Historical events always borrow interpretative categories from previously established interpretative frameworks. This is often seen in the actions of historical “copy cats”. It is not uncommon for a figure to choreograph symbolic demonstrations based on well-known precedents. Assuming that the symbolism employed by Jesus was memorable, do we find any copy cats in the history that immediately follows? Perhaps we find such evidence in the episode of the ‘Anonymous Egyptian’ [c. 56 CE] who (1) was a Jewish prophet, (2) was purported to have come from Egypt, (3) claimed to be able to perform a great ‘sign’ from heaven, (4) claimed to be able to destroy the Holy City, (5) seemed to be reenacting Exodus typology. Josephus writes:
At this time there came to Jerusalem from Egypt a man who said that he was a prophet and advised the masses of the common people to go out with him to the mountain called the Mount of Olives, which lies opposite the city . . . For he asserted that he wished to demonstrate from there that at his command Jerusalem’s walls would fall down, through which he promised to provide them an entrance into the city (Ant. 20.8.6 §169-170; cf. J.W. 2.13.5 §261-163; Acts 21:38).Is it more likely or less likely that some of the followers of this prophet (several thousand of them by Josephus’ count) were also witnesses to Jesus’ preaching? If there was some overlap, could it be that this episode provides further (non-Christian) evidence of Jesus’ impact?
Go ahead, find a recently written, unpublished dissertation on this topic! I
dare double-dog dare you.