Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

Laupot's article on the Tacitus fragment

Expand Messages
  • Bob Schacht
    ... Jeffrey, Thanks for posting this interesting article. Nuances involving *netser* have been examined in detail on CrossTalk before. A few quick impressions:
    Message 1 of 7 , Oct 22, 2000
      At 03:46 PM 10/22/00 -0500, Jeffrey B. Gibson wrote:
      ...Eric's article is now available with notes intact. ...
      So the article with notes is now available at:

      http://www.egroups.com/files/crosstalk2/Fragment2.html

      And once again, comments etc. may be sent to Eric at

      Eric Laupot <elaupot@...>

      Jeffrey,
      Thanks for posting this interesting article. Nuances involving *netser* have been examined in detail on CrossTalk before. A few quick impressions:
      1. At the beginning, the article seems somewhat repetitive, summarizing the author's main points and objectives several times.
      2. Minor formatting point: some (many) of the paragraphs seem "centered" rather than left justified-- at least, that is how they appeared on my screen.
      3. Perhaps some symbols are not coming across correctly on my screen. For example, the sentence "The first three Semitic consonants of netser can be transliterated into the first three Greek
       consonants of either î_or ó." does not appear to make much sense, as "either î_or ó" does not appear to have 3 consonants, but only one vowel. Or perhaps I am ignorant of certain scholarly conventions that would be clear to a specialist.
      4. The statistical argument seems arbitrary and capricious to me; I'm not clear how much it adds to the analysis.
      5. " in the 70's the name "Christiani" was used largely to designate Pauline Christians,(28) who had
       presumably stepped into the historical vacuum left by the decimation of the earlier Jewish Christiani" seems to ignore the tradition that a group of Netsarim survived the destruction of Jerusalem and moved to Pella. The idea of the Netsarim being associated with Paul seems radical, in light of Paul's apparent conflict with James and the "circumcision party."
      6. The claim, near the beginning, that
      This fragment will enable us to demonstrate who the Christiani really were, and, as we shall see, they were not Christians. Here as elsewhere in this paper I am using "Christians" (as opposed to "Christiani"), "Christianity," and "the Church"to refer to the Pauline version only.
      This claim does not seem to be supported by the analysis that followed. In what sense were the Christiani not Christian?

      In any case, thanks again for this very interesting paper.

      Bob
    • Eric Laupot
      Dear Bob, Thank you for your comments of yesterday. You ve raised a number of interesting points, which seem to boil down largely to one point, namely, that I
      Message 2 of 7 , Oct 23, 2000
        Dear Bob,

        Thank you for your comments of yesterday.

        You've raised a number of interesting points,
        which seem to boil down largely to one point,
        namely, that I did not include the evidence of the
        later Patristic Fathers in my statistical analysis
        of Tacitus' fragment 2. However, the reason
        I decided not to do this is: (1) Such evidence
        is historically late and unreliable, (2) it
        concerns apparently relatively small numbers of
        people who were not necessarily Netsarim,
        (3) therefore it does not relate directly to the
        main issue of whether Tacitus wrote fragment 2 and
        is peripheral to my main statistical argument.
        (However, if you have any earlier Patristic evidence
        that is statistically significant, I would love to
        know about it. Also, I would be happy to see the
        unpublished article you mentioned).

        For these reasons, had I relied on the evidence of
        the later Patristic Fathers I would probably have
        been accused by other scholars of being less than
        relevant. As much as possible, I attempted to avoid
        relying on any corpora of literature that are
        currently suspected of being historically
        questionable -- i.e., the Synoptic Gospels,
        Josephus, the later Patristic Fathers, etc.

        When it comes to Jewish Christians, I believe
        this terminology is so vague as to cause a problem.
        Are they Jews who followed Paul? This is possible,
        but if so, their numbers would have been so few
        as to be statistically insignificant. Tacitus was
        talking about huge numbers of Christiani in
        fragment 2 (and probably, therefore, in Annals
        15.44 as well [multitudo ingens]). Also, the
        existence of these Jewish Christians, however many
        there may have been, in Israel does not detract
        in any way from the reality of the Christiani
        and the historical importance of Tacitus' fragment
        2.

