Severus Is Not Quoting Tacitus: A Rebuttal to Eric Laupot (2006)

Richard Carrier

In “Tacitus’ Fragment 2: The Anti-Roman Movement of the Christiani and the Nazoreans,” (see below)a paper that was originally published in Vigiliae Christianae (54.3, 2000: pp. 233-47), Eric Laupot argues that a passage in Sulpicius Severus actually comes from the lost section of the Histories by Tacitus, and is therefore a very early testimony to first century Christianity. In particular, he claims it proves that the original “Christians” represented a major Jewish rebel movement (almost completely unrelated to the Christians of the New Testament) that participated in the War of 66-70 A.D. and used theTemple as its base of operations. However, Laupot’s arguments are multiply flawed, and no such conclusion is warranted. The following rebuttal is by no means comprehensive (many more problems could be cited), but aims to summarize the main points that are fatal to Laupot’s argument.

The passage in question reads (in my own translation):

It is reported that Titus had first deliberated, in a council called up for the purpose, whether he should destroy a Templeof such workmanship. For it seemed improper to some that a sacred shrine, famous beyond everything mortal, should be destroyed, a shrine which could serve as a testimony to Roman moderation, but if torn down would provide a continual evidence of their cruelty. But, on the other hand, others, even Titus himself, argued the Templehad to be torn down above all things, so the religion of the Jews and Christians could be swept away even more completely. For these religions, although hostile to each other, nevertheless arose from the very same authors. The Christians appeared from among the Jews, so with the foundation torn away, the offspring will easily pass away. And so by the will of God, once everyone’s mind was inspired to the task, the Templewas destroyed.

Fertur Titus adhibito consilio prius deliberasse, an templum tanti operis everteret. Etenim nonnullis videbatur, aedem sacratam ultra omnia mortalia illustrem non oportere deleri, quae servata modestiae Romanae testimonium, diruta perennem crudelitatis notam praeberet. At contra alii et Titus ipse evertendum in primis templum censebant, quo plenius Iudaeorum et Christianorum religio tolleretur: quippe has religiones, licet contrarias sibi, isdem tamen ab auctoribus profectas. Christianos ex Iudaeis extitisse: radice sublata stirpem facile perituram. Ita Dei nutu accensis omnium animis templum dirutum.

(Sulpicius Severus Chronica 2.30.6-8)

The key words here reveal that Laupot is stretching the evidence even from the beginning. The word radix often refers to the foundations of physical structures, and it is a physical structure whose destruction is being contemplated. And by Laupot’s own admission, stirps routinely means descendants (as well as root, plant, or stem), not just branch, and it is the common descendants of the shared originators (auctores, “founders”) whose destruction is being sought. Therefore, my translation actually fits the context better than his. And yet when we see it in this light, there is no obvious link to Isaiah at all–the same words could readily be inspired by the context even for an author who knew nothing of Isaiah. But since Laupot’s argument requires such a connection, it is clear his entire argument rests on a very thin thread of supposition.

But even if we buy into that supposition, Laupot’s argument remains weak, and this is what I shall argue below. Note that Laupot’s case for the origin of the Christian appellation “Nazareans” from Isaiah 11:1 is well argued and may be correct. However, the rest of his argument suffers from a fundamental flaw: failing to rule out plausible alternative hypotheses. Besides the hypothesis above (that the phrase was simply an obvious logical way to articulate the thinking of Titus), there are at least two others that Laupot also does not consider or argue against: (1) that the original passage (whether from Tacitus or anyone else) referred to the Zealots, and a later Christian redactor simply swapped “Christian” for “Zealot,” or, much more probably, (2) that the passage was entirely written or redacted by a 4th-century Judeo-Christian author. We shall discuss each of these in turn.

Zealots Rather than Christians

The fact that the Christians called themselves Nazareans (or were called that by others) does not entail the Jewish root word netser only ever applied to their movement, nor does the use of netser entail an allusion to a proper name, since such a word (and the corresponding passage from Isaiah) could be used to refer to any “branch” of Judaism–especially any branch that had Davidic messianic expectations. And Christianity was certainly not the only such faction among the Jews.

In fact, such a metaphor and reference is more probable if the original text said “Zealots” and not “Christians,” and therefore Laupot’s thesis is less probable than the Zealot thesis. This is because the content of the passage in question makes absolutely no sense as a reference to any Christians we know from any source. All other sources know only of Christians who were an anti-Temple movement even as early as the prewar letters of Paul, for whom destroying the Temple would have had no effect at all. This was surely known to anyone in Titus’ staff who knew enough to grasp the linguistic and Biblical nuances required by Laupot’s argument. If anyone understood Christianity that well, they could not have been so ignorant as to think destroying theTemple would do any good.

Laupot might insist that the anti-Temple structure of Christian theology (which at every level used Jesus to supplant the Templecult as obsolete) was a late development, but he would then have to argue that all the epistles are postwar forgeries, which is surely an incredible thesis. He would also have to argue that Acts is almost entirely fiction. Yet this is the only way his theory could ever hope to attain even a modicum of probability–unless, of course, he insisted that Pauline Christianity developed in parallel to the “rebel movement” even before the war. But for such a “rebel” faction of Christianity there is absolutely no evidence, not even in the letters of Paul, and there is no evidence the Romans ever encountered such a thing.

Indeed, the very Histories of Tacitus all but proves this: we still have the first half of book 5 directly from Tacitus, which covers the Jewish War all the way up to the battle for Jerusalem (where the text cuts off in the middle of his detailed account of the siege), and yet never once are Christians mentioned as a force the Romans had to contend with or were worried about. Tacitus devotes his first ten chapters of book 5 to detailing the history and geography of Judaea as faced by the legions of Titus. No Christians. In chapter 12 he discusses the importance of the Temple and the fact that two factions of the Jews were attacking each other for control of the Temple and Jerusalem–the factions of Eleazar and John. This is exactly what is reported by Josephus, who also records that Eleazar was the leader of the Zealots and at the time using the Temple as their base of operations (Jewish War 4.216-29). Laupot’s thesis requires Tacitus to have believed the Christians were using the Temple as a base of operations, and while his passage from Severus mentions two factions “hostile to each other,” here Tacitus mentions two such factions, one of which is definitely the Zealots, but neither of which is Christian. Nor even in what survives on the siege of Jerusalem (Histories 2.14-26) is any mention made of Christians. So it would seem next to impossible that Tacitus ever thought or wrote that Christians were a military force vexingRome by using theTemple as their base of operations. But he did know the Zealots were.

In contrast, it is only Paul whom Acts tells us went to Rome for an audience with Nero, and the correspondence between Pliny and Trajan (Letters 10.96-97) shows no awareness of any “rebel” movement. Yet this exchange took place shortly before Tacitus wrote the Annals (in which Tacitus describes Christianity in 15.44), when Tacitus was governing a neighboring province to Pliny, his good friend and regular correspondent–which means Pliny is the most probable source of information for Tacitus’ knowledge of Christianity. Conversely, if Tacitus knew of a rebel Christian movement that even Titus wanted crushed, he surely would have told his friend about it. Yet, again, Pliny shows no awareness of any such threat, and even the emperor Trajan himself explicitly tells Pliny not to make any special effort to crush the Christian movement. Therefore, Laupot’s thesis utterly fails to fit the surrounding evidence, and lacks any evidence in its support.

