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Gospel Strategy (?)

Two similar things, that may be related: (1) The “teachings only” crowd was basically trying to separate the Lord’s teachings from the Lord’s actual life. (2) To a large degree, Matthew just happened to separate his Gospel's material into sections of Jesus' teachings and sections of Jesus' life events.

QUESTION: Did Matthew deliberately play to the mindset of the teachings only crowd, by arranging his content in a way that he hoped would strategically help win them over to a deeper acceptance of Christ himself? [Note: All this is assuming a context of late 50's early 60's AD, in line with the brainstorming of recent posts.]

Jewish (Un)Believers

Generally, popular writers seem to think James wrote his letter to Jews who were believers and Matthew wrote his letter to Jews who were unbelievers. I'm starting to think that's actually backwards. (Or at least half-backwards.)

I'm starting to suspect James' Letter was "seeker friendly" outreach to Jews worldwide in the synagogue, to build a good reputation for the sect of 'Jesus Jews', to astound the Jews by saying things 'with authority and not as their teachers of the law' and to mention the Lord's name a couple of times as an opening.

I'm also looking at Matthew's Gospel as "in your face" outreach to Jews who had come to consider themselves followers of Christ's teachings, but didn't fully believe in the Man Himself. Like the Pharisees I posted/posited about yesterday. There must have been such people in early Jerusalem. They probably did write "little sayings gospels". And they'd seem to fit perfectly with Matthew's intended audience.

By the way, I'm suddenly also thinking there are certain things about traditional Christendom (mainly Protestant, as far as I can guess) that have given us the NEED to see James as something we can homogenize with Paul's writings and the MINDSET to see Matthew as argumentative evangelism to unbelievers.

But back to the main point:

I'm thinking James' Letter was outreach to unbelieving Jews and Matthew was outreach to pseudo-christian "teachings believers".

More exploration of both these ideas very soon...

UPDATE (6/28/08) - given the timing of James' Letter (~50/51) and Matthew's Gospel (~59-60) I can't help thinking James' Letter accidently helped create the kind of "half-believers" Matthew was trying to convert "all the way". END OF UPDATE

UPDATE TWO (7/1/08) - I'll be the first to admit my Greek Grammar is virtually nil, but I've been looking at the verb "to hold" in James 2:1 and wondering if it might possibly have the sense of a future imperitave. (?) That is, if James is writing to potential converts, could he be saying (in effect) "don't decide to [accept/take/hold] faith in Christ if you're going to do it with partiality..." (?) Maybe.

But if James is writing to Jewish Christian believers, why is there no cross, no resurrection and no holy spirit? To me, the only other view is to lump James in with the "teachings only" crowd, and - at this moment - I'm still trying hard to think more highly of James than that.

Or was James just being INCLUSIVE of the teachings only crowd? That might explain it all, but still... oy vei! END OF UPDATE TWO


PS: It's not damaging to my views to think there was a christless, crossless, resurrectionless "form of christianity" going on at such an early date. It just has to be shown how much more plausible it is that such a movement was a sect within the sect, a much smaller population which wasn't truly representative of the much larger christian community empire wide (yes, even in Jerusalem).

PPS: Paul's concerns to save the Jews (mentioned in 57 AD, in his letter to the Romans) and James' concerns for the zealous legalists might have merged perfectly into this type of a scenario, with both Paul and James hoping to gradually win them over... possibly.

But I'm getting waay ahead of myself now! :)

Little Q's in 57 AD

I've been working on Farrer's 1955 article. Slowly. In the meantime, I stop and run down rabbit trail brainstormings of my own. This morning, I woke up with a new idea: Who, before 70 AD, would have been likely to write a crossless, nearly christless "sayings gospel"? Or who would have undertaken to compile one of those, prior to Luke writing in 57 AD? That would have to be the believing Pharisees in Jerusalem.

I don't want too go far down the road of imagining what they wrote, or investigating the apocryphal literature - not at this stage in my career. But I'm going to have to do some more thinking about this. At the very least, it may be partly what Luke was talking about. And it may be partly WHY Luke was so motivated to make his own Gospel a GOOD one. :)

Yes, Q people, the "sayings gospels" might have been early. Not necessarily earlier than Mark. Not earlier than Matthew's original notes. But early. Still, that doesn't make them more christian. The writings of Homer did not describe life for all Greeks of his time, only a select few. And the writings of some Pharisee (or whoever) don't automatically mean his 'community' was representative of early Christianity at large.

