THE DEVIL IN THE DETAILS

Yesterday I mentioned the so called “Hell Icons” — Адописные иконы/Adopisnuie ikonui — literally “Hades-painted icons.”  An Adopisnaya icona/Адописная икона is paradoxically an icon that existed more in rumor and gossip than in reality.  Nonetheless, they are mentioned in literature and were reported in 19th century Russian newspaper stories.

The first mention of such an icon is found in the life of Vasiliy Blazhennuiy/Basil the Blessed, also called Блаженный Василий Московский/Blessed Vasiliy of Moscow.   He was a noted “Holy Fool/Iurodivuiy/юродивый),” and that rather bizarre but colorful cathedral always seen in photos of Red Square in Moscow is named for him.

In the above icon, he is titled “Holy Blessed Vasiliy Iurodivuiy of Moscow, Wonderworker.”

The old account relates that there was a popular “miracle-working” icon of Mary — heavily venerated by the people of Moscow, on the Varvarskiya Vorota/Варварския ворота  — which looks like it should mean “Barbarian Gate,” but actually it is the “Barbara Gate,” because there was a stone church built in 1514, dedicated to St. Barbara.  Beside it were dungeons and prisons, such an unpleasant place that the local expression arose, “To St. Barbara for punishment.”

(Barbara Gates: 1884)

According to the tale, Vasiliy threw a stone at the icon — in the presence of a crowd of pilgrims  — and they were so furious at his action that his life was in danger.  But someone took a closer look at the icon and found the damage had revealed the image of a chort/чёрт — a devil — that had been painted beneath the surface image of Mary.  This was blamed on the Zhidovstvuyushchiye/Жидовствующие — the so-called Judaizers, some of whom were said to be opposed to icons, and so supposedly created the “Hell Icon” of Mary to mock the practice of icon veneration. 

The Russian novelist Nikolai Semyonovich Leskov wrote an article in which he discussed “Hell icons” as merely a trick of dishonest sellers of icons.  The scam required two people.  The first would go out to the villages with icons that had devils painted on the gesso beneath the surface “holy image.”  Having sold all he could, he would then leave.  Soon the other scammer would arrive in the village with his load of icons.  When he tried to sell them, the people would reply that they had already bought icons.  The second scammer would then ask to see one of the purchased icons.  When brought, he would scrape the painted surface to reveal the painted devil beneath.  The villagers — horrified by this, would then buy the second scammer’s supposedly “holy” icons, and would give him the “Hell icons” they had bought earlier, to dispose of.  So the second scammer would not only share the money from the first sales of “Hell icons,” but he would also get money from the second sales of “holy” icons, and not only that, he still had the “Hell icons” the people of the village had given him, which he would sell again in another village.

Leskov used this scam motif in his story The Sealed Angel/Запечатленный ангел.  Most of the talk of “Hell icons” seemed to be in Old Believer communities, which raises the issue of why people would be so horrified to find devils under conventional religious paintings, thinking those who venerated them would be venerating devils by so doing.  It takes us back to one of the oddities of Eastern Orthodox thought that we find particularly strong among the Old Believers — the notion that image and symbol — the outward and visible manifestations of religion, such as icons and the position of the fingers while blessing, etc. — are more important to Orthodox belief than the intention of the heart; so a person worshipping an icon with a hidden devil painted beneath the surface image would still be worshipping the devil, though that was not the real intent of the believer.

In spite of the interesting tales of “Hades-painted icons,” scholars doubt they ever really existed, because no authentic actual examples of such old icons have been discovered.  They seem to have been merely a symptom of the fears and rumors that can infest and spread through conservative and unenlightened communities — something we have become all too familiar with in modern politics.

 

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EASILY AMUSED

A reader asked me about this rather unusual image, which we might call the “Rejoicing Demons” type for convenience:

It is an Old Believer image, as we can tell from the kind of lestovka (prayer rope) the man depicted in the center is holding in his left hand — and we can tell also from the position of the fingers in his right “blessing” hand:

The image has a rather extensive text in the outer border.

