Bright sun this morning, the light reaching round into my bedroom as I get up, with a hint of summer on the way. At lunchtime I saw crocuses coming into flower on a roundabout nearby. A walk along the sea promenade was warm.
All this was very welcome to a man recovering from a 48-hour virus. For this has been a sickly season, and everyone known to me has been ill. A flu jab in the autumn did not fend off flu in the first week of January, nor this current bout. But I am rather better today. Indeed I have managed to catch up on correspondence.
Professionally I also need to find a new client and go out and earn some money. I’ve had an extended period at home, which is nice but costly. The start of the new financial year is usually fruitful in opportunities, and if God wills then I shall find something which allows me quality of life as well as money.
At the end of last week, I got to the end of chapter 18 of Eutychius’ Annals – the Ummayad caliphs – with some relief. It has seemed interminable to me, and indeed probably to you! Before us stands the last chapter, chapter 19, the Abbasid caliphs. I can already see that the entries for the first few are short. So I will start work on that in a day or so, as soon as my strength returns.
It’s possible that work will resume on translating Eusebius’ Commentary on Luke. I think this must be by someone other than Eusebius of Caesarea – possibly Eusebius of Emesa.
The translation of the letter of Gelasius on the abolition of the Lupercalia is currently on hold, as the translator has a domestic issue to attend to. But I believe that a draft of most of the text has been completed, so I do think that this will be finished.
While ill I reread the old 1919 Loeb edition, in two volumes, of Martial, by W. C. A. Ker. I find this soothing reading. Like everyone else, I puzzle at the obscene epigrams, rendered in an Italian translation. One always wonders whether something can be rescued from the muck, something more. Of course I suppose that generations of young Latinists have been led to attempt to translate them! However last week I downloaded PDFs of the 1990’s version, which is in 3 volumes for some reason, translated by D. R. S. Shackleton-Bailey. I did read through a book or two, but I was not taken with it. Indeed I was struck by the foulness of the obscene epigrams – not interesting, just nasty – and in general by the inferiority of the new version to the old. Ker’s version had a warmth to it that S.-B.’s did not; and this despite copious borrowing. Is it, I wonder, Ker’s willingness to drop into mildly archaic language? Or is it my familiarity with Ker? – I’m not sure. At points S.-B. omitted a note that Ker had included. There was indeed much similarity. But I was sure that I felt no urge to buy the new one. The two brown mismatched volumes will remain on my shelves, alongside a similarly battered old Loeb edition of Juvenal. All will be treasured as long as I live.
One interesting note in the preface is that later editions of the Ker edition had the Italian replaced by some kind of English translation. This I had not known. So beware.
I’ve also read recently a couple of papers on the so-called Testimonium Flavianum in Josephus, Antiquities 18. These I found offered for the curious claim that every manuscript of Antiquities is derived from the one known to Eusebius, and that one was the same as that of Origen. I ought to write a blog post about them. The claim does not appear to be made out, however.
I suppose that all of us have a view on whether the Testimonium Flavianum is authentic; and that most of us have long since sighed and grown weary of the endless litter of scholarly papers, none of which achieve anything. But the recent endorsement by Louis Feldman of the fringe claim that Eusebius composed this passage (!) means that perhaps I ought to venture into the swamp, and address his article. It’s probably based largely on Ken Olson’s efforts since 2006 to make that claim. But I can’t find much enthusiasm for reading stuff like this. Anti-Eusebius writing has a foul history. As far as I can tell, it is always made only because the maker finds the historical testimony of Eusebius, about Christian origins, inconvenient to his political or religious views. As far as I can tell, this particular claim is not advanced for any different reason.
Is the passage authentic? As far as I can tell, everyone agrees that the Testimonium is “feels” wrong; and beyond that agreement ceases. So what purpose is there, in adding to the masses of text already written, unless to bring more data? My opinion as to its authenticity is certainly no better than anyone else’s, and I have no new data to bring. As for sifting minutiae, to reach an “assured” conclusion… well, I don’t think that method really works, on any matter of controversy. The microscope lens distorts everything around it, and the conclusions tend to be wrong.
Myself, I tend to think that the passage is genuine but corrupt. Most corruptions are innocent; the alternative is to suppose that somebody actually composed that passage, or something like it; and that seems an unnecessary hypothesis, more so than supposing corruption of an existing passage. It seems clear from the short mention of Jesus in Antiquities 20 that Josephus referenced Jesus somewhere else in his text; so that seems to me to involve fewest assumptions. But who knows?
A Spanish gentleman wrote to inform me on an error in my old Tertullian pages on De Spectaculis. This I fixed. I had not looked at the page in years. It’s good to know that it is still useful.
In the 2000’s, I often used to write in the Usenet discussion groups. Usenet is gone now, and its archives inaccessible to most people. I suspect, myself, that this is because the owners of Google would prefer to conceal the posts they themselves made long ago, in more tolerant times, from the brownshirts of our days. But I found myself wishing to recall an argument that I used to make against arguments from silence; and sadly, I could no longer remember it. But I was fortunate. A trip into Google Groups, and a bit of experimenting, and I found a thread that I contributed to, in response to a particularly strange bit of atheist rewriting of history. And, thankfully, I found my example. I must say that I was impressed with my younger self. I doubt that I could be so patient now. Whatever happened to “Quentin David Jones”, or “Iasion” as he came to call himself?
Not everyone from those days is gone. I was mildly pleased to see “Roman Piso” pop up in a comment on this blog a week or two back, still pushing his theory that Christianity was invented by members of the Piso gens. This seems to be a daft theory from the Jewish end of the spectrum. I’m tempted to write a post in which I discuss both Roman and also the books of Ralph Ellis. Ellis claims that Paul was actually Josephus – Roman thinks that one of the Piso’s was Josephus – and that Jesus lived and died in the 60s AD. All these books are rubbish, from a historical point of view; but if we treat them as a genre, and discuss them in clumps, then we can safely look at them. Hoaxes are interesting, if handled safely! On the other hand neither work really deserves discussion.
With which thought, allow me to wish you all good night!