Tac­i­tus’ Frag­ment 2 : The Anti-Roman Move­ment of the Chris­tiani and the Nazoreans

Abstract : There is lit­tle con­sen­sus as to the his­tor­i­cal nature of the sect iden­ti­fied by Tac­i­tus in Annales 15.44 as the Chris­tiani. Nor is there any firm con­sen­sus on the authen­tic­i­ty and his­toric­i­ty of all of that frag­ment known as Tac­i­tus’ frag­ment 2 (= Sulpi­cius Severus Chron­i­ca 2.30.6 – 7), whose ref­er­ences to Chris­tiani” are wide­ly sus­pect­ed of being lat­er Chris­t­ian inter­po­la­tions. Much of this frag­ment is thought, nev­er­the­less, to be from the lost por­tion of the fifth book of Tac­i­tus’ His­to­ri­ae.

A solu­tion can be found to both of these prob­lems by adduc­ing from frag­ment 2 new evi­dence indi­cat­ing that this frag­ment indeed rep­re­sents a pri­ma­ry his­tor­i­cal source. This new evi­dence takes the form of the dis­cov­ery of a sig­nif­i­cant sta­tis­ti­cal rela­tion­ship among the fol­low­ing three words : (1) The metaphor stirps (branch, descen­dants) used to describe the Chris­tiani in frag­ment 2, (2) and (3) NazwraîoV and NazarhnóV (Nazore­an), describ­ing the New Tes­ta­ment sect asso­ci­at­ed with the Cris­tianoì of Acts 11.26. The con­nect­ing link among, as well as the com­mon source for, the three words_​listed above appears to be the Hebrew netser (branch, descen­dants — appar­ent­ly influ­enced by Isa 11.1), which both trans­lates into stirps and translit­er­ates into NazwraîoV/​NazarhnóV.

It is math­e­mat­i­cal­ly extreme­ly unlike­ly that this link with netser rep­re­sents a ran­dom coin­ci­dence. Also, it appears that a lat­er Chris­t­ian redac­tor of frag­ment 2 or his tar­get audi­ence would not have known of this con­nec­tion. Because of this and oth­er con­tex­tu­al expla­na­tions, the pos­si­bil­i­ty is large­ly elim­i­nat­ed that frag­ment 2 could have been sig­nif­i­cant­ly redact­ed by a lat­er Chris­t­ian. We are thus left with the sub­stan­tial prob­a­bil­i­ty that this frag­ment con­sti­tutes a pri­ma­ry his­tor­i­cal source, most like­ly via Tac­i­tus. In turn this source sup­plies us with a prob­a­ble solu­tion to the prob­lem of the Chris­tian­i’s iden­ti­ty by depict­ing them in frag­ment 2 as being major par­tic­i­pants in the first Jew­ish revolt against Rome in 66 – 73 CE.


In the well-known sec­tion of Annales 15.44, Tac­i­tus refers unmis­tak­ably to Chris­tiani.” We shall present­ly take a fresh look at anoth­er pas­sage thought to be at least part­ly Tacitean and which also men­tions a sect called Chris­tiani.” In so doing, this will demon­strate how much his­tor­i­cal data can be suc­cess­ful­ly con­cealed in one brief pas­sage. As will be seen, when it comes to these Chris­tiani,” things are not at all as they have seemed. The sec­ond pas­sage in ques­tion is com­mon­ly known as Tac­i­tus’ frag­ment 2, much of which is gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ered to have once been part of the now lost por­tion of the fifth book of Tac­i­tus’ His­to­ri­ae. Frag­ment 2 was pre­served by the Chris­t­ian his­to­ri­an Sulpi­cius Severus in his Chron­i­ca 2.30.6 – 7 (ca. 400 – 403 CE).

This frag­ment will enable us to demon­strate who the Chris­tiani real­ly were, and, as we shall see, they were not Chris­tians. Here as else­where in this paper I am using Chris­tians” (as opposed to Chris­tiani”), Chris­tian­i­ty,” and the Church” to refer to the Pauline ver­sion only.

The present study demon­strates that frag. 2 is a pri­ma­ry his­tor­i­cal source that in all prob­a­bil­i­ty cor­rect­ly iden­ti­fies frag. 2’s Chris­tiani” as the Latin name for a group of major par­tic­i­pants in the first Jew­ish revolt against Rome of 66 – 73 CE. In addi­tion, we shall see that the Hebrew name for at least a por­tion, if not all, of this group was prob­a­bly Net­sarim” (Nazore­ans).

Let us now turn to frag. 2 and see why it shows the Chris­tiani to have been major oppo­nents of the Romans. This frag­ment gives the details of the debate with­in a high-lev­el mil­i­tary coun­cil of war called by the Roman army com­man­der Titus just pri­or to the destruc­tion of the Sec­ond Tem­ple by the Romans in Jerusalem in 70, near the end of the first Jew­ish revolt against Rome. The debate was over whether or not the Roman army should destroy the Tem­ple. For our pur­pos­es here, the last half of frag. 2 (= Severus’ Chron­i­ca 2.30.7) is the most rel­e­vant because it specif­i­cal­ly men­tions Chris­tiani”:

(2.30.6) It is report­ed that Titus first delib­er­at­ed, by sum­mon­ing a coun­cil of war, as to whether to destroy a Tem­ple of such work­man­ship. For it seemed prop­er to some that a con­se­crat­ed Tem­ple, dis­tin­guished above all that is human, should not be destroyed, as it would serve as a wit­ness to Roman mod­er­a­tion ; where­as its destruc­tion would rep­re­sent a per­pet­u­al brand of cruelty.

(2.30.7) But oth­ers, on the con­trary, dis­agreed — includ­ing Titus him­self. They argued that the destruc­tion of the Tem­ple was a num­ber one pri­or­i­ty in order to destroy com­plete­ly the reli­gion [per Severus. Tac­i­tus or anoth­er clas­si­cal author would have used the word super­sti­tio (alien reli­gious belief). Com­pare Hist. 5.8 and Ann. 15.44 (exi­tia­bilis super­sti­tio)] of the Jews and the Chris­tiani : For although these reli­gions [i.e., super­sti­tiones] are con­flict­ing, they nev­er­the­less devel­oped from the same ori­gins. The Chris­tiani arose from the Jews : With the root removed, the branch [stirps] is eas­i­ly killed.fer­tur Titus adhibito con­silio prius delib­erasse, an tem­plum tan­ti operis evert­eret. eten­im non­nullis vide­batur, aedem sacratam ultra omnia mor­talia illus­trem non oportere deleri, quae ser­va­ta mod­es­ti­ae Romanae tes­ti­mo­ni­um, diru­ta peren­nem crudeli­tatis notam prae­beret. at con­tra alii et Titus ipse ever­tendum in prim­is tem­plum cense­bant, quo ple­nius Iudae­o­rum et Chris­tiano­rum reli­gio tollere­tur : quippe has reli­giones, licet con­trarias sibi, isdem tamen abr auc­toribus pro­fec­tas ; Chris­tianos ex Iudaeis exti­tisse : radice sub­la­ta stir­pem facile per­it­u­ram. C. Halm, ed., Sulpicii Sev­eri lib­ri qui super­sunt, CSEL, vol. 1 (Vien­na, 1866). Unless oth­er­wise indi­cat­ed, all trans­la­tions are my own.

