Meerson, “One God Supreme”

Michael Meerson has the latest article in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, “One God Supreme: A Case Study of Religious Tolerance and Survival.” In this article, Meerson “attempt[s] to combine the consideration of both [θεὸς ὕψιστος and εἷς θεός]” as these titles are found in a sundial inscription from Mount Gerizim (32). For, although

[a] picture of a sundial with a Greek inscription was published in the 33rd (2000) issue of Qadmoniot, as an illustration to the essay of Y. Magen, ‘Mount Gerizim—A Temple City’ . . . the sundial’s inscription, neither transcribed nor translated, failed to provoke commentary. And yet the inscription is remarkable in many ways: one of only five Greek inscriptions from the Hellenistic era ever found on Mount Gerizim, it was discovered outside any architectural context. The inscription addresses θεὸς ὕψιστος, the God Most High, which would have provided the archaeologists of Gerizim with a doubly difficult quest: to identify the ‘nationality’ of the so-called god, and to find a temple in which this sundial would have stood—Samaritan, Seleucid or Roman. Inscriptions bearing the εἷς θεός invocation present a similar problem (32).

מורה הצדק and Qumran Hermeneutics

In working through some bibliography recently for a conference paper proposal about מורה הצדק (the teacher of righteousness), I came across the following:

Der Lehrer [der Gerechtigkeit] ist von Gott autorisiert, die Geheimnisse der Prophetenworte zu enträtseln, denn die Worte der Propheten sind Geheimnisse (רזים [pHab] 7,5), die man ohne Auslegung des Lehrers nicht verstehen kann. Der Lehrer tritt also mit seiner Verkündigung nicht neben die Schrift, sondern er basiert auf der Schrift. Er allein hat von Gott das rechte Verständnis offenbart bekommen. Darum kann er und mit ihm seine Gemeinde nach dem Willen Gottes leben (Jeremias 141).

The teacher unlocked prophetic meaning in the community’s scriptures, and the community depended precisely on this insight to learn the proper practice(s) to which they were called through the prophets.


In this post:

Gert Jeremias
Gert Jeremias

Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, Volume 32

Oxford University PressDiscoveries in the Judaean Desert (DJD), volume 32, has two codices. According to Oxford University Press:

Description
DJD XXXII presents the first full critical edition of the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) and the Hebrew University Isaiah Scroll (1QIsab) in the style of the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series. That is, whereas the photographs and transcriptions have been available since the 1950s, this volume provides a fresh transcription of all the known fragments, notes clarifying readings that are problematic either physically or palaeographically, and the first comprehensive catalogue of the textual variants.

Part 1 contains the photographic plates (1QIsaa in colour) with the transcriptions on facing pages for easy comparison. Part 2 contains the introduction, notes, and the catalogue of variants; the introduction narrates the discovery, purchase, and early publication of these two manuscripts, which are part of the earliest discoveries and among the most significant biblical scrolls.

Features

  • The final volume to publish in the prestigious Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series, bringing the collection of forty volumes to completion.
  • The Isaiah scrolls of Qumran Cave 1 are crucial to a range of disciplines; Jewish Studies, Biblical Studies, Early Christian Studies, and Ancient History.
  • Arranged in a two part set to allow the reader to simultaneously consult the photographic plates, transcriptions and corresponding notes and textual variants.
  • Presents the 1QIsaa scroll in full colour plates and the 1QIsab in full page black and white plates with facing page transcriptions.
  • The general introduction includes information on the history and discovery of the scrolls and the photographic methods used in capturing the plates.
  • The scroll introductions include detailed discussion of the physical description, palaeography and dating, scribes, grammatical profiling, othography and textual character of the manuscripts.

Online Papers and Lectures

Michael Bird comments that the papers for next week’s Louven conference, “New Perspectives on Paul and the Jews,” are available for download. Of the presenters listed in the program, only Anne-Marie Reijnen’s paper on “Kosmos and Creation in Paul’s Thought” is not currently available.

Additionally, in the developing list of audio and video resources over at Evangelical Textual Criticism:

  • Tommy Wasserman mentions some audio and video material from Dan Wallace.
  • Mark Francois notes the availability of the video recordings of Stanley Porter’s 2008 Hayward Lectures. In addition, the Hayward Lectures webpage includes “[t]he majority of the [other] Hayward Lectures from 1981 to the present” as hosted by Blip.tv.

