Mateo Piso Christ, Sun of Jane the Virgin

The rather unlikely premise of the popular CW telenovela series Jane the Virgin is that the hapless Jane Villanueva has been accidentally impregnated at a routine gynecological checkup gone awry, in spite of her best efforts to preserve herself intact for a Catholic wedding.

As the story goes, a sperm sample has been taken from the hunky heart-throb Rafael Solano, a wealthy young hotel magnate who has been rendered infertile by a bout with cancer. Rafael’s sister Luisa, an MD, has been entrusted with the sperm and is intending to impregnate Rafael’s blonde, Nordic wife Petra. But somehow Luisa is so scatter-brained that she manages to inject the sperm into Jane instead, oblivious to the fact that Jane, a Latino woman, doesn’t look anything like her brother’s wife.

However: Jane, as coincidence would have it, is an employee at Rafael’s hotel. The couple reluctantly admit to having flirted romantically, if only in the distant past. And if indeed their romance was ever interrupted, it quickly resumes at high intensity.

Throughout the series, events depicted as happening in “real life” are interspersed with fantasy scenes — that is, to the extent that any fictional tale can be said to have “real” as well as fantasy aspects. So it is quite impossible for us as viewers to know whether this accidental artificial insemination event ever “really happened”. Even with all the snafus in the modern medical world, such a dubious story hardly even rises to meet the criteria for “plausible deniability”.

Nevertheless, Jane (played by Gina Rodriguez, who won a Golden Globe award for “Best Actress” for her performance) is so engagingly honest, pure, diligent, and innocently righteous in everything else about her life, that no one on the cast dares to openly question this white elephant. If this is indeed a scam, then Rafael and Luisa are certainly insiders along with Jane. But we also find Jane’s ever-patiently celibate fiance Michael, and Rafael’s wife Petra, and Jane’s saintly grandmother Alba, and her worldly-wise mother Xiomara, all acting like Republican senators at a dinner party for George Bush — doing their best to ignore the many elephants in the room, such as 911 truth. In other words, it just goes without saying that Jane is, in fact, a virgin. Just who do you think you are, to suggest otherwise!


Aside from her virgin maternity, Jane is also set up as a parody of the Virgin Mary in other ways as well. Jane has her doubts about the reality of the divine Jesus Christ, but nevertheless, she is a devoutly observant Roman Catholic, goes to church, and prays with her grandmother’s rosary whenever tough situations arise. To supplement her income from hotel waitressing, Jane lands a job as a substitute teacher at a Catholic high school. The ‘fact’ that Jane is a pregnant virgin leaks out, and the nuns at the school capitalize on this opportunity by making Jane an object of religious veneration. The nuns coin and distribute a medallion captioned ‘Jane the Virgin’ and prominently showing her extended belly, and true believers have the opportunity to receive a hug and a blessing of fertility. Jane herself is wise enough to see the foolishness in this, but the nuns are blackmailing her to continue with the ruse. After all, she needs the salary, and the job experience.

Both in the nuns’  medallion and in the series logo, Jane is signified with bright solar imagery, and in the medallion, her son in the womb is also superimposed over a white solar disk shining in the background, exactly as we would expect for the virgin Mary and the child Jesus.

As the second season begins, the blessed baby is born and is named Mateo. Or to be more precise, he is called Mateo Gloriano Rogelio Solano Villanueva. The family becomes nationally famous, as the child is kidnapped and then miraculously returned to his mother’s arms, and the paparazzi fight among themselves to snap elusive photos of the virgin mother and child. The typological link to the biblical Virgin Mary is so strong that even the New York Times has to admit it.

Meanwhile, Jane remains entangled in a triangle between her two love-besotted suitors, Michael (now ex-fiance, but still in the running) and baby-daddy sperm donor Rafael. In this regard, at least, the scenario seems rather extremely unlike the Gospels.

The gospel of Arrius Calpurnius Piso

But is it possible that the creators of the show had a different gospel in mind? That is, could they have possibly have heard of Abelard Reuchlin’s pamphlet “The True Authorship of the New Testament” and based their screenplay on the theory expressed therein? Or perhaps seen his recent video interview?  (Sadly, Mr. Reuchlin reportedly passed away last March 2015. May he rest in peace.)

Or could they have heard of Roman Piso and his recent book, Piso Christ?

Their theory leads to the conclusion that the child ‘Jesus’ was the product of just such a love triangle.

Or perhaps the creators of ‘Jane the Virgin‘ have insider knowledge of the story, as deep historical truth or as a preserved myth — as it might be taught in secret quasi-Masonic meetings of Ordo Templi Orientalis and the like?

I don’t claim to be certain of how this happened. Or for that matter, maybe it’s all a coincidence. What could be more ordinary than a love triangle involving a virgin mother? But let’s look at the Piso theory, and then review the depth of the coincidence.

