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,
"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
Next, Laupot takes umbrage at my suggestion that he relies on the
assumption that the christiani were active the defence of Jerusalem.
"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
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.