Little Bunny Fufu Meets the Maccabees

Sometimes, a bit of humor or oddity can be pedagogically advantageous. In this connection, I have tried to fit the chief, Maccabean figures into the chorus from “Little Bunny Fufu” (who may apparently appear, at least occasionally, as “Little Rabbit Fufu” in the UK) (midi audio, lyrics).

There is, of course, a little fudging in this adaptation:

  • The first mention of a John Hyrcanus and an Aristobulus should naturally be taken as implying “the first” in their denominations, just as the second mention should be taken as implying “the second.” Creativity failed me, however, when trying to think of a tune where these additional epithets could be included without making nuisances of themselves.
  • Two slightly different pronunciations of Aristobulus appear (see Tomasino 330).
  • At the end of the ditty, little bunny Fufu ends up having to pick up the field mice and bop them on the head once more in order to squeeze in Antigonus Mattathias.

Still, even with these caveats, a ditty like this one could prove to be a useful tool for helping students learn a basic framework for the Maccabean period’s chief figures. Those who are interested can download or listen to the recording in mp3 format.


In this post:

Anthony Tomasino
Anthony Tomasino

Roland Deines on Halakah and Community Definition

In reading Roland Deines’ essay in Second Temple Judaism (“The Pharisees Between ‘Judaisms’ and ‘Common Judaism'”), I came across the following, astute paragraph:

If it is correct that it was particularly halakah that constituted Pharisees as Pharisees, it is also true that it constituted Essenes as Essenes and Sadducees as Sadducees. The same can be said regarding the other Jewish groups that existed prior to 70. This explains why the differences and even antagonism between these three basic movements (which included diverse elements within themselves) did not lead to the complete suspension of religious association within Judaism, whereas the association with early Christians broke off quite soon. All three Jewish movements oriented themselves basically around the Torah as the center of individual and national Jewish existence. In this system the Messiah was subordinated to Torah. For Christians, on the other hand, Christ became the center of individual as well as communal existence. In him, a person’s profound relationship with his own nation was expanded to an eschatological and thus at the same time universal horizon. The final breakdown came when the soteriological marginality of the Torah in relation to Christ could no longer be overlooked in the course of generational change. Even where Torah was observed with sincerity in Jewish-Christian congregations, it had still lost its absolute, eschatological dimension. It had, even in these congregations, reached its τέλος in Christ (499–500; italics added).


In this post:

D. A. Carson, Peter O'Brien, and Mark Seifrid
D. A. Carson, Peter O'Brien, and Mark Seifrid

Judaism in Justification and Variegated Nomism

D. A. Carson, Peter O'Brien, and Mark Seifrid
D. A. Carson, Peter O'Brien, and Mark Seifrid
In contrast to Sanders’ emphasis on the essential consistency of Palestinian Judaism’s pattern of religion, the essays in Second Temple Judaism emphasize the nomistic diversity, or variegation, that ancient Judaism exhibited.

Consequently, a concise summary of the whole volume that appreciates the variegated findings of each author would be difficult to produce. Therefore, below are brief, individual summaries for each of the essays. For more detailed summaries of the arguments in chapters 2–15, see Carson’s concluding essay (505–48). The bracketed numbers below refer to the chapter numbers in Second Temple Judaism; all parenthetical references also refer to this work unless otherwise noted.

To jump to the summary for a specific essay, choose one of the following: psalms and prayers, scripture-based stories in the pseudepigrapha, expansions of scripture, didactic stories, apocalypses, testaments, wisdom, Josephus, the Tannaim, the targums, Philo, Qumran, righteousness language, the Pharisees, and summaries and conclusions.

[2] Psalms and Payers (Falk) “If [his] aim was to give a sort of ‘lowest common denominator’ soteriology that would be recognized by most of the divergent expressions of Judaisms [sic], Sanders’s covenantal nomism would serve fairly well, given his generous allowances of flexibility. To do so, however, would be akin to grouping apples, oranges, and bananas together as ‘fruit.’ For comparative purposes, such a harmonizing approach is of limited value. It masks very different conceptions of the problem of sin, the balance of focus on nationalism and individualism, and most significantly the boundaries of the covenant” (56).

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[3] Scripture-Based Stories in the Pseudepigrapha (Evans) This literature promotes the role of obedience to the law in determining one’s membership in the people of God. “This is not to say that the authors of these writings did not view God as gracious and forgiving; they did. There is no indication, however, that they believed that people could gain God’s acceptance apart from obedience to the Law” (72).

