Friday, May 7, 2021

Is Vyasa Proof Anonymous Works Can Easily Get Authors?

Assorted retorts from yahoo boards and elsewhere: Paulogia Starting Christianity Without Resurrection (OR trying To) · Φιλολoγικά/Philologica: Is Vyasa Proof Anonymous Works Can Easily Get Authors?

Some scholars, in the wake of Lorenzo Valla, have doubted the ascribed authorship of this, that or sundry work.

Rhetorica ad Herennium (or whichever it was) is not Cicero. Postilla in libros geneseos is not St. Thomas Aquinas. They are anonymous works which somehow ended up being acribed to Cicero (because he was a very prestigious rhetor or orator), and to St. Thomas Aquinas, because he was a very prestigious theologian.

I am not of this school. But to give it some credit, there is in both cases some discrepancy in style from other, undisputed, more certainly known works, of Cicero and of St. Thomas. For Cicero usually does write a somewhat lavish and definitely lively prose, while Rhetorica ad Herennium (or whichever it was) is dry and technical (it is too old to be by St. Thomas Aquinas who often is dry and technical). And St. Thomas writes a somewhat more classic, somewhat less Italian, Medieval Latin, doesn't quite as much take the "ly" to substantivise glosses or phrases as the author of Postilla in libros geneseos does.

I'd solve the postilla conundrum by stating it was a youth work, from when he was in the Benedictine monastery in the Naples region (Roccasecca rings a bell*). He was not a native Latin speaker, and therefore changed his Latin later in response to more Classical Latin among the Dominicans in Paris. Also, in Paris, he was sworn to uphold Historia scholastica, by Petrus Comestor** which uses a Septuagint chronology***, while postilla uses a Vulgate / Masoretic one. That could have been used to argue, it wasn't his, but it is equally a possible indication it was a youth work by him.

For Rhetorica ad Herennium, it is possible Cicero had a friend Herennius who simply needed a text book° and therefore, for once, Cicero wrote a dry text book.

In either case, I see reasons to doubt the current doubts on the authorship.

This means, I am generally less prone than some to say anonymous books get authors as quick as you can say "Johannulus Filius Roberti".°°

Obviously, this makes me more prone than the average to accept Gospel authorships simply as anciently assigned.

So, is there any kind of fact which would have to make even me admit that authorships get assigned to anonymous works? Well, there is Vyasa, contemporary, or purported such to the events in Mahabharata. A guarantee that Mahabharata is not just roughly historical, but in fact very exact and well documented history.

As I think Mahabharata is roughly historical (again, I accept more of it than the average today Westerner), I still think it's inexact and remade a few times over. This means, I don't believe in Vyasa being author of the text we now have. And being also the contemporary he's purported to be.

There is a difference. Vedic Sanskrit is supposed to have been spoken from 1500 to 600 BC, and Classical Sanskrit from 700 BC to 1350 AD. But more importantly, all the earlier parts are supposed to have been transmitted orally, since oldest known and deciphered writing in India are the Brahmi script and Kharosthi, which arose around the time of Pericles. The action in Mahabharata includes the death of Krishna, dated to 3102 BC. While the Indus script would perhaps qualify (if the carbon dates match real dates, which I contest), it is in an unknown language, undeciphered and the texts we have are so short as to be included in seals - very much too short for texts like Mahabharata or even a short book in the Bible. Even a normal average verse in the Bible would be too long for the texts we have in Harappan.

This means, there is more room for doubt than with Cicero or St. Thomas (both are known to be roughly contemporary at least to the two disputed texts that I mentioned). And therefore obviously also more room of doubt than with the Gospellers. It's more comparable to whether Dares Phrygius really wrote Daretis Phrygii de excidio Trojae historia (or rather the original of which this is the Latin translation, if any such existed). Bc, "our" Dares sometimes differs from Homer, and placing Dares as a contemporary to the events (it seems Homer mentioned one such in Iliad song 5), is a way of pretending to have ultimate genuinity in a work only known more than thousand years after purported events.

Ultimately, Dares may be genuine, while any Christian would dispute genuinity of Vyasa, since the timeline contradicts that of Biblical history, but either of them is a very far cry even from Herennian Rhetoric or Postilla in libros geneseos, and let alone from the four Gospels, of which we have surviving fragments in less than 100 years after events, and in which author assignments are within 120 years from earliest of them being written, if correct.

Hans Georg Lundahl
St. Stanislas of Cracow

* But it could be the castle he was born in. ** Literally : Peter the Eater. *** Without the second Cainan. ° He might have been teaching rhetoric and have wanted to refer to the greatest rhetor's knowledge, be sure not to miss anything. Quintilian's Institutiones Oratoriae would have done the job, but wasn't around yet. °° That's a rough translation of Jack Robinson.

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