his successors, including the Romans, the same point would be made again and again by 'barbarian' writers who had learned to compose history in Greek fashion: the Babylonian history of Berossus, the Egyptian history of Manetho, the Phoenician history of Philo of Byblos, as well as the Jewish histories of Arta-panus, Eupolemus and even Flavius Josephus, all sought to present (in Greek) elaborate and sometimes quite fanciful theories about the 'barbarian' origin of Greek culture. Each of these new histories credited their own indigenous gods and heroes with being the culture-bringers responsible for the benefits of civilisation. So when Justin insisted that the Greeks had derived their wisdom from the ancient books of Moses and the prophets, he was only utilising for his own purposes an argument which in other forms was widely held.
Tertullian gave expressionto this phenomenon whenhe wrote in his Apology: Auctoritatem litterispraestat antiquitas summa (i9.i).4 A putatively 'ancient' book carried authority as well as mystery, so much so that it was worth interpolating or even forging. Justin and his successors did their best to build their case on the ancient writings of Moses, but they exploited as well the 'ancient (pagan) prophecies' of Hystaspes and the Sibyl, apparently unaware that much of this literature had been fabricated by Jews and Christians with apologetic aims.5 Other Christians also went to great lengths to establish the date of Moses in order to demonstrate, in the words of Tatian, Justin's student, that 'our philosophy is older than Greek culture' and that 'Moses is the originator of all barbarian wisdom' (Orat. 3i.i). Yet, here again, it is important to bear in mind that many Greek intellectuals were making similar claims for Homer.6
Justin's argument for the antiquity, and hence superiority, of Christianity was, as A. D. Nock observed, 'an answer to what was at the time a most damaging criticism of Christianity - namely, that it was a new thing followed in contravention of good old customs'.7 In particular, the 'proof from antiquity'8 was a powerful weapon against the accusations raised by Greek intellectuals such as Celsus and Porphyry, who claimed that Christianity was a recent phenomenon and had therefore contributed nothing to the advance of culture. The intensity with which Justin and other Christian writers of the second and third centuries responded is an indicator itself of just how important the issue of 'antiquity' could be. For these Christians, as for their opponents, the assertion of'modern' origin was equivalent to the assertion of historical insignificance.
4 Cf. his Marc. 4.5.i: 'That is truer which is prior.'
5 See Leclercq, 'Oracle', cols. 2225-6, for Jewish and Christian exploitation of the Sibyl; on the forging of'ancient' books, see Droge, 'Lying pen', i28-34.
6 See Zeitlin, 'Visions and revisions'.
7 Conversion, 25i.
8 See Pilhofer, Presbyteron kreitton.
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