The Rabbinic Sources Confused Berenice and Helena

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The Rabbinic Sources Confused Berenice and Helena

Post by Secret Alias » Tue May 29, 2018 10:20 pm

“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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Re: The Rabbinic Sources Confused Berenice and Helena

Post by John2 » Wed May 30, 2018 8:32 am

What a great link! Much to ponder.
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Re: The Rabbinic Sources Confused Berenice and Helena

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed May 30, 2018 8:36 am

John2 wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 8:32 am
What a great link! Much to ponder.
Agreed. That is one of my favorite kinds of articles, too: pick a topic, lay out both the original texts and their translations, and dive deep.
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Re: The Rabbinic Sources Confused Berenice and Helena

Post by DCHindley » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:58 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 8:36 am
John2 wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 8:32 am
What a great link! Much to ponder.
Agreed. That is one of my favorite kinds of articles, too: pick a topic, lay out both the original texts and their translations, and dive deep.
Yes, Simkovich's article is well written and seems to cover all the ground I had been aware of, plus specifics that I did not recall seeing before. I like that kind of thing.

However, all or most of this evidence and interpretation was covered by Robert Eisenman in James the Just and Paul as Herodian, where he envisions Paul as a grain buyer for Queen Helena of Adiabene during the famine of the mid 50's CE, and also as a Herodian retainer. However, Eisenman's analysis of the sources is scattered about within his books and articles, making them hard to process in a coherent way. Simkovich neatly summarizes this evidence and the opinions regarding what it all meant to convey.

The article mentions:
When her son Izates [II] learned of the famine, he likewise sent a great sum of money to leaders of the Jerusalemites. The distribution of this fund to the needy delivered many from the extremely severe pressure of the famine. (Ant. 20:53)

Josephus’ account has a direct parallel in rabbinic literature. Ironically, the one member of the royal family that does not appear in Josephus’ version, Monobazus II, is the hero of the rabbinic account.

Tosefta: Munbaz Saves Judea from Famine

Tosefta Peah (4:18) describes how Munbaz expended his country’s treasury to save the Judeans from famine:

It is related that King Munbaz got up and spent his entire treasury to assist [the Judeans] during years of famine. His kinsmen sent him a message: “Your fathers stored treasure and added to those of their ancestors, but you have got up and spent all of your treasury and that of your ancestors!” He said to them: “My fathers stored their treasure below, but I stored my treasure above, as it says (Ps 85:12), “truth springs up from the ground”…

The text continues in this vein, with Munbaz offering five more derashot about how his spending money on feeding the starving Jews is a better investment than stockpiling treasure.[20] Here again, Munbaz is painted in the light of truly pious man, and one whose loyalty is more with Judah than with his own nation. Moreover, Munbaz is the consummate rabbi, able to support his act with multiple midrashim on biblical verses.

Although the Rabbis bring up the same claim we find in Josephus, they not only conflate Izates II with Monobazus II, but forget entirely that the impetus for this amazing relief work was their mother, Helena.
I think this correlates in some way with the "parable of the talents/pounds" (of precious metal, probably silver: τάλαντα talents Matt 25:15ff; μνᾶς minas Luke 19:12ff). If there is a correlation, it may be in the form of a negative commentary of King Izates II's willingness to deplete the national treasury of Adiabene rather than add to it at the time of the famine. The dynamics of this process boggles the mind.

Then there is my old favorite:
Helena’s Nazarite Vow

The Mishnah tells of Queen Helena of Adiabene, called Heleni HaMalka in Hebrew, who made a nazirite vow that she accidentally ended up doubling or tripling (m. Nazir 3:6):[1]

...

The Nazirite Vow: Confusing Berenice and Helena?

One element that does not appear in Josephus’ story [of Queen helena of Adiabene] is the nazirite vow. Nevertheless, Josephus does have a story about a “quasi-foreign” Jewish queen who made a nazirite vow, namely, Berenice, who was the daughter of King Agrippa I of Judea, son of Herod the Great.

