Carrier, Aretas and Damascus

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maryhelena
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Carrier, Aretas and Damascus

Post by maryhelena »

How Do We Know the Apostle Paul Wrote His Epistles in the 50s A.D.?

Richard Carrier: JULY 17, 2021


https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/18613

Without going into the actual arguments Carrier raises regarding Aretas III or Aretas IV, I thought this statement deserved some consideration:

It’s important to note that Paul never does tell us why Aretas or his ethnarch were hunting him. And whether Paul is writing in the 50s B.C. or A.D. we still can’t reconstruct why that would be.

Good question - Why was Aretas hunting Paul ?

I think it does matter which date one uses. The only historical dating is a B.C. date - Aretas III ruled Damascus until around 63 b.c.

From an historicists position on Paul a B.C. date presents problems - hence the desire to provide arguments for an A.D. dating for Aretas IV to have had some sort control over Damascus.

From an ahistoricist position on Paul, an Aretas III date hold out prospects for an answer to the ‘Why’ question. The answer involves considering the role Aretas III played in the Hasmonean civil war.

63 B.C. was not only an important time for Aretas III (he lost control of Damascus to Rome) it was also the time in which Jewish/Hasmonean sovereignty over Jerusalem was lost. The link between these two events is Aretas III. During the Hasmonean civil war Aretas III sided with Hyrcanus II:

Antiquities book 14.

A while afterward he took Hyrcanus, and stole out of the city by night, and went a great journey, and came and brought him to the city called Petra, where the palace of Aretas was; and as he was a very familiar friend of that king, he persuaded him to bring back Hyrcanus into Judea, and this persuasion he continued every day without any intermission. He also proposed to make him presents on that account. At length he prevailed with Aretas in his suit. Moreover, Hyrcanus promised him, that when he had been brought thither, and had received his kingdom, he would restore that country, and those twelve cities which his father Alexander had taken from the Arabians, which were these, Medaba, Naballo, Libias, Tharabasa, Agala, Athone, Zoar, Orone, Marissa, Rudda, Lussa, and Oruba……

AFTER these promises had been given to Aretas, he made an expedition against Aristobulus with an army of fifty thousand horse and foot, and beat him in the battle. And when after that victory many went over to Hyrcanus as deserters, Aristobulus was left desolate, and fled to Jerusalem; upon which the king of Arabia took all his army, and made an assault upon the temple, and besieged Aristobulus therein, the people still supporting Hyreanus, and assisting him in the siege, while none but the priests continued with Aristobulus. So Aretas united the forces of the Arabians and of the Jews together, and pressed on the siege vigorously……

In the mean time Pompey sent Scaurus into Syria,….. he came himself hastily into Judea.

He therefore made an agreement with Aristobulus, for the reasons before mentioned, and took his money, and raised the siege, and ordered Aretas to depart, or else he should be declared an enemy to the Romans. So Scaurus returned to Damascus again; and Aristobulus, with a great army, made war with Aretas and Hyrcanus, and fought them at a place called Papyron, and beat them in the battle, and slew about six thousand of the enemy, ……

When Pompey had heard the causes of these two, and had condemned Aristobulus for his violent procedure, he then spake civilly to them, and sent them away; and told them, that when he came again into their country, he would settle all their affairs, after he had first taken a view of the affairs of the Nabateans. In the mean time, he ordered them to be quiet; and treated Aristobulus civilly, lest he should make the nation revolt, and hinder his return; which yet Aristobulus did; for without expecting any further determination, which Pompey had promised them, he went to the city Delius, and thence marched into Judea…..

At this behavior Pompey was angry; and taking with him that army which he was leading against the Nabateans, and the auxiliaries that came from Damascus, and the other parts of Syria, with the other Roman legions which he had with him, he made an expedition against Aristobulus;……

At this Pompey was very angry, and put Aristobulus into prison,….