The dis­cov­ery that the Chris­t­ian his­to­ri­an Severus took most of frag. 2 from a now-lost por­tion of Tac­i­tus’ His­to­ri­ae was first made in 1861 when Jacob Bernays pub­lished his sem­i­nal studyÜber die Chronik des Sulpi­cius Severus,” in Jahres­bericht des jüdisch-the­ol­o­gis­chen Sem­i­nars Fraenck­elsch­er Stiftung (Bres­lau, 1861) 1 – 72, esp. 48 – 53, 57 – 61, reprint­ed in Jacob Bernays, Über die Chronik des Sulpi­cius Severus : Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der clas­sis­chen und bib­lis­chen Stu­di­en (Berlin, 1861 ; repr., Berlin, 1862) and also in H. Usen­er, ed., Gesam­melte Abhand­lun­gen von Jacob Bernays (1885 ; repr., Hildesheim : Olms, 1971) 2.81200, esp. 159 – 67, 174 – 81. The pub­lish­ing his­to­ry is derived in part from Jean Bol­lack, Un homme d’un autre monde,” in John Gluck­er and André Laks, eds., Jacob Bernays : Un philo­logue juif, Cahiers de philolo­gie, série Appa­rat cri­tique, vol. 16(Villeneuve d’Ascq, France : Press­es Uni­ver­si­taires du Septen­tri­on, 1996) 168 n. 111. All ref­er­ences to page num­bers in Bernays are from the orig­i­nal Bres­lau edition.

For more recent com­men­tary on frag. 2, see Bri­an W. Jones, The Emper­or Titus (New York : St. Mar­t­in’s Press, 1984) 54 – 5 ; Yochanan H. Lewy [Johanan Hans Levy], Stud­ies in Jew­ish Hel­lenism (Jerusalem : Bia­lik Insti­tute, 1960) 190 – 4 [Hebrew]; T. D. Barnes, The Frag­ments of Tac­i­tus’ Histories,“Classical Philol­o­gy 72, no. 3 (1977) 224 – 31 ; G. K. van Andel, The Chris­t­ian Con­cept of His­to­ry in the Chron­i­cle of Sulpi­cius Severus (Ams­ter­dam : Adolf M. Hakkert, 1976) 33 – 4, 43 – 8, 51 – 2 ; Hugh Mon­te­fiore, Sulpi­cius Severus and Titus’ Coun­cil of War,” His­to­ria 11 (1962) 156 – 70 ; Arnal­do Momigliano, Jacob Bernays,” Med­edelin­gen der Konin­klijke Ned­er­landse Akademie van Weten­schap­pen, afd. let­terkunde, n.s., 32, no. 5 (1969) 151 – 78, esp. 167 ; Flaminio Ghiz­zoni, Sulpi­cio Severo (Rome : Bul­zoni, 1983) 207 – 9 ; and André Laver­tu­jon, La Chronique de Sulpice Sévère, vol. 2 (Paris, 1899) 69, 394 – 400. demon­strat­ing that the frag­ment is rea­son­ably Tacitean in style. He also showed it is appar­ent­ly fair­ly accu­rate his­tor­i­cal­ly,Chronik,” 48 – 53, 59 – 61. Most recent his­to­ri­ans have large­ly agreed with Bernays on this point, at least with respect to those por­tions of frag. 2 they do not con­sid­er to have been redact­ed. See esp., Jones, Titus, 55, 55 n. 69 ; also, Zvi Yavetz, Reflec­tions on Titus and Jose­phus,” Greek, Roman, and Byzan­tine Stud­ies 16, no. 4 (1975) 416 – 8 pas­sim ; Laver­tu­jon, Chronique, 394 – 400 ; Barnes, Frag­ments,” 226 – 7 ; and Momigliano, Jacob Bernays,” 167. as against Jose­phus’ par­al­lel account of the same coun­cil of war in Bell. 6.236243, which Bernays termed a white­wash of Titus. Bernays’ find­ing that frag. 2 is for the most part Tacitean has been gen­er­al­ly accept­ed by the edi­tors of the var­i­ous crit­i­cal edi­tions of the His­to­ri­ae and the Chron­i­ca.His­to­ri­ae : Ken­neth Welles­ley, ed., His­to­ri­arum lib­ri, vol. 2, pt. 1, Cor­nelii Tac­i­ti lib­ri qui super­sunt (Leipzig : B. G. Teub­n­er, 1989); H. Heub­n­er, ed., His­to­ri­arum lib­ri, vol. 2, pt. 1, P.Cornelii Tac­i­ti lib­ri qui super­sunt (Stuttgart : B. G. Teub­n­er, 1978); E. Koester­mann, ed., His­to­ri­arum lib­ri, vol. 2, pt. 1 of P. Cor­nelii Tac­i­ti lib­ri qui super­sunt (Leipzig : B. G. Teub­n­er, 1969); Rudolf Till, ed., Cor­nelius Tac­i­tus His­to­ri­arum lib­ri, Hei­del­berg­er Texte, Lateinis­che Rei­he, vol. 33 (Hei­del­berg : F. H. Ker­le, 1963); Cae­sar Gia­r­ratano, ed., Cor­nelii Tac­i­ti His­to­ri­arum lib­ri (Rome : Reale Offic­i­na Poligrafi­ca, 1939); C. D. Fish­er, ed., Cor­nelii Tac­i­ti His­to­ri­arum lib­ri (1911 ; repr., Oxford : Claren­don, 1967); G. Andresen, ed., P. Cor­nelii Tac­i­ti lib­ri qui super­sunt, 5th ed., vol. 2 (Leipzig : B. G. Teub­n­er, 1914); C. Halm, ed., His­to­ri­ae et lib­ri minores, vol. 2, Cor­nelii Tac­i­ti lib­ri qui super­sunt, 4th ed. (Leipzig : B. G. Teub­n­er, 1901), etc. See also Clif­ford H. Moore, trans., Tac­i­tus : The His­to­ries, vol. 2, Loeb Clas­si­cal Library (1931) and addi­tion­al bib­li­og­ra­phy in Welles­ley, His­to­ri­arum lib­ri, xi-xx. Chron­i­ca : Ghis­laine de Sen­neville-Grave, ed., Sulpice Sévère, Chroniques, SC, no. 441 (Paris : Cerf, 1999) 41, 294 – 5, 429 ; Laver­tu­jon, Chronique, 69, 394, 398 ; and Halm, Sulpicii Sev­eri lib­ri, 85. For addi­tion­al dis­cus­sion, see Barnes, Frag­ments,” 224. Momigliano sums up the con­sen­sus by stat­ing there is no ques­tion Severus depend­ed, at least in part, on Tac­i­tus : Sulpi­cius Severus uses Tac­i­tus else­where, and this par­tic­u­lar pas­sage shows traces of Tacitean style under the ear­ly fifth-cen­tu­ry veneer. It is there­fore rea­son­able to con­clude with Bernays that Sulpi­cius Severus depend­ed on Tac­i­tus. His con­jec­ture has indeed been gen­er­al­ly accept­ed.”Jacob Bernays,” 167.

Nev­er­the­less, a num­ber of writ­ers have expressed the opin­ion that the last half of frag. 2 with its ref­er­ences to Chris­tiani” rep­re­sents in large part a Chris­tian­iz­ing” redac­tion by either Sulpi­cius Severus him­self or some oth­er lat­er Chris­t­ian.See par­tic­u­lar­ly Mon­te­fiore, Coun­cil of War,” 156 – 70, esp. 164 (cit­ing oth­er sources); van Andel, Chron­i­cle, 33 – 4, 43 – 8, 51 – 2 ; and Lewy, Jew­ish Hel­lenism, 190 – 4. Momigliano remarks, This pas­sage has under­gone Chris­t­ian mod­i­fi­ca­tion, but this mod­i­fi­ca­tion affects only the rea­sons for Titus’ deci­sion and not the deci­sion itself.”Rebel­lion with­in the Empire,” CAH 10.862 n. 1. How­ev­er, the pro­po­nents of this the­o­ry (see note 6 above) demon­strate only that Severus had a motive to Chris­tian­ize this pas­sage and that he might have done so, not that he did. Anoth­er hypoth­e­sisMon­te­fiore, Coun­cil of War,” 162 – 3. holds that Sulpi­cius or a lat­er redac­tor may have inter­po­lat­ed an actu­al his­tor­i­cal account of Titus’ coun­cil of war from a non-Tacitean but clas­si­cal eye­wit­ness source such as Mar­cus Anto­nius Iulianus. In that case though, as Momigliano observes in Jacob Bernays” (167), the net effect would be sim­ply to replace the name of Tac­i­tus as the source of Sulpi­cius by the name of the man who was prob­a­bly the source of Tac­i­tus, Anto­nius Iulianus : no gain and greater obscurity.”

