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Legitimacy Of The Jewish Canon


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#1 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 07:12 AM

The following debate took place between myself and "Celsus", an atheist from the Internet Infidels Discussion Board.

It began in July 2003 and ended with my last post (to which Celsus did not respond) in July 2004. The 1-year gap was my own fault; I had lost track of the thread after moving house, moving interstate and eventually moving from Australia to the UK.

Since the time of this debate, Celsus has changed his views. He is no longer an atheistic polemicist, but instead subscribes to a soft atheist/hard skeptic position.

Celsus' posts to me are introduced with his username. My responses follow in standard format.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#2 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 07:15 AM

Celsus:

For the composition of the Pentateuch, I'm pretty much in favour of Blenkinsopp's dating it as a post-Exilic Constitutional document reaching final form sometime in the 4th or 3rd centuries BCE, though I previously considered the evidence to point to a pre-Exilic compilation.

As for the Old Testament, its final canon seems to have been decided at Jamnia in 90 CE.

The last books to be written from the Protestant Canon (Daniel and Esther) would be 2nd to first century documents.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#3 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 07:18 AM

Evangelion responds to Celsus:

For the composition of the Pentateuch, I'm pretty much in favour of Blenkinsopp's dating it as a post-Exilic Constitutional document reaching final form sometime in the 4th or 3rd centuries BCE, though I previously considered the evidence to point to a pre-Exilic compilation.

As for the Old Testament, its final canon seems to have been decided at Jamnia in 90 CE.

The last books to be written from the Protestant Canon (Daniel and Esther) would be 2nd to first century documents.


If you believe that the OT canon was established at Jamnia and that Daniel & Esther were 2nd-1st Century documents, what do you do with...
  • Josephus' reference to the canon of his day (which agrees with our modern OT canon.

  • The LXX (which contains our modern OT canon.)
...?
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#4 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 07:21 AM

Celsus responds to Evangelion:

If you believe that the OT canon was established at Jamnia and that Daniel & Esther were 2nd-1st Century documents, what do you do with...

  • Josephus' reference to the canon of his day (which agrees with our modern OT canon.



  • The LXX (which contains our modern OT canon.)
...?


LXX also contains the Apocrypha many of which date to the 1st century. I presume you are referring to the fact that the LXX was started before the 2nd century. The question is, when was it completed?

Josephus' reference IIRC was that there were a certain number of books (he never listed them out specifically) in the Hebrew Bible. Does he even mention which of the Ketuvim are there? Either way, how does Josephus have any bearing on 2/1st century documents?

The last decision on the canon was decided at Jamnia, though I am well aware that an unofficial canonisation was already in progress. See <span style='color:blue'>here</span> for what I mean:Our modern use of the word "canon" has moved some way beyond its classical origins. Yet, if we want to approach Jewish canonizing from a historical perspective, we must ask ourselves what "canon" might mean in terms of Jewish writings, and return to the definitions that governed the earlier age.

Indeed, we must go even further than the classical origins of the word "canon".

For, even though the word (or its equivalent) may not have existed, a process of canonizing is also clearly at work in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures, and it is important to place Jewish canonizing historically in the wider context of the great literary cultures to which the classical world was also indebted.

Millennia before the Greeks learned to write, the civilizations of the Tigris-Euphrates and the Nile valleys had produced highly complex bureaucratic systems in which the art of writing was indispensable: this in turn necessitated a society of scribes, and over time this society defined and replicated itself through a body of literature that served as a kind of genetic blueprint of its own values and world-view, its theoretical and practical philosophy.

By means of its own educational system and the constant copying and refining of this corpus, the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations produced, alongside the much more numerous but transient administrative literature which paradoxically has survived where so much creative literature has been lost, works that we would call canonical, even in the Greek sense.

...

The impossibility of dealing with canonizing in the shadow of later lists can be illustrated by the following scenario.

If we were to find in some church's library in, say the second century CE, some codices of the Mosaic canon alongside a codex of some letters of Paul (let us say excluding Colossians and Ephesians), a scroll of Enoch and a codex of the letters of Ignatius, how would be decided which of these were canonical?

We would have before us (a) a clearly recognized Mosaic canon (b) a collection of works that would be canonized in the Western "New Testament" but does not match the final list, © a work that was canonized but not in the Western church, and (d) a collection that was not later canonized.

An illustration such as this shows not only how difficult it is to decide what "canonical" might mean at any given time or place, and indeed how inappropriate it is to allow the category "canonical" to get out of hand. "Canonical" does not imply only a fixed status in a list but can reflect a number of degrees of "canonization" prior to that.

Even where it does make someone's list, it may fall out of another's.

Canonizing begins and continues as an open-ended process. To canonize a work is not an entirely conscious process at all stages and does not entail that other works have to be barred from being canonized, or definitely excluded from such a status.

Only when definitive canonical lists emerge does the canonizing process stop. While canonizing does entail listing, organizing and labelling, a single definitive list is not, indeed, the purpose of the canonizing process, any more than death is the purpose of life: just its end.
Clearly, to answer the question, one must go into the cultural context in which "authoritative" decisions were made, and Jamnia is simply a convenient marker by which we believe that the canonisation process ended.

The question of the formation and closing of the canon is as applicable to the Hebrew Bible as it is to the LXX.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#5 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 07:28 AM

Evangelion responds to Celsus:

LXX also contains the Apocrypha many of which date to the 1st century.


