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 While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens

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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 05 Jun 2018, 14:03

The above is a quote from Gregory Vlastos a 20th century philosopher who wrote several books on Plato and Socrates.  I came across it while reading The Trial of Socrates written by I.F.Stone who was a 20th C radical journalist and writer.  Stone's thesis in the book is that Socrates could have avoided both being found guilty and being sentenced to death (Athenian juries voted separately on whether a person was guilty and on the sentence) by appealing to Athenian democratic values.  However, Socrates was contemptuous of those values and both refused to appeal to them and instead set out to antagonise the jury especially after they had found him guilty such that quite a few jurors who had originally found him not guilty then voted for the death sentence.

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 15 Jun 2018, 08:25

I don't think Stone's view is all that radical in this instance - even Socrates' contemporaries such as his student Xenophon acknowledged that once the city decided Socrates should be processed through a democratic court (which had a slightly different meaning then than it might mean now) he was effectively doomed. One of Socrates' core principles when it came to authority and governance was that a majority meant nothing if it wasn't backed up by intelligence and knowledge (viz. Brexit to see what he was getting at), so this placed him in a double-bind when it came to his trial. Had he been acquitted of both charges by a majority of jurors there is in fact pretty good reason to believe that he would have violently disrespected their judgement and even provoked re-arrest for contempt of court - a crime back in his day too. Stone - like many others - reckoned the real truth behind his obstreperous disregard for the court and his own fate may have been ill health due to old age. He committed "suicide by court", demonstrated his main political principles quite forcibly, and ensured he went out with a philosophical bang rather than a senile whimper a short while later.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Mon 18 Jun 2018, 09:18

So was Socrates the first philosopher-martyr? This is an interesting article from the New York Times:



https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/philosophy-as-an-art-of-dying/



I remember posting ages ago that I thought Thomas More's death (he was already a very sick and depressed man at the time of his arrest) was assisted suicide - a way out for a man for whom actual suicide would have been a sin.

And the going knowingly "up to Jerusalem" - was that a kind of suicide too? Few would choose crucifixion though - a clean blow from an axe or a goblet of hemlock a much kinder option. Dignitas anyone?

Here are a few cheery verses from "Lady Lazarus" written by that expert on suicide (she tried several times before her last virtuoso performance) - Sylvia Plath:



Dying
Is an art, like everything else.  
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.  
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.  
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute  
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Mon 18 Jun 2018, 10:35

There was a guy called Empedocles who is regarded as the first martyr-philosopher. However Emp's reasons for doing himself in were spurious, to say the least, and not just on philosophical grounds.

The story as recounted by Diogenes Lærtius (the famous author of "potted" philosophers' biographies that any Sun reader could digest) was that Emp wanted people to believe very much that deep thinkers like himself didn't rot and get eaten by maggots when they died but instead were transmuted into immortal gods. To "prove" his point he announced to everyone he was feeling very poorly, deathly poorly in fact, and was now off to await his transmutation. He snuck off in the dark, climbed Mount Etna during an eruption, and chucked himself in - thinking this complete elimination of his remains would fool everyone. Unfortunately Etna managed to spit out a sandal, which was found and recognised, and so ended Empedocles, his credibility, and most of his philosophy too.

Horace later reckoned that Emp deserved some recognition at least as a good lyrical poet in his time, and changed the story to the lad actually thinking he'd survive the Etna treatment and come back, and then in revealing himself to everyone proving his immortality. This is the version Matthew Arnold opted for when he wrote his "Empedocles on Etna", a poetic run through the lad's last misguided thoughts before he toppled in.

Empedocles was a "tragic" philosopher, even when he was alive. He believed essentially that life was a sphere of shit we endured rather than enjoyed. I have a feeling there is a lot more mundanely tragic to the poor lad's suicide than either the later philosophers or poets cared to contemplate.

Funny you should mention the Jesus lad. It isn't a million miles from probability to assume that any well read radical rabbi within a Roman province at the time might have been very familiar with the actual words of Empedocles (which we still have as quoted by others) that included - just prior to his "oh, sod it all" moment - the following entreaty for people to go and piss off and leave him alone for once and for all, a la Brian:

I, an immortal God, no longer mortal,
wander among you, honoured by all,
adorned with holy diadems and blooming garlands.
To whatever illustrious towns I go,
I am praised by men and women, and accompanied
by thousands, who thirst for deliverance,
some ask for prophecies, and some entreat,
for remedies against all kinds of disease.


Exit stage left to Gologotha/Etna ...
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Mon 18 Jun 2018, 14:04

@nordmann wrote:

Empedocles was a "tragic" philosopher, even when he was alive. He believed essentially that life was a sphere of shit we endured rather than enjoyed. I have a feeling there is a lot more mundanely tragic to the poor lad's suicide than either the later philosophers or poets cared to contemplate.

Yes, I'm sure you're right. Perhaps that is true of Jesus of Nazareth too. Tragedy - I love it - the stuff of life indeed. I posted ages ago that I was reading a superb work of impeccable New Testament scholarship, "The Illegitimacy of Jesus: A Feminist Theological Interpretation of the Infancy Narratives" by Professor Jane Schaberg. Schaberg argues - convincingly - that Matthew and Luke were aware that Jesus had been conceived illegitimately, possibly/probably as the result of the rape of his mother. The gospel poets left in their writing hints of that knowledge, even though their main purpose was to explore the theological significance of "our lad's" birth. It makes utter sense to me that Christ's beginning was as violent, as humiliating and as shameful as his end - but with a deliberate purpose to that violence, humiliation and shame. A divine intervention indeed, whatever "divine" means. You mention Schaberg's study in Christian circles at your peril - indeed I have given up any attempt at meaningful discussion of her work in such circles - but I am fascinated by the idea of the story buried therein. I mention this because I wonder if either you - who know far more about the Roman and Greek worlds than I do - or Tim, could help me with something I am attempting to write.

My question - which may seem ludicrous - is this: how common was rape of subject women by the occupying Roman forces, especially in Judea? Did Roman army discipline frown upon such violation of local women in the occupied provinces and, if found guilty, what would happen to a Roman soldier so accused? Anything? Or would such a crime be dismissed as beneath the notice of a commanding officer?

Sorry - wandering off Socrates not weeping for Athens. I still like to imagine a meeting between him and the Nazarene. Please don't mock - these are genuine questions and musings. Crazy maybe, but the best ideas usually are crazy.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 19 Jun 2018, 08:41

@Temperance wrote:


My question - which may seem ludicrous - is this: how common was rape of subject women by the occupying Roman forces, especially in Judea? Did Roman army discipline frown upon such violation of local women in the occupied provinces and, if found guilty, what would happen to a Roman soldier so accused? Anything? Or would such a crime be dismissed as beneath the notice of a commanding officer?


