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Old 09-13-2007, 12:30 PM   #121
Roger Pearse
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Thanks for your note Julian. It's a footnote to antiquity, but one that all of us have seen a lot. I hope that I'm not boring the pants off everyone, and am glad to get some confirmation on this.

It's a long haul, but what I would like to do is to bottom out the whole question once and for all; then write it all up on a web page, and that's it settled. Of course Andrew Criddle has located most of the answers -- I'm just chasing down details.

It's already clear that the 'quote' is wrong, and has nothing whatever to do with Mithras. The connection to Mithras is merely an imaginative hypothesis of Cumont's, without any actual evidence for it.

In fact the quote is a mistranslation of something attributing a saying of Jesus to Zoroaster, not to Mithras.

The texts in which this version appears are all in Arabic.

* One of them (Ms. 142) is definitely dealing with medieval texts about talismans in which people from antiquity like Aristotle, Alexander, and Zoroaster appear as names, unconnected to any real historical knowledge of the subject. We still need a translation of the end of this, and I am still trying to locate the rest of the Italian translation.

* The other is an Arabic commentary on the Creed (Ms. 481), about which we know little, but which I'm trying to get translated (for money).

There is also a reference in Theodore bar Koni to something of the same kind. IIRC we have evidence of the state Persian cult of Zoroastrianism pretending that Jesus was an avatar of Zoroaster, as a debating trick, in order to resist the rise of Christianity in Persia in Sassanid times by sowing confusion.

Hypothesis: once the idea of Jesus=Zoroaster reborn was commonplace among the fire-priests, then it would be natural for them to quote bits of Jesus' words and ascribe them to "Zoroaster's avatar", or just "Zoroaster". Thus we would get the words of Jesus quickly attributed to Zoroaster. These might then be preserved, as with Theodore bar Koni, in Syriac literature, and so find their way as convenient into Arabic literature. This would account for all the references we have.

Still work to do on all this.

All the best,

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Old 09-15-2007, 03:22 AM   #122
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I think I know the origin of this quote.

What follows involves various arguments on circumstantial evidence but I will try and justify the steps.

Step 1 Mingana 142 is as Christian Arabic/Syiac works go rather unusual, an attack on paganism/magic which seems to have little or no known good parallels. Mingana 481 is much more mainstream. It is an example of the defence of Christianity by the use of collections of supposed prophecies by pagan philosophers about Christ. Mingana 142 is probably a modification of this sort of material for the rather unusual purposes of the author.

Mingana 481 has various parallels with other collections of pagan prophecies used in this way. Apart from the obvious like Plato and Aristotle we have Augustus which presumably refers to the oracle found in Syriac in BarHebraeus and Dionysius bar-Salibi and in Greek in Malalas
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The Oracle which was given to Augustus of the house of Octavianus when he wanted to learn who would reign after him 'A Hebrew child shall be called God, Christ who will reign over the blessed, being thus eternal he shall leave his dwelling place and come and return to our dwelling place.
(I've checked in the Mingana catalogue and it explicitly says that 481 includes Augustus (given in Garshuni without translation) as well as Plato Aristotle and Zoroaster among the philosophers quoted.)

Step 2 Sebastian Brock has studied the use of pagan prophecies by Syriac Christians in Some Syriac Excerpts from Greek Collections of Pagan Prophecies Vigilae Christianae 38 1984 pps 77-90 and A Syriac collection of Prophecies of the Pagan Philosophers Orientalia Lovaniensia Periodica XIV Leuven 1983 reprinted in Studies in Syriac Christianity (or via: amazon.co.uk) 1992.

Brock claims that several independent translations from Greek into Syriac are involved but that most of this material ultimately goes back to a single Greek work This work is, he argues, the Theosophia originally composed in eleven books in Greek c 500 CE maybe in Alexandria. The work does not survive as such but there is a fragment, an abstract (the Tubingen Theosophy) and various later Greek collections based on the Theosophia. See H Erbse Fragmente griechischer Theosophien (Hamburg 1941) Theosophorum Graecorum Fragmenta Teubner 1995.

There is no reference to Zoroaster in the surviving remains of the Theosophia however the Tubingen Theosophy says
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"In the fourth (or eleventh) [chapter] he mentions the oracles of a certain Hystaspes, (ChRHSEIS hUSTASPOU) who, as he said, was an extremely pious king of the Persians or Chaldeans and therefore received the revelation of the divine mysteries about the incarnation of the Savior."
The chapter about Hystaspes has not survived which is where we might expect to find claims about Zoroaster.