The Christian version did, yes. The original Jewish version did not. Many of the apocryphal books hadn't even been written by the time the LXX was completed.

I presume you are referring to the fact that the LXX was started before the 2nd century.


Correct.

The question is, when was it completed?


At some point between 250-200 BC.

Josephus' reference IIRC was that there were a certain number of books (he never listed them out specifically) in the Hebrew Bible.


He defines the parameters of the canon with particular care, and confirms that it is definitely closed.

Does he even mention which of the Ketuvim are there?


No, he doesn't need to. He refers to the books in accordance with their respective groupings: the Law, the prophets and the writings. These designations were already familiar to his audience, who knew exactly what they contained.

Thus:The books of the Hebrew Bible are divided up into three sections. That of (i) the Law - Penteteuch; (ii) The Prophets; (iii) The Hagiographa - writings.

This arrangement is often mentioned in the Talmud, but it goes back to an earlier period. There is evidence from long before the Christian era that the books were grouped into these three sections.

Jesus ben Sira, who translated his grandfather's book, Ecclesiasticus, from Hebrew into Greek, added a prologue of his own in which he makes mention of three parts of the Jewish canon three times.

"This passage can hardly have been written later than about 130 BCE". [Beckwith, p.110.]

He not only states that there is a threefold canon - that is closed and distinguished from all other writings - but he goes as far as to imply that this was also the case in his grandfather's time, this would give a date as early as the third century BCE for the canon. The words of Jesus also suggest a tripartite canon when he spoke in Luke 24:44 of words written in the Law, Prophets and the Psalms.

There is some discussion as to whether or not 'the Psalms' refers just to the Psalms or whether it implies the whole Hagiographa: the latter seems to be the most likely. It would be surprising to think of Jesus meaning that the third section of Scripture was the Psalms alone since he regularly used the book of Daniel in the Gospels.

The De Vita Contemplatina mentions the threefold structure of the Bible. Authorship of the De Vita Contemplatina has been ascribed to Philo, an older contemporary of Jesus.

"Philo of Alexandria seems to have been the first to use the term, canon, to indicate the collection of books normative for faith". [Soggin, p.13.]

Also Josephus, Jerome and the Talmud all speak of the three divisions in Hebrew Scripture.

"It is thus a well-attested fact that, by the first century CE, the division of the canon into three groups of books was widespread in the Jewish world and that it was familiar to Jesus". [Beckwith, p.118.]

Reed, Peter (2000), The Old Testament Canon

Either way, how does Josephus have any bearing on 2/1st century documents?


Because he writes before the 2nd Century AD, presents us with an OT canon which already contains both Daniel & Esther, and confirms that this canon is already closed.

In any case, 1st-2nd Century AD would seem to be a bit late for the composition of Daniel & Esther. Are you sure this is the date you're working with? Or did you mean BC?

The last decision on the canon was decided at Jamnia, though I am well aware that an unofficial canonisation was already in progress. See here for what I mean:


Josephus provides us with the parameters for canonicity:From Artaxerxes to our own time a detailed record has been made, [he refers here to the period of the Maccabees, etc] but this has not been thought worthy of equal credit with the earlier records because there has not been since then the exact succession of prophets.

Versus Apion

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#6 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 07:31 AM

Celsus responds to Evangelion:

Hi Evangelion,

Rather than getting into a mindnumbing debate on the dating of books, why don't we have a much more interesting debate on the issues about the Jewish canon as raised in the article I linked? As in: What are canons? What was the process of canonisation like to the Jews themselves? Was it a conscious act?

It raises plenty of questions that your response ignores, and which seems to make the same mistakes as addressed in the Prolegomena.

Again, if the Septuagint was open to Christian additions, how can you be confident that it was closed to the Jews c. 250-200 BCE (especially considering that the Christians and Jews weren't even distinguishable till at least the 70s)?

And of course what Reed fails to mention is that while Sirach mentions the sections of the OT, he doesn't mention Daniel in his list of Biblical heroes. Further, since Sirach is writing from Egypt, to what extent is his writing authoritative?

There are so many questions here that would make for a good debate.

(Yes, I meant that Daniel/Esther were 2nd/1st century BCE documents, hence the reversed order in numbering--as indeed were all my dates with the exception of the 90 CE date which was specified. Sorry to be unclear.)
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#7 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 07:40 AM

Peter Kirby interjects:

The De Vita Contemplatina mentions the threefold structure of the Bible. Authorship of the De Vita Contemplatina has been ascribed to Philo, an older contemporary of Jesus.


Emil Schürer comments: "Περι βιου θεωρητικου η ικετωον αρετων. De vita contemplativa (Mangey, ii. 471-486).—Eusebius twice cites the title in the following form (H. E. ii. 17. 3 and ii. 18. 7): περι βιου θεωρητικου η ικετων.

The αρετων added at the end must therefore be expunged. Eusebius, H. E. ii. 17, gives full information concerning the contents, comp. also ii. 16. 2.

This composition has, since the time of Eusebius, enjoyed special approbation in the Christian Church, Christian monks being almost universally recognised in the 'Therapeutae' here described and glorified. The likeness is indeed surprising; but for that very reason the suspicion is also well founded, that the author's design was under the mask of Philo to recommend Christian monachism.