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[4] Expansions of Scripture (Enns) First Esdras “generally” supports Sanders’ thesis, “albeit indirectly” (75). The additions to Daniel affirm the necessity for true Jews to “worship the true God whatever the circumstances,” and these additions would have functioned to affirm to their readers God’s faithfulness by describing how he had delivered his people in the past (83). The additions to Esther communicate a similar message (87). Pseudo-Philo “never ceases to remind his readers of the obligations God makes on them, but these obligations are nothing less than the special privilege of those who already enjoy covenant status. Covenant precedes law” (92). Jannes and Jambres, however, is too problematic to use in developing an affirmation or critique of Sanders’ thesis (87–88), but Sanders’ general assessment of Jubilees “seems to be sound” (97).

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[5] Didactic Stories (Davies) “With the exception of Aristeas, none of these stories . . . gives a very clear hint as to what it is about Judaism and the Jewish people that makes it important for them to be preserved. Such a question, perhaps, was not worth asking and the answer taken as self-evident” (131). What is clear from these stories, however, is that “no Jew is an island, and in the fate of every Jew lies, potentially, the fate of the Jewish people” (131).

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[6] Apocalypses (Bauckham) First Enoch substantially supports Sanders (148). Yet, 2 Enoch, even more than 4 Ezra (172), advocates a legalistic form of works-righteousness (156). The section of the Apocalypse of Zephaniah that probably would discuss the consequences of Zephaniah’s righteous deeds is missing, but on hearing his sins rehearsed, Zephaniah does plead for forgiveness because of the greatness of God’s mercy (158). Consequently, in the absence of a manuscript that contains the missing text, one may tentatively assume that Apoc. Zeph. supports Sanders’ argument. Third Baruch has a similar perspective (185); by contrast, Second Baruch emphasizes the need that the righteous have for God’s mercy, while also viewing the possibility of faithful obedience to the law rather more positively than does 4 Ezra (181). The Sibylline Oracles have a complex, literary history that includes the intermingling of (Diasporic) Jewish material with material that is substantially Christian or, at least, material that underwent a substantial, Christian redaction (Eissfeldt 616). The material most relevant vis-à-vis Sanders’ thesis comes from books 4 and 5 and seems to indicate that: (1) the whole law was given to Jews and Gentiles alike and (2) one’s fate depends on how one comports with the law (186–87).

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[7] Testaments (Kugler) An investigation of the testament literature “is not entirely favorable for Sanders’s thesis. Although the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs do evince Sanders’s covenantal nomism, the Testament of Moses embraces the concept of election but rejects the idea that ‘obedience [to the laws] . . . or atonement and repentance for transgression’ are ultimately necessary ‘for remaining in the covenant community.’ And while the Testament of Job admits a God-fearer into the community of the elect, it only requires of him trust in God to maintain that relationship” (189–90; insertion and italics original).

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[8] Wisdom (Gowan) “With reference to Sanders’s terms, ‘getting in’ is clearly attributed entirely to the divine initiative in [Sirach, Baruch, Wisdom of Solomon, and 4 Maccabees]. The[se documents] affirm the existence of a special relationship between God and Israel; and Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, and 4 Maccabees base their teachings on the certainty that the sovereign and merciful God is faithful to that relationship. . . . [For Baruch, s]taying in does not depend entirely on human obedience, but depends on mercy that transcends merit. Confession of sin and appeal for forgiveness play a larger role than in other books. The need for repentance and forgiveness is also dealt with in Sirach, and this shows that the author does not operate with a strictly merit-based theology. The background of persecution in Wisdom of Solomon and 4 Maccabees leads to more interest in divine support for those suffering for their faithfulness than concern about what they may have done wrong” (238).

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[9] Josephus (Spilsbury) Instead of covenantal nomism, one may characterize Josephus’s nomism more accurately by the phrase “patronal nomism.” “‘Patronal nomism’ is more than just ‘covenantal nomism’ by another name. It is, in fact, a thoroughly Romanized translation of a biblical concept into a new idiom” (252). This idiom designates “an exchange relationship in which people enjoy the blessings of God’s patronage to the extent that they display gratitude in the practice of their lives for the divine benefaction which is God’s law” (259).

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[10] Torah and Salvation in Tannaitic Literature (Alexander) “Tannaitic Judaism can be seen as fundamentally a religion of works-righteousness, and it is none the worse for that. The superiority of grace over law is not self-evident and should not simply be assumed” (300).