Regular readers of this website will know that, as discussed by Joseph Atwill in Caesar’s Messiah, we believe that the canonical Gospels were written as postwar propaganda by a circle of intellectuals in the court of the Flavian Roman Emperors. This circle included the historian Flavius Josephus, as well as members or employees of the Herodian dynasty in Jerusalem, and the wealthy Alexanders of Egypt.  That is as far as we are willing to go, based on analysis of the Gospel text, and its many parallels to the works of Josephus himself. We would not presume to know exactly who the authors known as ‘Matthew’, ‘Mark’ and ‘Luke’ are; or whether they might all be the same person, or not.

However: since the 1978 publication of his pamphlet, ‘Abelard Reuchlin’ (a pen name) has claimed to know that, in fact, the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, as we know them, were all written personally by Flavius Josephus. And furthermore, Reuchlin states that this ‘Josephus’ was an alias for a Roman patrician whose true name was Arrius Calpurnius Piso. He explains that this child was the son of Arria the Younger, granddaughter of Aristobulus. As to the father, that is not entirely certain, because Reuchlin believes that Arria was betrothed to Gaius Calpurnius Piso, a very wealthy Roman senator and noted philanthropist; but the emperor Caligula showed up at their wedding, took notice of Arria’s charms, and took possession of her for himself. Shortly thereafter, Arria and Gaius were caught flirting, and Gaius was banished from Rome. Sometime during the next year, Reuchlin says, a child was born to Arria. And during that same year, Caligula was assassinated by a mysterious conspiracy, and Gaius C. Piso returned to Rome to rejoin his bride. Just possibly, humiliating Gaius Calpurnius Piso was not a wise action on Caligula’s part.

In this scenario, Arria’s predicament is not so different from Jane the Virgin’s. Especially if she had not consummated the marriage with Gaius, she would be wisest not to admit to having bedded Caligula either. Best for her to claim to be a virgin mother! Or at any rate, no one outside the immediate family had any need to know the true paternity. And while Reuchlin prefers to call the child Arrius Calpurnius Piso, he believes the man has been remembered in history as Gnaeus Arrius Antoninus, which refers to Caligula’s descent from Mark Antony. This man went on to be the grandfather of the emperor Antoninus Pius. Reuchlin believes that that the emperor Trajan joined the family by marriage to his daughter. So this man  was the ultimate king-maker of the era which Gibbon famously called “in the history of the world… the most happy and prosperous.” Inasmuch as important Romans often took on long names, his full nomenclature might well have been Gnaeus Arrius Antoninus Calpurnius Piso. Reuchlin believes he was known by other aliases as well. We will call him simply Josephus, as that is by far the most well-known today of all his various names.

In his autobiography, Josephus described himself as a descendant of the Hasmonians on his mother’s side, which would be the case if his mother was Arria the Younger. As to Josephus’ father, his name is given only as Matthias, a Jew. If Reuchlin’s theory is correct, this would be a blatant lie: whoever Josephus’ father was, he was no Jew. But at any rate, according to Reuchlin, Josephus went on to write the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. And when he did so, he wrote himself into the story, making it into another autobiography of sorts, as authors often do. As such, Reuchlin sees echoes of Josephus in the character of Jesus himself, the son of the virgin Mary. (We need to allow some confusion among the names Mary, Arria, and Miriamne, which all sound more or less the same, and may be variant spellings of the same name originally expressed in Hebrew, Latin or Greek, and transliterated to English.)

So, let’s recap.  According to Reuchlin, we have the ‘virgin’ Arria (aka Mary), who was betrothed to Gaius Calpurnius Piso — but she was stolen away and possibly seduced by Caligula, a powerful playboy. Their son, Josephus (aka Gnaeus Arrius Antoninus Calpurnius Piso, aka Jesus) writes that his father’s name (and his great-grandfathers’ name as well) was Matthias.

Meanwhile, on TV we have the ‘virgin’ Jane, who was betrothed to Michael, but who was stolen and seduced by Rafael, a powerful playboy. Jane names her son Mateo, after his grandfather.

Looking deeper into ‘Jane the Virgin’, we find that Jane’s mother is named Xiomara. This is a common Latino name, but according to the urban dictionary, Xeo is also a neologism meaning ‘ideas or knowledge of things yet to be discovered.” So this name, Xiomara, could indicate ‘new insights about Mary’. Also, Arria the Younger’s mother was Arria the Elder, that is, another Mary.

Rafael is the scion of a crime family whose dealings are as complex and mysterious as Caligula’s family, the imperial Julio-Claudians. Rafael’s father Emilio seems to be guiltless and upright, like Caligula’s father Germanicus, and both are murdered in mysterious circumstances. Beyond that, specific parallels to the Julio-Claudians are difficult to find. The primary center of evil is the mysterious ‘Sin Rostro’, that is, ‘the faceless one’, who operates a plastic-surgery ring in the basement of the hotel, where notorious drug criminals are given new identities. This may be a reference to the 1950 film Hombre Sin Rostro, or the 1993 film Man Without a Face, or (most likely) to the ‘Faceless Ones’ of the Game of Thrones series, who are a secret society of shape-shifting assassins dwelling in the ‘House of Black and White’. This, in turn, would remind us of the black and white checkerboard floor of the Freemasonic temple, as well as the dark and light sides of the Force in Star Wars. In Jane the Virgin, it is revealed that ‘Sin Rostro’ is Rose, Rafael’s red-haired stepmother; and that Rose is the one who killed Emilio. Does ‘Rose’ represent the Rosicrucian secret society? So far, the series Jane the Virgin has been light on clues in this regard, but the season isn’t over yet.

