Refining Eusebius's claims about the Flavian Testimony

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Paul the Uncertain
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Refining Eusebius's claims about the Flavian Testimony

Post by Paul the Uncertain »

The version of the Flavian Testimony which Eusebius seems to block-quote has ended up in all our source manuscripts for the Antiquities. Conversation about that version often focuses on whether Eusebius made the whole thing up or instead embellished some more modest notice of Jesus written by Josephus.

Another avenue of attack on the problem is based on the hypothesis that Eusebius didn't intend a block quote, but rather a mixture of quoted matter interspersed with his own commentary. This is easy for a writer to accomplish with modern punctuation, but that hadn't been invented in Eusebius's time. He may have been relying on his first readers to read his mixture in light of the well-known and rhetorically useful Jewishness of Josephus along with the apologetic context of the mixture, especially as it was used in Proof of the Gospels.

Josephus, too, labored without modern punctuation. He may have been making an etymological explanation of how Christians got their name. Although Eusebius is typically shown quoting Josephus as saying of Jesus that "He was the Christ," Josephus's actual intention might be better represented as "He was the 'Christ.'" That is, a mention of the loaded term to explain where the group's name "Christian" comes from, not a use of the term to convey some notion of Jesus's religious stature.

Combining the two ideas, perhaps the proper punctuation of Church History I.11.7-8 is something like (with a dash of color to highight Josephus's possible voice):
After relating these things concerning John, he makes mention of our Savior in the same work, in the following words: "Jesus lived about this time, a wise man," if indeed it be proper to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, and a teacher of such men as receive the truth in gladness: "He drew to himself many Jews, and also many Greeks.

"He was the 'Christ.' When Pilate, prompted by our leading men, condemned him to the cross, those who loved him from the beginning did not forsake him, for he was seen by them alive again on the third day
," the divine prophets having told these and countless other wonderful things concerning him. "The tribe of the 'Christians,' so named after this man, survive to the present day."
-
More details appear in the two posts on the Uncertaintist blog:

https://uncertaintist.wordpress.com/202 ... followers/
https://uncertaintist.wordpress.com/202 ... he-christ/

or the All England Summarized Proust version

https://uncertaintist.wordpress.com/202 ... y-summary/
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Baley
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Re: Refining Eusebius's claims about the Flavian Testimony

Post by Baley »

It never occurred to me view the Flavian Testimony and Eusebius' quotes in this light. Very interesting idea. I wonder how lack of punctuation could have influenced our understanding of other ancient texts.
gmx
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Re: Refining Eusebius's claims about the Flavian Testimony

Post by gmx »

If Eusebius is the corrupter of the Testimonium, to enable himself to quote his own corruption for apologetic purposes, what number and geographic distribution of manuscripts would he have needed to corrupt, and how could he be confident that the manuscript record would eliminate the transmission chain of the original text ?
Ken Olson
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Re: Refining Eusebius's claims about the Flavian Testimony

Post by Ken Olson »

gmx wrote: Tue Jun 14, 2022 2:56 pm If Eusebius is the corrupter of the Testimonium, to enable himself to quote his own corruption for apologetic purposes, what number and geographic distribution of manuscripts would he have needed to corrupt, and how could he be confident that the manuscript record would eliminate the transmission chain of the original text ?
gmx,

(1) It would depend on whether Eusebius himself oversaw the insertion of the Testimonium into the manuscripts of the Antiquities or whether one or more Christian scribes corrected their manuscripts of the Antiquities that lacked it by inserting the passage as it is quoted in Eusebius Ecclesiastical History, or perhaps added it in the new copies of the Antiquities they produced.

(2) For the manuscripts of Latin translation of the Antiquities, the scribes took the Latin translation of the Testimonium from Rufinus' Latin translation of Eusebius Ecclesiastical History and used that (this is not in doubt).

(3) There are no ancient or medieval Syriac or Arabic manuscripts of Josephus Antiquities. All the Syriac and Arabic witnesses to the Testimonium are in all probability based on the fifth century Syriac translations of Eusebius Ecclesiastical History and Theophany (according to both Alice Whealey and me).

(4) I do not think Eusebius could have been confident that all the existing manuscripts of the Antiquities without his interpolation would disappear without being copied. However, it's probable that there were not a great many manuscripts of Josephus twenty-book work in circulation in the early fourth century before he started promoting the book.

(5) The manuscripts that survive are not a random selection of ancient manuscripts that existed at a particular time. They are descended from the particular manuscripts that were chosen to be copied.