But apart from this there are other suspicious elements, by reason of which even such critics do not regard the Therapeutae as representing a Christian, but as a Jewish ideal of life, have denied the authorship of Philo.

Upon the ground of the identification of the Therapeutae with Christian monks, Lucius, after the precedent of Grätz and Jost, has declared this composition spurious.

It is by his thorough and methodical investigation that the spuriousness of its authorship has been definitely decided." (The Literature of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, pp. 357-358)

Edited by Evangelion, 20 July 2006 - 03:15 PM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#8 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 07:45 AM

Evangelion responds to Celsus:

Rather than getting into a mindnumbing debate on the dating of books, why don't we have a much more interesting debate on the issues about the Jewish canon as raised in the article I linked?


Can do.

As in: What are canons?


Lists of authoritative literature.

What was the process of canonisation like to the Jews themselves?


The preservation of authoritative literature.

Was it a conscious act?


Yes. The Biblical record makes this clear - particularly in the record of Josiah's reign.

It raises plenty of questions that your response ignores, and which seems to make the same mistakes as addressed in the Prolegomena.


What mistakes?

Again, if the Septuagint was open to Christian additions


It wasn't a case of being "open to Christian editions at all." As far as the Jews were concerned, the canon was definitely closed. The Christians simply came along and wrote their own translations. That was their decision, utterly independent of the Jews.

But even then, it was not an official redefinition of the canon.

how can you be confident that it was closed to the Jews c. 250-200 BCE (especially considering that the Christians and Jews weren't even distinguishable till at least the 70s)?


Josephus confirms that the canon was closed by his time. This would not be greatly significant were it not for the fact that Josephus defines the canon by the trifold grouping of pre-Christian origin.

Again:Jesus ben Sira, who translated his grandfather's book, Ecclesiasticus, from Hebrew into Greek, added a prologue of his own in which he makes mention of three parts of the Jewish canon three times.

"This passage can hardly have been written later than about 130 BCE". [Beckwith, p.110.]

He not only states that there is a threefold canon - that is closed and distinguished from all other writings - but he goes as far as to imply that this was also the case in his grandfather's time, this would give a date as early as the third century BCE for the canon.

The words of Jesus also suggest a tripartite canon when he spoke in Luke 24:44 of words written in the Law, Prophets and the Psalms.
This is evidence that the Jewish canon had already been defined and closed before the Christian era.

And of course what Reed fails to mention is that while Sirach mentions the sections of the OT, he doesn't mention Daniel in his list of Biblical heroes.


Irrelevant. There's a few other Biblical heroes he doesn't matter, so who's counting? The significance of Sirach is (a) that he refers to individuals who lived before his time (such as Elijah and Ezekiel), confirming that the record of their deeds was already accepted as authoritative by the Jews, and (b) that he alludes to the trifold grouping of the Jewish canon.

In any case, we have an alternative attestation for the book of Daniel from around the same time as Sirach:I Maccabees 2:59-60.
Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, by believing were saved out of the flame.
Daniel for his innocency was delivered from the mouth of lions.
This is doubly helpful, since it includes a reference to the "firey furnace" story of Daniel 3 and a reference to the "lions den" story of Daniel 6. Remember, Sirach does not claim to be listing a canon. But he does provide a useful reference point for the dating of canonical Jewish literature.

Further, since Sirach is writing from Egypt, to what extent is his writing authoritative? There are so many questions here that would make for a good debate.


*snip*

I don't see the relevance of geography in relation to the reliability of Sirach.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#9 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 07:46 AM

Celsus responds to Evangelion:

Evangelion,

I am amused with your post. First you agree to discuss the issues raised about the idea of canons, and then you respond with simplistic assertions, seemingly unaware that your assertions are exactly the sort of mistakes pointed out in the Prolegomena to the article.

Since you have no real interest in this issue (otherwise you might have read the article), except the rather tedious apologetic one, I don't see much further point in continuing this discussion.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#10 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 07:50 AM

Evangelion responds to Celsus:

First you agree to discuss the issues raised about the idea of canons


I was waiting for you to raise them.

and then you respond with simplistic assertions, seemingly unaware that your assertions are exactly the sort of mistakes pointed out in the Prolegomena to the article.


We shall see.

Mistake #1:

The persistence of the concept and evaluation of "canon" according to the Christian example of a closed and authoritative list.


Why is it wrong to defend the concept of a canon? A canon is simply a list of authoritative literature. Why is it a "mistake" to believe that the Jews attempted to collate a list of authoritative literature, when this is so obviously what they did? Their preservation of the Law of Moses is a case in point; these books were regarded as authoritative, and for this reason they were continually copied.

Your author observes:The role of canons within the system of rabbinic Judaism, as well as in other ancient and modern societies has not been fully evaluated.
But so what? Are we not permitted to advance any opinions on the subject because "the role of canons within the system of rabbinic Judaism... has not been fully evaluated"? That seems to be a rather facile objection. How is it a "mistake" to advance and defend the concept of a canon?


Mistake #2:

The inherited view of pre-rabbinic Judaism as having been, throughout its development, a unitary phenomenon, with a single line of evolution, and thus, implicitly, with a single canonizing process, leading to a single canon.


But I have never suggested any such thing. I have not claimed that pre-rabbinic Judaism was "a unitary phenomenon with a single line of evolution." This misapprehension is precluded by the record of history. Judaism became increasingly fragmented during the various captivities, with different branches of Jewish thought emerging left, right and centre.

