they eventually let her go.[3]

In spring 69 the advancing Roman army forced Simon ben Giora to retreat to Jerusalem,[4] where he camped outside the city walls and once again began harassing people. Within Jerusalem, John of Giscala had set himself up as a despotic ruler after overthrowing lawful authority in the Zealot Temple Siege. In order to get rid of him, the Jerusalem authorities decided to ask Simon to enter the city and drive John away. Acclaimed by the people as their savior and guardian, Simon was admitted.[5] With fifteen thousand soldiers at hand Simon soon controlled the whole upper city and some of the lower city. John held parts of the lower city and the temple’s outer court with six thousand men and a third splinter group of twenty-four hundred men controlled the temple’s inner court.[6] Factions fought vigorously over the control of Jerusalem, always trying to destroy each other’s grain stores to starve each other into submission.[4] This internal fighting later proved disastrous: not only was this a sabbatical year (with less grain available), but the city was under siege by the time the harvest began.[6] Nevertheless, of the leaders of the rebellion, Simon in particular was regarded with reverence and awe.[7] By his authority, coins were minted declaring the redemption of Zion.[8]

Just before Passover in 70 CE Titus began the siege of Jerusalem. He quickly took down the first and second wall, but then met fierce resistance[4] as the factions within Jerusalem realized the necessity of joining forces.[9] However, Simon and John both upheld their reigns of terror over the citizens, causing many to flee to the Romans. To counteract these desertions, Simon put every potential betrayer, including some of his previous friends, to death.[4] In August 70, five months after the siege began, Jerusalem fell to Titus. Simon escaped into the subterranean passages of the city. By means of stonecutters he tried to dig away into freedom, but ran out of food before he could finish. Clothed in the garments of a Jewish king he rose out of the ground at the very spot where the temple had stood,[10] was taken prisoner and brought to Rome.[11]


Like kings of other countries Simon was displayed during the triumphal procession and put to death near the Temple of Jupiter at the Tarpeian Rock.[12]

To supplement this, here now is a Jewish account of Simon Bar Giora


BAR GIORA, SIMEON, Jewish military leader in the war against Rome (66–70 C.E.). Simeon was born, according to Josephus, in *Gerasa, a large Hellenistic city in Transjordan, where the Jews lived in peace with the city’s non-Jewish population. Some scholars, however, identify his birthplace with the village of Jerash in the neighborhood of Hartuv (Press, Ereẓ, 1 (19512), 174, S.V. Geresh), others with Kefar Jorish near Shechem on the grounds that Simeon’s activity began in its vicinity, i.e., in the province of Acrabatene. Since the word giora means proselyte in Aramaic, many scholars hold that his father was a convert to Judaism. The main source of information about Simeon is Josephus who is to be treated with circumspection, especially where an appraisal of the man and his activities are concerned, since Josephus entertained feelings of intense animosity toward him. Simeon, already apparently known as a partisan leader, first distinguished himself in the battle at Beth-Horon against *Cestius Gallus (66 C.E.), in which the Jews inflicted a crushing defeat on the Roman army. Despite this achievement, however, Simeon was relegated to the background, since in Jerusalem the moderate party in control was disposed to come to terms with Rome. Simeon gathered around him a band of ardent patriots and, according to Josephus, engaged in brigandage. It is obvious, however, even from Josephus’ own biased account, that these acts of “brigandage” were military operations conducted by the rebels under the leadership of Simeon against their internal enemies, opponents of the revolt, and sympathizers with Rome. In retaliation for these operations, the forces of the moderate government in Jerusalem compelled Simeon to take refuge among the *Sicarii who, under the command of *Eleazar b. Jair, had captured *Masada. For a time Simeon remained with them, taking part in their raids. Subsequently leaving them, he parted company, and “terrorized” the southern part of Ereẓ Israel. Although growing increasingly stronger, he was unable to capture Jerusalem. The Zealots in Jerusalem, who were fearful of him, seized his wife but released her because of his threats. In addition to his continuous war against the party in control in Jerusalem, Simeon also fought against the Idumeans and succeeded in occupying Idumea with the help of supporters among the Idumeans themselves. Hebron, too, fell into his hands. In April 69 C.E. he entered Jerusalem, the gates of the city having been opened to him by the enemies of *John of Giscala, who had called on Simeon to come to their aid. Simeon thus gained control of the larger part of Jerusalem, both of the Upper and a considerable section of the Lower City. The struggle between Simeon and John of Giscala continued. Constant hostilities were waged between them in the city, and came to an end only when Titus’ forces reached the outskirts of Jerusalem (April 70 C.E.). Although all the rebels joined together during the siege to fight against the Romans and performed deeds of astounding bravery, the advantage enjoyed by the Roman army proved decisive. The Temple was burned and the devastated city captured by the enemy. Simeon and several of his most loyal friends hid in an underground passage among the ruins, but, unable to escape, Simeon finally surrendered to the Romans and was taken prisoner. The circumstances of his surrender were extremely strange. Josephus relates that Simeon suddenly appeared among the Temple ruins, as though out of the bowels of the earth, dressed in white and covered with a purple mantle. At the sight of him the Romans were terrified, but after recovering from their fear, bound him in chains. His strange appearance was probably connected with messianic expectations on his part; or by submitting to the victorious enemy he may have deliberately invited martyrdom. Simeon was led as a prisoner in the triumphal procession held in Rome by Vespasian and his sons to celebrate their victory over the Jews. Scourged all the way, he was taken to the Mamertine prison, at the northeast end of the Forum, and executed at the moment of the culmination of the triumph. That he and not John of Giscala played this part in the triumphal procession shows that the Romans regarded him as the most important leader in Jerusalem and as the rebel commander. This is evident from other extant information as well. His army was far larger than that of his rivals, having numbered about 15,000 at the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem. His soldiers were also the best organized and disciplined. The fact that he was invited to Jerusalem by the priests and the people may have provided him with some legal basis for his leadership, although not all the patriot elements recognized his authority. Since information about them is very sparse, it is difficult to comprehend and explain the basis of the conflict between their different parties. At times it is even difficult to distinguish between the parties themselves. Nevertheless, from extant information it would appear that Simeon b. Giora was the leader of a clear eschatological trend in the movement of rebellion against Rome, and possibly filled the role of “king messiah” within the complex of eschatological beliefs held by his followers. His exceptional bravery and daring, mentioned by Josephus, undoubtedly attracted many to him, and won him preeminence among the rebel leaders. In contrast to the bitter hostility that existed between him and John of Giscala, there was a measure of understanding between him and the Sicarii at Masada. Conspicuous among Simeon’s characteristics was the enmity he bore toward the rich and the sympathy he showed to the poor, even to the extent of freeing slaves. This approach of his doubtless had its origin in his party’s social outlook, opposed as it was to the existing order also in regard to the economic system and social justice.

Conclusion 2. Barabbas was Simon Bar Giora

Buzz words for Simon Bar Giora: These descriptions are perfect for Barabbas, a popular leader of a rebellious peasantry; already apparently known as a partisan leader; robber; people’s savior and guardian.

Perhaps even regarded with reverence and awe; torturer; and, ultimately, slain by Romans.