For that matter, Jerusalem was very un-smiliar to all other churches outside Israel. At the very least, the Pharisees in the church in Jerusalem (around 57 AD) were NOT representative of Paul's churches in the gentile world. They also were nothing like the church in Antioch, which began in late 33 AD, right after the scattering. And I could go on.

But the point today is that there might have been two or three Jerusalem Pharisees writing "little Q's". I do NOT mean that Luke or Matthew necessarily USED those writings as sources. I just mean "sayings Gospels". But I thought this post title might grab more attention! ;)

"Many had undertaken to compile an account"... two or three Pharisees, plus Matthew's notes, plus Mark's gospel, plus James' early pages - altogether, that's a fair stab at "many". Maybe.* And yes, of course, there may have been more. (But keep in mind that compilations didn't have to be finished to have been "undertaken".)

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*Farrar says a christless, crossless compilation would not count as an account of "the things accomplished among us". Farrar said the "things" would HAVE to include the cross and resurrection. I like that idea. But it's not airtight. If there were sayings compilations that early, and they didn't include the cross & resurrection, they were still accounts of SOME of "the things accomplished among us". I'll read Farrar's argument again, but I think Luke's language is pretty inclusive of anyone who was writing pretty much anything related to Jesus' ministry years. Also, in 1955, Farrar was arguing against people who were working with the simplest scenario - 2 or 3 pre-Lukan texts, total. But it has been said by some scholars recently that it's now time to consider more complex scenarios. "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

Reconstructing Petra

Pack a little, Blog a little...

Finally got to read this old article from Smithsonian.com (it's been on my list for months). The finds are awesome, but my favorite part was reading about the amazing scholar Martha Sharp Joukowsky.

Nothing is impossible...

Earlier archaeologists considered the Great Temple an unsalvageable pile of stones, but Joukowsky proved otherwise by attacking the project with a vigor... When she began her work, Petra was little more than an exotic tourist destination... Archaeologists had largely ignored the site... Since then, Joukowsky's team... have laid bare what once was the political, religious and social heart of the metropolis, putting to rest forever the idea that this was merely a city of tombs.

And yet there's so much left to do.

...while the work by Joukowsky's team has revealed much about ancient Petra, it will be up to a new generation of researchers like [Christopher A. Tuttle, a Brown graduate student working with Joukowsky] to tackle the many rubble piles—and mysteries—that still dot the city's landscape. "We really know next to nothing about the Nabateans," says Tuttle as he surveys the forbidding landscape. "I hope to spend most of my professional life here."

I hope he gets to.
"If the Lord tarries." ;)

Quirinius and my U-Haul

Today, U-Haul made me think of the censuses in Israel. Here's how:

We're moving Friday. Our truck is going to pull out of here in about 50 hours. And we haven't fully packed yet. Bankers boxes are everywhere, but they still need lids. Little stacks of books and clothes and plates still need packing. At a glance, it seems like we've got as much left to do as we've already done. But we're old pros at this.

My wife and I have been through six moves in ten years. We also helped others pack & load (or unload & unpack) a dozen or two dozen times, when we lived in community. It's amazing how much SPEED experience can bring. More than anything, it just helps so much when you know what you're doing!

We don't label boxes. If it's books, you can tell. If it's plates, you can tell. If it's anything else it's going to sit in the living room for a few hours anyway! It takes about two seconds to lift a box lid and declare which room the box goes to. Ten years ago we taped and wrote five times on every box. I'm looking at a box right now that says "paper reams" and it's full of kids DVD's. Through experience, we've found that it just doesn't matter.

We still haven't packed anything we might want, need or use in the next 24 hours. We know we can pack and load what's left in about 24 hours. We're both off tomorrow. So we'll hit it all day on thursday and finish Friday morning. That's comfortable pacing.

Everything in life is like that. You find out what matters and what doesn't.

And now I have a point to make about Bible/History!

In 6 AD, the Roman Proconsul Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was an experienced Governor. He'd already Governed the Province of Galatia and practically co-Governed Syria with Augustus' grandson Gaius. He'd also managed exactly one war in each province! Quirinius was impressive enough to win the lifelong respect and loyalty of Tiberius Caesar (a man with very few friends). Quirinius earned enough clout that he may have once received special matchmaking assistance from Augustus' wife Livia.

In short, Quirinius knew what he was doing. He knew, in life, how to get things done.

