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April 2010

April 10th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Triumph of Titus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Oil on canvas, 1885

What’s Happening, April, 2010

I haven’t made many posts lately, for I am in the process of rewriting the How to Live Forever manuscript in a fashion that removes copyrighted materials. I have already identified each of the citations in question; and when they have been replaced, either by public domain translations or through having the passage in question re-translated specifically for this project, I intend to self-publish and advertise online. I would like to have this completed by end of summer, publishing the book by year’s end.

In the meantime, here is an interesting passage implying Roman hostility towards Christianity under the Flavian Emperors. Sulpicius Severus relates that Titus destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in order to eliminate both the Jewish and Christian religions:

Titus is said, after calling a council, to have first deliberated whether he should destroy the temple, a structure of such extraordinary work. For it seemed good to some that a sacred edifice, distinguished above all human achievements, ought not to be destroyed, inasmuch as, if preserved, it would furnish an evidence of Roman moderation, but, if destroyed, would serve for a perpetual proof of Roman cruelty. But on the opposite side, others and Titus himself thought that the temple ought specially to be overthrown, in order that the religion of the Jews and of the Christians might more thoroughly be subverted; for that these religions, although contrary to each other, had nevertheless proceeded from the same authors; that the Christians had sprung up from among the Jews; and that, if the root were extirpated, the offshoot would speedily perish.

- Chronica II.30.6. (translated by Rev. Alexander Roberts, D.D.) [c. 401 AD]

Severus drew heavily from non-Christian historians (Chron. I.1.4), including Josephus and Tacitus (comp. Chron. II.28.2 to Annals xv.37.). Since Josephus’ account portrayed Titus as sympathetic to Judaism and opposed to the destruction of the Jewish Temple (Bell. Iud. vi.4.3), a case has been made that Severus’ divergence indicates that he was quoting a passage from the lost books of Tacitus’ Histories. My copy of the Loeb edition of Tacitus (ed. C.H. Moore, vol. III, pp. 220-221) includes both Chron. II.30.3 and II.30.6 as fragments of  Tacitus’ Histories, Book V with no disclaimer, treating the matter as if settled. Whether this is actually the case, it does seem unlikely that Severus would contradict Josephus (whose account he appeared to be following, comp. II.30.5 to Bell. Iud. vi.9.3) on this point unless he had an alternative source. As an interesting aside, Titus might be expected to know more of the origins of Christianity than the average Roman through his mistress Berenice, who had personally heard the Christian message from the apostle Paul in the late 50’s AD (Acts 25:13 – 26:32). For complete discussion on the merits of Tacitean authorship for this passage, see H. W. Montefiore, ‘Sulpicius Severus and Titus’ Council of War’, Historia 11 (1962), pp. 156ff.

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