Added to this, we get these loftier elements government; significant army; coin minting re ‘Redemption of Zion’; Jewish king; messianic expectations on his part.

Now we pass on to who I believe was Simon Bar Giora’s alter ego in the Jewish Revolt against Rome:

Simon bar Kokhba

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_bar_Kokhba)

Shimon bar Kokhba (Hebrew: שמעון בר כוכבא‎, also transliterated as Bar Kochba) was the Jewish leader of what is known as the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE, establishing an independent Jewish state of Israel which he ruled for three years as Nasi (“Ruler”). His state was conquered by the Romans in 135 following a two-year war.

Documents discovered in the modern era … give us his original name, Simon ben Kosiba, (Hebrew: שמעון בן כוסבא‎) he was given the surname Bar Kokhba, (Aramaic for “Son of a Star”, referring to the Star Prophecy of Numbers 24:17, “A star has shot off Jacob”) by his contemporary, the Jewish sage Rabbi Akiva.

After the failure of the revolt, the rabbinical writers referred to bar Kokhba as “Simon bar Kozeba” (Hebrew: בר כוזיבא‎, “Son of lies” or “Son of deception”).

Third Jewish revolt

Bar Kochba silver Shekel/tetradrachm. Obverse: the Jewish Temple facade with the rising star, surrounded by “Shimon”. Reverse: A lulav, the text reads: “to the freedom of Jerusalem”

Bar Kochba silver Zuz/denarius. Obverse: trumpets surrounded by “To the freedom of Jerusalem“. Reverse: A lyre surrounded by “Year two to the freedom of Israel

Despite the devastation wrought by the Romans during the First Jewish-Roman War … which left the population and countryside in ruins, a series of laws passed by Roman Emperors provided the incentive for the second rebellion. The last straw was a series of laws enacted by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, including an attempt to prevent Jews from living in Jerusalem; a new Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, was to be built in its place. The second Jewish rebellion took place 60 years after the first and re-established an independent state lasting three years. For many Jews of the time, this turn of events was heralded as the long hoped for Messianic Age. The excitement was short-lived, however; after a brief span of glory, the revolt was eventually crushed by the Roman legions.

The state minted its own coins, known today as Bar Kochba Revolt coinage. These were inscribed “the first (or second) year of the redemption of Israel”. Bar Kokhba ruled with the title of “Nasi”. The Romans fared very poorly during the initial revolt facing a completely unified Jewish force (unlike during the First Jewish-Roman War, where Flavius Josephus records three separate Jewish armies fighting each other for control of the Temple Mount during the three weeks time after the Romans had breached Jerusalem’s walls and were fighting their way to the center).

A complete Roman legion with auxiliaries was annihilated. The new state knew only one year of peace. The Romans committed no fewer than twelve legions, amounting to one third to one half of the entire Roman army, to reconquer this now independent state. Being outnumbered and taking heavy casualties, the Romans refused to engage in an open battle and instead adopted a scorched earth policy which reduced and demoralized the Judean populace, slowly grinding away at the will of the Judeans to sustain the war.

Bar Kokhba took up refuge in the fortress of Betar. The Romans eventually captured it and killed all the defenders. According to Cassius Dio, 580,000 Jews were killed, 50 fortified towns and 985 villages razed. Yet so costly was the Roman victory that the Emperor Hadrian, when reporting to the Roman Senate, did not see fit to begin with the customary greeting “If you and your children are well, all is well. For I and the army are all in good health.” [1] He was the only Roman general known to have refused to celebrate his victory with a triumphal entrance into his capital.

In the aftermath of the war, Hadrian consolidated the older political units of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria into the new province of Syria Palaestina, which is commonly interpreted as an attempt to complete the disassociation with Judaea[2][3][4]

Over the past few decades, new information about the revolt has come to light, from the discovery of several collections of letters, some possibly by Bar Kokhba himself, in the Cave of Letters overlooking the Dead Sea.[5][6] These letters can now be seen at the Israel Museum.[7]

Let us now supplement this with a piece about Simon Bar Kochba under the heading of “Messianic claimaints” (http://www.livius.org/men-mh/messiah/messianic_claimants17.html):

 Coin of Simon ben Kosiba, showing the Temple with the Messianic star on the roof and the Ark of the Covenant inside (British Museum)

Simon ben Kosiba (132-135 CE)

Sources: ‘Abot de Rabbi Nathan A 38.3; Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 57a-58b; Genesis Rabbah 65.21 (on 27.22); Lamentations Rabbah 1.16 §45 and 2.2 §4; Palestinian Talmud, Ta’anit 4.5 (commenting on Mishna, Ta’anit 4.6); Palestinian Talmud, Nedarim 3.8 (commenting on Mishna, Nedarim 3.10-11a); Seder Elijah Rabbah 151; letters from Wadi Murabba`at (ed. P. Benoit, J.T. Milik and R. de Vaux); fifteen letters from Nahal Hever (ed. Yigael Yadin); Appian of Alexandria, Syrian war 50; Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.12.1-14.3; Eusebius, History of the church 4.5.2 and 4.6.1-4; Fronto, Letter to Marcus Aurelius; Historia Augusta, “Hadrian“, 14.2; Hieronymus, Commentary on Isaiah 2.15; Justin the Martyr, First apology 31.5-6 and Dialogue with the Jew Trypho 108.1-3 …. .   Comment: Jesus of Nazareth and Simon ben Kosiba are the only Jewish leaders who are positively identified as Messiahs in the Jewish sources: Jesus is explicitly called ‘Messiah’ by Flavius Josephus, Ben Kosiba in several rabbinical treatises. In order to understand the following text, it must be remembered that Ben Kosiba was known under two other names: his adherents called him Bar Kochba, ‘son of the star’ (a reference to Balaam’s prophecy); and his enemies called him Bar Kozeba, ‘son of the disappointment’ or ‘son of the lie’. The editor of the Palestinian Talmud clearly belonged to the second group. He tells: Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai taught: ‘Aqiba, my master, used to interpret a star goes forth from Jacob as a Kozeba goes forth from Jacob.‘ Rabbi Aqiba, when he saw Ben Kozeba, said: ‘This is the King Messiah.’ Rabbi Yohanan ben Torta said to him: ‘Aqiba! Grass will grow on your cheeks and still the Son of David does not come!’ (Palestinian Talmud, Ta`anit 4.5) This text contradicts itself. In the first line, rabbi Aqiba (the president of the rabbinical academy at Yavne and the official religious leader of the Judaean Jews) expresses that he is disappointed in Simon ben Kosiba, but in the second line he is very enthusiastic. The only way to solve this inconsistency, is to accept that the editor of the Palestinian Talmud has changed the text on two places. Because there are parallel texts (e.g., Lamentations Rabbah 2.2 §4), we may assume that the text originally ran like this: Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai taught: ‘Aqiba, my master, used to interpret a star goes forth from Jacob as a Kochba goes forth from Jacob.‘ Rabbi Aqiba, when he saw Ben Kosiba, said: ‘This is the King Messiah.’ Rabbi Yohanan ben Torta said to him: ‘Aqiba! Grass will grow on your cheeks and still the Son of David does not come!’ The editor of the Palestinian Talmud changed all references into ‘son of the disappointment’ (Kozeba), but, however the precise wording of this testimony, it is clear that Aqiba said that Simon ben Kosiba was the Messiah and was corrected by rabbi Yohanan ben Torta. If our reconstruction is sound, we know that he proposed to call him ‘son of the star’ (Bar Kochba). This nickname must have been very popular, because it is also used by the contemporary Christian authors Justin Martyr and Ariston of Pella: Barchochebas, the leader of the revolt of the Jews, gave orders that Christians alone should be led away to cruel punishments, unless they should deny Jesus as the Christ and blaspheme. [Justin, First apology 31.6] The Jews were lead by a certain Bar Chochebas, which means Star. [Ariston of Pella,  quoted by Eusebius, History of the Church 4.6.2]

A star is also what we see on the roof of the Temple, depicted on the coins which Simon ben Kosiba struck. All this can only mean that Simon ben Kosiba was indeed regarded as the man to whom Balaam’s prophecy was applied, the Messiah.