Now the occasions of this misery which came upon Jerusalem were Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, by raising a sedition one against the other; for now we lost our liberty, and became subject to the Romans, and were deprived of that country which we had gained by our arms from the Syrians, and were compelled to restore it to the Syrians. Moreover, the Romans exacted of us, in a little time, above ten thousand talents; and the royal authority, which was a dignity formerly bestowed on those that were high priests, by the right of their family, became the property of private men……………….He also carried bound along with him Aristobulus and his children; for he had two daughters, and as many sons; the one of which ran away, but the younger, Antigonus, was carried to Rome, together with his sisters…

SCAURUS made now an expedition against Petrea, in Arabia, and set on fire all the places round about it, because of the great difficulty of access to it. And as his army was pinched by famine, Antipater furnished him with corn out of Judea, and with whatever else he wanted, and this at the command of Hyrcanus.

Paul, Aretas and Damascus ? It’s history that the NT writers are alluding to here. Hyrcanus II went to Arabia, to Petra, to get help from Aretas III. Aristobulus II was ‘hunted’ by Aretas in an attempt to remove him from power.

Attempts to connect the NT figure of Paul to an Aretas IV in A.D. looses this connection of ‘Paul’ to the historical Jewish roots of early Christianity.

Paul’s conversion story in Acts ? From Jewish/Hasmonean nationalism to a philosophy of neither Jew nor Greek. Damascus and Aretas III - indicates it’s the Hasmonean civil war and the loss of sovereignty that began the move towards a ‘heavenly’, a spiritual or philosophical kingdom.

Paul’s escape over the walls of Damascus? ‘Damascus’, like Jericho , lies at the ground zero of the move towards the ‘promised land’. The heavenly Jerusalem, rather than the Jerusalem below, becomes the focus of the move towards the Gentiles.

Hasmonean history plus OT 'history' - the road to the Gentiles was opened in 63 B.C.

-------------------------

Setting the Stage: The Effects of the Roman Conquest and the Loss of Sovereignty

Nadav Sharon

https://www.academia.edu/2501352/Settin ... overeignty

===========

Corrected A.C. date to B.C. date.
Last edited by maryhelena on Sat Jul 24, 2021 10:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Carrier, Aretas and Damascus

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maryhelena wrote: Mon Jul 19, 2021 5:52 am From an historicists position on Paul an A.D. date presents problems - hence the desire to provide arguments for an A.D. dating for Aretas IV to have had some sort control over Damascus.
Can you say more about these problems?

As a separate point, probably familiar to everyone here but worth considering, I want to observe that Paul’s two short verses, 2 Cor 11:32-33, on his escape from “the city of the Damascenes,” are very awkwardly placed. They appear in the middle of his lengthy boasting discourse that spans two chapters, 2 Cor 11 and 12; i.e., after the boasts about his suffering, and before the boasts about his visions and revelations. But they do not corroborate the theme of boasting about his weakness, announced in the immediately preceding verses—

Εἰ καυχᾶσθαι δεῖ, τὰ τῆς ἀσθενείας μου καυχήσομαι. ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ οἶδεν, ὁ ὢν εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ὅτι οὐ ψεύδομαι

—since the tale of Paul’s escape from the hands of the ethnarch of “King Aretas” has nothing to do with Paul’s weakness, but only with his craftiness, and/or the divine favor that rested on him. One thinks of the figure of David eluding the agents of King Saul.

All to say, the passage that connects authentic Paul to a supposedly 1st century monarch has no literary connection in the context in which it appears.
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Re: Carrier, Aretas and Damascus

Post by maryhelena »

Irish1975 wrote: Mon Jul 19, 2021 7:14 am
maryhelena wrote: Mon Jul 19, 2021 5:52 am From an historicists position on Paul an A.D. date presents problems - hence the desire to provide arguments for an A.D. dating for Aretas IV to have had some sort control over Damascus.
Can you say more about these problems?

