Biografi över Morton Smith

Jag har skrivit en Wikipedia-artikel om Morton Smith, kontroversiell upptäckare av Klemensbrevet innehållande utdrag ur Hemliga Markusevangeliet. För något år sedan skrev jag en helt ny artikel om Hemliga Markusevangeliet på Wikipedia emedan den då existerande var undermålig. Den tidigare artikeln om Morton Smith var mycket kort och lätt tendentiös och jag bestämde mig därför att göra ett försök att åstadkomma en mer fullständig och mer balanserad artikel. Jag förmodar att jag, eftersom jag (åtminstone i skrivande stund) har skrivit alltsammans i artikeln, också har rätten att publicera densamma på min blogg.

Förhoppningsvis kan artikeln förbättras ytterligare. Vi får dock hoppas att den får vara skonad från redigeringskrig iscensatt av religiösa motiv.

MORTON SMITH

Robert Morton Smith, född 28 maj 1915, död 11 juli 1991,[1] var professor i antikens historia vid Columbia University i staden New York.[2]

Smith var en framstående kännare av antikens historia med inriktning på judendomen, kristendomen och mysteriekulter.[3] Han är måhända dock mest känd för att ha påträffat ett brev i munkklostret Mar Saba i Israel 1958. Brevet, som uppges vara skrivet av Klemens av Alexandria, innehåller två utdrag ur det så kallade Hemliga Markusevangeliet.

Biografi

Morton Smith föddes i Philadelfia, Pennsylvania i USA, den 28 maj 1915. År 1936 tog han kandidatexamen (B.A.) med engelska som huvudämne vid Harvard University i Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hans fortsatta studier bedrevs vid Harvard Divinity School (del av Harvard University) där han studerade Nya testamentet, judendomen och grekisk-romersk religion och avlade en teologie kandidatexamen (Bachelor of Sacred Theology) år 1940.

Smith, som också studerat rabbinsk hebreiska, erhöll ett stipendium som möjliggjorde att han kunde resa till Jerusalem för att studera vid Hebreiska universitetet 1940–1942. Efter studierna kunde han emellertid inte lämna området på grund av USA:s inträde i Andra världskriget och använde därför tiden fram till 1945 till att doktorera som filosofie doktor med en avhandling skriven på hebreiska[4] [5] och blev därigenom den förste icke-juden att lyckas med den bedriften.[6] Han fick sin avhandling godkänd 1948.[7] I denna, som utkom i engelsk översättning 1951 som Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, lyfte Smith fram paralleller och likheter mellan evangelierna och den tidiga rabbinska litteraturen[8] (Tannaim: de rabbinska lärde vars uttalanden finns bevarade i mishna, den äldsta delen av talmud).

Smith återvände till Harvard Divinity School för att doktorera en andra gång, nu som Teologie doktor (1957), med en avhandling som först 1971 utkom i tryck: Palestinian Parties and Politics That Shaped the Old Testament.[9] Här argumenterar han för att det i det gamla Israel funnits två rivaliserande riktningar där synen på Jahve, som inte bara den högste utan den ende guden, var i minoritetsställning; en falang som ändå lyckades erövra makten genom att knyta exempelvis kung Josia till sin uppfattning.[10]

Mellan åren 1950 och 1955 undervisade han på Brown University i Rhode Island som assisterande professor. Därefter tjänstgjorde han ett år som gästprofessor i religionshistoria vid Drew University i Madison, New Jersey, varpå han 1957 utnämndes till professor i antikens historia vid Columbia University i staden New York. Han upprätthöll den tjänsten fram till sin pensionering som professor emeritus 1985, men fortsatte att undervisa nästan ända till sin död i akut hjärtsvikt vid 76 års ålder 1991.[11]

Gärning

Smith prästvigdes 1946 i Episkopalkyrkan i USA och verkade också som präst under åren 1946–1950.[12] Efter detta innehade han inga tjänster inom Episkopalkyrkan, men kvarstod ändå under hela sitt liv i dess prästregister.[13]

Smith ägnade åtskillig tid åt att spåra upp gamla handskrifter. Hans intresse väcktes i slutet av 1940-talet då han under sina doktorandstudier[14] kom att undersöka handskriftsläget rörande den asketiske 400-talsabboten Isidoros av Pelusium. Smith erhöll senare ett stipendium som möjliggjorde för honom att söka ett års tjänstledighet från Brown University och resa runt i Grekland för att fotografera handskrifter av och om just Isidoros. Under 1951 och 1952 besökte Smith kloster, privata och offentliga bibliotek, och lyckades så småningom fotografera alla betydande Isidoros-handskrifter i Västeuropa. Utöver detta lät Smith beskriva, fotografera och katalogisera många andra dittills okatalogiserade handskriftssamlingar.[15]

