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The Gospel Of Mark - Why Does The Name ‘Piso’, As In Calpurnius Piso, Appear Within Key Statements?

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

The Gospel Of Mark - Why Does The Name ‘Piso’, As In Calpurnius Piso, Appear Within Key Statements

“Who is he (that) comes mightier than I?, the Piso/οπισω (is) me…”

Among the majority of mainstream New Testament scholars, the traditional view that the authors of the canonical Gospels were Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John are doubted. However, the complexity of the reasons and the methodology scholars use to support their conclusions are not familiar to the general public. The scholarly majority opinion regarding the Gospels is documented in the Oxford Annotated Bible, published by Oxford University Press. On page 1744, it states:

'Neither the evangelists nor their first readers engaged in historical analysis. Their aim was to confirm Christian faith (Luke 1:4: John 20:31). Scholars generally agree that the Gospels were written forty to sixty years after the death of Jesus. They thus do not present eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus' life and teachings.'

The above quote, as far as I am aware, is not known to the general public, but unless you are researching this subject, why would it be known?

The Gospels are not historical works, as even the Oxford Annotated Bible states, although they do contain some historical points.

So, why do many scholars doubt the traditional authorship of the Gospels? Well when we compare what was written about Tacitus and his histories compared to what was written about the authors of the Gospels, the contemporary evidence for Tacitus is very strong. As Clarence W. Mendell states on page 345 in his 'Tacitus, the Man and his Work'. Yale University Press, we have contemporary evidence suggesting the title "Historiae" was originally associated with Tacitus' Histories:

'Pliny clearly referred to the work in which Tacitus was engaged as Historiae: Auguror nec me fallit augurium Historias tuas immortales futuras ["I predict, and my prediction does not deceive me, that your Histories will be immortal"] (Book 7.33 ). It is not clear whether the term was a specific one or simply referred to the general category of historical writing. The material to which Pliny refers, the eruption of Vesuvius, would have been in the Histories. Tertullian (Apologeticus Adversus Gentes 16, and Ad nationes 1.11, cites the Histories, using the term as a title: in quinta Historiarum ["Tacitus in the fifth book of his Histories"]. It should be noted that this reference is to the 'separate' tradition, not to the thirty-book tradition, so that Historiae are the Histories as we name them now.'

Although the evidence for the original title is not conclusive, it is clear that Pliny the Younger (a contemporary) states that Tacitus is writing a "Historiae," when writing directly to him. Tertullian explicitly cites passages in the Histories, and refers to the work by that title. The evidence is clear that Tacitus was the author of the manuscripts known as the Histories. The Gospels authorship, however, is still a mystery within current mainstream academia, and the Gospels are alluded to, or quoted by the first church fathers anonymously, i.e., the "according to" title affixed to each text.

When the titles of manuscripts do not tell us who the author is, scholars look within the body of a text for answers, to see if the author gave any clues about their identity. For Tacitus, while the author does not explicitly name himself, he does discuss his relation to the events that he is describing in the Histories (1:1):

'I had no acquaintance with Galba, Otho, or Vitellius, through either kindness or injury at their hands. I cannot deny that my political career owed its beginning to Vespasian; that Titus advanced it; and that Domitian carried it further; but those who profess inviolable fidelity to truth must write of no man with affection or with hatred.'

Tacitus does not name himself as the author of the Histories, but he does tell us that he was a Roman politician during the Flavian Dynasty, specifying that it is that period that he will write about. The biographical information that we have for Tacitus, outside the Histories matches what Tacitus wrote here. For example, the letters of Pliny the Younger (6.16; 6.20) written to Tacitus, responds to Tacitus' request for information about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which Tacitus alludes to in Histories 1.2:

'Moreover, Italy was distressed by disasters unknown before or returning after the lapse of ages. Cities on the rich fertile shores of Campania were swallowed up or overwhelmed...'

Tacitus' career as a statesman is also mentioned by Pliny, for example, when he gave the funeral oration for the Roman general Verginius Rufus (Pliny the Younger, 2.1):

'The consul Cornelius Tacitus pronounced his funeral oration: for the series of his felicities was crowned by the applause of the most eloquent of orators.'

That means we have outside evidence regarding Tacitus being a Roman politician who wrote about the Flavian era, which links to the information described, in the first person, by Tacitus inside the Histories. This gives us very good reason to conclude that the author of the Histories is Tacitus. The gospels of 'Mark' and 'Matthew' are not written in the first person, i.e., spoken by the author, anywhere in the text. Instead, both narratives are told in the third person. That is why scholars doubt and have concluded that the author is not relating personal experiences.

Scholars also look at the strictness and complexity of a text, to understand the level of education the individual would have needed to write it. Tacitus was an educated Roman politician, whose education would have given him the necessary compositional, rhetorical, and literary skill to author a complex work such as the Histories. In terms of the authors of the Gospels, however, there is no reason to think that they would have even been able to write a complex Greek narrative. William V Harris' book Ancient Literacy (page. 22), states:

'The likely overall illiteracy of the Roman Empire under the principate is almost certain to have been above 90%.'