However, the passage Laupot argues from makes perfect sense if it originally named the Zealots instead of the Christians. As Laupot himself explains, his thesis requires that the “Christians” in this passage constituted a group that aimed to use the Temple as a military base of operations for restoring Israel’s liberty (and hence God’s promised monarchy). But that describes the Zealots, not any Christians we know from any source. And the Zealots were also an offshoot of the Jews with Davidic messianic expectations (as a faction of the Essenes per Hippolytus Refutation of All Heresies 9.26.2), just as the Christians probably were (per Sid Green, “From Which Religious Sect Did Jesus Emerge?“). Furthermore, the Zealot movement was obsessively Temple-focused (per Josephus, Jewish War 4 & 5).

Destroying the Templewould indeed be essential to stamping out the Zealot ideology, and that, too, would be obvious to any informed advisor–indeed, it would be obvious even to Titus himself. And so we have it from an actual eyewitness: Josephus blames the war on the Zealots, gives a completely different account of the reasons the Templewas destroyed, and makes no mention of any participation of Christians in the war, nor any deliberation about Christians by Titus. All of this is so even though Josephus was with Titus for the whole relevant part of the war (Jewish War 6, esp. § 236-61) and thus would have been present at the debate Laupot alleges to have taken place there. Josephus may even have been the very advisor who summoned the allusion to Isaiah in describing the Zealots as a “branch” of theTempleJews seeking to restoreIsrael to its divinely-promised freedom. That Josephus places the Zealots in the conceptual place of the Christians here–as the only offshoot of Judaism he records that needed to be crushed by the Romans, and that could only be crushed by destroying the Temple–provides strong evidence for the Zealot thesis, evidence Laupot’s thesis completely lacks. And the Zealot thesis fits all other surrounding evidence in exactly the way Laupot’s thesis does not.

Later redactors could easily have changed Zealotes to Christiani without changing the style of the passage at all, thus escaping every tool Laupot claims to have for excluding imitators or redactors. Josephus certainly describes the Zealots actually fighting with the Jews (with both military actions and regular assassinations)–even Tacitus himself reports this–and so the two would indeed be called “hostile” to each other. And since everything in Laupot’s argument applies equally well to Zealots (they, too, were a branch of Judaism that probably had the Davidic messianic expectations of theTemple cult “root”), this would appear to be a considerably stronger thesis than his. And it agrees with most scholars, as Laupot himself observes, who believe the passage has been subject to Christian redaction.

Laupot claims that Severus would not perpetrate or accept a redacted “forgery” like this, but this argument makes no sense at all. Severus does not name the passage’s author. In fact, he never even claims to be quoting anyone. He merely says “it was reported” that Titus said and did all that. Therefore, there could be no claim of forgery or doctoring from his peers. Only after some 19th century scholar “assumed” the passage came from Tacitus did even the question of forgery or redaction arise. Of course, it is possible that Tacitus himself, typically poorly informed about the Jews, actually mistook the Zealots for the Christians–for the very same reasons that Laupot proposes (and both the Zealots and the Christians appear to have been Essene movements). But then we would expect some mention of their role in the upcoming war in Annals 15.44. It is more likely, especially if everything else Laupot argues is correct (e.g. if this passage came from Tacitus or any early author), it originally said “Zealots” and not “Christians.” Laupot cannot prove otherwise.

Late Source Rather than Tacitus

But more probable than even that is the theory that this passage in Severus does not come from Tacitus at all, but rather some 4th-century Judeo-Christian author, or Severus himself. Many Christian authors had the required skill set. Jerome, for example, was an ample master of Hebrew and the Old Testament, and he was not the only one. Therefore, any number of authors in the 4th century could have written the passage exactly as Laupot argues, complete with the pun on netser and the paraphrase of Isaiah and the root-branch metaphor.

There are several reasons this is the most probable theory. First of all, there is no indication the passage even is a quote. Severus only says “Titus is reported to have deliberated…” He never mentions Tacitus as his source, and we know Severus must have used sources other than Tacitus in the same work. Moreover, the manner of expression (“Titus is reported to have deliberated”) and non-Tacitean vocabulary (the repeated use of religio) suggests Severus is speaking in his own voice, not someone else’s.

There is in fact no good case for Tacitean authorship. The passage in question is much too brief to confirm its authorship by any stylistic analysis accepted by 20th-century scholars. Of course, even if Tacitean, most scholars agree the material has been tampered with, and even Laupot admits to this when he notes that Tacitus would never use the word religio. But there is no reason to believe it originated with Tacitus anyway: none of the words or phrases are peculiar to Tacitus (even the ones Laupot calls attention to are routinely found throughout Latin literature), and the grammar is actually un-Tacitean in my professional opinion. Having passed an advanced course on Tacitean style, I must say this passage does not look like Tacitus. It is too wordy. Tacitus is infamous for his amazingly tight and concise style. And in that very vein, the passage lacks the most trademark of Tacitean characteristics: frequent use of the ablative absolute to form entire sentences.

But the final blow is the fact that a contemporary of Severus, Paulus Orosius, records a very similar story in completely different words. Comparing the two, it is undeniable that Severus and Orosius are drawing from a common source (or from each other). Yet Orosius makes no mention of “destroying the Christians” as a reason for destroying theTemplevoiced by Titus or anyone else. Instead, Orosius says:

After seizing the Temple, which he nevertheless admired because of its workmanship and antiquity, Titus deliberated for a long time whether to set on fire this inspiration of the enemy, or spare it as a testimony to his victory. But since the Churchof Godhad already grown very fruitfully throughout the whole world, this temple was essentially vain and pointless, and suitable for no good use to anyone, so by the will of God it had to be destroyed. And so, once the emperor was pronounced by the army, Titus burned the Templein Jerusalem.

Quod tamen postquam in potestatem redactum opere atque antiquitate suspexit, diu deliberavit, utrum tamquam incitamentum hostium incenderet, an in testimonium victoriae reservaret. Sed Ecclesia Dei jam per totum orbem uberrime germinante, hoc tamquam effetum ac vacuum, nullique usui bono commodum, arbitrio Dei auferendum fuit. Itaque Titus imperator ab exercitu pronuntiatus, templum in Hierosolymis incendit.

(History Against the Pagans 7.9.4-6)

Orosius therefore says nothing about Titus knowing anything about Christians, and does not say what reason Titus himself gave for deciding to destroy the Temple–except that it was an “incitement to the enemy” (which certainly would not have been true for any Christians we know). What Orosius says instead is that God didn’t need the Templeany more and so it was God’s will that it be destroyed. God let Titus destroy it.

That Orosius gives a completely different account than Severus, while both clearly employed a common source, is a serious problem for Laupot. We can only be sure the material that is shared by two authors quoting or paraphrasing a common source actually originated from that source. And this rule is fatal for Laupot. For Severus completes his story in almost exactly the same way as Orosius: “and so, at the pleasure of God … the Temple was destroyed” (Chronica 2.30.8), “and so, by the will of God, the Temple had to be destroyed” (History Against the Pagans 7.9.6). This confirms the common source theory–yet clearly this source could not have been Tacitus! Tacitus would not have included this element of the story (that the Temple was destroyed because of the will of God), for Tacitus is well noted for excluding divine causation from his historical accounts. Even if Tacitus, unknown to us, once dared to credit gods with moving historical events, he would never have said God’s reason was the fact that Christianity was now large enough to make the Temple obsolete. Indeed, that is exactly the opposite of what Laupot’s thesis requires Tacitus to have said. Instead, only a Christian apologist could ever have contrived such a notion. So it would seem quite obvious that whatever source Severus and Orosius share would have a Christian author.

