Discourse on the Star, and 119 AD Matthew

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cantonin_01
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Discourse on the Star, and 119 AD Matthew

Post by cantonin_01 » Fri May 15, 2020 10:32 am

Advance warning; this is highly speculative. But in the pseudo-Eusebius "Discourse on the Star" (possibly from the fifth century AD or of course later; MS. is supposedly sixth century), material from the Gospel of Matthew is associated with the year 119 AD and I take this as a clue for dating at least some element of the text. For what it's worth I believe Harnack and others accepted the 119 AD date for the "Discourse" itself in some original form.

It discusses the "star" prophecy of Num 24:17 and how it originated and was passed on down to the Magi of Matt 2. It seems to me in a way like "fan service", a back story for people who couldn't get enough of Matt 2. After describing how the prophecy was preserved and handed down by "the Persians", finally reaching the Magi, it segues into the gospel story. It follows the account in Matthew 2 but differs in some essentials (no meeting with Herod, no angel warning Joseph to flee, "Egypt" not specifically named, no slaying of infants, no mention of Archelaus, when the family goes to Galilee they have "the five sons of Hannah, the first wife of Joseph" in tow). Then it attempts to tie this narrative in with the Annunciation to Mary. The writer is apparently using the Peshitta version of the OT and NT, per Benjamin Bacon.

Then, sixteen lines of the Syriac are erased. Per the translator, probably because of a statement later deemed heretical.

Then we get this:

"[lacuna] and eleven, in the second year of the coming of our savior, in the consulship of Caesar and of Capito, in the month of the later Kanun, these Magi came from the east and worshiped our Lord at Bethlehem of the kings. And in the year four hundred and thirty (119 AD), in the reign of Hadrianus Caesar, in the consulship of Severus and of Fulgus, in the episcopate of Xystus, bishop of the city of Rome, this concern arose in [the minds of] men acquainted with the Holy Books; and through the pains of the great men in various places this history was sought for and found, and written in the tongue of those who took this care. Here ends the Discourse on the Star, which was composed by Mar Eusebius of Caesarea."

It was difficult for me to imagine how they could have specifically come up with the 430 (year of Seleukos Nikator) / 119 AD date for this meeting of the minds where church leaders essentially investigated Matthew 2 and its backstory. It would appear that Xystus was plugged in from Christian chronologies. Per Benjamin Bacon, "Severus and Fulgus" come from the fifth century Consularia Constantinopolitana, where they are listed as the consuls for 120 AD. In a 1929 article, "As to the Canonization of Matthew," Bacon postulated that the writer lifted these synchronisms from some report of a synod in 120 AD that may have had some bearing on the canonization of that gospel.

But my thinking is this:

The writer(s) of the Discourse had access to some copy of Matthew with which the 119 AD date was associated, whether a note or a gloss. This might make sense, given the supposed Syrian provenance of Matthew. They didn't know what to make of it, and their thought process may have been:

1. We really like this "star" story
2. It bothers us that only Matthew mentions it
3. We want to write a defense of it
4. We also have this puzzling 430 / 119 date associated with Matthew; it can't be the date the gospel was written because Matthew was an eyewitness
5. 430 / 119 must have been the date when the Roman church officially examined Matthew's gospel and said that his star story was true and correct
6. We'll go ahead and make use of that date in our "Discourse"

One would think that if they wanted solely to establish the canonicity of the star story, the episcopacy of Xystus seems an odd and even a random choice. If they were following the legends that the gospels were written after the death of Peter, they could have still reverted to Linus, Clement, et al. Especially since they were using the same succession lists that feature Xystus. Alternatively, the 430 / 119 may have been associated with Matt 1-2 only if that is a later addition.

davidmartin
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Re: Discourse on the Star, and 119 AD Matthew

Post by davidmartin » Mon May 18, 2020 3:26 pm

the 119 date would tie in with Bar Kochba though and the 'son of the star' prophecy. maybe there was widespread belief in this prophecy at the time i mean the time period does fit quite well.
whats odd is here Anna is Joseph's first wife, i thought she was supposed to be Mary's mother?
Maybe the mention of an Anna in Luke as an old lady is an alternative view of her squashing any connection with Joseph

cantonin_01
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Re: Discourse on the Star, and 119 AD Matthew

Post by cantonin_01 » Mon May 18, 2020 4:07 pm

davidmartin wrote:
Mon May 18, 2020 3:26 pm
whats odd is here Anna is Joseph's first wife, i thought she was supposed to be Mary's mother?
Maybe the mention of an Anna in Luke as an old lady is an alternative view of her squashing any connection with Joseph
On that, Bacon says that the writer was influenced by Epiphanius, "whose early composition on the perpetual virginity of Mary was originally addressed to the Syriac-speaking community" and is also part of Panarion 58. Epiphanius denounced those who, following Matt 1:20, held that Joseph took Mary as his wife. Bacon believes that the excised lines may in fact relate to this matter. So this was the writer's motive for introducing the difficulty at all.

As for Anna; have found that at least some early Christians conflated Anna the prophetess with the mother of Mary; and this author was interested to harmonize Matthew and Luke (though how this accomplishes that I can't say). Alternately, Anna the mother of Mary was established in the Protevangelium of James. The problem of course is the chronology as you mentioned. Plus it's somewhat strange. My sense, though, is for this name they may have just defaulted to an OT allusion.

davidmartin
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Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:51 pm

Re: Discourse on the Star, and 119 AD Matthew

Post by davidmartin » Wed May 20, 2020 1:20 am

i just think this shows the difficulty they had not only in Jesus's family relation but Mary's also
In some sense 'Jesus' and 'Mary' are somewhat ethereal and not of this world
I still think it's possible that in some earlier stratum Mary Magdalene was considered as a kind of co-partner to Jesus, as the 'Mother' and this introduced confusion between her and the virgin Mary. Since the family being described is that of Jesus there then had to be a Mary as his mother so she sort of 'appears' and is taken in by Joseph. So all this confusion stems from trying to tie mystical understandings back into an earthly narrative. That's why I have a soft spot for the Mariology of the Catholic church, despite the protestant claim of a lack of biblical support it may actually be the more ancient!

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