Monday, August 16, 2010

Towards an Identification of 'Second Century Josephus' as the Author of Luke-Acts

The most important thing which emerges from our citation of Cohen, Laqueur and a scholarly tradition which argues that Vita must stand closer to Jewish War's original source is that it opens the way for an argument that the differences which exist between Pseudo-Hegesippus and Jewish War are a result of both texts ultimately deriving from that same ur-text related to Vita. 

The point then is certain differences between Hegesippus and Jewish War cannot be explained by merely assuming that Hegesippus is a copy or a 'summary' of Jewish War. Things like their conflicting understanding of something as basic as Josephus's historical identity (i.e. Joseph bar Gorion vs. Joseph bar Matthias), Hegesippus's knowledge of the original Testimonium Flavianum, a consistently different set of numbers, consistent spelling differences and most importantly at least a few occasions where Vita and Hegesippus provide parallel accounts of stories against Jewish Wars readings.

Even with that said there is no doubt that Hegesippus and Jewish War almost always agree with one another against Vita. Hegessipus and Jewish War represent what has to be defined as a common textual tradition. But we cannot just stop there and keep assuming that the texts of Jewish Antiquities, Jewish War and Vita that are now in our possession faithfully represent the literary productivity of 'first century Josephus.' 

We have to also incorporate the arguments of Henry St. J. Thackeray who supports the interpolation theory, credits Josephus' "Greek assistants" for variation in styles throughout his writings. One of the most important literary characteristics of these 'assistants' according to Thackeray are what he calls 'Thucydideanisms.' It cannot be forgotten that the only explanation that is ever given for why Jewish War presents Josephus's activities in the Jewish War in the third person is because the writer was trying to imitate Thucydides. 

All the arguments I drawing upon are well established opinions within the study of Josephus. The one wrinkle that we are adding to these old formulations is that the earliest Christian witnesses to Josephus necessarily put forward two Josephus figures - one who lived in the first century and another who was a Christian convert who wrote a 'memoir' which chronicled events in the Judeo-Christian tradition down to the year 147 CE.

This existence of this tradition isn't dependent on a single Christian writer. References to the existence of this corpus attributed to a second century Christian figure named 'Josephus' who wrote such a book in the year 147 CE begins with Clement but goes through Origen, Eusebius and Epiphanius too. 

What is most striking about the discovery of this 'second century Josephus' is that if we incorporate the formulations of Thackeray, Cohen and Laqueur into this discussion we have the makings of a very good explanation as to why Jewish War almost treats 'first century Josephus' as 'someone other' than the original author. A second century Christian figure was undoubtedly taking 'first century Josephus's Aramaic hypomnema and developing it into a larger narrative where Josephus now appeared in the third person.

My guess is also that the author of this heavily Christianized narrative was also responsible for creating the New Testament canon. His incorporation of what have been noted as Josephan elements in Luke and Acts must have been part of a parallel effort to the creation of his chronology.

As Steve Mason notes besides generic parallels of genre and form and the use of identical historical events, which are inconclusive as proofs, the "coincidence ... 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. 

We may at this point bring forward some of Richard Carrier's incorporation of Mason's arguments to advance our own thesis:

Generic Parallels

(which do not prove anything in themselves but add to or support the firmer evidence)

- Both L and J are self-described and organized as histories.
- Both L and J are written in Hellenistic Greek (a literary Koinê).
- 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."
- Both L and J open with a conventional historian's preface
- 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) [2].
- Both Acts and J engage the same historical conventions of speech-creation.
- Both L and J emphasize the antiquity and respectability of their religion and tie it to the revered and renowned religious center of Jerusalem 

Story Parallels

(some of which afford firm evidence of borrowing, some not)

"More than any other Gospel writer, Luke includes references to the non-Christian world of affairs. Almost every incident of this kind that he mentions turns up somewhere in Josephus' narratives." — Mason, p. 205

Among these stories or facts (and Mason only mentions some of many) are:

The census under Quirinius (Luke 3:1; JW 2.117-8, JA 18.1-8). 