These coins tell us more. In the first place, they show us the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant inside it. This shows that the restoration of the Temple [sic] was one of the aims of the rebellion. This is not necessarily a messianic aim, but it was a popular theme in the decades preceding the war of 132-136. For instance, an Aramaic translation (a ‘targum’) of Isaiah53.5 written about 100 CE, adds the words ‘and the Messiah will build the sanctuary’.  Another point that deserves attention is the legend, which reads on the obverse ‘Simon, prince of Israel‘ and on the reverse ‘Year one of the redemption of Israel’. From the Amidah or Eighteen prayer, we know that the word ‘redemption’ had a very strong eschatological meaning. But it is not strictly messianic. On the other hand, the obverse legend can only be understood in a messianic sense, because the word ‘prince’ (Nasi) is a common synonym for Messiah. It is therefore very difficult not to interpret Simon’s coins as the coins of a Messiah.

Simon ben Kosiba wrote letters to his fellow rebels, several of which have been found by archaeologists. Again, he calls himself ‘prince’ (e.g, ‘On the twenty-eighth marhesvan of the third year of Simon ben Kosiba, prince of Israel…’).

Another aspect of Ben Kosiba’s career that becomes understandable when we know that he was recognized as the Messiah, is the description of a miracle fraud:

That famed Barchochebas, the instigator of the Jewish uprising, kept fanning a lighted blade of straw in his mouth with puffs of breath so as to give the impression that he was spewing out flames.

[Jerome, Against Rufinus 3.31]

This is of course a rationalization of a miracle story. The interesting point is that this type of miracle is exactly what the Messiah was expected to do:

Behold, when he saw the onrush of the approaching multitude, he neither lifted his hand nor held a spear or any weapon of war; but I saw how he sent forth from his mouth as it were a stream of fire, and from his lips a flaming breath, and from his tongue he shot forth a storm of sparks. All these were mingled together, the stream of fire and the flaming breath and the great storm, and fell on the onrushing multitide which was prepared to fight, and burnt them all up, so that suddenly nothing was seen of the innumerable multitude but only the dust of ashes and the smell of smoke.

[4 Ezra 13.9-11]

One final piece of evidence may be introduced. As we saw above, the contemporary Christian author Justin stated that Simon ben Kosiba ordered Christians to be ‘led away to cruel punishments, unless they should deny Jesus as the Christ and blaspheme’. This only makes sense when Ben Kosiba feared a rival Messiah.

Conclusion 3. Simon Bar Giora was Simon Bar Kochba

Buzz words for Simon Bar Kochba: These descriptions are perfect for Simon Bar Giora (Barabbas?), Jewish leader of a revolt against the Romans; government; significant army; coin minting re ‘Redemption of Zion’; even Jewish king and ruler; regarded with reverence; torturer; and, ultimately, slain by Romans. Most significantly, the Messianic element, hinted at in Bar Giora, becomes overt with Bar Kochba, as a messiah. New element here, opposed to Christ, cruel persecutor of Christians.

Note that the Temple and the Ark, supposedly obsolete, are depicted in Bar Kochba’s coinage.

In common with Barabbas, Bar Giora, Bar Kochba, is the trait of a popular and charismatic leader of rebellion against Rome, notoriety, theft, violence and murder. The progression from a small time bandit and revolutionary (Barabbas) to a strong leader of an armed force with priestly or messianic and even kingly pretensions, a minter of coins and controller of economy (Bar Giora), may actually represent the development and career of Barabbas from a young man to a hardened opponent of the Herods and Rome. And basically the description here of Bar Giora applies also to Bar Kochba, with even more emphasis on the governance and messianic aspects. But now, in the case of Bar Kochba, we encounter a new element as well: that of a miraculous wonder worker, perhaps a magician with a heavy dose of fake and charlatanism.

  1. B.    As a Magician with Roman Influence and False Messiah

This leads us inevitably to an evil magician and wonderworker of the New Testament of lofty ambition worthy of a Simon Bar Kochba, namely Simon Magus of the Acts of the Apostles. I shall also be double identifying the latter, by connecting him with the magician Bar Jesus (also given as Elymas) also of Acts. But, before we proceed with accounts of the New Testament magician and wonder worker, here is my basic explanation for the plethora of names for our leading character:

Original Names: Simon and Barabbas (Bar-Abbas).

Descriptions: Bar Giora (Piora), ‘Son of the Proselyte’; Magus (magician).

As a baptised Christian: Bar Jesus (can also mean Disciple of Jesus).

Greek name: Elymas [Atomas]

As a messiah figure: Bar Kosiba, Bar Kochba (‘Son of the Star’).

Derogatory Name: Bar Kozeba (‘Son of Deception’, ‘Son of Lies’).

If Simon Magus is also our composite Simon (beginning with Barabbas and ending with Bar Kochba), then he would serve to fill in the large gap (some 35 years?) between Barabbas and the Trial of Jesus on the one hand – when Barabbas first emerges in the Gospels – and, on the other hand, the rise of Simon Bar Giora in the 66 AD Jewish Revolt against Rome.

Here, then, is Wikipedia’s sometimes quite fanciful account of:

Simon Magus


Simon the Sorcerer or Simon the Magician, in Latin Simon Magus, (Greek Σίμων ὁ μάγος) was a Samaritan magus or religious figure and a convert to Christianity, baptised by Philip, whose later confrontation with Peter is recorded in Acts 8:9-24. The sin of simony, or paying for position and influence in the church, is named for Simon. The Apostolic Constitutions also accuses him of lawlessness.[1]

Surviving traditions about Simon appear in anti-heretical texts, such as those of Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius, where he is often regarded as the source of all heresies. Justin wrote that nearly all the Samaritans in his time were adherents of a certain Simon of Gitta, a village not far from Flavia Neapolis. Irenaeus held him as being one of the founders of Gnosticism and the sect of the Simonians.[2][3][4][5] Hippolytus quotes from a work he attributes to Simon or his followers the Simonians, Apophasis Megale, or Great Declaration. According to the early church heresiologists Simon is also supposed to have written several lost treatises, two of which bear the titles The Four Quarters of the World and The Sermons of the Refuter.

In apocryphal works including the Acts of Peter, Pseudo-Clementines, and the Epistle of the Apostles, Simon also appears as a formidable sorcerer with the ability to levitate and fly at will.