Smith företog åtminstone två ytterligare resor i syfte att leta efter handskrifter. Han tillbringade flera månader under sommaren 1958 i Turkiet och Palestina (då han bland annat fann Klemensbrevet), och han reste till Syrien 1966 på jakt efter hebreiska handskrifter.[16]

Morton Smith var känd som en mycket hängiven och skarpsinnig forskare som lade stor vikt vid detaljer och fakta. Därtill var han en ofta skoningslös kritiker av sina kolleger, framför allt när han ansåg deras arbeten vara bristfälliga.[17]Hans bidrag spänner över många forskningsfält, däribland den grekiska och romerska antikens litteratur, Nya testamentet, patristiken och judendomen under såväl andra tempelperioden som den senare talmudiska tiden.[18]

Klemensbrevet och Hemliga Markusevangeliet

Det var i samband med en vistelse på munkklostret Mar Saba sommaren 1958 som Smith fann ett tillsynes i hast nedskrivet brev på tre tidigare tomma sidor i en tryckt bok från 1646.[19] Smith hade redan i början av 1942 besökt klostret och då provat på klosterlivet i nästan två månader,[20][21] och hade nu 16 år senare som en ynnest för sitt långvariga ideella engagemang med att samla in pengar till det grekisk-ortodoxa patriarkatet i Jerusalem givits tillåtelse att under tre veckors tid undersöka klosterbiblioteket.[22][23] Eftersom de flesta värdefulla böcker hade förflyttats till patriarkatets bibliotek i Jerusalem, koncentrerade sig Smith i första hand på att finna sällsynta texter i inbindningarna av nyare böcker, vilka ibland bundits om med material från äldre kasserade handskrifter.[24] Mot slutet av sin vistelse fann han så en grekisk text skriven i vad som föreföll vara en 1700-talshandstil. Smith fotograferade sidorna och lämnade boken kvar.[25]

Redan i december samma år lät Smith lämna in sin egen transkription av brevet med en preliminär engelsk översättning till Library of Congress,[26] för att tillförsäkra sig upphovsrätten och därmed kunna dela upptäckten med andra forskare utan att riskera att bli bestulen på den.[27] Vid ett möte på Society of Biblical Literature år 1960 lät Smith offentliggöra sitt fynd, men det dröjde till 1973 innan han utkom med sin mångåriga och grundliga studie av brevet i Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark. Att det dröjde så länge (15 år efter upptäckten) hängde samman med att Smith uppenbarligen förväntade sig att forskaretablissemanget skulle vara motvilligt att acceptera den nya skriften, och han ägnade därför många år åt grundliga studier för att försöka autentisera texten.[28] Dessutom var Smith i huvudsak klar med boken redan 1966, men det tog ytterligare sju år i produktionsledet innan boken kunde tryckas.[29]

Kritik mot Smiths teorier

Genom att brevets äkthet redan tidigt blev ifrågasatt, kom misstankar om manipulering att riktas mot Smith själv, emedan den ende som rimligen skulle ha haft möjlighet att förfalska brevet var dess upptäckare.[30]

Saken förstärktes ytterligare genom Smiths tolkning av den längre passagen ur Hemliga Markusevangeliet som att Jesus och lärjungen med linneskynket genomgick en dopritual. Genom att bygga på många källor kom Smith till slutsatsen att Jesus lät sina närmaste lärjungar deltaga i mysterieriter där man förenades i anden, och där lärjungarna i initieringen inträdde i Guds himmelska rike (Guds rikes mysterium).[31] Även om Smith hyllades för sin grundlighet och stora lärdom, blev många upprörda över hans slutsatser om Jesus som en libertinistisk mystagog som lät hypnotisera sina lärjungar till att tro att de reste till himlen.[32] Att Smith dessutom antydde att den andliga föreningen mellan Jesus och lärjungarna möjligen också kunde ha innefattat fysisk förening var än mer frånstötande för många forskare, vilka omöjligt kunde föreställa sig att Jesus kunde framställas på det viset i en trovärdig antik kristen text.[33][34]

Efter Smiths död har anklagelserna mot honom blivit än mer uttalade.[35] Smiths egna tolkningar av brevet har dock ingen inverkan på frågan om dess äkthet. Smith reagerade kraftigt med både upprördhet och vrede gentemot alla antydningar om att han skulle ha förfalskat brevet.[36] och vidhöll sin oskuld fram till sin död.

Publikationer

Böcker:

  • Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels (1951)
  • The Ancient Greeks (1960)
  • Heroes and Gods: Spiritual Biographies in Antiquity [i samarbete med Moses Hadas] (1965)
  • Palestinian Parties and Politics That Shaped the Old Testament (1971)
  • Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark (1973)
  • The Secret Gospel; The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark (1973)
  • The Ancient History of Western Civilization [med Elias Bickerman] (1976).
  • Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? (1978)
  • Hope and History (1980)
  • Studies in the Cult of Yahweh. Vol. 1. Historical Method, Ancient Israel, Ancient Judaism. Vol. 2. New Testament, Early Christianity, and Magic [redigerad av Shaye J. D. Cohen] (1996)
  • What the Bible Really Says [redigerad tillsammans med R. Joseph Hoffmann] (1992).