Nor have I claimed that there was "a single canonising process, leading to a single canon." The canonisation process was gradual; it occurred over a long period of time and was completed in various stages, at various times.

Yes, there was a conscious decision to preserve authoritative literature (as indeed, there has been in most other human civilsations.) The members of each different era settled on the books they deemed to be authoritative, and collected them together in a single group. That group was subsequently inherited by the next generation(s), who added their own authoritative books to the list as they saw fit.

The process ended when the Jews decided that there were no longer prophets among them. Since divine inspiration was considered to be the benchmark of Scripture, the Jews would naturally exclude any uninspired work from their collection of authoritative writings.

This is often compounded by the teleological fallacy: that within the process of formation of a canon lie the seeds of the final canon itself


*snip*

I make no such assumption, nor have I claimed any such thing in this thread.


Mistake #3:

The assumption the scriptural canon provides clear and reliable evidence of its own history.


It is not an assumption. It is an interpretation of the textual evidence. Whether right or wrong, it is definitely not an assumption.

Even your author admits that...We can find traces of the canonical process within the canonized texts of scripture.
I agree, of course, that evidence for the history of the canon is not entirely clear, but I believe there is sufficient information to constitute reliable evidence.

One obvious example of this is to divide the history of canonization into the rabbinic-Masoretic divisions of "torah", "prophets" and "writings", without considering that different groupings may have been in force at earlier stages;


I am quite happy to consider that different groupings may have been in force at earlier stages, and just as ready to believe it (if any evidence can be advanced in its favour.) Do you have such evidence? If not, this is merely pointless speculation. It neither proves nor disproves anything.

more generally there persists a tendency to accept canonical stories such as Ezra as being suitable evidence for the canonization of torah.


Until I am given a valid reason for discounting the story of Ezra (and any other canonical story that your author might have in mind) I'll stay with it, thanks. But even if I dropped it, the impact on my argument would be negligible. I don't actually need it.


Mistake #4:

Within biblical scholarship, it is rarely asked whether or not "canon" is a good thing; where the matter does get an airing, the answer is a ringing affirmation. Yet an ongoing controversy about whether or not canons do or should exist is raging in the field of English literature.


Relevance?

Some critics are saying that the notion of "canon" is no more than an attempt by educational (we could read "ecclesiastical") fascists to administer control of one's culture ("religion") and one's society, to preserve the values of a powerful few against the interests of the less powerful many. Others counter that excellence cannot be relativized and must be recognized, and that canons do and should exist because they testify to the self-authorizing nature of excellence.


Relevance?

But values do not lie in texts. Texts can only refract the values of writers and readers. Canons do not impose themselves.


Agreed. But... relevance?

Edited by Evangelion, 16 November 2007 - 01:43 PM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#11 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 07:52 AM

Evangelion responds to Celsus:

Well, that was easy enough. I haven't actually committed most of these alleged "mistakes" - and as for the rest, your author has simply failed to prove that they are mistakes in the first place. So for the most part, Davies' spiel consists of little more than straw men and unproved assertions.

Since you have no real interest in this issue (otherwise you might have read the article), except the rather tedious apologetic one, I don't see much further point in continuing this discussion.


Suit yourself.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#12 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 08:02 AM

Celsus responds to Evangelion:

Hi Evangelion,

Ok, I withdraw my remarks about you lacking an interest. However, I disagree with your conclusion that "haven't actually committed most of these alleged 'mistakes'."

Let's begin.

[Josephus] defines the parameters of the canon with particular care, and confirms that it is definitely closed. ... He refers to the books in accordance with their respective groupings: the Law, the prophets and the writings. These designations were already familiar to his audience, who knew exactly what they contained.


Firstly, I should point out that this would not significantly influence my argument since Josephus is writing more or less near the final stages of the Hebrew canon (some 20 years before Jamnia). However, there are serious problems with your apologetic. For the benefit of onlookers, what Josephus does say in Contra Apion 1.8 is this:

For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books, (8) which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life.


The footnote states:

(8) Which were these twenty-two sacred books of the. Old Testament, see the Supplement to the Essay of the Old Testament, p. 25-29, viz. those we call canonical, all excepting the Canticles; but still with this further exception, that the book of apocryphal Esdras be taken into that number instead of our canonical Ezra, which seems to be no more than a later epitome of the other; which two books of Canticles and Ezra it no way appears that our Josephus ever saw.


Clearly, what books are included in Josephus' canon are a matter of conjecture (albeit with some high degrees of plausibility), since it is possible that 1/3 Esdras or Ezra (and it is a significant difference regardless of the origins of 1/3 Esdras) is the book refered to here.

Furthermore, presumably either one of Canticles or Qoheleth make up the last of Josephus' 4 books consisting of the "hymns to God"/writings--the others being most probably Psalms, Proverbs and Job. The answer is at best conjecture. In other words, when you argue that for Josephus, the canon is "definitely closed" and he has only 22 books as opposed to 24, something is wrong with your idea of closed.

Bringing back Davies into the picture, he writes:

Any history of canonizing, then, that we construct, though supposedly dealing with the backward-looking face, is being composed under the forward-looking gaze of a final, definitive and authoritative canon, which has helped to shape not just Christian communities, and not just the discourse of biblical scholarship (note the term carefully!) but also Western culture.


