Wednesday, October 3, 2012

JOESEPHUS ON ABRAHAM PREACHING ( ONE ) GOD TO THE CHALDEANS

GREEK TEXT: “...Ἅβραμος [154.] δὲ Λῶτον τὸν Ἀράνου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ υἱὸν τῆς δὲ γυναικὸς αὐτοῦ Σάρρας ἀδελφὸν εἰσεποιήσατο γνησίου παιδὸς ἀπορῶν καὶ καταλείπει τὴν Χαλδαίαν ἑβδομήκοντα καὶ πέντε γεγονὼς ἔτη τοῦ θεοῦ κελεύσαντος εἰς τὴν Χαναναίαν μετελθεῖν, ἐν ᾗ κατῴκησε καὶ τοῖς ἀπογόνοις κατέλιπε δεινὸς ὢν συνεῖναί τε περὶ πάντων καὶ πιθανὸς τοῖς ἀκροωμένοις περί τε ὧν εἰκάσειεν οὐ διαμαρτάνων. [155.] διὰ τοῦτο καὶ φρονεῖν μεῖζον ἐπ᾽ ἀρετῇ τῶν ἄλλων ἠργμένος καὶ τὴν περὶ τοῦ θεοῦ δόξαν, ἣν ἅπασι συνέβαινεν εἶναι, καινίσαι καὶ μεταβαλεῖν ἔγνω. πρῶτος οὖν τολμᾷ θεὸν ἀποφήνασθαι δημιουργὸν τῶν ὅλων ἕνα, τῶν δὲ λοιπῶν εἰ καί τι πρὸς εὐδαιμονίαν συντελεῖ κατὰ προσταγὴν τὴν τούτου παρέχειν ἕκαστον καὶ οὐ κατ᾽ οἰκείαν ἰσχύν. [156.] εἰκάζεται δὲ ταῦτα τοῖς γῆς καὶ θαλάσσης παθήμασι τοῖς τε περὶ τὸν ἥλιον καὶ τὴν σελήνην καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς κατ᾽ οὐρανὸν συμβαίνουσι: δυνάμεως γὰρ αὐτοῖς παρούσης καὶ προνοῆσαι τῆς κατ᾽ αὐτοὺς εὐταξίας, ταύτης δ᾽ ὑστεροῦντας φανεροὺς γίνεσθαι μηδ᾽ ὅσα πρὸς τὸ χρησιμώτερον ἡμῖν συνεργοῦσι κατὰ τὴν αὐτῶν ἐξουσίαν, ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν τοῦ κελεύοντος ἰσχὺν ὑπουργεῖν, ᾧ καλῶς ἔχει μόνῳ τὴν τιμὴν καὶ τὴν εὐχαριστίαν ἀπονέμειν. [157.] δι᾽ ἅπερ Χαλδαίων τε καὶ τῶν ἄλλων Μεσοποταμιτῶν στασιασάντων πρὸς αὐτὸν μετοικεῖν δοκιμάσας κατὰ βούλησιν καὶ βοήθειαν τοῦ θεοῦ τὴν Χαναναίαν ἔσχε γῆν, ἱδρυθείς τε αὐτόθι βωμὸν ᾠκοδόμησε καὶ θυσίαν ἐτέλεσε τῷ θεῷ...” - (1.155-6, “Antiquities of the Jews,” “Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary,” by Louis H. Feldman, 12 vols., ed. Steve Mason, at “The Brill Josephus Project”: 2000.)

TITUS FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS (circa. 37-100 C.E.): “...Now Abram, having no son of his own, adopted Lot, his brother Haran's son, and his wife Sarai's brother; and he left the land of Chaldea when he was seventy-five years old, and at the command of God went into Canaan, and therein he dwelt himself, and left it to his posterity. He was a person of great sagacity, both for understanding all things and persuading his hearers, ( and not mistaken in his opinions ); for which reason he began to have higher notions of virtue ( than others had ), and he determined to ( renew ) and to change the opinion all men happened ( then ) to have concerning God; for he was the first that ventured to ( publish ) this notion, That there was but one God, the Creator of the universe; and that, as to other [gods], if they contributed any thing to the happiness of men, that each of them afforded it only according to his appointment, and not by their own power. This his opinion was derived from the irregular phenomena that were visible both at land and sea, as well as those that happen to the sun,and moon, and all the heavenly bodies, thus: - "If [said he] these bodies had power of their own, they would certainly take care of their own regular motions; but since they do not preserve such regularity, they make it plain, that in so far as they co-operate to our advantage, they do it not of their own abilities, but as they are subservient to Him that commands them, to whom alone we ought justly to offer our honor and thanksgiving." For which doctrines, when the Chaldeans, and other people of Mesopotamia, raised a tumult against him, he thought fit to leave that country; and at the command and by the assistance of God, he came and lived in the land of Canaan. And when he was there settled, he built an altar, and performed a sacrifice to God...” - (1.155-6, “Antiquities of the Jews,” in “The Genuine Works of Flavius Josephus, the Jewish Historian,” Translated By William Whiston 1737.)