Artiklar i urval:

  • Notes on Goodspeed’s “Problems of the New Testament Translation”. Journal of Biblical Literature 64 (1945), 501–514.
  • Psychiatric Practice and Christian Dogma, Journal of Pastoral Care 3:1 (1949), 12–20.
  • Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels. Journal of Biblical Literature, Monograph Series VI. ‘Society of Biblical Literature’ (1951).
  • The Common Theology of the Ancient near East, Journal of Biblical Literature 71 (1952), 135–147.
  • Minor Collections of Manuscripts in Greece, Journal of Biblical Literature 72 (1953), chap. xii.
  • The Manuscript Tradition of Isidore of Pelusium. Harvard Theological Review 47 (1954), 205–210.
  • Comments on Taylor’s Commentary on Mark, Harvard Theological Review 48 (1955), 21–64.
  • The Religious History of Classical Antiquity, Journal of Reformed Theology 12 (1955), 90–99.
  • The Jewish Elements in the Gospels, Journal of Bible and Religion, 24 (1956), 90–96.
  • Σύμμεικτα: Notes on Collections of Manuscripts in Greece. Ἐπετηρὶς Ἑταιρείας Βυζαντιῶν Σπουδῶν 26 (1956), 380–393.
  • Pauline Problems. Apropos of J. Munck, ‘Paulus und die Heilsgeschichte’, Harvard Theological Review 50 (1957) 107-131.
  • An Unpublished Life of St. Isidore of Pelusium. Eucharistherion (1958) 429–438.
  • Aramaic Studies and the Study of the New Testament, Journal of Bible and Religion 26 (1958), 304-313.
  • The Description of the Essenes in Josephus and the Philosophumena. Hebrew Union College Annual 29 (1958), 273–313.
  • The Image of God: Notes on the Hellenization of Judaism, with Especial Reference to Goodenough’s Work on Jewish Symbols, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 40, 2 (1958), 473–512.
  • A Byzantine Panegyric Collection with an Unknown Homily for the Annunciation, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 2, 137–155.
  • On the New Inscription from Serra Orlando, American Journal of Archaeology 63 (1959), 183f.
  • Greek Monasteries and their Manuscripts, American Journal of Archaeology 63 (1959), 190f.
  • What is Implied by the Variety of Messianic Figures, Journal of Biblical Literature 78 (1959), 66–72.
  • Monasteries and Their Manuscripts, Archaeology 13 (1960), 172–177.
  • Ἑλληνικὰ χειρόγραφα ἐν τῇ Μονῇ τοῦ ἁγίου Σάββα. Översatt till grekiska av Archimandrite K. Michaelides. Νέα Σιών 52 (1960), 110–125, 245–256.
  • New Fragments of Scholia on Sophocles’ Ajax. Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 3:1 (1960), 40–42.
  • The Dead Sea Sect in Relation to Ancient Judaism, New Testament Studies 7 (1960-1), 347–360.
  • Hebrew Studies within the Study of History, Judaism 11 (1962), 333–344.
  • The Religious Conflict in Central Europe, The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 8 (1962), 21–52.
  • Religions in the Hellenistic Age, J. Neusner (ed.), Religions in Antiquity (1966), 158–173.
  • Jesus’ Attitude Towards the Law, Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies [1965] (1967), Papers, I, 241–244.
  • Historical Method in the Study of Religion, History and Theory, Beiheft VIII (1968), 8-16.
  • The Present State of Old Testament Studies. Journal of Biblical Literature 88 (1969), 19–35.
  • On the Problem of Method in the Study of Rabbinic Literature, Journal of Biblical Literature 92 (1973), 112 f.
  • On the Authenticity of the Mar Saba Letter of Clement. Catholic Biblical Quarterly 38:2 (1976), 196–199.
  • A Rare Sense of προκοπτω and the Authenticity of the Letter of Clement of Alexandria, God’s Christ and His People: Studies in Honour of Nils Alstrup Dahl (ed. Jacob Jervell och Wayne A. Meeks; Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1977), 261–264.
  • In Quest of Jesus. New York Review of Books 25, no. 20 (December 21, 1978).
  • Clement of Alexandria and Secret Mark: The Score at the End of the First Decade, Harvard Theological Review 75 (1982), 449–461.
  • Regarding Secret Mark: A Response by Morton Smith to the Account by Per Beskow, Journal of Biblical Literature 103 (1984), 624.