As far as I can see, this destroys Laupot’s case. For now we have a different, and far more probable theory of how this passage came to be written, even assuming everything Laupot says about the netser connection and the Isaiah paraphrase is true (statistics and all). For it would seem quite certain that some 4th-century Christian author wrote the original passage (possibly, though not necessarily, drawing loosely on Tacitus), and Orosius and Severus are both relying on that author. Their shared source attributed the event to divine causation, which Tacitus would never do–but a 4th-century Christian author certainly would, especially since the alleged purpose of God carries a pro-Christian slant. And a 4th-century Christian author could have all the knowledge and skills to produce the passage even as Laupot theorizes, and argues for statistically. Therefore, it is far more probable that the passage comes from a 4th-century Christian author, and not from Tacitus.

It is also possible that Severus is the origin of the material that Laupot insists could not be his. Suppose for a moment that Orosius was more faithful to their source. On this assumption, it would follow that Severus simply inferred that the growth of the church was the reason Titus went ahead and burned theTemple, from the fact that his source (shared by Orosius) said the size of the Church made theTemple obsolete. After all, Orosius knows nothing of such an inference about Titus, and though both share the same source, only Severus inserts this material–which even seems to say the exact opposite of what Orosius says (that destroying theTemple was harmless, rather than a threat, to the Christian Church).

And this is where Laupot’s probability argument derails: Laupot assumes there was no other possible cause of the correspondence, and therefore the only thesis other than his own is pure “accident.” But that does not follow. We’ve already seen another possible cause in the Zealot theory, as well as the simple fact that destroying a “base” to cut off a “descendant” of Judaism is simply an obvious way to articulate such an inference. Both of these theories actually carry greater probability than Laupot’s.

Even assuming Severus crafted the passage, Laupot’s arguments against this still don’t hold up. Severus certainly knew the Bible well enough to be able to paraphrase Isaiah. And the entire “root and branch” metaphor could easily have been inspired by the language used by Orosius (or his source)–that the Church “germinated” and no longer needed the temple from which it came–or by the simple fact that removing a “foundation” to destroy its “descendants” is an obvious turn of phrase, even without Isaiah in mind. Either way, no knowledge of Hebrew was required in order to contrive a root-and-branch metaphor or a “foundation-and-descendant” argument, whether from Isaiah or on one’s own.

Supposing Laupot is right that radix and stirps were meant agriculturally (and as we have seen, there is no strong reason to suppose this), agricultural metaphors are quite common throughout ancient literature. Antiquity was an agriculture-based civilization, and everyone was more familiar with agricultural concepts than any others. Such metaphors would be most readily understood by the most people, and therefore authors would, and did, favor them. Severus certainly believed Christians were in fact a “branch” that sprouted from the “root” of Judaism. He also believed that Christianity derived from, but branched away from, theTemple cult. From Orosius we find that their shared source probably already used an agricultural metaphor (germination) and believed theTemple was no longer necessary–which implies that it once had been, and constituted Christianity’s root. And Severus could certainly have believed that Titus would not have known this, but would have instead seen the size of the Christian Church as a menace, rather than a boon.

It is not at all improbable that Severus would have put all these pieces together and inferred that Titus destroyed the Temple to fulfill God’s will because he believed destroying the Temple would sever Christianity’s “root” (by destroying its radix, “base”) and thus kill the “branch” (the stirpes, “descendants”). This assumption could surely evoke the Isaiah passage as a stylistic source of the metaphor–though it didn’t have to, since Temple foundations and physical descendants already inspired the metaphor on their own (especially the very words radix and stirps). That this also happened to be the same connection made in the 1st century by or about the Christians in forming their original name would then be a coincidence–but not a coincidence born of pure random chance, as Laupot thinks (and his statistical argument requires). Rather, it would be a coincidence born of the fact that both inferences were made in the same way, from the same core assumptions, in much the same way that the wheel was simultaneously invented by several cultures–not because of blind chance, but because the same thinking was set to the task of solving the same problem.

So I think ordinary authorial creativity could have lead to the colorful (but fictional) embellishment that Severus added to the story, even if Severus knew nothing of the netser connection that Laupot sees. This certainly seems more probable than that Orosius would consciously exclude so crucial a point, as well as so clever a turn of phrase, in his own account of the same story, even though he clearly used the same source as Severus. But even if someone should disagree with me about this, it still follows that a 4th-century Christian author with knowledge of Hebrew and Christian tradition, comparable to that possessed by Jerome (hence conforming to all the requirements set by Laupot himself for crafting the passage) is the most probable source. This is even more probable than the theory that Tacitus (or someone comparably early) originally wrote about Zealots rather than Christians, and yet even that theory is more probable than Laupot’s. Therefore, there is no reason to believe the passage in question ever came from Tacitus, or if it did, that it originally mentioned Christians.

Tacitus’ Fragment 2: The Anti-Roman Movement
of the Christiani and the Nazoreans (2000)

Eric Laupot



There is little consensus as to the historical nature of the sect identified by Tacitus in Annales 15.44 as the Christiani. Nor is there any firm consensus on the authenticity and historicity of all of that fragment known as Tacitus’ fragment 2 (= Sulpicius Severus Chronica 2.30.6-7), whose references to “Christiani” are widely suspected of being later Christian interpolations. Much of this fragment is thought, nevertheless, to be from the lost portion of the fifth book of Tacitus’ Historiae.

A solution can be found to both of these problems by adducing from fragment 2 new evidence indicating that this fragment indeed represents a primary historical source. This new evidence takes the form of the discovery of a significant statistical relationship among the following three words: (1) The metaphor stirps (branch, descendants) used to describe the Christiani in fragment 2, (2) and (3) NazwraîoV and NazarhnóV (Nazorean), describing the New Testament sect associated with the Cristianoì of Acts 11.26. The connecting link among, as well as the common source for, the three words listed above appears to be the Hebrew netser (branch, descendants–apparently influenced by Isa 11.1), which both translates into stirps and transliterates into NazwraîoV/NazarhnóV. It is mathematically extremely unlikely that this link with netser represents a random coincidence. Also, it appears that a later Christian redactor of fragment 2 or his target audience would not have known of this connection. Because of this and other contextual explanations, the possibility is largely eliminated that fragment 2 could have been significantly redacted by a later Christian. We are thus left with the substantial probability that this fragment constitutes a primary historical source, most likely via Tacitus. In turn this source supplies us with a probable solution to the problem of the Christiani’s identity by depicting them in fragment 2 as being major participants in the first Jewish revolt againstRome in 66-73 CE.

