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THE HISTORIAN THALLUS (2nd cent. BC-2nd c. AD) 3 Translation Questions

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(Question 1) Which translation of Julius Africanus' sentence about Thallus do you think is best?[/b]
Sextus Julius Africanus (c. 160 – c. 240), in the course of discussing momentous events during Jesus' crucifixion, commented on the Greek historian Thallus' reference to an ancient moment of darkness that Thallus called an eclipse.

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Καθ ολου του κοσμου σκοτος επηγετο φοβερωτατον, σεισμω τε αι πετραι διερρηγνυντο και τα πολλα Ιουδαιας και της λοιπης γης κατερριφθη. τουτο το σκοτος εκλειψιν του ηλιου Θαλλος αποκαλει εν τριτη των ιστοριων, ως εμοι δοκει, αλογως. Εβραιοι γαρ αγουσι το πασχα κατα σεληνην ι̅δ̅, προ δε μιας του πασχα τα περι τον σωτηρα συμβαινει. εκλειψις δε ηλιου σεληνης υπελθουσης τον ηλιον γινεται· αδυνατον δε εν αλλω χρονω, πλην εν τω μεταξυ μιας και της προ αυτης κατα την συνοδον αυτην αποβηναι. πως ουν εκλειψις νομισθειη κατα διαμετρον σχεδον υπαρχουσης της σεληνης ηλιω; εστω δη, συναρπαζετω τους πολλους το γεγενημενον και το κοσμικον τερας ηλιου εκλειψις υπονοεισθω εν τη κατα την οψιν. ...


Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson translate the sentence as: "This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun."

Ben Smith's translation of Africanus' commentary on Thallus makes it sound like Thallus was dismissing the darkness as a natural phenomenon: " In the third book of his Histories Thallus dismisses this darkness as a solar eclipse, unreasonably, as it seems to me."(http://www.textexcavation.com/thallustestimonium.html)The Christian Think Tank site notes that what was in question for Africanus was the cause of the eclipse, not whether the darkness had occurred:

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The phrase "let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun..." indicates that what is under discussion is NOT the factuality of the event, but the EXPLANATION of it. In other words, Thallus is EXPLAINING the occurrence of the darkness--NOT 'documenting' it (contra G. A. Wells, DJE:13) as was Phlegon.

    Harris (op.cit.) points out one of the implications of Julius' word choice here:

    ...If Africanus were simply questioning the accuracy of Thallus in claiming that an eclipse had occurred at a certain time, he would not have rejected Thallus' view by an expression of opinion--'(wrongly) it seems to me'. What he was rejecting was a naturalistic explanation of the darkness not an alleged occurrence of a solar eclipse.
    http://christianthinktank.com/jrthal.html

 


Origen also said that pagans were trying to dismiss the darkness in the Passion story as a natural eclipse. Perhaps Thallus' writing could be one such example.

Dale Allison writes in the book The Historical Jesus in Context, "the fact that [Africanus] states his disagreement with Thallus' interpretation - 'This it seems to me, is contrary to reason' - strongly implies that Thallus was offering a mundane explanation for what happened when Jesus died. "(p. 405)
It could be that Thallus said that an eclipse occurred in the early-mid first century and that Africanus proposed that this was the darkness in the crucifixion and called it an unlikely explanation. But I agree with Allison that it's most likely that Thallus was explaining away the darkness as a natural eclipse in order to provoke this reaction by Africanus.

 

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(Question 2) Perhaps "eklipontos" or the "eclipsing" of the sun does not necessarily mean that the sun was eclipsed by the moon and could mean that it was eclipsed by a cloud cover?
Dr. Jeannie Constantinou quotes and explains St John Chrysostom as saying that it was not an eclipse, but an "unnatural" event:
 

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[Says St. John Chrysostom:] "...that darkness was a token of His anger at their crime. For that it was not an eclipse, but both wrath and indignation, is not hence alone manifest, but also by the time, for it continued three hours; but an eclipse takes place in one moment of time.” So you note here that Chrysostom realizes that this was not an eclipse. This was an unnatural event. An eclipse is a natural event.
    ...
    Thallus was disputing the fact that the darkness that occurred was supernatural. He was saying that the darkness that happened at the time of Christ’s death was merely an eclipse. ... This is extraordinarily important because Thallus is writing only 20 or 25 years after Christ’s crucifixion. ... Thallus is not disagreeing that [the darkness] occurred.
    http://orthochristian.com/102630.html

Interestingly, Luke's gospel likely does say that the sun was eclipsed:       

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It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land [or, earth] until three in the afternoon, while the sun's light failed [or, the sun was eclipsed]; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. [Luke 23:44-45]

    It appears that Luke's Gospel originally explained the event as an eclipse. The majority of manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke have the Greek phrase eskotisthe ho helios ("the sun was darkened"), but the earliest manuscripts say tou heliou eklipontos ("the sun's light failed" or "the sun was in eclipse").[16] This earlier version is likely to have been the original one, amended by later scribes to correct what they assumed was an error, since they knew that an eclipse was impossible during Passover.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_darkness

 


For a literal "eclipse" to occur of the sun in the middle of the month of Nisan (ie. during Passover in 33 AD), some giant piece of matter would have to come between the earth and the sun in order to eclipse the sun's light. For the moon to literally do this, the moon would have to be transported extremely quickly around the earth and drastically out of its normal orbit. Such a transportation would be considered a paranormal or supernatural event considering the extremity of the move.

