A break from the biblical. . .
It's frequently noted, in the spirit of Schweitzer, that the Quest of the Historical Jesus is not unlike looking into a deep well and seeing your own, somewhat distorted, face staring back at you. The same can be said of the "Quest of the Historical Julius Caesar" (if you use that phrase, I expect royalties).
There is a general tendency in biographies of Caesar to attribute to him great or noble causes in his civil war (or, as Caesar would have it, "civil disputes."). Caesar fought for the betterment of Rome, for justice, for liberty, to collapse the antiquated Senate. Which is why it's so refreshing to find the contrary spelled out in the opening pages of Christian Meier's Caesar: A Biography.
Meier forgoes such romanticism in favour of the obvious: Caesar fought for Caesar, and for Caesar alone. That is what our sources uniformly attest to. On the banks of the Rubicon Caesar weighed his own misfortune against the potential misfortune of all men, and decided it was best to avoid the former at the cost of the latter. It was swiftness of thought, not purity of heart, that made Caesar great.
To be sure, Caesar's war was not with "Rome," per se--it was, at least to him, always a matter between him and his enemies (hence his mandate that those not against him were his allies, which led to a pattern of clemency that helped him tremendously in his victory). He was not out to actively harm civilians, so long as they kept out of it. But he was not terribly concerned about the obvious fact that his actions would be to their detriment.
Caesar's cause was always to avert his own misfortune--there was no other crusade behind it. It is, I suppose, difficult to accept the conscious decision to harm the many for your own gain, which no doubt influences the tendency to exonerate Caesar of such a choice. But it is not without reason that Cicero opined that the civil war lacked nothing save a cause.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
For it is historically improbable that, after Easter, Jesus’ disciples carried on a mission to ’the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Mt. 10.6; 15.24) if Jesus himself never thought Israel was lost.
Dale C. Allison Jr., Jesus and the Covenant: A Response to E P Sanders, JSNT 9.57 (1987), p.74.
Allison here eloquently puts to rest Sanders' suggestion that Jesus was a covenantal nomist (eg Jesus and Judaism, p.336). The entire Christian movement is difficult to reconcile with a Jesus who accepted covenantal nomism (John the Baptist seems to have been considered as a forerunner in this regard--Matt.3.9 is a flat rejection of covenantal nomism, as Allison points out).
at 3:43 PM