In any event, how­ev­er, a straight­for­ward read­ing of the last half of frag. 2 sup­ports the view that the Romans con­sid­ered destroy­ing the Tem­ple in an attempt to crip­ple Judaism and elim­i­nate the base of oper­a­tions of a group known as Chris­tiani.” If we accept frag. 2 as a pri­ma­ry his­tor­i­cal source (and as we shall present­ly see, this course of action is log­i­cal­ly jus­ti­fi­able), there can be no doubt that the Chris­tiani were a Jew­ish group who, along with those referred to as the Jews,” were major par­tic­i­pants in the first Jew­ish revolt against Rome. These Chris­tiani are also dis­tin­guished in frag. 2 from those who were pre­sum­ably, from the Roman per­spec­tive at least, more nor­ma­tive Jews : the Chris­tiani and the Jews,” though on the same side against the Romans, are depict­ed as hav­ing reli­gious beliefs that are con­flict­ing. Accord­ing to frag. 2 then the Chris­tiani were major par­tic­i­pants in the war and Titus burned the Tem­ple pri­mar­i­ly to destroy them by crip­pling Judaism — thus destroy­ing the Chris­tian­i’s base of oper­a­tions in Israel.

This point of view in frag. 2 is con­sis­tent with the oth­er extant ref­er­ences by clas­si­cal Roman his­to­ri­ans to Chris­tiani” of the Sec­ond Tem­ple peri­od. We may note Tac­i­tus’ descrip­tion in Annales 15.44 of the Chris­tian­i’s” super­sti­tio as dan­ger­ous (exi­tia­bilis), sin­is­ter (atro­cia), an evil (malum), etc. and Sue­to­nius’ por­tray­al of the Chris­tiani” in Nero 16.2 as fol­low­ing a new and dan­ger­ous [malefi­ca] super­sti­tio.”

There are a num­ber of argu­ments that demon­strate frag. 2 to be a pri­ma­ry his­tor­i­cal source. The first of these points was made by Bernays and oth­ers ; the rest are new to this study. This paper will focus on the more rel­e­vant por­tion of the frag­ment, the sec­ond half. Here then is the crit­i­cism, pri­mar­i­ly literary/​statistical, in favor of the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of frag. 2 as a pri­ma­ry his­tor­i­cal source :

1. The sec­ond half of frag. 2, like the first, is rea­son­ably Tacitean in style. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true with respect to (A) quippe used instead of nam before the expres­sion of explana­to­ry and con­trast­ing opin­ions in a sub­or­di­nate sentence,
Bernays, Chronik,” 59. See also A. Ger­ber and A. Greef, Lex­i­con Taci­teum (18771903 ; repr., Hildesheim : Olds, 1962) 2.13279 and Clarence W. Mendell, Sen­tence Con­nec­tion in Tac­i­tus (New Haven, CT : Yale Univ. Press, 1911) 133 – 5 : Certe, nimirum, quippe, scil­icet, serve rather the pur­pose of ital­ics in Eng­lish : they empha­size the word with which they are used and in so doing bring out strong­ly some con­trast which is already present with­out the addi­tion of the adverb. Fur­ther than this, they reg­u­lar­ly mark the clause in which they stand as explana­to­ry in some way of a state­ment, either uncer­tain or unusu­al, in the pre­ced­ing sen­tence…quippe [has] a seri­ous tone…Quippe is used more fre­quent­ly by Tac­i­tus and in more var­i­ous ways than the oth­er sim­i­lar adverbs…” (B) the use of the typ­i­cal­ly Tacitean at con­tra,Barnes, Frag­ments,” 227 n. 13. and (C) the fact that every­thing else in the last half of this frag­ment oth­er than the Sev­ere­an word reli­gio appears either Tacitean or in any event not non-Tacitean.Bernays, Chronik,” 58 ; also, 57 n. 75 (on ple­nius as non-Severean).

2. The clear impres­sion giv­en in frag. 2 of the Chris­tiani” as oppo­nents of the Romans is even more strong­ly rein­forced by some­thing Bernays did not men­tion. There can be lit­tle doubt the Roman gen­er­al staff under Titus is por­trayed in the final part of frag. 2 (“…they nev­er­the­less devel­oped from the same ori­gins. The Chris­tiani arose from the Jews : With the root removed, the branch [stirps] is eas­i­ly killed”; see note 1 above) as quot­ing from Isa 11.1 in describ­ing frag. 2’s Chris­tiani” by using the Latin word stirps (branch, descen­dants), one of whose Hebrew equiv­a­lents from Isa 11.1 (Heb./Aram., netser) just hap­pens to translit­er­ate into the two names (NazwraîoV and NazarhnóV [i.e., Nazore­an”]) in the Greek New Tes­ta­ment for what would have been, to Severus or any oth­er lat­er Chris­t­ian redac­tor, vir­tu­al­ly the same sect as Chris­tiani.” As will be shown, the odds of this being a ran­dom coin­ci­dence are so remote (along with the like­li­hood Severus or his read­ers would even have been aware of this con­nec­tion) that as a result we may vir­tu­al­ly elim­i­nate Severus as the pri­ma­ry source for most of the last half of frag 2.

As will be shown more clear­ly, frag. 2’s Chris­tiani” are por­trayed, after Isa 11.1, as a branch” of Jesse — father of David — grow­ing out of Jesse’s Jew­ish roots” (radix).The sim­i­lar­i­ty between frag. 2 and Isa 11.1 is even more strik­ing in the LXX, Tar­gum, Syr­i­ac, and the Vul­gate, as against the MT. See John D. W. Watts, Isa­iah 1 – 33 (WBC 24 ; Waco, Word, 1985) 168 n. 1. With regard to the Vul­gate, how­ev­er, see n. 19 below. This is exact­ly how we would expect a Jew­ish resis­tance move­ment to be described and is entire­ly con­sis­tent, as we have seen, with the man­i­fest con­tent of frag. 2.It is not nec­es­sary to assume Titus’ gen­er­als were reli­gious schol­ars in order to believe they could have known some­thing about the ori­gin of their ene­my’s name. In addi­tion, the Roman gen­er­als had a large staff, includ­ing mil­i­tary intel­li­gence units, to del­e­gate such research to.

Stirps would have been a good choice in frag. 2 with which to trans­late netser from Isa 11.1 since each of these sub­stan­tives meant both branch” and descen­dants” (in this case, pre­sum­ably, of David).Cf. the par­al­lel use of netser to mean “[roy­al] descen­dants” in Dan 11.7. For instance, stirps was used by Jerome to trans­late netser in Isa 14.19 (Vg).Roger Gryson, ed., Esa­ias, vol. 12, pt. 1, fasc. 6 of Vetus Lati­na : Die Reste der Alt­lateinis­chen Bibel (Freiburg : Herder, 1991410.

The branch metaphor in frag. 2, stirps, is one of rel­a­tive­ly few Latin words with a Hebrew equiv­a­lent (netser) that can be translit­er­at­ed into NazwraîoV” (Matt 2.23, 26.71, Luke 18.37, John 18.5, 7, 19.19, Acts 2.22, 3.6, 4.10, 6.14, 22.8, 24.5, 26.9) and NazarhnóV” (Mark 1.24, 10.47, 14.67, 16.6, Luke 4.34, 24.19) — two words describ­ing the sect that is asso­ci­at­ed also with the New Tes­ta­men­t’s Chris­tiani” (“Cris­tianoí”: Acts 11.26). The first three Semit­ic con­so­nants of netser can be translit­er­at­ed into the first three Greek con­so­nants of either NazwraîoV or NazarhnóV.H. H. Schaed­er, NazwraîoV, NazarhnóV,” TDNT 4.879 ; also, Faus­to Par­ente, NazarhnóV — NazwraîoV : An Unsolved Rid­dle in the Syn­op­tic Tra­di­tion,” Scrip­ta Clas­si­ca Israel­i­ca 15 (1996) 185 – 201, esp. 192. It is almost impos­si­ble this is a coin­ci­dence since there are alto­geth­er rel­a­tive­ly few words we know of today that might have been used as sub­stan­tives in Hebrew or Ara­ma­ic in first-cen­tu­ry Israel and could also have been translit­er­at­ed this way into NazwraîoV or NazarhnóV — and netser (= stirps) just hap­pens to be one of them. I am includ­ing only sub­stan­tives here since the metaphor actu­al­ly used in frag. 2 was couched in terms of a noun (stirps).

