Project Genesis

Jewish Texts

The Prophets and Writings

Arius Calpurnius Piso and Scripture

Question: I’ve recently been reading about a person named “Arius Calpurnius Piso”. Apparently, this person, and members of his family, were responsible for creating the “New Testament”.

Although I’m not particularly bothered by that, I am bothered by the contention that he is also responsible for writing certain passages of the Prophets, as well as the book of Esther. What is your opinion of all this?

Answer: Throughout the ages there have been many critics of the bible who have asserted many things about its authorship.There are two types of biblical criticism – lower criticism, also known as textual criticism, looks at the differences in the available manuscripts to determine what is most likely the correct text for a given passage. The other type of biblical criticism, known as higher criticism, looks at the source of the text, the environment in which the given text was constructed, cultural context, and a few other factors. In general, with the exception of the canonical approach, higher criticism usually seeks to prove that the bible could not have been written by whom, and when, it has been traditionally accepted as having been authored.

Many biblical scholars of religious origin, both Jewish and Christian, feel that the Bible, specifically the Jewish Scriptures or Tanach, have stood up to higher criticism; they have been proven to have been authored by those to whom we have asserted, and in the times that we claimed.

The Jewish Scriptures were canonized several hundred years before the New Testament and the destruction of the Temple. The common date given is around 300 BCE. Therefore, it is impossible for it (or any part of it) to have been written by Piso, especially if Piso is assumed to be Josephus, who lived between 37 CE and 100 CE.

Concerning the authorship of the New Testament, while Josephus certainly did live at the correct time, there is ample evidence that the New Testament was not authored by one person, but by several people. While the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) are believed to have been written from Matthew’s notes (called the Q document), the style and quality of the writings are still different enough to be attributed to different writers (even though the original source notes may be the same).

In short, there is no evidence that the New Testament, nor portions of the Tanach, were authored by Piso, regardless of his actual identity.

If you are interested in reading Jewish books which will help you to understand the validity of the Jewish Scriptures and Oral Tradition, I highly recommend “Permission to Believe” and “Permission to Receive” by Rabbi Lawrence Keleman.

All the Best,


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