Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pratt on Pervo on Theudas

Following up on a dialogue that began here at DI, Jason Pratt has now finished his seven-part critique of Pervo's claim that Luke's way of using Theudas's name, as it appears in Gamaliel's speech, shows Luke's dependence on Josephus (and hence the late date of the work).

My central interest in the controversy surrounding late-dating Acts was the question that, given their apparent recognition of how so much accurate information about places and times and governmental systems that seems to be recorded in Acts, it is odd that they do not even ask the question of how that information could have been preserved into the early second century. Having looked at this essay by Richard Carrier, it looks as if he recognizes the amount of accurate content in Acts. He then points out that this was just means he was good with public information, as opposed to having a good idea of, say, whether the apostles might have hallucinated the risen Jesus. But he makes no attempt to explain how Acts came to have so much accurate detail, and given the fact that he holds a position like Pervo's on the dating of Acts, this is a dismaying omission. In other words, it looks as if Carrier doesn't even ask the question that I asked about Luke's knowledge.Does he really think this information would have been easy for someone in the second century to get?

Anyway, Pervo's book, along with Colin Hemer's, await me at the Glendale Community College library. I will see if he addresses the problem I posed.

47 comments:

PhysicistDave said...

Vic,

I had thought a fairly late date for Acts was accepted by everyone based just on the obvious disagreements between Paul’s letters and Acts. Also, the Gospel of Luke is obviously fairly late, as shown by his mix-up in the chronology of Herod vs Quirinius, and, of course, his bizarre beliefs about the census requiring folks to return to their ancestors’ home of nearly a millennium earlier. Since Luke wrote Acts, that would, again, imply that Acts was late. Of course, there is lots of other circumstantial evidence – the Virgin Birth myth showing up in Luke but not in Paul, etc. And, of course, there is the fact that Luke cribbed a lot from Mark.

So, what’s the big deal? Straightforward clues in the text prove that Luke is a late, largely mythological composition. Why does anyone care about this tiny detail about Theudas?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Dave

Walter said...

What is more important than dating is the question of genre: is Luke-Acts pure history or is it something else? After reading Pervo's "the Mystery of Acts" I am convinced that Acts is not straight history. That conclusion can be made even without a naturalistic prejudice against the miracle parts. One reason being is that the there are repetitions and parallels between Peter's adventures and Paul's. Pure history is never so "neat." Acts of the Apostles was written with an agenda towards legitimizing the Gentile mission, elevating the status of Paul to that of equality or even superiority over Peter, and to show that catholic Christianity was no threat to Rome, as the author blames the Jews for Jesus' death.

I tend towards the mainstream dating of Acts ( circa 80-85) as the earliest possible date of composition. The reason being that Acts is written later than the third gospel, and the third gospel's "prophecy" about the destruction of the Second Temple appears to have been written vaticinium ex eventu. Further, the third gospel is obviously dependent on Mark's gospel which I believe can be dated no sooner than about 65 CE at its earliest.

Tim said...

Dave,

A late date is not accepted by everyone, and the claim that there are "obvious disagreements between Paul’s letters and Acts" turns out to be a less clear than some authors have made it out to be. One can, of course, manufacture disagreements by demanding (say) that the events to which Paul refers in Galatians 2 are the same as those narrated in Acts 15. But this is itself one of the points in dispute. And mere arguments from silence will prove nothing at all.

The works written on the question of Quirinius and the census would fill a small library. Richard Carrier's online essay on this subject does not by any means settle the question.

Since Luke explicitly indicates his dependence on sources in the prologue to his Gospel, it does seem rather uncharitable to accuse him of "cribbing" from Mark.

The hypothesis that Luke is "a late, largely mythological composition" makes it difficult to account for the minute accuracy of numerous details in the text that can be checked against archaeology and other sources.

Rasmus Møller said...

I Am No Scholar, But :)

am I right to observe that PhysicistDave takes issue with apparent disagreements between different NT texts, whereas Walter takes issue with agreements too neat...

It certainly makes a xtian like me a little less worried that the NT debunkers may be on to something...

Walter said...

am I right to observe that PhysicistDave takes issue with apparent disagreements between different NT texts, whereas Walter takes issue with agreements too neat...

That there are considerable discrepancies between the four canonical gospels is not denied by anyone other than hardcore inerrantists. My argument was that the Acts of the Apostles is portraying events in "too neat" a fashion to reflect real history.

Discrepancies between different authors is another discussion.

Craig Blomberg said...

Not to take sides, but just to set the record straight: Pervo is alone among the last two dozen or so major commentaries, from any perspective, over the last half-century, to date Acts in the mid-second century. Almost all liberal scholars opt for the 80s-90s, believing Jesus could not have predicted the destruction of the temple and therefore this must be after-the-fact "prophecy," while many conservatives scholars opt for 62, based on the strange end of Acts that appears to know nothing of Paul's fate beyond that date.