These few Semit­ic words (from bib­li­cal Hebrew, Jew­ish Pales­tin­ian Ara­ma­ic, and Tal­mu­dic Ara­ma­ic [the lat­ter includ­ed for rea­sons giv­en below]) con­tain­ing only the con­so­nants N‑TS‑R or N‑Z-R are list­ed as fol­lows, togeth­er with all their known mean­ings : (1) From the Hebrew, by root (see Brown-Dri­ver-Brig­gs Hebrew and Eng­lish Lex­i­con ; also James H. Charlesworth, Graph­ic Con­cor­dance to the Dead Sea Scrolls [Tübin­gen : J. C. B Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1991]): nez­er (crown ; a priest’s miter [Lev 8.9]; [a wom­an’s] hair ; a con­se­cra­tion [Lev 21.12]; a Nazirite’s con­se­crat­ed hair [Num 6.19]; a sep­a­ra­tion [Num 6. 8, 12, 13]), nazir (one con­se­crat­ed or crowned [e.g., a prince, ruler, etc.]; a Nazirite ; an untrimmed vine [like the Nazarite’s untrimmed hair — see Lev 25.5, 11]), nat­sar (one who watch­es ; the pre­served [of Israel — see Isa 49.6]); a secret thing [Isa 48.6]; a secret place [Isa 65.4]; the besieged [Ezek 6.12]; a besieger [Jer 4.16]; those observ­ing [Torah : Ps 119.2, Prov 28.17]; one tend­ing [a fig tree — Prov 27.18]; one who is crafty [Prov 7.10]), and netser (branch ; shoot ; descen­dants). (2) From the Ara­ma­ic (see Mar­cus Jas­trow, Dic­tio­nary of the Tar­gu­mim, the Tal­mud Babli and Yerushal­mi, and the Midrashic Lit­er­a­ture [1903 ; repr., New York : Pardes, 1950]; also Michael Sokoloff, A Dic­tio­nary of Jew­ish Pales­tin­ian Ara­ma­ic of the Byzan­tine Peri­od [Ramat-Gan, Israel : Bar Ilan Univ. Press, 1990]): Not­seri (a Chris­t­ian or Nazore­an [= Lat., Chris­tianus ; see note 17 below]), nezi­rah (a noble­man ; a Nazarite’s vow), Nezi­rah (a man’s name [Gen Rab. 12.6, etc.]), nat­sir (a fetus), netser (a crick­et ; wil­low), and nit­srah (a wick­er basket).

I have elim­i­nat­ed Semit­ic mean­ings that are duplica­tive. For the sta­tis­ti­cal rea­sons, see below. There are thus a total of only 29 dis­tinct mean­ings of Semit­ic words that could have been translit­er­at­ed into either NazwraîoV” or NazarhnóV.“There may be 30 if we con­sid­er that Not­seri may have two dis­tinct mean­ings (see below). How­ev­er, both of these, as far as we know, trans­lat­ed into Latin as the same word, Chris­tianus” — which makes the dif­fer­ence in their Semit­ic mean­ings sta­tis­ti­cal­ly unim­por­tant, as will be seen.

The odds of this ver­bal rela­tion­ship among stirps, netser, and NazwraîoV/​NazarhnóV being a coin­ci­dence can be cal­cu­lat­ed math­e­mat­i­cal­ly rough­ly as fol­lows : Work­ing back­wards from the Greek NazwraîoV” and NazarhnóV” (the end results of the puta­tive translit­er­a­tions), we have already not­ed above the 29 dif­fer­ent mean­ings of the only Semit­ic words this author is aware of that could con­ceiv­ably have been translit­er­at­ed into the two Greek words in ques­tion. If we then make the very gen­er­ous assump­tion that for each of the 29 Semit­ic mean­ings there were as many as 10 nouns in Latin which could orig­i­nal­ly have expressed each mean­ing, we arrive at a total fig­ure of 290 (= 2910) Latin nouns that could orig­i­nal­ly have been used to express these 29 Semit­ic mean­ings by the Roman gen­er­al staff (or a lat­er redac­tor of frag. 2). Thus, in the­o­ry any one of these 290 Latin nouns could have been cho­sen ran­dom­ly as a metaphor for the Chris­tiani by the Romans or a lat­er redac­tor and still giv­en us Semit­ic trans­la­tions that could ulti­mate­ly have been translit­er­at­ed into NazwraîoV and NazarhnóV. We are assum­ing here for the sake of argu­ment that the Romans or a lat­er redac­tor picked their Chris­tiani” metaphor com­plete­ly at ran­dom — and not with any pre­ex­ist­ing knowl­edge of the Chris­tian­i’s Semit­ic name, if any. All we have to do at this point then is divide 290 by the total num­ber of nouns in the Latin lan­guage to obtain the prob­a­bil­i­ty of the Romans or any­one else hav­ing ran­dom­ly arrived at a metaphor which hap­pened to cor­rect­ly translit­er­ate ulti­mate­ly into the two Greek names for the sect the New Tes­ta­ment also asso­ciates with the Chris­tiani” of Acts.

To sim­pli­fy this cal­cu­la­tion and at the same time ensure rea­son­able accu­ra­cy, we shall elim­i­nate from con­sid­er­a­tion all Latin prop­er nouns, since these refer main­ly to peo­ple and places out­side of Israel and it is most unlike­ly the Chris­tiani would have cho­sen their Semit­ic name, if any, from such a list (for the effect of this on our cal­cu­la­tion, see below). There­fore, we shall con­sid­er only Latin com­mon nouns. An esti­mate based on a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­pling of com­mon nouns from the Oxford Latin Dic­tio­nary (1982) indi­cates there were approx­i­mate­ly 18,000 com­mon nouns in Latin. This gives us, there­fore, an esti­mat­ed prob­a­bil­i­ty of ran­dom­ness in this case of 290 divid­ed by 18,000, or 1.61%. Sub­tract­ing this frac­tion from 100% to obtain a prob­a­bil­i­ty of non-ran­dom­ness gives us 98.39%.

It is quite pos­si­ble, of course, that some first-cen­tu­ry Semit­ic words and mean­ings that are unknown to us today have been inad­ver­tent­ly omit­ted from this analy­sis. In the present author’s opin­ion, how­ev­er, this par­tic­u­lar prob­lem has been more than ade­quate­ly com­pen­sat­ed for by the very gen­er­ous use of 10 Latin com­mon nouns for every Semit­ic mean­ing as well as the inclu­sion of Semit­ic words and mean­ings from Tal­mu­dic Ara­ma­ic. In addi­tion, the fail­ure to con­sid­er the use of metaphors or sim­i­les involv­ing Latin prop­er nouns (see above) may also under­state the prob­a­bil­i­ty of non-ran­dom­ness — by dras­ti­cal­ly lim­it­ing the total num­ber of Latin words under con­sid­er­a­tion to just 18,000.

In any event, the over­all results indi­cate a prob­a­bil­i­ty of non-ran­dom­ness well with­in the range of sta­tis­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance (i.e., > 95%). Q.E.D.The author wish­es to express his grat­i­tude for a review of the math­e­mat­ics and atten­dant log­ic in this paper to Robert T. Gor­man, Ph.D. (sta­tis­tics), Blue Hen Con­sul­tants, Elk­ton, MD (for­mer assis­tant pro­fes­sor, Depart­ment of Math­e­mat­i­cal Sci­ences, Uni­ver­si­ty of Delaware). We may also note that the appar­ent pres­ence in frag. 2 of a para­phrase of Isa 11.1 (one of only four pas­sages in the Hebrew Bible con­tain­ing the rarely-used word netser [the oth­er three being Isa 14.19, 60.21, and Dan 11.7]) pro­vides fur­ther con­fir­ma­tion of this high prob­a­bil­i­ty of non-randomness.