Some people mistakenly connect this type with the so-called “Hell Icons” that were rumored to have existed in old Russia — icons first painted with an image of a devil or devils, then painted over with a conventional religious image, to trick believers who would then unknowingly be sending their prayers before the icon to devils instead of to God.  This, however, is not at all a Hell Icon.  Instead it is simply a didactic icon intended to teach what was considered to be proper religious behavior.

In the image, we see a man beset by three demons.  One sits on his head, and holds a banner:

It reads:

ТУТЪ МОЯ РАДОСТЬ И ВЕСЕЛИЕ МОЕ
TUT MOYA RADOST I VESELIE MOE
“Here is my joy and my merriment.”

Obviously the demons are very happy — but about what?

Well, that is answered in the longer text in the outer border.  It is a teaching on how to correctly make the sign of the cross on one’s self in church.  And that, of course, is why this is a didactic icon.

The long border text is from the Church lectionary called the Prologue.  Here is what it says:

On the same day, the word of John Chrysostom. The month of April, 18th day:  On the Fear of God, and on How to Stand in the Church of God in Fear and Proper Order, and to Sign your Face with the Sign of the Cross:
Many ignorant people pretend to make the sign of the cross by waving their hands over their face.  They labor in vain, not correctly drawing the cross on their faces, so that their waving makes demons rejoice.  But if you make the sign of the cross properly, placing your hand on the forehead and on the stomach and right shoulder, and then on the left, the angels watch and rejoice to see the true cross represented on their visage.  And the Angel of the Lord also writes down when you enter into the Church of the Lord with fear and with belief.  If who enters the church stands with fear, and with tenderness makes obeisance to the image of God, that one receives forgiveness of sins and the mercy of God; but if without fear, that one will leave having committed a bigger sin.  So, when we come to church, let us stand with fear, awaiting great mercy from God both in this age and the future. To him be praise, now and forever and in the ages of ages.

At the base of the icon is another large text:

It reads:

“Maxim the Greek wrote thus:  If anyone frantically represents the sign of the cross, at that waving demons rejoice.”

There is also a very small inscription at the base, saying that “This picture was painted on an ancient icon.”

So, to sum up, this type is a teaching and cautionary image, showing a man in church who crosses himself carelessly by just making a hasty waving with his right hand instead of properly “drawing” a cross, and so the demons are all over him, really rejoicing about that.

Apparently demons are very easily amused.

A CONTENTIOUS BEGINNING

You will recall from an earlier posting that in Eastern Orthodoxy, the Evangelist John is commonly called John the Theologian.  Icons of him are very common, and so is the text one usually finds on the book he holds, whether written in Greek or in Church Slavic.

Here is a Greek example from the end of the 14th century:

(Ecclesiastical Byzantine Museum of Mytilene)

Here is a closer view of the text:

It is slightly worn, but we can easily emend it:

Left page:

ΕΝ ΑΡ
ΧΗ ΗΝ
ὉΛΟΓΟC
ΚΑΙὉΛΟ
ΓΟC ΗΝ
ΠΡΟCΤονΘΕΟν

Right page:

ΚΑΙ ΘCΗΝ
ὉΛΟΓΟC
ὉΥΤΟCΗΝ
ΕΝΑΡΧΗ
ΠΡοC ΤοΝΘΝ
ΠΑΝΤΑΔΙΑΥτου

You will note the common abbreviations:
ΘC with a horizontal line above it for ΘΕΟC/Theos, “god.”
ΘΝ  with a horizontal line above it for ΘΕΟΝ/Theon, “God” in the accusative form.

This is such a common text in icons and so frequently used a phrase in Christianity that everyone interested in icons should know it in Greek, at least as it is found in John 1:1-5.  The portion used in the above icon text is in bold type here:

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

En arkhe en ho logos, kai ho logos en pros ton Theon, kai theos en ho logos.  Houtos en en arkhe pros to Theon.  Panta di autou egeneto kai khoris autou egeneto oude hen.  Ho gegonen en auto zoe en, kai he zoe en to phos ton anthropon.  Kai to phos en te skotia phainei, ka he skotia auto ou katelaben.