No serious Acts scholar denies that the author of this work is writing "theological history" more than modern history; the latter hadn't yet been invented. Unless there were ideological lessons to be learned from its recounting, the ancients couldn't understand why bother recording history; see esp. Lucian of Samosata. But this is a separate question from whether apparently factual details were or were not reported accurately, as Lucian also notes.

Colin Hemer needs to be supplemented by the five volume work edited by Bruce Winter on The Book of Acts in Its First-Century Setting, if one is going to become fully aware of how much of Acts corresponds to historical information about the ancient Mediterranean world. If Pervo is right about how much of Acts represents historical verisimilitude within a work whose genre is otherwise more akin to a historical novel, then the author of Acts is the first in that part of the world to have composed such a work. And the genre will not recur for centuries. All other known Jewish and Greco-Roman works of fiction from the relevant time period conspicuously avoid historical verisimilitude except in very small ways. In fact, lack of correspondence of names of people, places and historical details tends to be the give-away as to the genre the author intends.

The debates about Quirinius and Theudas are complex and intriguing and many scholars would say they currently have no satisfactory solution. On the other hand, they are the only two such issues in all of Luke-Acts with this degree of mystery surrounding them. Darrell Bock's commentaries on Luke and Acts in the Baker Exegetical Commentary series on the New Testament give the fullest discussion of the options in English that are at all current.

Whatever position one comes down on will hopefully be the one that best takes into account the above data.

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments on this post. It is a breath of fresh air to read the mostly calm and courteous tone after so many blogs, both atheist and Christian, including the responses to them, which are so much more polemical. May your tribe increase!

Tim said...

Craig,

Thanks for your comments and the pointer to Winter's series. I'll be getting three of those five volumes on the strength of your recommendation.

PhysicistDave said...

Tim wrote to me:
> Since Luke explicitly indicates his dependence on sources in the prologue to his Gospel, it does seem rather uncharitable to accuse him of "cribbing" from Mark.

I did not say that Luke lied: I merely implied that the fact that he copied from Mark automatically pushed him to a later date (i.e., later than Mark at least).

Pretty obviously true.

Tim wrote:
> The hypothesis that Luke is "a late, largely mythological composition" makes it difficult to account for the minute accuracy of numerous details in the text that can be checked against archaeology and other sources.

How funny! The census is a myth. That is not how the Romans did censuses. That is not how they *could* have done censuses, since, of course, few people would have known where their ancestor lived almost a millennium earlier.

Both Luke and Matthew needed Jesus to be born in Bethlehem and to end up in Jerusalem. Like did it with the census myth, Matthew with the myth of the Star (how does the a star stand over a “specific* house?), the Wise men, and the Slaughter of the Innocents.

You are just proving how radically differently your mind functions than mine (or nay competent scientist’s) if you swallow this.

And that of course is my central point on all these threads: by my standard, you are not endowed with the faculty of reason (I’m putting this diplomatically!): you, and most other Christians, are the counter-examples to the “argument from reason,” which of course assumes humans can reason.

Dave

PhysicistDave said...

Rasmus Møller wrote.
> am I right to observe that PhysicistDave takes issue with apparent disagreements between different NT texts, whereas Walter takes issue with agreements too neat.

Not even a very good joke, son.

Obviously, two authors can agree in some details and yet still disagree on some so widely as to prove that one of them is wrong.

Paul’s letters are, presumably, primary sources. There are a huge number of differences between Paul and the Acts. Proves Luke got things wrong. Not near as big an issue as the census, though.

Personally, I believe in Winnie the Pooh: talking stuffed bears are more likely than mad old Luke, with his fake census, virgin birth, and all the rest!

Don't worry though: your faith is safe -- you just have a different mode of mental operation than Walter or me.

PhysicistDave said...

Blomberg wrote:
> Not to take sides…

And then proceeded to take sides!

Blommie also wrote:
> Colin Hemer needs to be supplemented by the five volume work edited by Bruce Winter on The Book of Acts in Its First-Century Setting, if one is going to become fully aware of how much of Acts corresponds to historical information about the ancient Mediterranean world.

And, “Gone With the Wind” has a lot of historical facts right, too. But it is still fiction.

Blommie also declared:
> The debates about Quirinius and Theudas are complex and intriguing and many scholars would say they currently have no satisfactory solution.

Like there is also no “satisfactory solution” to creationist attempts to explain the fossil record or geocentrists attempts to explain astronomy! No “satisfactory solution” = “we’re wrong but have too much faith to admit it.”

Blommie also wrote:
> On the other hand, they are the only two such issues in all of Luke-Acts with this degree of mystery surrounding them.