(6) Caesarea was a center of book production. Eusebius claims that he produced fifty complete Greek bibles (Old and New Testaments) at the request of Constantine, and all of the surviving copies of the works of Philo are descended from Caesarean manuscripts (i.e., not counting fragments and external quotations). We don't know if the same is the case for the works of Josephus, or at least Antiquities 11-20, but it seems plausible.

Best,

Ken
Paul the Uncertain
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Re: Refining Eusebius's claims about the Flavian Testimony

Post by Paul the Uncertain »

gmx wrote: Tue Jun 14, 2022 2:56 pm If Eusebius is the corrupter of the Testimonium, to enable himself to quote his own corruption for apologetic purposes, what number and geographic distribution of manuscripts would he have needed to corrupt, and how could he be confident that the manuscript record would eliminate the transmission chain of the original text ?
Thanks for the reply.

The topic hypothesis doesn't assume that Eusebius corrupted Josephus. Rather he (claims to have) quoted it, and appears to have interspersed his own comments within and surrounding the (ostensible) quoted matter. Semantically, the two voices, Eusebius's and Josephus's, are plausibly nearly distinct. Syntactically, however, they weren't distinguished at all because the needed conventional syntactial devices (modern punctuation) had yet to be invented.

Over the course of centuries, Eusebius's wall-of-words composition came to be regarded as a block quote of Josephus. We the living see little of what happened between Eusebius's time and the making of our extant manuscripts where the seeming "block quote" appears to have completely displaced the original text (or its absence of text).

There is no "state of mind" evidence that Eusebius had any confidence that his remarks would ever displace the original text, nor evidence that he would have found such an eventuality to his liking.

@Baley
Thank you for the kind words.
gmx
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Re: Refining Eusebius's claims about the Flavian Testimony

Post by gmx »

Ken Olson wrote: Tue Jun 14, 2022 3:38 pm
gmx wrote: Tue Jun 14, 2022 2:56 pm If Eusebius is the corrupter of the Testimonium, to enable himself to quote his own corruption for apologetic purposes, what number and geographic distribution of manuscripts would he have needed to corrupt, and how could he be confident that the manuscript record would eliminate the transmission chain of the original text ?
gmx,

(4) I do not think Eusebius could have been confident that all the existing manuscripts of the Antiquities without his interpolation would disappear without being copied. However, it's probable that there were not a great many manuscripts of Josephus twenty-book work in circulation in the early fourth century before he started promoting the book.

(5) The manuscripts that survive are not a random selection of ancient manuscripts that existed at a particular time. They are descended from the particular manuscripts that were chosen to be copied.

(6) Caesarea was a center of book production. Eusebius claims that he produced fifty complete Greek bibles (Old and New Testaments) at the request of Constantine, and all of the surviving copies of the works of Philo are descended from Caesarean manuscripts (i.e., not counting fragments and external quotations). We don't know if the same is the case for the works of Josephus, or at least Antiquities 11-20, but it seems plausible.
Thanks for the detailed reply Ken.

How do your points 4, 5 and 6 above account for the absence (among the extant manuscripts of Josephus) of Eusebius' reference to the avenging of James the Just (Book 2, Church History) ? If Eusebius corrupted the source documents of Josephus' Antiquities to provide a witness to the historical Jesus where none previously existed (ie the Testimonium is a Eusebian forgery in its entirety), that implies he was intimately familiar with the content of Antiquities (what it said and what it didn't say).

Therefore, these two points seem at odds:
* Eusebius quotes a non-existent passage from Josephus' Antiquities concerning Jesus (Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 3.3), and interpolates it into Antiquities in such a way that it becomes the only textual witness -- in order to legitimize his quote.
* Eusebius quotes a non-existent passage from Josephus concerning James the Just (Church History, Book 2, Chapter 23.20), and is assumedly content to have Josephus' works transmitted minus the quoted passage.

Do you see any issue with the above from the perspective of Eusebian interpolation of the Testimonium ?
Ken Olson
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Re: Refining Eusebius's claims about the Flavian Testimony

Post by Ken Olson »

gmx wrote: Wed Jun 15, 2022 5:32 am Thanks for the detailed reply Ken.