There is a sta­tis­ti­cal rela­tion­ship here that is almost cer­tain­ly not ran­dom. This vir­tu­al­ly elim­i­nates Severus or anoth­er lat­er Chris­t­ian as the source for this mate­r­i­al since a lat­er Chris­t­ian redac­tor almost cer­tain­ly could not have arrived at the choice of stirps sim­ply by acci­dent, as we have seen. Nor prob­a­bly would Severus (or anoth­er lat­er Chris­t­ian) even have known any­thing of this ver­bal rela­tion­ship. Fur­ther­more, had he known, writ­ing about it in such an utter­ly oblique way would have been point­less ; his read­ers would not for the most part have under­stood the con­nec­tion. This can be inferred by the absence of ref­er­ences to it in Chris­t­ian and oth­er lit­er­a­ture.Nor would Jerome’s Isa 11.1 (Vg) from the Hebrew Bible or the Old Latin trans­la­tions of Isa 11.1 that we know of today have helped Severus’ read­er­ship (or Severus) iden­ti­fy stirps in frag. 2 as a quote from Isa 11.1. These trans­la­tions into Latin con­sis­tent­ly ren­dered netser from Isa 11.1 as flos (Gryson, Esa­ias, vol. 12, pt. 1, fasc. 5 of Vetus Lati­na [1990] 339) which, unlike stirps, meant nei­ther branch” nor descen­dants” but flower.”

Thus, by process of elim­i­na­tion we are almost cer­tain­ly left with a clas­si­cal source, prob­a­bly Tac­i­tus (see above at note 4), for frag. 2, demon­strat­ing that frag. 2 is in all like­li­hood a pri­ma­ry his­tor­i­cal source. In addi­tion, since frag. 2 is prob­a­bly Tacitean, its Chris­tiani can now prob­a­bly be iden­ti­fied with the Chris­tiani of Tac­i­tus’ Annales 15.44.

3. More­over, in Rom 11.1624 Paul seems to derive from the Hoday­ot of the Dead Sea

Scrolls (1QH 14[6].14 – 17, 15[7].18 – 19, 16[8].4 – 11) a root-branch metaphor that orig­i­nal­ly com­pared the Qum­ran com­mu­ni­ty to a tree or plant­i­ng estab­lished by God. All three of these pas­sages from the Hoday­ot employ netser and thus all were appar­ent­ly influ­enced in turn by the par­al­lel Isa 60.21 (one of only four pas­sages in the Hebrew Bible to con­tain netser), and per­haps Isa 11.1 as well.See, e.g., S. Wag­n­er, Neser,” TDOT 9.54951 and Ray A. Pritz, Nazarene Jew­ish Chris­tian­i­ty (Jerusalem : Magnes Press ; Lei­den : E. J. Brill, 1988) 14 n. 14 ; also, James D. G. Dunn, Romans 9 – 16 (WBC 38B ; Dal­las, Word, 1988) 659 – 60. In Romans, Paul delib­er­ate­ly reap­plies this metaphor to the Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ty. We can infer Paul’s selec­tion of the word branch” (kladoV) in Rom 11.1624 was delib­er­ate for the same sta­tis­ti­cal rea­sons we were able to infer the Roman gen­er­al staff in frag. 2 did not just choose their branch metaphor at ran­dom either : For the math­e­mat­i­cal rea­sons men­tioned above, the odds are over­whelm­ing­ly against any ran­dom selec­tion by any­one of a branch metaphor for the Nazore­ans and, to a some­what less­er extent, for any oth­er group such as the ear­ly Chris­tians who were report­ed­ly linked to them.Cf. also the Tal­mud’s more direct appli­ca­tion of netser from Isa 11.1 to the Nazore­ans. b. Sanh. 43a (MS Munich). This prin­ci­ple applies equal­ly well to any direct descrip­tion of a Nazore­an leader such as Jesus as a descen­dant (= netser) or branch” of David as, for instance, by Paul in Rom 1.3. We can thus infer that in Rom 1.3 Paul was con­scious­ly fol­low­ing Isa 11.1 — in part, more­over, because the word netser appears rarely in the Hebrew Bible and only once in con­nec­tion with David (Isa 11.1), so there can be lit­tle doubt under the cir­cum­stances as to what exact­ly Paul was refer­ring to. Com­pare also the numer­ous oth­er exam­ples of son of David” applied to Jesus in the New Tes­ta­ment in one form or anoth­er : Matt 1.117, 15.22, 20.3031, 21.9, 15, Mark 10.4748, Luke 2.4, 3.31, Acts 13.2223, Rom 15.12, Rev 3.7, 5.5, 22.16, etc. We may note also in Justin Apol. 32 and Dial. 86 – 87 the por­tray­al of Jesus as ful­fill­ing the prophe­cy in Isa 11.1. These par­al­lel phe­nom­e­na indi­cate the exis­tence of an impor­tant tra­di­tion involv­ing a con­ver­gence of opin­ions (includ­ing frag. 2’s) con­nect­ing the Nazore­ans with Isa 11.1.

4. To the extent that Severus or any oth­er lat­er Chris­t­ian may have redact­ed the sec­ond half of frag. 2 by Chris­tian­iz­ing it, he would have had to mim­ic suc­cess­ful­ly Tac­i­tus’ style and vocab­u­lary. This would have had to be done with suf­fi­cient exper­tise to deceive both peo­ple in his own time who were flu­ent in Latin and future gen­er­a­tions of schol­ars (see note 4 above). But in so doing, the redac­tor would have risked expo­sure by his con­tem­po­raries because the com­plete His­to­ri­ae were still extant dur­ing the ear­ly fifth cen­tu­ry.It is well known that in his His­to­ri­arum adver­sum Paganos lib­ri septem (ca. 418) the Chris­t­ian writer Paulus Oro­sius, for instance, had access to and made use of these now lost por­tions of the His­to­ri­ae. Barnes, Frag­ments,” 224, 227 – 8 pas­sim ; and Bernays, Chronik,” 55, 58 n. 77. If Severus had sim­ply intro­duced such inter­po­la­tions in his own style into, say, the sec­ond­part of the frag­ment — with­out mak­ing a hope­less attempt to pass them off as Tac­i­tus’ — his cred­i­bil­i­ty would not have suf­fered ; but this was not done. There­fore, frag. 2 as we have it today could prob­a­bly not have been sig­nif­i­cant­ly redact­ed by Severus or any oth­er lat­er Chris­t­ian since in so doing the redac­tor would have been exposed by his con­tem­po­raries, includ­ing his peers in the Church.

For this rea­son it is almost equal­ly unlike­ly that Severus would have, had he pos­sessed any cau­tion at all, (1) inad­ver­tent­ly or sub­con­scious­ly copied Tac­i­tus’ style in the sec­ond part of frag. 2 or (2) con­scious­ly attempt­ed to inter­po­late just one or two of the pas­sage’s key words — such as Chris­tiani” — while leav­ing the oth­ers rel­a­tive­ly undis­turbed. Fur­ther­more, any such hypo­thet­i­cal inter­po­la­tions of Chris­tiani” into frag. 2 would almost cer­tain­ly had to have been made before 418 CE when the entire fifth book of Tac­i­tus’ His­to­ri­ae was still avail­able (see note 22 above). This fol­lows from the fact that in his par­al­lel account of Titus’ destruc­tion of the Tem­ple in Hist. adv. Pag. 7.9.4 – 6 (ca. 418) Paulus Oro­sius almost cer­tain­ly emu­lat­ed but Chris­tian­ized the word­ing of the last half of frag. 2 by chang­ing Chris­tiani” to Eccle­sia Dei” and stirps” to ger­mi­nante.“See, e.g., C. Zange­meis­ter, ed., Pauli Orosii His­to­ri­arum adver­sum Paganos lib­ri VII : Acced­it eius­dem liber apolo­geti­cus, CSEL, vol. 5 (1882 ; repr., New York : John­son Reprint, 1966) 460 n. While there is a remote pos­si­bil­i­ty that Oro­sius and Severus could have inde­pen­dent­ly arrived at sim­i­lar-sound­ing lan­guage at the same point in their nar­ra­tives, this is extreme­ly unlike­ly. Cf. Barnes, Frag­ments,” 228. Assum­ing there­fore a Chris­t­ian inter­po­la­tion of the word Christiani“into frag. 2, then by 418 Oro­sius was almost cer­tain­ly aware of it.