The census under Quirinius is notable for three reasons. First, Josephus uses the census as a key linchpin in his story, the beginning of the wicked faction of Jews that would bring down Judaea (and the temple), whereas Luke transvalues this message by making this census the linchpin for God's salvation for the world, namely the birth of Christ (which also would result in destruction of the temple) [7]. 

Second, no other author did or was even likely to have seen this census as particularly noteworthy--Josephus alone uses it as an excuse for him to introduce his villains, a group that scholars doubt existed as a unified faction--and therefore it is perhaps more than coincidence that it should appear as a key event elsewhere, even more so since only Josephus, precisely because of his apologetic aim, associates the census with Judas the Galilean, and thus it is peculiar that Luke should do so as well. 

Third, Matthew does not mention anything about it in his account of the nativity, thus one is left to wonder where Luke learned of it. Given the first two points, the answer could be that Luke borrowed the idea from Josephus, and therefore it probably does not come from any genuine tradition about Jesus. Finally, it is most unlikely that Josephus got the information from Luke, for Josephus provides much more detailed, and more correct information (e.g. he knows exactly when and why the census happened, that the census was only of Judaea, not the whole world, etc.), such that it is far more likely that Luke was drawing upon and simplifying Josephus than that Josephus was expanding on Luke.

The same three rebel leaders: Judas the Galilean--even specifically connected with the census (Acts 5:37; JW 2.117-8, JA 18.1-8); Theudas (Acts 5:36; JA 20.97); and "The Egyptian" (Acts 21:38; JW 2.261-3, JA 20.171). 

It seems quite a remarkable coincidence that Luke should even mention these men at all (no other Christian author does), and that he names only three rebel leaders, and that all three are the very same men named by Josephus--even though Josephus says there were numerous such men (JW 2.259-264; JA 20.160-9, 20.188) and he only singled out these three especially for particular reasons of his own. In fact, to use only the rather generic nick-name "The Egyptian," instead of, or without, an actual name of any kind (there were millions of Egyptians, and certainly thousands in Judaea at any given time), though explicable as an affectation of one author, seems a little strange when two authors repeat the same idiom. 

It also makes sense for Luke to draw these three men from Josephus: since Josephus was writing for a Roman audience, if the Romans knew any Jewish rebels, it would be these three men. Just as Josephus named them as examples of what good Jews are not, Luke names them specifically as examples of what the Christians are not--and as the latter two were specifically painted by Josephus as religious figures, messianic prophets, similar to Jesus, it would have behooved Luke to disassociate Jesus with these men, recently popularized to Romans by Josephus as villains. Similarly with Judas, who was a military rebel, very much the opposite of Jesus, the peaceful religious reformer. Notice, for example, how Luke greatly downplays Jesus' use of violence in clearing the temple, and emphasizes in its place his role as teacher: compare Luke 19:45-8 with Mark 11:15-8, Matthew 21:12-6, and John 2:13-6. 

Finally, Luke makes errors in his use of these men that has a curious basis in the text of Josephus. When luke brings up Theudas and Judas in the same speech, he reverses the correct order, having Theudas appear first, even though that does not fit what Josephus reports--indeed, Josephus places Theudas as much as fifteen years after the dramatic time in which Luke even has him mentioned. That Luke should be forced to use a rebel leader before his time is best explained by the fact that he needed someone to mention, and Josephus, his likely source, only details three distinct movements (though he goes into the rebel relatives of Judas, they are all associated with Judas). And when Josephus mentions Theudas, he immediately follows with a description of the fate of the sons of Judas (JA 20.97-102) and uses the occasion to recap the actions of Judas himself (associating him with the census, as Acts does). Thus, that Luke should repeat this very same incorrect sequence, which makes sense in Josephus but not in Acts, is a signature of borrowing. Further evidence is afforded here by similar vocabulary: both use the words aphistêmi "incited" and laos "the people." 

