'the Great King of the Peoples beyond the Euphrates'

One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)
(Acts 11:28)
After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'" When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, "The Lord's will be done."
(Acts 21:12) 
I must apologise for returning to this subject, but a series of papers examining these rulers has prompted me to re-assess.

First, why this is important: The angelic annunciation for Izates (ca. 1 BCE-1 CE and noted by the first-century Judean chronicler Josephus) became in the canonical gospels that of IS XP/Chrest, known centuries later as Jesus Christ:
Tomb of Queen Helena, whose sarcophagas reads "Sara"
About this time it was that Helena, queen of Adiabene, and her son Izates, changed their course of life, and embraced the Jewish customs, and this on the occasion following: Monobazus, the king of Adiabene, who had also the name of Bazeus, fell in love with his sister Helena, and took her to be his wife, and begat her with child. But as he was in bed with her one night, he laid his hand upon his wife's belly, and fell asleep, and seemed to hear a voice, which bid him take his hand off his wife's belly, and not hurt the infant that was therein, which, by God's providence, would be safely born, and have a happy end. This voice put him into disorder; so he awakened immediately, and told the story to his wife; and when his son was born, he called him Izates. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews - Book XX)
In Luke, that passage became:
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
The first sentence (above) tells us this is in parody, because Nazareth is given as the place and as I described in The mythological Nazareth, that name is a parody of Nazarite, a title applied to James the Righteous Teacher.
The Annunciation - Constantinople silk twill. The Vatican.

And in Matthew:
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name IS, because he will save his people from their sins.”
The annunciation for Izates/IS prefigures and so becomes the prototype for IS Chrest, the Isa of the Koran. The question this has long prompted of me is: who is Izates, for there is no contemporaneous archaeological or historical record for him? I will try here to answer this clearly.
Where did Luke find his raw material for the prophecy of Agabus of a great famine to transpire in Claudius' reign, of Paul's trip from Antioch to deliver famine relief funds to Jerusalem, and for the earlier tale of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch? Again, from Josephus (though perhaps also from other cognate sources of information). It all stems, by hook and by crook, from the story of Helen, Queen of Adiabene, a realm contiguous and/or overlapping with Edessa, whose king Agbar/Abgarus some sources make Helen's husband. Helen and her son Izates converted to Judaism, though initially Izates refrained from circumcision on the counsel of a Jewish teacher who assured him the worship of God was more important than circumcision. His mother, too, advised against it, since his subjects might resent his embracing of such alien customs. But soon a stricter Jewish teacher from Jerusalem, one Eliezer, visited Izates, finding him poring over the Genesis passage on the Abrahamic covenant of circumcision....
When the prophet Agabus predicts the famine, Luke has derived his name from that of Helen's husband Agbarus. When the eunuch invites Philip to step up into his chariot, we have an echo of Jehu welcoming Jonadab into his chariot. When Philip asks the Ethiopian if he understands what he reads, Luke has borrowed this from the story of Izates and Eliezer, where the question also presages a ritual conversion, only this time the text is Isaiah's prophecy of Jesus, and the ritual is baptism. The original circumcision survives in the form of crude parody (recalling Galatians 5:12) with the Ethiopian having been fully castrated. Even the location of the Acts episode is dictated by the Helen story, as the Ethiopian travels into Egypt via Gaza as Helen's agents must have in order to buy the grain. Luke's substituted motivation for the trip, by contrast, is absurd: a eunuch could not have gone to Jerusalem to worship since eunuchs were barred from the Temple!
(Robert Eisenman's James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Viking Penguin, 1997; Reviewed by Robert M. Price) [Emphasis mine.]
The eunuch parody here is not new: it was played also with the fictional Origen of Alexandria. This was partly to insult and partly to associate with the Cybelene "Day of Blood"- the source of  Easter, another parody:
March 24: Sanguem or Dies Sanguinis ("Day of Blood"), a frenzy of mourning when the devotees whipped themselves to sprinkle the altars and effigy of Attis with their own blood; some performed the self-castrations of the Galli. The "sacred night" followed, with Attis placed in his ritual tomb.[Salzman, On Roman Time, p. 167; Lancellotti, Attis, Between Myth and History, p. 82.]
Taurobolium, or Consecration of the Priests of Cybele under Antoninus Pius . Engraving by Bernhard Rode (undated)
The place of its performance at Rome was near the site of St Peter's, in the excavations of which several altars and inscriptions commemorative of taurobolia were discovered.
The dates for this bloody ritual tell us something about how late is the textual tradition it parodies.

