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Re: [textualcriticism] Paul's correspondence to Seneca - "errors in chronology and history" ?

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  • Steven Avery
    [This thread is now closed. Please discuss this elsewhere. ---Wie] Peter Barbara Thiering?  Really?  This is who you bring forward as your main support? 
    Message 1 of 3 , Jan 10, 2013
      [This thread is now closed. Please discuss this elsewhere. ---Wie]

      Barbara Thiering?  Really?  This is who you bring forward as your main support?  Who's next?   Erich von Daniken?

      Thanks for the perfect example of the genetic fallacy ! 
      If I was a teacher, I would give it to my class as a textbook example :-) .


      First, the main support scholastically would likely be Paul Berry, along with Thiering and Ramelli (in Italian).

      Library access for one of the two Paul Berry books that discuss Seneca.

      Correspondence between Paul and Seneca A. D. 61-65 (1999)
      Paul Berry

      And when I have his material handy, I can report back more.
      Others are welcome to do so, using the benefits of forum sharing.


      Peter, I suggest you actually read this particular Barbara Thiering page , or even just the paragraph below, and give your informed critique, on specifics. To make it easier, I now have the urls with the full text. This first new reference gives what may be the earliest English text.

      The Apocryphal New Testament (1820)
       p. 95-99

      Next is the one substantive debunking attempt available in English on the net.
      We also have here English and Latin of the letters.

      A new and full method of settling the canonical authority of the New Testament (1827)
      Jeremiah Jones
      p. 44-53  - Latin and English text 
      p. 54-68 - analysis

      The various arguments from Jeremiah Jones do not seem extremely impressive, unless there are hard errors that stand up to scrutiny. This is a key issue, and it may need Berry, Savenster, Thiering, and some of the non-English writing (Aubertin, Ramelli) to really get a sense of how lay "the facts on the ground".  Thiering, in a surprisingly sensible article and post, claims to have looked carefully at the conjectured factual problems and considers them as vaporware.  And Ehrman said very little in his acceptance of the forgery claim about the factual matter, working mostly with stylistics. You get the sense that Ehrman did not want to emphasize factual problems in the rejection and forgery accusation, since there could be embarrassing rebuttals, as when people are named as fictional and then show up in ancient archives.

      Yet, a 4th century forgery of a 1st century correspondence (motive?  to counter 21th century mythicists?)  with numerous techie details, should have multiple glaring holes.

      My view is simple on authenticity:
      "the factual aspects, in a case like this, must predominate.  Not the stylistic."

      We know from experience that stylistic arguments are remarkably flexible and subject to special pleading, as in the "scholarship consensus" rejection of the Pastorals and 2 Peter as forgeries.  And, similar articles by some, of other books.  Look at the Mark ending stylistic fiasco, now essentially dead and buried.  There are a few additional considerations, beyond factual accuracy and stylistics, in any evaluation of authenticity, but I do not want to bog down this post, simply upon up the discussion.

      One thing is clear : there should be no surprise that Paul and Seneca would connect, considering Seneca's brother is specifically mentioned in Acts, and Gallio comes out looking pretty responsible and fair in all accounts.

      Some references in:

      Notes and Queries (1877)


      And if you want a general aphorism to help you with considering Thiering's analysis ... remember, a stopped clock is right twice a day. If we should not reject everything written by Bart Ehrman because of his adoptionist and ebionite presuppositions that color his analysis, then we should grant a similar courtesy to Barbara Thiering.

      Earlier post:

      [textualcriticism] Paul's correspondence to Seneca - "errors in chronology and history" ?
      Steven Avery - Jan 7, 2013

      Steven Avery
      Bayside, NY

      Acts 18:12-17
      And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat, Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law. And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters. And he drave them from the judgment seat. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.

      Gaillio is the brother of Seneca.

      Senca the Younger - (4 BC- 65 AD)

      The question of Paul's correspondence to Seneca (purported) comes up in the recent Forgeries book of Bart Ehrman.  It is also the subject of a book by Paul Berry, that defends the authenticity. (Berry was also involved in the question of Christian Latin inscriptions in Pompeii from before the volcano, The Christian Inscription at Pompeii, 1995.)

      J. B. Lightfoot and Farrar were part of the modern dismissal (although there was an earlier period involving Decembrio, Valla and Erasmus) of authenticity. One review is here.

      Galatians and First-century Ethical Theory (2008)
      Peggy A. Vining
      "modern scholars believe that the correspondence is indisputably a fake, largely because of its errors in chronology and history"

      The phrase above comes from Lightfoot., directly. 
      Let us start with Lightfoot and Farrar.
      St. Paul's epistle to the Philippians (1869)
      edited by Joseph Barber Lightfoot
      The poverty of thought and style, the errors in chronology and history, and the whole conception of the relative positions of the Stoic philosopher and the Christian Apostle, betray clearly the hand of a forger..

      Farrar gives one chronological element, one however that looks very weak.