Untrue. The census kills it: Luke may well have thought he was relating fact (most scholars think so, as do I), but the legends he collected have some quite obvious whoppers in ‘em.

Personally, I worship Apollonius of Tyana, truly a God: those who do not accept that Apollonius is truly the Savior shall truly, and rightly, spend eternity in the fires of Hell. Who can deny the historical accuracy of Philostratus' wonderful biography? Sure, there may be some minor “problems,” but faith uber alles!

Tim said...

Dave,

My quibble was with the term "cribbed," not with the relative dating.

Recent scholarly estimates for the date of Mark vary, but on the early end they extend back to the mid 30s. See James G. Crossley, The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insight from the Law in Earliest
Christianity
(London & New York: T & T Clark International, 2004).

The census is a myth.

That is one possibility, but I do not think the evidence points in that direction.

That is not how the Romans did censuses.

On the contrary: the Romans did sometimes allow a census to be taken on the basis of local customs. In a Jewish culture, that would require ancestral registration. See, e.g., Heinz Schürmann, Das Lukasevangelium, vol. 1 (Freiburg: Herder, 1969), p. 100, and Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah (New York: Doubleday, 1977), p. 549.

That is not how they *could* have done censuses, since, of course, few people would have known where their ancestor lived almost a millennium earlier.

What line of reasoning leads you to the conclusion that the Jews, for whom genealogy was a passion, did not know their ancestry and their points of origin from a millennium earlier?

PatrickH said...

Dave, I suggested on Feser's blog that you might be a Loftus sock-puppet. I was jesting, but reading your comments really does keep that suspicion going. All the "Vic", "Vic" "Vic", the endlessly repeated rodomontade about how rational you are, the worthless abuse directed at posters like Tim, and really just the endless talk about yourself...you do sound a lot like Loftus. Loftus said something about how when he's not there, you are...he's (blessedly) taken off, and now here you are...

Makes one wonder it does.

PhysicistDave said...

Tim wrote to me:
>What line of reasoning leads you to the conclusion that the Jews, for whom genealogy was a passion, did not know their ancestry and their points of origin from a millennium earlier?

Tim, do you know how many ancestors a person has a millennium earlier?

Look: the Jews were not so hot on genealogy: compare the genealogies in Matthew and Luke.

You lied, very clearly and very blatantly, about me on the other thread: any honest person can check that thread and see your lying.

I despise you; I consider you human scum that this planet would be better off without.

PhysicistDave said...

Patrick,

My reply to you has been censored: it did not have any four-letter words or profanity.

PhysicistDave said...

Patrick H wrote to me:
>I suggested on Feser's blog that you might be a Loftus sock-puppet. I was jesting, but reading your comments really does keep that suspicion going.

On the other thread, I laid out a lot of information about physics and math that I do not think you believe John knows.

And if you click on my name, you get to my Website with a lot of posts not connected to John’s interests.

If John went to all the trouble to gin up my Website just to create a sock puppet…

Well, this seems to be all I can get past the censor.

Blue Devil Knight said...

When did Tim lie? I have been following the other thread, and he merely responded to your claims directly without subterfuge. Where was the lie Dave?

BenYachov said...

>I despise you; I consider you human scum that this planet would be better off without.

I reply: Any person regardless of their alleged belief or disbelief in whatever religious or metaphysical scheme who says such things, as cited above, should not be regarded as a rational dialog partner or worthy debate opponent.

That is self-evident. Dave you have nothing to teach anybody here. Nothing till you learn to act like a human being.

BenYachov said...

@BDK

If it gives you comfort I've known & had experience with devout Catholics who in fact act worst than Dave is acting right now. Oh boy is that a tragic tale......

anyway speaking as a militant Theist let nobody use either Loftus or Dave's foul behavior as some excuse to bash & tar Atheists.

PhysicistDave said...

You know, Jake, although Anonymous bore false witness towards me, you chose not to admonish it but me.

That is what I am talking about in the double standard that Christians have exhibited for two millennia.

I admit that I treated you wrongly: you were rude and inconsiderate to me when the evil person here was “Anonymous,” not me. And, yet, in my typical excess of kindness, I treated you politely.

Obviously, a mistake, for Jake, you are more contemptible human scum even than Anonymous. I apologize for treating you like a human being – that was a mistake.

I truly love the fact that people like you are Christians: it is thanks to people like you that the fraction of Christians in this society is finally declining at a good clip.

Scum.

PhysicistDave said...

BDK,

I replied to you at length, but my posts are being repeatedly censored: although there are no "four-letter" words and no profanity.

I have tried experimenting to see what words, phrases, or sentiments are triggering the person or mechanism doing the censoring and have made a bit of headway, but I am getting tired of it.