As we have seen with your example of Josephus, you are putting the cart before the horse (did you not realise his canon consisted of only 22 books?). Josephus' canon differed from Jamnia, and because of your apologetic need to have canonicity established as early as possible, you claim it was closed when in fact, it was still quite open.

Moving on to your definitions of canons:

What are canons?


Lists of authoritative literature.


The rather obvious and mundane question then extends as: authoritative according to whom? As we have seen in the Josephus example above, the authority of Josephus is insufficient.

What was the process of canonisation like to the Jews themselves?


The preservation of authoritative literature.


Again, it is insufficient to list it merely as preservation since you yourself quoted Josephus earlier as deeming certain writings of greater quality than others. And of course, as we have seen, his authority is unreliable, since it does not tell us nearly enough about the canon, and since he differs from the final canon as to raise unanswerable questions.

Was it a conscious act?


Yes. The Biblical record makes this clear - particularly in the record of Josiah's reign.


This is exactly what Davies said was a conceptual problem in #3. Of course, you countered it by saying that it was not an assumption but interpretation, but your simple one-liner initially can lead to no other conclusion that it was an assumption--hence my charge (I will deal with your answer to #3 in greater detail later --Edit: scratch that, I'll let you respond first).

<snip the rest of your claims of Josephus' citing the canon as closed>
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#13 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 08:22 AM

Evangelion responds to Celsus:

Firstly, I should point out that this would not significantly influence my argument since Josephus is writing more or less near the final stages of the Hebrew canon (some 20 years before Jamnia).


The point is, however, that Josephus clearly alludes to this canon as an old and well-established body of authoritative literature.

Thus:

From the days of Artaxerxes to our own times every event has indeed been recorded; but these recent records have not been deemed worthy of equal credit with those which preceded them, on account of the failure of the exact succession of prophets.

There is practical proof of the spirit in which we treat our Scriptures; although so great an interval of time has now passed, not a soul has ventured to add or to remove or to alter a syllable; and it is the instinct of every Jew, from the day of his birth, to consider these Scriptures as the teaching of God, and to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully to lay down his life in their behalf.


As far as Josephus is concerned: (a) the canon was closed after the time of Artaxerxes, (b) the canon was subsequently accepted as authoritative; © it has remained unaltered since then, and (d) a great deal of time has passed since the canon has closed.

Since Josephus wrote in AD 90, he is perfectly correct in saying that a great deal of time has passed - and he confirms that the canon has remained unchanged during that period.

The canon is, according to Josephus, definitively closed.

However, there are serious problems with your apologetic.


We shall see.

For the benefit of onlookers, what Josephus does say in Contra Apion 1.8 is this:

For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books,

[...]

The footnote states:

(8) Which were these twenty-two sacred books of the. Old Testament, etc....


*snip*

A single, unsubstantiated opinion from a 17th Century theologian does not a compelling argument make. You require much more than this.

Clearly, what books are included in Josephus' canon are a matter of conjecture

[...]

The answer is at best conjecture.


"At best conjecture"? Hardly.

According to the Jewish Encyclopaedia:Josephus (c. 38-95) enumerates 22 books, which he divides as follows:

5 books of Moses;
13 histories, containing the history of Israel from Moses' death down to Artaxerxes I., written by the Prophets; and
4 remaining books consisting of hymns and admonitions.

"It is true our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time: and how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one hath been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them" ("Contra Ap." i. 8).

It is evident that Josephus, instead of counting Ruth and Lamentations as separate books, combined them with Judges and Jeremiah, respectively. As historical books he considered all that narrated anything historical, and thus included Job. He considered Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes non-historical.

No other arrangement would have been possible for Josephus; for it is known from Talmudic and Midrashic literature that in his time, when the Tannaites flourished most, all the now familiar books were considered canonical. For various interpretations of Josephus' narrative, see Strack, l.c. p. 752.
The only difference between the 24-book canon and the 22-books canon therefore, is the arrangement of the canonical material (not the material itself.)

In other words, when you argue that for Josephus, the canon is "definitely closed" and he has only 22 books as opposed to 24, something is wrong with your idea of closed.


You have not even begun to prove this. Your "22 books as opposed to 24" objection is quite insubstantial. Not only that, but every time you refer to Josephus you somehow manage to overlook this bit......although so great an interval of time has now passed, not a soul has ventured to add or to remove or to alter a syllable; and it is the instinct of every Jew, from the day of his birth, to consider these Scriptures as the teaching of God, and to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully to lay down his life in their behalf.
Now, what exactly do you make of this, Celsus? What is Josephus trying to tell us here? Is he saying "Sure, the canon looks great - but it's still open, so of course we're chucking in a new book every month"?

Or is he saying something rather different?

Bringing back Davies into the picture, he writes:

Any history of canonizing, then, that we construct, though supposedly dealing with the backward-looking face, is being composed under the forward-looking gaze of a final, definitive and authoritative canon, which has helped to shape not just Christian communities, and not just the discourse of biblical scholarship (note the term carefully!) but also Western culture.


Notwithstanding this, it is still not impossible to reconstruct the history of the canon.

As we have seen with your example of Josephus, you are putting the cart before the horse


How so?

(did you not realise his canon consisted of only 22 books?).