Hav­ing large­ly ruled out Severus or anoth­er Chris­t­ian as the source for the last half of frag. 2, let us note that the clas­si­cal author of this frag­ment, pre­sum­ably Tac­i­tus, was a his­to­ri­an or eye­wit­ness observ­er who was in all like­li­hood accu­rate­ly quot­ing the major­i­ty opin­ion of the Roman gen­er­al staff ; an opin­ion in this case involv­ing a descrip­tion of the Chris­tiani as a branch” that exact­ly match­es the opin­ion of all the var­i­ous authors of the canon­i­cal Gospels writ­ing in Greek, and which is there­fore almost cer­tain­ly not a ran­dom coin­ci­dence. We have a num­ber of sources who appear to have had the same very par­tic­u­lar idea about the Chris­tiani as a branch.” Since it is obvi­ous that the Roman gen­er­als dur­ing the first Jew­ish revolt did not get their ideas from the Gospels and since it is also unlike­ly that the authors of the Gospels would have turned pri­mar­i­ly to his­tor­i­cal accounts of the Roman gen­er­als for sub­tle sug­ges­tions as to what to call the Nazore­ans, then it is clear all par­ties must have derived their infor­ma­tion on netser from a com­mon source. This source must have been a very reli­able one, or the Roman gen­er­al staff would not have used it in any form at their high-lev­el meet­ing. Sure­ly the Romans would have known the prop­er names of their ene­mies. The alter­na­tive would be too fan­tas­tic. Ulti­mate­ly, this reli­able com­mon source could only have been the Chris­tian­i’s actu­al Semit­ic name, derived from netser. This name in Hebrew would have been, pre­sum­ably, Net­sarim” (i.e., Nazore­ans), that is to say, fol­low­ers of the branch (= descen­dant) of David.“Cf. the par­al­lel con­struc­tion describ­ing the adher­ents to one of Jose­phus’ four philoso­phies,” the Tse­duqim or Sad­doukaioi (Sad­ducees) of Bell. 2.119, 164, 166, Ant. 13.171, 173, 293, 296 – 8, 18.11, 16, 20.199, and Vita 10 ; see also b. Sanh. 33b, b. Yoma 19b, 53a, etc. The Tse­duqim appear to have been the fol­low­ers of David and Solomon’s priest Tsadoq and his descen­dants (2 Sam 8.17, 1 Kings 2.35, Ezek 44.15, etc.). See gen­er­al­ly, R. Mey­er, Sad­doukaioi ‚” TDNT 7.3554 ; and EncJud, s.v. Sad­ducees.”

It may also be not­ed that in Isa 60.21 (see above) the branch (netser) God plants rep­re­sents the right­eous of Israel. Thus, the name Net­sarim” would most like­ly have car­ried the addi­tion­al mean­ing in Hebrew (a mean­ing pre­sum­ably grasped and per­haps even implied in frag. 2 by the Roman high com­mand) describ­ing those who belonged to this big branch,” i.e., the Chris­tiani (see also Lewy, Jew­ish Hel­lenism, 192).Note, too, the par­al­lel con­struc­tion to Net­sarim, used in this sec­ond sense, of oth­er sim­i­lar denom­i­na­tive nouns such as Yehudim, Yis­re’eli (2 Sam 17.25 [MT]), etc. GKC § 86.2.5.

As to what else the Roman gen­er­al staff might have meant by their root-branch metaphor in frag. 2, Lewy pro­vides sev­er­al exam­ples in Jew­ish Hel­lenism (1923) of the words stir­pi­tus, radic­i­tus, and exstir­pare used to describe the uproot­ing of for­eign reli­gions by the Romans. How­ev­er, to the best knowl­edge of this author, the explic­it use of a root-and-branch metaphor in its entire­ty is to be found nowhere else in clas­si­cal lit­er­a­ture oth­er than in frag. 2 and is oth­er­wise unique to the Judeo-Chris­t­ian tra­di­tion. This pro­vides addi­tion­al evi­dence that the Roman gen­er­al staff’s pre­cise choice of metaphor in frag. 2 was influ­enced by the Jew­ish cul­ture in which they found them­selves and in par­tic­u­lar, as has been demon­strat­ed by the sta­tis­ti­cal infer­ences above, by the dis­tinc­tive Semit­ic name and iden­ti­ty of their opponents.

As we have seen, a straight­for­ward read­ing of the last half of frag. 2 sup­ports the view that the Romans con­sid­ered destroy­ing the Tem­ple in an attempt to crip­ple Judaism and elim­i­nate the base of oper­a­tions of a Jew­ish group they called Chris­tiani.” The Chris­tiani must have been major par­tic­i­pants in the revolt against Rome in order to have had the Roman gen­er­al staff focus on them and destroy the Tem­ple. The raz­ing of the Tem­ple could only have been jus­ti­fied by Titus’ coun­cil of war, with its keen eye on his­to­ry and pub­lic opin­ion, if this action would have under­mined Rome’s main oppo­nents in Israel. The destruc­tion of the Tem­ple can also be seen in this light as an exten­sion of the tor­tures inflict­ed on the Chris­tiani six years ear­li­er by Nero in Rome, as described by Tac­i­tus in Ann. 15.44.

This con­struc­tion of frag. 2 also har­mo­nizes with the mean­ing of the name Chris­tiani” giv­en in Ann. 15.44 as describ­ing the ide­o­log­i­cal sup­port­ers of a cer­tain Chris­tus, exe­cut­ed sev­er­al decades ear­li­er by Pon­tius Pilate in Judea. The name Chris­tus” refers pre­sum­ably to the anoint­ed one [of God],” i.e., the king of Israel. (Justin Dial. 86 ; Ter­tul­lian Apol. 3.5 ; Ad nat. 1.3 ; Adv. Prax. 28 ; Lac­tan­tius Inst. 4.7.4 ; and Elias J. Bick­er­man, The Name of Chris­tians,” HTR 42 (1949) 109 – 24, esp. 119 (repr., Stud­ies in Jew­ish and Chris­t­ian His­to­ry, vol. 3 [Lei­den : E. J. Brill, 1986] 139 – 51): “…‘Chris­tus’ is, of course, a literal…rendering of the Hebrew Mashiah (Ara­ma­ic : Meshi­ah), mean­ing Anoint­ed’…” See, e.g., Ps 2.2, 2 Sam 22.51, etc.) Tac­i­tus describes Chris­tus as the source for the [Chris­tian­i’s] name” (auc­tor nomin­is eius).(Ann. 15.44. The for­ma­tion of such a name from Chris­tus’ is in accor­dance with late Latin usage (cp. Augus­tiani’ [Ann.] 14.15,8, Ter­tul­lianus,’ etc.)…,” Hen­ry Furneaux, ed., Cor­nelii Tac­i­ti : Annal­i­um ab exces­su Divi Augusti lib­ri [The Annals of Tac­i­tus], vol. 2 (Oxford : Claren­don, 1891) 528. Cf. esp. the par­al­lel Cae­sar­i­ani”: C. Spicq, Ce que sig­ni­fie le titre de chré­tien,” Stu­dia The­o­log­i­ca 15, no. 1 (1961) 68 – 78, esp. 74 – 5. See also Harold B. Mat­ting­ly, The Ori­gin of the Name Chris­tiani,” JTS, n.s., 9 (1958) 26 – 37 ; J. le Coul­tre, De l’é­ty­molo­gie du mot chré­tien,” Revue de Théolo­gie et de Philoso­phie 40 (1907), 188 – 96, esp. 188 – 90 ; Bick­er­man, Name of Chris­tians,” 109 – 24 ; and Hen­ry J. Cad­bury, Names for Chris­tians and Chris­tian­i­ty in Acts,” in F. J. Foakes Jack­son and Kir­sopp Lake, eds., The Begin­nings of Chris­tian­i­ty. Part I : The Acts of the Apos­tles, vol. 5 (1933 ; repr., Grand Rapids, MI : Bak­er, 1979) 375 – 92, esp. 383 – 6. Pauline Chris­tians would arguably have been regard­ed as the fol­low­ers of the res­ur­rect­ed : Baruch Lif­shitz, L’o­rig­ine du nom des chré­tiens,” VC 16 (1962) 65 – 70.) Thus, the mean­ing of Chris­tiani” in Latin par­al­lels the first def­i­n­i­tion of Net­sarim” giv­en above, as refer­ring to the fol­low­ers of Isa 11.1’s roy­al branch of David. The extant evi­dence sug­gests, how­ev­er, that after the over­whelm­ing defeat of Israel and the Jew­ish resis­tance in the 70’s the name Chris­tiani” was used large­ly to des­ig­nate Pauline Chris­tians (Pliny Ep. 10.9697 ; Ignatius Rom. 3.2 ; Mar­tyr­dom of Poly­carp 10.1, etc.), who had pre­sum­ably stepped into the his­tor­i­cal vac­u­um left by the dec­i­ma­tion of the ear­li­er Jew­ish Christiani.