Judea was a state evolving from client to provincial status, in which part of the deal was that the Romans at that moment were permitting vestiges of the old regime to retain their secular and religious authority. This was in fact by far the most normal style of Roman occupation, at least at the point of taking over a new territory. It was the most pragmatic approach to controlling communities which in turn allowed taxation - the ultimate point of the takeover - to be levied and collected as unproblematically as possible. In well ordered societies with complex legal systems and laws already in place, such as Judea, part of the deal was therefore that Roman citizens should not flaunt local law unnecessarily, and in Judea this seems to have been observed even more rigorously than elsewhere - as Josephus's official complaints presented to the imperial court regarding perceived provocations on the part of the governor's officials testifies. Having said that, Jewish laws as they were applied at the time were not exactly designed to prevent rape - in fact under certain circumstances the law could be said to legally sanction rape, or at least justify it ex post facto using spurious theology to protect the aggressor rather than the victim. However it is rather doubtful that this aspect to Jewish law could have been something a Roman citizen or soldier could really have used to excuse such aggression should they decide to rape someone. And it is worth noting that among Josephus's extensive list of complaints regarding Roman conduct during this early phase of occupation he does not mention such incidents of rape at all - which of course in his eyes would have been reprehensible not so much due to the violence but to the fact that a gentile had presumed to fornicate with a Jew, forcibly or otherwise.

As regards Roman soldiers behaving offensively in a manner which might lead to unrest and therefore earning political reprobation from their superiors I imagine the most frequent punishment would have simply been a transfer elsewhere. They were soldiers, but they were also Roman citizens, and as such were generally immune from extreme punishment no matter what crime they might commit within the civil community. This didn't excuse them from the punishments invoked by their oath of "sacramentum" which were generally severe (often fatally so) and the same as those meted out to traitors against the state. However raping local women wouldn't qualify as an offence within that oath's terms anyway, only obvious cowardice or disobedience under command.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 19 Jun 2018, 09:35

Thank you for the detailed response. What you say seems to confirm the little bit of research I have managed to do myself.

Apologies to Tim for being off-topic here. I shall allow you all to return now to the far more interesting Socrates and his lack of lachrymosity.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 19 Jun 2018, 17:00

'As regards Roman soldiers behaving offensively in a manner which might lead to unrest and therefore earning political reprobation from their superiors I imagine the most frequent punishment would have simply been a transfer elsewhere. They were soldiers, but they were also Roman citizens, and as such were generally immune from extreme punishment no matter what crime they might commit within the civil community.'

I thought the garrison of Judea was normally made up of auxillia and, as such, most of them would not have been Roman Citizens.

Moving back to Socrates. yes he was approaching his allotted 'three score year and ten', I do not have that many years to go either.  Stone also considers as to why the Athenian state moved against Socrates so late in life rather than just let him die.  Stone puts this down to Socrates association with members of the 'aristocratic party', his lack of association with 'democrats' (the only one Socrates could come up with had left the city [unlike Socrates and Plato] when the 30 took over) and the events of 411, 404 and 401BC.  Particularly in view of the attempt of the 'aristocratic party' to regain control in 401BC, Athens was feeling rather nervous.

Stone clearly likes Athenian free speech, which, as he points out, Socrates and Plato took full advantage of, and which lasted until Justinian closed down the philosophical schools, more than he does the philosophy of Socrates and Plato.

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 19 Jun 2018, 17:03

'As regards Roman soldiers behaving offensively in a manner which might lead to unrest and therefore earning political reprobation from their superiors I imagine the most frequent punishment would have simply been a transfer elsewhere. They were soldiers, but they were also Roman citizens, and as such were generally immune from extreme punishment no matter what crime they might commit within the civil community.'

I thought the garrison of Judea was normally made up of auxillia and, as such, most of them would not have been Roman Citizens.

Moving back to Socrates. yes he was approaching his allotted 'three score year and ten', I do not have that many years to go either.  Stone also considers as to why the Athenian state moved against Socrates so late in life rather than just let him die.  Stone puts this down to Socrates association with members of the 'aristocratic party', his lack of association with 'democrats' (the only one Socrates could come up with had left the city [unlike Socrates and Plato] when the 30 took over) and the events of 411, 404 and 401BC.  Particularly in view of the attempt of the 'aristocratic party' to regain control in 401BC, Athens was feeling rather nervous.

Stone clearly likes Athenian free speech, which, as he points out, Socrates and Plato took full advantage of, and which lasted until Justinian closed down the philosophical schools, more than he does the philosophy of Socrates and Plato.

regards
Tim
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Wed 20 Jun 2018, 06:44

@Tim of Aclea wrote:
'
I thought the garrison of Judea was normally made up of auxillia and, as such, most of them would not have been Roman Citizens.

I'm not sure where you got that information from - I've never heard it as anything other than a presumptuous claim made on internet forums by people who fail to distinguish between Roman soldiery of the early imperial era and several centuries later. They may have been from other provinces, and I assume Syria figured prominently, but that wouldn't have made them "auxiliary" forces and definitely wouldn't have affected their rights as soldiers, which included citizenship for their spouses and children, the right to own land, real estate and slaves, and their right to be tried by Roman law when they transgressed - which was the original question above.

Stone is not alone in identifying Socrates as a believer in meritocracy, a school of thought which had plunged Athens into turmoil when those who deemed themselves of "merit" then tried to make Athens into a Spartan client state, the slow and painful recovery from which was the political background to Socrates' trial. I'm not too sure what you or Stone might mean by Athenian "free speech". Socrates was proof of the cost of such speech, but then Socrates used political analysis to attemptedly influence the political process itself, which is why he ended up being tried. This was a brand of political philosophy which the state simply couldn't accommodate, but as opposed to Justinian and the broad Christian dislike of independent thought later, at that time the establishment targeted only those thinkers who inserted themselves into the political process and formed a direct threat to their power on that basis. And to be fair to Socrates, he understood well the potential cost of any "speech" which might offend that establishment and in fact educated his students to be aware of it too. "Free" it was not, and he spent more time explaining the cost and why it must be paid than he did taking any liberty with his philosophical expression in that environment.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Wed 20 Jun 2018, 13:44

Which part are you questioning

That the Roman troops in Judea were auxillia

or

That auxillia were not recruited from Roman citizens?
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Wed 20 Jun 2018, 14:25

The Roman troops in Judea at the time of the late Julio-Claudians were probably not auxillia - the Illyrian revolt of auxillian troops had made Rome extremely cautious about deployment of non-legionary soldiers in the east at all. The Syrian Legion at the time was definitely of full legion status (named for its area of operation rather than its soldiers' ethnic origin, who would probably have been mostly Greek, Galatian and Macedonian) and was the one charged with policing the newly acquired administrative district of Judea according to Tacitus. At the time of the later Jewish Revolts both Gallus and Vespasian also led full blown legions in their campaigns, including the Syrian on both occasions, though both definitely used auxillia too, especially archers. Some historians use the frequent reference to centurions from contemporary accounts to imply the presence of auxiliary cohorts in Judea (auxillia tended to have more centurions per capita than standard legions), however others point out that if this were so then the cohorts would have been very likely composed of non-semitic, non-Greek and non-Italian soldiers, something that no one has remarked upon from the period. The most frequent reference to their origin is simply "Roman", which normally indicates Italian/Greek standard legionary status.