Sorry I cannot reply further. Look at the old thread on the Tim issue: I pointed out his lie there -- assuming my reply has not been deleted.

I'm afraid this is, quite literally all I can do. (No, I do not know if Vic or someone is doing this by hand or if it is a 'bot-- but whatever, it is too difficult to deal with or try to outguess it.)

Bye.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Dave: there is a problem with the site's comment system. Victor basically never censors posts.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Victor, could it be that some comments are ending up in your spam filter?

Jason Pratt said...

Wow. I don't know if that was the 'real' Craig Blomberg (his backcheck info link leads to nothing but a name), but he sure writes like him. Good job on that at least! (And great to see you if that's really the CB. I'm a big fan. {g} That reference to Bruce Winter's hardcore series on Acts' historicity is sweet. Also hugely expensive and hard to fully collect, which is why I don't have it yet. Sadly, I don’t have good access to a university library, so I can’t get hold of them through interloan either. Ah well. Something to save up for...)

PhysicistDave, on the other hand (and by the same criteria), is almost certainly not a sock-puppet for J'oftus; unless John has gotten infinitely better about creating false website/identities and pretending to his readers that they're someone else. (Admittedly, from his past behavior I can understand the suspicion. But let's go with the balance of the evidence on this. And appreciate the irony of doing so in his favor. {g})


"CB" and Tim already answered most of what I would have said on the topic myself--not without going into tons of detail (which I'm sure they could have also done).

However, since the question was asked, and since I wrote the series of articles Victor was linking to...

Dave: {{Why does anyone care about this tiny detail about Theudas?}}

Well, Dr. Pervo cared enough to make it his primary argument in favor of dependence on Josephus; and some readers several weeks back cared enough to throw it up to Victor when he was talking about historical accuracy in the texts. I was curious what the argument was, looked it up, was very much not impressed, and did some geeky venting about it. The end.

For what it’s worth, I don’t have much problem with the idea of a 2nd century author managing to turn up lots of picky accurate details pertaining to an early-mid-1st-century milieu. Why he would bother to do so, however, leads to various theories; and to problems with various theories. Also, internal characteristics are a common means of dating material, and the internal characteristics of Acts may point to a much earlier than 2ndcent. composition. (Just as internal characteristics may point to a 2ndcent. composition.)

I wanted to add a bit in regard to returning to ancestral land for census purposes (beyond what Tim and CB already said): this is not really a problem, even if they were thinking in terms of trying to get to territory originally assigned (in their family saga) to one of the 12 tribes descended from the sons of Jacob, which is the most hat would have been required. However, the main point would only be to return to the area where one grew up and still has the most family.

That hardly requires levels of knowledge that would be impossible for mere mortals to know (and so must be fictional or whatever).

It's also far from impossible that descendants of David (in much humbler straits after the first Great Deportation) returned from Babylon to the village, and the sheepfields, he and his family had themselves lived in, to intermarry back into the descendents of David's relatives still in the region, leading eventually to Joseph. Even if all that linkage was only legendary, it would still be important for them; so naturally would be reported later.

JRP

Tim said...

Dave,

Is it your opinion that the genealogies in Matthew and in Luke are incompatible?

You write:

You lied, very clearly and very blatantly, about me on the other thread: any honest person can check that thread and see your lying.

This is simply false. I may have been in error, but I did nothing in bad faith. As I wrote on the "Lofty Thoughts ..." thread:

Where did you discuss "the straightforward sense in which most people imagine" time travel? What I had in mind, as I would gladly have told you if you had had the courtesy to ask, was a "Back to the Future" conception of time travel. If you'll point me to a specific passage in one of your comments where you address this qualification, I'll gladly retract my claim.

I'm still waiting for a response from you. If you have tried to post it but are having posting problems, I'm sorry about that; I, too, have encountered posting problems.

Tim said...

Finally, you write:

I despise you; I consider you human scum that this planet would be better off without.

I love you too, Dave.

Jason Pratt said...

Also, I should mention for Victor: while Colin's book is a classic and extremely informative and helpful read, if you're looking for what he has to say on the Theudas problem, I don't recommend bothering; although his references to names for which Theudas can be a Grecian alternate is very interesting and helpful, his argument practically boils down to "it is generally agreed that Luke did not use Josephus as a source".

Whereas, in his earlier discussion of Luke/Acts sourcing more generally, where a Josephan connection is theoretically brought up, the "Theudas problem" is deferred until the later comments--where it is largely dismissed on the ground that it is generally agreed Luke didn't use Josephus!

