The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies
~ Philo's Method of Exegesis ~



P.J. Gott and Logan Licht tested Philo's Method of Exegesis on New Testament questions and contradictions.

They discovered that what appear to be anomalies in scripture are in fact enigmatic modes of expression, placed there to reveal biblical secrets.


The full story, with abundant evidence, is now available:

Following Philo: The Magdalene, The Virgin, The Men Called Jesus.


Order Autographed Copy from Authors (click here)


Order from Amazon or Affiliates


Between 1901 and 1906, the Jewish Encyclopedia published an article about Philo Judeaus which lists twenty-one rules for exegesis teased from extant writings. In 2002, independent researchers P.J. Gott and Logan Licht devised an experiment to test their potential value to modern exegesis. In the process they found evidence that Philo’s method of interpreting scripture was the heresy about which Church Father Irenaeus (c. 130 – c. 202 CE) wrote:

 … collecting a set of expressions and names scattered here and there, they twist them … from a natural to a non-natural sense. In so doing, they act like those who bring forward any kind of hypothesis they fancy, and then endeavor to support them out of the poems of Homer, so that the ignorant imagine that Homer actually composed the verses bearing upon that hypothesis, which has, in fact, been but newly constructed.[1]

The Jewish Encyclopedia article parallels a chapter in Histories of Interpretation: Eight Lectures, published in 1886. The Eight Lectures had been written and delivered by the late Rev. John Bampton (1689-1751). Bampton listed six rules, which he called "Philo's Rules," and he, like Irenaeus, also found them to be useless, if not dangerous: “All this ‘madness’ is reduced to ‘method’ by a set of rules, half Haggadistic, half Stoic, but entirely inapplicable.”[2]

However, Irenaeus, Bampton, and the Jewish Encyclopedia provided enough information that a reasonable facsimile of Philo’s Method could be reconstructed and tested for efficacy and repeatability. In 2015, Gott and Licht published the results of their twelve-year study.[3] Their research led to a plethora of new information that brings into question nearly everything previously assumed about Philo.

Their methodology consisted of using the Jewish Encyclopedia’s twenty-one rules to examine unsolved mysteries in the New Testament; for example, Mark’s omission of two important prophesies about Jesus: that he would come from Bethlehem and be born to a Virgin. Philo’s Rules identify a likely interpolation (Mk 1:9) where striking just one word and replacing it with another removed both the "little town of Bethlehem” (Hebrew BTLHM, BeTLeHeM) and the “Virgin Mother” (Hebrew BTLHM, BeTuLa eM) from Mark’s introduction to the story of Jesus.

This revelation that “Bethlehem” was removed and replaced by “Nazareth” demanded an investigation into Matthew’s claim that a sojourn in Nazareth was the reason Jesus was called “the Nazarene” (Mt 2:23). This verse, and the interpolation at Mark 1:9, they argue, suggest an anti-Nassarean agenda that took hold after Mark’s gospel was written and circulated among the early churches.[4]

The Nassareans were a heretical sect that early Church Fathers went to great lengths to discredit.[5] The first NZR in Hebrew scripture is found at Gen 49:26, Rachel's son Joseph whose son was Manasseh. However, the Fathers claimed the Nazarene heresy was a reaction to Paul's Christianity, not the precursor and inspiration. In spite of their efforts, it was one of their own who exposed their motives. Jerome (c.347-420) identifies Isaiah 11:1 (Hebrew, netser, translated "branch" of Jesse) as the source of the appellation, “The Nazarene,” inadvertently disputing the earlier claims – and Mt 2:23 – that “Nazareth” was its etymology.[6]

Gott and Licht also tested Philo’s reconstructed rules on unsolved biblical contradictions, such as the birth of Jesus “when Herod was King” (Herod died before 4 BCE) and “at the time of the first census of Quirinius” (c. 6 CE). This ten year difference had never been explained to the satisfaction of a consensus of scholars. Philo’s Rules lead to a simple solution, and it is found in several Bible verses, including Mt 27:16; Mk 15:7; Lk 23:18; Jn 18:40; Acts 13:6. “Jesus” was born c. 13-15 BCE when Herod was King; “Jesus bar-Jesus,” also called “Son of the Father” (Hebrew, Bar Abbas) was born c. 6 CE at the time of the Census.[7]

Philo provided a clue that was critical to the successful application of the method. Describing Essenes, one of the three sects of Judaism, Philo notes: “Then one takes up the holy volume and reads it, and another of the men of the greatest experience comes forward and explains what is not very intelligible, for a great many precepts are delivered in enigmatical modes of expression, and allegorically, as the old fashion was.”[8] By focusing on solving “enigmas,” rather than trying to explain “allegories,” the authors show how the method was also used to produce enigmatic stories about historical people identified as gods and goddesses.

