Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Which 'Josephus' is Closer to the Original? Pseudo-Hegesippus Book 4 Chapter 8 or Bellum Judaicum Book 4 Chapter 4?

We continue with our systematic comparison of Pseudo-Hegesippus with Jewish War. Our next chapter in Pseudo-Hegesippus - which continues this disappointingly unhistorical description of the siege of Jerusalem - reads:

When the priests and most particularly Iesus who was older than the rest, less important than Ananus however, who was engaged in second place, had said these things to the Idumaeans who were most indignant because they had been straightway received by the city, Simon one of the leaders of the Idumaeans (spoke thusly): 'It is not in the least,' he said, ' to be wondered at if they rage against citizens and hold them shut up who have closed the gates to an allied tribe and do not allow their colleagues and comrades to enter, who speak to us from the wall and drive us back from the walls as if enemies, whom they consider friends. Who may doubt that they prepare to admit the Romans and perhaps to wreathe the gates while they are entering? What is the greater injury? Certainly that city is accustomed to be open to all men for the reason of reverence of the way of life, to us alone as if enemies is it shut off, we alone are rejected, we alone are driven off. They pretend to seek our judgment whom they consider worthy not even of the threshold of the city. Those things are hidden which they have done against them, we are the witnesses and judges of our hurt. We have noticed what those shut in are enduring, when we are ordered to put down our arms, and it is believable what their decision is anticipated to be, whose credibility is mistrusted? Let us hasten therefore to rescue those who are shut up, for whom the temple has been made a prison, lest they should be held up to the arrival of the Roman army and given up as captives to Vespasian. Let us take away the siege from the temple, let us drive away the offensive guards who allow no one to go out even for purging their bowels. If anyone wishes to carry in food for those shut up, it is prevented, if anyone wishes to go out, he is snatched away to death. The practice of religion has been made a crime.' [Pseudo-Hegesippus 4.8]

The parallel passage in Jewish War reads:

Thus spake Jesus; yet did not the multitude of the Idumeans give any attention to what he said, but were in a rage, because they did not meet with a ready entrance into the city. The generals also had indignation at the offer of laying down their arms, and looked upon it as equal to a captivity, to throw them away at any man's injunction whomsoever. But Simon, the son of Cathlas, one of their commanders, with much ado quieted the tumult of his own men, and stood so that the high priests might hear him, and said as follows: "I can no longer wonder that the patrons of liberty are under custody in the temple, since there are those that shut the gates of our common city to their own nation, and at the same time are prepared to admit the Romans into it; nay, perhaps are disposed to crown the gates with garlands at their coming, while they speak to the Idumeans from their own towers, and enjoin them to throw down their arms which they have taken up for the preservation of its liberty. And while they will not intrust the guard of our metropolis to their kindred, profess to make them judges of the differences that are among them; nay, while they accuse some men of having slain others without a legal trial, they do themselves condemn a whole nation after an ignominious manner, and have now walled up that city from their own nation, which used to be open to even all foreigners that came to worship there. We have indeed come in great haste to you, and to a war against our own countrymen; and the reason why we have made such haste is this, that we may preserve that freedom which you are so unhappy as to betray. You have probably been guilty of the like crimes against those whom you keep in custody, and have, I suppose, collected together the like plausible pretenses against them also that you make use of against us; after which you have gotten the mastery of those within the temple, and keep them in custody, while they are only taking care of the public affairs. You have also shut the gates of the city in general against nations that are the most nearly related to you; and while you give such injurious commands to others, you complain that you have been tyrannized over by them, and fix the name of unjust governors upon such as are tyrannized over by yourselves. Who can bear this your abuse of words, while they have a regard to the contrariety of your actions, unless you mean this, that those Idumeans do now exclude you out of your metropolis, whom you exclude from the sacred offices of your own country? One may indeed justly complain of those that are besieged in the temple, that when they had courage enough to punish those tyrants whom you call eminent men, and free from any accusations, because of their being your companions in wickedness, they did not begin with you, and thereby cut off beforehand the most dangerous parts of this treason. But if these men have been more merciful than the public necessity required, we that are Idumeans will preserve this house of God, and will fight for our common country, and will oppose by war as well those that attack them from abroad, as those that betray them from within. Here will we abide before the walls in our armor, until either the Romans grow weary in waiting for you, or you become friends to liberty, and repent of what you have done against it."[Jewish War 4.4.4]

As I said in my last post, I have a hard time taking any of this seriously. It is an obvious contrivance. As Hegesippus himself at admits AT ITS BEST what is described here might be considered a shadow of the truth. I tend to view it as a diversion from Justus's narrative which unfortunately is no longer with us. The one thing that emerges from this discussion is Hegesippus's "Simon one of the leaders of the Idumaeans" becomes in Jewish War "Simon, the son of Cathlas, one of their [i.e. Idumaean] commanders." Kasher (Jews, Idumaeans, and ancient Arabs: relations of the Jews in Eretz-Israel p. 226) pulls back the falseness of this Hebrew name by noting "As for the names of the Idumaean commanders we see they all had Hebrew or Aramaic names, two of them being brothers. Reconstruction of the name Simon son of Cathlas from the root qatala (= murderer) is based on comparison of the passages mentioning the man in War, V 249, and probably in VI 148 and IV 271."

Clearly then Jewish War is inventing a name for Simon based on his role in the "murders" in Jerusalem. More importantly it is further removed from the original narrative common to both traditions.

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.