        By the way, the figure I used of "10" meanings for
        each Latin word may have seemed somewhat arbitrary,
        but for safety sake I decided to err on the side of
        my "opponents." Rather than go through a long
        statistical process of determining how many meanings
        in English existed, on average, for each word in
        Latin -- a process which would have bored and
        confused everyone, myself included -- I decided to
        pick a ridiculously high figure, a figure which
        actually worked against me and weakened my
        statistical argument slightly by lowering the
        final probability result to 98.39%. Otherwise, the
        figure of non-randomness would actually have been
        higher.

        Regards,



        Eric Laupot
        PO Box 286510
        New York, New York 10128
        USA
        elaupot@...
        Tel. (212) 744-9450

        ____________________________________________________________________
        Get free email and a permanent address at http://www.netaddress.com/?N=1
      • Eric Laupot
        Bob, Correction -- In my e-mail of today I should have said 10 nouns in Latin for every Semitic meaning, not . . . English meaning. In addition, Church
        Message 3 of 7 , Oct 23, 2000
          Bob,

          Correction -- In my e-mail of today I should have
          said "10 nouns in Latin for every Semitic meaning,"
          not " . . . English meaning." In addition, "Church
          Fathers" would have been less tautological than
          "Patristic Fathers."

          I did not mean to dismiss the importance of
          the Patristic evidence on early Jewish and
          Jewish-Christian (whatever this may mean) sects.
          However, in my view this evidence's relevance to
          Tacitus' fragment 2 is marginal.

          Also I never said Christianity in first century,
          post-70 was monolithically Pauline, rather (1) I
          used the word "largely" and (2) what I did in the
          beginning of the article was to define (in part
          for clarity's sake, since this is essential before
          engaging in any discussion) the word "Christianity"
          to mean "Pauline." In any event, there is little
          or no historical record of the Netsarim existing
          as a group after 70; and although there are
          definite and well known historical indications that the
          Christians (i.e., Pauline) were influcenced by the
          Netsarim (e.g., Galatians), there are none that the
          reverse was true, i.e., that the Netsarim were
          influenced by Paul or Pauline Christianity. In
          fact, this is hard to imagine, given
          Tacitus' description of the Netsarim in fragment 2.
          Without more details, though, I could not respond
          to your comment on my oversimplifying things.

          Eric,

          Eric Laupot
          PO Box 286510
          New York, New York 10128
          USA
          elaupot@...
          Tel. (212) 744-9450

          ____________________________________________________________________
          Get free email and a permanent address at http://www.netaddress.com/?N=1
        • Bob Schacht
          ... Eric, I m afraid our disagreement is more extensive than this summary indicates. There are two main areas of disagreement: 1. Your surprising and
          Message 4 of 7 , Oct 23, 2000
            At 08:08 AM 10/23/00 -0400, Eric Laupot wrote:
            Dear Bob,

            Thank you for your comments of yesterday.

            You've raised a number of interesting points,
            which seem to boil down largely to one point,
            namely, that I did not include the evidence of the
            later Patristic Fathers in my statistical analysis
            of Tacitus' fragment 2. However, the reason
            I decided not to do this is: (1) Such evidence
            is historically late and unreliable, (2) it
            concerns apparently relatively small numbers of
            people who were not necessarily Netsarim,
            (3) therefore it does not relate directly to the
            main issue of whether Tacitus wrote fragment 2 and
            is peripheral to my main statistical argument.
            (However, if you have any earlier Patristic evidence
            that is statistically significant, I would love to
            know about it. Also, I would be happy to see the
            unpublished article you mentioned).

            Eric,
            I'm afraid our disagreement is more extensive than this summary indicates. There are two main areas of disagreement:

            1. Your surprising and unsupported hypothesis that the Christiani of Tacitus were not Christians, and
            2. Your dismissal of Netsarim after 70 C.E. as negligible in importance.

            Part of the problem here is that at the beginning you declare that
            Here as elsewhere in this paper I am using "Christians" (as opposed to
            "Christiani"), "Christianity," and "the Church"to refer to the Pauline version only.

