Philo Wasn't Entirely Dependent on Aristeas for his Knowledge of the Translation of the LXX

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Philo Wasn't Entirely Dependent on Aristeas for his Knowledge of the Translation of the LXX

Post by neilgodfrey »

Stephan -- let's make this about Celsus!

Do we have the writings of Celsus?
How do we know that we have an accurate portrayal of what Celsus wrote?

Let's assume that the answer to the second question is Yes.

How did Celsus know about events before his time? What were his sources? Did Celsus believe Moses wrote the Pentateuch? Was his information reliable?

How can we know if those sources knew about events before their time? How can we know if those sources were documenting verified history or if they were sharing garbled information or propaganda or whatever?

Look at other histories written around the time of Celsus. A Roman author (Seneca) from not long before Celsus wrote that much of the information written by historians was typically false, exaggeration, myth, bunk. We know much of the history in the books of the Bible is bunk. Josephus also wrote and believed lots of bunk. He is only half-way reliable when he speaks of his own times.

That was world of Celsus: historians knew about their own times but all too often made stuff up about earlier times. That's not about "us". It's about "them"!

Many books about how to do historical research (written for students of history) will stress the fundamental importance of relying on contemporary evidence. One historian illustrated the importance of this by saying that historians rejected the report that Martin Luther committed suicide because that report only appeared as late as 20 years after his death. The point was that contemporary evidence nearly always trumps later accounts.

Only when later accounts can be demonstrated to have relied on earlier reliable sources are they useful for the historian of the earlier events.

Other historians said Moses led the Israelites into Canaan and built the temple and founded Jerusalem. Most ancient historians simply did not know what "really happened" before them unless they had first hand accounts from the time -- and they very rarely did. When the did, they advertized the fact to demonstrate their own reliability.
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Secret Alias
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Re: Philo Wasn't Entirely Dependent on Aristeas for his Knowledge of the Translation of the LXX

Post by Secret Alias »

Do we have the writings of Celsus?
There's a lot we don't know about Celsus's writings. There is the possibility that in a/the section of his work that Origen doesn't cite he says something completely different from what is cited in Origen. Nevertheless it would appear that Celsus thought the Pentateuch was written by Moses after stealing his ideas from the Egyptians and Celsus only seems to accuse the Christians of stealing from Plato and Greek writers. He also says that Jews must be tolerated because their tradition has been around for a while and dates the origin of the religion to the time of the Egyptian revolt under Moses. Again, while it is possible that he tucks an Alexandrian origin for Judaism under the Ptolemies somewhere in the material not cited by Origen, from what we know of the structure of the portions of the book we do know, this would seem unlikely.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Philo Wasn't Entirely Dependent on Aristeas for his Knowledge of the Translation of the LXX

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Secret Alias wrote: Sun Dec 18, 2022 4:21 pm
Do we have the writings of Celsus?
There's a lot we don't know about Celsus's writings. There is the possibility that in a/the section of his work that Origen doesn't cite he says something completely different from what is cited in Origen. Nevertheless it would appear that Celsus thought the Pentateuch was written by Moses after stealing his ideas from the Egyptians and Celsus only seems to accuse the Christians of stealing from Plato and Greek writers. He also says that Jews must be tolerated because their tradition has been around for a while and dates the origin of the religion to the time of the Egyptian revolt under Moses. Again, while it is possible that he tucks an Alexandrian origin for Judaism under the Ptolemies somewhere in the material not cited by Origen, from what we know of the structure of the portions of the book we do know, this would seem unlikely.
No, Celsus doesn't believe in an Alexandrian origin of Judaism -- as you are suggesting. You are quite correct to believe that the idea of an Alexandrian origin never entered Celsus's head.

But that has no relevance to the question of whether or not the Alexandrian origin of "Judaism" is valid. And that is not making it "about us" but is based on methods that help us get closer to "them".