Acts of the Apostles


The different sources for information on Simon contain quite different pictures of him, so much so that it has been questioned whether they all refer to the same person. Assuming all references are to the same person, as some (but by no means all) of the Church fathers did, the earliest reference to him is the canonical Acts of the Apostles, this is his only appearance in the New Testament.

But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.” 11And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. 14Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16(for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. 18And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19saying, “Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” 20But Peter said unto him, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee, 23for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” 24Then answered Simon, and said, “Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.”[6]

Acts tells of a person named Simōn practicing magic in the city of Sebaste in Samaria, meeting with Philip the Evangelist, and then trying to offer money to the Apostles in exchange for miraculous abilities, specifically the power of laying on of hands. In Acts 8:20, Peter denounces Simon’s attitude, and declares, “May your money perish with you!”


Josephus mentions a magician named Simon[7] as being involved with the procurator Felix, King Agrippa II and his sister Drusilla, where Felix has Simon convince Drusilla to marry him instead of the man she was engaged to. Some scholars have considered the two to be identical,[8] although this is not generally accepted, as the Simon of Josephus is a Jew rather than a Samaritan.

Wikipedia now proceeds to introduce the notorious woman with whom Simon was so deeply involved. Could she be the wicked “Jezebel” about whom John warns the Christians in the Book of Revelation? I shall come back to this idea later:

Justin Martyr and Irenaeus

Justin Martyr (in his Apologies, and in a lost work against heresies, which Irenaeus used as his main source) and Irenaeus (Adversus Haereses) record that after being cast out by the Apostles he came to Rome where, having joined to himself a profligate woman of the name of Helen, he gave out that it was he who appeared among the Jews as the Son, in Samaria as the Father and among other nations as the Holy Spirit. He performed such miracles by magic acts during the reign of Claudius that he was regarded as a god and honored with a statue on the island in the Tiber which the two bridges cross, with the inscription Simoni Deo Sancto, “To Simon the Holy God”. However, in the 16th century, a statue was unearthed on the island in question, inscribed to Semo Sancus, a Sabine deity,[9] leading most scholars to believe that Justin Martyr confused Semoni Sancus with Simon.

Myth of Simon and Helen

Justin and Irenaeus are the first to recount the myth of Simon and Helen, which became the center of Simonian doctrine. Epiphanius of Salamis also makes Simon speak in the first person in several places in his Panarion, and the inference is that he is quoting from a version of it, though perhaps not verbatim.

In the beginning God had his first thought, his Ennoia, which was female, and that thought was to create the angels. The First Thought then descended into the lower regions and created the angels. But the angels rebelled against her out of jealousy and created the world as her prison, imprisoning her in a female body. Thereafter, she was reincarnated many times, each time being shamed. Her many reincarnations included Helen of Troy; among others, and she finally was reincarnated as Helen, a slave and prostitute in the Phoenician city of Tyre. God then descended in the form of Simon Magus, to rescue his Ennoia, and to confer salvation upon men through knowledge of himself.

“And on her account,” he says, “did I come down; for this is that which is written in the Gospel ‘the lost sheep‘.”[10]

For as the angels were mismanaging the world, owing to their individual lust for rule, he had come to set things straight, and had descended under a changed form, likening himself to the Principalities and Powers through whom he passed, so that among men he appeared as a man, though he was not a man, and was thought to have suffered in Judaea, though he had not suffered.

“But in each heaven I changed my form,” says he, “in accordance with the form of those who were in each heaven, that I might escape the notice of my angelic powers and come down to the Thought, who is none other than her who is also called Prunikos and Holy Ghost, through whom I created the angels, while the angels created the world and men.”[11]

But the prophets had delivered their prophecies under the inspiration of the world-creating angels: wherefore those who had their hope in him and in Helen minded them no more, and, as being free, did what they pleased; for men were saved according to his grace, but not according to just works. For works were not just by nature, but only by convention, in accordance with the enactments of the world-creating angels, who by precepts of this kind sought to bring men into slavery. Wherefore he promised that the world should be dissolved, and that those who were his should be freed from the dominion of the world-creators.

In this account of Simon there is a large portion common to almost all forms of Gnostic myths, together with something special to this form. They have in common the place in the work of creation assigned to the female principle, the conception of the Deity; the ignorance of the rulers of this lower world with regard to the Supreme Power; the descent of the female (Sophia) into the lower regions, and her inability to return. Special to the Simonian tale is the identification of Simon himself with the Supreme, and of his consort Helena with the female principle.


Upon the story of “the lost sheep,” Hippolytus (in his Philosophumena) comments as follows.

But the liar was enamoured of this wench, whose name was Helen, and had bought her and had her to wife, and it was out of respect for his disciples that he invented this fairy-tale.[12]

Reduced to despair, he says, by the curse laid upon him by Peter, Simon embarked on the career that has been described:

Until he came to Rome also and fell foul of the Apostles. Peter withstood him on many occasions. At last he came [...] and began to teach sitting under a plane tree. When he was on the point of being shown up, he said, in order to gain time, that if he were buried alive he would rise again on the third day. So he bade that a tomb should be dug by his disciples and that he should be buried in it. Now they did what they were ordered, but he remained there until now: for he was not the Christ.[13]


Hippolytus gives a much more doctrinally detailed account of Simonianism, including a system of divine emanations and interpretations of the Old Testament, with extensive quotations from the Apophasis Megale. Some believe that Hippolytus’ account is of a later, more developed form of Simonianism, and that the original doctrines of the group were simpler, close to the account given by Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (this account however is also included in Hippolytus’ work).

Hippolytus says the free love doctrine was held by them in its purest form, and speaks in language similar to that of Irenaeus about the variety of magic arts practiced by the Simonians, and also of their having images of Simon and Helen under the forms of Zeus and Athena. But he also adds, “if any one, on seeing the images either of Simon or Helen, shall call them by those names, he is cast out, as showing ignorance of the mysteries.”


Epiphanius writes that there were some Simonians still in existence in his day (c. AD 367), but he speaks of them as almost extinct. Gitta, he says, had sunk from a town into a village. Epiphanius further charges Simon with having tried to wrest the words of St. Paul about the armour of God (Ephesians 6:14-16) into agreement with his own identification of the Ennoia with Athena. He tells us also that he gave barbaric names to the “principalities and powers,” and that he was the beginning of the Gnostics. The Law, according to him, was not of God, but of “the sinister power.” The same was the case with the prophets, and it was death to believe in the Old Testament.

Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril of Jerusalem (346 AD) in the sixth of his Catechetical Lectures prefaces his history of the Manichaeans by a brief account of earlier heresies: Simon Magus, he says, had given out that he was going to be translated to heaven, and was actually careening through the air in a chariot drawn by demons when Peter and Paul knelt down and prayed, and their prayers brought him to earth a mangled corpse.