Berenice, who was a generation younger than Helena, was already a fourth generation Jew on her father’s side. Her paternal great-grandfather, Antipater, was an Idumean convert, but she herself was born Jewish; moreover, she was of Hasmonean lineage from her grandmother Miriam (wife of Herod). At the same time, Berenice was also the Queen of Chalcis (a province in Syria), having married its king, Herod V (her paternal uncle), when she was a young woman.[9]

Josephus tells the following story about Berenice (Jud. War 2.15.1):

She was visiting Jerusalem to discharge a vow to God; for it is customary for those suffering from illness or other affliction to make a vow to abstain from wine and to shave their heads during the thirty days preceding that on which they must offer sacrifices.
This story of princess Berenice, daughter of King Agrippa I (ca. 40-44 CE), which is related to the rabbinic stories of Queen Helena's Nazirite vow (ca 40-55 CE?), seems (to me at least) to correlate with Paul's criticism of women who have their hair shorn or shaved off (κείρασθαι ἢ ξυρᾶσθαι) in 1 Corinthians 11:6.

In 1 Cor it is in the context of a woman who prays or prophesizes with an unveiled head, it is not too much to think of this as relating to a woman who was praying/prophesying who had had her hair cut off in the temple after fulfilling a Nazirite vow, as Josephus says Queen Berenice of Chalcis did, or who the rabbis say Q. Helena of Adiabene succeeded in doing after at least 2 tries of 7 years each. Berenice's example (a rich queen of a Roman client kingdom) aside, I do not think that a person residing in Corinth would have been able to travel to Jerusalem to carry out a Nazirite vow, then travel back to make public prayers or prophesies with the hair still shorn. However, the rabbinical story of Queen Helena emphasizes that she had made her initial vow in ignorance of the fact that such a vow was not valid outside of the holy land. When she arrived to try to fulfill it, the rabbis advised her that she needed to fulfill the full period of the vow in the Holy land. Oops!

Could Paul be criticizing such a rash vow being made, served and fulfilled entirely outside of the holy land? Or was he covertly criticizing the practices of Helena, who at first approved of Izates II adopting as many Judean laws as circumstances allowed (short of circumcision), but later approved Izates' decision to become fully circumcised. To Paul, this would have seemed to be moving away from his position that God was OK with faithful gentiles, to a position close to those he opposed, full conversion by means of circumcision which he perceived to be unnatural for those of non-Judean lineage. Paul would rather see reasonable god-fearing gentiles than rash converts.

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Re: The Rabbinic Sources Confused Berenice and Helena

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Jun 02, 2018 7:24 am

DCHindley wrote:
Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:58 am
The article mentions:
When her son Izates [II] learned of the famine, he likewise sent a great sum of money to leaders of the Jerusalemites. The distribution of this fund to the needy delivered many from the extremely severe pressure of the famine. (Ant. 20:53)

Josephus’ account has a direct parallel in rabbinic literature. Ironically, the one member of the royal family that does not appear in Josephus’ version, Monobazus II, is the hero of the rabbinic account.

Tosefta: Munbaz Saves Judea from Famine

Tosefta Peah (4:18) describes how Munbaz expended his country’s treasury to save the Judeans from famine:

It is related that King Munbaz got up and spent his entire treasury to assist [the Judeans] during years of famine. His kinsmen sent him a message: “Your fathers stored treasure and added to those of their ancestors, but you have got up and spent all of your treasury and that of your ancestors!” He said to them: “My fathers stored their treasure below, but I stored my treasure above, as it says (Ps 85:12), “truth springs up from the ground”…

....
Hmmm, that sentiment sounds familiar:

Matthew 6.19-21: 19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Luke 12.33-34: 33 "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Thomas 76: 76. Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself. So also with you, seek his treasure that is unfailing, that is enduring, where no moth comes to eat and no worm destroys."

Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 15.11-12, 16: 11 But you, do not treasure up things for yourselves upon the earth, where moth and rust corrupt and thieves break in; but treasure up for yourselves things in the heavens, where neither moth nor rust corrupt. 12 For what does it benefit a man if he should gain the whole world but lose his soul? Or what shall he give in exchange for it? Treasure up things, therefore, in the heavens, where neither moth nor rust corrupt. .... 16 But seek the kingdom of the heavens, and all these things will be added to you. For, where his treasure is, there also the mind of a man.