Carrier: The question we want to answer here is which Aretas is this? There are only two possibilities that fit any other historical facts to what Paul describes: Aretas the IV (ruler of Nabataea from 9 B.C. to 40 A.D.); or Aretas III (likewise, from 87 to 62 B.C.).
Aretas the IV (ruler of Nabataea from 9 B.C. to 40 A.D.); or Aretas III (likewise, from 87 to 62 B.C.).

If one goes with Aretas IV - then arguments are proposed for this Aretas IV to have some connection to Damascus in A.D. Arguments not supported by historical evidence.

Instead of arguments over Aretas IV being in control of Damascus during the NT time frame - Pilate - one could maintain the NT writers had their time frame wrong re Aretas and Damascus - i.e. they mixed up Aretas IV with Aretas III. That would allow a historicist view of the NT Paul. However, it seems the Paul historicists would rather make historical arguments devoid of historical evidence.

Historical evidence puts Aretas III in control of Damascus until about 63 b.c.
That is the only established date for an Aretas controlling Damascus.

Hence, if it's the historical Jewish roots to early christian origins that we seek - this date needs to be seriously considered. If it means that the NT Paul is not a historical figure then, like Brodie, I will consider that option as an approach to Paul and Damascus.

As it stands, the current arguments of Aretas IV are not conclusive.

Carrier: I don’t consider this matter as settled as mainstream scholars do...Since currently the preponderance of evidence weighs for a 30s A.D. origin instead, we may as well just stick with that until someone can prove it’s incorrect. And no one yet has.

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Re: Carrier, Aretas and Damascus

Post by maryhelena »

Prior to the death of Tiberius in March of 37 c.e., Roman troops were once again on their way to Petra. This time against Aretas IV who had recently defeated the army of Herod Antipas. This time, due to the death of Tiberius, the Roman troops turned back. What is interesting is the dating. 100 years since 63 b.c. This time a reversal of fortunes - instead of defeat around 63 b.c. for the Nabateans it was victory in 37 c.e.

Antiquities book 18 ch.5.

So Aretas made this the first occasion of his enmity between him and Herod, who had also some quarrel with him about their limits at the country of Gamalitis. So they raised armies on both sides, and prepared for war, and sent their generals to fight instead of themselves; and when they had joined battle, all Herod's army was destroyed by the treachery of some fugitives, who, though they were of the tetrarchy of Philip, joined with Aretas's army.. So Herod wrote about these affairs to Tiberius, who being very angry at the attempt made by Aretas, wrote to Vitellius to make war upon him, and either to take him alive, and bring him to him in bonds, or to kill him, and send him his head. This was the charge that Tiberius gave to the president of Syria..........

So Vitellius prepared to make war with Aretas, having with him two legions of armed men; he also took with him all those of light armature, and of the horsemen which belonged to them, and were drawn out of those kingdoms which were under the Romans, and made haste for Petra,...


But when on the fourth day letters came to him, which informed him of the death of Tiberius, he obliged the multitude to take an oath of fidelity to Caius; he also recalled his army, and made them every one go home, and take their winter quarters there, since, upon the devolution of the empire upon Caius, he had not the like authority of making this war which he had before.
It was also reported, that when Aretas heard of the coming of Vitellius to fight him, he said, upon his consulting the diviners, that it was impossible that this army of Vitellius's could enter Petra; for that one of the rulers would die, either he that gave orders for the war, or he that was marching at the other's desire, in order to be subservient to his will, or else he against whom this army is prepared.


Conversion of Paul the Apostle

The conversion of Paul the Apostle (also the Pauline conversion, Damascene conversion, Damascus Christophany and the "road to Damascus" event) was, according to the New Testament, an event in the life of Paul the Apostle that led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to become a follower of Jesus. It is normally dated to AD 34–37