Following Philo’s Rules to solve enigmas leads to the Old Testament, as might be expected. But, as Irenaeus complained, it also leads to other first century texts: Homer, the works of Josephus, Plutarch, Pliny, Suetonius, Tacitus, as well as Vergil, Ovid, and other poetry and prose.

Plutarch’s contributions identify a source dated five hundred years earlier than Philo: “Pythagoras greatly admired the Egyptian priests, and, copying their symbolism and secret teachings, incorporated his doctrines in enigmas. As a matter of fact, most of the Pythagorean precepts do not at all fall short of the writings that are called hieroglyphs … Whenever you hear the traditional tales which the Egyptians tell about the gods, their wanderings, dismemberments, and many experiences … you must not think that any of these tales actually happened in the manner in which they are related. If you listen to the stories about the gods in this way … you may avoid superstition which is no less an evil than atheism.”[9]

This subtle hint raises the question: Did Plutarch’s “histories” of Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Octavian and the Battle of Actium, “actually happen in the manner in which they are related”? In other words, does the literal account reveal what actually happened to them? Plutarch answers the question: “Not if they were gods.”

In Aeneid, written between 29 and 19 BCE, Vergil honors the deified Julius with this catchy little phrase: “Go forth with new value, boy: thus is the path to the stars; A son of gods that will have gods as sons.”[10] Plutarch identifies Antony as “The New Dionysus”[11] and Cleopatra as “The New Isis.”[12]

Evidence of Octavian’s divinity comes from inscriptions left by Dynamis Philoromaios, Queen of the Bosporus Empire. In Phanagoria (a peninsula in the area of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov), Dynamis dedicated an inscription honoring Octavian as, “The emperor, Caesar, son of theos, the Theos Augustus, the overseer of every land and sea.”[13]

Plutarch warned his readers, including historians, that they should not assume his stories about “gods and goddesses” actually happened as he related them. In fact, he warned they should not be read literally but solved enigmatically. Philo’s rules applied to Plutarch’s “histories” reveal what actually did happen. Julius was not assassinated, Antony and Cleopatra did not commit suicide, and Octavian did not execute their children.[14]  First century historians, members of their family and working in coordination with each other, continued writing about them but assigned them different names, some of which are well known: Emperor Tiberius Julius Caesar; Herod the Great; Mariamme; Germanicus; Agrippina the Elder; the Jewish sage Hillel the Elder and his grandson Nasi Gamaliel, and others.

And this leads back to Philo and a revised biography which Gott and Licht document using Philo’s own method for solving enigmas:

 “Alexander the Alabarch” was Philo’s step-brother. Alexander’s “unknown parents” were the Herodians, Alexander III and Glaphyra. (Alexander III was Herod’s son with the Hasmonean Mariamme). After Alexander’s death, Glaphyra married Philo’s father Juba II. Philo’s biological mother was Cleopatra Selene, whose mother (Philo’s grandmother) was Cleopatra VII Thea Philo-pater. “Philo of Alexandria” also received this name, traditionally given to Ptolemaic daughters.

Philo was neither the first nor the only ancient philosopher to pose as a male in order to be heard. In fact, according to the Gospel of Thomas Saying 114, Jesus proposed the same for Mary: “Look, I myself will lead her to make her male, so that even she may become a live spirit, like you males…”[15]

Philo married her step-brother Alexander and bore him two sons; therefore, Tiberius Julius Alexander and Marcus Julius Alexander were her “nephews,” but she was also their mother. Julius Caesar was their great-grandfather. [16]

Evidence collected from first- and second-century historians reveals that Philo was younger than previous estimates. She was born c. 10 BCE and died in Rome c. 74 CE, at the age of 84, as “Antonia Caenis,” Vespasian’s alleged mistress. “Caenis” was the Greek goddess who was transformed into a man.[17]

After her stint as “Philo” and before her death as “Caenis,” she was in Rome advising Emperors Claudius and Nero. From c. 41 to 62 she was known as the “freedman Pallas,” as in Homer’s goddess, “Pallas-Athena,” the heroine of The Odyssey who frequently disguised herself as a man. As “Pallas the freedman,” Philo served as Claudius’ secretary and chief advisor, along with another freedman, Narcissus. His name is also borrowed from Greek mythology, and Ovid features Narcissus in his fifteen-book narrative, Metamorphoses: “When, looking for his corpse they only found, a rising stalk with yellow blossoms crowned.”[18]

When Nero succeeded Claudius, Pallas remained as secretary until c. 62.[19] She reemerged in 69 to accompany Vespasian to Rome where she allegedly amassed great wealth prior to her death five years later.[20]

But it is Philo’s role as “Mary Magdalene” in annual festivals that is the most unexpected discovery coming from the study. The authors point to the Porta Maggiore and the Baker’s Tomb in Rome to seal their case. By all accounts, they can best be described as a replica of Jerusalem’s East Gate and a “House of Bread” (BeT LeHeM). They were erected to honor a “Virgin Mother” (BeTuLa eM), who was also a “Daughter of El the Mother” (BaT eL Ha eM).

