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Old 08-23-2001, 10:28 PM   #1
Nomad
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Post Looking at Luke and Josephus

This post is intended to lay the ground work for how we can best go about examining the question of sources for the Gospel of Luke and Acts (hereafter simply GLuke), and how it may or may not ultimately relate to the writings of Josephus’ Antiquities. Basically, in order to establish with any reasonable level of plausibility and probability that one work depended upon another, a number of conditions must be met. These conditions include:

1) Dating the respective works. Obviously, if one writing predates another (or is judged to be very nearly contemporaneous) , then it is not reasonable to assume that the earlier book used the later one. Thus, Mark, which is judged to be the earliest of the Synoptic Gospels, is generally thought to have served as a source for GLuke, as opposed to the other way around. The Septuagint or LXX (c. 2nd Century BC), and certain apocryphal books (i.e. Book of Wisdom, Wisdom of Solomon, etc.) are also placed as potential sources for GLuke and the other Gospels. Since Josephus’ Antiquities is known to have been published c. 95AD, GLuke must be reasonably dated to the early part of the 2nd Century before it can be theorized as a potential source for Luke. If Luke is dated to 100AD or earlier, then it cannot possibly have used Antiquities as a source. The reverse would still be possible, of course, and that question will no doubt come up in the course of discussion.
2) Clear examples of copying must be present. Thus, for example, almost entire passages of GLuke can be found in Mark’s Gospel and the Septuagint, making it almost certain that Luke had access to, and used these books. The shared passages with the GMatt, on the other hand, are so different in style, length and structure that scholars have tended to postulate a shared source (commonly called Q) rather than trying to establish if one used the other. Given the differences in the texts, this seems to be very reasonable, and while I question the theory that Q was a written source, as opposed to an oral tradition, it offers the best current explanation for the similar “sayings” passages found in Luke and Matt. The fact that other stories with shared themes (i.e. the birth narratives and the passion story in particular) in the latter Synoptics makes any theory that one used the other as a source extremely doubtful.
3) The probability that a shared source led to the coincidences in GLuke and Antiquities (including Josephus’ own earlier Jewish Wars) must be ruled out as more probable than direct use of Antiquities itself.
4) Obviously, the possibility that Josephus himself used GLuke must also be ruled out, assuming, of course, that shared passages and texts can be established in the first place. This is where the question of dating GLuke will be most significant.
5) The remote possibility that similarities are mere coincidences must be explored, although if enough similarities in enough stories can be found, then this particular point can probably be discarded. After all, it might have been a coincidence that GLuke uses similar language and stories to Mark once or twice, but fully 30% of Luke’s Gospel can be lifted almost in its entirety from Mark, so coincidence is almost certainly ruled out. Mark was one of Luke’s sources.

Basically, this thread is going to focus on the question of what is generally referred to as the “L” material, or, in other words, the information found only in GLuke and Acts that cannot be derived from Mark or Q. If significant portions of “L” show striking similarities to Josephus’ Antiquities, then we will have satisfied at least question (2), regarding clear examples of copying having taken place. We will then have to determine if Luke could have gotten this same information from Jewish Wars, another source also used by Josephus, or that Josephus himself may have used Luke. This is where the question of dating GLuke will take on special significance.

My next post will focus on the possible similarities found in GLuke and Antiquities (looking especially at the theories and arguments put forward by Steve Mason and Richard Carrier), and see if a strong enough case exists to accept that the two works share enough information, text and/or stories to begin an inquiry into which sources may have been used. Should we reach that point, then we will have to determine which of the following is most probable:

1) Luke and Josephus used similar sources (including the LXX, apocryphal books and Jewish Wars)
2) Luke used Josephus’ Antiquities (meaning GLuke must be 2nd Century)
3) Josephus used Luke (meaning GLuke must be 1st Century)

No doubt other issues, and questions will arise as the thread progresses. I welcome anyone to put their questions forward at any time, and will do my best to answer.

Nomad

[ August 23, 2001: Message edited by: Nomad ]
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Old 08-26-2001, 04:28 PM   #2
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This post will be focusing on the review written by Richard Carrier of a section of Steve Mason’s book, Josephus and the New Testament (Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody, Massachusetts, 1992), pp. 185-229. In that review, Carrier explores the reasons for believing that Luke borrowed from or relied upon Josephus’ work in constructing his own, with special attention being paid to Jewish Antiquities. I will examine each of the supports Carrier puts forward, in the order in which they were presented. This post will deal with Carrier’s opening statement and what he calls the “generic arguments”. Future posts will address the remaining arguments.