            I suppose it is your right to declare how you want to use your terms, and I suppose that some of our differences diminish or disappear if I can only keep reminding myself of this (to me) bizarre limitation on the usage of the term. To me, this is a bit as if I were to write an article on the politics of the presidential election, declaring at the beginning that "Here as elsewhere in this paper I am using 'Republicans' and 'Republican Party' to refer to the George Bush version only," and then to discuss a copy of Newt Gingrich, et al.'s "The Contract with America" as obviously not being a Republican document. It just goes so badly against the grain that it is hard not to wince.

            To address the first point, let's turn to Tacitus' Annales 15.44. This passage not only refers unmistakably to Christians (Christiani), but it also unmistakably defines the name Christian as deriving from "Christus," who "suffered the extreme penalty ... at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate..." In the fragment you examine, "The Christiani arose from the Jews." So here we have a bunch of Jewish followers of Jesus, and you say they're not Christian! You can only achieve this feat by your bizarre restriction of the term "Christian" to the "Pauline" version only. Furthermore, in no way do you "demonstrate" that the Christiani were not Christian; your demonstration is merely a definitional trick.

            As an aside, you also have not demonstrated that the participants in the council depicted in your fragment understood the difference between Pauline Christians and the Christiani of Tacitus. It would be helpful to know if they were thinking strategically only of the population of Jerusalem, or were thinking of the Christiani in Jerusalem, Rome, and across the empire. If the latter, then the "threat" would be much more credible if they did *not* distinguish between Pauline Christianity and Jewish Christians.

            As to the second point, let us consider generally the issue of Jewish Christians of the First Century. "Netsarim" is only one of their names; in various versions they are also linked to the "Ebionites" and the desposynoi (relatives of Jesus). I submit that this group is far more widespread, numerous, and influential than you are willing to admit. First of all, I am wondering if you have consulted any of the standard references, such as Schaeder's article "NazarEnos, NazOraios," in Kittel (p. 879). The sect of nasarenes (sigma) whose doctrines are (rather loosely) summarised by Shaeder, based on Epiphanius, is the
            Ebionites. For an extensive treatment of the Ebionites see H.J. Schoeps, "Jewish Christianity: Factional Disputes in the Early Church." (I am indebted to Rene Joseph Salm for bringing these references to my attention.)

            Although I am no expert in this field, let me cite some relevant evidence.

            1. In the letters of Paul, his general modus operandi when arriving in a new town was to go to the synagogue, or wherever else Jews gathered, and seek converts among them. The letters are full of references to the ensuing split in the Jewish community, and the uneasy alliance between Paul's Jewish converts (many of whom formed "the circumcision party," Gal. 2:12, Eph. 2:11; Col. 4:11; Titus 1:10) and his Gentile converts. Thus, Jewish Christians were not confined to Jerusalem, but were widespread before 70 C.E.

            2. The Gospels, written during the last third of the First Century, reflect a sitz im leben of Jewish Christianity-- that is, Jews who followed Jesus but who worshiped in the synagogues. Even the gospel usually regarded as latest, GJohn, reflects this situation (famously, 9: 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.) Would John have written this way if the only Christians of any importance were Paul's Gentile converts? He'd be preaching to an empty room.

            3. Next, let's consider the Birkhat ha-Minim; benediction 12 ["Let the Nazarenes and sectarians (*minim*) vanish in a moment! Blot them out of the book of  life and do not record them among the righteous"]. Now, admittedly the date of this benediction is the subject of dispute, but I don't know of anyone who is arguing for a pre-70 C.E. date for it. *Any* date post-70 C.E. undermines your thesis that the Netsarim were insignificant. Henry Chadwick's venerable book, The Early Church, puts the date at 85.

            4. Next, consider the second century Christian writer Hegesippus who, sometime between 175 and 189 "set down oral traditions about the early 1st century Jerusalem Christian community." (Anchor Bible Dictionary)

            5. Next, consider the one or more Gospels referred to under the names Gospel of the Hebrews (translated by Jerome into Latin); the Gospel of the Ebionites, and the Gospel of the Nazoreans, all considered to be the work of Jewish Christians of the first few centuries C.E. and known primarily from patristic sources.