Nikos Kokkinos places the JC crucifixion in 36 c.e. This would date Paul to 37 c.e. at the earliest - and if a few years are given between the JC crucifixion and Paul's conversion, it would place Paul close to 40 c.e. (When Aretas IV died). This scenario would make it highly improbably that Rome would allow Aretas IV any measure of control of Damascus from 37 c.e. Yes, of course, one can utilize other JC crucifixion dates and thus earlier dates for Paul. But that one of these possible dates would make it questionable that Aretas IV had control of Damascus in 37 c.e. - could suggest that 2 Cor. 11.32 is indicating an Aretas other than Aretas IV.
-------------------------------------------
Crucifixion in A.D. 36: The Keystone for Dating the Birth of Jesus
Nikos Kokkinos
https://www.academia.edu/42949214/Cruci ... h_of_Jesus
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Re: Carrier, Aretas and Damascus

Post by gryan »

Irish1975 wrote: Mon Jul 19, 2021 7:14 am
...I want to observe that Paul’s two short verses, 2 Cor 11:32-33, on his escape from “the city of the Damascenes,” are very awkwardly placed. They appear in the middle of his lengthy boasting discourse that spans two chapters, 2 Cor 11 and 12; i.e., after the boasts about his suffering, and before the boasts about his visions and revelations. But they do not corroborate the theme of boasting about his weakness, announced in the immediately preceding verses—

Εἰ καυχᾶσθαι δεῖ, τὰ τῆς ἀσθενείας μου καυχήσομαι. ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ οἶδεν, ὁ ὢν εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ὅτι οὐ ψεύδομαι

—since the tale of Paul’s escape from the hands of the ethnarch of “King Aretas” has nothing to do with Paul’s weakness, but only with his craftiness, and/or the divine favor that rested on him. One thinks of the figure of David eluding the agents of King Saul.

All to say, the passage that connects authentic Paul to a supposedly 1st century monarch has no literary connection in the context in which it appears.
Re: Imagining a possible context for Paul's mention of "King Aretas"

I connect the boast in weakness with the "revelations" and specifically "a thorn" of 2 Cor 12:7f,

"I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me."

The thorn is a symbol of his fleshly weakness. In a parallel story of the same "revelation" (as I interpret it) according to Galatians, Paul says that after the revelation, he went "immediately" to "Arabia"-- note that "Mount Sinai in Arabia" (Gal 4:25). Meaning, he went to the place of Moses' revelation of the law to plead with the Lord to take away the thorn. He may have been resisting his call, as many are inclined to do. Galatians says that he went to Arabia and returned to Damascus. In Acts, he went to Damascus blind. The thorn is symbolic blindness. The Lord had not yet taken away the thorn, the symbolic blindness. He was humbled and in need of prayer when he entered Damascus.

The account of 2 Cor. is told 14 years after the revelation, which corresponds to the 14 years of Galatians between his revelation and his trip to Jerusalem. His first trip to Jerusalem from Damascus had been prompted by civil authorities--"King Aretas"-- since his activities were causing public disorder. The boast in weakness of 2 Cor. touches on an oddly assembled collection of memories paralleled in Gal 1 having to do with Damascus, revelation, persecution, and the kind of testimony that inclines Paul say he is not lying.
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Re: Carrier, Aretas and Damascus

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gryan wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 5:53 am

Re: Imagining a possible context for Paul's mention of "King Aretas"

I connect the boast in weakness with the "revelations" and specifically "a thorn" of 2 Cor 12:7f,

" 2nd Cor.11:32,33. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king guarded the city of the Damascenes in order to take me: and through a window was I let down in a basket by the wall, and escaped his hands

Paul has here made a historical claim - Aretas the king guarded the city of the Damascenes''.

That Paul goes on to boast of weekness etc in no way distracts from the historical claim he is making.

"I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me."

The thorn is a symbol of his fleshly weakness. In a parallel story of the same "revelation" (as I interpret it) according to Galatians, Paul says that after the revelation, he went "immediately" to "Arabia"-- note that "Mount Sinai in Arabia" (Gal 4:25). Meaning, he went to the place of Moses' revelation of the law to plead with the Lord to take away the thorn.
Mount Sinai in Arabia - Paul is referencing this place in an allegory....