Opening Statement

Carrier begins by quoting from Mason’s remark that the "coindidence [sic]...of aim, themes, and vocabulary...seems to suggest that Luke-Acts is building its case on the foundation of Josephus' defense of Judaism," and therefore that Luke is consciously and significantly drawing on Josephus to supplement his use of Mark and Q and to create the appearance of a real history, a notable deviation from all the other Gospels which have none of the features of a historical work. .

The very first example cited is nothing less than the Nativity itself.

Quote:
This thesis, if correct, entails two things. First, it undermines the historicity of certain details in the Christ story unique to Luke, such as his account of the Nativity, since these have been drawn from Josephus, who does not mention them in connection with Jesus, and thus it is more than possible that they never were linked with Jesus until Luke decided they were.
Here we have the beginning of a long list of astonishing examples (according to Carrier) of borrowing in which Luke uses something mentioned by Josephus in an entirely different context, usually with different characters, places, themes, and the like. One is left to wonder what type of borrowing is left. More on this later, especially as Carrier never elaborates upon this particular case of “borrowing”.

The second thing Carrier lists as being important (if Mason’s theories are correct) regards the dating of Luke. Unfortunately, by failing to address the arguments for dating Luke outside of Mason’s theory, Carrier is merely begging the question here. After all, if the arguments for dating Luke/Acts to pre-95 AD are compelling and more plausible than those that date it to post-95AD, then all of Mason’s speculations are mute. This post will not focus on this particular issue, however, as Carrier himself ignores it. I will, instead, be examining the arguments themselves to see if they hold sufficient force to be given serious consideration.

For the record, my references from Josephus will come from The Writings of Flavius Josephus.

One of the questions I will be asking as we explore these given similarities, is if Luke could have gained his information from another source. We will also be exploring the question of whether or not Luke clearly made use of other sources that could not have been Josephus (IOW, do we find information in Luke/Acts of an historical nature that we do not find in the works of Josephus). If we can find such examples, then once again we would be left to wonder if these other sources could not also have served to provide the needed information found in Luke and/or Josephus.

Carrier’s Leaky Buckets

The leaky bucket fallacy basically goes like this: if one is making a particularly weak argument, the additional support of additional weak arguments and evidence does not help to strengthen the case. Thus, if one has a bucket with a leak in it, reinforcing it with another leaky bucket will not help to keep the water from spilling all over the ground. Needless to say, there is a reason that I chose this analogy for my analysis of this particular section of Carrier’s essay.

The section header, Generic Parallels (which do not prove anything in themselves but add to or support the firmer evidence) is accurate, but already shows that we are not heading into good evidentiary territory. Let’s look at the arguments very quickly:

Quote:
 Both L and J are self-described and organized as histories.
 Both L and J are written in Hellenistic Greek (a literary KoinÍ).
These two fall into a “so what?” category. Luke’s style is different from that of the other Gospel writers, but is hardly unheard of in the ancient world. Lots of people besides Luke and Josephus wrote histories, and said that they were doing so. Further, all of the books of the NT are written in Koine Greek, so this tells us nothing, outside of the fact that the choice of this language was popular with 1st Century Jews.

Quote:
 Both L and J write "from an apologetic stance, using their histories to support a thesis" (e.g. by blaming "the bad Jews" for every calamity, and conveying the notion that the "good Jews," and in L's case that means the Christians, deserve respect)
 Both L and J were "heavily influenced by Jewish scripture and tradition."
Since the OT (Hebrew Bible) was filled with examples of Jewish writers blaming the problems of their people on perceived sins against God, this is yet another “so what?” argument. As for the heavy influence of Jewish scripture and tradition, in the case of Luke in particular, he is writing a religious document filled with theology from a Jewish perspective. If he had NOT used Hebrew scripture and tradition one would have been astonished. Moreover, Paul, the earliest Christian author for which we have reliably dated documents was doing the exact same thing (as was Mark, and Matthew, and John, and Peter, and Hebrews, and I hope you get the picture by now). This was the convention of 1st Century Christian authors. Positing Josephus as the source for inspiration behind this practice is truly odd.

Quote:
 Both L and J open with a conventional historian's preface
Meaning it was common to do this. Again, Luke wants his work to be known as a history of events written in an orderly manner. Unfortunately, this argument is presented without supports, and without any context to examine its strength, one is left to wonder why it has even been offered (after all, may works have prefaces. This hardly establishes any kind of link beyond mere convention).

All of that said, I would like to explore the types of prefaces used, to see if there is a more substantial stylistic, or substantive link that can be derived from the evidence.

Josephus, for his part, tells us that he “was forced to give the history of it, because I saw that others perverted the truth of those actions in their writings.” Luke says only Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,. In other words, Luke shows no hint of his needing to set the record straight, only that he is drawing on the works of others in order to given “an orderly account”. From his words we do not even know if he is not satisfied with past accounts, let alone that he finds them to have “perverted the truth” in these matters.