Auxillia were not typically recruited from Roman citizens but from dependencies, remote provinces, neighbouring and client states, their leader being the sole beneficiary of Roman citizenship (such as Arminius in Germany). In the later empire the distinction became very blurred anyway as citizenship itself was extended, but in the first century AD it was still a pretty well defined difference.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 22 Jun 2018, 15:57

Thank you for the response but according to Martin Goodman 'Rome & Jerusalem' the garrison of Judea 'was just a small number of auxiliary cohorts, only one resident in Jerusalem - around 3,000 troops in all'.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 22 Jun 2018, 17:45

Deleted - message off-topic.

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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 24 Jun 2018, 08:52

@Tim of Aclea wrote:
Thank you for the response but according to Martin Goodman 'Rome & Jerusalem' the garrison of Judea 'was just a small number of auxiliary cohorts, only one resident in Jerusalem - around 3,000 troops in all'.

The acquisition of Judea was done piecemeal as you know, with about a third coming within direct administration on the deposition of Archelaus while Herod's sons still nominally ruled Galilee and trans-Jordan, and still according to the old client-status rules that had applied. At this point Goodman and others are correct to say that the Roman military presence in the most recently acquired territory was auxiliary with an equestrian ranked leader. This changed fundamentally however when the entire region was annexed, the capital moved to Caesarea, and the administration (including tax collection, the most important aspect to direct rule for Rome) subsumed within that of the Syrian government, which in turn had been set up as a senatorial province - ie. patrolled and policed by senatorial legions. The motive for the timing of the total annexation is debated - some say it was simply what Rome had always intended, while others cite the recent Anatolian and sub-Syrian auxiliary revolts to which contemporary observers referred and which had been unequivocally answered, according to Tacitus, by an imperial decree to "pacify" the area using fully fledged legions. This coincided with the establishment of Judea as a full province. Everyone agrees that by the time it had been redesignated as Palestine-Syria it had become effectively a police state garrisoned by "proper" legions who were positioned there precisely because it stood at the edge of empire with a formidable potential enemy across the way. What the bible accounts tend to obfuscate however is exactly when and how the transition occurred. It is logical to assume that Tacitus's account has most relevance in that respect.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 24 Jun 2018, 11:43

Another off-topic post from me, but, as it follows on from nordmann's message (also off-topic) perhaps it will not be frowned upon. This is all so interesting I cannot resist.

I want to know what happened after 70 CE when the Jewish nation was crushed and Jerusalem and the Temple destroyed. Josephus was there and his account is - to use his own words - "a melancholy thing" indeed:

Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done), [Titus] Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and Temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as they were of the greatest eminence; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne; and so much of the wall enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison [in the Upper City], as were the towers [the three forts] also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall [surrounding Jerusalem], it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it [Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.

And truly, the very view itself was a melancholy thing; for those places which were adorned with trees and pleasant gardens, were now become desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down. Nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judaea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change. For the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste. Nor had anyone who had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again. But though he [a foreigner] were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it.


Titus seems to have been utterly depressed by it all; he refused a wreath of victory and declared that "there is no merit in vanquishing a people forsaken by their own God."

Matthew and Luke seem to have picked up on this when they had Jesus (to return briefly to the OT) weeping for Jerusalem.  The words Luke has Jesus say in his tearful "prophecy" remind one of those of Josephus:

He wept over it, saying: “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke 19:42–44).


Many Jews abandoned their old religion - but what really happened to the ordinary people of Judea and Galilee? Were taxes gathered now without further resistance, or did the remnants of the Jewish Freedom Front fight on (as at Masada)? Did any Jews join forces with the Parthians, the great threat to the Empire? I hope that is not a daft question - but seems that to form a coalition with Rome's great enemy to the east must have been a temptation -if any of the fighting Jews were left.

Titus' melancholy was beautifully summed up in a line given to Peter O'Toole in his role as Flavius Silva. After the defeat of the Zealots at Masada the commander was congratulated on yet another great Roman triumph over the Jews. His bitter reply was: "Victory? What victory? We have won a rock in the middle of a wilderness on the edge of a poisoned sea." Echoes of the Duke of Wellington: "Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won".

I suspect Jesus of Nazareth might have been tempted to say to both sides: "I told you so."
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 24 Jun 2018, 12:35

Temp wrote:
I want to know what happened after 70 CE when the Jewish nation was crushed and Jerusalem and the Temple destroyed.

It became a perpetual war zone, sometimes due to it being fought over in a conventional sense by opposing Roman and foreign armies, but more often a series of guerrilla wars as factions forging, appropriating and resisting new identities and claims of political leadership fought amongst themselves as much as against the Romans, who were seen as the common foe by most belligerents in the area and the only hope of peace by a sizeable chunk of the population who willingly abandoned Jewish identity for safety sake. This lasted until the Bar Kokhba revolt, led by the last of a succession of self-proclaimed messiahs, which ended with the final death-knell for Judaism as a political expres​sion(until recent times) and its reinvention by those left as a more esoteric philosophical religion. It also led to the "pacification" of the region by Roman standards which included a huge degree of micro-management of the local population's movement, faith and status within the newly redefined province. A lot of people confuse this with the First Jewish Revolt, conflating Roman response to each as a single historical and political event. The truth, as is often the case when compared to history as derived from religious education, is much more complex. For Jews by far the most long-reaching and fundamental consequences of revolt were imposed by Hadrian, not by earlier emperors. After that point there could never be a "Jewish nation" - either self-defined by Jews themselves or even contemplated by the Roman state as a concept. Until modern times, of course.

When assessing the term "diaspora" as used in a Jewish historical context it is worth distinguishing between that which occurred post 70 CE (largely a voluntary movement of locals to neighbouring lands within the auspices of Roman control) and that which was basically ordered by Hadrian later (a violent ultimatum to vacate the area and make it the manageable territory Hadrian required to operate a beligerent frontier zone against eastern enemies).

Jesus, who of course was largely written retrospectively, is therefore always well placed in religious literature to have exclaimed "I told you so" - prophecies and words of wisdom written in hindsight are traditionally sage indeed. Had any rabbi in the early first century however actually predicted the following two centuries of social deterioration and just how it would pan out for the Jews he would probably have been laughed out of town. It's all very well proclaiming kingdoms in the ether - however predicting how actual kingdoms evolve and get dismantled is a much more severe test of any self-respecting prophet. I'm not aware that any of these actually got that one right at all. And in fact there is still huge assumption and misrepresentation of history itself by modern day equivalents as they examine how it did indeed actually happen - ironically because it deviated from prophesy by so wide, tragic and terrible a margin.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Mon 25 Jun 2018, 15:42

Goodman was referring to the period from 6AD until 66AD.  By the way he also penned one of the chapters in the Cambridge Ancient History.

Not wishing to get into a debate on Jesus' historicity again, but historians I have read generally seem to consider that Jesus did predict the destruction of the temple as his prediction, as quoted in the gospels, is not strictly accurate.  If it had just been made up after the event then it would have been.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Mon 25 Jun 2018, 15:45

Returning to Socrates and Free Speech.  I believe that Stone's point was that Socrates could have defended himself on the basis of free speech but chose not to do so.

In the UK we are supposed to have free speech but one is certainly not free to speak about everything.