So in 6 AD, when Augustus decided to exile Herod's son Archelaus and annex Judea as a Province, he knew he needed to upgrade the old census rolls. Israel had never had a registration of property before. (In fact, the wealthiest Jews were going to get very upset about that new detail, this time.) The Emperor knew he needed a man who could do the job well, so he picked Quirinius. But this detail is important: Augustus knew the census was part of the job before he chose Quirinius for the job. It was already early summer. The whole property registration of Judea, Samaria and Idumea had to be finished before spring tax tax season.

Augustus chose Quirinius for just such a task. That alone says quite a bit.

Now, compare that man (and his task) to another, less famous, less impressive man who had a much greater task (Israel's first census) to perform.

Back in the Autumn of 9 BC, a less experienced Proconsul, Gaius Sentius Saturninus, was already governing Syria when Augustus - rashly - decided to punish Herod the Great for invading Nabatea. Augustus had ordered censuses in the provinces since 27 BC and this was the only justifiable cause for him to register a client-kingdom. So it must have been about the turn of 9/8 BC when Saturninus got a message to prepare a census of Herod's kingdom. (Since it took a whole year to plan and set-up, the census itself began in 7 BC.)

We'll never know WHY Saturninus decided to make Israel's men go back to their families' hometowns. (Aside from divine intervention, to get Joseph & Mary to Bethlehem... what a dumbheaded move!) However, we can at least be absolutely sure that decision created an enormous logistical nightmare! Thus, he needed extra time for extra planning and carefully coreographed preparation.

Granted, Saturninus was not the most impressive Proconsul who ever governed. He spent a quiet year or two managing Carthage, North Africa. Then 4-5 years later, Saturninus went to Syria, also very quiet at the time. He'd been consul ten years before that second appointment, to Syria. But Saturninus never took on any military duties until Tiberius went to Germany in 4 AD (22 years into his career). And it may not matter (or it may) to add that Saturninus had once been related to Augustus by marriage - although his relative Scribonia's marriage ended 20 years before Saturninus first became Consul, the union may have been what started him slowly up the path to advancement (cursus honorum). The timing would fit especially well if the advancement was slow.

Saturninus was a patrician by birth, eligible for consul at age 33, but apparently a bit soft from fine breeding. He was solid, but not very dynamic. In his mid to late 50's, he finally commanded Legions in West Germany, under Tiberius. To be fair, he ended his career by winning an Ornamental Triumph. But then again, that reward was for leading an attack (on Bohemia) that got called off when revolt broke out (in Illyricum). Saturninus' celebration may have been one way for Augustus to save face on the loss of Bohemia... if not even (perhaps) a way to nudge Saturninus into a respectable retirement (at precisely the time when the allies of Scribonia's bloodline were causing significant political trouble for the Emperor).

Let's say it again: Saturninus was not the most impressive Proconsul who ever governed.

By contrast, Quirinius was consul 17 years before governing Syria, his third joint military-administrative appointment. Quirinius was deliberately chosen to perform a relatively difficult task in a fairly short period of time. As a "new man" (novus homo) without noble family connections, Quirinius had to earn every single office he held. Eligible for consul not before age 38, Quirinius had previously fought one war already - evidently as a mere Propraetor, no less - in Cyrene (Northeast Africa) at about the same time Saturninus was governing from Carthage. Then as Proconsul, Quirinius was sent to make war in Galatia, sent to make war in Syria/Armenia, and sent to the census of Judea to keep war from breaking out - which Quirinius successfully did. (Josephus says in his Antiquities - of Judas the Galilean's "revolt" - only that the plot to revolt made great progress, not that the revolt made progress. In the Antiquities, Josephus never says the revolt actually got underway.)

Quirinius was sent to fight four wars! The guy could flat out get things done.

So P. S. Quirinius was a great man who knew how to do things. That's one big reason his census went faster than the first census of Israel. And by that same token, one of the reasons Israel's first census took much longer, under Saturninus, is because the noble, younger, less experienced, less capable governor had no idea what he was doing.

Quirinius was over 55 years old with 20 years of practical military and logistical experience at the 6 AD census. But Saturninus was as young as 43 when he got his orders for the first census. And Saturninus at that time had NO military or logistical training or experience to speak of.

Sometimes, capable efficient performance isn't even a matter of knowing how to do a particular task. Sometimes, it's just a matter of knowing how to do things, period.

To complete the picture, however, and to be fair, two final factors have to be pointed out. They are not at all insignificant. Firstly, the censuses of 7 BC and 6 AD had vastly different parameters in geographic scope. Secondly, there were also great differences in the nature and substance of each registration.

