Friday, December 22, 2006

Holtz on Philo, Seneca, and Pliny the Elder

Holtz.AAC.2002: "The Alexandrian philosopher and commentator Philo outlived Jesus by 15 or 20 years, and as a visitor to Jerusalem should have met witnesses to the Easter miracles. His silence suggests that Jesus and his followers did not make the early impression that they should have if the gospels were true." Note that Philo doesn't mention St. Gamaliel, either, or even Christianity; yet he visited Jerusalem! Philo's silence means nothing. He was rabidly opposed to the idea of a Logos incarnated as man. Jesus was marginalized by His humiliation on the cross, upon which He was executed as a criminal just as slaves and rebels were. Jesus' association with lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, fishermen, etc. offended many people. He was a poor, rural carpenter in a society dominated by wealthy urbanites. As for the latter statement, I will quote Glenn M. Miller's summary of a treasure trove of data: "The general trends and patterns in post-Jesus G-R literature and popular belief are easily explained (and perhaps 'best explained' or 'only' explained) by the widespread acceptance by the Roman Empire that a real human in recent history (Jesus) had actually performed credible, 'sane', and non-bizarre miracles."

Pliny the Elder admitted that he was predisposed to reject miracles out of hand. In Natural History he said, "I deem it a mark of human weakness to seek to discover the shape and form of God" and "That that supreme being, whatever it be, pays heed to man's affairs is a ridiculous notion." Therefore, there should be no expectation that Pliny the Elder would report e.g. the three-hour Good Friday darkness which is not naturalistically explicable. Seneca, a Stoic (materialist and pantheist), might not have wanted to do original research on Jesus because Jesus was not interesting to him and was so geographically and temporally distant.

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