Of course I did. I've even written an article on the subject (which may be read by anyone who visits my own forum) in which I quote this very section of Versus Apion. Your "24 books vs. 22 books" objection just doesn't carry any weight.

Josephus' canon differed from Jamnia


In its arrangement? Perhaps. In its content? No.

Jamnia merely reaffirmed the parameters of the traditional canon - the very canon which Josephus himself had already recognised as ancient. (The reaffirmation itself was most likely prompted by the rise of Christianity.)

and because of your apologetic need to have canonicity established as early as possible, you claim it was closed when in fact, it was still quite open.


You have not even begun to prove that it was still open. What do you do with Josephus' observation that the canon has remained untouched "for so great a time"? What do you do with his observation that this is due to the fact that the criteria for canonisation have not been met by any subsequent works?

Moving on to your definitions of canons:

What are canons?


Lists of authoritative literature.


The rather obvious and mundane question then extends as: authoritative according to whom?


Obviously they are authoritative according to the compilers and anyone else who accepts them. What you should be asking is "How was that authority traditionally defined? On what basis was a book considered canonical?"

Well, Josephus provides with the parameters of his day - and guess what? The Council of Jamnia agreed.

As we have seen in the Josephus example above, the authority of Josephus is insufficient.


We have seen no such thing.

What was the process of canonisation like to the Jews themselves?

The preservation of authoritative literature.


Again, it is insufficient to list it merely as preservation since you yourself quoted Josephus earlier as deeming certain writings of greater quality than others.


Oh, I agree that a canon is much more than that. You see, I am actually using the term "authoritative" to denote the very superiority to which you refer. Josephus clearly believed that the books of his canon should enjoy precedence over other Jewish writings by virtue of their inspiration. He clearly states that they have been deemed authoritative on this very basis.

That is one of his canonical criteria.

And of course, as we have seen, his authority is unreliable, since it does not tell us nearly enough about the canon


In fact, his testimony is quite sufficient (as the Jewish Encyclopaedia has shown.)

and since he differs from the final canon as to raise unanswerable questions.


*snip*

In fact, since you have not even defined what you believe to be Josephus' canon (much less that of Jamnia) this assertion remains unsupported.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#14 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 08:31 AM

Evangelion responds to Celsus:

<snip the rest of your claims of Josephus' citing the canon as closed>


I'd love to know how else these words might be interpreted:

From the days of Artaxerxes to our own times every event has indeed been recorded; but these recent records have not been deemed worthy of equal credit with those which preceded them, on account of the failure of the exact succession of prophets.

There is practical proof of the spirit in which we treat our Scriptures; although so great an interval of time has now passed, not a soul has ventured to add or to remove or to alter a syllable; and it is the instinct of every Jew, from the day of his birth, to consider these Scriptures as the teaching of God, and to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully to lay down his life in their behalf.


What's that, then? A shopping list?

"Three pounds of butter, a quart of milk, a dozen eggs, a sack of potatoes and 22 authoritative books from the Jewish religious tradition. Signed, Josephus."

???
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#15 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 08:45 AM

Evangelion responds to Peter Kirby.

Emil Schürer comments: "Περι βιου θεωρητικου η ικετωον αρετων. De vita contemplativa (Mangey, ii. 471-486). Eusebius twice cites the title in the following form (H. E. ii. 17. 3 and ii. 18. 7): περι βιου θεωρητικου η ικετων.

[...]

This composition has, since the time of Eusebius, enjoyed special approbation in the Christian Church, Christian monks being almost universally recognised in the 'Therapeutae' here described and glorified.

[...]

But apart from this there are other suspicious elements, by reason of which even such critics do not regard the Therapeutae as representing a Christian, but as a Jewish ideal of life, have denied the authorship of Philo. Upon the ground of the identification of the Therapeutae with Christian monks, Lucius, after the precedent of Grätz and Jost, has declared this composition spurious.


With respect, Schürer is astonishingly credulous (as are all those who believe that Philo's reference was to "Christian monks.") We do not, in fact, have a quote from De Vita Contemplativa which makes any such claim. Philo doesn't even mention the Christians. He never even knew them.

The absurd claim that the Therapeutae were actually Christians does not come from Philo, but from Eusebius himself - and so we see that Schürer's principle error is his uncritical acceptance of Eusebius's testimony. He has taken a statement from Eusebius and (astonishingly) attributed it to Philo. This is very poor scholarship.

How do we evaluate Eusebius' identification of the Therapeutae as Christians? Was it accidental, or deliberate; mistaken or contrived? Should we give Eusebius the benefit of the doubt, or convict him as a pious fraud?

Professor Constantine Scouteris (School of Theology at the University of Athens) gives Eusebius the benefit of the doubt, arguing that his identification of the Therapeutae with Christians was an honest mistake:

It should be pointed out from the very outset that Philonian monachism has been seen as the forerunner of and the model for the Christian ascetic life. It has even been considered as the first picture of Christian monasticism.

Such an identification can already be found in Eusebius of Caesarea. In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius, referring first to apostolic foundations of the Church of Alexandria by St. Mark, points out that Philo's Therapeutae were the first Christian monks.

He sees in their renunciation of property, in their chastity of life, in their severe fasting, in their solitary lives, in their devotion to scriptural reading and in other aspects of their ascetic life, the Christian monks.