TITUS FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS (circa. 37-100 C.E.): “...God, the Creator of the universe, ( is One ), and that, ( if ) any ( other being ) contributed aught to man's welfare, ( each did so by His command ) and ( not ) in virtue of ( its own inherent power ). This he inferred from the changes to which land and sea ( are subject ), from the course of the sun and moon, and from all the celestial phenomena ; for, he argued, were these bodies endowed with ( their own power ), they would have provided fro their own regularity, ( but ), since they lacked this last, ( it was manifest ) that even those ( services ) in which they cooperate for our greater benefit they render ( not in virtue of their own authority ), but ( through ) the might of their ( Commanding Sovereign ), ( to whom alone ) it is right to render our homage and thanksgiving...” - (1.155-6, “Antiquities of the Jews,” Translated by Thackery. Quoted on Page 156, in “Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament's Christology of Divine Identidy,”
By Richard Bauckham 2008.)

TITUS FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS (circa. 37-100 C.E.): “...Habramos, [154] lacking a legitimate son, adopted Lotos,{494} the son of Aranes his brother and the brother of his wife Sarra; and at the age of seventy-five he left Chaldaia{495} when God bade him to move to Chananaia, in that he dwelt and that he left to his descendants. He was clever in understanding{496} all matters and persuasive to his listeners{497} and not mistaken concerning matters about that he might conjecture.{498} [155] For this reason he also began to have loftier thoughts{499} than others with regard to virtue, and he determined to innovate and change the conception concerning God that everyone happened to have. He therefore was the first who dared to declare that God was ( the one ) craftsman{500} of the universe and that if ( some other being ) contributes something to [man’s] happiness, each one supplies something ( in accordance with His command ) and ( not by ) virtue of his own strength.{501} [156] And he inferred these things from the changes in land and sea that are dependent upon the sun and the moon and from all the happenings in heaven.{502} For he said that if they had the power they would have provided for their own orderliness;{503} but since they lack this, it is evident that as many things as they contribute to our increased usefulness they perform ( not by ) their own authority but ( in accordance with the power of their commander ), on whom ( alone ) it is proper to confer honor and gratitude{504}...” - (1.155-6, “Antiquities of the Jews,” “Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary,” by Louis H. Feldman, 12 vols., ed. Steve Mason, at “The Brill Josephus Project”: 2000.)
[FOOTNOTE 499]: Note the same words ( φρονείτω μεῖζον, “loftier thoughts” ) applied by Creon to his son Haemon (Soph., Ant. 768).
[FOOTNOTE 500]: Josephus here uses the word demiurge ( δημιουργός ). Likewise, in blessing Jacob, Isaac invokes God as creator ( δημιουργέ ) of universal being ( Ant. 1.272 ). So also David addresses God as creator ( δημιουργόν ) of things human and divine ( Ant. 7.380 ). See Schlatter (1932:4) and Weiss (1966:50). Though Josephus does use this word here, as well as in Ant. 1.272, with reference to God as creator of the universe, Weiss contends that we cannot draw any real conclusions as to Josephus’ theory of His function. The fact, however, that he uses the word ( δημιουργός ), that was so prominent in Plato, the most popular philosopher during the Hellenistic period, would seem to indicate that the word had the connotations for him that it has particularly in the Tim. 40C. Josephus, however, also uses this word in referring to the craftsmen who constructed the Tent in the wilderness ( Ant. 3.106, 200 ) and artisans generally ( Ant. 3.289 ), as well as to the craftsman of the memorial of the decree of the proposed translation of the Pentateuch ( Ant. 12.35). Finally, the word is used of those Greek painters and sculptors who design figures of their imagination [ Apion 2.252]).