Josephus goes on:

“2. Now I have undertaken the present work, as thinking it will appear to all the Greeks (2) worthy of their study; for it will contain all our antiquities, and the constitution of our government, as interpreted out of the Hebrew Scriptures.”

Here is a big opening for Luke (assuming that he wishes to build on Josephus’ style, and all he has to do is say that he is relating his history as it is “interpreted out of Hebrew Scriptures.” Of course, Luke says no such thing, and merely relates that he is “giving an orderly account”.

Next Josephus tells us in detail how he is going to go about relating his story to the readers (whom he expects will be all Greeks interested in history), but Luke keeps his address strictly to “most excellent Theophilus” without a hint as to believing Theophilus will even find it worthy of wider dissemination. Perhaps Luke is just more modest than Josephus, but given that he is (according to Carrier) drawing on ideas and concepts from Josephus, this seems a strange omission. After all, if Josephus expects wide dissemination of his work by Epaphroditus, why shouldn’t Luke be making the same helpful hint for Theophilus?

As a final note, Josephus takes no fewer than 1,656 words in four chapters in his preface, while Luke spends 79 on his introduction. Maybe Luke is just more succinct. On the other hand, if he is trying to present his history as being like Josephus’, then perhaps he did not understand the Roman need for long winded introductions. In either case, it does not look like Luke saw Josephus as a good role model here. He certainly did not use Josephus’ idea of a “conventional historians preface.”

Quote:
Both L and J appear in two parts: J begins with the "most important" event in history (the Jewish War) and follows by looking into previous Jewish history to explain the war's significance (with the JA); L begins with his own 'most important' event (the appearance of God on Earth and his act of salvation for all mankind), and follows by looking into subsequent Christian history to explain Christ's significance (with Acts)
Yes, Luke and Josephus do both write in two parts, starting with what he considers to be most important, then explaining what consequences were produced by this important set of events in the second part. I suppose if Luke and Josephus were the only historians to ever do this, then we could call this a remarkable coincidence.

Quote:
Both L and JA are dedicated to a patron, one who is depicted as particularly interested in the real truth about their history (Christianity on the one hand, Judaism on the other), and regarded as the motivation for writing in the first place:
I’ve already spent a fair bit of time on the introduction, but let’s examine the wording concerning this bit directly from the authors themselves:

However, some persons there were who desired to know our history, and so exhorted me to go on with it; and, above all the rest, Epaphroditus, (4) a man who is a lover of all kind of learning, but is principally delighted with the knowledge of history, and this on account of his having been himself concerned in great affairs, and many turns of fortune, and having shown a wonderful rigor of an excellent nature, and an immovable virtuous resolution in them all. I yielded to this man's persuasions, who always excites such as have abilities in what is useful and acceptable, to join their endeavors with his.”
Josephus

Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Luke

So, yes, in Josephus, Epaphroditus is seen as the primary moving force behind Jospehus constructing his work. With Luke, however, Luke sees himself as the primary mover, as he has already “carefully investigated everything from the beginning”, and it seems “good also to (Luke) to write an orderly account” for Theophilus. The difference in emphasis is quite obvious.

Quote:
Both Acts and J engage the same historical conventions of speech-creation.
Yes they do, and as it is a CONVENTION, we would expect such a thing. Again we have a “so what?” argument.

Quote:
Both L and J emphasize the antiquity and respectability of their religion and tie it to the revered and renowned religious center of Jerusalem.
I found this to be a curious arguments. While it is true that both men are striving to present their religion as being very ancient (something the Romans took very seriously), Carrier’s argument does not carry quite the same force if the Temple is long destroyed by the time of Luke. After all, in reading Luke/Acts, one can hardly argue that the Temple in Jerusalem is the centre of action or worship. In fact, in many cases the actions associated with the Temple put it in a very bad light (i.e. Luke 19 and the casting out of the money changers by Jesus; Luke 21 where Jesus does his final prayers not in the Temple, but in the Garden of Gesthemane; Acts 21 where Luke recounts the arrest of Paul). In fact, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus does not even appear in the Temple until shortly before His arrest, trial and execution! I call this argument trying to have it both ways. After all, I am sure that Carrier sides with those that tell us that Luke is anti-Semitic in his presentation and writings. Once can then hardly turn around and claim that Luke is connecting his teachings to an ancient religion based on Temple Judaism.

As a further point, previously we have seen that Josephus deliberately linked his work as it would relate to Hebrew Scriptures. Luke omits this reference at all, and seemingly misses a golden opportunity. Assuming that Luke considers Josephus a worthy model and source for his information, this omission is extremely odd.

