Thursday, May 29, 2008

Danny Schwartz on Agrippa (part two)

copyright 2008 Stephan Huller

Once Schwartz’s point is understood the only question which lies before us is to what degree is the story of Agrippa’s imprisonment in Josephus a development from Genesis chapter 40? In other words, everyone acknowledges that ‘Agrippa’ was placed in prison in the period leading up to March 26th, 37 CE. The question is whether or not he was an adult or a child when incarcerated is still to be answered. Is the material which found its way into Josephus factual or is the report of Agrippa’s maturity a by products of the narrative’s appropriation from the story of Joseph?

Schwartz never for a minute doubts that ‘Agrippa I’ was a real historical person. He claims that the author has ‘borrowed’ material from the Joseph narrative but there ‘must have been’ a real ‘Agrippa I’ who was imprisoned that year. I have always been intrigued with actually looking at what appears in Philo about Agrippa and trying to see how it might fit or not fit within Josephus’ existing narrative. Most interesting of all as I noted elsewhere is that in Philo’s recording of Agrippa’s own description of Caligula’s ‘releasing him from prison’ there is an overriding sense that he has been ‘resurrected’ from the dead – an idea which does not find echo in Josephus.

My previous discovery that Agrippa’s ‘resurrection’ occurred on the exact day of the ‘Christ’ of Christianity’s release from a tomb is a very good reason to suppose there was a later ‘re-editing’ campaign of Josephus. Indeed what is even more troubling is the way the story of ‘Agrippa I’ is introduced into Josephus. It doesn’t come as one might expect – i.e. woven into the chronological order of the narrative as a whole. Rather at the very moment when Agrippa is said to have been imprisoned the author (or later editor) goes back in time and develops a whole history of ‘Agrippa I’ which in my mind attempts to explain away any connection to Christianity whatsoever.

Indeed it should be stated that the existing texts of Josephus only identify ‘Agrippa’ a little after the date of 28 CE has been already reached in the chronology. This means that the original author might well have accepted only one ‘Agrippa’ but that someone came along later and developed an ‘explanation’ which in effect ‘created’ Agrippa I. Let me explain what I mean.
As we get closer toward the well-known imprisonment of Agrippa the author decides to add material to the text which sets the stage for the ‘Agrippa the father of Marcus Agrippa. The first time “Agrippa” appears in the chronology of Jewish War appears at 2:178 which reads “In the mean time Agrippa, the son of that Aristobulus who had been slain by his father Herod, came to Tiberius, to accuse Herod the tetrarch.” The text might well have offered a different explanation of who this ‘Herod’ who killed Agrippa’s father. Nevertheless we need only note for the moment that the parallel text in Antiquities makes clear that the year is 37 CE.

Now we turn to the first historical reference to “Agrippa” in Jewish Antiquities 120 which reads “Agrippa, the son of Aristobulus, went up to Rome, in the year of the death of Tiberius, in order to treat of some affairs with the emperor.” Schwartz notes that the claims of this section are almost impossible to believe all fit in with the relatively short span of time from the beginning of 37 CE to Tiberius’ death in late March. Nevertheless this only serves to argue on behalf of the fact that there is corruption in the existing narrative.
Schwartz writes:

Now I should clarify that this is not the first reference to Agrippa in Jewish Antiquities. It is only the first time that Agrippa appears naturally in the chronology as I already stated.

The first actual reference to “Agrippa” in the text follows a discussion the tower where the high priest garments were stored in the Hasmonaean era. Josephus says that these vestments where kept there by ‘King Herod’ but that after his death they were transferred to the Romans. They only got back into the hands of the Jewish monarchs when Claudius gave them to Agrippa. The ‘Agrippa’ here is explicitly identified as ‘Agrippa II’ which is crucial for all the pieces here to fall properly into place.
The reason I have drawn the readers to both the first chronological reference to Agrippa as well as the first mention of his name in book fifteen is because once these are recognized it becomes quite easy to demonstrate how the text has been corrupted. The first chronological reference appears in chapter five of book eighteen and the text of Josephus almost immediately launches into a ‘trip back in time’ to provided details about who this ‘Agrippa I’ is. Nevertheless I want to stress that already in book fifteen the reader is introduced to his supposed son ‘Agrippa II’ without any overt mention of the father.