Referenser

Noter

  1. ^ Movaco, Social Security Death Index.
  2. ^ Lindsay Jones (red.) Encyclopedia of Religion, 2005.
  3. ^ John Dart, Morton Smith; ‘Secret Gospel’ Discoverer (Los Angeles Times, 20 juli 1991).
  4. ^ Lindsay Jones (red.) Encyclopedia of Religion, 2005.
  5. ^ Peter Jeffery, The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex, Death, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery, Yale University Press, 2007, s. 150.
  6. ^ Joseph Aviram, Symbiosis, Symbolism, and the Power of the Past: Canaan, Ancient Israel, and Their Neighbors from the Late Bronze Age Through Roman Palaestina (2003), s. 573.
  7. ^ Morton Smith, Maqbilot ben haBesorot le Sifrut haTanna’im (Ph.D. Diss., Hebrew University, 1948).
  8. ^ Allan J, Pantuck, A question of ability: what did he know and when did he know it? Further excavations from the Morton Smith archives, s 188; i Tony Burke (ed.), Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate. Proceedings from the 2011 York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium’. (Cascade Books, 2013).
  9. ^ Lindsay Jones (red.) Encyclopedia of Religion, 2005.
  10. ^ Albert Pietersma, Review of Palestinian Parties and Politics That Shaped the Old Testament by Morton Smith, Journal of Biblical Literature Vol. 91, No. 4 (Dec., 1972), s. 550–552. Förhandsgranskning tillgänglig 30 juli 2013.
  11. ^ Lindsay Jones (red.) Encyclopedia of Religion, 2005.
  12. ^ Peter Jeffery, The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex, Death, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery, Yale University Press, 2007, s. 150.
  13. ^ Lindsay Jones (red.) Encyclopedia of Religion, 2005.
  14. ^ Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel; The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark (New York: Harper and Row, 1973), s. 8.
  15. ^ Allan J. Pantuck, Response to Agamemnon Tselikas on Morton Smith and the Manuscripts from Cephalonia, Biblical Archaeology Review (Tillgänglig online 28 juli 2013).
  16. ^ Allan J. Pantuck, Solving the Mysterion of Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark, Biblical Archaeology Review (Tillgänglig online 18 mars 2016).
  17. ^ John Dart, Morton Smith; ‘Secret Gospel’ Discoverer (Los Angeles Times, 20 juli 1991).
  18. ^ Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Christianities. Oxford University Press (2003), s. 70.
  19. ^ Isaac Vossius’ första utgåva av Ignatios av Antiochias brev (Epistolae genuinae S. Ignatii martyris) publicerad i Amsterdam år 1646.
  20. ^ Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel; The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark (1973), s. 1, 4.
  21. ^ Stephen C. Carlson, The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark, Waco, Texas (2005), s. 8.
  22. ^ Allan J. Pantuck; Scott G. Brown, Morton Smith as M. Madiotes: Stephen Carlson’s Attribution of Secret Mark to a Bald Swindler, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 6 (2008) s. 106–107.
  23. ^ Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel; The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark (1973), s. 9.
  24. ^ Smith skrev att han inte hade tillstånd att ta isär böckerna. Ändå var det just det han gjorde och upptäckte då bland annat nästan ett dussin blad, där flera visade sig innehålla textfragment från Makarios av Egypten; alla okända i standardutgåvorna. (Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel, s. 11–13).
  25. ^ Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel, s. 12–13).
  26. ^ Manuscript Material from the Monastery of Mar Saba: Discovered, Transcribed, and Translated by Morton Smith, New York, privately published (dec. 1958), s, i + 10.
  27. ^ Allan J. Pantuck i en kommentar på Timo S. Paananens blogg, (Tillgänglig online 28 juli 2013).
  28. ^ Guy G. Stroumsa, Gershom Scholem and Morton Smith: Correspondence, 1945-1982, Jerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture; Leiden, Brill( 2008), s. xiv.
  29. ^ Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, (2005), s. 6.
  30. ^ Exempelvis Quesnell, Quentin, The Mar Saba Clementine: A Question of Evidence, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 37 (1975), 48–67.
  31. ^ Smith utvecklade sina ideer om detta i framför allt Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God?, New York, Harper & Row, (1978).
  32. ^ Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, (2005), s. 6.
  33. ^ Guy G. Stroumsa, Gershom Scholem and Morton Smith: Correspondence, 1945-1982, Jerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture; Leiden: Brill,( 2008), s. xiv.
  34. ^ Endast vid två tillfällen i sina två böcker om Hemliga Markusevangeliet nämnde Smith i ren spekulation att Jesus och lärjungarna kan ha förenats också fysiskt i riten, men han ansåg att det väsentliga var att lärjungarna fylldes av Jesu ande: ”Freedom from the law may have resulted in completion of the spiritual union by physical union.” (Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel, s. 114). “… ‘the mystery of the kingdom of God’ . . . was a baptism administered by Jesus to chosen disciples, singly, and by night. In this baptism the disciple was united with Jesus. The union may have been physical (… there is no telling how far symbolism went in Jesus’ rite), but the essential thing was that the disciple was possessed by Jesus’ spirit.” (Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark, s. 251).
  35. ^ Exempelvis Stephen C. Carlson, The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2005), Peter Jeffery, The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex, Death, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006) och Francis Watson, Beyond Suspicion: On the Authorship of the Mar Saba Letter and the Secret Gospel of Mark, Journal of Theological Studies, NS 61 (2010), 128–170.
  36. ^ Bland annat hotade han med att stämma förläggaren av Per Beskows bok Strange tales about Jesus på en miljon dollar om boken inte drogs tillbaka. Tvisten löstes genom att Beskow omformulerade några meningar. (The Blackwell Companion to Jesus, ed. Delbert Burkett – 2011 CHAPTER 28, Per Beskow, Modern Mystifications of Jesus.)
Annonser