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Re: The Rabbinic Sources Confused Berenice and Helena

Post by DCHindley » Sun Jun 03, 2018 4:29 am

Hi Ben,

What was most interesting for me was the debate over what proper management of resources was all about, and what it should be all about.

The rabbis remember king Izates' generosity as a good thing (although calling him Monobazus), although he received criticism for it (from his nobles?) as unwise management of resources.

The gospels, on the other hand, in the parable of the talents/minas, seem to favor the good steward who manages his master's resources to increase return on investment. But other sayings seem to go the opposite way, and favor generosity over financial soundness, sometimes with a moralization to justify it (slave about to be fired, etc.).

DCH
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Jun 02, 2018 7:24 am
DCHindley wrote:
Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:58 am
The article mentions:
When her son Izates [II] learned of the famine, he likewise sent a great sum of money to leaders of the Jerusalemites. The distribution of this fund to the needy delivered many from the extremely severe pressure of the famine. (Ant. 20:53)

Josephus’ account has a direct parallel in rabbinic literature. Ironically, the one member of the royal family that does not appear in Josephus’ version, Monobazus II, is the hero of the rabbinic account.

Tosefta: Munbaz Saves Judea from Famine

Tosefta Peah (4:18) describes how Munbaz expended his country’s treasury to save the Judeans from famine:

It is related that King Munbaz got up and spent his entire treasury to assist [the Judeans] during years of famine. His kinsmen sent him a message: “Your fathers stored treasure and added to those of their ancestors, but you have got up and spent all of your treasury and that of your ancestors!” He said to them: “My fathers stored their treasure below, but I stored my treasure above, as it says (Ps 85:12), “truth springs up from the ground”…

....
Hmmm, that sentiment sounds familiar:

Matthew 6.19-21: 19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Luke 12.33-34: 33 "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Thomas 76: 76. Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself. So also with you, seek his treasure that is unfailing, that is enduring, where no moth comes to eat and no worm destroys."

Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 15.11-12, 16: 11 But you, do not treasure up things for yourselves upon the earth, where moth and rust corrupt and thieves break in; but treasure up for yourselves things in the heavens, where neither moth nor rust corrupt. 12 For what does it benefit a man if he should gain the whole world but lose his soul? Or what shall he give in exchange for it? Treasure up things, therefore, in the heavens, where neither moth nor rust corrupt. .... 16 But seek the kingdom of the heavens, and all these things will be added to you. For, where his treasure is, there also the mind of a man.


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Re: The Rabbinic Sources Confused Berenice and Helena

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Jun 03, 2018 6:07 am

DCHindley wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 4:29 am
Hi Ben,

What was most interesting for me was the debate over what proper management of resources was all about, and what it should be all about.

The rabbis remember king Izates' generosity as a good thing (although calling him Monobazus), although he received criticism for it (from his nobles?) as unwise management of resources.

The gospels, on the other hand, in the parable of the talents/minas, seem to favor the good steward who manages his master's resources to increase return on investment. But other sayings seem to go the opposite way, and favor generosity over financial soundness, sometimes with a moralization to justify it (slave about to be fired, etc.).
In my treatment of the parable of the pounds/talents: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2159, I took up Petri Luomanen's suggestion that in the Judaic/Hebraic version of this parable (the one described by Eusebius from some Jewish-Christian gospel or other) the slave who hid the talents was the good one, since the multiplication of wealth was considered morally dubious. Thomas 64 memorably asserts that "businessmen and merchants will not enter" the places of the father, earning interest on loans (from compatriots) was forbidden by the Mosaic Law, and rabbinical sources specifically state that hiding a friend's money for him is a perfectly reasonable way of taking care of his affairs for him in his absence.