      Seekers After God (1894)
      Frederic William Farrar
      The tradition that Gallio sent some of St. Paul's writings to his brother Seneca is utterly absurd ; and indeed at this lime (A. D. 54), St. Paul had written nothing
      except the two Epistles to the Thessalonians. (See Conybeare and Howsen, St. Paul, vol. i. ch. xii. ; Aubertin, Sénèque et St Paul.)                                                                         

      Seneque et Saint Paul:  etude sur les rapports supposes entre le philosophe et l'apotre (1872)
      Charles Aubertin

      The Life and Epistles of St. Paul: (1870 - expanded from 1856)
      William John Conybeare, John Saul Howson
      chapter xii - p. 357-371 - Seneca on p. 363-366 
      (a good read, but nothing that seems to match the dismissal, in fact au contraire.)
      Assuming that 54 AD is correct for when Paul's literature would get to Seneca, In addition to 1 Thessalonians, Galatians and 2 Thessalonians would have been written, Romans and Corinthians were possible, as they were written between 50-58.  Plus, Paul could make any correspondence or writings available.

      The one 'hard' Farrar dismissal attempt fails miserably. 
      If anything the dates to get literature to Seneca work superbly.  Interestingly, Seneca refers specifically
      "Seneca speaks favourably of Paul's epistles "to the Galatians, to the Corinthians and to the Achaians". (Thiering, below)

      Strange New Gospels (1931)
      Edgar Johnson Goodspeed

      Edgar Goodspeed refers to "the well-known but spurious correspondence between them."  Apparently he does not give any reasons, perhaps feeling that following Lightfoot and Farrar and any others was sufficient.

      Interestingly, Goodspeed mentions another spurious writing that independently utilizes or corroborates the Seneca-Paul correspondence, the Letter of Benan.  And Goodspeed discusses and dismisses the Letters of Pontius Pilate, purported to be from Pilate to Senaca.

      The whole issue of Goodspeed forgery refutations and dismissals may need another revisit (Benan is new to me today). In the past Roger Pearse, the host of that site, has been helpful in correspondence and discussion.  Be careful with Goodspeed :) .

      So let's go to Bart Ehrman, all but one page is online.

      Forgery and Counter-forgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics (2012)
      Bart D. Ehrman

      Lots of stylistic-type arguments, one page not visible on google, which has to be checked to see if Ehrman claims any hard errors ? Bart Ehrman has one point about a flip in perspective towards Nero, however you get the sense that the concern is strained, it would need more specific study.

      There is an amazing level of detail in these letters (see examples below on the Thiering page).
      My initial sense:

      If there are no hard errors, then it is virtually impossible to conjecture a fourth-century forgery.

      The defenders of the authenticity point out the highly unusual situation with Nero's spies all about (later Nero forced Seneca to commit suicide, so this was not simply paranoia) and the nature of light, even hasty, personal letters.  See below. 


      Two books by Paul Berry (b. 1931)

      Correspondence between Paul and Seneca, A.D. 61-65 (1999)
      Paul Berry
      ... After a introduction that summarizes forcefully the evidence for the primacy of Latin in the Apostolic Age, Berry presents each of the letters, eight from Seneca to St. Paul and six from St. Paul to Seneca. First he gives an architectural facsimile from the original 9th-century copies in the State Library of Vienna, written in a quite legible Carolingian hand. Then he gives a facing transcription in modern type, together with a suggested translation, followed by copious commentary on the content.

      The Encounter Between Seneca and Christianity (2002)
      Paul Berry

      It would be interesting to read the defenders of authenticity, e.g. Ramelli and Berry.  Also some "unusuals" like Barbara Thiering (whose page is quite strong, surprisingly) and Klaus Schilling.

      And it would also be interesting to know whether all the brouhaha about chronology and history has any real substance, or is vaporware like Farrar above. And if any purported anomalies short of hard errors are easily explained by a good analyst.

      The Correspondence between Paul and Seneca (2005)
      Barbara Thiering
      .... The letters, some of them with exact dates expressed in terms of the consuls actually in office, sound natural, without any defensiveness such as would be expected if they were forgeries. They are written in just the way an open-minded intellectual of the period would write if he had taken an interest in a new religion from a foreign source being presented as another philosophy. If, as the pesher of Acts indicates, Paul was a member of the court of Agrippa II , then he was of sufficient social standing to meet and converse with the eminent philosopher. The later letters show that Seneca was protecting Paul and the Christians from the venom of Nero in the period leading up to the great fire of 64 AD. This accords with the fact that Seneca, who had been tutor of the young Nero, had lost the favour of the capricious emperor, who ordered him to commit suicide, an order he had to obey with the courage of a Stoic in 65 AD.

      The letters begin at the outset of Nero's reign at the end of 54 AD. In the first, Seneca from Rome writes to Paul, who at the end of that year was in Ephesus. The two had previously met, possibly in Athens in 51 AD, where Paul had debated with Stoic and Epicurean philosophers (Acts 17:18):

      Notice that the letters have a level of substance and especially detail that Ehrman carefully glosses over and hides (whether authentic or not).

      Discussion also available on the qumran_origin ·list.


      More about Stoicism - the Seneca letters
      Barbara Thiering - Fri May 25, 2001 
      Arguments have been brought against the genuineness of the Seneca letters, but none of them stick, as for example the claim made that a pair of consuls, in whose name dating is given, never existed. But in fact they did - they belong in a list of suffect consuls. The argument that a non-literary style is used is not convincing - these were hastily written personal notes.

      Your thoughts welcome.
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