Abelard Reuchlin’s pamphlet is silent on the topic of how ‘Josephus Flavius’ can be said to be descended from the Flavians. But, Roman Piso has suggested that Arria the Elder was married to Titus Flavius Sabinus II, the brother of emperor Vespasian. As the counterpart to the Flavians, we find Jane’s father Rogelio de la Vega, whose vainglorious telenovela stardom makes a fabulous satire of Vespasian’s sense of humor regarding his own promotion to divine status.

Nice theory, but where’s the evidence?

Now, before we get too carried away with all this, I have one more comparison I’d like to make between the analysis of Abelard Reuchlin and Roman Piso regarding ‘Arrius Piso’, Josephus, and the New Testament, versus my analysis of Jane the Virgin. That is: as much merit as they might have from a received or intuited point of view,  both are equally unsupported by hard-core evidence.

As far as my analysis of the TV show is concerned, the comparison to Reuchlin’s theory about Roman history is at a very superficial level. Beyond the obvious comparison of Jane to the Virgin Mary, the rest of the comparison is very circumstantial, and could possibly be coincidental. Or at any rate, the odds against such a coincidence might be significant, but certainly not astronomical. Specific verbal parallels between Jane the Virgin and the classical texts which would meet MacDonald’s criteria of density, ordered sequence, and distinctiveness have not been found; and considering the nature of the dialog in Jane, I feel it’s unlikely that they would be found. So I can only offer it as speculative, and hopefully illustrative and entertaining.

It must be said that Reuchlin and Piso’s theory has the tremendous merit, that it fills in certain glowing lacunae in the “official story” of Roman history. Specifically, the man named Arrius Antoninus above, seems to come out of nowhere into great prominence and wealth, to become Antoninus Pius’ grandfather. Similarly, Trajan comes essentially out of nowhere, with the benefit of marriage to a Piso family woman whose parentage, again, is unknown. If indeed Arrius Antoninus were child and heir to the great Calpurnius Piso fortune, and father in turn to Trajan’s wife, this would represent an adequate explanation for a situation which is otherwise mysterious. But, just because the conjecture is convenient, doesn’t constitute a proof.

So now let us break down Abelard Reuchlin’s analysis “Proof that Josephus was really Calpurnius Piso“, which appears on pp. 43-45 of the pamphlet.

In Pliny’s letters that particular one of the various identities of Josephus in which he is Pliny’s wife’s grandfather is Calpurnius Fabatus. And soon we find the name Calpurnius again.

Pliny’s letters do include eight notes addressed to Fabatus, who is undoubtedly of gens Calpurnius. The name Fabatus does contain similar consonants FBS as the name Flavius, FLVS. If it were true that Pliny the Younger married into the family of Calpurnius Piso, it would help to explain his ties into the Roman power structure, including his connection to the Emperor Trajan. So it does seem that perhaps Reuchlin is on the right track here.

But, unlike Pliny’s letters mentioning Calpurnius Piso or Arrius Antoninus, this Fabatus is not acknowledged by Pliny as a man of either great wealth and power, or great literary achievement. The notes to Fabatus are familiar and comfortable.  An inscription to Calpurnius Fabatus has been discovered in Pliny’s hometown of Comum, according to Wikipedia (citing Jan Gruter’s Inscriptiones Antiquae of 1603). So it also seems quite possible that Calpurnius Fabatus is a different person, from a different branch of the Calpurnius family. Either way, this hardly seems decisive, or even relevant, to the connection between Gaius Calpurnius Piso and Arrius Antoninus.

In Josephus’ The Jewish War, he inserted himself as Cestius Gallus when he was the Roman general who provoked the Jewish revolt. For he saw himself as gallus, the priest or midwife of the new god he was creating, Jesus. Soon, in The Jewish War, Cestius Gallus has an assistant, Caesennius Gallus, commander of the 12th Legion. But he is still Gallus–that is, Josephus. Then Caesennius Paetus appears as governor of Syria; but because he is still Caesennius, he is still Josephus.

Reuchlin argues that the Piso name is associated with Gallus, the cock or chicken, because the Pisos had estates in Gaul, and because the cock is associated with the worship of Attis and Cybele. A throne dedicated to Cybele and Attis was found at the Calpurnius family estate, the Villa of the Papyri, in Herculaneum. So again, Reuchlin might indeed be on Josephus’ trail.

However, Josephus does have an alibi: during the years 63 through 66 when Cestius Gallus was legate of Syria and commanding the failed Roman assault on Jerusalem, Josephus claims that he was in Rome working to gain the release of some Jewish priests imprisoned there. Then upon his return to Jerusalem, he was an advocate against war against the Romans, but was appointed commander of Galilee for the Jews following Gallus’ withdrawal. So if Josephus was really Gallus, his account of his own life at that time is unveiled as a complete fiction, the very opposite of the truth. And as to the connection between Gaius Calpurnius Piso and Arrius Antoninus, again it seems almost irrelevant.