Michał Marciak, who I'd say has studied Izates more extensively than any other recent scholar, describes the Izates of Josephus as (1) a second Joseph (of Genesis), shaped to a pro-Roman agenda, and (2) a second Hezekiah, king of ancient Judea (invaded by Sennacherib in 701 BCE). Why? The greatest event in the life and times of Josephus was the First Jewish-Roman War, in which he was a traitor, working for imperial Rome; he was trying to justify himself by saying that the rebels deserved the annihilation they got and if they'd been more like this Izates, they would have kept peace with Rome.

This does not mean that Izates has no substance, just that the historical is going to be somewhat different to that in the fictional accounts by Josephus, who erased Edessa and its Arab kings from history, and of course, very different to the biblical parodies.
Her sarcophagus is inscribed twice with her name.

We find a similar situation for his mother, Helen:
...the whole story of the Queen of Adiabene requires us to take note of the very long tradition involving powerful women called Helen and the deep symbolism of the name – reaching back to Troy, and to the moon deity Selene whose personality was claimed by a contemporary and namesake of Helene of Adiabene, Helena the companion of Simon Magus.
Her activities, three centuries before those of Constantine’s mother, resemble them very closely. Both women were converted to a new faith and both probably influenced their sons’ conversions – in Helen of Adiabene’s case, to the Jewish faith. Both built public monuments in the Holy City. Both adorned holy places. Both were long remembered for their piety.
(Helena of the Cross, the Queen of Adiabene, and Royal myth-making in the Holy City by Graham Jones)
As regard her two names on her sarcophagus:
...abbreviating the Syriac to speak only of ‘Sara Melaka’ (Queen Sarah). The inference is clear for a Jewish audience: an implicit indication that Helen adopted the Jewish name biblically borne by the wife of Abraham, who like her travelled to the Holy Land from Mesopotamia.
In short, Josephus does not tell us the historical names for Helen (before her conversion to Judaism) and Izates; we do not have to believe all he tells us, even the name of their kingdom, Adiabene.

I think that the name, or at least the dynastic title of Izates is revealed in the letter found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, known in short as MMT. A paper by Eisenman reveals this: MMT as 'Jamesian' Letter to 'the Great King of the Peoples beyond the Euphrates' (or Izates)
Few doubt the Mishnaic nature of it's Hebrew and therefore its probable rather late
provenance as compared to other documents. The fact that it is apparently the single letter or letters extant in Qumran, not to mention the fact of multiple copies, also attests to its importance.
Its Jamesian elements include the ban on "things sacrified to idols," "fornication," gifts from Gentiles in the Temple and even "carrion." What can perhaps be called its Abrahamic" provenance should also be clear.
This James is the Righteous Teacher in the Dead Sea Scrolls and of the Qumran community, parodied in the New Testament as brother of the Lord and so on.

