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Old 11-14-2008, 10:55 AM   #1
Toto
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Default SBL 2008: Josephus and John the Baptist

SBL is in Boston this year:

http://www.sbl-site.org/meetings/Con...x?MeetingId=12

I notice that there is a section on "Historical Jesus," but it doesn't look like one of the most interesting even for that topic, compared to "John, Jesus, and History" or this from "Josephus":

Rivka Nir, Open University of Israel
Josephus on John the Baptist: A Christian Interpolation? (20 min)

Quote:
Originally Posted by abstract
The consensus among scholars today is that the passage in Josephus about John the Baptist, AJ 18.116-119, is authentic. In this paper I challenge this consensus, and argue that the passage is a Christian interpolation reflecting an internal Christian dispute concerning the questions—

1) Is remission of sins the result of immersion in water or is it achieved by spiritual purification prior to immersion?

2) What is the role of bodily purity in Christian baptism?

Judaeo-Christian movements, to which I maintain the author of the passage belonged, retained the Jewish principle of immersion for bodily purity, but with it emphasized penitence, the Christian requirement for remission of sin.

Details of the passage also indicate Christian interpolation.

1. The epithet assigned to John, "the Baptist," and the terms the author uses for immersion (baptismos, baptisis) are taken from the Christian theological vocabulary.

2. The call to "join in baptism" suggests a mass collective immersion, an initiation into a new community, like Christian baptism, and, as in the case of Christian baptism, there is preaching and exhortation for it.

3. The expresssion "acceptable to God" associates immersion with the sacrificial rite in the Temple, which, like Christian baptism, it replaces.

4. John's baptism cannot be the Jewish Pharisaic immersion, the Essene immersion, or that of Bannus, for though in all of these the immersion is for purification of the body, none of these immersions has anything to do with repentance and spiritual purity, nor do they atone for sin.

Finally, I argue that Origen did not have the Josephus passage as we have it. The first reference to it is in Eusebius, and the interpolation must have been made at about or shortly before his time.
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Old 11-15-2008, 08:15 AM   #2
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Veddy interesting.
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Old 11-15-2008, 07:56 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toto View Post
SBL is in Boston this year:

http://www.sbl-site.org/meetings/Con...x?MeetingId=12

I notice that there is a section on "Historical Jesus," but it doesn't look like one of the most interesting even for that topic, compared to "John, Jesus, and History" or this from "Josephus":

Rivka Nir, Open University of Israel
Josephus on John the Baptist: A Christian Interpolation? (20 min)

Quote:
Originally Posted by abstract
The consensus among scholars today is that the passage in Josephus about John the Baptist, AJ 18.116-119, is authentic. In this paper I challenge this consensus, and argue that the passage is a Christian interpolation reflecting an internal Christian dispute concerning the questions—

1) Is remission of sins the result of immersion in water or is it achieved by spiritual purification prior to immersion?

2) What is the role of bodily purity in Christian baptism?

Judaeo-Christian movements, to which I maintain the author of the passage belonged, retained the Jewish principle of immersion for bodily purity, but with it emphasized penitence, the Christian requirement for remission of sin.

Details of the passage also indicate Christian interpolation.

1. The epithet assigned to John, "the Baptist," and the terms the author uses for immersion (baptismos, baptisis) are taken from the Christian theological vocabulary.

2. The call to "join in baptism" suggests a mass collective immersion, an initiation into a new community, like Christian baptism, and, as in the case of Christian baptism, there is preaching and exhortation for it.

3. The expresssion "acceptable to God" associates immersion with the sacrificial rite in the Temple, which, like Christian baptism, it replaces.

4. John's baptism cannot be the Jewish Pharisaic immersion, the Essene immersion, or that of Bannus, for though in all of these the immersion is for purification of the body, none of these immersions has anything to do with repentance and spiritual purity, nor do they atone for sin.

Finally, I argue that Origen did not have the Josephus passage as we have it. The first reference to it is in Eusebius, and the interpolation must have been made at about or shortly before his time.
I find there is a weakness to the theory that the John the Baptist story was interpolated.

If the TF, considered to be interpolated, is examined, it will be noticed that there is no contradiction between the Jesus story and information found in the TF.

But, there are contradictions in the John the Baptist episode in Josephus and that of the NT.

It would have been quite odd of the interpolator to claim Herod was married to the wife of Herod's brother who lived in Rome knowing that in the NT the authors claimed it was another brother called Philip.