How do your points 4, 5 and 6 above account for the absence (among the extant manuscripts of Josephus) of Eusebius' reference to the avenging of James the Just (Book 2, Church History) ? If Eusebius corrupted the source documents of Josephus' Antiquities to provide a witness to the historical Jesus where none previously existed (ie the Testimonium is a Eusebian forgery in its entirety), that implies he was intimately familiar with the content of Antiquities (what it said and what it didn't say).

Therefore, these two points seem at odds:
* Eusebius quotes a non-existent passage from Josephus' Antiquities concerning Jesus (Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 3.3), and interpolates it into Antiquities in such a way that it becomes the only textual witness -- in order to legitimize his quote.
* Eusebius quotes a non-existent passage from Josephus concerning James the Just (Church History, Book 2, Chapter 23.20), and is assumedly content to have Josephus' works transmitted minus the quoted passage.

Do you see any issue with the above from the perspective of Eusebian interpolation of the Testimonium ?
gmx,

I need to clarify a few points about what it is I'm arguing before I answer your question, so please bear with me.

(1) I am arguing that Eusebius composed the Testimonium Flavianum as an outside witness to the truth of a particular Christian understanding of Jesus, not to establish that Jesus existed, which was not an issue in his time (perhaps I have to say 'not a major issue' on this forum). Also, in a way he was writing a speech-in-character for what he thinks Josephus would have written about Jesus since he considered Josephus, like Philo, to be a Hebrew and not just a Jew, and understood the spiritual sense of the Old Testament scriptures.

(2) As I wrote in the post to which you are responding, I am undecided whether Eusebius himself oversaw the insertion of the Testimonium into the text of the Antiquities or whether some later Christian scribe or scribes saw the the Testimonium quoted in the Ecclesiastical History, accepted it as a an authentic Josephan text on Eusebius' authority, and corrected their manuscripts of the Antiquities by inserting it into its present position in that text.

So, let me move on to the subject of the two passages about James which Eusebius ascribes to Josephus in HE 2.23. One of these is found in our surviving manuscripts of the Antiquities and the other is not.

(1) The passage that claims 'these things happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just' is not found in our manuscripts of Josephus Antiquities, and Eusebius does not locate it to any particular book, which is unusual. Most likely, he did not find it in his text of Josephus but accepted that Josephus had said such a thing on the authority of Origen Contra Celsum 1.47. Eusebius quotation of Josephus appears to be Origen's indirect claim rewritten as direct speech. This is a widespread, if not the majority, opinion of commentators (Henry Chadwick, Steve Mason, John Painter, and me).

(2) The second passage about James that Eusebius ascribes to Josephus is the one found in our manuscripts of Josephus at Ant. 20.197-203, and Eusebius locates it to Book 20. In this case, I think there was a passage about a man put on trial by Ananias, whose name may well have been James (the 11th most common male name among first century Judeans), and that more likely that not (I admit to some uncertainty here) Eusebius took the man put on trial there to be the Christian James and identified him as such in his quotation of the passage for the benefit of his Christian readers. Eusebius version of the James passage was then adopted by scribes copying the Antiquities, along with the Testimonium Flavianum. (I have previously pointed out that there is a passage in which Eusebius is quoting Josephus on the Hasmoneans and adds the gloss 'those called the Maccabees' into his quotation for the benefit of his Christian readers. In that case, however, the copyists did not alter the text of Antiquities to match what Eusebius wrote).

If I may anticipate a further question, why would Eusebius, or a Christian scribe under the influence in Eusebius, interpolate the Testimonium Flavianum into Book 18 of the Antiquities and add the identifier of the James put on trial in book 20 as being the brother of Jesus called Christ to Book 20, but not add the passage about these things happening to avenge James the Just?

The short answer is that, unlike the Testimonium, which Eusebius locates to Book 18 and the time of Pilate, and the passage about James being put on trial by Ananias, which Eusebius locates to book 20 (and there really was a passage about Ananias putting James on trial already there), Eusebius gives no guidance on where the passage about vengeance for James the Just is to be found in Josephus' works.