Acts of Peter

The apocryphal Acts of Peter gives a more elaborate tale of Simon Magus’ death. Simon is performing magic in the Forum, and in order to prove himself to be a god, he levitates up into the air above the Forum. The apostle Peter prays to God to stop his flying, and he stops mid-air and falls into a place called the Sacra Via (meaning, Holy Way), breaking his legs “in three parts”. The previously non-hostile crowd then stones him. Now gravely injured, he had some people carry him on a bed at night from Rome to Ariccia, and was brought from there to Terracina to a person named Castor, who on accusations of sorcery was banished from Rome. The Acts then continue to say that he died “while being sorely cut by two physicians”.[14]

Acts of Peter and Paul

Another apocryphal document, the Acts of Peter and Paul gives a slightly different version of the above incident, which was shown in the context of a debate in front of the Emperor Nero. In this version, Paul the Apostle is present along with Peter, Simon levitates from a high wooden tower made upon his request, and dies “divided into four parts” due to the fall. Peter and Paul were then put in prison by Nero while ordering Simon’s body be kept carefully for three days (thinking he would rise again).[15]

Pseudo-Clementine literature

The Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions and Homilies give an account of Simon Magus and some of his teachings in regards to the Simonians. They are of uncertain date and authorship, and seem to have been worked over by several hands in the interest of diverse forms of belief.

Simon was a Samaritan, and a native of Gitta. The name of his father was Antonius, that of his mother Rachel. He studied Greek literature in Alexandria, and, having in addition to this great power in magic, became so ambitious that he wished to be considered a highest power, higher even than the God who created the world. And sometimes he “darkly hinted” that he himself was Christ, calling himself the Standing One. Which name he used to indicate that he would stand for ever, and had no cause in him for bodily decay. He did not believe that the God who created the world was the highest, nor that the dead would rise. He denied Jerusalem, and introduced Mount Gerizim in its stead. In place of the Christ of the Christians he proclaimed himself; and the Law he allegorized in accordance with his own preconceptions. He did indeed preach righteousness and judgment to come: but this was merely a bait for the unwary.

There was one John the Baptist, who was the forerunner of Jesus in accordance with the law of parity; and as Jesus had twelve Apostles, bearing the number of the twelve solar months, so had he thirty leading men, making up the monthly tale of the moon. One of these thirty leading men was a woman called Helen, and the first and most esteemed by John was Simon. But on the death of John he was away in Egypt for the practice of magic, and one Dositheus, by spreading a false report of Simon’s death, succeeded in installing himself as head of the sect. Simon on coming back thought it better to dissemble, and, pretending friendship for Dositheus, accepted the second place. Soon, however, he began to hint to the thirty that Dositheus was not as well acquainted as he might be with the doctrines of the school.[16]

Dositheus, when he perceived that Simon was depreciating him, fearing lest his reputation among men might be obscured (for he himself was supposed to be the Standing One), moved with rage, when they met as usual at the school, seized a rod, and began to beat Simon; but suddenly the rod seemed to pass through his body, as if it had been smoke. On which Dositheus, being astonished, says to him, ‘Tell me if thou art the Standing One, that I may adore thee.’ And when Simon answered that he was, then Dositheus, perceiving that he himself was not the Standing One, fell down and worshipped him, and gave up his own place as chief to Simon, ordering all the rank of thirty men to obey him; himself taking the inferior place which Simon formerly occupied. Not long after this he died.[17]

The encounter between both Dositheus and Simon Magus was the beginnings of the sect of Simonians. The narrative goes on to say that Simon, having fallen in love with Helen, took her about with him, saying that she had come down into the world from the highest heavens, and was his mistress, inasmuch as she was Sophia, the Mother of All. It was for her sake, he said, that the Greeks and Barbarians fought the Trojan War, deluding themselves with an image of truth, for the real being was then present with the First God. By such specious allegories and Greek myths Simon deceived many, while at the same time he astounded them by his magic. A description is given of how he made a familiar spirit for himself by conjuring the soul out of a boy and keeping his image in his bedroom, and many instances of his feats of magic are given.

“Simon Magus” as a cipher

The Pseudo-Clementine writings were used in the 4th century by members of the Ebionite sect, one characteristic of which was hostility to Paul, whom they refused to recognize as an apostle.[18] Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792–1860), founder of the Tübingen School, drew attention to the anti-Pauline characteristic in the Pseudo-Clementines, and pointed out that in the disputations between Simon and Peter, some of the claims Simon is represented as making (e.g. that of having seen the Lord, though not in his lifetime, yet subsequently in vision) were really the claims of Paul; and urged that Peter’s refutation of Simon was in some places intended as a polemic against Paul. The enmity between Peter and Simon is clearly shown. Simon’s magical powers are juxtaposed with Peter’s powers in order to express Peter’s authority over Simon through the power of prayer, and in the 17th Homily, the identification of Paul with Simon Magus is effected. Simon is there made to maintain that he has a better knowledge of the mind of Jesus than the disciples, who had seen and conversed with Him in person. His reason for this strange assertion is that visions are superior to waking reality, as divine is superior to human.[19] Peter has much to say in reply to this, but the passage which mainly concerns us is as follows:

But can any one be educated for teaching by vision? And if you shall say, “It is possible,” why did the Teacher remain and converse with waking men for a whole year? And how can we believe you even as to the fact that he appeared to you? And how can he have appeared to you seeing that your sentiments are opposed to his teaching? But if you were seen and taught by him for a single hour, and so became an apostle, then preach his words, expound his meaning, love his apostles, fight not with me who had converse with him. For it is against a solid rock, the foundation-stone of the Church, that you have opposed yourself in opposing me. If you were not an adversary, you would not be slandering me and reviling the preaching that is given through me, in order that, as I heard myself in person from the Lord, when I speak I may not be believed, as though forsooth it were I who was condemned and I who was reprobate. Or, if you call me condemned, you are accusing God who revealed the Christ to me, and are inveighing against Him who called me blessed on the ground of the revelation. But if indeed you truly wish to work along with the truth, learn first from us what we learnt from Him, and when you have become a disciple of truth, become our fellow-workman.



There are other features in the portrait which remind us strongly of Marcion. For the first thing which we learn from the Homilies about Simon’s opinions is that he denied that God was just.[23] By “God” he meant the Creator. But he undertakes to prove from Scripture that there is a higher God, who really possesses the perfections which are falsely ascribed to the lower.[24] On these grounds Peter complains that, when he was setting out for the Gentiles to convert them from their worship of many gods upon earth, the Evil Power had sent Simon before him to make them believe that there were many gods in heaven.[25]

And now from: http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/encyc/encyc10/htm/ii.ix.ii.htm


1. In the Book of Acts.

One of the most difficult and interesting problems of apostolic and post-apostolic history is presented by Simon Magus, a Samaritan, who is described at once as a Christian, a Jew, and a pagan, a magician and a sorcerer, a Christian religious philosopher and an archheretic, a pseudo-apostle and a pseudo-Messiah, the founder of a religion and an incarnation of God. The earliest source concerning him is Acts viii. 5-24, where he appears as a sorcerer who had “bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one,” yet becoming an adherent of the Apostle Philip and marveling at “the miracles and signs which were done” (verses 5-13). In verses 14-19, on the other hand, he seeks from Peter and John, not (as one would expect in the case of a sorcerer) the power of working miracles like Philip’s, but the gift of conferring the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, only to have his request refused because of the unworthy motives which had prompted it. It is held by some critics that this entire account was based by a redactor of Acts on some “Acts of Peter,” this redactor substituting Philip for Peter in verses 5, 6, 12, 13; adding allusions to John in verses 18b, 19a, 24, interpolating verse 10, and adding verses 14-18a and 19b. It should also be noted, in this connection, that neither the extant Acts of Peter nor the Church Fathers mention Philip and John in their accounts of Simon Magus.

