Tacitus | "cut off ear" scene
- Greetings All,
I have attached in this post a story from Tacitus's "Histories" and from Matthew (the story is in all four Gospels). In the current form (from Mt) these stories seem oddly similar to me. In addition, the oddity that someone is attacked with a sword and his "ear is cut off" appears in all four Gospels. I am wondering if there is any modern scholarship concerned with the similarities between the passages and the possibility of some influence of the one text (Tacitus) on the others.
(It is also possible that "cut his ear off" has some common but not explicit meaning in the Ancient Roman world rather like "box his ears" today.)
Timothy E. Kennelly
Tacitus "Histories" late in book III:When the city was taken, Vitellius left the Palace by a back way and was carried in a litter to his wife's house on the Aventine. If he could lie hid during the day, he hoped to make his escape to his brother and the Guards at Tarracina. But it is in the very nature of terror that, while any course looks dangerous, the present state of things seems worst of all. His fickle determination soon changed and he returned to the vast, deserted Palace, whence even the lowest of his menials had fled, or at least avoided meeting him. Shuddering at the solitude and hushed silence of the place, he wandered about, trying closed doors, terrified to find the rooms empty; until at last, wearied with his miserable search, he crept into some shameful hiding-place. There Julius Placidus, an officer of the Guards, found him and dragged him out. His hands were tied behind his back, his clothes were torn, and thus he was led
fortha loathly spectacle at which many hurled insults and no one shed a single tear of pity. The ignominy of his end killed all compassion.
36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto his disciples, Sit ye here, while I go yonder and pray. 37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and sore troubled. 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: abide ye here, and watch with me. 39 And he went forward a little, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. 40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them sleeping, and
saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. 42 Again a second time he went away, and prayed, saying, My Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, thy will be done. 43 And he came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 And he left them again, and went away, and prayed a third time, saying again the same words. 45 Then cometh he to the disciples, and saith unto them,Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Arise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that betrayeth me.
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
47 And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priest and elders of the people. 48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he: take him. 49 And straightway he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Rabbi; and kissed him. 50 And Jesus said unto him,Friend, [do] that for which thou art come. Then they came and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. 51 And behold, one of them that were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and smote the servant of the high priest, and struck off his ear. 52 Then saith Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Or thinkest thou that I cannot beseech my Father, and he shall even now send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then should the scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be? 55 In that hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a robber with swords and staves to seize me? I sat daily in the temple teaching, and ye took me not. 56 But all this is come to pass, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples left him, and fled.
- Wetstein on Luke 22.50 cites various
uses of instrumental en in Greek,
some of which involve a weapon
and an injury or death. Amongst
them is this one
Xiphilinus p.350 (sic)
e)n curwi= pare/temne
tw=n me\n rhi=na tw=n de\ ou)=s
with a razor he cut off the nose from some
and the ear from others
X may be offering an abbreviation of a
much earlier writing. But not having
X to hand I have no idea of the context.
David Mealand, University of Edinburgh
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