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Tacitus' Fragment 2: the Anti-Roman Movement of the Christiani and the Nazoreans

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There is little consensus as to the historical nature of the sect identified by Tacitus in Annales 15.44 as the Christiani. Nor is there any firm consensus on the authenticity and historicity of all of that fragment known as Tacitus' fragment 2 (= Sulpicius Severus (Chronica 2.30.6-7), whose references to "Christiani" are widely suspected of being later Christian interpolations. Much of this fragment is thought, nevertheless, to be from the lost portion of the fifth book of Tacitus' Historiae. A solution can be found to both of these problems by adducing from fragment 2 new evidence indicating that this fragment indeed represents a primary historical source. This new evidence takes the form of the discovery of a significant statistical relationship among the following three words: (1) The metaphor stirps (branch, descendants) used to describe the Christiani in fragment 2, (2) and (3) Nαζωραîoζ and Nαζαρηνoζ (Nazorean), describing the New Testament sect associated with the of Acts 11.26. The connecting link among, as well as the common source for, the three words listed above appears to be the Hebrew netser (branch, descendants-apparently influenced by Isa 11.1), which both translates into stirps and translitcrates into N It is mathematically extremely unlikely that this link with netser represents a random coincidence. Also, it appears that a later Christian redactor of fragment 2 or his target audience would not have known of this connection. Because of this and other contextual explanations, the possibility is largely eliminated that fragment 2 could have been significantly redacted by a later Christian. We are thus left with the substantial probability that this fragment constitutes a primary historical source, most likely via Tacitus. In turn this source supplies us with a probable solution to the problem of the Christiani's identity by depicting them in fragment 2 as being major participants in the first Jewish revolt against Rome in 66-73 CE.

Affiliations: 1: University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa


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