Here is what one of the most notable historians of ancient times wrote about the evidence of ancient historians:

Yet a Livy or a Plutarch cheerfully repeated pages upon pages of earlier accounts over which they neither had nor sought any control. . . . Only Thucydides fully and systematically acknowledged the existence of a dilemma, which he resolved in the unsatisfactory way of refusing to deal with pre-contemporary history at all. . . . .

Where did they [ancient historians like Tacitus and Josephus] find their information? No matter how many older statements we can either document or posit – irrespective of possible reliability – we eventually reach a void. But ancient writers, like historians ever since, could not tolerate a void, and they filled it in one way or another, ultimately by pure invention. The ability of the ancients to invent and their capacity to believe are persistently underestimated. . . . .

I suspect that Ogilvie’s slip [i.e. that behind the exaggeration etc of ancient accounts there must be some core fact] reflects, no doubt unconsciously, the widespread sentiment that anything written in Greek or Latin is somehow privileged, exempt from the normal canons of evaluation. . . .

Unless something is captured in a more or less contemporary historical account, the narrative is lost for all time regardless of how many inscriptions or papyri may be discovered. . . . .

So when men came to write the history of their world, Greek or Roman, they found great voids in the inherited information about the past, or, worse still, quantities of ‘data’ that included fiction and half fiction jumbled with fact. That is what modern historians, unwilling for whatever reason to admit defeat, to acknowledge a void, seek to rescue under the positive label, tradition (or oral tradition). Few anthropologists view the invariably oral traditions of the people they study with the faith shown by many ancient historians. The verbal transmittal over many generations of detailed information about past events or institutions that are no longer essential or even meaningful in contemporary life invariably entails considerable and irrecoverable losses of data, or conflation of data, manipulation and invention, sometimes without visible reason, often for reasons that are perfectly intelligible. With the passage of time, it becomes absolutely impossible to control anything that has been transmitted when there is nothing in writing against which to match statements about the past. Again we suspect the presence of the unexpressed view that the traditions of Greeks and Romans are somehow privileged . . . .

There is no guarantee that the tradition has not arisen precisely in order to explain a linguistic, religious or political datum; that, in other words, the tradition is not an etiological invention . . . .

Some of the supposed data are patently fictitious, the political unification of Attica by Theseus or the foundation of Rome by Aeneas, for example, but we quickly run out of such easily identified fictions. For the great bulk of the narrative we are faced with the ‘kernel of truth’ possibility, and I am unaware of any stigmata that automatically distinguish fiction from fact. . . . .

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Secret Alias
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Re: Philo Wasn't Entirely Dependent on Aristeas for his Knowledge of the Translation of the LXX

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Right but surely the question of whether ANYONE at ANYTIME knew a proposed "truth" has some relevance to the question of whether a theory can be demonstrated to be true or untrue. There are truths and then there are provable truths and unprovable truths. If Gmirkin happens to have stumbled upon a truth that can't be proved that's in a way a fate worse than arguing on behalf of a provable lie. What is the standard of proof for proving that the Pentateuch originated in Alexandria c. 270 CE? Just "believing" history was so? A consensus of scholars? But then the opposite must hold true too, that as long as THERE ISN'T A CONSENSUS OF SCHOLARS for the Alexandrian proposition then it is untrue or should be considered so. Or are we to engage in an endless argument about historical "facts" until one side or the other is too exhausted to continue the fight? Well in that case the arguments with the fittest strongest advocates will win out rather than the truth.