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[11] Some Targum Themes (McNamara) “It is clear that according to the [Palestinian] Targum Israel’s election was not due to her own merits” (331). Moreover, “[s]ince both the covenant and the law are as central to the Targums as they are to the biblical text which [the Targums] translate, it may be permissible to describe the religious approach of the Targums, in so far as this can be reconstructed, as ‘covenantal nomism’” (355). It may, however, be “questionable whether ‘covenantal nomism’ is an apt description of any form of Jewish religion. The term ‘nomism’ tends to denote a static position, conformity to a set of rules. . . . [Yet, t]he covenant is not a term that describes a static religion” (355).

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[12] Philo of Alexandria (Hay) While affirming Philo’s basic agreement with his own view, Sanders admits that Philo: (1) does not clearly articulate a view of the law, Israel’s redemption, or life after death and (2) is especially concerned with individuals seeking God (see 370). “To these qualifications two others should be added: (1) Philo says very little about God’s covenant(s) with Israel, and (2) his framework of religious thought is not soteriological (despite his frequent references to God as ‘savior’). Adding together all these qualifications, it would seem, after all, not very useful to speak of Philo as a representative of ‘covenantal nomism’” (370). Still, Philo “does not think of human free will as absolute and his concept of grace is not synergistic. Fundamentally Philo considers that human responsibility centers in thankfulness to the Creator, who is the source of all that is good within each soul. Everything finally hinges on divine grace” (378).

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[13] 1QS and Salvation at Qumran (Bockmuehl) Sanders’ description of the Qumran community’s pattern of religion was able to stand because of the relatively narrow text base with which he was able to work. This text base included primarily the Damascus Document, the Community Rule, the War Scroll, and the Hodayot (382). He also cites the Habakkuk and Psalms commentaries and the Midrash on Eschatology (4QFlor), but he does so very sparsely (382). Working in the mid-1970s, Sanders’ work on Qumran’s pattern of religion was rather ahead of the publication of the data that it properly required, the last volumes of Discoveries in the Judean Desert only being published in the mid-1990s. Consequently, if anywhere, Sanders can certainly be forgiven here for some imprecision in his treatment (383).

Nevertheless, given the perspectives of the additional manuscripts to which Sanders did not have access, “an explanation of Qumran’s religion purely or even predominantly in classic soteriological terms today seems to be unacceptably narrow” (384). In fact, Qumran’s pattern of religion “may be at once less coherent and more peculiar than Sanders thought. First, the texts themselves manifest a number of fundamentally unresolved tensions. . . . Secondly . . . while the fact of diversity in the Scrolls in some ways invites more ready comparison with other elements in Palestinian Judaism, it also makes it more questionable to distill ‘the Qumran pattern of religion’ and then find, as Sanders does, that it is fundamentally the same as that of rabbinic literature” (412–13). Moreover, “we may have in Qumran a developing example of the sort of exclusivistic preoccupation with ‘works of the law’ against which Paul of Tarsus subsequently reacts in his letters to Gentile Christians” (414).

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[14] Righteousness Language in the Hebrew Scriptures and Early Judaism (Seifrid) “We may freely grant that the Qumran writings frequently associate ברית [covenant] with righteousness terminology [contrary to biblical practice]. Moreover, in the Qumran writings the covenant of the Community is regarded as salvific. It is not clear, however, that Sanders’s framework of interpretation holds even here. The Community regarded the covenant into which they had entered as the true will of God, which one was obligated to perform. . . . Salvation, although it comes from God alone, is found in obedience to God’s requirements” (434; cf. 438). Moreover, biblical and early Jewish literature make it quite clear that “Sanders’s description of ‘righteousness’ as ‘(Israel’s) covenant status’ is inadequate. . . . ‘Righteousness’ obviously can [also] be used with reference to conformity to divine demands” (440).

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[15] The Pharisees Between “Judaisms” and “Common Judaism” (Deines) Sanders views the Pharisees as one of several, Palestinian “Judaisms” (i.e., more or less, self-contained versions of Judaism), but he does not take the additional, normal step of constructing his view of “Common Judaism” based on Pharisaism (444). In his work, however, Sanders’ discussions of Common Judaism and its distinctions from Pharisaism typically occur in summary sections that “only qualifiedly correspond to the statements which appear in the historical overviews” (444). Yet, Pharisaism was actually “the fundamental and most influential religious movement within Palestinian Judaism between 150 B.C. and A.D. 70. . . . Pharisaism can be called normative [for this period] because whatever was integrated and thus legitimized by its recognized representatives (generally probably its scribes and priests) over time became the possession of all of Israel” (503).