Jobjorn Boman versus Richard Carrier on the subject of Thallus on Jesus

I intend to discuss two recent articles on the subject of Thallus on Jesus. Richard Carrier, in “Thallus and the Darkness at Christ’s Death,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 8 (2011-2012), 185-91, argues that Thallus did not mention Jesus and that this is proven by Eusebius who actually quotes him. In response to Carrier’s article, Jobjorn Boman wrote “Comments on Carrier: Is Thallus Actually Quoted by Eusebius?”, which was published in Liber Annuus 62 (2012), Jerusalem 2013, pp. 319-25. Boman agrees with Carrier that Thallus did not mention Jesus at all, but reaches that conclusion from a different angle.

Having discussed this with Boman for a long time (many years actually); having evaluated Carrier’s article and proofread and commented upon Boman’s article in its coming into being, I think it is now time for me to present both views. I begin with Carrier’s article, as it was published first.

Carrier begins his article this way:

“It is commonly claimed that a chronologer named Thallus, writing shortly after 52 CE, mentioned the crucifixion of Jesus and the noontime darkness surrounding it (which reportedly eclipsed the whole world for three hours), and attempted to explain it as an ordinary solar eclipse. But this is not a credible interpretation of the evidence. A stronger case can be made that we actually have a direct quotation of what Thallus said, and it does not mention Jesus.” (185)

Boman summarizes Carrier’s argument thus:

“Richard Carrier argues, amongst other things, that Thallus was actually quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea, and thus that modern scholarship possesses the exact words of Thallus – words which do not contain any reference to Jesus Christ or Christianity.”

Thallus’ work is lost, and so is our knowledge of when he lived, other than that he was active before c. 180 CE (when Theophilus of Antioch referred to him in his Apology to Autolycus). The one, who is supposed to have said that Thallus (or in Greek: Thallos) mentioned the crucifixion of Jesus, is the Christian historian Julius Africanus in the early 3rd century CE. But also Africanus’ work is missing, so his saying is in turn rendered by George Syncellus writing in the early ninth century. In Syncellus’ version, Africanus had written the following regarding the “Gospel’s” view of the darkness that fell over the world:

“Thallus calls this darkness an eclipse of the sun in the third book of his Histories, without reason it seems to me. For the Hebrews celebrate the passover on the 14th day, reckoning by the lunar calendar, and the events concerning the savior all occurred before the first day of the Passover. But an eclipse of the sun happens when the moon creeps under the sun, and this is impossible at any other time but between the first day of the moon’s waxing and the day before that, when the new moon begins. So how are we to believe that an eclipse happened when the moon was diametrically opposite the sun?”

Now, Carrier believes that Thallus never wrote such a thing and that Eusebius actually quotes Thallus verbatim on this issue and thereby proves that to be the case.

Carrier emphasizes that Syncellus/Africanus does not say that Thallus mentioned Jesus, only that Thallus would have called the darkness that happened at Jesus’ death an eclipse of the sun – which just as easily could be interpreted as if Thallus mentioned an eclipse and Africanus thought that it was that one which occurred when Jesus hung on the cross.

In dating Thallus, Carrier rejects the information on this given by Eusebius in his Chronicle. The relevant information in that book is preserved in only an Armenian translation and there Eusebius says that Thallus dealt with events up until the 167th Olympiad, which ended in 109 BCE, more than a century before the time of Christ. Since Thallus probably would have written about later events, had he been writing in the first or second century CE, Eusebius seems to suggest that he was writing ca 100 BCE. This would then indicate that Thallus could not have written about a solar eclipse in the time of Christ, long after Thallus’ own death.

Carrier therefore suggests (like many others before him) that the Armenian text was corrupted and that the original read something else. Carrier does not think that Africanus would have made such a mistake as to believe that Thallus mentioned the darkness at Jesus’ death, if Thallus in fact lived much earlier. But unlike many Christian apologetics, Carrier does not suggest that Eusebius instead originally wrote the 207th Olympiad, which ended in 52 CE and that Thallus thereby would be giving the earliest testimony to Jesus. Instead Carrier makes a point that Eusebius just as easily could have written the 217th Olympiad ending in 92 CE, the 227th Olympiad ending in 132 CE or the 237th Olympiad ending in 172 CE.