In the well-known section of Annales 15.44, Tacitus refers unmistakably to “Christiani.” We shall presently take a fresh look at another passage thought to be at least partly Tacitean and which also mentions a sect called “Christiani.” In so doing, this will demonstrate how much historical data can be successfully concealed in one brief passage. As will be seen, when it comes to these “Christiani,” things are not at all as they have seemed. The second passage in question is commonly known as Tacitus’ fragment 2, much of which is generally considered to have once been part of the now lost portion of the fifth book of Tacitus’ Historiae. Fragment 2 was preserved by the Christian historian Sulpicius Severus in his Chronica 2.30.6-7 (ca. 400-403 CE).

This fragment will enable us to demonstrate who the Christiani really were, and, as we shall see, they were not Christians. Here as elsewhere in this paper I am using “Christians” (as opposed to “Christiani”), “Christianity,and “the Church”to refer to the Pauline version only.

The present study demonstrates that frag. 2 is a primary historical source that in all probability correctly identifies frag. 2’s “Christiani” as the Latin name for a group of major participants in the first Jewish revolt against Rome of 66-73 CE. In addition, we shall see that the Hebrew name for at least a portion, if not all, of this group was probably “Netsarim” (Nazoreans).

Let us now turn to frag. 2 and see why it shows the Christiani to have been major opponents of the Romans. This fragment gives the details of the debate within a high-level military council of war called by the Roman army commander Titus just prior to the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in Jerusalem in 70, near the end of the first Jewish revolt against Rome. The debate was over whether or not the Roman army should destroy the Temple. For our purposes here, the last half of frag. 2 (= Severus’ Chronica 2.30.7) is the most relevant because it specifically mentions “Christiani”:

(2.30.6) It is reported that Titus first deliberated, by summoning a council of war, as to whether to destroy aTempleof such workmanship. For it seemed proper to some that a consecrated Temple, distinguished above all that is human, should not be destroyed, as it would serve as a witness to Roman moderation; whereas its destruction would represent a perpetual brand of cruelty.

(2.30.7) But others, on the contrary, disagreed–including Titus himself. They argued that the destruction of the Templewas a number one priority in order to destroy completely the religion [per Severus. Tacitus or another classical author would have used the word superstitio (alien religious belief). Compare Hist. 5.8 and Ann. 15.44 (exitiabilis superstitio)] of the Jews and the Christiani: For although these religions [i.e., superstitiones] are conflicting, they nevertheless developed from the same origins. The Christiani arose from the Jews: With the root removed, the branch [stirps] is easily killed.[1]

The discovery that the Christian historian Severus took most of frag. 2 from a now-lost portion of Tacitus’ Historiae was first made in 1861 when Jacob Bernays published his seminal study[2] demonstrating that the fragment is reasonably Tacitean in style. He also showed it is apparently fairly accurate historically,[3] as against Josephus’ parallel account of the same council of war in Bell. 6.236-243, which Bernays termed a whitewash of Titus. Bernays’ finding that frag. 2 is for the most part Tacitean has been generally accepted by the editors of the various critical editions of the Historiae and the Chronica.[4] Momigliano sums up the consensus by stating there is no question Severus depended, at least in part, on Tacitus: “Sulpicius Severus uses Tacitus elsewhere, and this particular passage shows traces of Tacitean style under the early fifth-century veneer. It is therefore reasonable to conclude with Bernays that Sulpicius Severus depended on Tacitus. His conjecture has indeed been generally accepted.”[5]

Nevertheless, a number of writers have expressed the opinion that the last half of frag. 2 with its references to “Christiani” represents in large part a “Christianizing” redaction by either Sulpicius Severus himself or some other later Christian.[6] Momigliano remarks, “This passage has undergone Christian modification, but this modification affects only the reasons for Titus’ decision and not the decision itself.”[7] However, the proponents of this theory (see note 6 above) demonstrate only that Severus had a motive to Christianize this passage and that he might have done so, not that he did. Another hypothesis[8] holds that Sulpicius or a later redactor may have interpolated an actual historical account of Titus’ council of war from a non-Tacitean but classical eyewitness source such as Marcus Antonius Iulianus. In that case though, as Momigliano observes in “Jacob Bernays” (167), the net effect would be simply to replace “the name of Tacitus as the source of Sulpicius by the name of the man who was probably the source of Tacitus, Antonius Iulianus: no gain and greater obscurity.”

In any event, however, a straightforward reading of the last half of frag. 2 supports the view that the Romans considered destroying the Templein an attempt to cripple Judaism and eliminate the base of operations of a group known as “Christiani.” If we accept frag. 2 as a primary historical source (and as we shall presently see, this course of action is logically justifiable), there can be no doubt that the Christiani were a Jewish group who, along with those referred to as “the Jews,” were major participants in the first Jewish revolt against Rome. These Christiani are also distinguished in frag. 2 from those who were presumably, from the Roman perspective at least, more normative Jews: the Christiani and “the Jews,” though on the same side against the Romans, are depicted as having religious beliefs that are conflicting. According to frag. 2 then the Christiani were major participants in the war and Titus burned the Temple primarily to destroy them by crippling Judaism–thus destroying the Christiani’s base of operations inIsrael.

This point of view in frag. 2 is consistent with the other extant references by classical Roman historians to “Christiani” of the Second Temple period. We may note Tacitus’ description in Annales 15.44 of the “Christiani’ssuperstitio as dangerous (exitiabilis), sinister (atrocia), an evil (malum), etc. and Suetonius’ portrayal of the “Christiani” in Nero 16.2 as following a “new and dangerous [malefica] superstitio.”

There are a number of arguments that demonstrate frag. 2 to be a primary historical source. The first of these points was made by Bernays and others; the rest are new to this study. This paper will focus on the more relevant portion of the fragment, the second half. Here then is the criticism, primarily literary/statistical, in favor of the classification of frag. 2 as a primary historical source:

1. The second half of frag. 2, like the first, is reasonably Tacitean in style. This is particularly true with respect to (A) quippe used instead of nam before the expression of explanatory and contrasting opinions in a subordinate sentence,[9] (B) the use of the typically Tacitean at contra,[10] and (C) the fact that everything else in the last half of this fragment other than the Severean word religio appears either Tacitean or in any event not non-Tacitean.[11]

2. The clear impression given in frag. 2 of the “Christiani” as opponents of the Romans is even more strongly reinforced by something Bernays did not mention. There can be little doubt the Roman general staff under Titus is portrayed in the final part of frag. 2 (“… they nevertheless developed from the same origins. The Christiani arose from the Jews: With the root removed, the branch [stirps] is easily killed”; see note 1 above) as quoting from Isa 11.1 in describing frag. 2’s “Christiani” by using the Latin word stirps (branch, descendants), one of whose Hebrew equivalents from Isa 11.1 (Heb./Aram., netser) just happens to transliterate into the two names (NazwraîoV and NazarhnóV [i.e., “Nazorean”]) in the Greek New Testament for what would have been, to Severus or any other later Christian redactor, virtually the same sect as “Christiani.” As will be shown, the odds of this being a random coincidence are so remote (along with the likelihood Severus or his readers would even have been aware of this connection) that as a result we may virtually eliminate Severus as the primary source for most of the last half of frag 2.