I was pondering that under English Law Socrates could have sued the author of 'The Clouds' for the way in which he is portrayed in it.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Mon 25 Jun 2018, 15:49

Temperance

in terms of Jesus and Philosophers, I think it a shame that, as far as we know, Jesus and Philo never met - it would have been a fascinating exchange.  Philo was certainly a follower of Plato, which Jesus was not, and their views on women, the under classes and on the Jewish Law were quite differnt.  Philo would not have approved on Jesus, as reported in the gospels, declaring 'You have heard it said ... but I say'.

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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 26 Jun 2018, 22:18

I know very little about Philo, Tim, other than he was an aristocratic Jewish intellectual who spoke of "the holy Plato".

Was Saint Paul influenced by his teachings, do you think? I read somewhere that "Christianity" as we know it is actually all Philo's doing - that his thinking was developed by Paul and the writer(s) of the difficult Fourth Gospel (didn't Philo discuss "the logos" at length?). So many different ideas and so many different "experts" arguing about it all - it is difficult to know what or whom to believe. I return when in doubt to the simplicity and beauty of the Synoptic Gospels.

Some people say the fact that Philo never mentioned Jesus of Nazareth is proof that He never existed. But the doings and radical teaching of a peasant preacher/healer from Nazareth would surely have been of no interest to a man such as Philo?

I am very interested in the city of Sepphoris - the city in Galilee so near Nazareth that had its own theatre and was probably full of intellectuals interested in Greek ideas. Huge influence surely on any intelligent and truth-seeking young man who lived and/or worked there?
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 01 Jul 2018, 05:52

Hi Temperance

I will get back to on Philo but about to visit 'the land of Nordman's fathers'.  

Hi Temperance

I will get back to on Philo but about to visit 'the land of Nordman's fathers'. 

Quote from the book I read on Philo (there are not a lot around especially compared to all those books on Jesus!

‘Philo never mentions Jesus of Nazareth.  Their paths might have crossed on one of Philo’s pilgrimages to Jerusalem.   But his expectations would not have been met by such a figure as Jesus presented.  … it is fairly clear that Jesus championed society’s underdogs.  In terms of models of reality, or ways things aught to be, Philo and Jesus differed widely.  Jesus questioned the existing pecking order.  Philo accepted the Great Chain of Being as God-ordained, thus I am convinced that the two men would not have been attracted to one another.  Neither would have accepted the other’s basic premises.’

Philo also never mentioned John the Baptist or the Teacher of Righteousness and hardly mentions Cleopatra.  Most notably though he never mentions the Oniads of which he must have known of (given that they were in Egypt) and would have totally disapproved of. 

I very much doubt that Paul ever read Philo.

regards
Tim
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sat 07 Jul 2018, 09:32

Tim wrote:

I very much doubt that Paul ever read Philo.


I bet he did. Wasn't he a pupil (or so he claimed) of the great - and very wise -  Jewish teacher, Gamaliel? Gamaliel taught all his pupils Plato: surely he would therefore have discussed Philo's work with his students?

I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.


EDIT: Read this in one of my books...


St. Paul studied at the rabbinical school of Gamaliel (d. 52AD); Josephus tells us that half of Gamaliel's curriculum involved study of Greek philosophy; it seems fairly plausible to suppose that Plato was included.

Philo of Alexandria (d. 50AD), an influential Jewish scholar whose work may well have been known to Gamaliel and St. Paul, wrote extensively on Platonic themes.




Mind you, you could be right. I've often wondered whether Saint Paul was exaggerating the extent of his education - rather like people who say they've been to Oxford when they mean Oxford Brookes University. Not exactly lying, but not exactly telling the truth either. Living and working - even studying - in a city where there is an influential teacher/school of thought does not necessarily mean you are, or have been, an actual student of that teacher. "At the feet of" is open to different interpretations; and Paul was known to - er - bend the truth at times, was he not? He was human, after all.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Mon 09 Jul 2018, 20:14

Temperance it is a bit quiet on this subforum. nordmann seems to be "verschwunden" and Tim:
"I will get back to on Philo but about to visit 'the land of Nordman's fathers'."
We will have to wait on Tim. He promised me on jiglu to comment my Afghanistan story and I await an answer on the "fueling the wars"...
He will have a lot to answer after his return from Ireland, I don't use a tabloid term for the island while I suppose nordmann abhors this  drivel...

And btw:the ghost shall have to reappear if he wants to comment my supposition... Wink

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Wed 18 Jul 2018, 16:33

Hi Temperance

sorry for the delay in responding, as well as being in Ireland I am also very busy on the latest essay for my degree on medieval Islamic medicine.

Philo was born between 10 and 20BC and died after 41AD, we only know of one visit that he made to Jerusalem and made a visit to Rome in 40AD.  He is referred to by Josephus who was born in 37AD.  We do not know the dating of Philo's writings.  

We do not know what Gamaliel taught, we do not know if he knew of Philo's works - there was no printing then and copies of Philo's works would have had to be made by hand.  We do not know how rapidly they spread - copies of Philo were not preserved by the Jews.  All we know is that Paul does not mention Philo, he does not mention Gamaliel either, and that Philo is not mentioned in any of the NT documents.

N.T.Wright in his monumental tome on Paul (over 1600 pages) mentions Philo only half a dozen times and in none of those does he imply that Paul was familiar with Philo's works.  Wright does mention though that Philo hardly refers the Pharisees and when he does he is hardly positive about them.  Gamaliel and Paul were both Pharisees.

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Thu 19 Jul 2018, 08:46

Thank you for your response, Tim - better late than never!

I am confused (my default state):

Tim wrote:
All we know is that Paul does not mention Philo, he does not mention Gamaliel either, and that Philo is not mentioned in any of the NT documents.

What about Acts 22:3 (I quoted this above)? Luke has Paul saying he was "brought up at the feet of Gamaliel", although, of course, translations vary. Does Luke's Greek read as "brought up" or "instructed" or "educated" or even, as in the Good News translation I quote below has it, definitely "a student of"? Different translations are so confusing - subtle shades af meaning and all that:

"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up here in Jerusalem as a student of Gamaliel. I received strict instruction in the Law of our ancestors and was just as dedicated to God as are all of you who are here today.

Did Luke get it wrong, do you think - he was writing about twenty years after Paul's death, of course.

Who am I to argue with N. T. Wright - such a distinguished academic and a retired Bishop to boot? But perhaps there are other opinions about Paul? I am very interested in the Jewish perspective on all this, and have been fascinated by the writing of a Jewish intellectual, Hyam Maccoby who, in his "The Myth Maker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity",  questions whether Paul ever was a Pharisee at all - despite his claims to be so. Certainly Paul's early career as a fire-breathing persecutor would indeed suggest he was no student of Gamaliel, that great and wise teacher who belonged to the lenient and tolerant Hillelite wing of the Pharisees. Paul, if he were a Pharisee at all, seems to have favoured the more fanatical and rigorous Shammaiite group of thinkers. But perhaps Luke wanted to present Paul as being more "educated" - of higher status in Jerusalem - than he really was?

Though many authors confidently assert (I believe) that Paul's Epistles are full of Pharisaic expressions and arguments, Maccoby, a respected (?) Jewish academic, says this is simply not true:

"In fact, it may be safely said that if people had not already been convinced that Paul was a Pharisee (because of his own claim, and that made for him in Acts), no one would have thought of calling him a Pharisee or a person of 'rabbinic' cast of mind simply from a study of the Epistles. Instead he would have been regarded as a Hellenistic writer, deeply imbued with the Greek translation of the Bible, like Philo, but not familiar with the characteristic approach of the Pharisee rabbis.