But as I have shown in this Swedish blog post: https://rogerviklund.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/thallos-och-flegon-som-jesusvittnen-del-3-%E2%80%93-den-167e-207e-eller-217e-olympiaden/, such a mistake could not easily be explained. In short, the mistake must either have been made in the original Greek or in the translation into Armenian. In Armenian the 167th Olympiad would be Ճերորդ Կերորդ Էերորդ (hundredth, sixtieth, seventh), i.e the initials ՃԿԷ = 100 + 60 + 7. The 207th is then Մերորդ Էերորդ, i.e. the initials ՄԷ = 200 + 7 and the 217th is Մերորդ Ժերորդ Էերորդ, i.e the initials ՄԺԷ = 200 + 10 + 7, and so on. In either case you must suppose two mistakes. If the mistake was made in Greek, 167 would be ρξζ, 207 would be σζ and 217 σιζ. Here as well we would have to suppose two mistakes. In fact, it would be as likely as if our 207, 217, 227 etc, would be rendered as 167 by mistake. Carrier is of course right in that if the original did not say 167 ­– it could as easily have said 217, 227, 237 as 207. But the fact is that such an error is rather unlikely to be made and is in fact suggested simply because Thallus otherwise would have died long before he could have reported about the darkness at Jesus’ crucifixion.

As I said earlier, Carrier thinks that Eusebius actually quotes Thallus. In his Chronicle Eusebius do quote a certain Phlegon, seemingly verbatim. This same Phlegon is also mentioned by Africanus, where also he is said to be witnessing the darkness that befell the earth when Jesus died. He should even have stated that the darkness occurred “in the time of Tiberius Caesar, during the full moon, a full eclipse of the sun happened, from the sixth hour until the ninth.” But in Eusebius’ quotation, Phlegon says nothing like this, but instead:

“Now, in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad [32 CE], a great eclipse of the sun occurred at the sixth hour [i.e. noon] that excelled every other before it, turning the day into such darkness of night that the stars could be seen in heaven, and the earth moved in Bithynia, toppling many buildings in the city of Nicaea [modern days İznik]”.

As can be seen Phlegon only mentions a solar eclipse which obviously was seen in Bithynia and an earth quake also in Bithynia, but not necessarily occurring at the same time. It happened at the sixth hour – but did of course not last until the ninth. As we nowadays can calculate the exact time when solar eclipses historically have occurred, we can tell that there was no total solar eclipse in Palestine anytime during the period of Pilate, and of course there has never been a solar eclipse at the Jewish Passover, as solar eclipses cannot occur during that festival.

But we now know when the only possible solar eclipse reported by Phlegon took place. Phlegon supposedly should have said that it occurred in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad. This Olympiad (the four years between the games) lasted from 28/29 to 32 CE and the fourth year should accordingly mean 32 CE. But there was only one total solar eclipse in this part of the world that would fit Phlegon’s description, and this solar eclipse happened on November 24, 29 CE along a corridor passing across Bithynia.

bithynien2

All calculations are from NASA’s Eclipse Web Site.

Only between the blue lines did the moon totally cover the sun; just for a few seconds close to the edges while the eclipse would have lasted a couple of minutes in the centre near the orange line. The sun would only have been partially darkened in Palestine and even if there was an earthquake in Bithynia, no one in Jerusalem would have noticed it; being 1080 km away. I have written more about this in the Swedish blog post Thallos och Flegon som Jesusvittnen. Del 4 – Solförmörkelsen.

Anyway, before Eusebius quotes Phlegon, he seemingly refers to [an]other source[s] and with the already cited part above, the passage goes like this:

“Jesus Christ, according to the prophecies which had been foretold, underwent his passion in the 18th year of Tiberius [32 CE]. Also at that time in other Greek compendiums we find an event recorded in these words: ‘the sun was eclipsed, Bithynia was struck by an earthquake, and in the city of Nicaea many buildings fell’”. All these things happened to occur during the Lord’s passion. In fact, Phlegon, too, a distinguished reckoner of Olympiads, wrote more on these events in his 13th book, saying this: ‘Now, in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad [32 CE], a great eclipse of the sun occurred at the sixth hour [i.e. noon] that excelled every other before it, turning the day into such darkness of night that the stars could be seen in heaven, and the earth moved in Bithynia, toppling many buildings in the city of Nicaea’”.

It is in these “other Greek compendiums” that Thallus is hidden, according to Carrier’s theory. He gives two major reasons for believing this.

First, the Greek for “other” is allos (ἄλλος) and Thallus’ Greek name was Thallos (θαλλοσ). Hence, the original θαλλοῦ (Thallou) would according to this theory have been altered into ἄλλοις “since only two errors are required to alter the one to the other (the loss of a theta, and a confusion or ‘emendation’ converting an upsilon to iota-sigma”).