As will be shown more clearly, frag. 2’s “Christiani” are portrayed, after Isa 11.1, as a “branch” of Jesse–father of David–growing out of Jesse’s Jewish “roots” (radix).[12] This is exactly how we would expect a Jewish resistance movement to be described and is entirely consistent, as we have seen, with the manifest content of frag. 2.[13]

Stirps would have been a good choice in frag. 2 with which to translate netser from Isa 11.1 since each of these substantives meant both “branch” and “descendants” (in this case, presumably, of David).[14] For instance, stirps was used by Jerome to translate netser in Isa 14.19 (Vg).[15]

The branch metaphor in frag. 2, stirps, is one of relatively few Latin words with a Hebrew equivalent (netser) that can be transliterated into “NazwraîoV” (Matt 2.23, 26.71, Luke 18.37, John 18.5, 7, 19.19, Acts 2.22, 3.6, 4.10, 6.14, 22.8, 24.5, 26.9) and “NazarhnóV” (Mark 1.24, 10.47, 14.67, 16.6, Luke 4.34, 24.19)–two words describing the sect that is associated also with the New Testament’s “Christiani” (“Cristianoí”: Acts 11.26). The first three Semitic consonants of netser can be transliterated into the first three Greek consonants of either NazwraîoV or NazarhnóV.[16] It is almost impossible this is a coincidence since there are altogether relatively few words we know of today that might have been used as substantives in Hebrew or Aramaic in first-century Israel and could also have been transliterated this way into NazwraîoV or NazarhnóV – and netser (= stirps) just happens to be one of them. I am including only substantives here since the metaphor actually used in frag. 2 was couched in terms of a noun (stirps).

These few Semitic words (from biblical Hebrew, Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, and Talmudic Aramaic [the latter included for reasons given below]) containing only the consonants N-TS-R or N-Z-R are listed as follows, together with all their known meanings: (1) From the Hebrew, by root (see Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon; also James H. Charlesworth, Graphic Concordance to the Dead Sea Scrolls [Tübingen: J. C. B Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1991]): nezer (crown; a priest’s miter [Lev 8.9]; [a woman’s] hair; a consecration [Lev 21.12]; a Nazirite’s consecrated hair [Num 6.19]; a separation [Num 6. 8, 12, 13]), nazir (one consecrated or crowned [e.g., a prince, ruler, etc.]; a Nazirite; an untrimmed vine [like the Nazarite’s untrimmed hair–see Lev 25.5, 11]), natsar (one who watches; the preserved [of Israel–see Isa 49.6]); a secret thing [Isa 48.6]; a secret place [Isa 65.4]; the besieged [Ezek 6.12]; a besieger [Jer 4.16]; those observing [Torah: Ps 119.2, Prov 28.17]; one tending [a fig tree–Prov 27.18]; one who is crafty [Prov 7.10]), and netser (branch; shoot; descendants). (2) From the Aramaic (see Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature [1903; repr., New York: Pardes, 1950]; also Michael Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic of the Byzantine Period [Ramat-Gan, Israel: Bar Ilan Univ. Press, 1990]): Notseri (a Christian or Nazorean [= Lat., Christianus; see note 17 below]), nezirah (a nobleman; a Nazarite’s vow), Nezirah (a man’s name [Gen Rab. 12.6, etc.]), natsir (a fetus), netser (a cricket; willow), and nitsrah (a wicker basket).

I have eliminated Semitic meanings that are duplicative. For the statistical reasons, see below. There are thus a total of only 29 distinct meanings of Semitic words that could have been transliterated into either “NazwraîoV ” or “NazarhnóV.”[17]

The odds of this verbal relationship among stirps, netser, and NazwraîoV/NazarhnóV being a coincidence can be calculated mathematically roughly as follows: Working backwards from the Greek “NazwraîoV” and “NazarhnóV” (the end results of the putative transliterations), we have already noted above the 29 different meanings of the only Semitic words this author is aware of that could conceivably have been transliterated into the two Greek words in question. If we then make the very generous assumption that for each of the 29 Semitic meanings there were as many as 10 nouns in Latin which could originally have expressed each meaning, we arrive at a total figure of 290 (= 29 x 10) Latin nouns that could originally have been used to express these 29 Semitic meanings by the Roman general staff (or a later redactor of frag. 2). Thus, in theory any one of these 290 Latin nouns could have been chosen randomly as a metaphor for the Christiani by the Romans or a later redactor and still given us Semitic translations that could ultimately have been transliterated into NazwraîoV and NazarhnóV. We are assuming here for the sake of argument that the Romans or a later redactor picked their “Christiani” metaphor completely at random–and not with any preexisting knowledge of the Christiani’s Semitic name, if any. All we have to do at this point then is divide 290 by the total number of nouns in the Latin language to obtain the probability of the Romans or anyone else having randomly arrived at a metaphor which happened to correctly transliterate ultimately into the two Greek names for the sect the New Testament also associates with the “Christiani” of Acts.

To simplify this calculation and at the same time ensure reasonable accuracy, we shall eliminate from consideration all Latin proper nouns, since these refer mainly to people and places outside of Israel and it is most unlikely the Christiani would have chosen their Semitic name, if any, from such a list (for the effect of this on our calculation, see below). Therefore, we shall consider only Latin common nouns. An estimate based on a representative sampling of common nouns from the Oxford Latin Dictionary (1982) indicates there were approximately 18,000 common nouns in Latin. This gives us, therefore, an estimated probability of randomness in this case of 290 divided by 18,000, or 1.61%. Subtracting this fraction from 100% to obtain a probability of non-randomness gives us 98.39%.

It is quite possible, of course, that some first-century Semitic words and meanings that are unknown to us today have been inadvertently omitted from this analysis. In the present author’s opinion, however, this particular problem has been more than adequately compensated for by the very generous use of 10 Latin common nouns for every Semitic meaning as well as the inclusion of Semitic words and meanings from Talmudic Aramaic. In addition, the failure to consider the use of metaphors or similes involving Latin proper nouns (see above) may also understate the probability of non-randomness–by drastically limiting the total number of Latin words under consideration to just 18,000.

In any event, the overall results indicate a probability of non-randomness well within the range of statistical significance (i.e., > 95%). Q.E.D.[18] We may also note that the apparent presence in frag. 2 of a paraphrase of Isa 11.1 (one of only four passages in the Hebrew Bible containing the rarely-used word netser [the other three being Isa 14.19, 60.21, and Dan 11.7]) provides further confirmation of this high probability of non-randomness.

There is a statistical relationship here that is almost certainly not random. This virtually eliminates Severus or another later Christian as the source for this material since a later Christian redactor almost certainly could not have arrived at the choice of stirps simply by accident, as we have seen. Nor probably would Severus (or another later Christian) even have known anything of this verbal relationship. Furthermore, had he known, writing about it in such an utterly oblique way would have been pointless; his readers would not for the most part have understood the connection. This can be inferred by the absence of references to it in Christian and other literature.[19]

Thus, by process of elimination we are almost certainly left with a classical source, probably Tacitus (see above at note 4), for frag. 2, demonstrating that frag. 2 is in all likelihood a primary historical source. In addition, since frag. 2 is probably Tacitean, its Christiani can now probably be identified with the Christiani of Tacitus’ Annales 15.44.