2. In the Apocrypha and Justin Martyr.

The record of Acts is continued by the various recensions of the apocryphal Acts of Peter and kin dred literature (cf. Clement of Alexandria, Strom., vii. 17; Hippolytus, Philosophumena, vi. 20; Eusebius, Hist. eccl., ii. 14-15; Arnobius, Adv. gentes ii. 12; Philostorgius, Haer., xxix.; Epiphanius, Haer., xxi. 4; etc.), all of which deal with the conflict between Simon Peter and Simon Magus. The scene is Samaria in the Acta Vercellenses only, the other sources and Justin substituting Judea (or Jerusalem and Caesarea) and, most frequently, Rome. The time is the reign of Nero or (in the Acta Vercellenses) Claudius, but the only new trait ascribed to the characters is the pseudo-Messiahship of Simon Magus, which is shown, for instance,


in his attempted ascension (frustrated by the prayer of Peter) and in the epithet: “He that hath stood.” An entirely different picture is given by the heresiologists of the early Church. The fragments of Justin Martyr’s lost work on heresies state that Simon Magus was born in the Samaritan village of Gitta, and went to Rome in the reign of Claudius. There he is described as honored by a statue on an island in the Tiber, this statue bearing the inscription Simoni sancto deo (“To Simon, the holy god”). This latter statement seems, however, to be due to confusion with a statue actually set up on the island in question in honor of the Sabine deity Semo Sancus, with an inscription including the words Semoni Sanco deo. At the same time, the tradition of Simon’s residence at Rome in the reign of Claudius was evidently wide-spread, and Justin also states that nearly all the Samaritans honored Simon Magus “as the first god, above all power, authority, and might,” and as accompanied by a certain ex-courtezan Helena, designated “the first understanding from himself” (Apol., i. 26; Trypho, cxx.).

3. His System According to Later Heresiologists.

A valuable supplement to this information is given by a Roman heresiology written before 175 and incorporated by Irenaeus in his Haer., i. 23, also being used, in all probability, by Celsus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and the pseudo-Tertullian. Here Simon Magus appears in an essentially Gnostic garb, being, on the one hand, the “highest God ” (or “Father”), and, on the other, “the most sublime power of God”; while Helena (here brought into connection with Tyre) is represented as “the first conception of his [Simon's] mind,” “the mother of all,” “wisdom,” “the Holy Spirit,” etc. Emanating from the Father, she descended to the realms beneath, where, in conformity to his will, she created the angelic powers which, without knowing the Father, created the world and man. Unwilling to be considered creatures, the angels imprisoned her in a female body, and she is the lost sheep for whose salvation the Father (Simon) appeared, to rescue both her and mankind from the slavery of the cosmic angelic powers. To deceive these powers, he was manifested to mankind as man, as the Father to the Samaritans and the Son to the Jews, suffering docetic passion. To this Irenaeus erroneously adds that Simon was supposed to have appeared as the Holy Ghost to the gentiles; and both he and Epiphanius give a number of further details which, while not impossible, cannot definitely be ascribed to the system. An entirely different presentation of Simon’s teaching is implied by Clement and Origen, and is further developed in the Philosophumena (vi. 7-18, x. 12; ANF, v. 74-81, 143). Here Helena (“Mind “) is unknown, and Simon is given his self-designation-”He that hath stood”; but Clement adds practically no new material, and Origen little beyond the statement that Simon regarded idolatry as a matter of no concern (Contra Celsum, vi. 11). A similar ignorance of Helena and a like emphasis on Simon as “He that hath stood” are shown by the Philosophumena. Here the center of all being is “boundless power,” which is both supramundane (inconceivable holy Silence) and intramundane (the “Father,” “He that hath stood, that standeth, and is to stand,” an androgynous power with neither beginning nor end, and essentially unitary). While remaining distinct as a seventh power, the Father causes to emanate three syzygies of cosmic powers, which in their spiritual aspect are “Mind,” “Intelligence,” “Voice,” “Name,” “Ratiocination,” and “Reflection,” and in their physical aspect are “Heaven,” “Earth,” “Sun,” “Moon,” “Air,” and “Water.” The Father is, moreover, “He that hath stood” in relation to premundane existence; “He that standeth” in relation to present being; and “He that shall stand” in relation to the final consummation. Man is simply the realization of “boundless power,” the ultimate end of the cosmic process in which the godhead attains self-consciousness. All this material is recapitulated, with some additional data, by the pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions. Simon Magus is here described as a necromancer driven by Peter from Caesarea to Antioch, and finally to Rome, everywhere shown to be an impostor, though declaring himself to be Christ, and overcome by divine miracles. Helena again appears, this time as “Wisdom,” “the All-Mother,” and “Lady,” sending forth two angels (who seize power over her), one to create the world, and the other to give the Law. The pseudo-Clementine sources also add that Simon Magus was the son of Antonius and Rachel, that he was educated in Greek learning at Alexandria, and that, after being received among the thirty disciples of John the Baptist, he became head of the sect after the death of his teacher. He is likewise described, though without plausibility, as the representative of Samaritan worship on Mount Gerizim who expounded the Law allegorically and denied the resurrection of the dead, as the representative of pagan philosophy (especially of astrological fatalism), and even as the defender of Marcion’s antithesis of the good and righteous God.

4. Untenable Theories Concerning Simon Magus.

In some passages in these writings Simon Magus wears the mask of Paul, and attacks are made on Pauline teachings under the guise of polemics in favor of the Petrine theology against the tenets of Simon Magus. There is, however, no basis for the theory that the picture of Simon Magus in the Clementine literature is deliberately designed to be a caricature of Paul inspired by the hatred of the Judaizing school, or for seeing in the struggle between Peter and Simon the victory of Petrine over Pauline Christianity. All the traits of Simon in this literature reveal him as only a magician or pseudo-Messiah, later given not merely Pauline, but also pagan and Marcionistic, characteristics; so that both in the apocryphal Acts and in the pseudo-Clementine literature Simon Magus was primarily not a pseudo-Paul, but a pseudo-Christ, and therefore the antithesis of Peter. Equally improbable is the hypothesis which identifies Simon Magus with the beast of Rev. xiii. 11-17, although it is not impossible that the Beliar which the Sibylline Books, iii. 63 sqq., describe as destined to come “from the Sebastenes” (Samaritans) represented Simon. It


has likewise been maintained that Simon Magus is to be identified with the heresiarch Simon of Gitta, who should, on this hypothesis, be dated in the early part of the second century, but for this theory there is not the slightest ground, especially in view of the testimony of Acts, Clement of Alexandria, and Justin. It is, on the other hand, not improbable that Simon Magus is to be identified with a Jewish magician named Simon who acted as a go-between for the procurator Felix of Judea. This Simon is described by Josephus (Ant., XX., vii. 2) as a Cypriot, but this statement probably rests upon a confusion of the Cyprian capital, Cittium (Hebr. Kittim), with the obscure Samaritan village of Gitta (Hebr. Gittim).