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[16] Summaries and Conclusions (Carson) “One conclusion to be drawn, then, is not that Sanders is wrong everywhere, but he is wrong when he tries to establish that his category [of covenantal nomism] is right everywhere” (543). Additionally, Sanders’ thesis about covenantal nomism is misleading because: (1) it does not communicate the significant variation evidenced in the literature and (2) covenantal nomism constitutes an avatar of merit theology (544). “Sanders, as we have seen, is right to warn against a simple arithmetical tit-for-tat notion of payback. . . . Nevertheless, covenantal nomism as a category is not really an alternative to merit theology, and therefore is no real response to it. Over against merit theology stands grace (whether the word itself is used or not). By putting over against merit theology not grace but covenant theology, Sanders has managed to have a structure that preserves grace in ‘getting in’ while preserving works (and frequently some form or other of merit theology) in the ‘staying in.’ In other words, it is as if Sanders is saying, ‘See, we don’t have merit theology here; we have covenantal nomism’ – but the covenantal nomism he constructs is so flexible that it includes and baptizes a great deal of merit theology” (544–45; italics added). Therefore, “it appears that the category of covenantal nomism cannot itself accomplish what Sanders wants it to accomplish, viz. serve as an explanatory bulwark against all suggestions that some of this literature embraces works-righteousness and merit theology, precisely because covenantal nomism embraces the same phenomena. Sanders has to some extent constructed a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ argument: it is rhetorically effective, but not a fair reflection on the diverse literature” (545; italics added).

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In this post:

D. A. Carson, Peter O'Brien, and Mark Seifrid
D. A. Carson, Peter O'Brien, and Mark Seifrid
Otto Eissfeldt
Otto Eissfeldt

Justification and Variegated Nomism

D. A. Carson, Peter O'Brien, and Mark Seifrid
D. A. Carson, Peter O'Brien, and Mark Seifrid

If first-century Judaism had a different shape than much New Testament scholarship has traditionally assumed, then an understanding of the New Testament’s—and especially Paul’s—negative critique of Judaism, as well as the positive, doctrinal affirmations predicated to some degree upon this traditional view of Judaism, may need to be revised. The direction this revision has taken based on the trajectory Sanders set in the last portion of Paul and Palestinian Judaism (431–556),1 provides the impetus for the Justification and Variegated Nomism set (Carson, O’Brien, and Seifrid 5). This set attempts to determine “whether ‘covenantal nomism’ serves us well as a label for an overarching pattern of religion” in Palestinian Judaism (Carson, O’Brien, and Seifrid 5).

Sanders himself recognized some degree of diversity within the Second Temple literature (e.g., 4 Ezra; see Carson, O’Brien, and Seifrid 427–28). Rather than affirming the essential content of Sanders’ thesis, however, the essays in Justification and Variegated Nomism’s first volume (The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism) advocate that

[T]he literature of Second Temple Judaism reflects patterns of belief and religion too diverse to subsume under one label. . . . [At the same time, i]t is not that the new perspective has not taught us anything helpful or enduring. Rather, the straitjacket imposed on the apostle Paul by appealing to a highly unified vision of what the first-century ‘pattern of religion’ was like will begin to find itself unbuckled” (Carson, O’Brien, and Seifrid 5).2


1 To be sure, others have articulated similar positions, but Sanders’ work has provided the flashpoint for recent development in this area of Pauline scholarship. As an illustration of this prominence, Second Temple Judaism addresses Sanders most directly, by comparison, scarcely mentioning other scholars who, like W. D. Davies, have articulated similar readings of Judaism, or who, like James Dunn and N. T. Wright, have articulated their own (slightly different) versions of the implications that Sander’s reconstruction has for Pauline interpretation (cf. Carson, O’Brien, and Seifrid 4–5).

2 Similarly, Sanders says, “If we ask what the doctrine of why Israel was elect was [in the Tannaitic literature], we get no clear answer. It is clear throughout that there is a universal conviction that Israel was elect and that election entailed commandments” (Sanders 99).

In this post:

D. A. Carson, Peter O'Brien, and Mark Seifrid
D. A. Carson, Peter O'Brien, and Mark Seifrid
E. P. Sanders
E. P. Sanders