3. Moreover, in Rom 11.16-24 Paul seems to derive from the Hodayot of the Dead Sea

Scrolls (1QH 14[6].14-17, 15[7].18-19, 16[8].4-11) a root-branch metaphor that originally compared the Qumran community to a tree or planting established by God. All three of these passages from the Hodayot employ netser and thus all were apparently influenced in turn by the parallel Isa 60.21 (one of only four passages in the Hebrew Bible to contain netser), and perhaps Isa 11.1 as well.[20] In Romans Paul deliberately reapplies this metaphor to the Christian community. We can infer Paul’s selection of the word “branch” (kladoV) in Rom 11.16-24 was deliberate for the same statistical reasons we were able to infer the Roman general staff in frag. 2 did not just choose their branch metaphor at random either: For the mathematical reasons mentioned above, the odds are overwhelmingly against any random selection by anyone of a branch metaphor for the Nazoreans and, to a somewhat lesser extent, for any other group such as the early Christians who were reportedly linked to them.[21] This principle applies equally well to any direct description of a Nazorean leader such as Jesus as a descendant (= netser) or “branch” of David as, for instance, by Paul in Rom 1.3. We can thus infer that in Rom 1.3 Paul was consciously following Isa 11.1–in part, moreover, because the word netser appears rarely in the Hebrew Bible and only once in connection with David (Isa 11.1), so there can be little doubt under the circumstances as to what exactly Paul was referring to. Compare also the numerous other examples of “son of David” applied to Jesus in the New Testament in one form or another: Matt 1.1-17, 15.22, 20.30-31, 21.9, 15, Mark 10.47-48, Luke 2.4, 3.31, Acts 13.22-23, Rom 15.12, Rev 3.7, 5.5, 22.16, etc. We may note also in Justin Apol. 32 and Dial. 86-87 the portrayal of Jesus as fulfilling the prophecy in Isa 11.1. These parallel phenomena indicate the existence of an important tradition involving a convergence of opinions (including frag. 2’s) connecting the Nazoreans with Isa 11.1.

4. To the extent that Severus or any other later Christian may have redacted the second half of frag. 2 by Christianizing it, he would have had to mimic successfully Tacitus’ style and vocabulary. This would have had to be done with sufficient expertise to deceive both people in his own time who were fluent in Latin and future generations of scholars (see note 4 above). But in so doing, the redactor would have risked exposure by his contemporaries because the complete Historiae were still extant during the early fifth century.[22] If Severus had simply introduced such interpolations in his own style into, say, the secondpart of the fragment–without making a hopeless attempt to pass them off as Tacitus’–his credibility would not have suffered; but this was not done. Therefore, frag. 2 as we have it today could probably not have been significantly redacted by Severus or any other later Christian since in so doing the redactor would have been exposed by his contemporaries, including his peers in the Church.

For this reason it is almost equally unlikely that Severus would have, had he possessed any caution at all, (1) inadvertently or subconsciously copied Tacitus’ style in the second part of frag. 2 or (2) consciously attempted to interpolate just one or two of the passage’s key words–such as “Christiani”–while leaving the others relatively undisturbed. Furthermore, any such hypothetical interpolations of “Christiani” into frag. 2 would almost certainly had to have been made before 418 CE when the entire fifth book of Tacitus’ Historiae was still available (see note 22 above). This follows from the fact that in his parallel account of Titus’ destruction of the Temple in Hist. adv. Pag. 7.9.4-6 (ca. 418) Paulus Orosius almost certainly emulated but Christianized the wording of the last half of frag. 2 by changing “Christiani” to “Ecclesia Dei” and “stirps” to “germinante.”[23] Assuming therefore a Christian interpolation of the word “Christiani”into frag. 2, then by 418 Orosius was almost certainly aware of it.

Having largely ruled out Severus or another Christian as the source for the last half of frag. 2, let us note that the classical author of this fragment, presumably Tacitus, was a historian or eyewitness observer who was in all likelihood accurately quoting the majority opinion of the Roman general staff; an opinion in this case involving a description of the Christiani as a “branch” that exactly matches the opinion of all the various authors of the canonical Gospels writing in Greek, and which is therefore almost certainly not a random coincidence. We have a number of sources who appear to have had the same very particular idea about the Christiani as a “branch.Since it is obvious that the Roman generals during the first Jewish revolt did not get their ideas from the Gospels and since it is also unlikely that the authors of the Gospels would have turned primarily to historical accounts of the Roman generals for subtle suggestions as to what to call the Nazoreans, then it is clear all parties must have derived their information on netser from a common source. This source must have been a very reliable one, or the Roman general staff would not have used it in any form at their high-level meeting. Surely the Romans would have known the proper names of their enemies. The alternative would be too fantastic. Ultimately, this reliable common source could only have been the Christiani’s actual Semitic name, derived from netser. This name in Hebrew would have been, presumably, “Netsarim” (i.e., î_ or Nazoreans), that is to say, “followers of the branch (= descendant[s]) of David.”[24]

It may also be noted that in Isa 60.21 (see above) the branch (netser) God plants represents the righteous of Israel. Thus, the name “Netsarim” would most likely have carried the additional meaning in Hebrew (a meaning presumably grasped and perhaps even implied in frag. 2 by the Roman high command) describing those who belonged to this “big branch,” i.e., the Christiani (see also Lewy, Jewish Hellenism, 192).[25]

As to what else the Roman general staff might have meant by their root-branch metaphor in frag. 2, Lewy provides several examples in Jewish Hellenism (192-3) of the words stirpitus, radicitus, and exstirpare used to describe the uprooting of foreign religions by the Romans. However, to the best knowledge of this author, the explicit use of a root-and-branch metaphor in its entirety is to be found nowhere else in classical literature other than in frag. 2 and is otherwise unique to the Judeo-Christian tradition. This provides additional evidence that the Roman general staff’s precise choice of metaphor in frag. 2 was influenced by the Jewish culture in which they found themselves and in particular, as has been demonstrated by the statistical inferences above, by the distinctive Semitic name and identity of their opponents.

As we have seen, a straightforward reading of the last half of frag. 2 supports the view that the Romans considered destroying the Templein an attempt to cripple Judaism and eliminate the base of operations of a Jewish group they called “Christiani.” The Christiani must have been major participants in the revolt against Rome in order to have had the Roman general staff focus on them and destroy the Temple. The razing of the Temple could only have been justified by Titus’ council of war, with its keen eye on history and public opinion, if this action would have undermined Rome’s main opponents in Israel. The destruction of the Temple can also be seen in this light as an extension of the tortures inflicted on the Christiani six years earlier by Nero in Rome, as described by Tacitus in Ann. 15.44.

This construction of frag. 2 also harmonizes with the meaning of the name “Christiani” given in Ann. 15.44 as describing the ideological supporters of a certain Christus, executed several decades earlier by Pontius Pilate in Judea. The name “Christus” refers presumably to “the anointed one [of God],” i.e., the king of Israel.[26] Tacitus describes Christus as “the source for the [Christiani’s] name” (auctor nominis eius).[27] Thus, the meaning of “Christiani” in Latin parallels the first definition of “Netsarim” given above, as referring to the followers of Isa 11.1’s royal branch of David. The extant evidence suggests, however, that after the overwhelming defeat of Israel and the Jewish resistance in the 70’s the name “Christiani” was used largely to designate Pauline Christians,[28] who had presumably stepped into the historical vacuum left by the decimation of the earlier Jewish Christiani.