Luke's use of the Egyptian is also telling: Luke has him leading the sicarii, assassins, into the desert. But this does not make sense, since the sicarii operated by assassination under the concealment of urban crowds, not in the wilds. Moreover, Josephus does not link the Egyptian with them, though he does mention both in exactly the same place (cf. JW 2.258-61, JA 20.167-9), and in fact also mentions there other figures who led people into the desert, even though the Egyptian led them to the Mount of Olives. As Mason puts it (p. 212):

This is clearly part of [Josephus'] literary artistry. How did Luke, then, come to associate the Egyptian, incorrectly, with the sicarii? If he did so independently of Josephus, the coincidence is remarkable. It is even more remarkable because sicarii is a Latin term for assassins. Josephus seems to have been the first to borrow this word and make it a technical term for the Jewish rebels in his Greek narrative.

That Luke should use the same word, and similarly conflate the Egyptian with the other impostors mentioned by Josephus in the very same passage as leading people into the desert , further signifies borrowing--that exactly these mistakes should be made is incredible if not the result of drawing (albeit carelessly) on Josephus.

The death of Agrippa I as God's vengeance for accepting praise as a god (Acts 12:21-3; JA 19.343-52) 

Although Luke puts this event in a different location and changes other details of the story, there is a strange similarity that suggests borrowing: Josephus connects the divine praise with the putting on of a brilliant robe, whereas Luke mentions putting on a robe before the praise, but without making the connection explicit--one wonders why the donning of the robe is mentioned by Luke at all, if he was not thinking of this story in Josephus.

The association of Agrippa II with Berenice (Acts 25:13, 25:23, 26:30; JA 20.145) 

Whereas Josephus hints at an incestuous affair between them, and Agrippa II's other profligate tendencies, there is no explanation given by Luke for mentioning Berenice at all, and from his account one would think that Agrippa II is an honorable, disciplined observer of Jewish customs. But if a reader knows the details of Josephus, the entire scene of Paul before Agrippa II becomes comic sarcasm. It seems plausible that Luke intended it this way, and therefore may have gotten the idea from Josephus (see Mason pp. 96-100).

The association of Felix with Drusilla (Acts 24:24-6; JA 20.143) 

Josephus reports that Drusilla the Jew was seduced and abandoned her husband, the king of Emessa, to marry Felix. Acts puts the two together in a way that makes more sense if this account in Josephus is understood, especially considering Josephus' portrayal of Felix as notoriously cruel to the Jews. For when Felix and Drusilla visit Paul in jail, Paul discusses "justice, self-control, and coming judgement," at which Felix is terrified for some unexplained reason. As Mason puts it, "Why these themes in particular, and not the resurrection of Jesus or faith in Christ, which dominate the book elsewhere?" (p. 114). And why did Paul's subject scare him? This could be answered by the fact that Josephus' accounts of Felix and Drusilla were spreading, and were in the mind of Luke when he wrote of this encounter.

Felix sending priests, "excellent men," to Rome for trial on petty charges (Life 13) 

Could this have been Luke's pretext or model for having the same thing happen to Paul?

Mention of Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene (Luke 3:1; JW 2.215, 2.247, JA 19.275)

The parable of the hated king sounds a lot like Josephus on Herod (Luke 19:12-27; JW 1.282-5)

Similarities in the description of the siege of Jerusalem (including mention of slaughtered children: Luke 19:43-4; JW 6)

Mention of a famine in the reign of Claudius (Acts 11:28-9; JA 3.320, 20:51-3, 20.101)

Pilate's attack on Galileans in L sounds like Pilate's attack on Samaritans at Gerizim (Luke 13:1; JA 18.85-7)

Religion as Philosophy

Mason concludes with one overriding similarity of tactic between L and J that is unlikely to have been independently devised: both very cleverly paint their religions as respectable Graeco-Jewish philosophical schools. Some of these features:

L begins by asserting that Christian teachings were "handed down" (paradidômi) by eye-witnesses of Jesus, just as J emphasizes that Jewish teachings were "handed down" (paradidômi) by Moses, and by the fathers of Pharisees. In both cases, the authors are drawing on Greek ideas of handing down succession in philosophical schools. Thus, both L and J are portraying their religion as traditional and philosophical (though the concept also has precedents in Paul).