Book Eighteen is particularly troublesome as it is the one which contains the so-called ‘Testimonium Flavium’ – Josephus’ secret confession that he is really a believer in Jesus. I believe that this corruption is only the tip of the iceberg. If you look at the structure of the material which follows we see that it is almost immediately followed by the description of Pilate’s attack against a Samaritan messianic gathering. I have long argued that this event should be taken as the historical basis for the Passion narrative. Various Christian writers with connections to Samaria repeatedly reinforce this claim.

If we look at the contents from the whole as the unfold after the pseudo-historical Testamonium Flavium it is also important to note that immediately after the :
1. Testmonium Flavium (Chapter Three)
2. Why the Jews were expelled from Rome (Chapter Three)
3. Pilate’s assaulting the Samaritan messianic gathering (Chapter Four)
4. Pilate dismissed (Chapter Four)
5. Vitellius comes to Jerusalem during Passover (Chapter Four)
6. Vitellius gives the high priest robes to the Jews (Chapter Four)
7. death of Philip identified as 34 CE (Chapter Four)
8. Herod’s war with Aretas the Arab king (Chapter Five)
9. recollection of John the Baptist now dead (Chapter Five)
10. Josephus discussion of family tree of Herod (Chapter Five)
11. chapter begins “a little before the death of Herod the king” (Chapter Six)
12. the imprisonment of Agrippa at the end of Tiberius’ reign (Chapter Six)
13. Agrippa set free by Caligula (Chapter Six)
14. Agrippa made king of Philip’s former territory (Chapter Six)
15. Story of “Agrippa I” culminating with his death by owl (Chapter Six)
16. Banishment of Herod (Chapter Seven)
The last line of the Samaritan messianic gathering narrative is “after which [Vitellius] took his journey back to Antioch.” All the material which follows actually begins another ‘trip back in time’ which was deliberately added by a later editor to obscure the original account of Marcus Agrippa’s imprisonment.

The readers have to keep the line just cited “after which [Vitellius] took his journey back to Antioch” fresh in their heads. Tiberius’ death has also been just announced as having occurred so we are necessarily already at the end of March 37 CE. Yet from that point on in text the chronological order is deliberately broken. Events supposedly from earlier in Tiberius’ reign are haphazardly introduced making it seem as if ‘other things’ happened after Vitellius relieved Pilate of his post.
The text says that after the leaders of the Samaritans complained about Pilate’s heavy handedness he boarded a ship preparing to face Tiberius’ wrath. The last thing we are told about Pilate is that when he arrives in Rome Tiberius is already dead. At the same time Vitellius is immediately understood to have arrived in Jerusalem appointing a certain ‘Marcellus’ as Pilate’s replacement while the Passover festival was still happening in Jerusalem.

Most scholars imagine that Pilate must have left sometime in 36 CE in order to make the chronology work properly. There are no difficulties in understanding Pilate attacking a Samaritan messianic gathering which happened on a Passover and Vitellius to have arrived in Jerusalem during a Jewish Passover in the same year. For one, because of slight different methods of geography and the physical location of Mt. Gerizim the Samaritan calculation of Passover almost inevitably arrives at a date which occurs before their Jewish counterpart. It is also worth noting that in Jewish Aramaic ‘the Passover’ can refer to the whole eight days of the festival.

Passover is a most appropriate date for a Hebrew community to imagine their messiah to manifest his presence. Christianity does it – why not the Samaritan community mentioned by Josephus? To this end we are left wondering whether it is more plausible to imagine that Josephus left Palestine during the Passover of 36 CE or 37CE while Tiberius was still king. This whole issue brings up a whole different issue when was the Passover in each of those years?

Another point to consider is that Vitellius couldn’t possibly have been present to clean up the mess from Pilate’s assault on the Samaritan messianic gathering if it had occurred in 36 CE (as most scholars claim).

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