5. A Sorcerer Syncretized with the Sun.

All evidence goes to prove that Simon was what his epithet Magus implies-a sorcerer. This was the motive for his association with the apostles in Samaria, but while it would seem that he pretended to be, in the pagan sense, a god in human form (cf. Justin, Apol., i. 26), there is no indication that either Acts or Justin regarded him as a pseudo-Messiah; and even the apocryphal Acts and the pseudo-Clementine literature characterize him as a false Christ merely on the ground that he was the first-born of Satan (cf. Ignatius, Epist. ad Trallenses, longer version, xi.). It is true that the heresiologists describe him as the supreme God and even as the Redeemer, but a careful study of the sources, particularly of the extant fragments of his “Great Announcement” (preserved by Hippolytus, Philosophumena, vi. 6 sqq.), shows that Simon himself made no claim to Messiahship, this being attributed to him by his disciples. With this falls the theory that Simon Magus was the founder of a universal religion intended to rival Christianity; and he was not even the founder of a sect in the sense that such heresiarchs as Marcion were. The very fact that Simon himself became the subject of Gnostic speculation shows that he was not the founder of Gnosticism, nor do the earlier sources so represent him; it was only his followers who made this claim for him. Historically, then, Simon was but a sorcerer who asserted that he was a god. This assertion, aided by the high fame which he enjoyed throughout Samaria (cf. Acts viii.), reached its culmination in his identification with the Semitic sun-god Shamash, whose cult was united with that of the moon-goddess Astarte. This is confirmed by Simon’s companion, Helena, who is unknown to Acts, the apocryphal Acts, the Alexandrine heresiologists, or the “Great Announcement,” but whose name (“Moon”), combined with the immoral past ascribed her and her Tyrian home, obviously points to the Tyrian moon-goddess with her licentious rites. How long this cult of Simon Magus, which had evidently arisen long before the time of Justin, persisted in Samaria and other regions is unknown, but in the days of Origen the “Simonians” were exceedingly few in number in Palestine and the neighboring countries (Contra Celsum, i. 57), and by the time of Epiphanius (Haer., xxii. 2) they had become extinct. On the other hand, they had spread widely in the West before 200, and there long maintained themselves, (cf. Hippolytus, Philosophumena, vi. 15). They seem to have developed a sect essentially occult and libertine in character, worshiping Simon (cf. Irenaeus, Haer., I. xxiii. 4), and finally giving rise to two systems, that of the “Great Announcement” and that described by the heresiologists who based their writings upon Justin.

6. The Twofold Simonian System.

The authenticity of the “Great Announcement” has been assailed both because of its similarity to other Gnostic systems recorded by Hippolytus and on account of its divergence from Simon’s teachings as described by other heresiologigts. Neither of these arguments, however, is sufficient to prove the document spurious, especially in view of the confirmation of Hippolytus by other heresiologists; and the true explanation of the divergencies between the Philosophumena and Justin lies in the fact that there were two Simonian systems, one influenced by Alexandria and the other by Syria. The former influence is especially evident in the doctrine of the Godhead as “He that hath stood,” which finds a close parallelism in the Philonian system, and is also perceptible in the purely allegorical method of Biblical exegesis adopted by the “Great Announcement” (cf. also the account in the pseudo-Clementine Homilies, ii. 22 sqq.). It is uncertain whether the “Great Announcement” was written in Alexandria, but at all events its citation of non-Samaritan prophets and of Proverbs shows that it was composed neither by Simon nor by any of his Samaritan followers. The account given by Justin and those who drew upon him, on the other hand, indicates that the second Simonian system was evolved in Syria, its elements being a syncretism of Babylonian mythology and Hellenistic allegory (for the latter cf. Irenaeus, Haer., I. xxiii. 4; Epiphanius, Haer., xxi.). Both the Alexandrine and the Syrian form of Simonianism are unique in the history of Gnosticism in that they make a historic personage the supreme God, and, although destitute of any real Christian spirit, both show Christian influence, the Alexandrian “Great Announcement” using written Gospels and the Petrine and Pauline epistles, and the Syrian system comparing Helena with the lost sheep of Matt. xviii. 12 and Luke xv. 6. (HANS WAITZ.)


Bar Jesus

Whilst Peter and James encounter the wicked magician, Simon Magus, Paul encounters the wicked magician, Bar Jesus. It may be one and the same magician, with Bar Jesus being his name when baptised as a Christian (see below). Bar (‘Son of’) in Hebrew can have a wider meaning than just ‘son’, and might here mean a ‘follower of Jesus’. Here is a description of this character who even has high Roman connections (just as the magician Simon Magus reputedly had an enormous reputation in the city of Rome) (http://www.bsw.org/?l=71851&a=Comm04.html):

(Atomus) Elymas Bar-Jesus

“When they had gone though the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen – the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun. Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand” (Acts 13:6-11)

The name “Elymas”

Commentators have long been puzzled about how the name “Elymas” can be interpreted to mean “magician” in the passage above. However, Rick Strelan appears to have resolved the problem.(1) In a recent article he suggests that the magician had taken the name of Elam, the eldest son of Shem, the son of Noah, and that Elam was considered an archetypal magician. The name “Elymas” would then have signified “magician” and this would explain Acts 13:8. In support of his proposal Strelan quotes Josephus:

“For Elymos left behind him the Elamites, the ancestors of the Persians” (Ant 1.6.4), and notes that the magoi were commonly associated with the Persians. There is also evidence, not mentioned by Strelan, that Shem was considered a magician. Firstly, in the Book of Jubilees a book of healing arts is given by Noah to his eldest son, Shem:

“And we explained to Noah all the medicines of their diseases, together with their seductions, how he might heal them with herbs of the earth. And Noah wrote down all things in a book as we instructed him concerning every kind of medicine. Thus the evil spirits were precluded from (hurting) the sons of Noah. And he gave all that he had written to Shem, his eldest son; for he loved him exceedingly above all his sons.”

The Treatise of Shem is a Pseudepigraphic work, written in the name of Shem, probably in the first century BC. It is an astrological treatise and therefore shows that Shem was associated with astrology.

To sum up: Noah’s eldest son was Shem, whose eldest son was Elam, whose name was written “Elymos” by Josephus in the first century. The evidence suggests that there was a tradition that the magical arts of astrology and perhaps healing passed down the Noah-Shem-Elam line. Therefore, by accepting the name “Elymas”, Bar-Jesus was identifying himself as a magician in an ancient Jewish tradition.

The name “Bar-Jesus”

Strelan argues that Elymas was, like Simon Magus, a follower of Jesus, of sorts. He suggests that Elymas took the name “Bar-Jesus” because he considered himself to be a disciple of Jesus. Strelan cites several cases where the term “Bar” or “Son of” is used to mean “disciple of”. While “Jesus” was a common name for Jews, Strelan is probably right. Someone who had named himself after Elam and had then started to perform his magic in the name of Jesus, might well have taken the name “Son of Jesus” to reflect the new source of his power or inspiration.



