Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hippolytus, Josephus, Essenes: Christian editing of Josephus?

Sid Green, a net-acquaintance, argues that Hippolytus in Refutation of All Heresies copied his information on the Essenes from Josephus, and the way that he presents the information indicates that Josephus has undergone editing by Christians.

I thought I'd compare the two to see how this idea works, and to flex my rusty NT blogging muscles. For reference, At the bottom of this post after the READ MORE fold I've placed both side by side, more or less topic by topic.

It's important to note that Hippolytus normally follows Josephus faithfully, line by line, sometimes even preserving interesting words or language from Josephus. There are, however, several interesting, and Green argues, telltale, differences.

First, Josephus writes:
then, that he will maintain just actions toward humanity; that he will harm no one, whether by his own deliberation or under order; that he will hate the unjust and contend together with the just;
...while Hippolytus, normally faithful to Josephus, suddenly veers from the Josephean text:
next, that he will observe just dealings with men, and that he will in no way injure any one, and that he will not hate a person who injures him, or is hostile to him, but pray for them.
Clearly the description in Hippolytus makes the Essenes more "Christian" in their outlook than the extant Josephus text does, since Hippolytus has the Essenes praying for their enemies. Did a Christian editor change the text of Josephus to make it less Christian, or did Hippolytus make the Essenes more Christian? If the latter, what could possibly have been his motive?

In discussing the four orders of the Essenes, Josephus writes:
They are divided into four classes, according to their duration in the training, [H] and the later-joiners are so inferior to the earlier-joiners that if they should touch them, the latter wash themselves off as if they have mingled with a foreigner.
...while in Hippolytus, where the [H] is above, he has an entire passage with no parallel in Josephus about fundamentalists who are tougher than average about rules, randomly circumcise people, and who are known as Zealots and Sicarii:
For some of them discipline themselves above the requisite rules of the order, so that even they would not handle a current coin of the country, saying that they ought not either to carry, or behold, or fashion an image: wherefore no one of those goes into a city, lest (by so doing) he should enter through a gate at which statues are erected, regarding it a violation of law to pass beneath images. But the adherents of another party, if they happen to hear any one maintaining a discussion concerning God and His laws— supposing such to be an uncircumcised person, they will closely watch him and when they meet a person of this description in any place alone, they will threaten to slay him if he refuses to undergo the rite of circumcision. Now, if the latter does not wish to comply with this request, an Essene spares not, but even slaughters. And it is from this occurrence that they have received their appellation, being denominated (by some) Zelotae, but by others Sicarii. And the adherents of another party call no one Lord except the Deity, even though one should put them to the torture, or even kill them.
..when you look at the passage carefully, the obvious seam in Josephus jumps out. He moves immediately from declaring that there are four types of Essenes to discussing the later-joiners relative to the early joiners. Whereas, in Hippolytus, the progression of ideas, from discussing what fundamentalists the more-Essene-than-the-Essenes are, to the late-comers, a progression that makes more sense.

A little further down, Hippolytus does not parallel a passage in Josephus about 'the war against the Romans' since that would likely make no sense to a reader a century removed from Josephus.

Further on, once again we are faced with the choice of either an editor removing a passage from Josephus or Hippolytus Christianizing the Essenes:

For the view has become tenaciously held among them that whereas our bodies are perishable and their matter impermanent, our souls endure forever, deathless: they get entangled, having emanated from the most refined ether, as if drawn down by a certain charm into the prisons that are bodies.

Now the doctrine of the resurrection has also derived support among these; for they acknowledge both that the flesh will rise again, and that it will be immortal, in the same manner as the soul is already imperishable.
In the extant Josephus passage, the Essenes believe the body will die but the soul will live. Hippolytus has them supporting a doctrine similar to that of Christianity with resurrection of both the body and of the soul.  Did Hippolytus make the Essenes more Christian? If so, whatever for?

The final passage I'd like to point out offers some very interesting changes. Josephus writes (I've marked them into two parts, A and B):
For the good, on the one hand, sharing the view of the sons of Greece they portray the lifestyle reserved beyond Oceanus and a place burdened by neither rain nor snow nor heat, but which a continually blowing mild west wind from Oceanus refreshes.

For the base, on the other hand, they separate off a murky, stormy recess filled with unending retributions. It was according to the same notion that the Greeks appear to me to have laid on the Islands of the Blessed for their most courageous men, whom they call heroes and demi-gods, and for the souls of the worthless the region of the impious in Hades, in which connection they tell tales about the punishments of certain men—Sisyphuses and Tantaluses, Ixions and Tityuses—establishing in the first place the [notion of] eternal souls and, on that basis, persuasion toward virtue and dissuasion from vice.
In Hippolytus this is completely different.....
And this locality the Greeks were acquainted with by hearsay, and called it Isles of the Blessed. And there are other tenets of these which many of the Greeks have appropriated, and thus have from time to time formed their own opinions.

For the disciplinary system in regard of the Divinity, according to these (Jewish sects), is of greater antiquity than that of all nations. And so it is that the proof is at hand, that all those (Greeks) who ventured to make assertions concerning God, or concerning the creation of existing things, derived their principles from no other source than from Jewish legislation. And among these may be particularized Pythagoras especially, and the Stoics, who derived (their systems) while resident among the Egyptians, by having become disciples of these Jews.
In Part A Hippolytus appears to make the claim that the Greeks have appropriated tenets of Jewish thought, though that's not completely clear. Josephus was ever eager to prove the antiquity of the Jews and their greatness. It strikes me that this is a very Josephean claim. Yet this claim is not found in the Josephean "original".

Part B is as different as night and day. Josephus gives a run-down of Greek beliefs, completely veering from his discussion of the Essenes to talk about how the Greeks established their own ideas of the soul. Hippolytus continues his very Josephean train of thought, attributing the development of Greek ideas of God to the Jews, claiming that Greek wise men got their ideas as the disciples of Jews, and fronting this with the very Josephean claim that Jewish ideas of the Divinity predate those of all other nations!

In fact, Josephus makes this exact claim of Hippolytus' in Contra Apionem, in Part II, where he asserts the antiquity of the Jewish law over those of other lawgivers among the non-Jews, points to cultural borrowings from the Jews now prominent among the Greeks, and claims that Pythagoras and other thinkers held ideas about God similar to those of the Jews, with the clear implication that they learned such ideas from the Jews.

Thus, it would seem that the position Josephus holds in the passage on the Essenes is the opposite of the one he holds elsewhere. Moreover, if you read the passages against each other, it almost looks as if Josephus is replying to Hippolytus' assertions that the Greeks depended on the Jews by saying that, no, the Greeks developed their own ideas based on their own mythological characters!

I think it is very clear, but especially in this last section that an editor, probably a Christian editor, has been at work adjusting Josephus to de-Christianize his discussion of the Essenes.

Once again, the two passages are set against each other in a long table below the READ MORE line. To save space I've reduced the font size, just hit CONTROL and + to increase the size of the font in your browser window.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Canon SX260 HS Review

Well well. I've finished a careful reading of Doherty's Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. I've got Price's book on the problems of mythicism and Ehrman's new volume waiting for me to put eyes on them. Expect reviews shortly. In the meantime, I've got a first impressions review of the new Canon SX260 HS I just got on my Taiwan blog with some sample pics.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Not yet....

Still trying to get going blogging here, but too much stuff going on right now.