Gal. 4:24. Which things contain an allegory: for these women are two covenants; one from mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. 4:25Now this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia and answereth to the Jerusalem that now is: for she is in bondage with her children. 4:26But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother.


Gal. 1. 17. I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus. 1:18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and tarried with him fifteen days.

No mention of Mount Sinai in connection with Paul's visit to Arabia.

He may have been resisting his call, as many are inclined to do. Galatians says that he went to Arabia and returned to Damascus. In Acts, he went to Damascus blind. The thorn is symbolic blindness. The Lord had not yet taken away the thorn, the symbolic blindness. He was humbled and in need of prayer when he entered Damascus.
What Paul allegedly felt has no relevance to the historical claim he has made.

The account of 2 Cor. is told 14 years after the revelation, which corresponds to the 14 years of Galatians between his revelation and his trip to Jerusalem. His first trip to Jerusalem from Damascus had been prompted by civil authorities--"King Aretas"-- since his activities were causing public disorder. The boast in weakness of 2 Cor. touches on an oddly assembled collection of memories paralleled in Gal 1 having to do with Damascus, revelation, persecution, and the kind of testimony that inclines Paul say he is not lying.
Nothing in the last paragraph deals with the historical claim Paul has made.

That the Pauline writers have placed a historical claim within accounts of how Paul felt, about his mental state, indicates that history has some relevance to that Pauline state of mind.

Yep, I might bang on about history - but to put everything the NT writers wrote down to ''its all in the mind'' will never be an argument able to counter the Jesus historicists. All imagination, speculation, illusion, allegory, midrash etc. and the Jesus historicists calmly walk their walk. Methinks that's the trap that many ahistoricts have fallen into. The problem with the Jesus historicists is that they have got their history wrong - not that they uphold a historical relevance to the gospel story.
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Re: Carrier, Aretas and Damascus

Post by gryan »

@maryhelena: I'm sure I don't understand your point of view. Are you saying that "Pauline writers" were writing something like modern historical fiction, and that their readers were supposed to imagine their fictional letter writer, "Paul", being lowered from a Damascus wall in a basket during the time of historical Aretas the 3rd?
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Re: Carrier, Aretas and Damascus

Post by Giuseppe »


So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall.

(Joshua 2:15)

Just as the two explorers escaping from Jericho prefigured the conquest by Joshua, so the future of Paul from Damascus prefigured the coming Christ in the new "Alliance" (=meaning of Damascus).
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Re: Carrier, Aretas and Damascus

Post by maryhelena »

Giuseppe wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 2:07 am
So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall.

(Joshua 2:15)

Just as the two explorers escaping from Jericho prefigured the conquest by Joshua, so the future of Paul from Damascus prefigured the coming Christ in the new "Alliance" (=meaning of Damascus).
:thumbup: For the Joshus quote.

Yep, most probably a relevance there for early christianity. However, Aretas still has to be dealt with.... ;)
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Re: Carrier, Aretas and Damascus

Post by maryhelena »

gryan wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 1:26 am @maryhelena: I'm sure I don't understand your point of view. Are you saying that "Pauline writers" were writing something like modern historical fiction, and that their readers were supposed to imagine their fictional letter writer, "Paul", being lowered from a Damascus wall in a basket during the time of historical Aretas the 3rd?
Giuseppe has posted re (Joshua 2:15). The basket over the wall of Damascus is an illusion to the escape from Jericho. i.e. the start of the conquest of the Promised Land. In the case of Paul - the start of the move towards what we today would call Christianity.

I think 'fiction' is the wrong word. However, the Pauline writers were not writing history regarding the figure of Paul. On one level they have linked their Paul figure to history - ie. making a political claim re Aretas controlling Damascus. Perhaps a political allegory interlaced with Pauline theology/philosophy.

What's going on ? Only way to get some sort of answer is to get behind the NT stories - and the only way to do that is consider Hasmonean/Jewish history. Translating words from or into Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic or Coptic - while interesting in and off itself - will not achieve what we are surely after - a historical understanding of how Christianity developed.
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