This contrast seems at least similar to what you are saying about the rabbis' reaction to Izates' generosity: two very different sets of moral values are in competition, one which favors investment and increase, while the other frowns upon those activities as untrusting of God. "Give us this day our daily bread," not "give us enough money that we never have to worry day by day about bread again."
Last edited by Ben C. Smith on Sun Jun 03, 2018 7:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Rabbinic Sources Confused Berenice and Helena

Post by DCHindley » Sun Jun 03, 2018 7:18 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 6:07 am
DCHindley wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 4:29 am
What was most interesting for me was the debate over what proper management of resources was all about, and what it should be all about.

The rabbis remember king Izates' generosity as a good thing (although calling him Monobazus), although he received criticism for it (from his nobles?) as unwise management of resources.

The gospels, on the other hand, in the parable of the talents/minas, seem to favor the good steward who manages his master's resources to increase return on investment. But other sayings seem to go the opposite way, and favor generosity over financial soundness, sometimes with a moralization to justify it (slave about to be fired, etc.).
In my treatment of the parable of the pounds/talents: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2159, I took up Petri Luomanen's suggestion that the Judaic/Hebraic version of this parable (the one described by Eusebius from some Jewish-Christian gospel or other) the slave who hid the talents was the good one, since the multiplication of wealth was considered morally dubious. Thomas 64 memorably asserts that "businessmen and merchants will not enter" the places of the father, earning interest on loans (from compatriots) was forbidden by the Mosaic Law, and rabbinical sources specifically state that hiding a friend's money for him is a perfectly reasonable way of taking care of his affairs for him in his absence.

This contrast seems at least similar to what you are saying about the rabbis' reaction to Izates' generosity: two very different sets of moral values are in competition, one which favors investment and increase, while the other frowns upon those activities as untrusting of God. "Give us this day our daily bread," not "give us enough money that we never have to worry day by day about bread again."
I do recall such a series of posts, but at the time I was not in a position to read it carefully and fully comprehend your arguments. I'll look it over again!

DCH

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Re: The Rabbinic Sources Confused Berenice and Helena

Post by DCHindley » Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:12 am

FWIW, I am posting Stefan Kloppenburg's conversions for 1 mina and 1 talent:

1 mina

=1600.000000 assarion
=4.000000 aureus
=4800.007680 chalkos
=100.000000 denarius
=100.000000 drachma (silver)

=10000.000000 dr. (cu) (V BCE)
=6000.240010 dr. (cu) (IV-220 BCE)
=12000.480019 dr. (cu) (220-149 BCE)
=11200.716846 dr. (cu) (149-89 BCE)
=5600.044800 dr. (cu) (89-III CE)

=1200.004800 dupondion
=12799.180852 lepton
=1.000000 mina
=0.961538 mnaieion
=600.002400 obol
=6400.000000 quadrans
=400.000000 sesterce
=25.000000 shekel
=25.000000 stater
=0.016667 talent
=25.000000 tetradrachma

1 talent

=96000.000000 assarion
=240.000000 aureus
=288000.460801 chalkos
=6000.000000 denarius
=6000.000000 drachma (silver)

=600000.000000 dr. (cu) (V BCE)
=360014.400576 dr. (cu) (IV-220 BCE)
=720028.801152 dr. (cu) (220-149 BCE)
=672043.010753 dr. (cu) (149-89 BCE)
=336002.688022 dr. (cu) (89-III CE)

=72000.288001 dupondion
=767950.851146 lepton
=60.000000 mina
=57.692308 mnaieion
=36000.144001 obol
=384000.000000 quadrans
=24000.000000 sesterce
=1500.000000 shekel
=1500.000000 stater
=1.000000 talent
=1500.000000 tetradrachma

The exchange factor for a talent seems to be 60 times that of a mina. However, among the wealthiest Romans there were numerous "stewards," both slaves and freedmen, who managed rather large enterprises for their masters/patrons involving thousands of talents in assets and revenues/expenditures. The case in Luke where minas were used, which is more like sums that household slaves might be entrusted with as opposed to a "steward," seems incongruent with the revenues and expenditures of a city, which would be many times again the amounts they have charge over.

DCH

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