And, in another contradiction, if the John the Baptist story was interpolated after the JTB story of the NT, it would be quite bizarre for the interpolator to claim that JTB was killed because Herod thought JTB had many followers that threatened Herod's own security when the interpolator would have known that in the NT, JTB was beheaded because of a request of Herodias' daughter.

The contradictions seem to indicate that the JTB story in Josephus was not interpolated but perhaps was copied from unknown authors who were not Jews.

The author called Mark dos not appear to be familiar with Jewish traditions and even the language, he may have ben a prime candidate to have used Josephus writings.
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Old 11-15-2008, 08:17 PM   #4
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That's why Rikva Nir speculates that the JtB passage was interpolated by a Jewish-Christian sect, not the proto-orthodox.

Frank Zindler speculated that the passage was interpolated by followers of John the Baptist, the forerunners of the Mandeans.
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Old 11-15-2008, 10:56 PM   #5
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A few thoughts on this proposal...
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Originally Posted by Toto View Post
That's why Rikva Nir speculates that the JtB passage was interpolated by a Jewish-Christian sect, not the proto-orthodox.
I have the feeling that the writer will assume traditional datings for christian materials, which will probably not impress many here. She won't be able to justify the notion of baptism as christian vocabulary, especially when it seems like christianity absorbed baptism somewhat awkwardly.

She is certainly correct that baptism is an initiation ceremony. However, the notion of initiation is a necessity when one has a community or association as we see in Greek society and taken on in Jewish society by the Pharisees and the Essenes.

Again she is correct that it cannot be a Pharisaic immersion: Pharisaic immersion was a repetitive act, while baptism was a one-off event -- as was usually the case with initiations.

The gospel indications were that JtB's community was an eschatological one, which saw this current world and its structures coming to an end.

There are a few remarkable differences between the gospel JtB and that of Josephus:
  1. Putting John in Machaerus shows a knowledge of the realm of Herod Antipas which wouldn't allow the story of Salome's dance, as Herod's administrative center was in Galilee and there is no way of bringing John's head in on the same evening as the dance.
  2. The reason Josephus's Antipas arrests John is because of his hold on the people -- nothing to do with Herodias's marriage change.
  3. The Josephus account ascribes the destruction of Antipas's army to the death of John, a fact missing from the gospel story.
The Joseph version of the JtB story doesn't apparently come from gospel traditions, so I think Nir is probably pushing it uphill to justify her position.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toto View Post
Frank Zindler speculated that the passage was interpolated by followers of John the Baptist, the forerunners of the Mandeans.
Which the christians prserved? Highly unlikely.


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Old 11-16-2008, 08:59 AM   #6
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This inspired me to do some research, and stumbling across a John Meier article, then re-reading the Josephus passage, suddenly gave me an idea.

Let's re-examine the JtB passage in Origen's Against Celsus:

Quote:
I would like to say to Celsus, who represents the Jew as accepting somehow John as a Baptist, who baptized Jesus, that the existence of John the Baptist, baptizing for the remission of sins, is related by one who lived no great length of time after John and Jesus. For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising purification to those who underwent the rite. Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless— being, although against his will, not far from the truth— that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ),— the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice. Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of their relationship by blood, or of their being brought up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine. If, then, he says that it was on account of James that the desolation of Jerusalem was made to overtake the Jews, how should it not be more in accordance with reason to say that it happened on account (of the death) of Jesus Christ, of whose divinity so many Churches are witnesses, composed of those who have been convened from a flood of sins, and who have joined themselves to the Creator, and who refer all their actions to His good pleasure.
While re-reading this, I suddenly wondered: why would Origen suddenly digress from the JtB passage he's referring to, in order to talk about James? He locates the JtB passage in Ant. 18, but does not locate any of the James material he's talking about. Why not?

But what if...he isn't digressing, and isn't talking about another book of Ant. at all--what if he's actually talking about the same passage? Wouldn't that make a lot of sense? 1) He says he's referring to Ant. 18 2) He says JtB is mentioned there 3) he then talks about James, because...the passage originally involved James in some way.

John Meier's article "John the Baptist in Josephus: Philology and Exegesis" (JBL, v. 111 no. 2) notes that the passage begins and ends the same way: with the statement that "the Jews" believed Herod's army was destroyed as divine retribution for the death of JtB. Meier sees this as evidence of Josephean authorship.