 

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(Question 3) Does the Greek text in Josephus' Antiquities (below) sound completely normal if one reads "allos" as "another", or does "Allos" better signify a proper name, such as Hallos or Thallos?
Whiston proposed that Thallus was originally mentioned in Josephus' Antiquities, Book 18, but the surviving Greek text doesn't have that.

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GREEK TEXT
...καὶ γὰρ ἦν ἄλλος Σαμαρεὺς γένος Καίσαρος δὲ ἀπελεύθερος: παρὰ τούτου δάνεισμα μυριάδας ἑκατὸν εὑρόμενος τῇ τε Ἀντωνίᾳ καταβάλλει τὸ ὀφειληθὲν χρέος καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν τῷ ἀναλώματι θεραπεύων τὸν Γάιον μειζόνως ἐν ἀξιώματι ἦν παρ᾽ αὐτῷ.

WHISTON'S TRANSLATION
After this, Tiberius Caesar recommended to him his grandson, (20) and ordered that he should always accompany him when he went abroad. But upon Agrippa's kind reception by Antonia, he betook him to pay his respects to Caius, who was her grandson, and in very high reputation by reason of the good-will they bare his father. Now there was one Thallus, a freed-man of Caesar, of whom he borrowed a million of drachmae, and thence repaid Antonia the debt he owed her; and by sending the overplus in paying his court to Caius, became a person of great authority with him.

 


The decision to switch allos to Thallos was made as an emendation by an 18th c. writer, John Hudson. According to the grammar, should "allos" refer to a proper name or be a miswriting of "Thallos"?The German scholar F. Jacoby refers to

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the manufacture of the name in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.167, "for there was also Thallus" (according to John Hudson, The Works of Flavius Josephus, 1762; all the manuscripts actually read "for there was also another" (i.e. ALLOS instead of THALLOS); while an anonymous epitome of Josephus reads "there was in fact someone"), "a Samaritan by race, who happened to be a freedman of Caesar" (from whom Agrippa took out a huge loan in 36 AD).

https://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/jacoby.html

 

 

Richard Carrier writes:

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The addition of the letter theta was conjectured by Hudson in 1720, on the argument that ALLOS didn't make sense, and that Thallus was the attested name of an imperial freedman of Tiberius in inscriptions ("I put 'Thallos' in place of 'allos' by conjecture, as he is attested to have been among the freedmen of Tiberius, going by the inscriptions of Gruter," p. 810, translated from Hudson's Latin). But there is no good basis for this conjecture. First, the Greek actually does makes sense without the added letter (it means "another"), and all extant early tranlsations confirm this reading, and second, an epitome of this passage does not give a name but instead the generic "someone" and this suggests that no name was mentioned in the epitomizer's copy. But finally, the most likely name, if one were needed here at all, would be HALLOS, requiring no added letters, since an imperial freedman by this name is also known in the time of Tiberius from inscriptions.

    https://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/jacoby.html

 

 

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Too many questions :)

Question 1: Alexander Roberts' and James Donaldson's translation seems fairly correct to me. I would translate this piece as follows (I'm not an expert in theology or ancient Greek translations...):

τουτο το σκοτος εκλειψιν του ηλιου Θαλλος αποκαλει εν τριτη των ιστοριων, ως εμοι δοκει, αλογως
In my opinion (ως εμοι δοκει), Thallus calls (Θαλλος αποκαλει) this darkness an eclipse of the sun (τουτο το σκοτος εκλειψιν του ηλιου), in the third book of Histories (εν τριτη των ιστοριων), without reason (αλογως).

Question 2: I can't see the original Greek text, but "eklipontos" also means the deceased. Nonetheless, it would make sense to me that "Christian" writers would try to sensationalize any such event and make it sound as an event triggered by god, while "non-Christian" writers would just pass it as a natural event.

Question 3: The Greek text in Josephus' Antiquities you provided sounds completely normal to me if one reads "allos" as "another" (or someone else). It doesn't sound normal if you read "allos" as "Hallos" or "Thallos" This doesn't make sense at all.

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1 hour ago, admin said:

Too many questions :)

 

Question 2: I can't see the original Greek text, but "eklipontos" also means the deceased. Nonetheless, it would make sense to me that "Christian" writers would try to sensationalize any such event and make it sound as an event triggered by god, while "non-Christian" writers would just pass it as a natural event.

 

Admin,

Thanks for your answers!
Regarding Question #2, the best Greek text that the scholars have to go by is the quote by Julius Africanus in Question #1, where Julius writes: " τουτο το σκοτος εκλειψιν "
Julius Africanus was describing what Thallus wrote where Thallus referred to the event as: " τουτο το σκοτος εκλειψιν "

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