Who existed ? When ? Where ?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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spin
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Re: Who existed ? When ? Where ?

Post by spin » Thu Oct 19, 2017 12:25 pm

Bernard Muller wrote:
Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:43 pm
Certainly, the Christians' abuses are not revealed in Suetonius' passage, but it is also the case for the pantomimic actor & their partisans.
The logic of the abuses is easy to glean (except for the christians). It relates to public situations, public banquets, taverns, pantomimes, chariot events. This is not apparent with christians. Charioteers it seems were often miscreants who caused problems in public, as per the text. Controling the types of sales in taverns controled the public who used them. Suetonius tells of brawls of Pantomime actors in Nero 26. We can say definitely that the abuses all concerned disturbances of public order... all except the execution of christians. That features nothing akin to any of the other items listed and stands out like a sore thumb.
Bernard Muller wrote:
Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:43 pm
Paul's letter to the Romans (57 CE) is proof there was a sizeable body of Christians in Rome then.
If you think so. I can't see that the Roman group was much more than a community, probably small, of messianic Jewish proselytes, that Paul though he might "set straight".
Bernard Muller wrote:
Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:43 pm
According to Tacitus (annals 15:44), Nero did not deal with those Christians because of their high number, but because he needed scapegoats. And these Christians ("hated for their abominations" and accused of "hatred against mankind") were unpopular.
Tacitus wrote in his passage about Christians, related to the spreading of Christianity in Rome:
"in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular" (according to the context "things hideous and shameful" include Christian beliefs).
The scholars, all apparently accepting the veracity of the section, favor the notion that Tacitus was retrojecting the contemporary knowledge from his era onto the past, so that his comments have little significance in Nero's time. I think the passage (beginning ergo abolendo rumori) was later than the era of, and dependent on, Sulpicius Severus. Briefly on the passage which we've dealt with before, it is placed at the end of Tacitus's devious indirect attack on Nero aimed at attributing the fire to him by innuendo. Its structure narrates the events of the fire, then the aftermath and finally he comes back before the aftermath to Nero and his efforts to remove himself from responsibility for the fire but cannot: "But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order." In my mind this statement is brilliant as a conclusion to the fire narrative. No matter what Nero did he couldn't shift the blame off himself. Tacitus has no tangible evidence for Nero's culpability, but it is very hard for a reader to walk away without thinking Nero did it.

And the TT has nothing to do with Nero's culpability regarding the fire. He is just peripheral to this testimony to christianity suffering in Rome.

I argue that the placement of the Testimonium Taciteum with its story of burning christians lighting the night sky smothers the brilliance of this sentence and shifts the focus onto christianity, the muddled information about christian arrests, about the pity these christians treated so harshly garnered, not withstanding the fact that people being torn apart in ampitheatres was ordinary entertainment. Worse than that despite that sentence saying that nothing Nero did could clean his image, the TT then says that Nero did something to clean his image. Sorry, that last claim had already been falsified, when Tacitus said "no human efforts, no gifts nor propitiations" could shift the blame. Adding another human effort when no human effort had any effect is not a part of the narrative.

We've been through other problems with the TT, but the above should be sufficient to cause a rethink on its veracity.
Bernard Muller wrote:
Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:43 pm
This is the old christians-are-useless-interpolators argument.
Still, Christian interpolators were very unlikely to say their religion was a mischievous superstition.
Consider the interpolated Josephus' Antiquities 18 TF to see the difference.
You can accept some scribes could be better interpolators than others, can't you? So why rehearse the christians-are-useless-interpolators trope?
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Re: Who existed ? When ? Where ?

Post by robert j » Thu Oct 19, 2017 3:10 pm

Bernard Muller wrote:
Paul's letter to the Romans (57 CE) is proof there was a sizeable body of Christians in Rome then.
A piece of evidence? --- sure

Proof? --- certainly not. The messy textual history of the letter Romans, alone, erodes that level of confidence.

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Re: Who existed ? When ? Where ?

Post by Jax » Thu Oct 19, 2017 3:17 pm

spin wrote:
Thu Oct 19, 2017 12:25 pm
Bernard Muller wrote:
Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:43 pm
According to Tacitus (annals 15:44), Nero did not deal with those Christians because of their high number, but because he needed scapegoats. And these Christians ("hated for their abominations" and accused of "hatred against mankind") were unpopular.
Tacitus wrote in his passage about Christians, related to the spreading of Christianity in Rome:
"in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular" (according to the context "things hideous and shameful" include Christian beliefs).
The scholars, all apparently accepting the veracity of the section, favor the notion that Tacitus was retrojecting the contemporary knowledge from his era onto the past, so that his comments have little significance in Nero's time. I think the passage (beginning ergo abolendo rumori) was later than the era of, and dependent on, Sulpicius Severus. Briefly on the passage which we've dealt with before, it is placed at the end of Tacitus's devious indirect attack on Nero aimed at attributing the fire to him by innuendo. Its structure narrates the events of the fire, then the aftermath and finally he comes back before the aftermath to Nero and his efforts to remove himself from responsibility for the fire but cannot: "But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order." In my mind this statement is brilliant as a conclusion to the fire narrative. No matter what Nero did he couldn't shift the blame off himself. Tacitus has no tangible evidence for Nero's culpability, but it is very hard for a reader to walk away without thinking Nero did it.