It is clear that “Elymas” was not his birth name. The name “Bar-Jesus”, on any hypothesis, cannot have been his only name in infancy, so he must have had another name. Josephus describes a Jewish magician from Cyprus:

“At the time when Felix was procurator of Judaea, he beheld her; and, inasmuch as she surpassed all other women in beauty, he conceived a passion for the lady. He sent to her one of his friends, a Cyprian Jew named Atomus, who pretended to be a magician, in an effort to persuade her to leave her husband and to marry Felix.” (Josephus Ant.20.142)

Both Atomus and Elymas were Jewish magicians from Cyprus who associated with high Roman officials. Felix was procurator from A.D. 52-59 so Atomus incident was only about a decade later than the Elymas incident. It is therefore chronologically possible that they were one and the same person. If, as seems likely, Elymas was employed by Sergius Paulus, he might well have lost his job after the encounter with Paul. If his other name, Bar-Jesus, indicates that he had been in contact with the Jesus movement, he may have had Judean connections. Thus it would not be surprising if Elymas left the employment of Sergius Paulus and attached himself to Felix in Judea.

The similarity in sound between “Atomus” and “Elymas” makes the identity more likely.

The western text of Acts has “Etoimos”, which may be a form of the name “Atomus”.

There are many examples of cases where a new name is chosen, in part, because of its phonetic resemblance to the original name (BarKosiba/BarKokhba/BarKoziba, Titus-Timothy, Mary-Magdalene, Saul-Paul, Silvanus-Silas etc.).

[(1) Strelan "Who Was Bar Jesus (Acts 13, 6-12)?" Biblica 85 (2004) 65-81].



Conclusion 4. Our Composite Simon was Simon Magus Bar Jesus

Buzz words for Simon Magus Bar Jesus. These descriptions are perfect for our composite Simon, Samaritan from region of Shechem (Flavia Neapolis); convert; lawlessness; wickedness; miracle wonder worker; aspirations to greatness, even a messianic God-likeness (‘ambition to be highest power’); pseudo-Messiah, devil-like; pseudo-Christ and distorter (opponent) of Christianity.


Finally, for Catholic readers, there is this brief reference to Simon Magus from the vision of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, in


James the Greater and one of the disciples were sent to the pagan regions north of Capharnaum. Thomas and Matthew were dispatched to Ephesus, in order to prepare the country where at a future day Jesus’ Mother and many of those that believed in Him were to dwell. They wondered greatly at the fact of Mary’s going to live there. Thaddeus and Simon were to go first to Samaria, though none cared to go there. All preferred cities entirely pagan. Jesus told them that they would all meet twice in Jerusalem before going to preach the Gospel in distant pagan lands. He spoke of a man between Samaria and Jericho, who would, like Himself, perform many miracles, though by the power of the devil. He would manifest a desire of conversion, and they must kindly receive him, for even the devil should contribute to His glory. Simon Magus was meant by these words of Jesus. During this instruction the Apostles, as in a familiar conference, questioned Jesus upon whatever they could not understand, and He explained to them as far as was necessary. Everything was perfectly natural. Three years after the Crucifixion all the Apostles met in Jerusalem, after which Peter and John left the city and Mary accompanied the latter to Ephesus. Then arose in Jerusalem the persecution against Lazarus, Martha, and Magdalen. The last named had up to that time been doing penance in the desert, in the cave to which Elizabeth had escaped with John during the massacre of the Innocents. The Apostles, in that first reunion, brought together all that belonged to the body of the Church. When half of the time of Mary’s life after Christ’s Ascension had flown, about the sixth year after that event, the Apostles were again assembled in Jerusalem. It was then they drew up the Creed, made rules, relinquished all that they possessed, distributed it to the poor, and divided the Church into dioceses, after which they separated and went into far-off heathen countries. At Mary’s death they all met again for the last time. When they again separated for distant countries, it was until death. When Jesus left the Temple after this discourse, the enraged Pharisees lay in wait for Him both at the gate and on the way, for they intended to stone Him. But Jesus avoided them, proceeded to Bethania, and for three days went no more to the Temple. He wanted to give the Apostles and disciples time to think over what they had heard. Meantime they referred to Him for further explanation upon many points. Jesus ordered them to commit to writing what He had said relative to the future. I saw that Nathanael the Bridegroom, who was very skillful with the pen, did it, and I wondered the predictions. Nathanael at that time had no other name. it was only at Baptism that he received a second.

[End of quote]

“Son of Perdition”

To complete our essay, we need to consider whether our composite Simon can also be the apocalyptical “Son of perdition” as spoken of by St. Paul. (This title is also used by John for the betrayer, Judas: 17:12). Certainly Paul in particular has harsh words for the evil magician, as Bar-Jesus, calling him “Son of the Devil”.

And many commentators have even suggested (or at least mentioned what is common) that Simon Magus could have been the Beast of the Apocalypse, or the False Prophet who served the Beast. Here is just one very brief example, relating to the 666 number of the Beast



  • The answer is that it is a play on the numerical values of Hebrew letters, together with the grades in the initiation process. It is simply intended to say: “Simon Magus’ monasteries are evil”. There is no relevance to us!The “Beast” was Simon Magus, who in the Book of Revelation was the great enemy of Christians, for he was conducting a rival mission to theirs. He controlled monasteries that used the Qumran system of grades, naming them by Hebrew letters. Certain grades marked significant stages. These were called Taw, Resh and Samekh. At Taw, a man was at the very top and was equal to the highest priest. At Resh he entered the sanctuary and could act like a lesser priest. At Samekh, he became an initiate, beginning the studies that would lead him higher. Below is the list of grade letters and numbers. Since Hebrew letters were also used for numbers, Taw could be read as 400. Resh could be read as 200, and Samekh as 60. That totals 660. Further, when initial letters alone were used, they were accompanied by the letter Waw, as is illustrated in the Scrolls (CD 4:19). The numerical value of Waw is 6. Total, 666. The writers of Revelation (one of the early parties in the Church) were very interested in numbers, following their Pythagorean studies, but were too attached to magic-sounding numbers. They knew that semi-educated people would read significance into them, and used 666 as a way of describing evil. Before the present information became available, scholars used to think that 666 in meant the Roman emperor, but they could not account for the actual number. Now it is explained by the Qumran grade numbers, which account for many details of the pesher. Here is the system of Hebrew letters, numbers, and grades from initiation upwards For the significance of all the grades, Taw —400 — High Priest Michael Shin 300 Deputy Priest Gabriel Resh 200 Sanctuary Priest Sariel Qof 100 Levite Raphael Sadhe 90 PE 80 Ayin 70 Samekh 60 Initiate         [End of quote]

Concluding Note

There is much more needing to be written about all of this.

If Simon Bar Giora (Bar Kochba) (our Simon Magus Bar Jesus) was minting his own coins, then he might well have been (to some degree at least) in control of the economy, “so that no one can buy or sell who does not have the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Apocalypse 13:17).

Our composite Simon Barabbas, a mere mortal man, had aspired to divinity. He, having been defeated, ended up being paraded by the Romans in a triumphal procession and then executed.

On the contrary, Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, a Divine person, emptied himself … “forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”.[b] [Colossians 2:13-15]

In this way we can understand the stark contrast between the false and the true Messiah.