If we free ourselves from the assumption that Paul was a Pharisee then we are not compelled to identify the style of Paul's Epistles with that of Pharisaism, and can allot them their due place in Hellenistic literature..."


Is this utter nonsense, do you think? I must read more (haven't read Wright's book, so I am really in no position to comment - I'm just asking questions), but I have come to view the idea - Philo again? - of a marriage between the best of Jewish and Greek thought as a lovely notion*. Surely Maccoby is right: Paul's writing is deeply Hellenistic -  very difficult stuff (as Saint Peter noted!) influenced by Platonic philosophy and by the ideas of the Greek mystery cults? Is that such a terrible suggestion? And as a hungry thinker Paul must surely have come across the ideas of Philo, the Alexandrian Jewish intellectual - perhaps during his three years wandering in what he calls "Arabia"? What does Wright suggest about that "lost" period in Paul's life?


* EDIT: You can blame/thank nordmann for this - he got me reading more about Platonic influence on Christianity. Has caused no end of trouble in my life, but I am the better for being more honest with myself and others.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Thu 19 Jul 2018, 14:42

Res His costs me a fortune: just ordered the Wright book, Tim - but also Paul and Hellenism  another book by Maccoby. I do like a balanced view - or at least what I hope is a balanced view!

Wonder if Wright mentions any of Hyam Maccoby's work on Paul?
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Thu 19 Jul 2018, 22:18

Tim,

"sorry for the delay in responding, as well as being in Ireland I am also very busy on the latest essay for my degree on medieval Islamic medicine."

Tim that is now an interesting subject...and I suppose a lot more a burden than my difficulties as landlord and refurbishing from time to time of the appartments...

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 20 Jul 2018, 18:00

Tim wrote:

We do not know what Gamaliel taught...

We know from Gamaliel's own son, Rabbi Simeon, that his revered father did indeed teach Greek "wisdom"  - language and philosophy. The following is from the Talmud:


But is Greek philosophy forbidden? Behold Rab Judah declared that Samuel said in the name of Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel, "What means that which is written: 'My eyes have brought me grief over all the maidens of my city' (Lamentations 3:51)? There were a thousand pupils in my father's house; five hundred studied Torah and five hundred studied Greek wisdom, and of these there remained only I here and the son of my father's brother in Assia! — It was different with the household of Rabban Gamaliel because they had close associations with the Government; for it has been taught: To trim the hair in front is of the ways of the Amorites; but they permitted Abtilus b. Reuben to trim his hair in front because he had close associations with the Government. Similarly they permitted the household of Rabban Gamaliel to study Greek wisdom because they had close associations with the Government.

If we take it that Paul's words (Acts) about his education are indeed true, it seems likely then that, as well as picking up ideas about Greek philosophy "on the streets", he did also receive formal training in Greek thought from Gamaliel. My Wright book arrived today and I've been ploughing through it. I note on page 201 - in the chapter on "Athens" - Wright says: "...Paul the Greek thinker and traveller...He is thoroughly familiar with the language and ideas of Greek thought."

As Wright also says, people have sometimes sneered at Paul's efforts in Athens as being a "a failed bit of philosophical theology" (page 206). The Greeks were not won over; hardly anyone was converted - but they were impressed by the man. I find it interesting that Wright tells us that being taken to the Areopagus - not just a place for debate, but a place of trial - meant that Paul was in great danger. Like Socrates he stood accused - not of corrupting the young maybe, but, like Socrates, of "introducing foreign deities". Paul got off; the Athenians weren't convinced by his unknown god, but he had "convinced them that the heart of his message was something to which their own traditions, read admittedly from a certain angle, might all along have been pointing."

Socrates didn't weep for Athens, but Paul did!

Still think both he and Gamaliel had read and discussed Philo's work. Will keep scratting around and see what I can unearth. However, that said, there is still a niggling doubt in my mind: I also still wonder if Paul, brilliant and hungry for knowledge, hung around in Jerusalem as a young man - not an actual student of the great teacher, but desperate to come across as an "intellectual", to be a someone. He must have known he was just as bright, if not more so, than some - most - all of Gamaliel's pupils. Did students in Jerusalem in the early first century hang around the synagogues/Temple/taverns arguing? Did Paul, perhaps, listen and join in? Paul must have been able to wipe the floor with the lot of them in debate. This is all wild supposition; but such things do happen - then, as now?
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 22 Jul 2018, 19:00

Tim wrote:
 
N.T.Wright in his monumental tome on Paul (over 1600 pages) mentions Philo only half a dozen times and in none of those does he imply that Paul was familiar with Philo's works.

I'm sitting in my summerhouse, drinking icy-cold Sancerre and reading N.T. Wright's monumental tome. He actually says (on page 16): "He (Paul) has pretty certainly read other Jewish books of the time, books like the Wisdom of Solomon, quite possibly some of the philosophy of his near contemporary Philo."

I'm really enjoying my book, although Wright does make Saint Paul sound rather like an Anglican bishop - educated at Oxford of course rather than at the feet of Gamaliel.  Smile



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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 22 Jul 2018, 19:31

Deleted - what I originally posted was entirely inappropriate nonsense from me on a serious thread. I prefaced my silliness with the comment: "I know we are not allowed to be silly at Res Historica anymore, but..." , hence the unfortunate "spat", as MM calls it, that follows.


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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 22 Jul 2018, 20:29

Who said we can't be silly?  We don't have to be po-faced all the time do we?
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 22 Jul 2018, 20:34

Deleted - and I apologise to Temp for lashing out as I did as it was rude, inappropriate and unnecessary.


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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 22 Jul 2018, 21:11

Wow!! Do you mean shut up or something rather stronger, MM?

I'm going to have another veggie sausage, another glass of Sancerre and then I'll ruefully ruminate on the import of your very harsh (sob) judgement on me and Priscilla. Priscilla a victim? Don't make me laugh. I'm not playing the victim either - as you well know.

And there was me just having a bit of a laugh at the expense of N. T. Wright and Saint Paul - and actually trying to have a bit of a discussion with Tim. But forget it.

Have a think about why so few people contribute here any more, MM. Is it just because I play what you call "the victim"? I do not believe that is so. However, I shall think carefully about what you have said.

EDIT:

MM wrote:

Moreover to suggest that such victimisation is going on is very damaging to the integrity of the Res His site ... so no wonder we get so few new members!


Have taken away last couple of comments and the YouTube of "Infamy". Rather poor attempt from me to make light of this. It is actually quite a serious accusation you have made, MM, and humour - or a feeble attempt at humour - is quite inappropriate. I see you have apologised to Tim for this unfortunate disruption to his thread: I also add my apologies.


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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Sun 22 Jul 2018, 22:09

Deleted this one too.

PS : Sorry Tim that this spat was on your OP.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Mon 23 Jul 2018, 17:16

MM wrote:
Deleted - and I apologise to Temp for lashing out as I did as it was rude, inappropriate and unnecessary.