[FOOTNOTE 502]: Pseudo-Eupolemus ( ap. Eus., Pr. Ev. 9.17.3 ), dating perhaps from the first half of the second century B.C.E. (Holladay 1983:159-60), states that Abraham discovered both astrology and Chaldean science. If we may date Recension B of Pseudo-Orpheus as early as the second century B.C.E., as the latest editor, Holladay (1996:61-62), is inclined to do, Josephus, in portraying Abraham, as expert in astronomy, was also preceded by Pseudo-Orpheus ( ap. Clem. Strom. 5.14.123.2 and Eus., Pr. Ev. 13.13.50 ), who speaks of “a unique figure [presumably Abraham, though Clement takes the passage to refer to either Abraham or Isaac], by descent an offshoot of the Chaldean race; for he was expert in following the course of the sun and the movements of the spheres around the earth, as it rotates in a circle regularly, all on their respective axes, and with wind, He [God] creates currents around both air and stream” (see the commentary by Holladay [1996:181-85]).
[FOOTNOTE 503]: Abraham is here depicted by Josephus as combatting the view, held by the Chaldeans, that it is the celestial phenomena that are the originating cause of all that happens and that they alone determine the future. Their view is paraphrased in similar language by Philo, De Migratione Abrahami 32.179. In De Migratione Abrahami 32.181, Philo, like Josephus, stresses that the Pentateuch differs from the Chaldeans’ opinion about God, “holding that neither the universe nor its soul is the primal God and that the constellati οns or their revolutions are not the primary causes of the things that happen to men.” See Wolfson (1947:1:176-77, 329 and 2: 78), citing Philo ( De Migratione Abrahami 32.179 ), who attributes to the Chaldeans certain conceptions of God that are definitely Stoic, as Colson and Whitaker (1929:1:478) likewise comment. It is common enough for Philo to attribute to biblical characters certain views or antecedents of views of Greek philosophers; thus, for example ( De Posteritate Caini 11.35 ), the view that the human mind is the measure of all things is ascribed to Protagoras as an offspring of Cain’s madness. Wolfson (1947:1:167-171 ) likewise shows how, under the guise of “champions of the mind” and “champions of the senses,” Philo ( Legum Allegoriae 3.25.81 and De Specialibus Legibus 1.61.334-62, 337 ) ascribes the same Protagorean doctrine to the Moabites and the Ammonites and hence treats them allegorically as symbolizing this view. I am indebted for several points in connection with this proof of Josephus for the existence of God to the late Professor Wolfson, who informed me in a letter that his unpublished second volume of The Philosophy of the Church Fathers contains a full-length discussion of this Stoic argument for the existence of God.
[FOOTNOTE 504]: Whence did Josephus derive his version of this proof for God’s existence? It is significant that the proof ( Ant. 1.156 ) for the existence of God that Josephus attributes to Abraham reflects the form promulgated by the Greek philosophic schools, notably the Stoics, but going back to Anaxagoras, who first presented the teleological argument that the orderly state of the universe manifests a design perfected by the rational power of an infinite mind. A thorough check of ancient proofs for the existence of God indicates that Josephus is the only known figure in the history of ancient philosophy who changed the Platonic ( Leg. 12.966E ) and Stoic argument for the existence of God, which was based upon the regularity of celestial phenomena, into an argument based upon certain irregularities observed in these phenomena. The standard commentaries and books about Josephus, however, all omit mention of the originality of this argument on the part of Josephus. His sophisticated argument is that if the heavenly bodies had been endowed with independent power ( δυνάμεως ) they would have provided ( προνοῆσαι: a favorite Stoic word, cf. Epictetus 2.14.11 ) for their own uniformity ( εὐταξία: a favorite Stoic word ). Cf. Sextus Empiricus ( Phys. 1.26 ), who notes the proof of God’s existence that some ( ἔνιοι, presumably the Stoics ) have offered from the orderly movement of the heavenly bodies ( εὔτακτον τῶν οὐρανίων κίνησιν ). Since they lack this quality of uniformity, one must suppose a commander ( τοῦ κελεύοντος ): another favorite