While he mentions Theudas, and its problem, in passing several times, at the end of the day Hemer just isn't much interested in it. He's sympathetic to the theory of two Theudases, but has no real problem with the theory that Luke somehow, as a narrative composition glitch, mixed up the order anachronistically on the lips of Gamaliel (though in consideration of the sheer number and details Luke gets historically right in other regards, he recommends suggesting an open agnosticism about Luke's accuracy here.)

JRP

PatrickH said...

Dave,

It was the worthlessness of your comments, the relentless self-promotion, the gratuitous abuse, the disturbing sense that the person making your comments suffers from some kind of personality disorder as opposed to merely being unpleasant, alienating and self-defeating in the ordinary sense that caused me to suspect you of Loftus sock-puppetry.

I fully accept your designation as an independent sufferer of Loftus Syndrome. You seem to have what he's got, and you seem just as unlikely to get better, since what you and Loftus have isn't the kind of thing you get better from.

It was with relief that I witnessed the departure of (the much less unpleasant if equally tone-deaf and obsessive) Stephen Carr, and then (the thoroughly repellent) Loftus. I look forward to your following them to someplace far, far away.

In hopes of your perpetual absence,
Patrick

Blue Devil Knight said...

It looks like the troll has up and left of its own accord.

Jason Pratt said...

So, out of curiosity, and getting back to the actual topic: does anyone want to defend Dr. P's argument on Theudas? Or improve on it maybe? Or report on him having improved on it? Or report on him having addressed these factors (competently or otherwise) somewhere other than the section of that chapter (even elsewhere in Dating Acts)?

I tried to leave plenty of room for defense, if possible.

(The main reason I ask is because there were posters several weeks back who thought this was a snap-shut case in favor of Luke's ultra-late dating; that Victor was sadly ignorant of it; etc. But maybe they aren't on the boards at the moment. Heck, I myself missed Victor announcing when I started the series... {lopsided g!})

JRP

Walter said...

The main reason I ask is because there were posters several weeks back who thought this was a snap-shut case in favor of Luke's ultra-late dating

I was probably one of the ones that mentioned it to Victor, but I do not believe that Pervo or Carrier has a slam-dunk here. In my opinion, there are no snap-shut cases when we are dealing with the New Testament; the best anyone has is educated guesses with regards to authorship, date of composition, or even the genre of some of these texts.

I believe a dating of c 115 CE is not impossible, as I still believe that the author could have had access to a travel diary of Paul's that is no longer extant. (this speculation is no wilder than that of the hypothetical Q document that so many NT scholars believe existed--even without a shred of manuscript evidence). I am just as comfortable placing the composition of Acts around 80-85 CE, and I can accept the possibility that the author may have traveled with Paul on some of his journeys.

Jason Pratt said...

Walter,

Have you kept up with Dr. P enough to be able to tell if he's still going with Theudas/JudGal as the cornerstone of his argument in favor of borrowing from Josephus? Or even still favors it at all? (As I noted, and as other far more scholarly commentators than I have said for the past hundred+ years, it's theoretically possible the author of Acts used Josephus as a reference for other things yet still not for the Theudas reference.)

I did a computer search through the text of Mystery of Acts, wanting to make reference to any updates or counter-critiques he's made to the argument, but found very little argument per se on Josephan dependance--though it seemed confidently asserted several times--and practically nothing about the Theudas problem. This seemed odd to me; though I cautioned readers it might be due to an incomplete search result (or incomplete data available for searching: publishers rarely make all of a book available for Amazon's SITB.)

Aside from the larger question of Dr. Pervo's dating, or even the somewhat-smaller overarching question of Josephan dependence (i.e. in regard to other arguments), were you really that impressed by how he led out with the Theudas/JudGal argument for the Josephan-dependence topic in Dating Acts?

Because, while I realize slam-dunk, snap-shut cases are rare on the ground, I thought his Theudas case looked very poorly put together, and contributed nothing (at best) to his larger case for dependence on Josephus. Maybe he should have led with something else, and let that (or a number of other 'thats' in the aggregate) lend weight to his Theudas theory?

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

I should fairly add that, at this late date, I cannot now reconstruct exactly why I thought the Theudas example (per se) was supposed to be so important to Dr. P's case... {self-critical grimace} I've looked back through the threads to see if I could figure out why, but I can't find anything that would have aimed me directly at that.

Dr P himself, once I got there, apparently thought his case for Theudas was important enough to be the cornerstone for his overall Josephan-dependence argument. But I clearly recall going there from the outset thinking "really?--the Theudas/JudGal problem is some sort of serious clincher?--really?!"

Anyway. I just wanted to fairly mention that a possible mental disjunction of some sort on my part led to the series. Insert irony as appropriate! {g!}

JRP

Tim said...