Let's take the example of Marcion. Either there was a Marcionite gospel or there wasn't. If there was a Marcionite gospel, then someone saw it. If someone saw it they may have written about it or recorded some of its contents or got a sense of what it was like. The further we get from someone seeing and writing down something of the gospel, the more any theorizing about Marcion and his gospel go down the drain. If all truth just comes down to accumulating zeroes to turn 1 believer into 10 into a 100 into a 1000, 10000, 100000, 1000000 etc. this isn't history, this is proselytizing.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Philo Wasn't Entirely Dependent on Aristeas for his Knowledge of the Translation of the LXX

Post by neilgodfrey »

Secret Alias wrote: Sun Dec 18, 2022 7:13 pm Right but surely the question of whether ANYONE at ANYTIME knew a proposed "truth" has some relevance to the question of whether a theory can be demonstrated to be true or untrue.
Of course. But the hard part for the historian today is knowing what, if anything, in an ancient writing is "true". How much of Genesis should we believe is true history? We have reasons (not prejudice, but sound reasons) for concluding that none of it is historically true.

What about the story of the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar? We can say that is true because we have evidence independent of the biblical account to confirm it. If we only had the biblical account and nothing else we would have no way of knowing if it was true.

That's how the historical method works.

Secret Alias wrote: Sun Dec 18, 2022 7:13 pm There are truths and then there are provable truths and unprovable truths.
I don't know what truths are unprovable.
Secret Alias wrote: Sun Dec 18, 2022 7:13 pm If Gmirkin happens to have stumbled upon a truth that can't be proved that's in a way a fate worse than arguing on behalf of a provable lie. What is the standard of proof for proving that the Pentateuch originated in Alexandria c. 270 CE? Just "believing" history was so? A consensus of scholars?
The same applies to the Documentary Hypothesis.

"Truth" is a loaded term in this context, though. The word suggests a knowledge that is so certain that nothing can ever overturn it. The problem with history is that new evidence can always turn up that leads us to revise what we once knew.

That's how it is with most of human experience, isn't it? Courts condemn someone on the basis of the evidence, having "no reasonable doubt" about their guilt, but then years later new evidence emerges that exonerates them.

The difficulty with history is that there are so many bits of data to consider and so many theories --- and we have large numbers of historians having been believed a certain point of view for so long -- that it can be a slow process before new ideas come to dominate the field.

Gmirkin has set out the evidence for his view in his books. It's detailed. It's like examining fingerprints and DNA. One can throw up one's hands and say "truth" shouldn't be that complicated and we can't trust it if it takes many pages to explain it. But that's exactly how the Documentary Hypothesis gained ground in the first place -- publications about lots of minute details about the texts discussed over years in many hundreds of pages.

All knowledge in history is provisional, tentative, the "best we've got" pending new information. Sometimes the new information comes in the of new evidence that had been overlooked before. Sometimes it comes in the form of brave souls daring to point out flaws in the reasoning that had long underpinned the "conventional wisdom".

The Documentary Hypothesis was once the "truth" but in recent decades it has taken a battering from new insights into the evidence and a renewed focus on evidence that was not given due weight a century ago. Another problem the DH has faced is that the logic and assumptions supporting it have been demonstrated to be open to question. Interpretations of evidence once assumed to be true and watertight are being questioned.

So the question becomes: Does the evidence set out by Gmirkin support his argument? Is there evidence that he has overlooked that makes his interpretations impossible or very unlikely?

If historians have built their careers believing and arguing for one "school of thought" then they are not likely to drop their views and change their minds overnight. They are going to question, raise problems, seek to test the new idea and evidence claimed for it. That's how it should be.

If over time the new idea withstands those challenges then it will survive.

Sometimes, though, new ideas are seen to be so threatening that established interests will misrepresent them and resort to ad hominem and intimidate others into joining in the ridicule and insults and doing all they can to persuade people not to read or seriously consider the new idea. That's politics. That's what happened with certain ideas of the "minimalists" but increasingly those ideas are withstanding all that opposition and gaining respectability despite all that.

It takes time. New "truths" don't just win out overnight. That's how it has always been.

-----
Added later.....

I said above that we need independent contemporary evidence to enable us to know if any claim by an ancient historian is true (same with modern historians and archivists etc) -- e.g. the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.

The only ancient accounts of the origin of the Mosaic laws tell us that Moses wrote them -- and we have no contemporary evidence from the supposed time of Moses to confirm those accounts. So we only have theories about biblical origins.