The title for Izates in MMT is Abgarus:
The name "Abgarus", to my knowledge, has never been fully delineated, whether a proper noun or a title meaning "Great King". In any event, in first-second century Syria, before the Romans suppressed this Kingdom ( and with it that of Adiabene), during Trajan's campaigns in the East ending in 117 CE, the name occurs so regularly among rulers, that it appears to take on something of the sense of a royal title in the manner of "Caesar" or "Herod", or even "Aretas" further West. The same can be said for "Monobazus" or "Bazeus" in Josephus' version of similar events.
The sacred fish of Atargatis in Edessa, whose mythology is transferred to Abraham.
To emphasise, Abgarus is not the name of, but a title; the same for Monobazus. Now we'll take a quick look at these kings, who are not found in Adiabene, but next door:
In the second half of the 2nd century BC, as the Seleucid monarchy disintegrated in the wars with Parthia (145–129), Edessa became the capital of the Abgar dynasty, who founded the Kingdom of Osroene (also known in history as Kingdom of Edessa). This kingdom was established by Nabataean or Arab tribes from North Arabia, and lasted nearly four centuries (c. 132 BC to 214), under twenty-eight rulers, who sometimes called themselves "king" on their coinage.
King Abgar holding the Image of Edessa.
Here is Izates as Abgarus:
Abgar V the Black or Abgarus V of Edessa BC 4 – AD 7 and AD 13–50) was an historical Aramean-Syriac ruler of the kingdom of Osroene, holding his capital at Edessa. [Vailhé, Siméon. "Edessa." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909.]
(Abgar V)
And again, we find the textual tradition (the 'glittering web') lying in wait; first, Eisenman:
According to Eusebius, the "Agbar" or "Abgar" in question ( I prefer to use the former, because
of its clear connection with the garbled "Agabus" in Acts and the matter of the Famine or
Famine-relief) was actually called "Agbar Uchama", which would be Abgar V ( d. c. 50 CE) or "Abgar the Black". Why he was called "black" in Edessene chronicles ( unless he was black) has
again, to my knowledge, never been adequately explained; but it is important, especially when linked up with Acts' version of these events in the story about "the Ethiopian Queen's eunuch" -- "Ethiopian eunuch", as I will show, being the operative words here. It should be noted that the "Agabus" story occurs in proximity in Acts with the story about the "Famine-relief" activities Paul undertakes, from a place it is choosing to call "Antioch", where it thinks the first real "Christian" community was set down by Paul and Barnabas ( 11:26-30).
We see immediately more parody in the New Testament, this time drawing in Helen. Here's another, this time of the Jamesean letter MMT.
The legend tells that Abgar, king of Edessa, afflicted with an incurable sickness, probably leprosy, had heard the fame of the power and miracles of Jesus and wrote to him, acknowledging his divinity, craving his help, and offering him asylum in his own residence; the tradition states that Jesus wrote a letter, commending Abgar on his faith, but declining to go, but promising that after his ascension, he would send one of his disciples, endowed with his power.[Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2010). "Abgar legend". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. p. 30.]
(The legend of King Abgar)
I've interpreted before the purpose of Source Q: Bardaisan (of Edessa and best friend of its king in the second half of the second century) was trying to justify the overthrow of its governor, under the rule of the family of Izates/Abgarus. We therefore should not be surprised how Dura fragment 24 is concerned with the trial of the divine man IS:

Greek Text