Stoic image; cf. Epictetus Ench. 7) who directs them, and that when they work together ( συνεργοῦσι ) for man’s benefit ( χρησιμώτερον ), they do so not by virtue of their own authority but through the power of God. So also the Stoic Balbus in Cicero ( Nat. Deor. 2.15 ) speaks of the usefulness ( utilitatem ) of the sun, moon, and stars. Lactantius ( Inst. Div. 1.2.5 ) likewise speaks of the arrangement and usefulness ( dispositione et utilitate ) of the heavenly bodies as proof of providential guidance. Among the four arguments for the existence of God presented by Cleanthes the Stoic, as cited by Balbus the Stoic in Cicero ( Nat. Deor. 2.14-15 ), the third is from unusual phenomena in the sublunar world, such as storms, plagues, earthquakes, comets, and abnormal animal and human prodigies; while the fourth, and according to Balbus, the weightiest reason, is from the regularity of movement of the celestial bodies, thus presupposing a divine Intelligence, who, in language reminiscent of Josephus’ commander, is said to preside over these bodies and to be obeyed by them ( qui praesit et cui pareatur ). Josephus was apparently dissatisfied with the Stoic view of God as a kind of prisoner within His own system, acting by necessity, and wished to prove that God is an absolutely incorporeal being endowed with free will. Philo, who repeats the teleological argument of the Stoics ( Legum Allegoriae 3.32.97-99; De Specialibus Legibus 1.6.33-35 ), apparently thought it unnecessary to change their argument, since he made God’s freedom of will clear in other ways. That Josephus combats the Stoics here is hinted at by the reference to the Chaldeans ( Ant. 1.157 ) in the section immediately after the one containing Abraham’s proof for God’s existence. The Chaldeans, whom Josephus describes as opposed to Abraham’s views, are in Philo ( De Migratione Abrahami 32.179 ) prototypes of the Stoics. It should be noted, however, that the Stoic arguments in Cleanthe
[FOOTNOTE 505]: As one who was persecuted and who was ready to be a martyr to his faith, Abraham is presented by Josephus as similar to Noah. This would seem to contradict the view (Gen. 12:1, Acts 7:2-3, Heb. 11:8-9) and Josephus’ statement ( Ant. 1.154 ) that it was upon the bidding of God that Abraham left Chaldaea. Later, however, when God appears to Jacob in a dream ( Ant. 1.281 ) He reminds him of the fact that Abraham had been persecuted by his kinsmen in Mesopotamia and that it was He who had led Abraham from Mesopotamia to Canaan. The Book of Judith (5:8), without specifically mentioning Abraham by name, says that since the Hebrews refused to follow the gods of their fathers and worshipped God alone, the Chaldeans cast them out. Bib. Ant. 6.11-18, describes in vivid detail the persecution of Abram by the Chaldeans and, in particular, his being cast into a fiery furnace. The midrashic tradition ( Midrash Gen. Rabbah 38.13 ) describes a trial of Abram before Nimrod. Josephus here, as in Ant. 1.281, combines the tradition of the persecution of Abraham with the tradition that he left because he was commanded by God to do so. One should accordingly modify Rappaport’s statement (100, n. 83 ), that Josephus wished to make both Noah and Abraham martyrs for their faith, and that in this he agreed with the rabbinic Agada.
[FOOTNOTE 506]: Both Josephus and Bib. Ant. 8.1, perhaps out of anti-Samaritan motives, omit Abram’s stay at Shechem and Bethel (Gen. 12:6-8), that the Samaritans equated with their sacred Mount Gerizim. Pseudo-Eupolemus, usually regarded as a Samaritan ( ap. Eus., Pr. Ev. 9.17.5 ), on the other hand, says that Abraham was received as a guest by the city of Shechem at the “temple Argarizin,” clearly a reference to the sacred mountain of the Samaritans. See Holladay (1983:1:157-87; and Sterling (1992:187-206).
[FOOTNOTE 507]: Josephus here, like Jub. (13.9), eager that Abraham’s piety not be impugned, adds specifically that Abraham actually did offer a sacrifice. It is significant that the rabbis ( Sanhedrin 89b ), commenting on this episode, portray Satan as charging Abraham with impiety in not having offered any sacrifice on his altar and therefore contending to God that he should be tested with the command to offer his own son Isaac as a sacrifice.

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