A.D. The Bible Continues— Episode Eight

a.d

In some ways, Episode Eight is the best episode of the series thus far. It centers on the dramatic events recorded in Acts 8 and 9. The portrayal of Peter and John’s clash with Simon Magus and the portrayal of Saul’s Damascus road vision, the vision to Ananias, and the conversion and baptism of Saul of Tarsus are all well done in various ways. There is more than enough drama in those two story lines to suffice, but unfortunately we also have the continuation of the wholly fictitious story about Tiberius and mad Caligula, including this time Caligula ending Tiberius’ life while in Jerusalem by smothering him. How actually did Tiberius die, and when and why? Tiberius died in Misenum in southern Itlay on 16 March AD 37, at the age of 78. Tacitus, the famous Roman historian, recorded that upon the news of his death the crowd rejoiced, only to become suddenly silent upon hearing that he had recovered, and rejoiced again after that at the news that Caligula and Macro had smothered him. This tale however is not recorded by other ancient historians and is most likely apocryphal. Certainly false is the idea that Caligula killed the Emperor in Jerusalem, and in any case Tiberius’ death did not happen in the mid-30s while Pilate was still ruling in Judaea. Nearer to the mark is what the Wiki article about Pilate says——“Pilate’s term as prefect of Judaea ended after an incident recounted by Josephus. A large group of Samaritans had been persuaded by an unnamed man to go to Mount Gerizim in order to see sacred artifacts allegedly buried by Moses. But at a village named Tirathana, before the crowd could ascend the mountain, Pilate sent in “a detachment of cavalry and heavy-armed infantry, who in an encounter with the firstcomers in the village slew some in a pitched battle and put the others to flight. Many prisoners were taken, of whom Pilate put to death the principal leaders and those who were most influential.”[36] The Samaritans then complained to Vitellius, Roman governor of Syria, who sent Pilate to Rome to explain his actions regarding this incident to Tiberius. However, by the time Pilate got to Rome, Tiberius had died.” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontius_Pilate).

One of the minor story lines in the last several episodes has been the story line about Barnabas. This portrayal has him present in Damascus with Ananias after Saul’s conversion and present with Saul at his baptism, something the Biblical text does not indicate. This can however be seen as a helpful back story to explain why it would be that in due course Barnabas would befriend Saul and minister with him in Antioch, and accompany him on Saul’s first missionary journey. One of the functions of the fiction in A.D. is to plausibly connect some of the dots. This is fine, but the coloring outside the lines by making up stories about Tiberius and Caligula is not helpful and unfortunately will convey to many that this whole story is just a pleasant, or unpleasant fiction, depending on your viewpoint.