Jesus Heals Bartimaeus

This is a good example of a Josephus/NT parallel which is not only ironic but is directly mocking Josephus. In Mark 10:46-52 we find the story of Jesus healing blind “Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus” (“bar” means “son”). The Gospel parallels frequently use the same or similar names for the characters as found in Josephus (Mary, Jesus, Simon, John, Herod and more frequently appear in both Josephus and the associated NT parallel), so when I set out to find a parallel for this passage I looked for the same name “Timaeus”. It turns out the only other reference in the works of Josephus to someone with a similar name is “Timeus” (without the “a”) which is in “Flavius Josephus Against Apion”, Book 1, passage 3. So I checked out that passage as my best guess for a new parallel and found they fit perfectly and humorously together.

“How can it then be other than an absurd thing, for the Greeks to be so proud, and to vaunt themselves to be the only people that are acquainted with antiquity, and that have delivered the true accounts of those early times after an accurate manner? Nay, who is there that cannot easily gather from the Greek writers themselves, that they knew but little on any good foundation when they set to write, but rather wrote their histories from their own conjectures? Accordingly, they confute one another in their own books to purpose, and are not ashamed to give us the most contradictory accounts of the same things; and I should spend my time to little purpose, if I should pretend to teach the Greeks that which they know better than I already, what a great disagreement there is between Hellanicus and Acusilaus about their genealogies; in how many cases Acusilaus corrects Hesiod: or after what manner Ephorus demonstrates Hellanicus to have told lies in the greatest part of his history; as does Timeus in like manner as to Ephorus, and the succeeding writers do to Timeus, and all the later writers do to Herodotus nor could Timeus agree with Antiochus and Philistius, or with Callias, about the Sicilian History, no more than do the several writers of the Athide follow one another about the Athenian affairs; nor do the historians the like, that wrote the Argolics, about the affairs of the Argives. And now what need I say any more about particular cities and smaller places, while in the most approved writers of the expedition of the Persians, and of the actions which were therein performed, there are so great differences? Nay, Thucydides himself is accused of some as writing what is false, although he seems to have given us the exactest history of the affairs of his own time.”

Flavius Josephus Against Apion, Book 1, 3

“And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.”

– Mark 10:46-52

In Josephus’ passage, he is cursing the Greek writers and satirists for “contradicting themselves to purpose” and “telling lies” and he especially complains about Timeus and “those that came after”. Similarly, the NT version tells us that Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus (progenitors come after their parents) who is blind, which could be taken as a metaphor for people who write falsehoods and contradictions. Josephus says that he “should spend my time to little purpose if I should pretend to teach the Greeks”, and indeed, any Greek writer of that day would probably find it insulting that their great literary tradition should be so insulted by a Jew of all things, but even worse, Flavius Josephus is the adopted son of the deified “Lord of the entire habitable earth”, Vespasian, so having your literary tradition insulted by him is quite serious. So “those that came after Timeus” defend themselves satirically by portraying themselves as “Bartimaeus” who sarcastically say “oh, thou, son of David, have mercy on me”. Son of David can then be interpreted as a euphemism for “Jew”, like as if a Jew has any business teaching Greeks about their own literary tradition. Then the NT version says “many charged him to hold his peace, but he cried out the more”. This is so placed as to have you assume that it is Bartimaeus who is crying out all the more, but if you know the parallel you can see this is Josephus bitching a bunch more about how horrible the Greek writers are. So then Bartimaeus asks to be healed and then Josephus tells us that “Thucydides… seems to have have given us the exactest history of the affairs of his time” and so Barimaeus, again sarcastically, “immediately receives his sight and follows Jesus in the way”, like “oh, wow, what a miracle, thank you Josephus, I was blind about Greek literary traditions, but you healed me and now I see! Thank you so much, you son of David!”

 

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