And the TT has nothing to do with Nero's culpability regarding the fire. He is just peripheral to this testimony to christianity suffering in Rome.

I argue that the placement of the Testimonium Taciteum with its story of burning christians lighting the night sky smothers the brilliance of this sentence and shifts the focus onto christianity, the muddled information about christian arrests, about the pity these christians treated so harshly garnered, not withstanding the fact that people being torn apart in ampitheatres was ordinary entertainment. Worse than that despite that sentence saying that nothing Nero did could clean his image, the TT then says that Nero did something to clean his image. Sorry, that last claim had already been falsified, when Tacitus said "no human efforts, no gifts nor propitiations" could shift the blame. Adding another human effort when no human effort had any effect is not a part of the narrative.

We've been through other problems with the TT, but the above should be sufficient to cause a rethink on its veracity.
You know, one thing that has always struck me as odd, is the fact that Josephus, there in Rome during the supposed "Great Fire" and it's aftermath, never says anything about it in his autobiography.

I could see him, maybe, not bringing up the fire, except that he could have gained brownie points under his new bosses if he had trashed Nero, but to not mention the fate of a sect of Judaism that took the blame for it seems a little unbelievable.

He wrote a whole corpus on the Jewish people after all and Christianity at this point should have been indistinguishable from Judaism had it been known at all.

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Re: Who existed ? When ? Where ?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Oct 19, 2017 4:09 pm

Jax wrote:
Thu Oct 19, 2017 3:17 pm
You know, one thing that has always struck me as odd, is the fact that Josephus, there in Rome during the supposed "Great Fire" and it's aftermath, never says anything about it in his autobiography.

I could see him, maybe, not bringing up the fire, except that he could have gained brownie points under his new bosses if he had trashed Nero, but to not mention the fate of a sect of Judaism that took the blame for it seems a little unbelievable.
I myself am undecided on the authenticity of the Testimonium Taciteum. But how do we know that Josephus was in Rome during the Great Fire? The dates so far as I can pin them down so far, just from Life 3 and the tenures of the various governors of Judea, are a bit ambiguous.
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Re: Who existed ? When ? Where ?

Post by Bernard Muller » Thu Oct 19, 2017 4:33 pm

From http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/e/r ... o/62*.html: Cassius Dio on Nero and the great fire of 64 CE, translated from Roman History, 62.16-18
Nero had the wish---or rather it had always been a fixed purpose of his---to make an end of the whole city in his lifetime. Priam he deemed wonderfully happy in that he had seen Troy perish at the same moment his authority over her ended. Accordingly, Nero sent out by different ways men feigning to be drunk, or engaged in some kind of mischief, and at first had a few fires kindled quietly and in different quarters; people, naturally, were thrown into extreme confusion, not being able to find either the cause of the trouble nor to end it; and meantime met with many strange sights and sounds. They ran about as if distracted, and some rushed one way, some another. In the midst of helping their neighbors, men would learn that their own homes were blazing. Others learned, for the first time, that their property was on fire, by being told it was burned down. People would run from their houses into the lanes, with a hope of helping from the outside, or again would rush into the houses from the streets seeming to imagine they could do something from the inside. The shouting and screaming of children, women, men, and gray beards mingled together unceasingly; and betwixt the combined smoke and shouting no one could make out anything.

All this time many who were carrying away their own goods, and many more who were stealing what belonged to others kept encountering one another and falling over the merchandise. It was impossible to get anywhere; equally impossible to stand still. Men thrust, and were thrust back, upset others, and were upset themselves, many were suffocated or crushed; in short, no possible calamity at such a disaster failed to befall.

This state of things lasted not one day, but several days and nights running. Many houses were destroyed through lack of defenders; and many were actually fired in more places by professed rescuers. For the soldiers (including the night watch) with a keen eye for plunder, instead of quenching the conflagration, kindled it the more. While similar scenes were taking place at various points, a sudden wind caught the fire and swept it over what remained. As a result nobody troubled longer about goods or homes, but all the survivors, from a place of safety, gazed on what appeared to be many islands and cities in flames. No longer was there any grief for private loss, public lamentation swallowed up this---as men reminded each other how once before the bulk of the city had been even thus laid desolate by the Gauls.

While the whole people was in this state of excitement, and many driven mad by calamity were leaping into the blaze, Nero mounted upon the roof of the palace, where almost the whole conflagration was commanded by a sweeping glance, put on the professional harpist's garb, and sang "The Taking of Troy" (so he asserted), although to common minds, it seemed to be "The Taking of Rome."

