Antonio Piñero on Jesus was Caesar (22 October 2014)
Piñero and Carotta at the Escorial conference
Fulvius de Boer may be known to our readers: he wrote this awesome piece against the detractor Anton van Hooff a couple of years ago (English translation). Now Fulvius just recently came across this blog post by a semi-supporter, Antonio Piñero, a Complutense professor of Greek philology who specializes in early Christian literature (archive; English translation by Google). Fulvius told us that he tried to post a comment there, but his reply hasn’t been published yet. Maybe because it was written in English? Are they translating it? (On that note: is there a benevolent reader who wants to translate it into Spanish for us?) At any rate, we already like Fulvius’ comments in English, so while we wait, we will reproduce his original reply here:
Piñero takes the easy way out, when he maintains that Asinius Pollio’s Historiae are lost, and therefore cannot be compared with the Gospels—which undermines the hypothesis and doesn’t allow it to be verified.
It has been proven that the Historiae of Asinius Pollio were used by Plutarch and Appian; this has been known about Appian since 1874; cf. i.a. Paul J.H. Bailleu (1874), Quomodo Appianus in bellorum civilium libris II-V usus sit Asinii Pollionis historiis, Göttingen; Fröhlich (1892), De rebus inde a Caesare occiso usque ad senatum Liberalibus habitum gestis, Berlin, p. 2.
This fact has never been questioned, but consistently reconfirmed and expanded to include Plutarch; cf. i.a. E. Gabba (1956), Appiano e la storia delle guerre civili, Florence, as well as his introduction to Appiani bellorum civilium liber primus (Florence 1958).
Plutarch and Appian’s works have been preserved, so there is the possibility of comparison.
Piñero must know this, because Asinius Pollio was noted as a source of the Gospel of Mark in numerous places in the German version of Jesus was Caesar [n.b.: War Jesus Caesar?, Munich 1999], e.g. on p. 73 note 187, p. 127, p. 128–129, 221 n. 472, p. 222, p. 224, p. 241, p. 260, p. 353, p. 354, p. 355, p. 356, p. 357, p. 360, p. 361, p. 368. Cf. the PDF here.
Piñero understands German, and all of the above was also explicitly mentioned in the Spanish lecture in Escorial which he refers to, and which he himself printed; cf. p. 20 in the PDF here (p. 20). [English version]
It is surprising that Piñero overlooked so many and so obvious sources, even in his mother tongue.
All the references also disprove Piñero’s other assertion that Carotta only later and over the course of time changed his assumptions, when he realized that Asinius Pollio was the author of the “diegetic transposition” although he had originally credited Flavius Josephus.
This is incorrect, because Asinius Pollio was often mentioned as the source of Mark in the very first publication of War Jesus Caesar? (1999); see the long list of references above.
Apparently Piñero confused the discovery of the source of Mark’s gospel with the hypothesis concerning the possible role of Flavius Josephus in the diegetic transposition. Incidentally, Carotta recognized that Flavius Josephus himself was diegetically transposed, not as Mark, but as Paul; cf. i.a. War Jesus Caesar? (1999), p. 358 with n. 733.
Obviously Piñero doesn’t want to accept the fact that Asinius Pollio’s Historiae have essentially been preserved, even if indirectly, Plutarch and Appian having copied pages and pages of his work.
Since it is hard to believe that he neither read Carotta’s book nor his lecture in Escorial, one has to ask if he purposely ignores them. It is then easier for him to dismiss the new insights and rely on outdated beliefs.
FULVIUS DE BOER
So let’s recapitulate: Piñero knew Carotta’s theory; he invited him to the Escorial conference, where Carotta gave a lecture, while Piñero was sitting right next to him; the two and other people debated the theory afterwards, even informally, which you can see in the documentary feature film The Gospel of Caesar; and yet, Piñero nevertheless got it wrong even back then, which you can read on page 346 in the book ¿Existió Jesús realmente? (Madrid 2008), which he edited, and which also contains the article by Carotta (emphasis added):
En los primeros tiempos de expresión de su tesis, Carotta llegó a sostener tímidamente que el autor de la “transposición exegética” habría sido Flavio Josefo. Con el paso del tiempo, esta postura se ha modificado postulando que el autor de ella fue el evangelista a quien llamamos Marcos, que tuvo delante la historia—biografía de César, hoy perdida, de Asinio Polión. El mero hecho de no poder hoy día contrastar los Evangelios con esa pretendida fuente hace de la hipótesis de Carotta una suposición inverificable, con lo que pierde su valor.
For the 2014 blog post he seems to have simply copy-pasted this false argument. However, Piñero knew then and knows today that Asinius Pollio has been transmitted via Appian and Plutarch; cf. e.g. Carotta’s article in Piñero’s book (p. 122 sq.; emphasis added):
La transposición diegética tal cual parece haber tenido lugar en el Evangelio, es sui generis, en el sentido de que el autor del evangelio no parece ser una persona, un autor singular y identificable que escribió un texto nuevo inspirándose en un relato histórico preexistente, sino más bien un proceso de reescritura (réécriture), que va de las Historiae de Asinio Polión –hoy perdidas en su texto original, pero conservadas al ser utilizadas por otros historiógrafos– al Evangelio de Marcos, que constituye la forma canónica, cristiana, de la Vida del Divus Iulius: traducciones incompletas con términos latinos dejados tal cual en el texto griego, después tomados por griegos al momento del acto de copiar –un proceso similar al observado por F. Wutz para la traducción de los Setenta (LXX).
This means that Carotta’s theory is verifiable from beginning to end. So why is Piñero repeating the same mistake? Is he refusing to accept that Carotta’s theory is standing on sound scientific grounds? Or may he even be trying to smear Carotta? Your guesses are as good as ours. However, what we can comment on, without guessing, is for example this little remark by Piñero:
Pero una vez concedido este extremo, la hipótesis me parece en absoluto “antieconómica”, es decir, es mucho más complicada que la explicación contraria: la de la existencia historia de un Jesús judío que luego es repensado e interpretado por sus seguidores, hasta llegar a su divinización.
Occam’s Razor, my-my. But this is patently false, because it presupposes the existence of the Jewish itinerant preacher “Jesus” (“Yeshua”), and it appears that Piñero has no knowledge of current research into the historicity argument. Required reading: Carrier RC. 2014. On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. Sheffield. While we do not support the case for a mythological/celestial historicized Christ, Carrier’s book must nonetheless be viewed as a watershed event, an effective and possibly permanent refutation of the historicity argument. It means that almost any major theory may easily be simpler, more economical and more probable than Piñero’s traditional belief in a “Jewish historical Jesus”, a figure that is hypothetical, unknown, undocumented, unverifiable, in one word: ahistorical.