Re: [[XTalk] Re: Laupot's article on the Tacitus fragment]
- "Tom Curtis" <tomkirbel@...> wrote:
> ---------------------------------------------In his article Laupot claims to demonstrate that:
> MIME Type:�multipart/alternative
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
-- 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
--- 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
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
-- (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.
PO Box 286510
New York, NY 10128
Tel. (212) 744-9450
Get free email and a permanent address at http://www.netaddress.com/?N=1
- "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
------- I apologized for that previously,
but let me do so again.
Get free email and a permanent address at http://www.netaddress.com/?N=1