“In [the] beginning was the Word/Reason, and the Word/Reason was with [the] God, and god was the Word/Reason.  All through him came-to-be, and without him nothing came-to-be that has become.  In him life was [or, depending on punctuation, ‘That which came to be in him was life’], and [the] life was the light of [the] men.  And the light in the darkness shines, and the darkness has not overcome/taken/understood it.”

Huge amounts of ink have flowed through history on both the proper translation and the interpretation of this.  “Logos” — ordinarily translated as “Word,” was actually a common term in Greek philosophy, used more in the sense of “Reason” as the reasoned order behind the universe.  Philo of Alexandria — influenced by Greek philosophy — used it to refer to the divine Reason of God — an emanation of the invisible and hidden God through which he acts in the material universe — a “second god,” as Philo called it/him.  This is the usage adopted in the Gospel called “of John,” saying essentially that this Reason was in the beginning, it was with God, and it was theos — that is, god by nature — divine.   Theos indicates here the nature of the Logos, just as we would say of a person, “He is man, not animal.”  In the same sense the Logos is god by nature.  The Greek is deliberately ambiguous, to indicate a distinction of this Logos from the hidden God.

Of course this grammatical ambiguity has resulted in endless theological bickering over the centuries as to precisely in what sense Jesus as Logos is theos, — and it continues to this day among Christian denominations.

Fortunately, all we need worry about is learning to recognize this common inscription on the book held in icons of John.

A TRICKY ONE AND AN EASY ONE

Here is an 18th century Greek icon.  It depicts a fellow dressed as a bishop, but to know who he is, we must read the title inscription at upper right.

(Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens)

Here it is:

It is rather faint, but it reads:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟς ΙΑΚω
ΒΟς Ὁ ΑΔΕΛΦΟ
ΘΕΟς

If we put it all together, it is:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟC ΙΑΚΟΒΟC Ὁ ΑΔΕΛΦΟΘΕΟC
HO HAGIOS IAKOBOS HO ADELPHOTHEOS
“[The] Holy Jacob/James the Brother [of] God”

In Greek he is called Iakobos — Jacob — but in English that is traditionally rendered as “James” when referring to this person.  Adelphotheos is a composite word made from adelphos (“brother”) and Theos (“God”).  That title comes from what Paul wrote in Galatians 1:18-19:

Ἔπειτα μετὰ ἔτη τρία ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν, καὶ ἐπέμεινα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡμέρας δεκαπέντε· ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον, εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου.

Epeita meta ete tria anelthon eis Hierosolyma historesai Kephan, kai epemeina pros auton hemeras dekapente. heteron de ton apostolon ouk eidon, ei me Iakobon ton adelphon tou kyriou.

“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Cephas [Peter], and stayed with him fifteen days.  But of the other apostles I saw none, except James the brother of the Lord.”

Given that in Eastern Orthodoxy Jesus is considered to be God, the title was adapted for James as “Brother of God.”

And here is his scroll text:

It is a rather tricky one, because it consists of two joined excerpts from the Liturgy of St. James.  Here is the first part:

ΙΔΕ Ὁ ΑΜΝΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ Ὁ ὙΙΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΤΡΟΣ Ὁ ΑΙΡΩΝ ΤΗΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΙΟΝ ΤΟΥ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ ΣΦΑΓΙΑΣΘΕΙΣ ὙΠΕΡ ΤΗΣ ΤΟΥ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ ΖΩΗΣ ΚΑΙ ΣΩΤΗΡΙΑΣ
Ide ho amnos tou Theou ho huios tou Patros ho airon ten hamartion tou kosmou sphagiastheis huper tes tou kosmou zoes kai soterias

“Behold the Lamb of God, the son of the Father, who takes away the sins  of the world, sacrificed for the life and salvation of the world.”

The second part is abbreviated in phrasing, but I have added in brackets what is missing:

Ὁ ΜΕΛΙΖΟΜΕΝΟC [ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΜΕΡΙΖΟΜΕΝΟC ΚΑΙ ΤΟΙC ΠΙCΤΟΙC ΜΕΤΑΔΙΔΟΜΕΝΟC] ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΔΑΠΑΝΩΜΕΝΟC ΕΙC ΑΦΕCΙΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΙΟΝ [ΚΑΙ ΖΩΗΝ ΤΗΝ ΑΙΩΝΙΟΝ ΝΥΝ  ΚΑΙ ΑΕΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΙC ΤΟΥC ΑΙΩΝΑC]
Ho melizomenos [kai me merizomenos kai tois pistois metadidomenos] kai me dapanomenos eis aphesin hamartion [kai zoen ten aionion nun kai aei kai eis tous aionas]

Who is parted [and not divided, and distributed to the faithful] and not expended; for the remission of sins [, and the life everlasting; now and always, and into the ages.]”