...[the mother of the sons of
[Ζεβεδ]αι̣ο̣υ και Σαλωμη κ[α]ι̣ α̣ι γ̣υ̣ν̣αικες Zebed]ee and Salome and the wives
[των συ]ν̣ακολουθησανων α̣[υτ]ω υ απο της [of those who] had followed him from
[Γαλιλαι]α̣ς ορωσαι τον στ[αυρωθεντ]α. υυυ ην δε [Galile]e to see the crucified. And
[η ημερ]α Παρασκευη. υ Σαββατον επεφω- [the da]y was Preparation: the Sabbath was daw-
[σκεν. ο]ψ̣ιας δε γενομενης επι τ̣[η Π]α̣ρ[α]σ- [ning]. And when it was evening, on the Prep-
[κευη], υ ο εστιν Προσαββατον, πρ̣ο̣σ- [aration], that is, the day before the Sabbath,
[ηλθην] ανθρωπος βουλευτη̣[ς υ]π̣α̣ρ- [there came] up a man, [be]ing a member of the council,
[χων α]π̣ο Ερινμαθαια[ς] π[ο]λ̣ε̣ω̣ς της from Arimathea, a c[i]ty of
[Ιουδαι]ας, ονομα Ιω[σεφ], α[γ]αθος̣ δι- [Jude]a, by name Jo[seph], g[o]od and ri-
[καιος], ων μαθητης τ[ο]υ̣ Ιη, κ̣ε- υυυυ [ghteous], being a disciple of IS, but
[κρυμ]μενος δε δια τ̣ο̣ν̣ φ̣ο̣βον των se[cret]ly, for fear of the
[Ιουδαιω]ν, και αυτος προσεδεχτο [Jew]s. And he was looking for
[την] υ β̣[ασιλειαν] του̣ Θ(εο)υ ο̣υτος ουκ [the] k[ingdom] of God. This man [had] not
[ην συνκατατ] ιθεμ̣εν̣[ο]ς̣ τη β̣[ουλη] [con]sented to [their] p[urpose]...
Similarly, a fresco of the associated Dura baptistery concerns the death of this divine man.
Women at the tomb, Dura Europos baptistery, early third century
There probably many imperial changes to Source Q, on its way to becoming a canonical gospel and similarly, the Dura baptistery was imperially-sanctioned, as it must have been. Source Q was by Bardaisan, the others were after the emperor had him and the king killed. What remains is the tale of Barabbas:
Barabbas or Jesus Barabbas (a Hellenization of the Aramaic bar abba בר אבא, literally "son of the father" or "Jesus, son of the Father" respectively) is a figure mentioned in the accounts of the Passion of Christ, in which he is an insurrectionary whom Pontius Pilate freed at the Passover feast in Jerusalem, instead of releasing Jesus.
Gotarzes II of Parthia cut off the ears of Meherdates
This custom of release has no historicity; it is an invention by gospel authors and a known, Greek literary device (The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark by Dennis MacDonald). Why Barabbas at all then? He is Izates/Abgarus and Bardaisan is trying to illustrate how he was not the rightful king, who should have been the ancestor of his friend, the second-century king. Insurrectionary, or Zealot (zealous for the law) is how Izates/Abgarus is seen after his full conversion to Judaism and his support for James, and his community.
Abgar V Ukkama, famous in Christendom as the contemporary of Jesus (see below), was a member of a delegation that went to Zeugma in A.D. 49 to welcome Mehrdād, the Roman nominee to the throne of Parthia. The “dishonest” Abgar, Tacitus relates (Annals 12.12ff.), detained the prince “day after day in the town of Edessa,” evidently pandering to the dissipation of the “inexperienced youth.” Only when winter had set in did Abgar lead Mehrdād by a circuitous route through the mountains of Armenia. And before his protégé could put his challenge to the test of battle, the king of Edessa had abandoned him to certain defeat and capture by Gōdarz.
(ABGAR dynasty of Edessa, 2nd century B.C. to 3rd century A.D.)
2000-year-old mosaic uncovered by archaeologists in the Turkish city of Zeugma
Bardaisan clearly held Rome at least partly responsible for this unseating of the family dynasty, hence Pontius Pilate, and this provided Caracalla and his mother, Julia Domna, ample reason (i.e. treason) to have the two killed. Then, of course, Caracalla was killed near Harran in Upper Mesopotamia, on return from his sneak attack on Adiabene; Julia Domna then killed herself; their religio-political needs disappeared with them.

