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

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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 1 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

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