Quirinius' registration took place in Judea, roughly half the size of Herod's old kingdom. So Saturninus' task covered twice as much geography! And Quirinius was only taking a census of land (which didn't move around at all) and other more liquid assets of the wealthy (who were easy to find in their nice large town homes and ranches). But quite to the opposite extreme in both respects, Saturninus was taking a census of people, who had to be scheduled and 'herded', a time consuming task. Saturninus also had to verify their identities, prevent/detect attempts at fraud, and account that each man had been counted once but only once. (Wphew!)

So from 9/8 to 7 BC, a lesser man, by far, took on a greater task, by far. Saturninus needed almost two years to complete his census. But in 6 AD, a far greater man accomplished a far simpler task (not accounting for the military concerns, which came to nothing). So Quirinius was done in six months.

But it wasn't only the fact that Quirinius took on an easier job, that made it go faster.

In every basic, logistically practical way, Quirinius knew what he was doing.

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So much for that. Time to go call the power and cable companies! :)

Dangers in Arabia

Paul lived in North Arabia (aka Nabatea) for almost three years - from about March, 34 AD, to perhaps August, 36 AD. In mid-50 AD, Paul mentioned this to the four churches in South Galatia. In late 56 AD, Paul said even more to the Corinthians.

"Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned... I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness..."

The stoning was outside Lystra. We don't know where the five lashings took place (or why Luke didn't mention any of them). One of the rod-beatings was in Philippi. But where were the other two beatings? Possibly in Arabia.

Also, the "dangers" from the Gentiles, in the city and in the wilderness might all refer, at least partly, to Paul's time spent in Arabia as well. Especially since Arabia was apparently on Paul's mind while composing this passage. A few lines later, he says, "In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king [of the Nabateans] was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me..."

Any reconstruction of Paul's time in Arabia has to consider the beatings. Paul definitely got in trouble there - enough to get chased all the way to Damascus, over 270 miles away from Petra, the capital of Nabatea. It's very possible Paul was taken, beaten and released once before he got in trouble a second time. Or even a third.

I wish we had records of Nabatean punishment customs. If Paul was facing a "third strike", that would explain his flight back to Damascus. But that's just wild imagination - there's no good reason to imagine that as the most plausible situation. We'd need more basis for some reasonable speculation, at least.

Still, Arabia is a possibility* for one if not both of the extra beatings. Plus some of the "dangers".

But these are just considerations to keep in mind until I find another clue or until extra evidence presents itself.

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*Illyricum is another possibility. Paphos, Cyprus, claims one of the beatings. And since we know Luke deliberately leaves out certain facts, these beatings could be in any city Paul visits during Acts! It's quite a problem. Some reasonable (not wild) speculation can be merely a beginning, not an end of the solution. But the problem should not be pronounced unsolvable. As long as there are a finite number of possibilities, we may be able to find some degree of reducability among the options. More on this another day, perhaps! ;)

Annual Writing Gains

No, I'm not posting about our essay test scores at the High School this year. I'm thinking about Paul's 13 letters, written between 50 and 63 AD. He averaged almost a letter a year. My question is: did his writing improve? I'm thinking... yes!

Actually, I've been working on this idea since this post about storytelling and literacy. Ruby Payne's workshop showed me that oral storytelling can be especially choppy (full of flashbacks and rabbit trails) when the storyteller comes from poverty. Evidently, oral storytelling in primitive cultures was about the same. Homer's Illiad is entirely "choppy". What's interesting to realize is that - for Homer - the flashbacks and rabbit trails were a natural way of thinking. Authors today almost always carry one linear narrative through from a start to a finish, but Homer's story structure displays Homer's way of thinking.

So poverty AND primitive oral culture BOTH make "choppy" storytelling.

So I'm thinking that underdeveloped literacy, in general, can make someone a "choppy" writer.

I'm sure someone could (and hopefully, someday, will) spend many years analyzing Paul's letters with the following questions in mind. How quickly did Paul's compositions become more sophisticated? How consistently? What can the overall content-organization of Paul's letters, in each case, tell us about the circumstances of each writing event? Were there factors (such as content decisions, self-imposed deadlines or low quality secretarial help (anamuensis) that affected Paul's ability to write "up to his ability" on some occasions in later years? Could the analysis of Paul's writing structure contribute any evidence to support the overall authenticity of the entire Pauline Corpus? Would differences in any of these - grammatical structure, syntax, style or word choice - possibly be considered more or less more significant (ie, perhaps due to the anamuensis) if evidence shows the Pauline organizational style was authentic? Or could considerations that assume a natural, gradual improvement in compositional skill over time help us to add weight to the chronological arrangement of Paul's letters, either in sequence alone or in their temporal proximity to one another, as well?