Eusebius was so certain that Philo was describing the life of the first Christian monks that he argues that Philo himself, not only knew the life of the first Christian ascetics, but also had himself adopted it.

The Therapeutae of Philo and the Monks as Therapeutae (2002)


Phillip Schaff (History of the Christian Church) is equally indulgent:

Eusebius (II. 17) mistook the Therapeutae for Christian ascetics, and later historians for Christian monks. It was supposed that Philo was converted by the Apostle Peter. This error was not dispelled till after the Reformation.


But Marian Hillar is far more skeptical - and IMHO, right on the money:

The church preserved the Philonic writings because Eusebius of Caesarea labeled the monastic ascetic group of Therapeutae and Therapeutrides, described in Philo's The Contemplative Life, as Christians, which is highly unlikely. Eusebius also promotes the legend that Philo met Peter in Rome. Jerome (345-420 CE) even lists him as a church Father.

The Logos and Its Function in the Writings of Philo of Alexandria: Greek Interpretation of the Hebrew Myth and Foundations of Christianity (2000)


Eusebius' endorsement of De Vita Contemplativa (combined with his hopelessly anachronistic claims about Philo and Peter in Rome) was largely responsible for the acceptance of the Alexandrian's work. Jerome's propaganda had a similar effect.

But neither man had any evidence to support his claims. (The simple reason for this, of course, is that they simply weren't true! They were, in fact, nothing more than Christian revisionist pseudo-history.) I therefore convict both Eusebius and Jerome as pious frauds, discounting their nonsensical "interpretations" of the Therapeutae.

Epiphanius (a later church father) is also deserving of comment. He perpetuates the myth of Eusebius in his own mention of the Therapeutae.

According to Shirley Jackson's thesis (available here):

Epiphanius adopts the Eusebian tradition that Christianity was planted in Egypt by Mark, and that Philo's Therapeutes were the primitive Christians. But the title of Philo's treatise was, according to Epiphanius, Concerning Jessees peri Iessaiwn.

In the opening paragraph of De vita contemplativa Philo speaks of the Therapeutes in a way to indicate that he regarded them as a type of Essees (Essenes). They were the Essees of the contemplative life in contrast with the Essees of the practical life. So it would not have been wholly incongruous to refer to his tractate as Concerning Essees peri Essaiwn.

[...]

Why are we here introduced to the Therapeutes? Evidently because the objective basis of the author's thought in this connection is Philo's Therapeutes, coupled with the Eusebian tradition that these were primitive Christians. Epiphanius wishes to find them a more appropriate name, and this he has done to his satisfaction in the word Jessees.

It answers his purpose in several directions. He can check it off theologically with Jesse, etymologically (through Therapeutes) with Jesus, analogically with Essees (the general class of which Philo speaks), and historically with Therapeutes (the specific term used by Philo).

Thus Epiphanius, as a witness for the pre-Christian date of Jesus and of Christianity, is a distinct failure.


It is by his thorough and methodical investigation that the spuriousness of its authorship has been definitely decided." (The Literature of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, pp. 357-358)


"Definitively declared"? I hardly think so.

Again, Shirley Jackson:

The authorship of De vita contemplativa, so long debated, seems finally to have been decided in Philo's favor.

See F. C. Conybeare, Philo about the Contemplative Life (Oxford, 1895); Massebieau, "Le traité de la vie contemplative et la question des therapeutes," Revue de l'histoire des religions, XVI (1887), 170-98 and 284-319; Wendland, "Die Therapeuten" in Jahrbücher für classische Philologie, XXII (Suppl.), 1896, 692-770.


I find it difficult to believe that the "spuriousness" of De Vita Contemplativa is currently accepted as the normative view.

Edited by Evangelion, 20 July 2006 - 11:52 AM.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#16 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 08:50 AM

Peter Kirby responds to Evangelion:

Evangelion, you are begging the question. Of course the description of the Therapeutae was not based on Christian monasticism if Philo of Alexandria was the author. But the question is whether Philo was the author!

To Peter Reed's credit, he says only that attribution "has been ascribed to Philo." Can you present any arguments that Philo was actually the author? That would be more helpful than an opinion quotefest.

Of course, I don't want anyone to take Schürer's statement at face value, only to indicate that authorship has been disputed.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#17 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 08:55 AM

Evangelion responds to Peter Kirby:

Evangelion, you are begging the question.


No I'm not. I'm simply asking you to prove your assertion.

The claim is that this account of the Therapeutae is actually a description of the early Christian community. Very well. So where is the evidence to support this asssertion? There's nothing uniquely "Christian" about the Therapeutae as Philo describes them, so why should I leap to that conclusion?

Of course the description of the Therapeutae was not based on Christian monasticism if Philo of Alexandria was the author.  But the question is whether Philo was the author!


Haven't you got this the wrong way around?

Let's recap:

  • You raised Schürer to prove that the authorship is disputed. But on what grounds?



  • On the grounds that De Vita Contemplativa contains a description of early Christian monks.

Very well. So you obviously need to prove that Christians are specifically mentioned before you can cast any aspersions on the authorship of De Vita Contemplativa. But where is that proof?

To Peter Reed's credit, he says only that attribution "has been ascribed to Philo." Can you present any arguments that Philo was actually the author?


*snip*

I don't see any need to until I receive compelling evidence for the claim that Philo's account of the Therapeutae was based on Christian monasticism.