We are now in a position to adduce some additional evidence demonstrating that stirps (= netser) in frag. 2 leads us to Isa 11.1: (1) Isa 11.1 is the one primary reference in ancient Jewish literature to use netser in a way most consistent with both the warlike context and the root-branch metaphor in frag. 2. Compare the three other uses of netser in the Hebrew Bible: Isa 14.19, 60.21, and Dan 11.7. (2) It is quite likely that a Jewish group as Temple-based as the Christiani would have received their Semitic name from the Hebrew Bible. (3) On 17 of the 18 occasions in which Tacitus uses stirps elsewhere in his works he refers to descendants or descent, particularly royal or noble.[29] All told, we are led to consider Isa 11.1 as an almost certain basis for the root-and-branch metaphor underlying the last part of frag. 2.

The Christiani’s Judaism most likely included, as may be deduced in part from their founder’s title of Christus, a messianic/royalist component. Tacitus reports in Ann. 15.44 that their teachings had spread as far as Rome: exitiabilis superstitio rursum erumpebat … per urbem etiam (“… the dangerous superstitio broke out again … throughout Rome also”). It was the Empire’s opposition to the Christiani’s teachings that explains Titus’ proposal in frag. 2 to destroy not only the Christiani themselves (the “branch” of Judaism) but the Temple that in his view sustained their belief in monotheism and their anti-Romanism. The Romans felt that as long as the Temple stood those who stood against Rome were assured of a rallying point (Josephus Bell. 6.239).

In conclusion, out of all the myriads of different metaphors utilizing substantives which anyone, whether Roman general or later Christian redactor, could have employed to describe the Christiani in frag. 2, the branch metaphor just happens to match up, via netser, with (1) the identical sounding Greek words for “Nazorean” in the New Testament for what would have been virtually the same sect as “Christiani” to a Christian redactor and (2) what appears strongly therefore to be a parody of Isa 11.1, implicitly containing netser, embedded in frag. 2. This entire correlation is further confirmed by a consistent tradition in other sources (Rom 1.3, Justin Dial. 86-87, b. Sanh. 43a, etc.) linking the Nazoreans to Isa 11.1. Since under the given circumstances the odds that all these phenomena are a coincidence are extraordinarily low, it is clear that frag. 2 is too highly detailed to have been substantially redacted by a later Christian. It thus represents almost certainly a primary historical source, probably via Tacitus, portraying the Christiani as a major Jewish group acting in opposition toRome and in defense ofIsrael.


[1] fertur Titus adhibito consilio prius deliberasse, an templum tanti operis everteret. etenim nonnullis videbatur, aedem sacratam ultra omnia mortalia illustrem non oportere deleri, quae servata modestiae Romanae testimonium, diruta perennem crudelitatis notam praeberet. at contra alii et Titus ipse evertendum in primis templum censebant, quo plenius Iudaeorum et Christianorum religio tolleretur: quippe has religiones, licet contrarias sibi, isdem tamen ab® auctoribus profectas; Christianos ex Iudaeis extitisse: radice sublata stirpem facile perituram. C. Halm, ed., Sulpicii Severi libri qui supersunt, CSEL, vol. 1 (Vienna, 1866). Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are my own.

[2] “Über die Chronik des Sulpicius Severus,” in Jahresbericht des jüdisch-theologischen Seminars Fraenckelscher Stiftung” (Breslau, 1861) 1-72, esp. 48-53, 57-61, reprinted in Jacob Bernays, Über die Chronik des Sulpicius Severus: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der classischen und biblischen Studien (Berlin, 1861; repr., Berlin, 1862) and also in H. Usener, ed., Gesammelte Abhandlungen von Jacob Bernays (1885; repr., Hildesheim: Olms, 1971) 2.81-200, esp. 159-67, 174-81. The publishing history is derived in part from Jean Bollack, “Un homme d’un autre monde,” in John Glucker and André Laks, eds., Jacob Bernays: Un philologue juif, Cahiers de philologie, série Apparat critique, vol. 16(Villeneuve d’Ascq, France: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 1996) 168 n. 111. All references to page numbers in Bernays are from the originalBreslau edition.

For more recent commentary on frag. 2, see Brian W. Jones, The Emperor Titus (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984) 54-5; Yochanan H. Lewy [Johanan Hans Levy], Studies in Jewish Hellenism (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1960) 190-4 [Hebrew]; T. D. Barnes, “The Fragments of Tacitus’ Histories,” Classical Philology 72, no. 3 (1977) 224-31; G. K. van Andel, The Christian Concept of History in the Chronicle of Sulpicius Severus (Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 1976) 33-4, 43-8, 51-2; Hugh Montefiore, “Sulpicius Severus and Titus’ Council of War,” Historia 11 (1962) 156-70; Arnaldo Momigliano, “Jacob Bernays,” Mededelingen der Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, afd. letterkunde, n.s., 32, no. 5 (1969) 151-78, esp. 167; Flaminio Ghizzoni, Sulpicio Severo (Rome: Bulzoni, 1983) 207-9; and André Lavertujon, La Chronique de Sulpice Sévère, vol. 2 (Paris, 1899) 69, 394-400.

[3] “Chronik,” 48-53, 59-61. Most recent historians have largely agreed with Bernays on this point, at least with respect to those portions of frag. 2 they do not consider to have been redacted. See esp., Jones, Titus, 55, 55 n. 69; also, Zvi Yavetz, “Reflections on Titus and Josephus,” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 16, no. 4 (1975) 416-8 passim; Lavertujon, Chronique, 394-400; Barnes, “Fragments,” 226-7; and Momigliano, “Jacob Bernays,” 167.

[4] Historiae: Kenneth Wellesley, ed., Historiarum libri, vol. 2, pt. 1, Cornelii Taciti libri qui supersunt (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1989); H. Heubner, ed., Historiarum libri, vol. 2, pt. 1, P.Cornelii Taciti libri qui supersunt (Stuttgart: B. G. Teubner, 1978); E. Koestermann, ed., Historiarum libri, vol. 2, pt. 1 of P. Cornelii Taciti libri qui supersunt (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1969); Rudolf Till, ed., Cornelius Tacitus Historiarum libri, Heidelberger Texte, Lateinische Reihe, vol. 33 (Heidelberg: F. H. Kerle, 1963); Caesar Giarratano, ed., Cornelii Taciti Historiarum libri (Rome: Reale Officina Poligrafica, 1939); C. D. Fisher, ed., Cornelii Taciti Historiarum libri (1911; repr., Oxford: Clarendon, 1967); G. Andresen, ed., P. Cornelii Taciti libri qui supersunt, 5th ed., vol. 2 (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1914); C. Halm, ed., Historiae et libri minores, vol. 2, Cornelii Taciti libri qui supersunt, 4th ed. (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1901), etc. See also Clifford H. Moore, trans., Tacitus: The Histories, vol. 2, Loeb Classical Library (1931) and additional bibliography in Wellesley, Historiarum libri, xi-xx.

Chronica: Ghislaine de Senneville-Grave, ed., Sulpice Sévère, Chroniques, SC, no. 441 (Paris: Cerf, 1999) 41, 294-5, 429; Lavertujon, Chronique, 69, 394, 398; and Halm, Sulpicii Severi libri, 85.

For additional discussion, see Barnes, “Fragments,” 224.

[5] “Jacob Bernays,” 167.

[6] See particularly Montefiore, “Council of War,” 156-70, esp. 164 (citing other sources); van Andel, Chronicle, 33-4, 43-8, 51-2; and Lewy, Jewish Hellenism, 190-4.