That refers to the Eucharistic bread, which is, in Eastern Orthodox belief, the “Lamb of God” — Jesus.

Here is another icon of James, painted in a much simpler manner, and from the end of the 18th century”

(Velimezis Collection)

You should be able to easily read the title inscription.  But let’s look at the text on the book he holds:

This one — if you have been a careful reader of this site — should be rather easy too, if you note the common abbreviation.  Remember how I always say that icon inscriptions are very repetitive, so learning a few enables one to read many icons?   Well, we just saw this inscription (at least most of it) in the preceding posting on Antipas of Pergamum, and we also saw it earlier on an icon of St. Nicholas of Myra.  In this example it reads:

Left page:

ΕΙΠΕΝ
ὉΚΣ ΕΓ
ω ΕΙΜΙ
ἩΘΥΡα

Right page:

ΔΙ ΕΜΟΥ
ΕΑΝ ΤΙΣ
ΕΙΣΕΛ
ΘΗ σω

It begins with the words

ΕΙΠΕΝ
ὉΚC

ΕΙΠΕΝ/EIPEN means “said.”
Ὁ /HO is of course the masculine definite article “the.”

ΚC/KS, you will note, has a horizontal line above it, signifying that it is an abbreviation.  It abbreviates ΚΥΡΙΟC/KYRIOS, meaning “Lord.”  That gives us

ΕΙΠΕΝ Ὁ ΚΥΡΙΟΣ/EIPEN HO KYRIOS

So literally it reads “Said the Lord,” but in normal English order we translate that as:
The Lord said.”

Then it continues with the beginning of that now familiar (I hope!) text:

Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα· δι’ ἐμοῦ ἐάν τις εἰσέλθῃ, σω– [θήσεται, καὶ εἰσελεύσεται καὶ ἐξελεύσεται, καὶ νομὴν εὑρήσει].

Ego eimi he thura: di emou ean tis eiselthe, so-[thesetai, kai eiseleusetai kai exeleusetai, kai nomen euresei.]

And of course it is from John 10: 9:

I am the door: by me if anyone enters in, he shall be sa- [ved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture].”

AN INSCRIPTION REVISITED

Here is an 18th century Greek icon:

The title — which you should be able to read on your own if you have followed past postings here — is:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟς ΑΝΤΙΠΑC
Ho Hagios Antipas
“The Holy Antipas.”

This Antipas is  the Hieromartyr (Priest-martyr) Antipas of Pergamum — traditionally the go-to saint for those suffering from toothache.

In this icon he is a serious-looking fellow:

He holds an open book of the Gospels.  Usually we find book texts in Greek icons written in upper case letters, but this inscription includes lots of lower case, rather cursive letters:

Don’t let it worry you.  Cursive inscriptions, when clearly written, are not that difficult; and in fact we have already seen this inscription on an icon of St. Nicholas:
(https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/a-greek-nicholas-text/)

Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα· δι’ ἐμοῦ ἐάν τις εἰσέλθῃ, σωθήσεται, καὶ εἰσελεύσεται καὶ ἐξελεύσεται, καὶ νομὴν εὑρήσει.

Ego eimi he thura: di emou ean tis eiselthe, sothesetai, kai eiseleusetai kai exeleusetai, kai nomen euresei.

It is from John 10: 9:

I am the door: by me if anyone enters in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

This inscription adds to that earlier text, continuing with the beginning of John 10:10:

ὁ κλέπτης οὐκ ἔρχεται εἰ μὴ ἵνα κλέψῃ [καὶ θύσῃ καὶ ἀπολέσῃ· ἐγὼ ἦλθον ἵνα ζωὴν ἔχωσιν καὶ περισσὸν ἔχωσιν].

