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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Luther's Chronology, Part 6k (Barr – Annius of Viterbo forgeries)

In the last Part 6j of this series (Table of Contents in Part 1), I reviewed the objections of Professor James Barr († 2006) to biblical chronology based on Barr's demand for extra-biblical information or secular histories a true biblical chronology.  As stated before, James Barr seems to be the only theologian / scholar, Lutheran or otherwise, who has even mentioned Luther's Chronikon since the 1960s.  Today's world only knows of James Ussher's biblical chronology.
Again, these reviews of Barr make use of his four essays:
  1. UBC – Ussher and Biblical Chronology, 1985 (archived here)
  2. BCLS – Biblical Chronology: Legend Or Science?, 1987 (archived here)
  3. LBC – Luther and Biblical Chronology, 1990 (archived here)
  4. PSC – Pre-scientific Chronology, 1999 (archived here)
In this Part 6k, I will cover Barr's second "gotcha" of Luther's Chronikon - Luther "followed" historical forgeries.  I highlight in yellow the pertinent wording and in some cases I follow with some comments of mine directly afterward highlighted in green:
LBC, pg 58: Fundamental to the understanding of Luther in this period [after the end of the kingdoms] is his dependence on the literary product of the humanist Annius of Viterbo (Giovanni Nanni was his real name).... Aware of intense contemporary interest in the ancient world, and of the sense of loss caused by the disappearance of numerous important works of ancient authors, Annius removed the problem by writing these works himself.  He had a fertile imagination, ;  ... important for Luther, Annius wrote texts which purported to be by the Mesopotamian Berosus, the Egyptian chronicler Manetho, a supposed writer 'Metasthenes' (there had been an actual Megasthenes who wrote on Persian affairs), and Philo (a text which was called the breviarium de temporibus).  The significant portions of these are conveniently printed in the introduction of the Weimar edition (WA,17-21).

LBC, pgs 58-59:
He was aware that 'almost all' place Alexander about thirty years earlier, but he made it clear that it did not matter very much to him where Alexander, Antiochus and other persons are located by historians, so long as he knew the one absolutely vital fact, namely, the date of the second year of Darius Longimanus, from which point the 490 years of Daniel are reckoned. 
This was a cavalier remark, for Luther was in fact highly dependent on the information that 'historians' furnished.  It was [page 59] 'Metasthenes' who listed the five kings of Babylon from Nebuchadnezzar to Balthassar (in English normally Belshazzar).  ... Luther, however, slightly modified the guidance of 'Metasthenes' here, for he thought that Jeremiah 27:7 indicated three monarchs rather than five.
*** Barr carries on as if Annius has Luther by the nose and leads him down the path of forged imaginations of histories.  But even Barr had to admit later (see next quote, LBC, page 59):

LBC, pg 59:
Wild as some of the figures used by Luther are, it may be felt that they were somewhat closer to the truth than pure fictions would have been.  And this is so.  Although Annius forged the writings of 'Metasthenes' and 'Philo', he obviously used within them such pieces of information as humanists of his time had available, whether from classical sources or from the Bible itself
***  Too little, too late Professor Barr.  You have already destroyed any credibility of Annius the forger, and now you  want to save a little of his reputation by claiming his "humanist" knowledge?  Rather it was Luther who said "in the histories, good people by their ability, their diligence..." and so claimed some ability of the "historians", even for the "humanists".  ***

LBC, pg 60:
The Persian emperors were always a source of confusion: how many were there, and how often did different names attach to the same one among them?  The scheme inherited from 'Metasthenes' and followed by Luther was as follows:  [Luther's listing of 9 Persian emperors follows]
This is a mixture of partial truth, confusion and total rubbish; some of it derives from classical sources, some from the poor understanding of the Persian empire current in Jewish chronological tradition.
*** Barr gets a little red faced here (total rubbish!) and is on a tirade against Luther's scholarship by trying to tie it to forgeries... and spouts off about "Jewish chronological tradition" and "Jewish calendrical reckoning" – rather obscure reasoning against the Bible's clear indication of "years".  Rubbish indeed!... but not Luther's work, rather Barr's anti-biblical stance. ***

LBC, pg 60:
In the Greek period Luther largely follows 'Philo'...
***  Barr continues his dreams of judging Luther, not only on Luther's scholarship, but also his theology. ***
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Barr reveals to us a great "gotcha", that not only did Luther follow the Talmud, but he also followed forged histories of Annius of Viterbo.  How did Barr get these great findings?  From the editor, F. Cohrs, of the  Weimar Ausgabe (WA) edition of Luther's Works, printed in 1920 in Germany.  We see by this the pivotal role of German theologian-scholars for today's modern scholars.  Barr is pleased that editor Cohrs "conveniently" included the texts of Annius' writings in the Weimar Ausgabe. Today, the Wikipedia article on Annius confirms the general opinion that Annius did indeed forge several histories.  But a search on the Internet finds that John Calvin also used "Metasthenes" in his commentary on the Book of Daniel.  So the so-called forgeries had some reputation among various scholars of Luther's time.   But Annius' writings were also being questioned in his day (see Johann Funck here, page 97).  And so I question Barr's statement of a "fundamental understanding of Luther is his dependence" on Annius' writings.

In Luther's preface to his Chronikon, (see my blog post here) he said the following two things:
  • Therefore I find it necessary, reluctantly, to reject Philo who in another place inserts eighteen years too many in the middle of the weeks of Daniel.
  • I also find it necessary to depart from Metasthenes over twelve years,...
 We see from Luther's preface that he did two things:
  1. Held Scripture as authoritative over the historians and would not contradict the Bible
  2. Rejected and departed from portions of at least two of these "historians" ("Philo" and "Metasthenes") that were probable forgeries of Annius of Viterbo.
Barr is incorrect in stating that Annius held the key to Luther's chronology.  Holy Scripture did.  Even another author, Anthony Grafton in his book Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in an Age of Science - page 98, says Luther did not follow Annius where another Wittenberg scholar (Johann Funck) did. 

What is so difficult for Professor Barr is that anyone would actually believe the Holy Scriptures to the extent that Luther did.  But Luther's theology was different than Professor Barr's theology... Luther believed God at His Word, just like Abraham:
Romans 4:3 – Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
In the concluding post in this series of reviews of Barr, Part 6L, I will cover his grand notion of the "literal intention" of the Bible.

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