You may consider yourself forgiven, MM. I too was idiotic last night - it was the veggie sausages that did it. Whenever I have one too many I always post ridiculous things here and end up about 3.30 am really embarrassed at myself and having to delete everything in sight.

Hope we are all back to normal again, using the word normal loosely.

PS Have also replied to your PM.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Thu 26 Jul 2018, 08:38

Temperance

apologies once again for the slow response and quite a lot to pick up on.  I have a short period of time before I have to Immerse myself in a reflective essay followed by what do Roman villa's tell us about their concept of leisure. 

When I said that Paul did not mention Gamaliel I was referring to Paul's letters and not to Paul as reported in Acts.  I guess I have got too used to books on Paul that are entirely based on Paul's letters and not on Acts.

N.T.Wright has written a number of monumental tomes and I wonder if we have the same one as I can find no mention of Philo on page 16, nor is he referred to there in the Index.  I cannot find your other reference either.  The book I have on Paul is called 'Paul and the Faithfulness of God'.

These are some of the notes that I took on Philo from the book I read on him some years ago

‘Humans are graded also, depending on their ability to use their mind to control their body.  Men are essentially superior to women and to slaves.’  P13

‘Philo views every philosophic teaching through his understanding of the Bible; everything must pass Mosaic sanction.’ P16

‘Moses reveals every truth that the great philosophers, even Plato himself, later expounded.’ P16

‘Philo interpreted these[Mosaic laws] as timeless rules for both his people and others who aspire to see God.’ P16 [I am just reading Romans in 'bible in one year' and not really in tune with Pauline teaching there.

‘Philo understood the Torah to be the solution to the world’s ills.’ P61

“For the majority of wars, and those the greatest, have risen through amours and adulteries and the deceits of women,” Ios. 56

‘Highest and closest to God are free men, who live completely for the mind, and pay the body minimal heed.  Women are lesser beings.  They are essentially passionate and their minds are weak.  They are ruled by their bodies and they practice deception on men.  According to the divine plan, a women’s place is under the control of a good man.  She belongs in the private sphere.’ P67 [In Romans Paul describes one woman as 'an apostle' not something that went down well with a Mormon who accosted me one Sunday morning]

‘there were categories of human being for whom Philo seemed to have no fellow feeling’ p89

‘he piles up arguments as to why Jews should circumcise their sons’ p102 [hardly what Paul says in Galatians]

‘For Jews who breaks the law Philo cries out “Let they be stoned!” p102

‘I believe that he would have seen it [Christianity] as one more mystery religion, and probably as threat to the moral order.’ P103

‘The Judaism Philo propounds imposes severe constraints on women.  He does not hold them capable of higher mystical experiences.  In his two tiered religious system there are those who can love God and those who can only fear him.  Women belong in the latter group’ p116

‘A unique feature of Philo’s Judaism is the nature of the messianic expectation.  If it exists at all, it is very pale.  An individual is mentioned only once.’ P130 [definitely not Paul]

‘Philo writes as though God’s revelation is complete in Moses.’ P131

‘The male embryo takes only 40 days for its ‘moulding’ because it is perfect but the female “who is so to speak, a half section of a man” (QG 1.25) takes twice as long, 80 days’ p160

‘He advocates the somasema concept that the body (soma) is the tomb (sema) of the soul.’ “The body is a plotter against the soul … we are each nothing but corpse-bearers’ (Leg 3.69) p163 [Paul advocates 'the resurrection of the body']

regards

Tim

ps with regard to your 'spat', one thing that I am attempting to do on this and other websites that I am on is avoid any spats, whether I can manage that remains to be seen!
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Mon 30 Jul 2018, 17:19

Hi Temperance
I would just to pick on something that Nordmann wrote with which, perhaps not surprisingly, I disagree, at least in part.

‘Jesus, who of course was largely written retrospectively, is therefore always well placed in religious literature to have exclaimed "I told you so" - prophecies and words of wisdom written in hindsight are traditionally sage indeed. Had any rabbi in the early first century however actually predicted the following two centuries of social deterioration and just how it would pan out for the Jews he would probably have been laughed out of town. It's all very well proclaiming kingdoms in the ether - however predicting how actual kingdoms evolve and get dismantled is a much more severe test of any self-respecting prophet. I'm not aware that any of these actually got that one right at all. And in fact there is still huge assumption and misrepresentation of history itself by modern day equivalents as they examine how it did indeed actually happen - ironically because it deviated from prophesy by so wide, tragic and terrible a margin.’

Concerning whether or not Jesus actually predicted the destruction of the Temple and whether it would have been reasonable for him to have done so. 
Although there are predictions of Jesus elsewhere in the gospels, the main passage is in Mark 13 and most of that is extremely vague which is why you get groups such as JWs claim that it was the prediction of WW1 or its use in ‘The Late Great Planet Earth’.  It is not a blow by blow account of what was to happen over the next 100 years.

If one looks at the situation when in Judaea at the time that Jesus was preaching.  Martin Goodman (Rome & Jerusalem) traces the path to the destruction of the Temple from 37BC through to 70AD.  He refers to Josephus as claiming during the period when Pilate was governor (26 to 36AD) that his rule ‘evoked a series of disturbances quelled only with force.  The cause in each case was Pilate’s lack of tact and his stubborn unwillingness to listen to complaints even on quite trivial issues.’  Goodman also refers to Philo who claims that Herod Agrippa I described Pilate in a letter as ‘vindictive, with a furious temper’.  Levine (Visions of Kingdoms: From Pompey to the First Jewish Revolt) writes ‘of ‘The ineptitude, if not sheer malevolence, of the governors is epitomised by their most famous representative, Pontius Pilate’.

‘Mark … is dated by most biblical scholars to sometime around the first Jewish Revolt … either immediately before or just after 70AD’ Levine ‘Mark was composed around 70 as the Jewish- Roman War (66-74) is clearly reflected in the Gospel’. ‘There is a dispute as to whether the destruction of the temple … has already taken place or is expected’.  .  ‘Mark 13 was composed in 39/40 at the time of the Caligula crisis’.  Theissen and Merz (The Historical Jesus). 

‘Jesus prophesised the miraculous destruction and restoration of the temple’ T and M.  ‘The substance of Jesus’ symbolic action against the temple cult and his prophecy against the temple belong together’ T and M.  According to Borg (Jesus), Jesus prophecies the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem  because it has become the centre of ‘an oppressive domination system’. Also according to Borg, about half of the New Testament scholars believe that Jesus expected this to happen soon ‘imminent eschatology’ while the other half, do not consider that Jesus expected it to be so impending.  Ehrman (Did Jesus Exist?) is an example of the former stating that ‘there is little doubt that Jesus taught that ‘the end of the age … would occur shortly’. 

‘Had any rabbi in the early first century however actually predicted the following two centuries of social deterioration and just how it would pan out for the Jews he would probably have been laughed out of town.’ 
Jesus, as is clear if one reads the gospels, did not ‘predict the following two centuries of social deterioration’.  Scholars agree though that he did predict the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem, disagreeing though on how immediately they expected it to happen.  There is little doubt though that the early church expected Jesus to return soon (see for example, I Thess) and, rather like with JWs having to revise their understanding of 1914, had to adjust their expectations.  At one point Jesus’ return got extended such that he would come back before the last of the 12 apostles died (see John 21). 