But...what if it's evidence of tampering? Why repeat the information? Couldn't it mean an interpolator is copying Josephean langauge?

Let's go back to Origen's language:

Quote:
whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people...[he] says nevertheless...that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just....he says that it was on account of James that the desolation of Jerusalem was made to overtake the Jews...
How odd that in the passage where Josephus talks about the JtB passage, he ignores the content of that passage, and instead focuses on the relationship between the death of James and the fall of Jerusalem. Odd, because...the JtB passage also focuses on the relationship between the death of a religious figure and a military defeat--the death of JtB and the destruction of Herod's army!

Again, why would Josephus essentially write the same verse twice, in 18.116 and 18.119b? But what if...at least one of those verses was originally about not the destruction of Herod's army, but the destruction of Jerusalem?

Then I recalled that Luke-Acts contains some Josephean parallels (I am convinced by now that the author of canonical Luke-Acts used Antiquities directly--I have much more intriguing ideas about this relationship, but I won't get into it right now). Acts 12 tells us that "Herod" beheaded James, "the brother of John".

It suddenly hit me: what if the JtB passage in Ant. was originally not about the beheading of a John...but was instead about the beheading of a James?

Maybe we have a record of an original version after all--we have it in Origen's garbled account, though if true it's difficult to sort out. John was certainly called a Baptist, in some way, in the original passage. It's unclear if Jesus were mentioned. It's also unclear if it described a beheading of John. But could it have described a beheading of James? Origen attributes Josephus with the (apparently incorrect) opinion that the fall of Jerusalem was due to the death of James. But what if Josephus actually said, originally--in Ant. 18--that it was his countrymen who attributed the fall of Jerusalem to the death of James, and Origen confused their belief with Josephus's? Hence, Ant. 18.119b would not originally have repeated the language of 18.116--instead, that was the work of the interpolator, trying to streamline the passage. Instead, 18.119b would originally have said something like "the Jews were of the opinion that Jerusalem was destroyed to avenge James".

Note that none of this addresses any purported relationship between James and Jesus in Josephus. I am not claiming there was any such relationship in Josephus. This is simply about the JtB passage in Josephus, and the possibility that a "James [the Just]" was originally also mentioned there, in addition to John, giving rise to the Origenic reference, as well as Acts 12:2.

(Finally, when Origen writes "Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ," perhaps he simply meant that Josephus believed someone else was the Christ--and so he did: he thought Vespasian was the Messiah. This could explain some of Origen's language, though not all of it.)
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Old 11-16-2008, 07:08 PM   #7
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Yet no one ever said James was beheaded.

DCH

Quote:
Originally Posted by the_cave View Post
This inspired me to do some research, and stumbling across a John Meier article, then re-reading the Josephus passage, suddenly gave me an idea.

Let's re-examine the JtB passage in Origen's Against Celsus:

Quote:
I would like to say to Celsus, who represents the Jew as accepting somehow John as a Baptist, who baptized Jesus, that the existence of John the Baptist, baptizing for the remission of sins, is related by one who lived no great length of time after John and Jesus. For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising purification to those who underwent the rite. Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless— being, although against his will, not far from the truth— that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ),— the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice. Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of their relationship by blood, or of their being brought up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine. If, then, he says that it was on account of James that the desolation of Jerusalem was made to overtake the Jews, how should it not be more in accordance with reason to say that it happened on account (of the death) of Jesus Christ, of whose divinity so many Churches are witnesses, composed of those who have been convened from a flood of sins, and who have joined themselves to the Creator, and who refer all their actions to His good pleasure.
While re-reading this, I suddenly wondered: why would Origen suddenly digress from the JtB passage he's referring to, in order to talk about James? He locates the JtB passage in Ant. 18, but does not locate any of the James material he's talking about. Why not?

But what if...he isn't digressing, and isn't talking about another book of Ant. at all--what if he's actually talking about the same passage? Wouldn't that make a lot of sense? 1) He says he's referring to Ant. 18 2) He says JtB is mentioned there 3) he then talks about James, because...the passage originally involved James in some way.

John Meier's article "John the Baptist in Josephus: Philology and Exegesis" (JBL, v. 111 no. 2) notes that the passage begins and ends the same way: with the statement that "the Jews" believed Herod's army was destroyed as divine retribution for the death of JtB. Meier sees this as evidence of Josephean authorship.

