Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why Did Irenaeus Identify Pontius Pilate as the governor of Claudius'? [Part Two]

Smith in his English translation of the Armenian manuscript of Proof of the Apostolic Preaching for the Ancient Christian Writers Series published by Newman asks the questions you and DC fail to ask. He writes:

Pontius Pilate was in fact governor from 27 - 37 AD under Tiberius and so was recalled before the accession of Claudius (41 AD). Irenaeus, however maintained that Christ died at the beginning of the reign of Claudius, and so makes Pilate "the procurator of Claudius." In AH 2.22.5 Irenaeus says that this dating of Christ's death was the witness of all the 'elders' who knew John in Asia, as being St. John's own account, and that others gave the same account as being that of other apostles; and in the following section (2.22.6) alleges as confirmation John 8:57 - the Jews therefore said to Him: thou art not yet fifty years old; from this Irenaeus concludes that He must have been at least forty. He supposed, therefore, that about ten years of teaching elapsed between Christ's death and His baptism (in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius at the age of about thirty cf. Luke 3.1 and 23). As Irenaeus had had personal knowledge of at least one 'elder' who had known John in Asia - namely, Polycarp - his evidence is not without weight, and it is not easy to explain how he could have fallen into this error of dating; for error it certainly is, though supported by a 'proof from tradition' of greater weight than most such proofs [p. 205]

This is as far as Smith will go - which is a relatively reasonable assessment (at least as far as assessments from people who always capitalize 'he' when referencing Jesus go).

The question however has a number of hidden alleyways that few people have considered. The most obvious is whether 'Luke' the author of the gospel and Acts thought the 'Herod' of Luke - i.e. "That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies." [Luke 23:12] was the same 'Herod' of Acts i.e. -"It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them." [Acts 12:1]

It doesn't matter what the real historical chronology is. If as Smith notes Irenaeus was only faithfully reporting what Polycarp believed and Polycarp stood closer to the author of Acts than any of us - the author of Acts might have thought the same Herod lived on for two years after the Passion and persecuted the Church.

In other words, the 'skeptics' at this site sometimes act in the same manner as the pious who can't get around assuming that 'Herod' has to be 'Agrippa I' because 'real history' demands it.

The reality might be that the author of Luke-Acts, Polycarp (assuming he is not the author of Luke-Acts) and Irenaeus all might have shared some bizarre historical chronology based on a variant source. Hence the question of whether Luke-Acts is based on a variant copy of Josephus (as 'Luke' clearly is developing his chronology based on information from some kind of Josephan text).

So the question boils down to (a) if Irenaeus used Acts and (b) the author of Luke-Acts used some variant copy of Josephus - is it reasonable to assume that Irenaeus didn't have access to Luke's variant copy of Josephus. 

I don't think so especially as we have references to Irenaeus using Josephus in the (admittedly unreliable) catena. 

The question then (if there are no objections so far) is why the editor of the Josephan chronology had all this misinformation.

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