We are now in a posi­tion to adduce some addi­tion­al evi­dence demon­strat­ing that stirps (= netser) in frag. 2 leads us to Isa 11.1 : (1) Isa 11.1 is the one pri­ma­ry ref­er­ence in ancient Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture to use netser in a way most con­sis­tent with both the war­like con­text and the root-branch metaphor in frag. 2. Com­pare the three oth­er uses of netser in the Hebrew Bible : Isa 14.19, 60.21, and Dan 11.7. (2) It is quite like­ly that a Jew­ish group as Tem­ple-based as the Chris­tiani would have received their Semit­ic name from the Hebrew Bible. (3) On 17 of the 18 occa­sions in which Tac­i­tus uses stirps else­where in his works he refers to descen­dants or descent, par­tic­u­lar­ly roy­al or noble.Ger­ber and Greef, Lex­i­con Taci­teum, 2.15478. All told, we are led to con­sid­er Isa 11.1 as an almost cer­tain basis for the root-and-branch metaphor under­ly­ing the last part of frag. 2.

The Chris­tian­i’s Judaism most like­ly includ­ed, as may be deduced in part from their founder’s title of Chris­tus, a messianic/​royalist com­po­nent. Tac­i­tus reports in Ann. 15.44 that their teach­ings had spread as far as Rome : exi­tia­bilis super­sti­tio rur­sum erumpe­batper urbem eti­am (“…the dan­ger­ous super­sti­tio broke out again…throughout Rome also”). It was the Empire’s oppo­si­tion to the Chris­tian­i’s teach­ings that explains Titus’ pro­pos­al in frag. 2 to destroy not only the Chris­tiani them­selves (the branch” of Judaism) but the Tem­ple that in his view sus­tained their belief in monothe­ism and their anti-Roman­ism. The Romans felt that as long as the Tem­ple stood those who stood against Rome were assured of a ral­ly­ing point (Jose­phus Bell. 6.239).

In con­clu­sion, out of all the myr­i­ads of dif­fer­ent metaphors uti­liz­ing sub­stan­tives which any­one, whether Roman gen­er­al or lat­er Chris­t­ian redac­tor, could have employed to describe the Chris­tiani in frag. 2, the branch metaphor just hap­pens to match up, via netser, with (1) the iden­ti­cal sound­ing Greek words for Nazore­an” in the New Tes­ta­ment for what would have been vir­tu­al­ly the same sect as Chris­tiani” to a Chris­t­ian redac­tor and (2) what appears strong­ly there­fore to be a par­o­dy of Isa 11.1, implic­it­ly con­tain­ing netser, embed­ded in frag. 2. This entire cor­re­la­tion is fur­ther con­firmed by a con­sis­tent tra­di­tion in oth­er sources (Rom 1.3, Justin Dial. 86 – 87, b. Sanh. 43a, etc.) link­ing the Nazore­ans to Isa 11.1. Since under the giv­en cir­cum­stances the odds that all these phe­nom­e­na are a coin­ci­dence are extra­or­di­nar­i­ly low, it is clear that frag. 2 is too high­ly detailed to have been sub­stan­tial­ly redact­ed by a lat­er Chris­t­ian. It thus rep­re­sents almost cer­tain­ly a pri­ma­ry his­tor­i­cal source, prob­a­bly via Tac­i­tus, por­tray­ing the Chris­tiani as a major Jew­ish group act­ing in oppo­si­tion to Rome and in defense of Israel. Endmark

The author is based at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alaba­ma, Tuscaloosa. This arti­cle is reprint­ed from Vig­ili­ae Chris­tianae 54, no. 3 (2000) 233 – 47.

1 Comment

    MATT :

    On pages 169 – 170 of Bart Ehrman’s book, Mis­quot­ing Jesus’ we read the
    following :

    It is inter­est­ing to note, how­ev­er, that in some of our earliest
    wit­ness­es-includ­ing the Alexan­dri­an man­u­script Codex Sinaiticus*-there is
    an addi­tion to the text. 10 After it indi­cates that here moved from
    them,” in these man­u­scripts it states and he was up into heav­en.” This
    is a sig­nif­i­cant addi­tion because it stress­es phys­i­cal­i­ty of Jesus’s
    depar­ture at his ascen­sion (rather than the he was removed”). In part,
    this is an intrigu­ing vari­ant because same author, Luke, in his second
    vol­ume, the book of Acts, again nar­rates Jesus’s ascen­sion into heaven,
    but explic­it­ly states that place forty days” after the resurrection
    (Acts 1:111).”

    A pow­er­ful appeal is here made to Codex Sinaiti­cus as it is one of the
    old­est mss’ and there­fore con­sid­ered [right­ly or wrong­ly] as amongst the
    most reli­able. How­ev­er, Codex Sini­ati­cus does not con­tain the addition
    that Ehrman here claims ?

    Com­ments welcomed


    SALLY :

    I’m on the last part of the book, and hav­ing spent sev­er­al hours reading
    it, I’ll comment.

    This man nev­er claims any­where that the book he has just writ­ten is
    inspired. There are sev­er­al typos and inac­cu­ra­cies. I am not a
    pro­fes­sion­al at any of this, and am in fact a mem­ber of the target
    audi­ence (rank neo­phytes in the area of tex­tu­al crit­i­cism), and I spotted
    a few as I read.


    The issue has noth­ing to do with inspi­ra­tion, as if I were sug­gest­ing his
    book should be error free but rather to do with ques­tion­ing his atten­tion to
    detail in mat­ters that to him should be like breath­ing. Both errors I have
    demon­strat­ed are basic tex­tu­al crit­i­cism issues that no com­pe­tent scholar
    who was care­ful in their work would make, let alone make and then form and
    state a posi­tion from as he does with the Nom­i­na Sacra example.

    The point he is mak­ing comes through loud and clear. He could have made
    many more errors than he did and it would still be damn­ing to the sort of
    bib­li­cal inerran­cy I grew up with.

    1. That his point is made is of course dis­put­ed by many indi­vid­u­als who
    con­sid­er that point is based on fal­la­cious rea­son­ing, misrepresentation,
    exag­ger­a­tion and selec­tive inclu­sion of material.
    2. I have read crit­i­cal reviews and replies from inerran­tists as well as
    from erran­tists. Both con­sid­er him to have failed in his argu­ments and
    pro­vide rea­sons why.

    I’m left, near the end, with the ques­tion remain­ing : If we can­not trust
    the words, if we do not in fact have the actu­al words, then how do we know
    what is the Word” and what is not ?

