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On Accurate Representation of Texts

December 11, 2017

Over the last week or so, in the discussion of some of the “mythical Jesus” claims, we’ve discovered some inaccurate representation of key texts.  One of these that has come up previously (and is cited by Carrier as crucial corroboration of his own “mythical” case) is Philo of Alexandria, De Confusione Linquarum 62-63.  Also relevant is the biblical text that Philo comments on here, Zechariah 6:11-14.

A recent fulmination by Carrier (responding to my critique of his claims about this passage and other matters) presents what he claims is a translation of the latter passage from the Hebrew.  But in comparing his translation with the Hebrew text, I am bound to wonder how good his Hebrew is.

Contra Carrier, Zechariah 6:11 cites an oracle ordering the creation of “crowns” (not “a crown”).  The Hebrew word here is atarot (the plural form of the noun).  As the larger context of Zechariah makes clear, the prophet predicts and praises the appearance of two figures.  One of them is Joshua (Greek:  Iesous)  the priest, and the other is referred to here as tsemach (Heb:  “branch,” “shoot”), a royal figure who will rebuild the temple and sit on a throne.  One of the crowns is placed on the priest’s head (v. 11), and the other is for the “Branch” guy.  The Hebrew text says that the priest will sit on his own throne (v. 13; the LXX says the priest will sit “on the right side” of the Branch figure), and “there shall be peace between them.”  So, two guys, not one.  (Actually, the best English translation of the text is probably the Jewish Publication Society Hebrew-English TANAKH.)   And, by the way, the larger text of Zechariah makes it abundantly clear that two “anointed” figures are central in the oracles for the future of the Jewish people.

Philo reads Zechariah better than Carrier, and in the passage in De Confusione comments on the royal figure (referred to in the Greek LXX as “anatole“, a translation of tsemach).  Only Philo engages here in allegorical use of the text, taking the figure as symbolical.  But, and here’s the critical point, neither here nor elsewhere does Philo refer to “an archangel Jesus”.

That’s a pretty critical blow to Carrier’s mythicist case.  For he wants to claim that there was an archangel named Jesus already in circulation (so to speak), which (he further asserts without warrants) that earliest Jesus-believers took over and fashioned him into their savior-figure.  But, I repeat:  no Jewish archangel Jesus, not in Philo, nor in any other Jewish text.

As I’ve said, I’ve got a number of other pressing commitments for my time.  So, I’ll move on.  But I presume that Carrier will let forth another long and equally intemperate screed, full of the usual bleatings about being ignored, and verbal “chaff” to distract from the issues on which he’s been found wanting.

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  1. bryantiii permalink


    The Two Messiah theory as found at Qumran is discussed at the following:

    The author of the article also postulates that the theory of the Two Messiahs is most likely taken from the same Zechariah 6:11-14 passage.

    “Several texts are considered to be written by members of the sect: the Damascus document for example, and the Messianic rule. In these texts, we may expect to find the sect’s own messianology. The distinguishing characteristic is that the Qumranites expected the coming of not one, but two Messiahs. This must have been an attempt to make sense of such contradictory messianic images as we have encountered up till now.

    The root of this idea may be the lines of Zechariah that we already studied above.

    Thus, the “Damascus Document,” The “Manual of Discipline,” and “The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs” all mentioned Two Messiahs: The Messiah of David (King) and The Messiah of Israel (Priestly) referring to the descendants of Judah and Levi.

  2. Expect a blog post back with terms like “Liar”, “Ignorant”, “dishonest”, and a bunch of stuff about not reading the experts and latest research on these claims.

    Carrier’s become predictable with it. It’s what the fanboys want.

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