20 Aug 2014 
#103 Carrier's use of Julius Africanus in order to support his case in OHJ to the Jews

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On page 84 of "On The Historicity Of Jesus" (OHJ), Carrier made this startling comment: 

Several examples of these calculations in early Christian literature, the clearest appearing in Julius Africanus in the third century. The date there calculated is precisely 30 CE; hence it was expected on this calculation (which was simple and straightforward enough that anyone could easily have come up with the same result well before the rise of Christianity)

[Note: we will see that calculation is far from being straightforward. And expecting that anyone would have done it before the rise of Christianity is pure speculation with no evidence to support it. Let's also say that Sextus Julius Africanus (160-240) was a Christian apologist of the worst kind (he tried to demonstrate that the genealogies in Luke's & Matthew's gospel are compatible!). And of course, he also knew which year to aim for!]  

that a messiah would arise and be killed in that year (as we saw Daniel had 'predicted' in 9.26: see Element 5),

[Note: Daniel 9:26 does not predict the year 30 CE: another misleading statement by Carrier]

which is an obvious basis for setting the gospel story precisely then (I'll revisit this point later on here and in Chapter 8), or else a basis for believing that, of all messianic claimants, 'our' Jesus Christ was the one for real.
For all of this to be coincidence is unlikely.

[Note: Carrier is day-dreaming here. He already assumes many Jews would have calculated the year of the Messiah before very early first century, and that Africanus did not have hindsight & his calculation happened to point to 30 CE] 

Different calendars and calculations might have given slightly different, years, but every straightforward calculation falls around the same period. And the Christian calculation was the most obvious, and therefore the most likely to have arrived at before the fact.

[Note: other Christian calculations of that kind would be, according to Carrier's footnotes, by Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria, both "fathers" of the Church, both writing about the same time than Africanus] 

Now let's look what Julius Africanus wrote on the topic (from his Chronography, XVI, 3) 

"It is by calculating from Artaxerxes, therefore, up to the time of Christ that the seventy weeks are made up, according to the numeration of the Jews. For from Nehemiah, who was dispatched by Artaxerxes to build Jerusalem in the 115th year of the Persian empire, and the 4th year of the 83d Olympiad, and the 20th year of the reign of Artaxerxes himself,

[Note: Artaxerxes I (445 BC)  (Nehemiah 2:1-8): Not a decree, but the granting of a few requests asked by a (Jewish) high ranking courtesan (Nehemiah). That allows Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem in order to patch up the city walls and gates (which "have been burned with fire" Nehemiah 1:3). The only (material) contribution from the king is a supply of timber (through a royal "letter" issued to Nehemiah only). And the king is never said to have enacted a decree/proclamation/command (or even letters) to help Nehemiah in Jerusalem and protect him against any opposition (some coming from Persian officials! Ne 4:1-2). The walls (repaired by the local Jews) allowed, as a consequence, for a large increase of population in Jerusalem and many houses to be built (Ne 7:4,11:1-2).
The decree in question is most likely the one of Cyrus
- Da 9:25 "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem" 
During Cyrus first year (539-538 B.C.E.) as king over Babylon (whose territories included Palestine): 
- Ezra 1:1-2: "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah." 
- Isaiah 44:28 "[God] says of Cyrus, `He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid"'" 
- Isaiah 45:13 ""I have raised him [Cyrus] up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways; He shall build My city and let My exiles go free, not for price nor reward," says the LORD of hosts." 
And Africanus knew about Cyrus' decree, but rejected it because "it did not fit" his scheme (to have Daniel predicting 30 CE). He wrote:
"For if we begin the calculation of the seventy weeks from Cyrus and the first restoration, there will be upwards of one hundred years too many ... For we find the sovereignty of the Persians comprising a period of 230 years, and that of the Macedonians extending over 370 years, and from that to the 16th year of Tiberius Caesar is a period of about 60 years."]

up to this date, which was the second year of the 202d Olympiad, and the 16th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, there are reckoned 475 years, which make 490 

[Note: 490 corresponds to the seventy sevens in 'Daniel', from the time of the promulgation of the decree to when the anointed one is cut off (Da 9:25-26)] 

according to the Hebrew numeration, as they measure the years by the course of the moon; so that, as is easy to show, their year consists of 354 days, while the solar year has 365 & 1/4 days. For the latter exceeds the period of twelve months, according to the moon's course, by 11 & 1/4 days. Hence the Greeks and the Jews insert three intercalary months every 8 years. For 8 times 11 & 1/4 days makes up 3 months. Therefore 475 years make 59 periods of 8 years each, and 3 months besides. But since thus there are 3 intercalary months every 8 years, we get thus 15 years minus a few days; and these being added to the 475 years, make up in all the 70 weeks

[Note: however, in the long run, there was the same number of Jewish years than solar years, because of the insertion of three months every eight years. So it is ridiculous & misleading to count years in period of 354 days in order to have 490 of these years pointing (after reconversion in solar years) to 30 CE; or if you prefer, divide the resulting total number of days (490 x 354) by 365 & 1/4 in order to obtain 475 solar years from the biblical 490. Of course 475 years after 445 BC bring us to 30 CE (29 CE to be exact). And next, Africanus admitted his calculation of years could be considered rather irregular:]

And if any one thinks that the 15 Hebrew years added to the others involve us in an error of 10, nothing at least which cannot be accounted for has been introduced. And the 11/2 week which we suppose must be added to make the whole number, meets the question about the 15 years, and removes the difficulty about the time; and that the prophecies are usually put forth in a somewhat symbolic form, is quite evident."

What is the overall conclusion? 
The method of Julius Africanus, in order to have Daniel's prophecy pointing to 30 CE for the crucifixion of Christ, is far from being simple & straightforward, as Carrier contends. And it is very unlikely some Jews would have made the same calculation before the fact. 

This is typical of the so-called (dubious) evidence Carrier is using for making his case.

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {Africanus} {Carrier} {Carrier's OHJ} {mythicism}
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