Saturday, December 27, 2008

Swear by the Genius of Ceaser

The original article can be found at Solomon's Portico

The Cave of Letters, located near the Dead Sea, was the last refuge of Bar-Kochba and his followers. Within the cave were found numerous artifacts and scrolls.

more info

Some of these scrolls belonged to a woman named Babtha, a Jewish widow who lived in Nabatea.

Of interest to us is one of the scrolls found, a legal document showing possession of property that was certified by a Roman court. At the end of the document are these words...

"I Babtha daughter of Simon, swear by the genius of our lord Caesar that I have in good faith registered as has been written above."

Christians of this time period and later would die by refusing to say the words "I swear by the genius of our lord Caesar". A phrase that to everyone else was in common usage.

There are several examples of magistrates adjuring accused Christians to say these words. Most notably the account of the Scillitan Martyrs that were put to death around 180AD in the region of Numidia, North Africa.

From the account of the Scillitan Martyrs...

Saturninus the proconsul said: We too are religious, and our religion is simple, and we swear by the genius of our lord the Emperor, and pray for his welfare, as ye also ought to do.

Speratus said: If thou wilt peaceably lend me thine ears, I can tell thee the mystery of simplicity.

Saturninus said: I will not lend mine ears to thee, when thou beginnest to speak evil things of our sacred rites; but rather swear thou by the genius of our lord the Emperor.

Speratus said: The empire of this world I know not; but rather I serve that God, whom no man hath seen, nor with these eyes can see. I have committed no theft; but if I have bought anything I pay the tax; because I know my Lord, the King of kings and Emperor of all nations.

Of course these Christians were not slaughtered solely because they refused to swear by Caesar's genius, but it was their allegiance to Christ that brought them before the proconsul and prevented them from saying that phrase.

The Scillitan Martyrs were a group of Christians (probably a church congregation) that were tried and executed for their faith at around 180AD.

The group was from the town of Scillium near Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. (modern day Tunisia)

The document that tells us their story appears to be a legal document to record the proceedings of the trial.

An interesting exchange between the Roman proconsul and the Pastor deals with the letters the Christians had with them. They were Paul's epistles, giving us evidence (in my view) that they were considered scripture.

The exchange goes like this...
Saturninus the proconsul said: What are the things in your chest?

Speratus said: Books and epistles of Paul, a just man.

The text is located here

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hanged on a Tree

Feature Article from Solomon's Portico

Editor's note: Justin Martyr d. 165AD, was an early Christian apologist and Philosopher. His conversation with an Hellenistic Jew named Trypho is recorded in an ancient book called "Dialogue with Trypho". The book is fascinating in many respects not the least of which appears in the following article.

In "Dialogue with Trypho" Justin mentions Deu 21:23 as evidence that Jesus was the Messiah because he was crucified, therefore being accursed by God and bearing the curse that was due us.

Trypho doesn't argue the translation in this instance, but rather argues that death by crucifixion was an unworthy death for the Messiah. Trypho agrees that the the Messiah must suffer but not by crucifixion and so disagrees with Justin that Deu 21:23 (and Gal 3:13) speak of Jesus.

Trypho does disagree in some places on the differences in translation between the Hebrew text and the Septuagint, but not in this case.

In this way the cross has become a stumbling block for the Jews as mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians.


Dialogue with Trypho ch 32
And when I had ceased, Trypho said, "These and such like Scriptures, sir, compel us to wait for Him who, as Son of man, receives from the Ancient of days the everlasting kingdom. But this so-called Christ of yours was dishonorable and inglorious, so much so that the last curse contained in the law of God fell on him, for he was crucified." (one thing that isn't debated is the existence of Christ)

Deu 21:23
"his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.

Gal 3:13
"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"."

1Cr 1:23
"but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, "

An interesting note, in the prologue to Dialogue with Trypho, the men who were with Trypho did not participate in the debate between Justin and Trypho. Rather they left to discuss the war in Judea at the time, this would have been the Bar-Khokba revolt.

Bar-Khokba in Aramaic "Son of a Star" was hailed as the Messiah by Jews of that period.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Luke and Greek Rhetoric in the Bible

Feature article from Solomon's Potico

"About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way"
Here Luke uses a "Litotes" which is a form of Greek rhetoric, which seeks to express something by stating the opposite.
The phrase "no little disturbance" actually means a great disturbance.
See also Acts 21:39 "a citizen of no mean city" another example of a litotes.
Some of the most popular English translations do not translate the litotes "no little disturbance" as it appears in the Greek but rather it's actual meaning is translated.

for example...

NKJV, And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way

NIV, About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way

Although no meaning is lost in these translations, it seems to me that some of the prose and character is lost by removing the Greek rhetoric from the verse. The original cultural character of the idiom is lost by translating it into plain English.

Another example of Greek rhetoric in Luke's Gospel is called an exordium, which is a form of introduction to a discourse or essay. An exordium lays out the purpose of a discourse and prepares the audience's frame of mind to receive the intended message.

some examples...

Luke 1
Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

Against Apion, Josephus
I Suppose that by my books of the Antiquity of the Jews, most
excellent Epaphroditus, have made it evident to those who
peruse them, that our Jewish nation is of very great antiquity,
and had a distinct subsistence of its own originally; as also, I
have therein declared how we came to inhabit this country wherein
we now live.

Both Luke and Josephus use the same rhetorical vehicle in setting the tone for their discourses.