Jesus was Caesar – Vitae Parallelae

Extracts from the book «Jesus was Caesar»

© Francesco Carotta, Kirchzarten

© 2005, Uitgeverij Aspekt b.v., Soesterberg, The Nederlands

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Vitae Parallelae

p. 33–37 (original German Edition), = p. 47-50 (English Edition)

Both Caesar and Jesus start their rising careers in neighboring states in the north: Gallia and Galilee.

Both have to cross a fateful river: the Rubicon and the Jordan. Once across the rivers, they both come across a patron/rival: Pompeius and John the Baptist, and their first followers: Antonius and Curio on the one hand and Peter and Andrew on the other.

Both are continually on the move, finally arriving at the capital, Rome and Jerusalem, where they at first triumph, yet subsequently undergo their passion.

Both have good relationships with women and have a special relationship with one particular woman, Caesar with Cleopatra and Jesus with Magdalene.

Both have encounters at night, Caesar with Nicomedes, Jesus with Nicodemus.

Both of them are great orators and of the highest nobility, descendant of Aeneas and son of David, yet nevertheless both are self-made men. Both struggle hard and ultimately triumph, hence each has a ‘triumphal entry’: Caesar on horseback and Jesus on a donkey.

Both have an affinity to ordinary people—and both run afoul of the
highest authorities: Caesar with the Senate, Jesus with the Sanhedrin.

Both are contentious characters, but show praiseworthy clemency as well: the clementia Caesaris and Jesus’ Love-thy-enemy.

Both have a traitor: Brutus and Judas. And an assassin who at first gets away: the other Brutus and Barabbas. And one who washes his hands of it: Lepidus and Pilate.

Both are accused of making themselves kings: King of the Romans and King of the Jews. Both are dressed in red royal robes and wear a crown on their heads: a laurel wreath and a crown of thorns.

Both get killed: Caesar is stabbed with daggers, Jesus is crucified, but
with a stab wound in his side.

Both die on the same respective dates of the year: Caesar on the Ides (15th) of March, Jesus on the 15th of Nisan.

Both are deified posthumously: as Divus Iulius and as Jesus Christ.

Both leave behind priests: Marcus Antonius and Peter. Both have a posthumous heir: Gaius Octavianus adopted by Caesar’s Last Will and Testament and John the disciple whom Jesus adopts while on the cross (‘Woman, behold thy son!’).

Now, there is one thing that stands out as being strikingly incongruous: Caesar was a commander, while Jesus was a thaumaturge.

However, in his funeral oration for Caesar, Antonius depicted all of Caesar’s many great achievements as miracles. These miracles of Caesar included the survival of a storm at sea and even the raising of the dead: for the people took it to be a miracle that Caesar brought the honors of Marius ‘back from Hades into the city’ after many long years of Sulla’s dictatorship.

In turn, some of Jesus’ miracles concern the banishing of demons, which indeed represents the absolute, theological form of warfare.

The picture we usually have in mind is of Caesar waging merciless war, in stark contrast with Jesus preaching of love and bringing the Kingdom of God, which we assume to be one of peace, love and unity. This is in spite of the well-known passage:

    ‘Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household’.

And Jesus continues by praising those who take his people in and give them victuals. Clearly, these are civil war conditions. Thus Jesus brings about the Kingdom of God explicitly through civil war—even if he did not desire to use such means—exactly as Caesar himself did.

In turn, the clementia Caesaris is scarcely mentioned, if it is not completely ignored, even though Caesar meant it to be an important political statement:

    ‘Let this be the new policy of victory that we arm ourselves with mercifulness and liberality.’

This political program of love-your-enemies was carried out so consistently, that he perished—like Jesus.

Even the limitations to their clementia are the same: Caesar forgave all his enemies—except the repeat offenders who mocked his clementia; Jesus forgave all sinners—except those who sinned against the Holy Spirit.

Thus the main features of the picture seem to fit. Let us now have a closer look at the people who surround Caesar and Jesus in order to see if there are any more parallels.