Moreover, the name Paetus seems familiar. It had appeared in the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus, as Thrasea Paetus, Stoic philosopher, killed by Emperor Nero about the year 65. In Tacitus, a few pages earlier, Nero also kills the leader of a group of conspirators who plot his life. The leader is named Calpurnius Piso. Somehow he seems to resemble Thrasea Paetus. Could they be identical? Moreover, the name Calpurnius reminds one of Calpurnius Fabatus, which was Josephus’ name in Pliny’s letters when he was Pliny’s wife’s grandfather.

Comparing and contrasting the narratives in Tacitus chapter 15 on the Calpurnian revolt, and chapter 16 on the condemnation and death of Thrasea Paetus, there are some unmistakable similarities. Both men are accused of disloyalty to Nero. Both of them are encouraged by their followers to reply to the charges, and both decide to remain silent. Both wait patiently for their fate, and both die by slitting their own wrists in accordance with imperial decree. However, there are also contrasts. Calpurnius Piso’s virtue is of a mixed sort: although he was a wealthy, handsome philanthropist, Tacitus accused him also of frivolity, ostentation, and debauchery, and he certainly was conspiring against Nero to bring about the tyrant’s death. Paetus, by contrast, was a model of virtue, although his attempts to deal honorably with Nero did lead to unavoidable conflict. While Piso’s friends encouraged him to speak out publicly to spur on the revolt and look for more allies, Paetus’ friends wanted him to emphasize his own honor and blamelessness. And while Piso sullied his honor by putting “disgusting flatteries of Nero” in his will, Paetus’ death was a model of dignity.

So it seems possible that Tacitus is telling the same story twice: once from the official Imperial perspective, and then again in an occulted fashion, telling a more sympathetic version of the tale. Thus, Abelard Reuchlin’s perspective seems to have some merit.

But — the similarities and contrasts might be nothing more than a literary device, Tacitus’ way of comparing Gaius Calpurnius Piso’s dubious nature against Thrasea Paetus’ incorruptible nobility. Thrasea Paetus is a notable character of the period in his own right, mentioned not only in Tacitus (in several chapters) but also in Cassius Dio, Pliny’s letters, and in Juvenal, and it seems awkward to dismiss him as a literary phantom of Gaius Calpurnius Piso. And as to the relevance to the theory that Josephus was Gaius Calpurnius Piso’s son, its main purpose is to fill in the information that his mother was Arria the Elder. As we will see, this is problematic on several aspects anyhow.

At this point the following steps quickly occur:
1. One checks a Latin classical dictionary and finds the famous Calpurnius Piso family.
2. From a Latin dictionary, one also finds the source of the Piso name, as “pistor,” meaning one who”ground,” or a miller or baker. He then thinks of the many allusions to the baker and is caught up on the trail of bread crumbs.
3. He, thus, realizes that Josephus was a Calpurnius Piso.

“At this point”, I find that I have completely lost the ability to follow Abelard Reuchlin’s reasoning. I’m not aware of the “many allusions to the baker”, at least not with reference to Josephus or any other of his alleged aliases. So for me, the “trail of bread crumbs” is lost here.

4. The conspirator Calpurnius Piso of about the year 65 appears to have perished in fact, and not merely in literature in Tacitus’ Annals Book XV. But Tacitus explains that others of the conspirators are exiled or given immunity. These including “Natalis” (Nativity?) — whom Tacitus described in as being “the partner of Piso in all his secret councils. ’’ Likewise “Montanus” (the mountain?)  “is spared out of consideration for his father’’ when Thrasea Paetus is killed.
5. One recalls that Josephus appears in Judaea a year later as Cestius Gallus.
6. Then one realizes that: (1) Josephus was the son of the condemned conspirator, Calpurnius Piso, and was himself also a Calpurnius Piso; and (2) many others have, themselves, previously followed this same trail of bread crumbs.

Aside from readers of Abelard Reuchlin’s pamphlet, I have no idea who else has followed this convoluted trail. But look what Abelard Reuchlin says next!

This, then, is the method of  learning that Josephus was really Calpurnius Piso! That is, unless one happens to be an evangelist and has already been so informed in seminary or by another evangelist! [My emphasis.]

Here we get to the crux of the matter. The trail of breadcrumbs is so sparse, no one is going to see it unless it’s pointed out “in seminary, or by another evangelist.” And as it turns out, Reuchlin apparently was tipped off in just such a manner. In a comment to a review of Reuchlin’s pamphlet posted at, Judy Reckart provided the following information:

I heard rabbi Reuchlin on WFLA in Tampa back in 1998 touting his new revelation about the Piso conspiracy. I called into the show. I ask Mr. Reuchlin if he is the one who discovered this conspiracy? He replied others had told him about it but he is the one who figured it all out and who the players were in the Piso family who wrote the Septuagint and the New Testament books. I ask him if anyone else before had writen any of this and did he document who and what books or writings we could find them. He replied that only among the Jews was this known and they held it a tight secret.

