Josephus and Magi

Since the following has not appeared on the digest, I assume it did not
arrive safely. Maybe the "reply" key is not appropriate for digest
posts? Bob Kraft, UPenn

Forwarded message:
From: Robert Kraft <kraft>
Subject: Josephus and Magi
To: owner-b-greek-digest@virginia.edu
Date: Tue, 27 Sep 1994 20:13:33 -0400 (EDT)
> From: Larry Swain <lswain@wln.com>
> Date: Mon, 26 Sep 1994 10:36:27 -0700 (PDT)
> Subject: Re: magoi
> There is an idea presented by R. McNamara that I have been toying with of 
> late.  In a 1968 article ( I will post the precise reference if 
> interested) McNamara argued that the Magi were Essenes which would go a 
> long way to explaining Herod's ready acceptance of their information, 
> according to Josephus at least Simon the Essene was also called a Magus 
> (in a favorable fashion) as well as Essenes in Josephus were known for 
> their prophetic abilities.  All of this would add up to a NT mention of 
> Essenes and all be well within Second Temple Judaism.

While expressing appreciation for Larry's usually thoughtful and
stimulating postings, I can't let this one pass as written. Whether it
is McNamara's problem or Larry's, he can determine. 

Josephus does not refer to Simon the Essene (Ant 17[.13.3].346) as a
magos (astrologer, associated with Persian lore and practice), but
rather to another person named variously Atomos or Simon in the MSS
of Ant 20[.7.2].142, a Cypriot Jew who advises Drusilla to marry the
Roman governor Felix. Clearly Josephus is not using the term in a
complimentary manner with reference to Atomos. In the few other passages
in which he uses the "mag-" root (astrologer, magi[c]-act), there is
little reason to believe he has a positive attitude -- Pharoah's
magicians in the exodus story, and Daniel's counterparts at the court of
the Persian king. (Josephus refers to acts of magic in the former
["mageiai"] and to the "magoi" themeselves in the latter, perhaps
intending a distinction. The Greek of Exodus does not use the term;
both Greek texts of Daniel do.)

Larry's point might still hold, but Josephus is not useful evidence for
favorable use of the term "magos/magoi," or for its association with
Essenes. (People interested in these matters might note that Philo -- I
would say the early Philo -- has a very positive view of "Chaldeans"
which he equates with "Hebrews" at various points in one group of his
writings: in what I would call later writings, he abandons this usage,
quite possibly because the "PC" situation emanating from Rome had turned
ambivalent or even hostile to "Chaldean" advisors. See the article by
K.C.Chang in the most recent Studia Philonica Annual.)

Bob Kraft, UPenn (kraft@ccat.sas.upenn.edu)