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Re: [[XTalk] Re: Laupot's article on the Tacitus fragment]

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  • Eric Laupot
    ... 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
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 9, 2000
      "Tom Curtis" <tomkirbel@...> wrote:

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      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;

      -- I never made this statement (see below).

      and so d) the "christiani" were not Pauline christians,
      who were pacifists. Claims a), c), and d) are

      -- By disputable, I assume you mean for the reasons
      given below, since you mention no others.

      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

      -- No, I said classical literature (p. 245), which
      includes Greek as well.

      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).

      -- No, I show the opposite, that the coincidence is
      probably non-random, not accidental.

      The last is the statistical argument which occupies most
      of the paper.

      -- Actually, it occupies less than 30% of the paper.

      Laupot fails, however, to discuss other possible
      sources for the metaphore. No mention is made of
      greek literature,

      -- On the contrary, I stated that I knew of no other
      possible sources in classical, including Greek,
      literature (p. 245). If you know of any others, would
      you care to share them with the group?

      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.

      -- No consideration was necessary since these Semitic
      sources on Israel as a vine do not employ "netser," and
      the point of the paper was to explain the statistically
      rare event involved in the implied use of "netser."
      However, you are correct in so far as a vine
      metaphor may well have constituted a secondary meaning
      of the root-branch metaphor used by the Romans in
      fragment 2; it was known to the Romans that Israel was
      symbolized by a vine (e.g., Tacitus Histories 5.5.5).
      Nevertheless, this secondary meaning of a vine is not
      mutually exclusive with the metaphor from Isa 11.1, and,
      in addition, the use of a vine as a metaphor for Israel
      does not help explain why the Romans implied the use
      of netser in fragment 2.

      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

      -- 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 had wanted to eliminate the Temple on their
      account. I was careful not to state or imply
      what their function may have been in the War.

      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.

      -- This seems to have been true in some larger
      sense, although Titus' military concern was
      exclusively with Israel.

      If we allow ourselves a wider scope in determining
      who the christiani were, we find that Pauline
      christians might well fit the bill.

      -- If we allow ourselves a wider scope here with
      regard to the Pauline Christians, we only get into
      the fantastic and the outre.

      We know from a variety of
      sources that Roman authorities believed christians to
      be disloyal and immoral.

      -- You're right; but that's a far cry from saying
      Rome wanted to exterminate the Pauline Christians,
      which is something that the central government in Rome
      did not even attempt until ca. 250 CE. Until then,
      the persecutions against the Pauline Christians were
      all local in nature.

      They also were geographically
      and racially diverse, making them potentially more
      dangerous than the jews.

      -- So are the Hare Krishnas.

      Further, there was reason to
      suppose that the temple was the center of their

      -- Even assuming you're right, it was the center
      of Hillel's and Josephus' worship too, but this
      doesn't mean Rome considered them enemies.

      Evidence of this can be found in the sacred
      geography, for example, in Luke/Acts.

      -- Do you consider Luke-Acts a historical source???

      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.

      --- Apparently the Romans weren't interested
      in other Jewish factions at that moment; they were
      mainly interested in their chief opponents among
      the insurgents. To assume otherwise is to employ
      circular reasoning.

      I am not arguing that the "christiani" were Pauline
      christians, only that it is a possible identification.

      -- I'm sorry, but it is not 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,

      -- (c) is your assumption. Why should I argue for
      it? I do believe that it is possible to make a case
      for (c), but I chose not to do so in my article.

      and other alternative identifications
      must be considered.


      Tom Curtis


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

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    • Eric Laupot
      Tom Curtis wrote: My criticism was not against the basic method of Laupot s argument, but against the failure, in two cases, to
      Message 2 of 2 , Nov 12, 2000
        "Tom Curtis" <tomkirbel@...> wrote:

        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.

        ----- Absolutely right, generally speaking. But in this
        case, the Romans specifically added "branch"
        to the vine metaphor in order to describe the
        Christiani (we are assuming, of course, that my
        statistical argument is valid and fragment 2 has
        been more or less authenticated). And the Romans'
        metaphor otherwise reminds one of Isa 11.1 with the
        motion of the "branch" ("profectas," "extitisse").
        Most importantly, the statiscal argument is still
        in effect, and we still have to account for the
        presence of "stirps" in frag. 2, even if Severus
        didn't put it there -- someone did, with a
        98.4% chance of non-randomness! So, in effect,
        netser still "rules." To put this another way,
        my statistical argument does not concern simply the
        selection of the word "stirps," which may well have been
        suggested by "vine," but rather the totality of the
        conjunction between these three words, "stirps,"
        "Nazorean," and, implicitly, "netser." In other words,
        the Romans may have selected "vine" (as I'm sure
        they did), but why "branch"? Still, you have a
        point. It does weaken my argument somewhat as to
        whether the Christiani were also called "Netsarim,"
        though how much is hard to say and impossible to

        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

        -------- Yes, it's theoretically possible, though
        perhaps not too likely.

        If so, then he agrees with me that
        the "christiani" might, for all the evidence we have,
        have been pacifists.

        -------- No, non-combatants isn't the same as
        pacifists. They certainly weren't pacifists or the
        Romans wouldn't have demolished the Temple on their
        account. I simply had in mind that they may have
        been some sort of priestly sect. That's all.

        In that case his evidence that
        they were not Pauline Christians is non-existant. Of
        course, he believes no such thing.

        ------ Well, you're right that I believe no such
        thing; but that's because of research I've done since
        I published the article. I now believe they were
        probably combatants. However, based on what I wrote at
        the time in the article, I don't think I proved then
        that they were combatants.

        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

        -------- Okay, fair enough, I'll defend it
        now: I believe that probably the superstitio of the
        Christiani was the same as Josephus' well-known Fourth
        Philosophy of the Jewish resistance (the one he
        conveniently "omits" to give his readers the proper
        name of). Why? Because Tacitus also implies that the
        Christiani's superstitio was a major ideology of the
        Jewish resistance (otherwise the Romans wouldn't have
        destroyed the Temple on account of the Christiani's
        superstitio). Were these not, therefore, the same
        insurgent ideology? Otherwise, the guerrillas must have
        had two key ideologies, one of which Josephus omits
        to mention altogether and the other of which is
        entirely ignored by Tacitus, at least in his extant

        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.

        ------- Yes, but Josephus also distinguished between
        the guerrillas in the Fourth Philosophy and other
        Jews, who we know from the rabbinic writings often
        found the guerrillas scary. I think that's all
        Josephus and fragment 2 are saying, is that the
        Christiani (the "branch" on the vine of Israel) were
        in conflict with other Jews politically, the
        Christiani being *more* radical, not less (unlike
        the Pauline Christians, who were far less anti-Roman;
        see, e.g., Romans 13).

        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.

        ------ The Netsarim probably had a significant Gentile
        membership. Also, Paul does admit that some of his
        people went over to the Netsarim (his "circumcision
        faction"). But I suppose that once they went over,
        they no longer remained Pauline Christians. But who
        can say? We must also bear in mind that the total
        number of Pauline Christians in 70 were probably
        only a drop in the bucket compared to the number
        of Jews and Nazoreans.

        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

        -------- Even the traditional identification doesn't
        have the Pauline Christians *as a sect* fighting
        at the battle of Jerusalem.

        Laupot may consider it apropriate to not
        give consideration to the thesis he opposes; I do

        ------ I have given it consideration, and I will
        continue to do so.

        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.

        ------- I apologized for that previously,
        but let me do so again.


        Tom Curtis


        Eric Laupot

        Get free email and a permanent address at http://www.netaddress.com/?N=1
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