Ho kleptes ouk erkhetai ei me hina klepse [kai apolese. ego elthon hina zoen ekhosin kai perisson ekhosin.

“The thief comes not but to steal [and kill, and destroy: I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.]”

As one often finds on Greek icons, there are two inscriptions at the base.  Here is the first:

ΧΕΙΡ κονσταντινου του κονταρινε
KHEIR Konstantinou tou Kontarine
“[The] Hand of Konstantinos Kontarines”

That is the painter’s signature.  He lived from 1699-1738, and we see the date 1738 above the end of the signature.

And here is the second:

ΔΕΙCΙC ΤΟΥ ΔΟΥΛΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΜΙΧΑΗΛ CΠΑΝΟΥ
DEISIS TOU DOULOU THEOU MIKHAEL SPANOU
“Prayer of the Servant of God Mikhael Spanos.”

That is the standard form giving the name of the patron who had the image painted.

As for the subject of the icon, according to hagiographic tradition (which we know is generally quite unreliable), Antipa was a disciple of John the Theologian (the supposed Evangelist John), and was bishop of the city of Pergamum during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero (54-68 c.e.).

Antipa is said to have preached against the worship of the traditional gods, irritating the priests of the older religion.  When he persisted and refused to venerate the Gods, the priests are said to have taken him to the Temple of the goddess Artemis, where he was placed inside a hollow, red-hot copper image of a bull/ox.  That is what we see in this image:

The inscription reads:

ΜΑΡΤΥΡΙΟΝ ΤΟΥ ἉΓΙΟΥ ἹΕΡΟΜΑΡΤΥΡΟC ΑΝΤΙΠΑ
MARTYRION TOU HAGIOU HEROMARTYROS ANTIPA
Martyrdom of the Holy Priest-martyr Antipas.”

Christians retrieved his supposedly unburnt body, and placed it in a tomb in Pergamum, which later became a pilgrimage site for those seeking healing of illnesses.

Antipas of Pergamum, because of his supposed help with tooth problems, was very popular in Russia as Антипа Пергамский — Antipa Pergamskiy, and is a common subject not only in painted icons, but also in large numbers of cast metal icons.

THE VISION OF EVLOGIY

Today’s icon type is a monastic subject, so it is not surprising that the earliest surviving example is found as a fresco in the Ferapontov Monastery church in the Vologda region of Russia, painted by Dionysiy about 1502-1503.

It is another of those “Vision” icons.  Here is an example from the Entrance into the Temple Monastery in Solvychegodsk, from the latter half of the 16th century:

It is called ВИДЕНИЕ ЕВЛОГИЯ — Videnie Evlogiya — “The Vision of Evlogiy” (Eulogios in Greek form).

The tale comes from the Skete Paterik (Скитский патерик), a very old collection of monastic and ascetic sayings, counsel, and stories.   Such an anthology is called a paterik in Russian and a πατερικόν/paterikon in Greek.

The story of Evlogiy is found in one version of the Paterik.  Originally, the story had a simpler form.  It said that a presbyter named Evlogiy had the ability to see the inner thoughts and intentions of monks attending the liturgical services — whether they did so piously or carelessly, with sincerity and diligence or without.  Later this simple tale became expanded into a vision of Evlogiy in which, at the blessing of the loaves at the end of the Evening Vigil service, he saw angels among the attending monks, anointing some with “myrrh,” censing others with incense,  distributing liturgical bread and symbolic spiritual rewards to the monks according to what they deserved for their efforts.  Some monks, he saw, received gold coins, some silver, and some only copper.  Some who had not the proper attitude and diligence during services left with nothing at all.

Evlogiy himself is seen at lower left, holding a scroll reading:

“не хвалитеся и не глаголите высокая в гордыни своей ниже да изыдет велиречие из уст ваших”.
Ne khvalitesya i ne glagolite vuisokaya v gorduini svoey nizhe da izuidet velirechie iz ust vashikh

“Do not glory and do not speak high in your pride nor let the speech leave your mouth.”

At bottom center we see two monks venerating the liturgical vessel containing the prosphora — the liturgical bread — representing the five loaves Jesus is said to have multiplied to feed the crowds in the New Testament (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:1-24).

