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THE HISTORIAN THALLUS (2nd cent. BC-2nd c. AD) Question on Dating His Writing

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Thallus was an ancient Greek scholar who wrote Histories in three volumes. In one passage in his Histories, he described an event of darkness that he labeled or dismissed as an eclipse. Julius Africanus, the 2nd-3rd century Christian writer, said that he was talking about the darkness at Jesus' death. In other known passages by Thallus, Thallus says that certain mythical figures were real life people: 



Lactantius [wrote in Latin]: "Theophilus, in a book on historical matters written to Autolycus, says that in his own history Thallus says that Belus, whom the Babylonians and Assyrians worshipped, is found to predate the Trojan War by 322 years."

Translator's Note: ... this quote shows that Thallus appeared to euhemerize myths, i.e. he found or created a naturalistic explanation for fantastic claims.


There are other numerous surviving passages where Thallus talks about legendary Greek figures like Cronus and the Titans having battles with kings only a few centuries before the battle of Troy. And Tertullian in Apologeticus writes: 


"And so, as many experts as there are in letters, neither Diodorus the Greek nor Thallus... prints that Saturn was anything but a man."

It would therefore be in the nature of Thallus' writing for Thallus to address the issue of the darkness in c.33 AD and dismiss it as a natural phenomenon.

(Question) What is the ending date for the chronology of Thallus' writings?
According to the surviving, Armenian version of Eusebius' Chronicle, Eusebius (as quoted below) wrote that Thallus collected events up to 109 BC:


From the three books of Thallus, in which he collects (events) briefly from the fall of Ilion to the 167th Olympiad.

Here is another translation:


There are fragments from the 3 books of Thallus, in which he made a summary in abbreviated fashion from the sack of Troy to the 167th Olympiad [i.e. 109 BC] (Eusebius, Chronicle, I. K125.2)

Wikipedia notes that Eusebius'


text is preserved in an Armenian translation where many of the numerals are corrupt. The fall of Troy is 1184 BC, but the editors, Petermann and Karst, highlight that the end-date of the 167th Olympiad (109 BC) is contradicted by George Syncellus, who quotes Julius Africanus, and suggest that the end-date should read "217th Olympiad" [92 AD], a change of one character in Armenian.

George Syncellus quoted Julius Africanus as saying that Thallus had written about the darkness that happened during Jesus' crucifixion. Here is the quote from Julius Africanus: 



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. ...

(A most terrible darkness fell over all the world, the rocks were torn apart by an earthquake, and many places both in Judaea and the rest of the world were thrown down. In the third book of his Histories Thallus dismisses this darkness as a solar eclipse, unreasonably, as it seems to me...)


You can read my thread about this quote from Julius Africanus here: hellenism.net/greek-forum/topic/22633-the-historian-thallus-2nd-cent-bc-2nd-c-ad-3-questions/

A date of 92 AD. would make more sense as it comes after the time of Christ.

Glenn Miller writes: "Eusebius tells us that this Thallus wrote in Greek an account of world history from the fall of Troy down to the mid-first century--c.52 CE."(http://christianthinktank.com/jrthal.html) 52 CE would be the 202nd Olympiad. Miller cites "Murray Harris, JSOTGP5:344" Unfortunately, I can't find Harris' article.

If the date in the Armenian text is correct and Thallus narrated up to the 167th Olympiad of the Greek calendar, then Africanus was likely mistaken in seeing in Thallus' words a reference to the darkness in the Passion story.


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For Question 2 (about the dating) Harris' article is in Gospel Perspectives, Volume 5: The Jesus Tradition Outside the Gospel:

https://books.google.com/books?id=3AxLAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA343&lpg=PA343&dq=Murray-harris+thallus&source=bl&ots=AxgrQMzFTm&sig=ACfU3U1cdDhkfqzX-yyj62NW1wj5O9gsSQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjc0dfZpp7oAhWAhHIEHcjyAlsQ6AEwBHoECF8QAQ#v=onepage&q=Murray-harris thallus&f=false

There, Harris writes:


According to Eusebius this Thallus wrote (in Greek) a chronicle of world history in three books from the fall of Troy possibly down to about A.D. 52./4/

The online book does not contain Harris' note #4.

Richard Carrier gives the reason behind the theory that it pointed to 52 AD. Carrier writes:

  • The Armenian reference places the end of Thallus' "brief compendium" at the 167th Olympiad (which spans 112-109 BC). This would remain uncontested if it were not for a single reference to Thallus regarding an event long after that time: namely, the darkness at the death of Christ. Since this event must have occurred in the 1st century AD, and no doubt sometime between 28 and 38 AD, there are two possibilities: either the Armenian text is referring to a different work, or the date has been corrupted. Virtually every scholar to date has opted for the latter and made efforts to conjecture the original date--the only two plausible (though still unlikely) options are the 207th Olympiad (which spans 49-52 AD) and the 217th Olympiad (which spans 89-92 AD). The latter in fact is the more likely, judging from palaeography. But as I've already noted, it seems far more likely that the Armenian reference is to a different work. It could even be an excerpted epitome of a longer chronology.
  • This leaves us with no clue as to when Thallus wrote. Since the 1st-century darkness was probably not mentioned in the "brief compendium," there is no reason to suppose that the date of 109 BC is incorrect--there is nothing physically wrong with the text, nor any other reason to suspect an error (although Mosshammer claims otherwise, his reasoning is hard to justify). However, if Thallus did mention the darkness in another work (probably the Histories), he clearly had to have written after 28 AD. Although the guess of 52 AD as the end-date for the compedium is the one most commonly mentioned, if the date is wrong at all then 92 AD is more likely correct. But all these possible dates--109 BC, 52 AD, 92 AD--only give us the "time after which" he had to have written this "brief compendium." These dates do not tell us when he wrote the Histories or whatever work that mentioned the darkness.
  • https://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/thallus.html

Carriers' theory that Eusebius was referring to a different compendium than Julius Africanus was sounds unlikely. Eusebius referred to Thallus' chronicle of world history in three volumes, whereas Julius Africanus wrote: "This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. "

Julius Africanus, who quoted Thallus, lived in 160-240 AD, so Thallus must have written before the mid-3rd Century. AD.

Richard Carrier gives an earlier last possible date for Thallus' writing, 180 AD:


the first time Thallus is ever mentioned is by Theophilus, writing around 180 AD, which leaves us with over a century of grey area: Thallus could have written any time between 28 and 180 AD. And if he did not mention an eclipse occurring in the first century, then he could have written any time between 109 BC and 180 AD, a span of almost three centuries.



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Also for the Question on dating, Robert Grant in Eusebius as Church Historian says that the dating in the Armenian version of Eusebius for Thallus' chronology must be wrong not only because the time for the Eclipse would fall after the ending date of the 167th Olympiad, but because the Assyrian king Belos ruled long before the fall of Troy, which the Armenian version of Eusebius says begins Thallus' compendium.

Here is Grant's book:

https://books.google.com/books?id=scNLAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA98&lpg=PA98&dq=eusebius+on+thallus&source=bl&ots=LcFSmGlwXT&sig=ACfU3U2t1BI_7lVg80mQdY4qD13rIZ92Ow&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjq1_q1sZ7oAhUal3IEHRaIDd8Q6AEwC3oECFwQAQ#v=onepage&q=eusebius on thallus&f=false

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