Second, even if Eusebius meant “other Greek compendiums”, also these must have included Thallus’ testimony, as 1) “Eusebius used a chronology of Thallus as a source, and […] it was almost certainly the very same Histories cited by Africanus”, and 2) “Eusebius would certainly have quoted Thallus here” if “Thallus mentioned the eclipse in connection with Jesus”.

The latter reason is, in my opinion, a stronger argument. But if we shall presume that Eusebios originally wrote Thallos, we have to suppose two things which by themselves are not that likely. 1) That two letters (figures) were accidentally altered into 167 and two letters (Th and u) in Thallou were dropped and two letters (o and i) were added to form the word allois. Even if Carrier is correct and it would just require the “loss of a theta, and a confusion or ‘emendation’ converting an upsilon to iota-sigma” it would still be two errors.

In Thallus: An Analysis Carrier is arguing the exact opposite to this, namely that ALLOS was not originally THALLOS in the writings of Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 18.167). The reading Thallos is in fact an addition to the text; an addition made in the eighteenth century, changing ALLOS (other) into THALLOS, while all the manuscripts simply has ALLOS. In this case Carrier argues that “there is no good basis for this conjecture. First, the Greek actually does make sense without the added letter (it means ‘another’), and all extant early translations confirm this very reading. Second, an epitome of this passage does not give a name but instead the generic ‘someone,’ which suggests that no name was mentioned in the epitomizer’s copy.”

Even though Carrier’s theory is possible, and he is certainly right in stating that Thallus did not mention a solar eclipse at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, the most obvious interpretation still seems to be that Eusebius wrote “167” and “other” – which is exactly what Boman suggests.

Regarding the possible Greek corruptions of the number of the Olympiads, Boman writes the following:

”However, if the text was uncorrupted in the Greek exemplar and the corruption occurred either when the text was translated into Armenian or when the Armenian text was copied, speculations regarding plausible scribal errors in Greek will not be of any use.”

One of Carrier’s arguments is that “Thallus most likely wrote in the 2nd century, since pagan notice of the Gospels is unattested before that century”. But as Boman notices, Carrier doesn’t think that Thallus was responding to any Christian claim, and then this argument falls flat. We accordingly don’t know when Thallus wrote other than the fact that he is being referred to by c. 180 CE and accordingly must have lived before that. However, this does not mean that he must have live shortly before 180 CE since nothing he is said to have written about (apart from the darkness at the death of Christ) took place in the Common Era.

So, Thallus wrote before 180 CE, and if he correctly reported of a darkness at the time of Jesus’ death, he wrote after 30 CE. But Boman says that if “it were not for Africanus’ claim regarding the crucifixion darkness, Thallus … could have been writing in the 1st century BC.” And it is quite likely that Africanus has twisted both Phlegon’s and Thallus’ statements, so how much trust should we put on Africanus for being able to date Thallus’ report? It could of course also – as I have suggested in the Swedish blog post Thallos och Flegon som Jesusvittnen. Del 6 – Är Flegon hos Africanus ett tillägg? – be that the passage on Phlegon in Africanus is a later addition. If so, Africanus has of course not twisted Phlegon’s statement.

Regarding what other Greek compendiums Eusebius could have meant if he did not think of Thallus, Boman refers to Nataniel Lardner, who suggests that Eusebius first of all meant only One Greek compendium and that this was the one by Phlegon whom he directly afterwards quotes and thereafter says:

“‘so writes the forenamed man.’ […] To me it appears exceeding manifest that Eusebius [and thus also Jerome] speaks of one writer only, meaning Phlegon the compiler of the Olympiads.”(The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, D. D.: With a Life by Dr. Kippis in ten volumes, VII, London 1838, 108.)

Boman continues:

“As Carrier himself says, the Greek could refer to one single pagan work – such as the Olympiads by Phlegon. The word “other” (ἄλλοις) could have been written by Eusebius to emphasize that there were other testimonies than the Christian

There are two feeble arguments in Boman’s theory. One is the fact that Africanus would have been fooled to think that Thallus wrote about a darkness at the time of Jesus, if he in fact was living more than a century earlier. The other is the not so straightforward reading and obvious interpretation of Eusebius’ testimony as referring to only Phlegon. Boman calls Lardner’s theory “not improbable”, but that of course does not make it probable.

On the other hand, with Boman’s theory there is no need to suggest double alterations of both ALLOS and 167, which in both cases must presuppose two errors each. Boman’s theory deals with the text more or less as it has come down to us. Although not a fully satisfactory explanation, Boman’s suggestion “that Africanus referred to Thallus from memory … and confused him with Phlegon” involves at least fewer assumptions and we know that people often quoted from memory and that it was far from unusual that their memory failed them.

CARRIER’s and BOMAN’s comments

Carrier made some comments on Boman’s article and Boman did in turn reply to this. The exchange can be found here on Carrier’s blog and since these comments are to some degree enlightening, I will also make some comments on their comments.