    The answer to your ques­tion is to be found in the field in which you are
    begin­ning to study, i.e. tex­tu­al crit­i­cism which for­tu­nate­ly does­n’t seek to
    present an agen­da as does Ehrman’s, Mis­quot­ing Jesus’.

    I asked you this, Matt, before all this stuff start­ed, and you cannot
    answer the question.

    No. Your ques­tion was how did I know the inerrant from the errant. That has
    noth­ing to do with tex­tu­al crit­i­cism because even if could give us 100% of
    the orig­i­nal text [rather than the 90+ it does] your ques­tion would still
    remain since you reject­ed the answered pro­vid­ed to you.

    SALLY :

    That’s because your answer” was mum­bo jum­bo. When­ev­er you begin to floun­der, you revert to lots of big words and non­sense. You say vague things that have no substance.

    The whole point of tex­tu­al crit­i­cism is deter­min­ing the inerrant” from the errant. Were there no issue like that, there would noth­ing to talk about. I don’t think schol­ars sit around spend­ing their whole lives try­ing to deter­mine if we have all of exact stuff Homer wrote (assum­ing there was some­body named Homer and that he actu­al­ly wrote any­thing). It’s no big huge deal because there is no claim of inspi­ra­tion from God about Homer, and peo­ple don’t blow up abor­tion clin­ics because Zeus or Hera told them to.

    SALLY :
    The rea­son is that there is no answer. If the Bible is rid­dled with
    typos, inac­cu­ra­cies and mis­takes (way more than exist in Mis­quot­ing
    Jesus”), and nobody is seri­ous­ly dis­put­ing that, then how can we believe
    that it is God’s word ? That we have the gist of what the writ­ers were
    try­ing to say is with­out ques­tion. But that’s not the point. I’ve
    endured ser­mons — long ser­mons — based on one sin­gle word in a single
    verse. What if that word was­n’t there at all ?

    As stat­ed Mis­quot­ing Jesus deals in exager­ra­tion, duplic­i­ty and
    mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Tex­tu­al crit­i­cism gives us over 90+ of the text and there
    is no sub­stan­tive mat­ter that remains unsolved. For­get Ehrman, focus on
    tex­tu­al criticism.

    SALLY :

    Why don’t you fol­low your own advice ? You’re the one focus­ing on nit­pick­ing his book. I make no claim about the book one way or anoth­er (except that I think it’s a super intro­duc­tion to the sub­ject for fundies who have no idea there is such a thing as ques­tion­ing the authen­tic­i­ty of the bible), and accept ful­ly that it might have boo-boos in it. I already said that I wished it were more scholarly.

    Again, I ask you, if there is no sub­stan­tive mat­ter that remains unsolved” — how do you know that ? You can­not know it. Even if you’re right, and some­how we knew” that we had 90% of the orig­i­nal text” — that leaves 10%. And maybe that 10% is the most impor­tant. Maybe the part that got left out was the part that told us that anoth­er prophet was com­ing, and his name would be Mohammed. How do you know ?

    If any­thing at all was changed, every­thing could have been changed. If God pre­serves” his mes­sage to us, then he pre­serves the whole damn thing. All or noth­ing. I fail to see how it can be any oth­er way, and you have nev­er giv­en any answer that made any sense to that. It’s not a ques­tion of me reject­ing” the answer — it’s that your answer” is gib­ber­ish, which you often resort to when you get paint­ed into a corner.

    This whole thing reminds me a lot of evo­lu­tion. Here we are, liv­ing in a world that quite obvi­ous­ly is old, and sur­round­ed by life that quite obvi­ous­ly evolved over mil­lions of years. Yet, YECs spend their lives try­ing to find tiny lit­tle flaws in the the­o­ry of evo­lu­tion so they can say, Aha ! See. There’s a boo-boo. The evo­lu­tion­ists are wrong.”

    We have this ancient doc­u­ment, a cob­bled togeth­er bunch of leg­ends, myths, sto­ries, and some­times out­right lies, that has been changed and copied and changed and copied over and over again. I say again, it’s exact­ly what you would expect to find from human beings. There is no mark of God” on it. It’s no more inspired than Homer. Yet, you spend inor­di­nate amounts of time find­ing errors in the writ­ing of bib­li­cal crit­ics and then say­ing, Aha ! See. There’s a boo-boo. Ehrman is wrong, there­fore God exists.”

    My view is that if God wants to com­mu­ni­cate with me, he needs to do a bet­ter job of it than this. Does­n’t it ever both­er you that you’ve been left sit­ting in the weird posi­tion of search­ing for answers to ques­tions that should be basic and sim­ple ? You are lit­er­ate. You have access to data beyond the wildest dreams of peo­ple even just a few decades ago. If God were real­ly there, and real­ly loved peo­ple, and real­ly want­ed peo­ple to have what was best for them, and all that blath­er, why did he make it so damn hard ? Why did he make it look like he isn’t there at all ? Every­one can’t study this stuff in depth. Some peo­ple just get up and go to work every day. They work hard. They don’t have the time, ener­gy, edu­ca­tion, or access to infor­ma­tion that is required to delve into all this. Some­times they don’t live a full life span, so they quite lit­er­al­ly do not have time to study all this stuff. Yet God expects them to fig­ure it out ?

    I think your sit­u­a­tion is sad, frankly. If you’re sin­cere, you’re in a hell of a mess. Are you one of the elect ? Or are you damned ? Which words in your errant but true” bible are a mes­sage from god him­self, and which are not ? How can you tell ?

    If you’re not sin­cere, and you just like to argue, it’s still sad.

    SALLY :
    The prob­lem is that in the whole his­to­ry of the Bible and bib­li­cal textual
    crit­i­cism, we find exact­ly what we would expect to find in a manuscript
    writ­ten by human beings, hand copied by human beings, no dif­fer­ent than
    any oth­er ancient man­u­script. Where is the evi­dence” of inspiration ?

    It’s not up to us as non­be­liev­ers to dis­prove inspi­ra­tion. It’s up to you
    who believe in it to prove that it’s inspired. Exact­ly what do you have
    to present to us that would tend to sup­port that position ?

    Per­son­al­ly, I wish Ehrman’s book were a bit more schol­ar­ly, and better
    proof­read, but that’s not the point. I’m not out to pass judg­ment on the
    man one way or the oth­er. I wish the book had exist­ed ten years ago. It,
    along with a few oth­er pop­u­lar books on athe­ism on the mar­ket today, might
    have short­ened my path out of Chris­tian­i­ty, and that would have been a
    good thing.

    His tar­get audi­ence is Amer­i­can fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­tian­i­ty and he’s hit
    them right between the eyes. Bul­l’s-eye. I know because I was one. This
    book is great for those in that world who are seek­ing. It coun­ters the
    claim spout­ed from pul­pits time and again that the Bible has all these
    authors and is so seam­less and nev­er has had a mis­take ver­i­fied and is
    there­fore inspired, every sin­gle word. It’s cer­tain­ly an easy to read
    intro­duc­tion to the sub­ject of tex­tu­al criticism.

    Are you inter­est­ed in fig­ur­ing out the truth or do you just like to pick
    nits ? Some­times I think it’s the latter.

    Fig­ur­ing out the truth about Ehrman’s book involves a lot more than reading
    it. It involves check­ing the claims made with­in it. It involves test­ing its
    objec­tive with respons­es to it. In short it involves adopt­ing as much of a crit­i­cal exam­i­na­tion of his book as any oth­er book. That kind of truth I am inter­est­ed in.


    SALLY :

    I sus­pect, frankly, that what you’ve done is total­ly the lot more than read­ing it.” I am a very fast read­er, and I could not have read that book in the time you claimed to have read it. You just skimmed it light­ly (VERY light­ly) and then claimed to have read it, and began to search for crit­i­cism. I sup­pose that you felt that you could do that because you are so bril­liant and so well stud­ied and you know so much more than any­one else, and this begin­ner” lev­el book is beneath you. That is cer­tain­ly the atti­tude that you project.

    I repeat, where is the evi­dence of inspi­ra­tion, Matt ?

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