L and J use the word "secure" (asphaleia) in describing their concept of truth, a philosophical concept for factual and ethical truth.

L's emphasis, far greater than in any other NT text, on the virtues of poverty and the sins of hypocrisy and wealth, are all standard philosophical themes (in Stoic and Epicurean thought especially, but also in Platonic and Cynic ideals). Josephus also engages in similar discussions of the three schools of Judaism. Compare Luke 2:7, 2:16, 2:24, 3:10-14, 4:18, 6:20-6, 12:13-21, 14:1-14, 16:14, 16:19-31, 18:1-14 (and Acts 2:44-5, 4:32-5) with comparable passages in other Gospels, if any, and it becomes clear that Luke has this philosophical message more in mind than anyone.

L is the only Christian author to use the concept of free and frank speech, identified and praised in philosophy as parrhêsia (Acts 2:29, 4:29, 4:31, 28:31).

L follows J in calling the Jewish sects (including Christianity) philosophical schools, haireseis, a term that would later take on a negative meaning among Christians as "heresy" (Acts 5:17, 15:5, 26:5; on Christianity as a hairesis: 24:5, 24:14-5, 28:22). We know of no other author but Josephus to have done this--it is a creative feature of his own apologetic program and therefore likely his own idea.

L calls the Pharisees the "most precise school" (Acts 26:5), yet no one else but Josephus uses this idiom (JW 1.110, 2.162; JA 17.41; Life 189).

Finally, L curiously never mentions the third school, the Essenes. Yet Josephus praised them above all. They also happened to be much like Christians in many respects. Mason advances the hypothesis that Luke intended the Christians to take the place of the Essenes--and certainly wanted to avoid competing with them--so that Christianity would appear to Roman readers as this very third school: the most like Greek philosophy, the most like Christianity, and the most praised by Josephus. We lack the data necessary to prove or refute this hypothesis, but it is worth considering in light of all the evidence so far. It certainly fits.

So now back to our discovery of a 'second century Christian Josephus.' I think he rather than 'first century Josephus' is the author of the original Jewish War, the one known to Clement. I think this text was highly Christianized and then Eusebius 'corrected' it to make it accord with opinions that would be more reasonably attributed to a first century Jewish rebel. The original narrator - 'second century Josephus' - was edited out of our surviving copies of Jewish War. 

I also think 'second century Josephus' (later identified as Hegesippus by Eusebius to distinguish him from 'first century Josephus') wrote the Luke-Acts corpus. The reason the 'citation' of parallel stories all seem like 'free adaptations' of things found in Josephus (but nevertheless sharing the same employment of common words) is because the same author wrote both texts. He doesn't need to cite word for word what is in his original narrative. He is paraphrasing his own account, albeit slightly differently (as we see also in the Josephan corpus). 

This understanding helps resolves the similarities between Luke and Jewish War. The original author - viz. 'second century Josephus' - was continually working on a formulation which presented Christianity as the 'successor' to Judaism, the Jews having only recently been defeated militarily by Roman armies and now stripped of their land.

I would even argue that the opening lines of Luke perfectly embody the methodology of Jewish Wars as a second century creation. Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 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

As I noted many times before Theophilus is most likely Theophilus of Antioch. The identity of second century Josephus is still unclear to us but the fact that he was already writing a very influential work IN ROME which continued to be used by Christians in all parts of the Empire suggests a pattern very similar to Acts (Clement also used Acts even though Alexandria isn't even mentioned in the text). 

Acts and Jewish War also have that perplexing 'switch' from third person narrative to first person (or in the case of Acts the 'we' form). I think that second century Josephus's text was preserved with a great deal of variation owing to it being copied and recopied with many new additions. It was ultimately 'corrected' back into a work which claimed to be from Josephus bar Matthias by Eusebius BUT second century Josephus's Christianized work is the actual grandfather of both the received Josephan narrative AND the so-called Hegesippus tradition.

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