The Bar Kokhba Revolt (132 to 135) is of very little relevance to the history of the early Christian church.  Scholars agree that all four gospels had been written long before then (typically in the period 70 to 100AD) and that ‘all the writings [of the New Testament] originated between about 50 and 130’, that is before the Bar Kokhba Revolt, Theissen (The New Testament – A Literary History).  It is therefore not surprising that there are no recognised allusions in the New Testament to that revolt.  The first Jewish revolt was of importance both for the destruction of the temple, which in the eyes of Christians was no longer needed as Jesus had provided ‘the perfect sacrifice’, and for the ending of the central position of the Jerusalem church.  The Bar Kokhba revolt was not relevant.

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 31 Jul 2018, 16:40

Thank you for responding, Tim.

First of all - yes, we were talking about two different books. You mention N. T. ("Tom") Wright's 2013 Paul and the Faithfulness of God; the book I ordered (after reading your post!) is his later 2018 work:  Paul A Biography.

I felt rather guilty that, one way or another, I had messed up this thread last week. Yet perhaps in a way my mention of Paul was not entirely irrelevant to your OT. May I explain? As I mentioned above, I am also ploughing through the Jewish writer Hyam Maccoby's book Paul and Hellenism at the moment. It is not an easy read. I was very struck by this passage in Maccoby's book. Wonder what you and nordmann make of it - if you make of it anything at all?

We conclude, then, that the Pauline concept of Jesus as a pre-existent heavenly visitant to earth performing a salvific role in human form through humiliation is entirely alien to Judaism. It arises from the basic Pauline notion that rescue must come from above, since this earth and the moral nature of man are too corrupted to be saved by human effort. The descent into evil matter of a divine being is characteristically Hellenistic, being prominent in Gnosticism. It derives, in a mythopoeic way, from Plato himself, and his concept of the Guardian who eschews the pursuit of perfection and escape from matter in order to help lower mortals; and in the background of Plato we may discern Orphic and Indian ideas of the same kind...

But how does this relate to your OT?  I've been mulling over this for a while, getting myself more and more confused, but it brought to mind something I posted ages ago on the old "Plato" thread. There, if I remember correctly, nordmann had suggested that Christianity was basically Plato revisited. I  also remember reading with great interest your discussion with nord about Paul being "a Greek" (I think nord meant Paul was a Greek thinker, an idea which your N.T. Wright agrees with - see my quotation above somewhere!). I agreed that Christianity was perhaps Plato revisited, but that it was surely Greek philosophy taken one step further with the Christian insistence on love and compassion for one's fellow men. Compassion trumps intelligence? Christ wept for Jerusalem and for the hardness of men's hearts, and, dying a more agonising death than that suffered by Socrates, begged that his executioners and tormentors might be forgiven - "for they know not what they do". Socrates apparently showed only disdain and contempt for his fellow Athenians, men who presumably knew exactly what they were doing; he could not weep for them; and certainly he could not pity them because of their lack of understanding and insight. Stupidity - "lack of knowledge and intelligence" - was the unforgiveable sin in Socrates' eyes, I suppose? Which man had it right - the weeping Christ, or the unsentimental Greek? Or were both men right - and wrong - which is the usual human way? Then again, as Pope said (Alexander Pope, not the one in the Vatican) to err (be stupid?) is human; to forgive divine?

How little I understand all this: the more I read the more confused I get - really. I always fear I'm coming out with a load of muddled poppycock when I try to engage with you and/or nordmann - but what the heck, will post this.


Last edited by Temperance on Wed 01 Aug 2018, 08:30; edited 3 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 31 Jul 2018, 17:12

I have found the relevant bit from the Plato thread:

@Temperance wrote:


I wonder how Plato and Jesus would have got on had they met? Plato and the uber-intelligent Greeks generally weren't too big on humility* were they: would Plato have found this an immensely irritating and incomprehensible trait in an otherwise interesting thinker?

* I suppose Socrates, with his comment about knowing he didn't know anything, was quite "humble" - again, don't really know enough to comment. One thing being humble about knowledge, quite another, though, to insist that humility means going out and mixing with the lowest of the low - and not just serving them, but loving them. I suspect the Greeks would have thought this Jew was completely bonkers.


("Loving them" - weeping for them and for their blindness?)


To which nordmann replied:

PostSubject: Re: Plato - as a person   Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:20 am  


@Temperance wrote:
...and not just serving them, but loving them. I suspect the Greeks would have thought this Jew was completely bonkers.



Not Plato, I wouldn't think. In his "Symposium" he has the philosopher Diotima being quizzed by Socrates about love (the notion of "Platonic love" comes from this passage of the text);

'What then is Love?' I asked; 'Is he mortal?'
'No.'
'What then?'
'As in the former instance, he is neither mortal nor immortal, but in a mean between the two.'
'What is he, Diotima?'
'He is a great spirit (daimon), and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine and the mortal.'
'And what,' I said, 'is his power?'
'He interprets,' she replied, 'between gods and men, conveying and taking across to the gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands and replies of the gods; he is the mediator who spans the chasm which divides them, and therefore in him all is bound together, and through him the arts of the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and mysteries and charms, and all prophecy and incantation, find their way. For God mingles not with man; but through Love all the intercourse and converse of God with man, whether awake or asleep, is carried on. The wisdom which understands this is spiritual; all other wisdom, such as that of arts and handicrafts, is mean and vulgar. Now these spirits or intermediate powers are many and diverse, and one of them is Love.'

Jesus advocates its use to exactly this end too, so I imagine Plato would have been simply thrilled to see someone putting Diotima's theory to the test.



Which reply I must admit shut me up for a while, although the idea of Plato being "simply thrilled" by anything still makes me laugh.
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 07 Aug 2018, 08:45

Hi Temperance

I am aware of Nordmann's view of the level of impact of Plato on the sayings attributed to Jesus in the gospels but I cannot ever remember him providing the evidence.  I guess he could go through all the sayings attributed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels and where he thinks they come from Plato provide a suitable quote, but that would quite a task!  He did also once on another website (not the BBC) make the same attribution to Aristotle and, even though Aristotle was Plato's pupil, they did think the same.  

I am afraid I cannot find evidence to support either view and more importantly I have never come across a NT scholar who agrees with Nordmann.  That is not to say that Greek Philosophy did not have an impact on Jesus' teachings and some have seen him as a Jewish cynic although that is very much a minority view.  What is clear beyond doubt when one reads the synoptic gospels is the impact of the OT as Jesus repeatedly refers to it even if he says 'you have heard it said … but I say'.  

The impact of Greek philosophy on John's gospel is clearly much greater but then John was writing for a Greek audience.  However, even then if one takes the example of John's reference to Jesus as being the Word of God, the idea of God's word, Logos, is found in both Greek and in the OT.  In the Greek world it started with Heraclictus around 560BC, well before Plato or Aristotle.  In the OT 2nd Isaiah refers to God's word in chapter 55.  there was references to it in the psalms, proverbs, and Jeremiah.