Jason,

I have Dating Acts. Pervo gives his argument regarding Theudas on pp. 152-60, and he briefly tries to deal with some criticisms of his thesis on pp. 194-96. Other references in the volume seem to suppose the cogency of Pervo's reasoning in those portions. I agree with you that he has not remotely made his case; his dismissal of Bruce's obvious suggestion is particularly weak.

Leading up to the Theudas example, pp. 151-52, Pervo writes:

The first example to be considered is the cornerstone of the argument, a cornerstone that has long been the stumbling block for those who insist Luke had no knowledge of Josephus.

That's probably why you had the impression that he presents it as crucial for his case.

Walter said...

I did a computer search through the text of Mystery of Acts, wanting to make reference to any updates or counter-critiques he's made to the argument, but found very little argument per se on Josephan dependance

"Mystery of Acts" attempts to address the question of what genre Acts falls under. Pervo does not repeat any of his arguments concerning the date of composition.

Steven Carr said...

'....it is odd that they do not even ask the question of how that information could have been preserved into the early second century.'

That is easy.

Tacitus could not have been a second century writer.

Steven Carr said...

PATRICK H
It was with relief that I witnessed the departure of (the much less unpleasant if equally tone-deaf and obsessive) Stephen Carr, and then (the thoroughly repellent) Loftus.

CARR
Happily it takes more than Christian love to drive away repellent people.

Christian love is like water off a duck's back to me.

How could Tacitus have known what happened in the first century AD?

How could a second century writer like Tacitus have known that a certain 'Christ' was crucified by Pilate, unless Christians had told him?

There were no libraries for him to consult. No documents. No records.

Jason Pratt said...

Tim: {{That's probably why you had the impression that he presents it as crucial for his case.}}

Oh I'm entirely sure that this (among other statements) is why I thought Dr. Pervo presented the Theudas problem as the cornerstone of his case for Josephan dependency. {g} I read that once I got there. But I recall having a notion before I got there that some posters here had made a big deal about the importance of Theudas/JudGal. Naturally that would make sense, considering Dr. P's own emphasis. But when I went back to look through the previous posts, it's barely mentioned (if at all!)

So eh; that appears to be a false memory on my part, retroactively projected backward by a faulty neuron. But I thought I should mention an apparent brain-fart on my part, so as not to be unfair to people heavily leaning on Dr. P's analysis for Acts but not (specifically) on his Theudas/JudGal case. Possibly I subconsciously recalled from reading elsewhere that he made Theudas/JudGal his cornerstone effort, and so subconsciously slotted that emphasis into commenters' interest in his work, too.

Meanwhile, I should probably do a followup post, or at least a comment to my last entry in that series, regarding whether he pre-emptively addresses any of my critiques later in the 190s of his book (because I'm sure I didn't read that area).

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Walter,

Fair enough; I don't want to fault him for not doing what he wasn't trying to do, and I can sympathize with not wanting to spend time rehashing prior arguments.

I take it you don't know, then, whether he still makes the Theudas problem the cornerstone of his case for Josephan dependence? (I'm just trivially curious; it isn't like his case really hangs on it that much.)

JRP

Victor Reppert said...

Steven: I think you haven't been following my arguments. I have been claiming that Luke's minute knowledge of governmental operations and other details of various parts of the first-century Mediterranean world requires some sort of first-hand informational source. Even Walter agrees that had Acts been written as late as Pervo says it was written, that there would have to be some written record left by a companion of Paul that was used by the author of Acts. This is especially difficult to explain given the fact that this involves minor-stage events that would not be recorded in the Imperial palace, and Luke, as a Christian, assuming he was writing after persecution began, would not have access to Imperial court records anyway.

Victor Reppert said...

Walter, are you saying that Jesus couldn't have successfully predicted the destruction of the Temple?

Walter said...

Walter, are you saying that Jesus couldn't have successfully predicted the destruction of the Temple?

If I recall correctly Josephus records another "Jesus" who predicted the destruction of the Temple about ten years before it happened, so it is not impossible that the Jesus of the gospels--like others--saw the "handwriting on the wall" concerning the Temple. Luke's gospel goes into some detail about armies encompassing Jerusalem and the diaspora of the Jews, so it gives the impression of being written after the fact. Of course, it could simply be my anti-supernatural bias showing.

I have never seen any good evidence for dating the Gospels/Acts prior to 70 CE. Acts' silence on Paul's death is not very convincing to me as an argument for early dating, as I can see the author as having good reason to omit certain details.

Jason Pratt said...

Walter (and afterward): {{Luke's gospel goes into some detail about armies encompassing Jerusalem and the diaspora of the Jews, so it gives the impression of being written after the fact.}}

On the other hand, those two particular details are also extremely general and standardized (especially from the perspective OT prophetic principles--of course if God's people don't shape up God's going to throw them off the land. That already happened once before, and the King Messiah wasn't even there yet!--much moreso whatever more than a merely human Messiah Jesus is being presented as in the Synoptics.)