To date, I have not received that evidence.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#18 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 09:05 AM

Peter Kirby responds to Evangelion:

I'm simply asking you to prove your assertion.


Ah, I see. The trouble with that is that I've not made an assertion (beyond that authorship of The Contemplative Life by Philo has been disputed).

You raised Schürer to prove that the authorship is disputed.  But on what grounds?  On the grounds that De Vita Contemplativa contains a description of early Christian monks.


In order to figure out what the grounds were, I would have to be able to read French and German. Schürer refers to Nicolas, Kuenen, Weingarten, Grätz, Jost, and Lucius. None of them wrote in English.

There does seem to be a study by Conybeare in English, which would be useful to track down to see what the arguments were. Schürer claims that scholars identified "other suspicious elements" which led them to consider the writing non-Philonic, without necessarily thinking that the description of the Therapeutae was based on Christian monasticism.

Instead of being punctilious about "burden of proof" and quoting century-old opinions without argumentation, one of us could actually do some research into what the reasons are for authenticity and pseudonymity, which might be worthwhile.

I could place the results on my "Early Jewish Writings" web site.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#19 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 09:13 AM

Celsus responds to Evangelion:

Sorry Evangelion, but you still haven't explained the context by which a canon is formed. You are also still using the term "canon" in its modern sense--not even in the classical sense or in the pre-Classical sense.

Quoting Josephus' opinion of what constitutes "closed" does not practically shed light on the question unless you look at the social context in which this takes place. We don't accept one person's opinion on anything today, and it would be a mistake to do so in the past.

And as Davies has already noted (quoted above, see the monastry example), this exact same problem is encountered with the DSS. Obviously a canonisation process was underway. But how do we know what they considered to be canon or not?

According to the Jewish Encyclopaedia you quote:

No other arrangement would have been possible for Josephus; for it is known from Talmudic and Midrashic literature that in his time, when the Tannaites flourished most, all the now familiar books were considered canonical.


Do you see the question begging that Davies warns about? You still have not risen above that level in determining non-circular methods of determining what was in Josephus' canon.

It remains conjecture, and the combination of Ruth with Judges and Lamentations with Jeremiah is still as I said, conjecture.

Perhaps you can give me some good reasons why I should believe this arrangement, and that Josephus necessarily adopted it as such. Otherwise, conjecture. You seem to be of the opinion that we know much more about history than we actually do: this is the typical apologetic of filling in silence with pet theories.

However, as I already noted, Josephus does not severely influence the argument, because he is writing close to the time of the final canon. It was raised in an attempt to point out the question begging that goes on in studying the formation of canons. Obviously, the question of what constituted "closed" is not satisfactorally answered without some amount of circular reasoning.

But we'll have to leave that for now or lose sight of the debate...

Now, let's move on to LXX and the Hebrew Bible. What was the process of canonisation like? When can we adequately determine when the Hebrew Bible was finally closed? Why did the LXX have the deuterocanonical books? Were they all first century Christian additions?

Davies writes:

There is sharp disagreement on this question.

We can start by noting that scribal schools existed in the Hellenistic age, and E.W. Heaton's recent discussion of Jewish schools, in which he comes to the conclusion that the canon is the product of the scribal school system, takes as its starting ben Sira and Qoheleth.[8]

He notes that ben Sira invites his readers to attend his school (bet midrash, 51:23), possibly even without payment (51:25). The range of topics in his book, however, makes it clear that he is not now training scribes, but offering an education to any who would acquire the Judean form of worldly wisdom, including the national literature, practical etiquette, sound ethics, piety, and so on.

As Heaton says, the conservative scribal values "came to colour the whole ethos of educated society", the "mobile middle class".


The question that is trying to be answered above is: at what point are the material conditions in the Jewish society ready to begin formalising the canon? What was the original LXX, and when was it finally completed? How did the other books creep in? Are you going to argue that the LXX contained no Apocrypha originally?

How are you going to demonstrate that without begging questions?
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#20 Evangelion

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 09:16 AM

Evangelion responds to Peter Kirby:

Ah, I see.  The trouble with that is that I've not made an assertion (beyond that authorship of The Contemplative Life by Philo has been disputed).


Well then, if you're not raising an argument, I'm under no obligation to raise a counter-argument.

You raised Schürer to prove that the authorship is disputed. But on what grounds?  On the grounds that De Vita Contemplativa contains a description of early Christian monks."


In order to figure out what the grounds were, I would have to be able to read French and German. Schüerer refers to Nicolas, Kuenen, Weingarten, Grätz, Jost, and Lucius. None of them wrote in English.


That would make my task just as difficult, then.

There does seem to be a study by Conybeare in English, which would be useful to track down to see what the arguments were.


Conybeare is largely credited with the definitive verification of Philonic authority. I would certainly be interested to see how he does it. The only problem is that I don't know what his work is called, nor where it might be found.

Scührer claims that scholars identified "other suspicious elements" which led them to consider the writing non-Philonic, without necessarily thinking that the description of the Therapeutae was based on Christian monasticism.

Instead of being punctilious about "burden of proof" and quoting century-old opinions without argumentation, one of us could actually do some research into what the reasons are for authenticity and pseudonymity, which might be worthwhile.

I could place the results on my "Early Jewish Writings" web site.


Good call. Unfortunately, I don't think I have the necessary resources for such an endeavour.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.




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