            6. According to Chadwick, Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho indicates that Jewish Christians were "still a force" ca. 160 C.E. (p. 22)

            7. Irenaeus (140-202) also wrote about the Ebionites (Adv. Haer. I.xxvi.2)

            8. The Homilies of psuedo-Clement are considered by patristic scholars to contain much Jewish Christian material.

            9. The bishopric of Jerusalem did not cease in 70 C.E. but continued until at least 135, according to Eusebius and Epiphanius, and continued in influence beyond Jerusalem in those years. Richard Bauckham has recently reviewed the evidence, and although he comes up with a different sequence of bishops than Eusebius and Epiphanius, he supports the continuation of this line of leadership. I commend his book, Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church (1990), as an excellent source of information on these and related matters concerning Jewish Christians. I also commend to you Joseph B. Tyson's The New Testament and Early Christianity (1984), as well as J.D.G. Dunn's Unity and Diversity in the New Testament (1977).

            There's more, but I hope this will be enough to convince you that Jewish Christians were an important branch (!) of Christianity (!) in the First Century-- much more important than you have been willing to admit.

            Finally, in conclusion, I think that your article would be much more interesting if you shifted your emphasis from the unsustainable assertion that the Christiani were not Christians to the much more interesting light that the fragment yields on the active involvement of Jewish Christians against Rome. This subject is not well known, and the Tacitus Fragment is an important piece of evidence.

            In any case, thanks for sharing this information with us.

            Bob
          • Tom Curtis
            In his article Laupot claims to demonstrate that: a) The metaphor in the Tacitus fragment ( destroy the vine and destroy also the branch ) was suggested by
            Message 5 of 7 , Nov 8, 2000
              In his article Laupot claims to demonstrate that: a) The metaphor
              in the Tacitus fragment ("destroy the vine and destroy also the
              branch") was suggested by the name of a party being discussed (the
              nazoreans or equivalent); b) that this refference is linguisticaly
              obscure, and so was not the result of later christian redaction; and
              that c) the authenticity of the fragment proves the "christiani" were
              actively involved in defending Jerusalem; and so d) the "christiani"
              were not Pauline christians, who were pacifists. Claims a), c), and
              d) are disputable, and so his case is definetly not proven, despite
              his claim in an earlier email.

              Laupot's first claim can be substantiated by showing that no other
              deriation of the metaphor is probable. This Laupot tries to show by
              a claim that the "root/branch" metaphor is otherwise unknown in latin
              literature, and that an accidental coincidence of meaning between the
              key phrase of the metaphore (stirps=latin for branch) and the aramaic
              name of the christiani (nazorean=netser=hebrew for branch). The last
              is the statistical argument which occupies most of the paper. Laupot
              fails, however, to discuss other possible sources for the metaphore.
              No mention is made of greek literature, which we may presume Titus to
              have been familiar with. More importantly, no consideration is given
              to the possibility that the metaphore was suggested by a symbolic
              association of the jews (nation of Israel) with vines, the other key
              term in the metaphore. Such an association does exist, being a
              common Old Testament metaphore. This association constitutes an
              alternative and less obscure source for the metaphore, significantly
              weakening Laupot's argument.

              More troubling is Laupot's assumption that because Titus wanted to
              eliminate the christiani, they must have been active participants in
              the defense of Jerusalem. At the time of the discussion, the current
              rebellion was effectively crushed. Titus' primary concern, both as a
              general and as son of the emperor was to prevent future rebellions,
              either in Judea, or elsewhere in the empire. Thus, there is no need
              to supose that Titus was exclusively concerned with disloyal elements
              within Jerusalem or Judea.

              If we allow ourselves a wider scope in determining who the christiani
              were, we find that Pauline christians might well fit the bill. We
              know from a variety of sources that Roman authorities believed
              christians to be disloyal and immoral. They also were geographically
              and racially diverse, making them potentially more dangerous than the
              jews. Further, there was reason to suppose that the temple was the
              center of their worship. Evidence of this can be found in the sacred
              geography, for example, in Luke/Acts. It is also implicit in Paul's
              letters, in his continuos encouragement of gentile christians to
              contribute to the poor in Jerusalem. Finally, if the "christiani"
              are identified as Pauline christians, this explains the distinction
              made between jews and "christiani", especially as no distinction is
              made between other jewish factions.

              I am not arguing that the "christiani" were Pauline christians, only
              that it is a possible identification. Given this possibility,
              Laupot's case needs significant strengthening if he is to
              substantiate his claims. His assumption (c) must be explicitly
              argued for, and other alternative identifications must be considered.