Later scholars have critiqued and reevaluated William's conclusions. For example, William Johnson, among others, in the volume 'Ancient Literacies', questioned Harris' categorization of "literate" and "illiterate." Instead, Johnson, and others, propose there were many levels of functional literacy in the ancient world, and that wile non-elites may have had substantially less education, there is evidence that they were able to engage with documents enough to engage in voting procedures, and to communicate through short letters. However, Rosalind Thomas, who contributed to the 'Ancient Literacies' volume, still states that the skill needed to produce complex literature was, for the most part, confined to the upper classes.

Rosalind Thomas explains, on page 23, that:

'Gossip, oral communication, heralds, and announcements were all essential; much could and was conveyed by these methods, but the 'slow writer,' to use the term of Roman Egypt, could hardly be equal to a member of the educated elite in their ability to master every aspect of the political system, especially as the elite could probably manipulate texts with relative ease as well compose eloquent speeches.'

In the books 'The Myth of a Gentile Galilee' and 'Greco-Roman Culture and the Galilee of Jesus, Scholar' scholar Mark Chancey states that the two major urban centers where Greek literacy was largely restricted was Sepphoris and Tiberias, and that there was little interaction between the Greek language or Gentiles and the rural Jews of the region, it is unlikely that the supposed authors of the Gospels would have even been given the necessary literary training in their own language, Aramaic, never mind Greek.

There is an argument that an illiterate person (or partial literacy) may have dictated the complex prose in a foreign language. But the royalty of the day had to agree with all the literature being circulated, otherwise, the author wouldn't live long. Considering that slaves copied these various books or book rolls one by one, means only high society people had the powers to achieve this. Even Bart Ehrman in his book 'Forged' (page 77), states:

'Where in the ancient world do we have anything at all analogous to this hypothetical situation of someone writing a letter-essay for someone else and putting the other person's name on it—the name of the person who did not write it—rather than his own name? So far as a I know, there is not a single instance of any such procedure attested from antiquity or any discussion, in any ancient source, of this being a legitimate practice. Or even an illegitimate one. Such a thing is never discussed.'

Essentially what we have at this point are certain facts relating to the literary ability of the Illiterate and the literate.

  1. The writing ability in terms of composing the Gospels does not link to illiterate authors, but instead to literate elite authors.

  2. There is no evidence of any individual writing letters/essays for someone else and not putting their own name on it instead of the other person's name.

Clues Within The Gospel Texts

Here I refer to the above realization scholars face when titles do not present the authors name, that realization being that they must look within the body of a text for answers.

But first, a few points about what was happening religiously and politically at that time:

  1. During the 1st century BC, Rome's empire spanned the entire Mediterranean, except for one part, Judea-Palestina.

  2. Judea-Palestina was fighting back against the religious persecution, institution of slavery, and heavy taxes imposed by Rome. The people were holding their ground against Rome's mighty and highly experienced Imperial army. The Jews were also fighting among themselves, but a sect called the Pharisees were gaining more support from the people and taking the power away from the Jewish leadership in control of Jerusalem at that time, the Sadducees.

  3. The Sadducean leadership, the sect of the Herodian/Hasmonean royal family, were related to a powerful family based in Rome, the Calpurnius Pisos, one of Rome's most distinguished Senatorial families, and the Flavians.

  4. The Herodians, Pisos, and Flavians became extremely concerned at the fact that the Pharisees were continuing to gain immense support from the common people. This meant they were gradually taking power away from the Piso's and Flavian's relatives, the Herodians/Hasmoneans. If the Pharisees succeeded, they would eventually have enough power to overthrow the aristocracy of Rome.

  5. At this time, the Piso family were involved in a conspiracy to overthrow Emperor Nero.

The use of brute force to control the common people was not working, so the Piso family and close relatives formed a solution. That solution was to subtly manipulate the beliefs of the Jewish people, by using their scripture against them to create a new religion which incorporated both elements from the current Judaic literature, as well as features relating to other gods. Those gods included the Etruscan god Usil, who walked on water, the Egyptian god Osiris, who came forth from the tomb, Dionysus/Bacchus, the god of wine, and the Greco-Egyptian god Aesculapius/Serapis, the god of healing.

The first Gospel was named "Mark" and contained Stoic philosophy which came from the work of Seneca. Bruno Bauer, a rationalist in philosophy, politics and Biblical criticism, concluded that:

  • the New Testament Gospels were forgeries

  • that Jesus of Nazareth had never existed

  • and that religion was a form of self-delusion that fettered intellectual freedom

Bruno made this statement regarding Seneca the Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, and dramatist-

'… Seneca is mentioned nowhere in the parallel passages of the New Testament. Neither is Plato when a basic passage is borrowed from him.'

What Bruno was saying is that the authors of the New Testament used material from other authors and did not give them an acknowledgement or credit for that usage.

Bruno also states-

'But the concurrence in style found between the main tenets of Seneca and the parallel passages in the New Testament remains in all these considerations, a sure proof that the authors of these parallels like, e.g., the first ones with whom we began this chapter, had before their own eyes, the writings of the Roman sage (i.e., Seneca). Fleury compared only the parallels between Seneca’s short sentences or keywords and the Bible, but if one considers the stylistic form of composition and diction on both sides, one will realize that, on the part of the Roman, content and form develop as originals and have their natural motivation, whereas, in the New Testament, given material is sharpened to make new points.'