In the NT Wright book I was referring to, he traces the Greek, Jewish and Roman imperial background to Paul but it is the OT that Paul quotes not Plato.  Paul originally persecuted the church because they were claiming that Jesus was the messiah who had been crucified.  To Paul this was the worst form of heresy because whoever was 'hung on a tree' was cursed and so could not be the messiah.  However, whatever happened on the Damascus Road convinced Paul that Jesus was the messiah and that therefore in some way he had become cursed for us.  

For my degree course this year I have just had to write a retrospective essay on how the course had gone.  My comment on the philosophy we had studied:
"My introduction to philosopher has left a question mark over the point of some of it.  In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates demonstrates that a horse-trader is unable to define what ‘a horse’ is, but the trader is still able to deal in horses.  ‘Everyone knows what a horse is … except a philosopher’".

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 07 Aug 2018, 13:15

Smile

Mind you, wasn't all that horse-trading stuff all about mocking the Athenian assembly - Socrates showing contempt for its "democratic" wisdom?  Do any of us really know what we are talking about - although we all love to think we do! Here's Hobbes' (and Cicero's!) view which you might like:

But this privilege is allayed by another; and that is by the privilege of absurdity, to which no living creature is subject, but men only. And of men, those are of all most subject to it that profess philosophy. For it is most true that Cicero saith of them somewhere; that there can be nothing so absurd but may be found in the books of philosophers.

I've got no time to find the quotation at the moment (will look for it later), but there was something in my Wright book about Greek thought being everywhere in Tarsus  (and Sepphoris?) and that Paul (and Jesus of Nazareth?) - two young men of exceptional intelligence - would inevitably have been exposed to and influenced by the ideas of the various Greek schools of thought. Influenced as much by Greek thought as by the ideas of the Hebrew scriptures perhaps?

Tim wrote:



I am aware of Nordmann's view of the level of impact of Plato on the sayings attributed to Jesus in the gospels but I cannot ever remember him providing the evidence.  I guess he could go through all the sayings attributed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels and where he thinks they come from Plato provide a suitable quote...

I'm also interested in Buddhist influences on the New Testament. I have a book: Jesus and Buddha - the Parallel Sayings (edited, incidentally, by Marcus Borg, whom you mention above). You ask that nordmann should give evidence - I could give you many, many "parallel" quotes - I've got one hundred and thirty eight pages of them here!

My question is how could Jesus, living five hundred years after Buddha and three thousand miles from India, espouse the same teachings? Were Buddhist principles known  throughout the Roman - and Greek - worlds?
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Tue 07 Aug 2018, 14:49

I've found the quotation from N.T. Wright's latest book on Paul. The following (from Chapter 3 Arabia and Tarsus) seems to me to be remarkably similar to what nordmann was suggesting a while ago in one of your discussions with him. (That said, if nordmann ever reappears, he is bound to tell me I've got that wrong ... Smile ):

We glimpse then ...Saul praying and thinking...Saul listening to the ideas all around him, in the philosophical and political as well as the religious cultures of cosmopolitan Tarsus. He would be taking it all in, not simply as evidence of pagan folly (though there would be plenty of that), but as signs that the One God, the creator of all, was at work in the wider world and in human lives, even if those lives and that wider world were twisted and flawed through the worship of other gods. Tarsus, as we have said, was full of talk, philosophical talk, the gods, virtue, the way to untroubled existence. Philosophy wasn't just for a small, wealthy class, though there were schools where one could study Plato, Aristotle, and the various writers who had developed the great systems that flowed from their writings. The questions that drove philosophical inquiry were everybody's questions. What made a city "just" or a human "wise" or "virtuous"? What constituted a good argument or an effective speech? What was the world made of and how did it happen? What was the purpose of life and how could you know? These questions and the various standard answers were just as likely to be voiced at the barber's or in the tavern as in a schoolroom with teachers and serious-minded students...The default mode in Tarsus, and in many other parts of the ancient Mediterranean world, would have been some kind of Stoicism, with its all-embracing vision of a united and divine world order in which humans partake through inner rationality, or logos...

I find it very interesting that Wright mentions "some kind of Stoicism" as being "the default mode" in the religious/philosophical melting pot that was Tarsus. And are there not similarities between Stoicism and Buddhism? They both advocate seeking happiness from an internal source, so that the ups and downs of life will not be one's masters. As philosopher and author, Nassim Taleb, once wrote on the similarities between the two: “A Stoic is a Buddhist with attitude.”

Tarsus, of course, was not the only religious/philosophical melting pot in the Empire: could not most of the most of the Graeco-Roman cities around the Mediterranean be so described - for example, Sepphoris, a city only an hour's walking distance from Nazareth?


Last edited by Temperance on Tue 07 Aug 2018, 19:51; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : I missed out a couple of words from the Wright quotation.)
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 17 Aug 2018, 10:31

Hi Temperance

From N.T.Wright chapter 14 'The Foolishness of God: Paul among the Philiosophers

Quoting from Paul himself:

"We know that 'we have all knowledge'. Knowledge puffs you up, but love builds you up! If anyone thinks they 'know' something, they don't yet 'know' in the way they aught to know. But if anyone loves God, they are 'known' - by him." (1 Cor)

and

"However, at that stage you didn't know God, and so were enslaved to beings that, in their proper nature, are not gods. But now that you've come to know God - or, better, to be known by God - how can you turn back again to that weak and poverty stricken line-up of elements that you want to serve all over again?" (Gal)

I visited Sepphoris in 2010 which, as you say, is close to Nazareth and it has been speculated that both Joseph and Jesus worked as 'joiners' in the reconstruction of the city after it was destroyed around the time that Jesus was born.  If so, Jesus would certainly have been aware of the destructive power of the Roman Empire as well as of Greek ideas.  However, Sepphoris gets no mention in the NT and Jesus also appears to have avoided Tiberius when preaching.

F.F.Bruce, in his NT History has 12 chapters before the appearance of Jesus and one of these is on the Philosophical Schools.  Compared to the vast number of OT references, Theissen and Merz, in their book on the historical Jesus, reference Epictetus once, Plato once and Seneca once.  

With the conquests of Alexander the Great, there was presumably some knowledge of Buddhism as well as Hinduism.  However, what direct references are there to the two religions and to the Buddha amongst Roman and Greek writers?  Paul, in 1 Cor, may be referring to 'The Indian's Tomb' in Athens when he wrote 'I may surrender my body that I may be burned, but if I have not love it is no good to me.'  An Indian is said to have burned himself on a funeral pyre and had engraved on a monument "Zarmano-chegas, an Indian from Bargosa, according to the traditional customs of the Indians, made himself immortal and lies here."

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: While Jesus wept for Jerusalem, Socrates never shed a tear for Athens   Fri 17 Aug 2018, 11:18

Somewhere in the posts I think there was a reference as to whether Paul must have got his concept of Christ being pre-existent from the Greeks.  

Once Paul had concluded that Jesus had risen from the dead and was, contrary to all his previous understanding, the 'crucified messiah'. I think he would have found plenty in the Hebrew scriptures to also conclude that Christ was pre-existent: notably Proverbs 8, Daniel 7 (plus Daniel 3) and even Genesis 1 - 'Let us make humankind in our own image'.

Tim
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