              Regards,

              Tom Curtis
            • Tom Curtis
              Before I take up substantive issues, I must apologise to Eric for my misremembering classical as latin , and for the unwarranted criticism that resulted.
              Message 6 of 7 , Nov 12, 2000
                Before I take up substantive issues, I must apologise to Eric for my
                misremembering "classical" as "latin", and for the unwarranted
                criticism that resulted. Further, I must apologise for the mistake
                as regards the statistical argument, which I regard as valid so far
                as it goes. My criticism was not against the basic method of
                Laupot's argument, but against the failure, in two cases, to
                sufficiently consider alternatives.

                With regard to the lack of consideration of alternatives, Laupot
                acknowledges the existance (and Roman knowledge) of the Israel/vine
                metaphor. He rejects the significance of this to his argument,
                however, saying:
                "Semetic sources on Israel as a vine do not employ 'netser', and the
                point of the paper was to explain the statisticaly rare event
                involved in the implied use of 'netser'."
                I concede this happily, but Laupot fails to condsider the employment
                of one metaphor often suggests the employment of related metaphors.
                Thus, the metaphor "vine" suggests the possible
                metaphors "vine/vinyard", "vine/leaf", "vine/grape", "vine/wine", or
                (of course), "vine/branch". Given the existance of the "Israel/vine"
                metaphor, we must allow some probability that the "christiani/branch"
                metaphor was suggested by the existance of the original vine
                metaphor. The higher that probability, the less probable is Laupot's
                claim that the use of branch as a metaphor for "christiani" shows
                the "christiani" were also called netsarim.

                I do not think this possibility rebutts Laupot's statistical
                argument. Indeed, he has persuaded me on this point. However, he
                ought to give consideration to this alternative source of the
                metaphor, and make allowance for the the extent to which it weakens
                his argument.

                Next, Laupot takes umbrage at my suggestion that he relies on the
                assumption that the christiani were active the defence of Jerusalem.
                He writes:
                "I never implied or stated they were active participants in the
                defense of Jerusalem. I said they had been major participants in the
                War because Titus has wanted to eliminate the Temple on their
                account. I was carefull not to state or imply what their function
                may have been in the war."
                Indeed, Laupot may well have been carefull to not state their
                function. Are we to presume from this "care" that Laupot thinks they
                may have been non-combatants? If so, then he agrees with me that
                the "christiani" might, for all the evidence we have, have been
                pacifists. In that case his evidence that they were not Pauline
                Christians is non-existant. Of course, he believes no such thing.
                He later writes:
                "Apparently the Romans weren't interested in other Jewish factions
                [than the christiani] at that moment; they were mainly interested in
                their chief opponents among the insurgents."
                If the christiani were the Roman's chief opponents, they were
                certainly actively involved in the defense of Jerusalem. This is a
                crucial assumption of Laupot's, and it ought to be stated and
                defended, not "carefully not stated or impl[ied]".

                The fact that Titus wanted to destroy the Temple on account of the
                christiani, must clearly give us information about who the christiani
                were. Equally, the distinction made between the christiani and the
                Jews also provides information. Given this distinction the most
                probable identifications are either that the christiani were the most
                significant faction amongst the Jews in the War (Laupot's
                assumption), or they were a group with a significant gentile
                membership, ie, a group including Pauline christians. Laupot may
                consider that if we allow ourselves wider scope to consider this
                alternative "we only get the fantastic and the outre", but this
                fantastic and outre possiblity is the traditional identification, the
                identification he is arguing against. Laupot may consider it
                apropriate to not give consideration to the thesis he opposes; I do
                not.

                Laupot also queries my use of Luke-Acts as a historical source. I
                would have thought that work to have been a primary historical
                source. The sacred geography used in Luke-Acts is evidence of what
                Pauline christians believed immediatly following the War. The way
                the work is centered around Jerusalem shows that Jerusalem occupied a
                special place in Pauline christian thought, even after the
                destruction of Jerusalem. I do not consider Luke-Acts to be entirely
                without merit as a history either, but that was not my point.

                Finaly, I wish to express surprise at the dismissive tone of Laupot's
                response. I had expected, in this forum, that people would be able
                to respond politely to criticism.

                Regards,

                Tom Curtis
              Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.