Carrier’s main objection against Boman’s thesis concerns one of the objections also made by me – the not so straightforward reading of Eusebius as referring to only Phlegon. He makes three objections to that:

1)      If “other” (allois) “was written by Eusebius to emphasize that there were other testimonies than the Christian” then there has to be at least one earlier “reference to Christian testimonies” in the text – which there according to Carries isn’t. Carrier rejects Boman’s “reference to ‘prophecies’ foretelling the year of Christ’s passion”, since “one would not say ‘other’ in respect to that unless you meant other prophecies.”

2)      The second objections is linguistic, and Carrier claims that Eusebius’ εὕρομεν ἱστορούμενα κατὰ λέξιν ταῦτα (heuromen historeumena kata lexin tauta) “is an introduction of an exact quotation”. The Greek “kata lexin” is according to Carrier an idiom for “as the phrase goes”. And “κατὰ λέξιν” for sure means word for word or verbatim. So according to Carrier, this cannot “be followed by a summary or a paraphrase”, which it would have to be if Boman is correct.

3)      The third objection is also linguistic. Eusebius continues by writing: γράφει δὲ καὶ Φλέγων … (graphei de kai Phlegôn …); i.e “and also Phlegon … wrote”; adding “about these same things” and “in these words”, introducing Phlegon for the first time and directly thereafter quoting him. This suggests, according to Carrier, that the previous “other compendiums”, cannot refer to Phlegon.

Boman counters the first point, by claiming that there are indeed earlier references to Christian testimonies. He quotes the Latin translation of Jerome as this is older than the Greek excerpt in Syncellus. And in this Latin text “there is a direct reference to the Christian Gospels just (not even 40 words) before the reference to ‘other’ testimonies.” So if we are to trust the accuracy of the older Latin text, there is indeed at least one earlier reference to Christian testimonies in the text and so, contrary to Carrier’s opinion, “other” (allois) could have been Eusebius’ way to refer to other testimonies than the Christian.

The linguistic arguments made by Carrier are though intriguing and not so easily dismissed. I.e especially the phrase “kata lexin”, which normally intrudes direct quotations. Consider for instance Clement of Alexandria as he introduces the longer “quotation” from the Secret Gospel of Mark:

ἀμέλει μετὰ τὸ· ἦσαν δὲ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἀναβαίνοντες εἰς Ἰεροσόλυμα· καὶ τὰ καὶ τὰ ἐξῆς ἕως· μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστήσεται· ὧδε ἐπιφέρει κατὰ λέξιν· καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς βηθανίαν …

For example, after “And they were in the road going up to Jerusalem,” and what follows, until “After three days he shall arise,” it says like this word for word: “And they are coming to Bethany …

So, we have two rivaling views leading ultimately to the same conclusion, albeit not arrived to by the same process; namely that Thallus never wrote about any darkness in connection to the death of Jesus. But of course we already knew that there was no total solar eclipse in Jerusalem at all during the time of Pilate and accordingly Thallus could not have written about any. In fact there has only been three total eclipses in Jerusalem during the last two thousand years, that is the rarity of such events. The first one occurred on December 27 in 83 CE and it lasted 1 minute and 33 seconds. The others occurred on March 10 in 601 CE and August 20 in 993 CE.

There has though been a number of partial sun eclipses in Jerusalem during the period Jesus is supposed to have been crucified; the period 26–36 CE. They were as follows:

Date Type Start Max End
06 Feb 26 CE Partial 07:24:07 08:40:37 10:08:33
26 Jan 27 CE Partial 16:35:06 17:06:20 17:07(s)
24 Nov 29 CE Partial 09:22:15 10:44:13 12:12:06
28 Apr 32 CE Partial 07:28:14 07:47:21 08:06:51
12 Sep 33 CE Partial 10:54:49 11:58:21 12:59:29
01 Sep 34 CE Partial 11:46:40 12:58:19 14:06:27

As can be seen, there were only partial solar eclipses in Jerusalem during this period (none of which would have made it dark enough), and of course none during the Jewish Passover as it always is celebrated at a time when there can be no solar eclipses.

So, who is right then, Carrier or Boman?

Carrier suggests that we in fact have the very words of Thallus reported by Eusebius and that we therefore know that he never mentioned Jesus in connection to a solar eclipse. In order to believe this we need to suppose two distortions of the text, both including double mistakes.

With Boman’s theory we do not need to suppose any alterations to this part of the text. Yet we need to understand why Eusebios would not be quoting although he specifically says he does, and I guess we also need to suppose that the part about Phlegon in Julius Africanus is a later interpolation, as it otherwise would be strange that he first calls Phlegon Thallus but in the next sentence gets it right.

Anyhow, Thallus never mentioned Jesus and accordingly is no witness to him either.

Roger Viklund, July 9, 2013