Our own Joseph Atwill further collaborated this information in a podcast recorded for this site, in which he states that Abelard Reuchlin personally confirmed that the theory originated with English rabbis of Abelard Reuchlin’s family. However, Reuchlin was never willing to put this information in print. On the contrary, his pamphlet claims that the path of transmission is very different. He claims that there is an “inner circle” that preserves and makes use of this knowledge, and he begins section 10 of the pamphlet (The Inner Circle, p. 46) as follows:

This knowledge has always been the play-thing of the (Non-Jewish) intellectual theological, and political establishments of the world, who have always used it for population control. Yet still today, almost no Jews know anything about this subject nor that our ancestors’ coded responses to Piso’s creation are scattered all through our ancient writings and ritual.

To repeat: although Reuchlin himself received the knowledge through Jewish channels, he asserts that the “Inner Circle” is predominantly non-Jewish. Remarkably, Reuchlin goes on to state:

Inner Circle allusions—in numbers, names, and various types of clues and hints—are all through the world’s literature. The Gesta Romanorum, Decameron, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Rabelais, Tolstoy, Milton, Spencer, Tennyson, Thackeray, Kipling, Stevenson, Poe, Burns, Browning, Noyes, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, ad infinitum.

At this website, we are only beginning to explore this assertion. What we’ve found is that allusions to the Roman origins of Christianity are indeed prevalent in Shakespeare, Kipling, Poe and Burns at least. We’ve also shown the pattern continuing in works of JD Salinger, the Beatles, and the Wachowski brothers. However, in every case we’ve looked at, the Josephan satire is reversed rather than re-enacted, making the perspective pro-Jewish, anti-Flavian and anti-Christian. Indeed, Joseph Atwill has suggested that Shakespeare and Kipling might be crypto-Jewish. Salinger and the Wachowskis are openly Jewish, and Paul McCartney married into Judaism.

Another possible explanation is that at the royal level, Jewish and Christian elites have engaged in a long process of intermarriage, probably beginning before Judaism and Christianity were invented. As such, within this “inner circle”, the polarity of Jew and Gentile is known to represent a false dialectic. However, the polarity of Royalty against Everyone Else is a real dialectic, and plans for genocide by the oligarchs against the general population may be very real.

Roman Piso’s quest for proof: the “New Classical Scholarship”

Abelard Reuchlin’s reasoning seems to be little more than a thin veneer of speculation, pasted over what is, fundamentally, a received truth passed down through rabbinical channels. By contrast, ‘Roman Piso’ (another pseudonym) has been on a quest to demonstrate the factual nature of this viewpoint, through careful and exhaustive scholarship. He states that his book “represents a tremendous amount of research, done during a period of many years”. Moreover, he has posted many more papers at his page at

Through the process of this research, Roman Piso claims to have invented a whole new way of looking at the ancient world, which he calls the “New Classical Scholarship.” This is defined in contrast to “Old Classical Scholarship”, which he claims (in Piso Christ) may be characterized as follows:

They assume that the ancient authors

(1) of history were who they claimed to be.

(2) were writing in an honest and forthright manner.

(3) did not use hidden agendas or ulterior motives for misleading the reader, or listeners.

(4) were not closely related to each other and therefore, were not writing in concert with each other.

(5) were not writing from within a “controlled environment” where only certain people could write for public consumption. (Meaning royals only, no matter how it would “appear” that a measure of freedom of speech existed in those times.)

(6) were not using literary devices and other methods in which to deliberately deceive the masses.

The true situation, as Piso says he has discovered through his research, is that the royals created a set of eight facades for themselves:

One. The facade of a measure of Freedom of Speech. Only the royals had this ability, and then, only to some extent. They (ancient royalty), could not openly say anything that they wanted to. Nor could they say anything that would threaten the system that was in place for the royals.

Two. The facade of Upward Mobility. An ancient ‘Glass Ceiling’ was in place. Like the carrot being hung in front of the horse to make the horse go so that it would pull the carriage, so also was there an illusion for the masses to make them stay in their place and try to work their way up the social ladder….

Three. The facade of Roman Dislike of Christianity (early on). They had to create the illusion that they were not involved in creating it (Christianity) so that they would not be suspected of that…

Four. The facade of What the War (of time in which Christianity was being created) was About. Since the Romans were really the “bad guys”, they could not let that fact be known….

Five. The facade of “Foreigners”. Since it took the cooperation of ALL major (royal) rulers in many different lands, and because with the genealogical data we can actually see how these rulers were related to each other and/or had the same common (royal) ancestors, and knew about it – there could hardly have been any ‘real’ foreigners in the way that people were led to believe. In fact, royals were only allowed to marry other royals to preserve the royal bloodlines….

Six. The facade of Dynasties. They had to create the illusion that there were dynasties (that rose up out of thin air, and which many times, began from an individual of “peasant stock”, or one who “rose in the ranks”, or “of humble origin”, etc.), so that the non-royal public would never know that they were being ruled over perpetually by the same royal families….