Best,

Ken
Last edited by Ken Olson on Thu Jun 16, 2022 7:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Secret Alias
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Re: Refining Eusebius's claims about the Flavian Testimony

Post by Secret Alias »

And furthermore our understanding of 'existed' or 'existence' doesn't correspond to what ancients believed/held. If I was to categorize the various schools by the end of the second century (= Against Heresies Book 1 - 3):

1. there were those who identified Jesus as the second god of the Pentateuch, the one who visited Abraham as one of 'three men,' who Abraham sent out as a servant/slave to find his wife and met Isaac in the field, who wrestled with Jacob, who met Joseph in a field, who met Moses in the burning bush and was seen at the theophany on Sinai and who met Joshua before the conquest of Jericho and came to earth at the end of time pretending to be a meek man to be crucified and die and redeem - as a 'man of war' (Ex 15, Psalm 28) the 30 generations between Adam and Moses who died without the Law.
2. there was the school of Justin who said that the being identified in (1) went into the womb of Mary and literally became (in some sense ultimately undefined) a man of flesh and blood (rather than merely being 'Man, the divine Logos' of Philo and Marcion)
3. there were the Marcosians (likely including Clement of Alexandria) who said all of (1) but then added the presence of a second figure 'Jesus' who was baptized by John the Baptist and represented some aeonic assembly of 30 powers who had to do this or that (read Irenaeus) where Jesus being 888 and 18 was significant. Here 'the Christ' which descended from heaven = Anthropos/Man which brought down the heavenly power onto an otherwise ordinary 'Jesus.'
4. there were those of Irenaeus who said all that Justin said (2) except that they denied that there were 2 powers and argued that all that the Jews now said about God being One (as opposed to Philo and Marcion) was true. Irenaeus stressed that coming from the womb of Mary meant that Man, the divine Logos took on human flesh (not spiritual flesh viz. Josephus's comment about 'the Man' who wrestled with Jacob being a 'phantasm' which was taken up by Marcionites and anti-Marcionites in their criticism of the sect.

All these traditions in some sense held that 'Jesus' (however defined) had existence. It just didn't fit the classification or understanding that we now have regarding ORDINARY existence. I think it is unfortunate that all these discussions or interest in the 'mythical' existence (or 'non-existence') of Jesus fuels the interest in whether or not Eusebius wrote or didn't write the TF. Given that we are a wretched generation we don't even see that we are imposing modern presuppositions of 'existence vs non-existence' (as if these were stark 'realities' or concepts) when in reality ancient people had a much looser sense of what reality or existence was.

Another example. If the Karaites held that Moses was the narrator of the Pentateuch that would mean that he narrated the account of his own death. While some saw that this led to a third person like Ezra as the actual author of the narrative no one used this to deny the existence of Moses. The fact that we can make these sorts of deductions or inferences is meaningless because ancient people didn't do this. Simply put, they didn't have the 'real' vs. 'imaginary' category when it came to gods, demigods or heroes. They kind of 'left open' the fabulous possibilities when it came to the elite.
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Re: Refining Eusebius's claims about the Flavian Testimony

Post by andrewcriddle »

About which the Jews themselves bear witness, Josephus a writer of histories saying, that there was in that time a wise man, if it is proper however, he said, to call a man the creator of marvelous works, who appeared living to his disciples after three days of his death in accordance with the writings of the prophets, who prophesied both this and innumerable other things full of miracles about him. from which began the community of Christians and penetrated into every tribe of men nor has any nation of the Roman world remained, which was left without worship of him
In the late 4th century work pseudo-hegesippus contains passage which you suggest are commentary by Eusebius. It seems unlikely that an original hypothetical Josephan core would have been quoted in a form influenced by Eusebius that early.

Andrew CRIDDLE
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Re: Refining Eusebius's claims about the Flavian Testimony

Post by Paul the Uncertain »

andrewcriddle wrote: Thu Jun 16, 2022 8:42 am
About which the Jews themselves bear witness, Josephus a writer of histories saying, that there was in that time a wise man, if it is proper however, he said, to call a man the creator of marvelous works, who appeared living to his disciples after three days of his death in accordance with the writings of the prophets, who prophesied both this and innumerable other things full of miracles about him. from which began the community of Christians and penetrated into every tribe of men nor has any nation of the Roman world remained, which was left without worship of him
In the late 4th century work pseudo-hegesippus contains passage which you suggest are commentary by Eusebius. It seems unlikely that an original hypothetical Josephan core would have been quoted in a form influenced by Eusebius that early.

Andrew CRIDDLE
Greetings, Andrew. Thank you for your reply.

I missed the place in DEH where pseudo-Hegesippus represented themselves to be quoting from Antiquities. Could you help me out with a citation to that claim? Thanks.

Also, when you say unlikely, it is always helpful to specify "compared with what?"

For example, in your view, is the availablility of Eusebius's composition two generations after his death more or less likely than Josephus having taught the resurrection of Jesus and that the resurrection of Jesus was foretold by the prophets?
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