Whereas, there are particular details in the prophecies of the fall of Jerusalem that didn't in fact come true. (Which is one reason why many interpreters with a very high inerrancy doctrine tend to call those things as being slated for later, i.e. for the very last attack on Jerusalem, after or during our own time, right before the eschaton; not back during the 70CE fall.)

JAT Robinson's overview, 25 years ago in chapter 2 of Redating the New Testament, still covers the ground on this topic very adequately. (Frankly, anyone aiming at a 2nd century or even a post-70 composition for any of the texts, but especially the primary ones, will have to solidly clear the bar set by JATR. Something Dr. Pervo barely even tries to do in Dating Acts, by the way, if Amazon's SITB index is to be believed.)


{{Acts' silence on Paul's death is not very convincing to me as an argument for early dating, as I can see the author as having good reason to omit certain details.}}

Those details being...?

Acts isn't completely silent on that topic, after all, as it presents Paul as warning one of his congregations that he doesn't believe he will ever see his friends in Miletus again after his trip to Jerusalem. The text contains the fulfillment of other particular details of this 'prophecy from the Holy Spirit' (seized by the Sanhedrin and turned over to the Romans), as well as later prophecies that he and his companions will arrive safely in Rome; but whether Paul can indeed return to that congregation is still up in the air at the end of Acts. (Indeed, if anything he looks like he's doing quite well, despite being under technical house arrest pending his hearing!)

Moreover, if you think the authors are quite comfortable with prophesying even catastrophic events after the fact, and presenting them as some kind of positive fulfillment, why wouldn't Paul's death be spun out for credit the same way? (And Peter's death, and JamesJesusBro's for that matter?--none of whose upcoming fates are even vaguely hinted at in Acts, or for James anywhere else in the canon, but which are all close at hand by the point in time where Acts finishes?)

You seem to have something in mind; I'm just curious what factors you think would trump making use of it for prophecy ex eventu positioning purposes. After all, there are several docs undisputedly composed in the 2nd century which have no problem at all relating and spinning the deaths of one or more of those three chief Christian authorities (along with prophecies ahead of time).

JRP

Walter said...

Moreover, if you think the authors are quite comfortable with prophesying even catastrophic events after the fact, and presenting them as some kind of positive fulfillment, why wouldn't Paul's death be spun out for credit the same way? (And Peter's death, and JamesJesusBro's for that matter?--none of whose upcoming fates are even vaguely hinted at in Acts, or for James anywhere else in the canon, but which are all close at hand by the point in time where Acts finishes?)

For starters I think that Acts of the Apostles was written to be as "Rome friendly" as possible. Luke attempts to pin Jesus' execution squarely on the Jews, instead of the Romans. It would not do for Luke to paint Rome in a poor light as being responsible for the execution of such heroes of the faith as Peter and Paul. IMHO, this is also why the destruction of the Temple by the Romans gets omitted in Acts. I believe that Acts is a romanticized history of the early church, and that it was written with several agendas in mind: legitimization of the Gentile mission, an attempt to unify two "factions" of early Christianity (Petrine and Pauline), elevation of Paul's status to equality with the apostles who actually knew Jesus; and finally, to show that Luke's catholic Christianity was no threat to Rome, thus hoping to minimize potential persecution.

Walter said...

I take it you don't know, then, whether he [Pervo] still makes the Theudas problem the cornerstone of his case for Josephan dependence? (I'm just trivially curious; it isn't like his case really hangs on it that much.)

I do not know. I don't actually own his book Dating Acts, as it is a little pricey and not a subject that was interesting enough for me to shell out that much to read it. What I know of Pervo's arguments mainly come from online articles reviewing his work.

Here are a couple:

Dating the Book of Acts:5 the late date reconsidered

Dating the Book of Acts:6 the late date reconsidered

Jason Pratt said...

Thanks for the links, btw!

Walter (and afterward): {{For starters I think that Acts of the Apostles was written to be as "Rome friendly" as possible.}}

Fair enough. Also a concern in the days before the persecutions of Nero (including the trial of Paul) of course.

This wouldn’t explain why the author of Acts reports corrupt Roman government (looking for a bribe) as one reason for the delay of expediency in Paul’s case down in Palestine; but that might still fit under “as possible”. Certainly there are many details of both Acts and GosLuke (as well as the other three canonical Gospels) which point in that direction. Quite possibly due to Jesus himself (or even Himself) being as “Rome friendly” as possible (for various reasons).