Seven. The facade of ancient Authors Speaking Forthright and Honestly. The ancient authors were royals and yet they could not say to outright. So, by necessity, the had to lie about who they were and about much of what they were saying in their writings…. They tried not to lie when they did not have to or when trying to give important or necessary information so as to be able to leave a means of recovering and knowing the truth and true nature of their writings; they made use of literary devices such as disclaimers and did say truthful things, often out of context or in deceptive ways….

Eight. The facade of Many Different People Writing. Since only the royals were doing the writing and recording of history, as well as being the authors of biblical and other religious texts, it was necessary for them to make it appear that more people were writing than actually were…. So, the authors played many parts and wrote using alias names and pen names in order for that to be accomplished.

Furthermore, the maintenance of these facades required the invention of a hidden language, as explained in Piso’s essay on the New Classical Scholarship:

Whereas Reuchlin had thought in terms of the Piso’s using a “code”, we found it was actually an entire language within language, and that it was universally used in the languages of the day; but that only royalty knew of, and used the “royal language”.

Piso has only partially described this “royal language”, which seems to include double entendres, especially sexual ones, and letter substitution to produce aliases.

What to say in response to all this? First of all, there is all too much truth in Piso’s ironic characterization of “old classical scholarship”. In defense of this “classical scholarship, one must admit that on first reading of a text, it might be reasonable to take note of who the author claims to be, and what is the surface meaning of the text. This is the starting point for any analysis. One might even give the benefit of the doubt, and assume that the text is telling the truth until proven otherwise.

But certainly it is also prudent to at least consider the possibility that the authors of ancient texts are not who they seem, and that there is a hidden agenda which might be very sophisticated and systematic. All too often, traditional classical scholars fail to go much beyond the surface reading.

Better classical scholarship: a compromise approach

But, I would argue that Roman Piso goes too far in the opposite direction. In his published works so far, he has not offered anything like a proof of his major propositions of “New Classical Scholarship”. Apparently, the conclusions emerge as the conclusion of Roman Piso’s multiple studies of particular instances. But it is impossible for the reader to verify the conclusions, except by undertaking to repeat Roman Piso’s lifetime of research.

What seems far more plausible to me, at least as a set of working hypotheses:

One. Literacy in the ancient world was very limited, to less than 10% of the population by most estimates. For most of those 10%, writing was used for practical commercial purposes. Only a tiny minority had the time to write extensively. Furthermore, without the printing press, books needed to be copied by hand, and were extraordinarily expensive. As a result, the landed nobility and the royals must have controlled the creation and distribution of the vast majority of literary materials. But it is hard to believe that it was necessary (or possible) for the royals to outlaw possession or limited distribution of works by non-royals. 

Of course, the conventional view of the New Testament is that it must have been for many years a sort of samizdat literature, produced without Roman imperial sanction. We dispute this, claiming that the New Testament was indeed written by the royal court. But, Roman Piso’s “facade #1” simply assumes the fact which we seek to demonstrate.

Two. Of course there must not have been much upward mobility, but perhaps more so under the Roman system than under later Medieval Feudalism. Accordingly, any reports of upward mobility should be viewed skeptically, but cannot be rejected out of hand.

Three. Some Romans might have covertly supported Christianity, while others (including some royalty) probably hated it. Accordingly some incidents of Christian suppression might have been faked, or involved suppression of unapproved Christian sects, while other incidents might have been real. Again, the evidence must be evaluated on its own merits.

Four. In the Wars of the Jews (which, Roman Piso rightly states, extended through the entire 1st century AD and into the 2nd century) the Romans might very well have been the “bad guys”. But the Jews were humans also, and as such, could hardly be expected to have achieved a state of purity. The Jews might well have been receiving support from the Persian empire, which was not notably more progressive than the Roman, propaganda claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

Five. The ancient world consisted of many nations and nationalities and races. Accordingly, “foreigners” were a reality, at least as far as the world of commoners was concerned. However, it seems highly likely that the ruling elite of the major nations of the ancient Near East were racially much more uniform than their subjects, and were probably descended from a founder clan of “Indo-European” (Caucasian) roots. Furthermore, the elites of all nations shared a common purpose to maintain control over their followers.

Six. Claims of the advent of new dynasties, or of marriage of commoners into royal families, must be treated with skepticism, and the evidence for any such events must be evaluated on its merits. Oftentimes, hidden relationships may be revealed.

Seven. As the authors themselves generally admitted, much of ancient literature that has survived to our time was generated under the control of the royal court. As such, this literature was written with an agenda which in many cases is obvious. Accordingly, any and all statements presented by any ancient literature must be treated with skepticism, and analyzed for evidence of the actual agenda of the author.  The truth may be difficult or impossible to disentangle, and classical scholarship often must reach tentative conclusions based on limited evidence.

Eight. In ancient times (just as now), many authors wrote using aliases or pen names, while others wrote using their true names, just as they were known to their friends and family in everyday life. Then (as now) authors had the choice to use the real names of their subjects, or to disguise those names using aliases. In ancient times, the line between fiction and non-fiction was not even so clearly drawn as it is now. It is not always easy to detect these issues, much less to resolve them, but we do the best we can.