First approach

Pompeius, for example, is beheaded and his head is presented in a bowl to the person who supposedly wanted him killed—exactly what the Gospels tell us happened to John the Baptist.

Antonius negotiates with Caesar’s assassins, dines with them and dissembles; Peter is recognized at the enemies’ campfire and denies Jesus.

Caesar’s lover Cleopatra, later Antonius’ lover and mother of their children, is finally humiliated at Octavianus’ feet—Magdalene, who talks to Jesus about love and announces Jesus’ resurrection to Peter, washes the Lord’s feet with her tears.

Caesar’s uncle Marius, banished but brought back from Hades, lived with his wife Iulia and with Martha, a fortune teller; Jesus’ uncle Lazarus, resurrected from the dead, lived with his sister Mary and with a woman called Martha, who foretells his resurrection.

Now we shall move on to the few properties we mentioned above.

The victory of Caesar was sealed by a palm tree sprouting from the floor of a temple. While the people were giving him an ecstatic ovation, hailing him king, they waved olive branches. Jesus, too, was hailed as a king, and still today olive branches are waved on Palm Sunday. His horse is a donkey, which is a strange steed for a king, for the animal is no faster than a man on foot. But the horse of Caesar must also have been quite strange, for the equestrian statue of Caesar on the Forum Iulium had human feet.

We imagine the crown on Caesar’s head to be a laurel wreath: the triumphal wreath. Those statues of Divus Iulius that depict him as Soter, Savior, Redeemer, have wreaths of oak leaves or of grass, however, resembling both in form and meaning the crown of thorns worn by Jesus the Savior54—as we have seen. Jesus, in turn, is crowned with a laurel wreath by a legionary as depicted on a sarcophagus dating from 340/370 ad, on which the oldest known image of the Passion can be seen (fig. 116, p. 387).

Let us now examine the locations, starting with the few names mentioned so far.

The rise of Caesar begins in Gaul, that of Jesus in Galilee. Caesar, coming from Gallia (Gaul), crosses the Rubicon and arrives in Corfinium; Jesus, coming from Galilaea (Galilee), crosses the Jordan and arrives in Capernaum (also Caphernaum). Gallia and Galilee are the respective neighboring countries in the north. Both have to cross boundary rivers: the Rubicon separated Gallia from Italia, whereas the Jordan actually separated Galilee from the Decapolis and the Gaulanitis, but the Evangelists write as if Judaea were located immediately on the other side of the river. Corfinium and Capernaum respectively are the first cities in which they arrive. The stormy seas that are crossed by Caesar and Jesus also act as borders: across the Ionian Sea lies Ionia, as Greece was and is called in the Orient;56 across the Sea of Galilee again lie Decapolis and the Gaulanitis, but for the Evangelist it is again Judaea.

The same attributes and properties (from now on all called ‘requisites’, for short) appear within the same structures. The resemblance of the names is astonishing too: Gallia and Galilaea, Corfinium and Caphernaum, Italia or Ionia on the one hand and Judaea on the other.

Considering the resemblance of the names and the similarity of the requisites, a sequence emerges: Gallia + boundary river + Corfinium = Galilaea + boundary river + Caphernaum. Now, if we try to extend this sequence, we find that Caesar expels the commander of the enemy occupying the town of Corfinium; Jesus expels the unclean spirit of a possessed man. The English words occupied and possessed both have the same Latin equivalent: obsessus.

For Jesus it was also about power and struggle, ‘for he was teaching by proxy’ as Luther translates the passage of Mark; ‘for he taught them as one that had authority’ in the King James Version. Taking the sentence literally it becomes still clearer:

    ‘for he instructed them as the one who had power’.

The hostile spirit also sees him that way:

    ‘Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us?’

Therefore the sequence can be extended: Gallia + boundary river + Corfinium + occupying commander + expulsion = Galilee + boundary river + Caphernaum + possessed man + expulsion.

When comparing Caesar and Jesus we ascertain the existence of similar requisites within analogous structures and sequences.