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