Roman Piso logic

In the competition between “Old Classical Scholarship”, Roman Piso’s “New Classical Scholarship”, and my proposed compromise, obviously a vast amount of information must be processed and evaluated before any conclusions can be reached. Can we rely on Roman Piso’s lifetime of scholarship, and therefore accept his conclusions as good coin? I would suggest that before we can do this, we need to look at the quality of his reasoning in a particular example.

As far as the case of Josephus and whether he is the same person as Arrius Antoninus, Arrius Calpurnius Piso, Calpurnius Fabatus, Natalis, Cestius Gallus, Thrasea Paetus’ son Montanus, and so forth: Roman Piso’s argument is very similar to Abelard Reuchlin’s. (There are some differences: Roman Piso adds a few more aliases, including the famous authors Philo and Dio Chrysostom. He believes that Arria the Elder and her daughter were not descended from Herod and Aristobulus, but rather from the line of Antony and Cleopatra — thus accounting for the Antonine component of Arrius Antoninus’ name. The Herodian and Flavian parts of Josephus’ lineage came from Arria the Elder’s marriage to Titus Sabinus, a descendent of the Herodians as well as the Flavians by way of Vespasia Pollo. “Old Classical Scholarship” would, of course,  dispute this analysis at several points.)

Also along these lines, I’d like to note that Gaius Calpurnius Piso’s wife at the time of his plot against Nero, may not be the same person as his wife that was stolen by Caligula. At any rate, the official story is that the one stolen by Caligula was named Livia Orestilla, or Cornelia Orestina. His second wife was Satria Galla. And again, “Old Classical Scholarship” knows of no reason why either of these women would be identified with Arria the Younger, or Mary.

As another example of Roman Piso’s research, let’s consider his argument that “Neratius Priscus” is a pseudonym for “Cornelius Tacitus”. Tacitus, of course, is the well-known historian and author of the “History” and “Annals”, while Priscus was also a well-known author of legal texts, whose works have survived as excerpts and abstracts in the Digest of Justinian.

Roman Piso’s case is given in his paper “Discovering Tacitus As Neratius Priscus“, excerpted below along with my responses.

Let’s begin this with info from “The True Authorship of the New Testament,” by Abelard Reuchlin. In it, Reuchlin states; “The family also put their friends into the story. Justus (Piso) inserted Cornelius Tacitus, the Roman historian. He became Cornelius, the Roman centurion in Acts, Chapter 10, who was devout and feared God; and he was also (Cornutus) Tertullus, the prosecuting attorney against Paul in Acts 24:1-2. Tacitus reciprocated by dedicating his ‘Diologues on Oratory’ shortly after the year 100 to “dear Fabius Justus”.” This, on page 14 of Reuchlin’s booklet.

Cornutus Tertullus served as a Roman regional governor, consul and prefect.  Cornelius Tacitus’ public career seems tandem to Tertullis’: both were regional governors during the period from ~80 to ~96, then returned to Rome, and completed their careers in Anatolia after 112. So the observation that they could be the same person seems very astute, although far from proven. Similarly the proposed reciprocal tributes of Justus Piso (in the New Testament) and Cornelius Tacitus (in the Dialogues) is a plausible speculation.

Reuchlin further states (on pg. 17); “Now the family had other writers place Jesus and Christianity in prior history. First, the Pisos used their friend Cornelius Palma, the jurist. Writing under the name Cornelius Tacitus between 115 and 120, he mentioned Christ and said that he had founded the Christians and had been crucified by Pontius Pilate; and also detailed that Nero had caused Christians to be torn by dogs and burned on crosses.” (Ref. Tacitus, Annals, XV.44, Loeb Classical Library edition)

Tacitus’ statements about the Christians are well-known. And indeed, Palma and Tacitus led somewhat parallel lives, but not exactly. Tacitus was consul 97, Palma was consul 99. Palma was governor of Syria under Trajan, while Tacitus was governor of Asia. Palma is thought to have been killed in 117 by Hadrian, while Tacitus seems to have lived longer than that, though it’s not known for sure. So the speculation that Cornelius Palma and Cornelius Tacitus were one and the same, is once again found plausible.

Now as for Cornelius Tacitus as Neratius Priscus, it may well have been that the late Roman history scholar Ronald Syme knew of this and several other items relating to the truth about ancient Roman history. Syme is a major source for the critical examination of these names and personages, because of his extensive work in this area. (See his articles in JRS – The Journal for Roman Studies)”

“Syme says in his article “Tacitus: Some Sources of his Information”,* that; “The case of the jurist Neratius Priscus is instructive, consul suffect in 97, the same year as Cornelius Tacitus.” And this is precisely how one needs to work through these names and identities – carefully following EVERY clue.

This is not so much of a clue. There is no hint in the passages quoted from Syme, that he believed these names represented the same individual. During this period, there were up to a dozen consuls and suffect consuls each year, with new ones appointed every two months. This could certainly be a coincidence, that Tacitus and Priscus were consul the same year.