These little kingdoms are not unimportant to history, for a Silk Road route ran though them, gathering riches for their merchants and rulers; they were the buffer states between the empires of East and West. When they joined with James, Herod Agrippa and messianic Judaism, this became a power bloc in its own right; Hellenistic Jews would have been fearful (if only of the forced conversions by Sicarii). This was the reasoning of Herodian aristocrat Saul, his kinsman Costobarus, the likes of Josephus and the Chrestians.
But when Monobazus was grown old, and saw that he had but a little time to live, he had a mind to come to the sight of his son before he died. So he sent for him, and embraced him after the most affectionate manner, and bestowed on him the country called Carra; it was a soil that bare amomum in great plenty: there are also in it the remains of that ark, wherein it is related that Noah escaped the deluge, and where they are still shown to such as are desirous to see them.
(Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews - Book XX, Chapter II.)

Lastly, I must mention the religious roots of this small region east of the Euphrates - it was the country of Abraham and Noah, giving much authority to its leaders.
He said: "God promised that country to Abraham and to his son after him, for eternity. And what had been promised was fulfilled during that time when [God] loved Israel. Now, however, you are the sons of Abraham, and God shall fulfill the promise made to Abraham and his son on you. Only love the God of Abraham, and go and take the country which God gave to your father, Abraham. No one can successfully resist you in war, since God is with you."
(The Armenian chronicler Sebeos, Bishop of the Bagratunis, writing in the 660s CE.)
The region of this Haran (Harran, in present-day Turkey) is referred to variously as Paddan Aram and Aram Naharaim. Abram lived there until he was 75 years old before continuing his journey. Although Abram's nephew Lot accompanied him to Canaan, other descendants of Terah remained in Paddan-Aram, where Abraham's grandson Jacob sought his parents' relatives, namely Laban, for whom he worked for twenty years in Haran.
In the New Testament, Haran is mentioned in the Book of Acts (7:2–4), in a recounting of the story in Genesis wherein it first appears.
(Haran (biblical place))
Sanliurfa (Edessa) [E City Gate. Arab tent and Arabs in foreground]. By Gertrude Bell May 1911
This is why it remains so significant today, to all the Abrahamic religions. Eisenman:
Not only is the ”Arab" ancestry of all these stories (an ancestry the Paulinizing narrative of the Book of Acts is quick to relegate to "Ethiopia") important; so is the connecting theme of the ban on "things sacrificed to idols," the basis not only of Koranic dietary regulations, but also that of the Qumran letter known as MMT’s polemicizing directives aimed at a pious king, wishing to emulate Abraham. It is also the focus of Acts' picture of James' directives to overseas communities and Paul’s diminution of these in 1 Corinthians 8, where because of them he disingenuously concludes he "will never eat meat again forever" and for him, ”all things are lawful."
Zeus, Hera, and Amor observe the birth of Helen and the Dioscuri (1550)
The conclusion is that somehow Muhammad came in touch with these Northern Syrian conversion stories and other quasi-Syriac materials from the Pseudoclementine Recognitions and Homilies about James -either through caravan trips to Southern Iraq, where the ”Subba of the Marshes” are still to be found, or further north, to the remnants of these lost civilizations in Northern Syria. In all these contexts, the constant emphasis on “Abraham," whose homeland this was, is particularly persuasive.
Not only is Abraham a locus for the genesis of Koranic doctrine about Islam, but also for the antecedents to this-the debates between Paul and lames regarding Abraham’s salvationary state that permeate the history of early Christianity. The Qumran Damascus Document also focuses on Abraham, insisting that because he and Isaac and Jacob ”kept the commandments" and remained faithful," they were to be reckoned ”beloved of God" or ”friends,” an expression approximated in Surah 2 of the Koran by that of "Muslim.” It is this context, which in our view throws light on these otherwise seemingly garbled and certainly very obscure Koranic references.
Furthermore, these connections will throw light on Muhammad’s constant allusion, in connection with these “warning” episodes, to both Abraham" and ”the People of Noah,” in the context of which he also alludes to the ark. The Koran also refers to this region as being of broad plains, richly fertile with olive trees, and the like. As it turns out, this is precisely the description of these Northern Syrian venues, Haran/"The Land of the Osrhoeans,” in which the conversions, ascribed to Judas Thomas" (”Hud"/"Thamud") and “Addai”/"Thaddaeus" ("Ad"), transpire. For Josephus, the Talmud, and early Christian sources, this is the area where the ark came to rest, or "Ararat," which, unlike modern legends, these consistently locate in the Land of the Adiabeni or Abraham's Haran.
In the Koran, too, the ark is always a fixture of background allusions to these "Arabian" prophet stories. For the Romans, all these lands were ”Arab" or ”Arabian” and their kings repeatedly called ”Arab,” that is, ”Arabs" were not just from the Arabian Peninsula, but also the lands of Northern Syria and Mesopotamia known as Edessa and Adiabene -also possibly alluded to in Paul's celebrated reference to ”Arabia" in Galatians.
(Who were the Koranic Prophets Ad, Thamud, Hud and Salih? by Rpbert Eisenman, JHC 11/2 2005)
Relief (2nd century BCE) depicting the Dioskouri galloping above a winged Victory, with a banquet (theoxenia) laid out for them below.


Though I have said repeatedly over the last few years how the canonical (i.e.imperial) gospels and the New Testament as a whole are a Chrestian parody of messianic Judaism and post-Hadrian (i.e. after the resurrection of Antinous and the end of the three Jewish-Roman Wars), here is further confirmation of this view.

The name Izates is an invention of Josephus. Books of the New Testament were drawn heavily on the works of Josephus. The accounts by Josephus of both Izates and Helen are religio-political allegories, and this was obvious to the author of Source Q (and almost certainly to the educated elite of the Roman Levant.

They demonstrate:
  • the period of gospel authorship (third century, with later development);
  • imperial sponsorship;
  • how the kingdoms of Adiabene and Osroene were probably ruled by the same family in the early-first century, and the king's title is Agbarus;
  • this king Agbarus converted to Judaism, allied to Herod Agrippa - also known as Herod or Agrippa I (11 BCE – 44 CE) - and recognised the religious authority of the Qumran community, especially James;
  • while Rome probably supported Agbarus to some extent, Chrestians saw him clearly as at least their potential enemy, as did the family ruling from Edessa previously.
We also see the twin issue, more overtly with the earthly IS Barabbas and the divine IS Chrest, which confirms the pagan, Greek literary origin; less overtly with the Josephus tale for "Izates" and his brother who rules at the convenience of "Izates" and then conveniently steps aside. The Josephus tale has been interpreted in such a fashion, fitting the new genre of the early-third century.

The fairy story for Helen and Izates by Josephus, the royal tombs at Jerusalem and the historical background his chronicles provide, along with Plutarch detailing the Isis Myth, probably also provided the impetus for Source Q, along with the personal motive to justify the new royal dynasty at Edessa.

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