Step 3 So far the suggestion that the sayings about Zoroaster in the Mingana texts go back to the Theosophia has only the flimsiest basis however we may have much stronger evidence. A Brinkmann Die Theosophie des Aristokritos Rheinische Museum fur Philologie N F 51 (1896) 273-80 was the first to suggest that the Theosophia of which the Tubingen Theosophy is an abstract should be identified with the Theosophia of Aristokritos/Aristocritus which people repudiating Dualism in favour of Orthodox Christianity were required to Anathematize in late 1st millennium Byzantium. The Long Anathema says
Quote:
I anathematize also the book of Aristocritus which he entitled Theosophy, in which he tries to demonstrate that Judaism Paganism Christianity and Manichaeism are one and the same doctrine and so that what he says will appear plausible he attacks Mani as evil.
A number of scholars have agreed with Brinkmann others have disagreed. The direct evidence for Brinkmann's position is not all that impressive but it does avoid postulating two similar but independent works called Theosophia

Step 4 Bidez and Cumont in Les Mages Hellenises had drawn attention to the passage in the Long Anathema condemming Mani's alleged worship of Zoroaster. However we have recently recovered the original text on which the Long Anathema was based a sixth century work probably by Zacharias of Mitylene. Originally published by the late Abbe Marcel Richard in 1977 it is discussed thoroughly by Samuel Lieu in An Early Byzantine Formula for the Renunciation of Manichaeism in Manichaeism in Mesopotamia and the Roman East (or via: amazon.co.uk) 1994 pps 203-305. The pasage about Aristocritus reads
Quote:
In addition to all these I anathematize in the same way that most atheistic book of Aristocritus which he entitled Theosophy through which he tries to demonstrate that Judaism Paganism and Christianity and Manichaeism are one and the same doctrine with no other ulterior motive than to make all men Manichaeans as far as he can. For indeed he like Manichaeus in it makes Zarades a God who appeared as he himself says among the Persians and calls him the sun and our Lord Jesus Christ even if for the sake of deceiving and ensnaring those who come across his book which it would be more appropriate to call his Heretical Infatuation and at the same time his dearangement he gives the appearance of upbraiding Manichaeus.
This clearly indicates that Aristocritus (whether or not really a Manichaean) regarded Zoroaster and Christ as the same divine being making it plausible that in his Theosophia he would attribute things to Zoroaster originally attributed to Christ.

Conclusion It is prima facie plausible that (like similar material) the claims about Zoroster go back to the Theosophia. If this is the same as the work by Aristocritus we now know that he identified Zoroaster and Christ. Hence it seems likely that we have access in the Mingana manuscripts to some of the material about Zoroaster which caused the original form of the Theosophia to be anathematized and may have ensured that it survived only as extracts.

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Old 09-15-2007, 04:40 AM   #123
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Extremely interesting -- a good job of work, Andrew!

I agree that 142 looks like a derivative of 481, and the idea that the latter is using some form of collection of pagan testimonies for Christianity seems entirely reasonable and normal. Iw ill have to look these references up; Brock's assertion appears to be the key one.
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Old 09-15-2007, 01:50 PM   #124
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This Aristocritus is indeed rather obscure as he does not feature in the index of any of the patrologies that I have here. I will need to visit a library to learn more about him.

I need to defer my involvement on this thread and perhaps pick it up in a few months. This is because various things in real life are getting pressured at the moment, and I don't know when I will next be able to visit a research library.

If anything comes back from my various emails I will let people know, tho.
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Old 09-17-2007, 10:54 AM   #125
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Pearse View Post
This Aristocritus is indeed rather obscure as he does not feature in the index of any of the patrologies that I have here. I will need to visit a library to learn more about him.
Aristocritus is extremely obscure

My previous post contained everything that is explicitly said about him and an important part of that was not available until relatively recently.

The weakest part of my case may be the claim (plausible and quite widely held but unproven) that the philosophia of Aristocritus is the same as the philosophia of an unnamed author of roughly the same time of which large portions survive (eg the Tubingen Theosophy).

Without (at least provisionally) accepting the identity of the two philosophias we know very little of what Aristocritus taught.

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Old 09-18-2007, 02:16 PM   #126
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I have someone at work on the Ms. 481 bits, and she's already found that the PDF of the printout from the Mingana collection is incomplete and missing the last page. It sounds as if we might have an Arabic transcription and English translation in 2-3 weeks.
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Old 09-25-2007, 06:15 AM   #127
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While I was in Libya, I looked into getting people who could translate the Arabic text from which 481 is supposedly an extract. Also I've heard again from the Mingana who are printing me off some more pages.
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Old 09-25-2007, 01:55 PM   #128
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I have discovered that Fr. Khalil Samir SJ, the author of that article about the Arabic commentary on the creed from which Ms. 481 is an abstract, works at CEDRAC, an institution at St. Joseph University in Beirut, and has a web page. I have written to him to ask about getting hold of the full text.

I have also today found somewhere to buy Georg Graf's "Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur" 5 vols, Vatican, which should give me a better idea about Arabic Christian litterature and the place of this work within it.
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Old 09-26-2007, 02:53 AM   #129
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I've had a reply from Fr Samir, who was very interested in the unpublished letter to Cumont, but is on his way to Hong Kong for a conference until 7th October. It sounds as if he may well be in a position to help us a lot with the Arabic literature.
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Old 09-28-2007, 04:46 AM   #130
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In the meantime I have ordered a copy of Georg Graf's Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur and translated and expanded the Wikipedia German articles about him and Louis Cheiko, and CEDRAC.

Interestingly a German gentleman has already noticed the translations and emailed me. Anyone know anything about a Phoenician named Mago who did stuff about agriculture?
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