One finds Cornelius Tacitus as Cornelius Palma, a jurist. And we see Neratius Priscus (also a jurist), as consul suffect in 97, the same year as Cornelius Tacitus! Persons who research these names need to consult lists of consuls (as well as other lists of compiled data), compare dates and events, titles and positions, names of relatives and even cross-reference material.”

Cornelius Tacitus could also be said to be a jurist, without relying on the identity with Palma. So now Tacitus and Priscus have two things in common: both jurists, and both consul in 97.  But obviously there could be more than one lawyer in Rome, and (then as now) many lawyers were also politicians. So this is a less powerful coincidence than it might seem.

In Syme’s article titled “People in Pliny,” he says; “Proconsuls of Asia and of Africa are likewise not much in evidence. Asia from 103/4 to 120/1 (the list is now complete) exhibits only two, viz. Cornelius Tacitus and Cornelius Priscus.” So, here we see Tacitus again with the same title, in the same place, at the same time… this time with another “Priscus” (who just so happens to have the name “Cornelius” as well). As a person works through the maze of names in this way, the evidence mounts and the likelihood of coincidence disappears.

Now we have the coincidence that Cornelius Tacitus and Cornelius Priscus were both mentioned as proconsuls of Asia. But this can hardly be taken as much evidence that they were one and the same. Cornelius, Tacitus and Priscus were all fairly common Roman family names that were basically mixed and matched to form a person’s complete nomenclature, presumably according to their family history and parental whim. So again, this is not an unlikely coincidences. And, mathematically speaking, two very weak pieces of evidence do not combine to make stronger evidence.

Moreover, in the same article, we find our friend Neratius Priscus (now known to us as the person who wrote ‘history’ as “Tacitus”), as the husband of Corellia Hispulla (See pg. 147). In addition to such overwhelming evidence as that which we find in following these clues, we continue to find (and disclose) even more.

This is actually evidence contrary to Roman Piso’s thesis.  Tacitus was married to Julia Agricola, whose family history is well known and has no obvious overlap with Corellia Hispulla. In fact many details of the lives of Neratius Priscus and Cornelius Tacitus are well known, and while some are compatible, others are conflicting.

When one reads, for instance, “The Life of Hadrian,” by Aelius Spartianus, one learns that (at least supposedly); “There was, to be sure, a widely prevailing belief that Trajan, with the approval of many of his friends, had planned to appoint as his successor not Hadrian, but Neratius Priscus, even to the extent of once saying to Priscus: “I entrust the provinces to your care in case anything happens to me.”

Both Neratius Priscus and Cornelius Tacitus seem to have been held in high esteem by Trajan, holding high positions, and both fell from favor under Hadrian. But again, this is a weak level of coincidence.

To summarize the points in Roman Piso’s article:

(1) Cornelius Tacitus is mentioned in the NT as Cornelius the Centurion, and as Cornutus Tertullus the jurist.

(2) Cornelius Palma and Cornelius Tacitus were the same person, and both were jurists.

(3) Neratius Priscus was also a jurist, and was consul in the same year as Cornelius Tacitus.

(4) Cornelius Tacitus and Cornelius Priscus were Asian proconsuls.

(5) Neratius Priscus married Corellia Hispulla.

(6) Trajan planned to appoint Neratius Priscus as his successor, but did not follow through on that intention.

Even if we accept each individual point (and several of them are debatable) it doesn’t add up to a convincing case that Cornelius Tacitus and Neratius Priscus are one and the same person. The only way this argument makes sense, is if you start from the premise that only a few Romans were writing and that most or all authors used aliases. In Bayesian terms, this shifts the “prior probability” so that very tenuous clues can be used to discriminate between possible sets of aliases.

Using the type of reasoning given in Roman Piso’s paper, many pairs of possible author aliases could be identified as possible matches. Using this data, aided by circular reasoning and confirmation bias, could lead to a conclusion justifying the premise that Roman authors always wrote using aliases. However, the correct analytical path would be to begin by identifying a large number of cases where there is substantial proof of the use of pen names, and then move from that abundant and confirmed information, to the generalization that this was a frequent if not ubiquitous practice. Based on information provided by Roman Piso, there is no way to establish whether this was, in fact, the method that he followed.

So, was Jesus really Caligula’s love child with Jane the Virgin?

And how am I supposed to know? But I will say it makes an interesting story, fit to be hanged for. And furthermore, Abelard Reuchlin says he heard it from the rabbis of the “Inner Circle”, which could be as good of a source of authority as any.

While mining this vein of ore, also please consider Ralph Ellis’ theory that when this same love child (possibly operating under the name of St. Paul) arrived at Nero’s imperial court, presumably holding a grudge against the Julio-Claudian family because of his weird childhood: he succeeded in seducing Nero’s wife Poppaea, and getting her pregnant. Nero was so angry that he kicked Poppaea down the stairway and killed her, along with the unborn child.

Next thing you know, a successful rebellion was organized against Nero, and he was killed by his secretary, Epaphroditus. Strangely, St. Paul also had an affiliate by that name, and an Epaphroditus was also involved in the murder of Domitian.

Somebody needs to make this into a telenovela.

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