 Philo’s Method reveals that “Jesus and Mary Magdalene” were mythological characters created to fulfill Micah’s Prophesies (4:8-5:3). Like gods and goddesses before them - Osiris and Isis; Attis and Cybele - Jesus and Mary Magdalene were resurrected each year in annual Passion-Passover Plays.

The couple who played the starring roles also participated in creating “The Golden Age of Rome” and “The New Jerusalem.” Claudius’ “East Gate” and Vespasian’s “House of Bread” were constructed to celebrate these accomplishments and to honor the couple that brought them to fruition.

Pilgrimages of faithful Nazarenes and Nassareans to these sacred structures came to an end a few decades after the Council of Nicea. Between 390 and 405 Emperors Theodosius and Honorius destroyed virtually everything that did not support Nicene Christianity. What couldn’t be destroyed they hid from view. The Porta Maggiore and the Baker’s Tomb were buried beneath a massive structure, Honorius’ Tower.

Fortunately, in 1838, Pope Gregory XVI had the Honorius Tower removed, and the evidence can now be examined by anyone fortunate enough to be able to travel to Rome. The Porta Maggiore and the Baker's Tomb aren’t easy to find, but they are well worth the effort.

[1] Irenaeus XE "Irenaeus" , “Against Heresies XE "Ancient Texts:Irenaeus, \"Against Heresies\"" ,” Alexander Roberts XE "Roberts, Alexander" , ed., The Gnostic Society Library Online (1995), 1.9.5, n.p.

[2]  F. W. Farrar, History of Interpretation: Eight Lectures (London: MacMillan and Co., 1886), 149.

[3] P.J. Gott and Logan Licht, Following Philo: In Search of The Magdalene, The Virgin, The Men Called Jesus (Bolivar: Leonard Press, 2015).

[4] Gott and Licht (2015), 37-53.

[5] The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: A Treatise Against Eighty Sects in Three Books; Irenaeus XE "Irenaeus" , “Against Heresies XE "Ancient Texts:Irenaeus, \"Against Heresies\"" ,” Alexander Roberts XE "Roberts, Alexander" , ed., The Gnostic Society Library Online (1995); Hippolytus XE "Hippolytus of Rome"  of Rome, Charles William King, The Gnostics and Their Remains (1887), Sacred Texts Archive.

[6] Jerome, “Letter  XE "Jerome" to Pammac XE "Ancient Texts:Jerome, Letter to Pammachius" hius.” Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (NPNF), Kevin Knight, New Advent (2014), Second Series, Vol. 6, Epistle 57.

[7] Gott and Licht (2015), 87-90.

[8] C.D. Yonge, trans. The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013), “Every Good Man is Free,” (12.82), 690.

[9] Plutarch. Isis and Osiris XE "Ancient Texts:Plutarch, Isis and Osiris" , “Introduction,” (Loeb Classical Library, 1914, Babbit trans.), Bill Thayer’s Website.

[10] Virgil, Aeneid (New York: Penguin Books, 2006), 287. Book IX, line 641.

[11] Plutarch, Life of Antony (Loeb, 1920), (Thayer Online 60.2)

[12] Plutarch, Life of Antony (Loeb, 1920), (Thayer Online 54.6). >

[13] S.T. Davis, D. Kendall, G. O'Collins. The Trinity. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 30. (N.V.)

[14] Gott and Licht (2015), 227-249.

[15] Hedrick XE "Hedrick, Charles" , Charles, Unlocking the Secrets of the Gospel According to Thomas. (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2010), 186.

[16] Gott and Licht (2015), 202-3; 270; 280-1.

[17] Gott and Licht (2015), 318.

[18] Ovid, Metamorphoses: “Narcissus,” the mythological story of the origin of the Easter Lily.>

[19] Gott and Licht (2015), 281-5.>

[20]  Cassius Dio, Roman History, “Epitome of Book 65” (Loeb, 1925), (Thayer Online 14.1-4).>

Return to The Nazarene Way main menu

The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies
Email us at:
Join our Essene Holy Communions email list
Visit The Essene Book Store
Sign our Guest Book!