Bruno is saying he had observed that even though some of the same phrases were used, the context was changed, and this is what someone will see repeatedly in such writings.

-More information can be found in 'Christ and the Caesars', Bauer, Bruno, 1877. Translated into English by Frank E. Schacht. Alexander Davidonis, 1998.

The Piso family would continue creating the literature and add further details, including a complete genealogy showing the new Messiah's "direct descent" from David, hoping this would add authenticity in the minds of the common people. The main member of the Piso family to continue this work was a man called Arrius Calpurnius Piso, and his name is inserted into the Koine Greek scriptures. As this religion was seen as the replacement of not just the Hebrew god, but also the rest of the empire's gods, which did not seem to be controlling the people anymore, the authors made sure to add attributes from the gods mentioned above to their new story.

Please be aware that -

1. To view the below information properly for yourself, you must read the statements in the original language, which was Koine Greek.

2. In order to understand some of the information below, such as who Arrius Calpurnius Piso was, I strongly advise that you read this article here.

3. You CANNOT see any of the below in simple translations, and, there is SYNTAX involved, which is the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language.

The Name Piso In The Gospel Of Mark

Beginning with Mark 1:7 -

Mark 1:7 says -

"Who is he (that) comes mightier than I?, the Piso/οπισω (is) me…"

He (Arrius Piso) uses the omicron 'o' in front of his name and uses words like 'after', 'before', or 'behind' to give his name 'Piso' in general.

The 'O' as a word is 'the', however, it interchanges with 'A'.

Therefore, it can also be seen as the initial 'A' for Arrius (which renders, 'Arrius Piso').

Mark 1:17 says -

"And Jesus said to them, come (to) me, the Piso/Οπισω and I will make you to become (as) fishers of men…"

Mark 1:20 says -

"They went away (with) him, the Piso." Again, where it says "the Piso", it also reads 'A. Piso' (opiso — οπισω ).

Mark 2:16 says -

"Why (is it) that he (Jesus) eats and drinks with the tax-gatherers and sinners?"

The Calpurnius Piso family were related to the Flavian family, who collected many taxes. So he, Arrius Piso, comes from a family of tax-gatherers and "sinners", through the Flavian side of his family.- please see article via the link above.

Mark 3:23 says -

"How can Satan cast Satan out?"

He is joking about his ‘playing the part’ of both 'Jesus’ and 'Satan' in this gospel.

Mark 4:15 says -

"..immediately comes Satan and/Kai takes away/A(i)REI(ous) the word..

When syntax comes in this sentence says -

"Satan (is) A(i)rei(ous) Kal(pournius), the word…" [the name 'Piso' is automatically inclusive to the Calpurnius name] So it is saying here that Satan is Arrius Piso, and that HE is "The Word."

Mark 8:33 says -

Jesus rebukes Peter and says "Get behind me, Satan, for thy thoughts are not of the things of God, but the things of men."

In Greek this sentence says — "Get the/A(rrius)Piso me, Satan, ..

When syntax comes into play, this sentence actually says -

Jesus rebukes "Peter Legion, get me (I am), the/A(rrius)Piso, Satan, the Tiou/God…"

Mark 8:34 says -

"Whoever desires the Piso/οπισω me to come, let him deny himself, and let him take up his (own) cross, and let him (then) follow me."


As you can see from the information above, the name Piso appears within key statements six times within this Gospel. Of course, if that was the total number of instances the name Piso appeared within the New Testament then these findings could possibly be seen as mere coincidence. But, the name Arrius - C(K)alpurnius - Piso also appears within key statements/phrases more than 10 times within the Book of Revelation.

For example, Revelation 7:14 has the phrase "The blood of the Lamb", with the word 'Arnius' being used. The word for 'Lamb' in Greek is 'Arnion' αρνιον or 'Amnos' αμνος, but what was written in this instance was the word 'αρνιου', which is 'Arnius', neither a Greek or Latin word for lamb, and the 'ius' part at the end of 'Arnius' is typically a Latin ending. In this example, two different spellings for Lamb were used, one correct and one incorrect. The word Lamb in the phrase “The blood of the Lamb” is spelled 'Arnius', but only a few lines later in 7:17 we have the word 'Lamb' again, but Lamb is spelled correctly, as 'Arnion' αρνιον, and there is no reason for this difference in spelling, unless of course to point to Arrius, with the n replacing the r.

To end, I will present a statement made by Sir Ronald Syme whilst investigating the various families of the aristocracy. Whilst he was examining the names mentioned by Pliny the Younger, he stated in his paper, People in Pliny:

'Why she should be called 'Fannia', no clue.'

This statement was made in regards to Arria Major's granddaughter being called Fannia in history. Arria Major was the mother of Arria the Younger, who was the wife of Gaius Calpurnius Piso, with Arria the Younger and Gaius being the parents of Arrius Calpurnius Piso.

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