Two angels at upper center hold scrolls reading:

“Друг друга тяготы носите и так исполните заповедь Христову”
Drug druga tyagotui nosite i tak ispolnite zapoved Khristovu

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the commandment of Christ,”

“Слово Христово да вселится в вас благодатно во всяко премудрость сердцах ваших”
Slovo Khrsitovo da vselitsya v vas blagodatno vo vsyako premudrost serdtsakh

“Let the word of Christ be established in you in all wisdom of your hearts.”

 

 

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

There are some odd accounts in the New Testament — among them that of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas on the Mount of Olives.

Here is one image:

We see the title in Greek at the top:  Ἡ ΠΡΟΔΟCΙΑ/HE PRODOSIA 

Notice that the Π is linked to the Ρ.

He Prodosia means “The Betrayal.”

Now in the account found in the gospel called “of John,” we find these Greek words used:

χιλίαρχος/khiliarkhos:  a khiliarkhos is a Roman military officer commanding one thousand men.
σπειρα/speira:  a speira is commonly a Roman cohort consisting of 600 to 1,000 men.

We read in John 18:12 of what is said to have happened on the Mount of Olives on the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested:

Ἡ οὖν σπεῖρα καὶ ὁ χιλίαρχος καὶ οἱ ὑπηρέται τῶν Ἰουδαίων συνέλαβον τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ ἔδησαν αὐτὸν.

“Then the speira and the khiliarkhos and the subordinates/officers of the Jews took Jesus and bound him.”

A speira under a khiliarkhos?  That means the “band” of soldiers arresting Jesus was not just fifteen or twenty or thirty or forty men; according to this account, they must have been at least 600 to a thousand — just to arrest one person.

That is not the end of the strangeness.  There is the matter of the violence on the side of the disciples  Mark tells us vaguely (14:47):

“And one of the bystanders drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

Luke is similarly vague as to who it was: (Luke 22:50):

“And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.”

Matthew is not much clearer (26:51):

“And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.”

John, however, gives a surprising name (18:10):

“Then Simon Peter drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

Why does Peter even have a sword, if the disciples of Jesus are just a peaceful band?  And further, why do we find this mysterious exchange between Jesus and his disciples, just before going out to the Mount of Olives,  in Luke (22:35-38):

And he said to them, When I sent you without purse, and money, and shoes, did you lack anything? And they said, Nothing.  Then he said to them, But now, he that has a purse, let him take it, and likewise his money: and he that has no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.  For I say to you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.  And they said, Lord, look, here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.”

Why do the disciples of Jesus need swords?  Is Jesus trying to make himself look like a rebel against Rome, and so be arrested as a criminal?  Or is there perhaps some connection here between the accounts of Jesus and Jewish rebellion against Rome that we do not understand?

And why, when we find the disciples of Jesus named in Luke (6:14-16) do we find what most scholars consider to be a zealot among them — a zealot in the political sense, meaning a rebel against Rome — or is he, as some suggest, merely “zealous” in the religious sense?

“Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.”

And is Judas Iscariot really to be understood as Judas Sicariot — Judas the “dagger man,” one of the terrorist assassins known as Sicarii, rather than being simply ish Keriot — “man of [the village of] Keriot?

And why do so many of the things that happen in the Gospels seem chronologically out of place when compared to what is known from secular sources of historical figures and events?

For what it is worth (and what it is worth is still not quite clear), there is an interesting study of the matter by Lena Einhorn, who has written two books on the topic:

The Jesus Mystery: Astonishing Clues to the True Identities of Jesus and Paul (Lyons Press, 2007)

A Shift in Time:  How Historical Documents Reveal the Surprising Truth About Jesus (Yucca Publishing, 2016)

Einhorn herself admits her conclusions are an unproven hypothesis, but her books are nonetheless interesting for her examination of the apparent historical peculiarities in the chronology in the New Testament.

Iconographically, it is interesting that the image at the top of this posting shows Peter cutting off the ear of a boy servant —

— while other images — including the Western rendering here by Duccio di Buoninsegna — depict the servant as an adult male (at the far left of the image):