Conclusion

As we can see, none of the above arguments carry any real weight in helping to make the case that Luke borrowed from Josephus, or vice versa. In fact, based on these arguments, one cannot even establish that there is any plausible link between the two sets of documents at all. Given their overall weakness, introducing them as evidence or arguments in support of Carrier’s (or Mason’s) thesis only serves to distract and weaken the presentation as a whole. Such is the nature of leaky bucket argumentation, and it is one of the reasons its use is so often frowned upon.

If any should wish to defend any of Mason/Carrier’s arguments, or offer reasons why they should be taken more seriously, I welcome their feedback, and we can discuss it. Similarly, if you have any questions for me, please offer them, and I will do my best to answer. If not, then in my next post I will move on to what Carrier believes to be the more substantive arguments connecting Luke to Josephus, and see if they build a better case than what we have seen thus far.

Thank you, and be well.

Nomad

[ August 26, 2001: Message edited by: Nomad ]
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Old 08-26-2001, 07:28 PM   #3
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If this is intended to be a scholarly inquiry, I'd like to mention that the II Reference Desk has links to:So, there should not be any good reason why you can't post full references and quotations as might be appropriate to any argument which you might choose to make in this regard.

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Old 08-26-2001, 07:34 PM   #4
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Good opening, Nomad. I think the parallels are the weakest part of the argument as well.

I realize there are good reasons to date Luke prior to 95, but I hope you will confine yourself to disproving the Luke-Josephus connection in the next post through rebuttal of Mason's arguments. After that we can move on to "external" positive reasons for an early date of Luke.

As for me, I trust that minimal citation -- just so we know where it is coming from -- should be enough.

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Old 08-26-2001, 09:44 PM   #5
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Questions:

Nomad, have you read Steve Mason's book? Are you just going to argue against his ideas based on what Richard Carrier put in his review?

Don't you think that it is possible that Steve Mason needed an entire chapter, or possibly an entire book to develop his ideas, and Richard Carrier is only providing a summary?

Did you notice that Carrier states:

Quote:
Note that Mason only singles out the most impressive examples of a connection. Other authors have scrupulously collected a great many more, though their results will not be surveyed here.
Do you feel any obligation to find out what these other connections are and explore them?

Your first post appears to be attacking a straw man. You have shown that Luke did not slavishly copy every detail in Josephus, and that the generic parallels do not prove anything by themsleves. I think that is agreed.

I will be interested to see what you come up with, but I think something is missing here.
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Old 08-26-2001, 10:24 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by Toto:
<STRONG>Questions:

Nomad, have you read Steve Mason's book? Are you just going to argue against his ideas based on what Richard Carrier put in his review?
</STRONG>
I too think that Nomad should be addressing Steve Mason, not Richard Carrier. Steve Mason's book is only $10 at any bookstore and is a worthy addition to any library in any case. I have read and own that book, and I would like to see Nomad interact with the arguments in the book, not with Carrier's summary.

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Peter Kirby
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Old 08-26-2001, 11:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
In other words, Luke shows no hint (emphasis mine) of his needing to set the record straight, only that he is drawing on the works of others in order to given “an orderly account”. From his words we do not even know if he is not satisfied with past accounts, let alone that he finds them to have “perverted the truth” in these matters...
I think you may have overstated your case when you stated that 'Luke shows no hint' that he saw any problems with other accounts. What first strikes me about Luke's preface is the fact that he felt that he needed to qualify the type of account as 'orderly'. Although not definitive, there is at least a weak implication that other accounts were disorderly (else, why qualify his in this manner?), which I my mind would be a slight criticism of them. This is at least a 'hint' that Luke saw a problem with other accounts (i.e. their disorderliness), even if it is not definitive proof. I grant that this is a trivial criticism and really does nothing to strengthen Carrier/Mason's case.
BTW: Very nice arguments so far.
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Old 08-27-2001, 09:03 AM   #8
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Nomad is knocking down straw men here. He restricts his attention to the "generic parallels", which as Carrier himself carefully acknowledges do not prove anything in and of themselves.

Tellingly, Nomad has failed to respond to the bulk of Carrier's review. But if he really wishes to challenge the notion that Luke used Josephus, he should rather address Mason's arguments directly.
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Old 08-27-2001, 10:55 AM   #9
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Josephus and the New Testament by Steve Mason can be ordered online at Amazon.
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Old 08-27-2001, 01:18 PM   #10
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Hang on, folks. I asked Nomad to go over the Carrier summary of Mason's points. I didn't require that he refute the entire list of arguments. That's a little unfair considering how this discussion started. If Nomad is happy to go over Mason's arguments in their entirety, that is fine (and a nice bonus), but the onus is not on him to do that. That is not what Nomad and I agreed on when we originated this thread.

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