Mahlon H. Smith wrote:
> [I've been gradually composing this reply to Bernard's objections to my
> prior reply to Lewis Reich on the relation Jesus to zealots. But it got
> so long that I've decided to break it into 3 topically coherent segments
> on Josephus, JB & HJ. Second installment:]
Thank you for your detailed answers, Malhon. Here is some general comments:
a) I'll answer all your points, time permitting. Unfortunatly, I'll be off soon and
you may win your arguments by default! I'll keep to the point and not reply to new
business as raised in your replies.
b) Many of your replies show that your are unaware of my expanded HJ. Since May 97,
the size has more than quadrupled. To save time, I will refer to it, as part of my
answer. But I would prefer of course that you and others to read it from start to
> BERNARD MULLER wrote:
> > Certainly, Herod had John seized when he
> > critized Herod's new marriage.
> That's what Mark wanted people to believe.
Why are you so sure that JB never said anything in public against Herod new
marriage? Were you there? Certainly, Josephus' account is more complex, but there
are no conflict with Mark's account.
> Josephus' account is more
> complex. Acc. to him Herod's divorce of Aretas' daughter resulted in a
> major military conflict between Jewish & Arab armies in which Antipas'
> forces were decimated. Acc. to the gospels, John was active in the
> region of Jordan (Perea) which bordered territory controlled by Aretas.
> And acc. to Josephus Antipas had JB imprisoned in the last Herodian
> fortress between these territories. But Josephus himself never claims
> that JB censored Antipas' marriage to Herodias. Rather, he claims that
> Antipas' detention & execution of JB was a prudent exercise in crowd
> control. JB's influence on the people was so great that Antipas feared
> he *might* cause some disturbance. So he thought it better to get rid of
> him rather than risk an uprising. The reason Josephus recalls these two
> events (Antipas' 2nd marriage & JB's death) in the same context is
> totally circumstantial. For he claims that many Jews interpreted Herod's
> defeat by Aretas as God's vengeance for his execution of JB. The
> chronological gap between JB's execution & Herod's defeat (which was
> soon after he divorced Aretas' daughter) probably was several year.
Certainly, JB had ground to criticize Herod's new marriage: A Jewish woman
divorcing her husband, and for no other reason that to marry someone else;
Herod marrying a half daughter. This practice was very common among the Herodians.
And as I recall reading, one of desert scroll does mention a (new) law against just
that. Please note that this marriage must have outraged many Jews, that it was
probably the hot topic for weeks and JB felt, as a leader, he had to make his views
> Thus, Josephus is evidence that the events happened in the *reverse*
> order of the synoptics. I.e.:
> JB was a good man who was widely admired by Jews.
> Antipas arrested & executed JB as a popular demagogue.
> (Years later) Antipas divorced Aretas daughter to marry his own
Why years later? Where did you get that from? It is very important to note that
after Aretas' daughter fled to his father, we are told by Josephus that both sides
PREPARED for war, not went to war immediatly: I quote "So Aretas made this the
first occasion of his enmity between him and Herod" Jos,A,XVIII,V,1. Obviously more
times went on after, with no war. Later, we are told that Aretas and Herod prepared
for war. The war occured in 36C.E. (where did you get 34C.E.?).
Why? Because Vitellius, president of Syria, and ordered by Tiberius, after the
battle "made haste" with a Roman army towards Arabia Petra. On his way, in
Jerusalem, he learned that emperor Tiberius had just died (Feb 37C.E.).
Then, one may ask, why Aretas waited so long (from 27C.E. to 36C.E.) to attack
Very simple: Both were client kings of the Romans, and going to war against each
other was a NO NO.
But nevertheless, why did Aretas attack Herod, even after a long delay?
Right after Vitellius went to Jerusalem in April 36C.E., he was commanded by
emperor Tiberius to make peace with the king of Parthia. Herod was in charge of
setting a camp by the Euphrates for this important meeting. The meeting was a
success. But then, Herod precipitated himself into writing to Tiberius all about
the meeting. According to protocol, it should have been Vitellius to do so. When
Vitellius learned about it, he was furious.
So let's recapitulate: Tiberius is old, semi retired and want peace through
negotiations. Vitellius is enraged about Herod.
Aretas knew about it, he probably had informers in high places.
It could not have been a better time to attack Herod. He did.
So here is the chronology for a very busy 36C.E.:
a) In early spring, Vitellius goes to Jerusalem to solve some important problems.
b) Later he is ordered to arranged some peace treaty with the king of Parthia.
c) There, Herod doublecrosses him, Vitellius is furious and Aretas see his chance
to attack Herod's army, without any reaction from the Romans --He was wrong,
Tiberius did ask for retaliation, but Tiberius' death saved Aretas--
d) Herod's army is destroyed. A very reluctant Vitellius is commanded to assemble
an army and go after Aretas.
> Aretas declared war on Antipas to avenge their broken covenant.
> Antipas' forces were soundly defeated by the Arabs (34 CE).
> Jews widely interpreted Herod's defeat as God's punishment for JB's
> So Mark's gossipy account of the causes for JB's death is without any
> historical merit. Not only is it chronologically distorted; it reports
> info that presupposes a leak by an insider in Antipas' court who was
> privy to a private bedroom conversation between Herodias & her daughter.
> [Ken Starr should be so lucky!]
Not so. Mark's account, as I explained, is not chronologically distorted.
Why a conversation in a private bedroom? In these days, in the courts, the men had
their dining hall, and the women had their own. In Macherus, the ruins of the two
dining halls have been discovered. So the conversation probably took place in the
women dining hall, with witnesses. However I do agree the story might have been
embellished and drawn from JB's followers.
> In sum, JB was not executed *because* he criticized "Herod" but because
> he was a highly visible popular demagogue whom the Jewish masses so
> admired that even Josephus claims he could persuade them to do just
> about anything (Ant 18.118). He *was* executed *because* he had a more
> secure political base than Antipas. Antipas recognized that & moved
> quickly to preempt any challenge to his own authority that JB *might*
> make (Ant 18.119).
This is not all true. I contend that JB criticism about Herod's marriage is what
pushed Herod to arrest him. According to Josephus and even Mark, very large crowds
were allowed to gather up around JB for some time (according to my study, a few
months). Then, why did Herod took such a long time to arrest JB?
> Had JB not been executed it is historically questionable whether anybody
> would ever have heard of Yeshu bar Yosef of Nazareth. Since all accounts
> indicate that he emerged as favorite of *some* of JB's partisans only
> after JB's position as spokesman for God was vacated.
Here I am in total agreement.
> Mahlon H. Smith,
> Associate Professor
> Department of Religion
> Rutgers University
> New Brunswick NJ
Bernard Muller, Au revoir http://www.concentric.net/~Mullerb/
If it fits, do not dismiss!