But...what if it's evidence of tampering? Why repeat the information? Couldn't it mean an interpolator is copying Josephean langauge?

Let's go back to Origen's language:

Quote:
whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people...[he] says nevertheless...that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just....he says that it was on account of James that the desolation of Jerusalem was made to overtake the Jews...
How odd that in the passage where Josephus talks about the JtB passage, he ignores the content of that passage, and instead focuses on the relationship between the death of James and the fall of Jerusalem. Odd, because...the JtB passage also focuses on the relationship between the death of a religious figure and a military defeat--the death of JtB and the destruction of Herod's army!

Again, why would Josephus essentially write the same verse twice, in 18.116 and 18.119b? But what if...at least one of those verses was originally about not the destruction of Herod's army, but the destruction of Jerusalem?

Then I recalled that Luke-Acts contains some Josephean parallels (I am convinced by now that the author of canonical Luke-Acts used Antiquities directly--I have much more intriguing ideas about this relationship, but I won't get into it right now). Acts 12 tells us that "Herod" beheaded James, "the brother of John".

It suddenly hit me: what if the JtB passage in Ant. was originally not about the beheading of a John...but was instead about the beheading of a James?

Maybe we have a record of an original version after all--we have it in Origen's garbled account, though if true it's difficult to sort out. John was certainly called a Baptist, in some way, in the original passage. It's unclear if Jesus were mentioned. It's also unclear if it described a beheading of John. But could it have described a beheading of James? Origen attributes Josephus with the (apparently incorrect) opinion that the fall of Jerusalem was due to the death of James. But what if Josephus actually said, originally--in Ant. 18--that it was his countrymen who attributed the fall of Jerusalem to the death of James, and Origen confused their belief with Josephus's? Hence, Ant. 18.119b would not originally have repeated the language of 18.116--instead, that was the work of the interpolator, trying to streamline the passage. Instead, 18.119b would originally have said something like "the Jews were of the opinion that Jerusalem was destroyed to avenge James".

Note that none of this addresses any purported relationship between James and Jesus in Josephus. I am not claiming there was any such relationship in Josephus. This is simply about the JtB passage in Josephus, and the possibility that a "James [the Just]" was originally also mentioned there, in addition to John, giving rise to the Origenic reference, as well as Acts 12:2.

(Finally, when Origen writes "Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ," perhaps he simply meant that Josephus believed someone else was the Christ--and so he did: he thought Vespasian was the Messiah. This could explain some of Origen's language, though not all of it.)
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Old 11-17-2008, 06:01 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toto View Post
Rivka Nir, Open University of Israel
Josephus on John the Baptist: A Christian Interpolation? (20 min)

Quote:
Originally Posted by abstract
....

Finally, I argue that Origen did not have the Josephus passage as we have it. The first reference to it is in Eusebius, and the interpolation must have been made at about or shortly before his time.
Given Against Celsus 1.47, what does this mean? Is the author proposing that Origen messed up royally? Or suggesting that the passage is also interpolated into Origen?

Ben.
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Old 11-17-2008, 07:10 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben C Smith View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toto View Post
Rivka Nir, Open University of Israel
Josephus on John the Baptist: A Christian Interpolation? (20 min)
Given Against Celsus 1.47, what does this mean? Is the author proposing that Origen messed up royally?
He did with the James passage.


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Old 11-17-2008, 07:58 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DCHindley View Post
Yet no one ever said James was beheaded.
The author of Acts did. He says it was "James, the brother of John"--but was it? Later in Acts 12, he describes the death of Agrippa in the same way that Josephus does. Doesn't it seem like he often uses Josephus when he talks about the Judean rulers?

Origen and our current version of Josephus don't, no. But Origen doesn't mention the beheading of John, either. In fact, Origen doesn't even mention the death of John at all--he only mentions the death of James. He seems to be excusing Josephus, in his debate with Celsus, as he has just used him to prove something about JtB (it's unclear what), but has to explain away what appears to have been a statement linking the death of James with the fall of Jerusalem. Origen seems to think that whatever text he's speaking of, Celsus is familiar with it--so it seems unlikely that he's bringing Hegesippus into the conversation (the only "Josephus" who seems to link the fall of Jerusalem with the death of James--and yet Hegesippus clearly does believe in "Jesus as the Christ", so it seems doubly unlikely that Origien is confusing Hegesippus with Josephus).

This remains a speculative suggestion, of course, but how better to explain Origen's words?
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