Josephus stated that about 52 AD a prophet came out of Egypt to Jerusalem and persuaded a multitude of ordinary people to accompany him to the Mount of Olives from where he would call on the walls of Jerusalem to fall down as if by magic and then they could attack. Felix the procurator sent an army against them and four hundred were slain and two hundred arrested. The Egyptian escaped. He was bound to have claimed to be the new Joshua. We know that he must have done when he tried to do to the walls of Jerusalem what Joshua had done to the Jericho walls. So it is probable he took the name Joshua which is the same as Jesus which means God saves and if so he claimed to be a saviour from God. The people evidently thought he could do miracles and he must have faked a few to get their attention and support.
We know Christians did a little tampering with Josephus’ works so perhaps the prophet lived before 52 AD?
The Matthew gospel says that Jesus was in Egypt as a child. And considering that Jesus was an orthodox Jew one wonders how one that took on the Jewish law with its belief that Gentiles were unclean could end up having to be taken to Egypt a Gentile land and full of impurity and be the Son of God. This is what the Talmud might be driving at when it calls him an Egyptian.


Acts mentions the same three Messiah rebels who Josephus has. There were many so why just those three? Acts is stealing from Josephus. Acts like Josephus is unable to name the Egyptian revolutionary whose name you expect to be remembered considering the impact he made. It is best to hold that Josephus just does not want the man remembered which is why he does not grant him his name.
In Acts 21:38, Paul was asked by a Roman chief captain in Jerusalem if he was the Egyptian who led four thousand assassins into the wilderness. This differs from Josephus. One would expect the man who asked Paul to have said the Egyptian tried to attack Jerusalem instead of just saying he took men into the wilderness. And there would have been more than four hundred dying and being arrested if there were four thousand assassins. And Acts contradicts Josephus who says the men were not zealots but ordinary men. Luke exaggerated Josephus’ account. But when the man who knew the Egyptian and all about him asked Paul that it suggests that there was a link between the Christians and the Egyptians which at the very least would be that the Egyptian was a Christian of some kind for Paul was a Christian. Was the link that the Egyptian was Jesus or the man the Christians based their non-existent Jesus on? They could have invented their Jesus and then used the Egyptian when people asked for evidence for this man Jesus.
It was said by Josephus that the Egyptian escaped out of the fight but how likely is that when his army got such a pounding? How can you be sure he really did escape?  He would need to resurrect to manage that it seems!

The Romans mistaking Paul for the Egyptian is very strange. But the text implies the Egyptian is dead for he and his men were not going to survive long in the wilderness and been feared as murderers. Thinking messiah figures were rising again was common in popular belief.

Paul being mistaken for the Egyptian tells us several things.
Paul was Jewish in appearance so the same must have been true of the Egyptian.
Paul had been well-known in Israel all his life as a Pharisee and then as a Christian. The Roman chief captain’s mistake would suggest that he wasn’t the only one thinking Paul could have been the Egyptian. Paul vanished roughly about the time Jesus supposedly died. He was less well known then. If Paul was confused with the Egyptian then the Egyptian had to have been around some time when Paul was forgotten about. This puts the Egyptian about the time Jesus allegedly lived.
In Luke 19, Jesus waits on the Mount of Olives while the disciples go and find a donkey for him. They were told to find a colt and take it and just tell anybody who objected that the Master needed it. They did as he said and a man objected and they said what they were told to say. Obviously, this was staged to fulfil a prophecy in Zechariah that said the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on an ass. The man had already been asked by Jesus to keep the animal ready for him. Jesus then must have sent word for the ordinary people to meet with him at the Mount for they all went out there with palm branches and hailed him as the king of Israel. Some Pharisees were in the crowd and were concerned about the noise and asked him to quieten them a bit. They addressed him as Master. Jesus sarcastically snapped that if he silenced them the stones would start! Humble wasn’t he? These Pharisees called him Master suggesting that they approved of what he was doing and they were in the crowd joining in which made it worse. This could have got them into trouble with the authorities and their confidence hints that this was an armed rebellion against Rome. We are told the shrieking began when Jesus reached the foot of the Mount of Olives for it was believed that the Messiah would go from there to Jerusalem and inaugurate the reign of God and overthrow the Romans. The noise would not have bothered them much when they joined the crowd so they were scared of the Romans being alerted by the racket and attacking before they were all ready. They would have been seen from the city but hoped the Romans might delay a bit if the crowd was less noisy and seemed to be nothing to be too disturbed about. All this fits the story of the Egyptian.   Maybe that is where the story came from. Maybe the Egyptian was not Jesus but his life-story was used in the putting together of the Jesus story.
What makes the link with the Egyptian more plausible is the fact that Luke says that some time later Jesus went back out to the Mount of Olives to a Garden where he had his famous agony and there he was arrested. This could not be true for the Mount would have been under surveillance in case another Messiah or Jesus would start a fuss again. This is a clumsy cover-up. Jesus would have been arrested in Jerusalem and hauled off his donkey. Like the Egyptian, Jesus must have escaped the trouble that his behaviour had caused when the gospels present him as being free afterwards.
Also, Jesus said like the Egyptian, that Jerusalem would be destroyed. When the Pharisees asked for a sign he told them they could predict by looking at the sky what the next day would be like but they could not predict the signs for their generation. This suggests that the nation and city were on the brink of destruction not much later in 70 AD but in matter of weeks or days. We know that the signs always exist so the sign had to be something unusual. Was it something that Jesus was going to do to the city? Jesus may have thought that the walls of Jerusalem would fall when he entered the Holy City just like his namesake Joshua had made the walls of Jericho collapse. This is very likely as Jesus thought he was the originator of the end. The Egyptian thought and did exactly the same. Both men made the same mistake meaning that they were the same person.
There is evidence in the gospels that does not fit with the idea of Jesus being a Jew by birth like when he was called a Samaritan. And Matthew says that Jesus did come out of Egypt which could be what Josephus meant when he said that the Egyptian came out of Egypt. Jesus might have gone back to Egypt in adulthood in the times when the gospels say he was hidden. He would have been safe there and was afraid to go about freely in Palestine.
The Egyptian incited the people to revolt and opposed payment to Caesar and claimed to be the Messiah all of which Jesus was accused by the Jews of doing before Pilate (Luke 23:2) an accusation that could not be made unless it were true. You wouldn’t go to the police and say your neighbour was a drug-dealer unless you could prove it and especially if you are a community leader like those Jews were. The Romans did not tolerate time-wasters.
Jesus was so nebulous that the Jews did not know who he was and perhaps indeed were not sure that he ever existed.   You would wonder about who the risen Jesus really was when you see endless and yet implausible mistaken identity happening so much in the New Testament scripts.

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