The dominant theory has been the Documentary Hypothesis. That can only be confirmed or overturned by a detailed study of the texts and/or by a clear critique of the reasoning and assumptions behind the DH.

Gmirkin has set out in detail how the books of the Pentateuch match major Greek works point-for-point. His theory is consistent with the external evidence. Another scholar, not long deceased, likewise pointed to other evidence that the Pentateuch was written under Greek influence in Hellenistic times.

There is no independent account to confirm that some scribes or a scribe sat down to write these biblical books in the Hellenistic era. The only evidence we have is the "fingerprints" of the texts themselves -- comparing the fingerprints on the Pentateuch with those on the Greek works.

It takes time to examine and be sure that we have enough matches in the fingerprints to be confident that the two go together and in some way colluded. Gmirkin has pointed to many significant matches. The only way to determine if his observations are valid is to examine them for ourselves and make up our own minds if the matches really are significant.
Russell Gmirkin
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Re: Philo Wasn't Entirely Dependent on Aristeas for his Knowledge of the Translation of the LXX

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

Secret Alias wrote: Sun Dec 18, 2022 7:13 pm ...What is the standard of proof for proving that the Pentateuch originated in Alexandria c. 270 CE? Just "believing" history was so? A consensus of scholars? But then the opposite must hold true too, that as long as THERE ISN'T A CONSENSUS OF SCHOLARS for the Alexandrian proposition then it is untrue or should be considered so...
This standard would carry a little more weight if one could show that a majority of scholars had read my books. At this point, the overwhelming majority of scholars have not, and so their opinion is meaningless. What you are saying is that academics who have never read my books should be counted as no votes. It's a warning sign that SG would agree with you 1000%

Apply this same standard to your Samaritan hypothesis and let us know the results. (1) Does a "CONSENSUS OF SCHOLARS" agree with your analysis and we should consider it true, or (2) does a "CONSENSUS OF SCHOLARS" disagree with your analysis (including on this forum) and we should consider it untrue, or (3) do you think a CONSENSUS standard should be ONLY be applied to MY research, but NOT to YOURS, or maybe (4) do you think that a CONSENSUS standard is maybe a totally bogus criterion and you should stick to your guns?
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Re: Philo Wasn't Entirely Dependent on Aristeas for his Knowledge of the Translation of the LXX

Post by StephenGoranson »

Russell Gmirkin wrote, in part, just above:
"It's a warning sign that SG would agree with you [SA] 1000%"
That's news to me.
I sometimes agree with SA; sometimes not.
Concerning the 270s proposal, I have other or additional reasons.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Philo Wasn't Entirely Dependent on Aristeas for his Knowledge of the Translation of the LXX

Post by neilgodfrey »

StephenGoranson wrote: Mon Dec 19, 2022 8:46 am Russell Gmirkin wrote, in part, just above:
"It's a warning sign that SG would agree with you [SA] 1000%"
That's news to me.
I sometimes agree with SA; sometimes not.
Concerning the 270s proposal, I have other or additional reasons.
so 10000% then ;)
Russell Gmirkin
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Re: Philo Wasn't Entirely Dependent on Aristeas for his Knowledge of the Translation of the LXX

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

StephenGoranson wrote: Mon Dec 19, 2022 8:46 am Russell Gmirkin wrote, in part, just above:
"It's a warning sign that SG would agree with you [SA] 1000%"
That's news to me.
I sometimes agree with SA; sometimes not.
Concerning the 270s proposal, I have other or additional reasons.
You're on record as invoking Konrad Schmid and James Davila against my research, neither of whom have read it.
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Re: Philo Wasn't Entirely Dependent on Aristeas for his Knowledge of the Translation of the LXX

Post by StephenGoranson »

It may be true that Schmid and Davila have not read your (REG) research.
I do not, actually, know (whether or not they read some, or what portion).
Shall we explore why some may not wish to say?
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