Who knows! But today - I'm just gonna play out this hunch! ;)

Galatians is choppy. Romans is smooth. (Galatians was Paul's first letter, and Romans his sixth. Romans is especially well constructed if we accept the plausibility that chapters 12-15 were originally placed between the current chapters 8 and 9.) These are the most seemingly evident examples that come to mind.

More general impressions, in chronological order:

The Thessalonian letters (Paul's 2nd & 3rd letters) were short, but still a bit patchwork, in general. The first Corinthian letter is choppy, partly because of their list of questions and their litany of problems. It's long because Paul couldn't get there himself. But 1st Cor. is still a bit choppy in parts where Paul makes digressions all on his own. Still, it shows a stronger sense of overall structure in the way he does build through sections - intro, concerns, Q&A, build to a conclusion. The second Corinthian letter is very personal, so there are digressions, but overall it seems to have a stronger sense of compositional purpose when taken as a whole, then previous letters. (Remember, I mean "compositional purpose" in terms of his overall writing structure and his organization of content - certainly all Paul's letters had a purpose for having been composed!)

Now then, Romans, coming sixth, is a masterpiece. Paul delievers only one real digression, chapters 9-11 (which almost certainly should be placed after 15:32, joining 8:39 and 12:1) but with each side point interjected, Paul tacks back to the central route of his argument and his plea. In fact, Romans is so well constructed, as a letter, that it's hard to avoid saying it's even more advanced, compositionally, than Paul's later works.

The only response after this thought may be to imagine that Paul's literary powers peaked here, but did not diminish afterwards. Rather, Paul began to diversify his own use of the literary skills now in his reperatoire. But we should continue to examine them in order...

First Timothy was handed to its recipient in Troas, a week before those brand new Ephesian elders came to Paul on the beach. (Timothy had returned from Macedonia to Ephesus, mid-55 AD, when Paul went walking toward Illyricum, and Timothy had fled Ephesus, timidly, when he could not make progress against the men who were opposing him there. Timothy waited for Paul in Thessalonica and then got his name on the 2nd Cor. letter, which was sent down to Corinth in late 56 AD. But that's another post for another day.) Paul's letter here is not choppy at all except in it's own nature as being an assortment of instructions from an old apostle to a young one. In many other ways, the coherence is actually very strong.

Paul now writes no letters for a few years. Please note, 2nd Cor, Romans and 1st Tim were all written within about a six month period of time. But 2nd Cor came about two years after 1st Cor (which must have been late Summer of 54, before the Emperor Claudius died, because it doesn't mention Paul's plans to see Rome). And 1st Cor came three years after the Thessalonian letters.

By 57 AD, when he gets imprisoned in Israel, Paul has definitely improved in his writing abilities. This is fortunate, as Luke and possibly even Matthew will now be greatly helped by Paul's practical knowledge as an experienced letter writer!

POINT 1: Effective, Skilled, Active Literacy develops gradually.
POINT 2: We need more chronlogical considerations of these topics.

Back to the corpus. Paul's 7th, 8th & 9th letters all come in a bunch. Philemon, Colossians and "Ephesians" (actually sent to Laodicea and Hieropolis, near Colosse, but intended to eventually become a general circut letter) are all written from Rome in 60 or 61 AD. Tychicus carried all three at once, to Asia Minor. Now, it would be hard to compare any of these letters to Romans "apples to apples" and declare that Romans was a less advanced compositional achievement than these three. On the other hand, each of these letters is actually a surprisingly sophisticated construction, showing depth of organizational thought and compositional strategy. Paul's awareness of Publishing has also advanced - partly due to advising Luke and (if so) Matthew on their Gospels, which had different audiences. Philemon is sly and subtly ironic. Colossians blends practical concerns of the moment into a larger structure of general encouragement, flowing from spiritual concerns to the practical, with no significant digressions. Ephesians is the most advanced from a Publication Awareness standpoint, given that Paul clearly intended the letter to be written generally for any church who got to read it. And Ephesians is very well constructed, on the order of the same sophisticated content-organization that went into Romans, if not on the same magnitude. (In a sense, Paul's task in Ephesians is like a double-lutz jump in skating, just as impressive as the triple-lutz of Romans, but with a smaller degree of difficulty!!)

