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Re: [XTalk] Re: The Mini-Synoptic

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  • Ken Olson
    ... that there is no more information in that Tacitean passage than could be found in the Josephan passage. I don t know what that says to you, but if it was
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 17, 2006
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      On January 17, Chris Weimer wrote:

      >>1. Just three things. As Ben pointed out to me, his main qualm was
      that there is no more information in that Tacitean passage than
      could be found in the Josephan passage. I don't know what that says to
      you, but if it was another source, then Tacitus by mere coincidence
      used just enough information to match Josephus here.<<

      I was contesting that this is so. Tacitus "knows" a good bit about Christians that did not come from the Testimonium (or its environs in the Antiquities). Smith is dealing with an excerpt of his choosing that's slightly more than a sentence in length. From other parts of Annales 15.44 show that Tacitus had information about Christians that did not come from the Antiquities, such as the fact that there was a group of them in Rome, they were hated for their shameful acts, and they hated mankind.

      When I look at the "parallels" in Smith's table, I don't agree that "deadly superstition" is a parallel to "men receiving the truth with joy." I grant you that possibly a Tacitean reaction to it, given Tacitus' remarks about Christians shameful acts and hatred of mankind. But given those remarks, why do we need to suppose Tacitus had a source for "deadly superstition" at all? Similarly, I see a pretty big difference between Tacitus' remark that Christianity was suppressed for a time and then broke out again in Judea and even in the city and the Testimonium's claim that those who loved Jesus did not stop and the tribe of Christians still continued. The latter seems to suggest continuity, not a break. Again, Tacitus might deduce the "suppression" from the fact that Christ was crucified, but if so, why couldn't he have deduced it without the "parallel" in the TF? And could he not have figured out that the "suppression" had been temporary from the fact that the group later expanded into Rome (which the Antiquities does not say)?

      I think we need to hypothesize a source for Tacitus that told him that Christus had been executed by Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, during the reign of Tiberius. I grant you that the Antiquities (i.e., the Testimonium and other nearby passages) contain that information, but it's not the only place he could have gotten the information and in light of the lack of sequential parallels, close translation parallels, and evidence for Tacitus knowing other parts of the Antiquities, I don't think the parallels between the TF and Annales 15.44 establish literary dependence of one on the other as probable.

      >>2. He also mentioned that the Old Church Slavonic manuscript of
      Josephus has the TF in "Wars" and not "Antiquities." That could attest
      to both a) the location of the TF being out of place (due to who knows
      what) and b) that Tacitus apparently uses "Wars" but not "Antiquities".<<

      The leading theory on the composition of the Slavonic Josephus is that of N. A. Meshcherskij (sorry, I don't have the characters to render the name properly), which is now available in English in _Josephus Jewish War and its Slavonic Version_, H. Leeming and K. Leeming, eds. There is a summary of the book on Roger Pearse's site here:

      http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/josephus/slavonic.htm

      Meshcherskij believes that the Slavonic Josephus is composed of excerpts taken from a single Old Russian Chronicle that had used Josephus' Jewish War as one of its sources, along with the bible and the Byzantine chronicles of John Malalas and George Monachus (a.k.a., George Hamartolus or "George the Sinner"). The re-assembled text used most of the Jewish War and bits of the other sources and was composed with a considerable degree of literary freedom and imagination.

      The Chronicon of George Hamartolus relies heavily on Eusebius' Historia Ecclesiastica, and contains, in their Eusebian versions, both the Testimonium and the passage about Vespasian being the ruler of the world who would arise in Judea (JW 6.312-313; HE 3.8.10-11). Hamartolus even quotes the TF with the sentence that follows it in the HE. The passages went from the Greek of Hamartolus (PG 110, 385-388) into the Russian translation of Hamartolus (see V. M. Istrin's edition, 1.225-226), which was then used by the Old Russian Chronicle (sorry, haven't tracked down a published edition of this), which was in turn used by the author of the Slavonic Jewish War. As the Testimonium was available to the author of the Slavonic War through Eusebius via George Hamartolus by pretty well established lines of transmission, I see no reason to posit a different edition of Josephus' Jewish War here. I suspect that Testimonium's mention of Pilate is the reason it was inserted into the text at the beginning of the account of Pilate's term as governor.

      >>3. I also questioned, and still do, his paralleling "exitiablilis
      superstitio" with "didaskalos anqrwpwn twn hdonh talhqh decomenwn".
      His justification was that Josephus refers to those receiving are
      gullible, something I do indeed doubt.<<


      And Tacitus picked up on that? I understand your doubt. I was making two points here. First, the existence of a few parallels does not by itself establish a literary relationship, particularly when some of the parallels are not actual similarities but instead possible interpretations or reactions. Second, on a different (and I would suggest, slightly more valid) reading of the texts, the Testimonium is not the 'middle term" between Luke and Tacitus. Luke 24.21's hope that Jesus would be the one to liberate Israel is far more like Tacitus "destructive superstition" than is the TF's "men receiving the truth with joy".

      Best,

      Ken

      Kenneth A. Olson
      MA, History, University of Maryland
      PhD Student, Religion, Duke University


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