The disaster which the city then underwent, had no parallel save in the Gallic invasion. The whole Palatine hill, the theater of Taurus, and nearly two thirds of the rest of the city were burned. Countless persons perished. The populace invoked curses upon Nero without intermission, not uttering his name, but simply cursing "those who set the fire"; and this all the more because they were disturbed by the recollection of the oracle recited in Tiberius's time, to this effect,

"After three times three hundred rolling years In civil strife Rome's Empire disappears."

And when Nero to encourage them declared these verses were nowhere to be discovered, they changed and began to repeat another oracle---alleged to be a genuine one of the Sibyl,

"When the matricide reigns in Rome, Then ends the race of Aeneas."

And thus it actually turned out, whether this was really revealed in advance by some divination, or whether the populace now for the first time gave it the form of a sacred utterance merely adapted to the circumstances. For Nero was indeed the last of the Julian line, descended from Aeneas.

Nero now began to collect vast sums both from individuals and nations, sometimes using downright compulsion, with the conflagration as his excuse, and sometimes obtaining funds by "voluntary" offers. As for the mass of the Romans they had the fund for their food supply withdrawn.
BTW, Cassius Dio (155-235 CE) never mentioned Christians or Christianity in his books.

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Re: Who existed ? When ? Where ?

Post by Bernard Muller » Thu Oct 19, 2017 5:14 pm

According to Josephus' life, 1. (5) and 3. (13) Josephus was in Rome for a short time in 64 CE. However he may have left Rome before the big fire (which started on July 18th or 19th).

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Re: Who existed ? When ? Where ?

Post by Bernard Muller » Thu Oct 19, 2017 5:23 pm

Suetonius on the great fire, from Life of Nero, 38
For under cover of displeasure at the ugliness of the old buildings and the narrow, crooked streets, he set fire to the city so openly that several ex-consuls did not venture to lay hands on his chamberlains although they caught them on their estates with tow and fire-brands, while some granaries near the Golden House, whose room he particularly desired, were demolished by engines of war and then set on fire, because their walls were of stone. For six days and seven nights destruction raged, while the people were driven for shelter to monuments and tombs. At that time, besides an immense number of dwellings, the houses of leaders of old were burned, still adorned with trophies of victory, and the temples of the gods vowed and dedicated by the kings and later in the Punic and Gallic wars, and whatever else interesting and noteworthy had survived from antiquity. Viewing the conflagration from the tower of Maecenas and exulting, as he said, in "the beauty of the flames," he sang the whole of the "Sack of Ilium,"in his regular stage costume. Furthermore, to gain from this calamity too all the spoil and booty possible, while promising the removal of the debris and dead bodies free of cost he allowed no one to approach the ruins of his own property; and from the contributions which he not only received, but even demanded, he nearly bankrupted the provinces and exhausted the resources of individuals.
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Re: Who existed ? When ? Where ?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Oct 19, 2017 5:29 pm

Bernard Muller wrote:
Thu Oct 19, 2017 5:14 pm
According to Josephus' life, 1. (5) and 3. (13) Josephus was in Rome for a short time in 64 CE. However he may have left Rome before the big fire (which started on July 18th or 19th).
Yes, that is what I mean. It is hard to pin when he was there down to the exact month. Might he not have been on a ship back to Judea by the time the fire broke out?
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Re: Who existed ? When ? Where ?

Post by Bernard Muller » Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:25 pm

to spin,
nothing Nero did could clean his image, the TT then says that Nero did something to clean his image.
From Tacitus' annals XV, 44
But neither human help, nor imperial munificence, nor all the modes of placating Heaven, could stifle scandal or dispel the belief that the fire had taken place by order. Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians.
"all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods" (which all failed cleaning Nero's image) came before, as a last resort, the Christians being taken as scapegoats by Nero.
I do not see any problem with that: Nero tried to clean his image by various means. That failed. Then he took on the Christians as the culprits.
The sentence says the murdering of Christians is not part of the previous human efforts.
TT has nothing to do with Nero's culpability regarding the fire.
But it does: "Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished ... Christians."

Cordially, Bernard
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spin
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Re: Who existed ? When ? Where ?

Post by spin » Thu Oct 19, 2017 11:57 pm

Bernard Muller wrote:
Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:25 pm
to spin,
nothing Nero did could clean his image, the TT then says that Nero did something to clean his image.
From Tacitus' annals XV, 44
But neither human help, nor imperial munificence, nor all the modes of placating Heaven, could stifle scandal or dispel the belief that the fire had taken place by order. Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians.
"all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods" (which all failed cleaning Nero's image) came before, as a last resort, the Christians being taken as scapegoats by Nero.
The last resort was passed. That is clear from "But no human effort, no lavish gifts, nor propitiations could shake the belief." Sorry, I was wrong: it is not true that I'd come to the end of the story. I lied. Nero did do something else. I just got confused about the narrative, so let me append something else Nero did, which will lead away from his complicity in the fire, and meander off into a brief tale of the sufferings of the christians and Nero's complicity—the whole point of the narrative—can dissipate because I became absorbed in other stuff.

The narrative has turned into rubbish in your scenario.
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