Philippians, coming some months after the previous three, is a very personal letter. In fact, it's Paul's most personal letter since 2nd Corinthians. Anything seen as a digression here might be understood best in this light. Paul had not major obstacles to overcome, no ecclesiastial tasks to accomplish. First and formost, it was a thank you letter. And then Paul took the opportunity to encourage them. But woven into all that was Paul's effort to introduce them to Epaphroditus, who he inteneded them to claim as their new (extra-local, itenerant, occasionally returning) apostle. Talk about "taking opportunity"! But overall, Philippians still shows a command of organizational skills in writing, even if it does not seem to be the masterpiece of execution that Romans and, to a lesser degree, Ephesians had been. (Sometimes, Dorothy Hamil just goes out for a skate! But you can still tell she's reeally good!!)

I'm going to skip Titus and 2nd Timothy because it would take far longer to sum up their context of situation than it would to examine their writing. I'll only suggest we remember Paul's stress level during 2nd Timothy. And Titus is a lot like 1st Timothy, except it's collegial. Titus was not Paul's trainee.

But Galatians was sloppy! Choppy! This should be considered as further evidence that Galatians was in fact Paul's first ever effort. (And Paul allowed himself to get angry in that letter - in a way that he never allowed himself to do again.)

By this general overview, Paul's letter writing skills appear to get more advanced as he goes, in many ways. So Paul was growing in literacy and literary awareness...

Just as we should imagine that anyone in the ancient world - rich, poor, illiterate, barely literate, functionally literate, fully literate or sophisticatedly literate - would have naturally improved over time in their relative command of literacy awareness and skill.

Fini Fornow.

L.C.Piso Dead, Late 32 AD

This is a puzzle I've been working at for a few months, off and on. Hopefully, some interested classical scholar will google this before long and discuss it with me. Poor man's colloquium, eh? :)

The death of Lucius Calpurnius Piso, City Prefect is a difficult minor point of Roman chronology... Josephus says Herod-Agrippa saw Governor Flaccus in Antioch, Syria BEFORE PISO DIED. But Piso was replaced (as city prefect) by Lamia, who was replaced (as Governor of Syria) by Flaccus! This (plus an obscure drinking story in Pliny and Suetonius) causes some to doubt the date of Piso's death. This, despite the fact that Tacitus and Dio BOTH attest it came in 32 AD. That means A LOT has to happen in the year 32 AD.

The first trick is that Lamia was an absentee Governor, during Sejanus' prefecture. Dio says Tiberius kept Lamia in Rome on purpose. So Lamia was not in Syria when Flaccus was appointed to succeed him. But the next trick is that Lamia must have gone without a post for several months before Piso died. The Greek grammar of Dio 58:19:5 may or may not support this. (Help - language expert needed here!) However, this "next trick" is the only explanation that preserves all the reliable sources.

In this scenario, Agrippa has just enough time to make all his stops, from Antioch to Rome, before the chain of events that leads to his servants arrest under Piso. Agrippa can be in Rome by September and Piso can still be dead as early as October.

But there is a second problem. The "drinking story" I mentioned says that Piso won his appointement in a drinking contest with Tiberius. John Jackson (Loeb#312, p.174, n.1) says the "20 years" of service puts Piso's appointment under Augustus, which (he says) is a contradiction. But since Tiberius himself was back in Rome by October of 12 AD, I say the drinking bout could mean that Tiberius promised the appointment through his growing closeness with Augustus. (No, they were not "co-regents", but Tiberius was still a constant companion. Augustus was grooming him. Tiberius would have had plenty of opportunities to suggest the appointment. Or perhaps Tiberius promised it only because Augustus had already delegated to him that task, the filling of the post.)

Hmmmm. That would actually be about the only record of anything Tiberius actually DID (that was actually high level administration) during the year or two he was Augustus' right hand man. But for most of 13 AD, Tiberius was mobile in Italy taking the Lustrum. So late 12 is better. As a possible bonus to this reconstruction, Piso would have served almost 20 years precisely, from late 12 to late 32 - from October/November to October/November!

Disclosure: I've not read the Pliny or Suetonius yet. This is just a suggestion, which I'll update as soon as I get a chance to look at those texts. But tonight, I was just looking at the facts in chronological sequence.

For all I know, this has been suggested before. Now I can add this to the search list.

This is a puzzle I've been working at for a few months, off and on. Hopefully, some interested classical scholar will google this before long and discuss it with me. Poor man's colloquium, eh? :)