Why exactly an early-to-mid 2nd century Christian author would not want to explain Rome’s involvement in signal Christian tragedies as having been due to the poor, evil and/or insane qualities of leaders still unpopular in Rome in that day--when we know of at least two hugely famous and roughly contemporary historians who are willing (grudgingly, in the case of Tacitus) to do just that--is fortunately not one of my problems. {g} Either Trajan or Hadrian was on the throne at that late date, and both of them are widely respected (at the time and afterward) as being extremely good Emperors, unlike crazy selfish Nero (who had certainly taken over from the decent Claudius by the time of Paul’s imprisonment at the end of Acts, much moreso was in charge at the time of Paul and Peter’s execution.)

Considering that, for very-late-daters, one of Acts’ source was most likely Josephus, this leads to another problem: narrating, either directly or by prophecy ex eventu, the death of James the Just, a man well-regarded even by some members of the Sanhedrin (according to Josephus) at the hands of a violent clique taking advantage of lag-time in a shift of Roman government in the region, would play exactly into the hands of Acts’ author. Yet Acts has precisely nothing (unlike vague hints concerning Paul) to say on that topic.

It would have happened at roughly the time of Paul’s imprisonment at the end of the book (62 CE); its omission is easily explained if the author hadn’t heard about it yet, being up in Rome with Paul at the time. Not so easily explained anytime afterward, even on only a moderate-majority dating (80s CE), especially given the author’s goal as you stated it (which I broadly agree is correct, though I might dispute as to picky details {g}).

Why the author would have been less likely to make reference to this, after a non-Christian (who doesn’t care nearly as much about James) had already done so for much the same apologetic reason you’re (I agree rightly) attributing to Acts, is, again, fortunately not one of my problems. {g}

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

{{IMHO, this is also why the destruction of the Temple by the Romans gets omitted in Acts.}}

And yet foreshadowed in GosLuke perhaps more than in any other Gospel?? Foreshadowed, moreover, in ways amounting to ‘God meant for you to have been friendly with your Roman enemies, especially for sake of evangelizing them and so bringing them into loyal worship of God, but since you refuse to do so...!’

To appeal to ex eventu prophecy about Temple destruction as part of a case for dating Acts late (after a late GosLuke and other Gospels), and then to explain its utter and total lack of topical mention (even as ostensible prophecy) in Acts by appeal of wanting to be friendly as possible with Rome, looks inconsistent. The difference can be explained easily if this was a main theme of the historical Jesus, accurately reported by Luke (and others, but especially Luke) for the Gospel; but a theme very unpopular, and/or misunderstood, among the Peter/Paul generation afterward, who just avoided bringing up the matter, also accurately reflected by Luke’s report in Acts. (A tension perhaps exemplified by prophecies in GosLuke’s infancy prologue where the characters, Mary and Zechariah, seem to be thinking in standard terms of God rescuing Israel from oppression by Rome and overthrowing those oppressors.)

The difference looks less easy to explain, to me, on other theories.


{{I believe that Acts is a romanticized history of the early church...}}

Not necessarily making it less usefully accurate than other ancient histories, all of which tended to a least a little romanticization (in the modern sense, not counting Roman-ticization at that time {g!}); nor necessarily pointing therefore to later composition.

{{...and that it was written with several agendas in mind:}}

None of which, again, necessarily point toward fabrication and/or late dating.

On the other hand, if someone was wanting to fabricate an elevation of Paul to apostolic status next to Peter, they could have easily written more scenes of Peter and Paul doing things together rather than a scene or two of them being at some odds with one another. But if Peter and Paul historically didn’t have much personally to do with one another, and the author felt constrained to stick to the facts on the topic, then even if that author wanted to promote the apostolic authority of Paul he might have to split them up the way Acts does (in fact keeping Paul away from most of the apostles usually. Though still in subordinate communion with church headquarters in Jerusalem.)

I might also add that one way to promote Paul on equal footing with Peter (and so “unify” two “factions of early Christianity”), would be to make sure to equally emphasize their successful willingness to die as a witness to (Christian) truth. Something that signally does not happen in Acts (or GosLuke either), even by something that could be ex eventu prophecy; but which could have easily been blamed on Nero (with an invented prophecy that Hadrian and/or Trajan wouldn’t be so mean to Christians.)

It’s a little weird, actually, that Nero is never even mentioned in Acts (although his predecessor Claudius is mentioned twice in passing; and a chief centurion in charge of Paul at the end was apparently at least adopted into the Claudian family.)

JRP

Edward T. Babinski said...

Hi Vic, Jason,

The Jesus Seminar also has an Acts Seminar that holds bi-annual meetings and argues various points as to its date. Their biannual newsletters discuss what hypotheses are discussed and they can be read here:

http://www.westarinstitute.org/Seminars/acts_seminar.html

I happen to know Dr. Shelly Matthews whose views were discussed at the latest Acts Seminar newsletter found at the bottom of the webpage.