[7] “Rebellion within the Empire,” CAH 10.862 n. 1.

[8] Montefiore, “Council of War,” 162-3.

[9] Bernays, “Chronik,” 59. See also A. Gerber and A. Greef, Lexicon Taciteum (1877-1903; repr., Hildesheim: Olds, 1962) 2.1327-9 and Clarence W. Mendell, Sentence Connection in Tacitus (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1911) 133-5: “Certe, nimirum, quippe, scilicet, serve rather the purpose of italics in English: they emphasize the word with which they are used and in so doing bring out strongly some contrast which is already present without the addition of the adverb. Further than this, they regularly mark the clause in which they stand as explanatory in some way of a statement, either uncertain or unusual, in the preceding sentence … quippe [has] a serious tone … Quippe is used more frequently by Tacitus and in more various ways than the other similar adverbs … ”

[10] Barnes, “Fragments,” 227 n. 13.

[11] Bernays, “Chronik,” 58; also, 57 n. 75 (on plenius as non-Severean).

[12] The similarity between frag. 2 and Isa 11.1 is even more striking in the LXX, Targum, Syriac, and the Vulgate, as against the MT. See John D. W. Watts, Isaiah 1-33 (WBC 24; Waco, Word, 1985) 168 n. 1. With regard to the Vulgate, however, see n. 19 below.

[13] It is not necessary to assume Titus’ generals were religious scholars in order to believe they could have known something about the origin of their enemy’s name. In addition, the Roman generals had a large staff, including military intelligence units, to delegate such research to.

[14] Cf. the parallel use of netser to mean “[royal] descendants” in Dan 11.7.

[15] Roger Gryson, ed., Esaias, vol. 12, pt. 1, fasc. 6 of Vetus Latina: Die Reste der Altlateinischen Bibel (Freiburg: Herder, 1991) 410.

[16] H. H. Schaeder, “NazwraîoV, NazarhnóV,” TDNT 4.879; also, Fausto Parente, “NazarhnóV – NazwraîoV: An Unsolved Riddle in the Synoptic Tradition,” Scripta Classica Israelica 15 (1996) 185-201, esp. 192.

[17] There may be 30 if we consider that Notseri may have two distinct meanings (see below). However, both of these, as far as we know, translated into Latin as the same word, “Christianus”–which makes the difference in their Semitic meanings statistically unimportant, as will be seen.

[18] The author wishes to express his gratitude for a review of the mathematics and attendant logic in this paper to Robert T. Gorman, Ph.D. (statistics), Blue Hen Consultants, Elkton, MD (former assistant professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences,UniversityofDelaware).

[19] Nor would Jerome’s Isa 11.1 (Vg) from the Hebrew Bible or the Old Latin translations of Isa 11.1 that we know of today have helped Severus’ readership (or Severus) identify stirps in frag. 2 as a quote from Isa 11.1. These translations into Latin consistently rendered netser from Isa 11.1 as flos (Gryson, Esaias, vol. 12, pt. 1, fasc. 5 of Vetus Latina [1990] 339) which, unlike stirps, meant neither “branch” nor “descendants” but “flower.”

[20] See, e.g., S. Wagner, “Neser,” TDOT 9.549-51 and Ray A. Pritz, Nazarene Jewish Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes Press; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988) 14 n. 14; also, James D. G. Dunn, Romans 9-16 (WBC 38B; Dallas, Word, 1988) 659-60.

[21] Cf. also the Talmud’s more direct application of netser from Isa 11.1 to the Nazoreans. b. Sanh. 43a (MS Munich).

[22] It is well known that in his Historiarum adversum Paganos libri septem (ca. 418) the Christian writer Paulus Orosius, for instance, had access to and made use of these now lost portions of the Historiae. Barnes, “Fragments,” 224, 227-8 passim; and Bernays, “Chronik,” 55, 58 n. 77.

[23] See, e.g., C. Zangemeister, ed., Pauli Orosii Historiarum adversum Paganos libri VII: Accedit eiusdem liber apologeticus, CSEL, vol. 5 (1882; repr.,New York: Johnson Reprint, 1966) 460 n. While there is a remote possibility that Orosius and Severus could have independently arrived at similar-sounding language at the same point in their narratives, this is extremely unlikely. Cf. Barnes, “Fragments,” 228.

[24] Cf. the parallel construction describing the adherents to one of Josephus’ “four philosophies,” the Tseduqim or Saddoukaioi (Sadducees) of Bell. 2.119, 164, 166, Ant. 13.171, 173, 293, 296-8, 18.11, 16, 20.199, and Vita 10; see also b. Sanh. 33b, b. Yoma 19b, 53a, etc. The Tseduqim appear to have been the followers of David and Solomon’s priest Tsadoq and his descendants (2 Sam 8.17, 1 Kings 2.35, Ezek 44.15, etc.). See generally, R. Meyer, “Saddoukaioi ,” TDNT 7.35-54; and EncJud, s.v. “Sadducees.”

[25] Note, too, the parallel construction to Netsarim, used in this second sense, of other similar denominative nouns such as Yehudim, YiÌre’eli (2 Sam 17.25 [MT]), etc. GKC § 86.2.5.

[26] Justin Dial. 86; Tertullian Apol. 3.5; Ad nat. 1.3; Adv. Prax. 28; Lactantius Inst. 4.7.4; and Elias J. Bickerman, “The Name of Christians,” HTR 42 (1949) 109-24, esp. 119 (repr., Studies in Jewish and Christian History, vol. 3 [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986] 139-51): “… ‘Christus’ is, of course, a literal … rendering of the Hebrew Mashiah (Aramaic: Meshiah), meaning ‘Anointed’ … ” See, e.g., Ps 2.2, 2 Sam 22.51, etc.

[27] Ann. 15.44. “The formation of such a name from ‘Christus’ is in accordance with late Latin usage (cp. ‘Augustiani’ [Ann.] 14.15,8, ‘Tertullianus,’ etc.) … ,” Henry Furneaux, ed., Cornelii Taciti: Annalium ab excessu Divi Augusti libri [The Annals of Tacitus], vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1891) 528. Cf. esp. the parallel “Caesariani”: C. Spicq, “Ce que signifie le titre de chrétien,” Studia Theologica 15, no. 1 (1961) 68-78, esp. 74-5. See also Harold B. Mattingly, “The Origin of the Name Christiani,” JTS, n.s., 9 (1958) 26-37; J. le Coultre, “De l’étymologie du mot «chrétien»,” Revue de Théologie et de Philosophie 40 (1907), 188-96, esp. 188-90; Bickerman, “Name of Christians,” 109-24; and Henry J. Cadbury, “Names for Christians and Christianity in Acts,” in F. J. Foakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake, eds., The Beginnings of Christianity. Part I: The Acts of the Apostles, vol. 5 (1933; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979) 375-92, esp. 383-6. Pauline Christians would arguably have been regarded as the followers of the resurrected ó: Baruch Lifshitz, “L’origine du nom des chrétiens,” VC 16 (1962) 65-70.

[28] Pliny Ep. 10.96-97; Ignatius Rom. 3.2; Martyrdom of Polycarp 10.1, etc.

[29] Gerber and Greef, Lexicon Taciteum, 2.1547-8.


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