Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"John the Jew" (Camaldoli): final comments

REGARDING THE SIXTH NANGERONI MEETING OF THE ENOCH SEMINAR ("JOHN THE JEW") AT CAMALDOLI LAST WEEK, I promised earlier that I would post some additional thoughts. There was a final session on Friday in which conference delegates were given the opportunity to speak briefly about what they had learned from the conference. The following is roughly what I said, based on memory and some notes I scrawled at the time.

I was pleasantly surprised, but surprised, to be invited to this particular Enoch Seminar, since I have never worked on the Gospel of John and my work on Christology and Jewish messianism was from quite a while ago. But I was happy to come to be involved in the conversation, not least to see what new things I would learn about Second Temple Judaism.

And I did learn quite a bit, including gaining a better understanding of, or at least thinking of some new questions about, one or two passages in the Gospel of John, and also some new details and minor questions about Second Temple Judaism. But there were two broader areas about which I now have some significant new thoughts and questions.

First, I am thinking now about worship and ritual cult of the Temple of the God of Israel in Jerusalem as something even more foundational in Second Temple Judaism than I had realized — more foundational than the ideologies, mythologies, and theologies that Second Temple-era Jews advanced to explain and interpret Temple worship.

The Mosaic Torah (notably the Priestly source or "P") presents the Temple cult as something revealed in the time of Moses, originally applying to the Tabernacle, with Aaron as the founder of the priesthood that was staffed only by his descendants. The rest of the Tribe of Levi is given the chiefly janitorial role as "Levites." Again, all this was supposed to have been revealed and institutionalized in the time of Moses.

But even in the Hebrew Bible the picture is more complex than this. The Book of Ezekiel gives us a prospective Temple cult in chapters 40-48, one that was never implemented but which is not entirely compatible with the Priestly cult in the P source of the Mosaic Torah. And according to Ezekiel 44, the priestly tribe of Levi was demoted to the role of "Levites" for their unfaithfulness during the monarchical period, with the Zadokite (i.e., Aaronid) priests retaining the priesthood because they were faithful. That is not the story in P.

Then when we come to the Second Temple-era apocalyptic books collected in 1 Enoch, the patriarch Enoch is the great receiver of divine revelations and Moses' role is quite downplayed. The Book of the Watchers opens with a reference to Mount Sinai (1 Enoch 1:4), but one describing a theophany of God coming from there in the style of the archaic biblical hymns (cf. Deuteronomy 33:2, Judges 5:5). No hint of a foreshadowing of a revelation of Torah to Moses appears. In the review of sacred history in the Animal Apocalypse, Moses ascends to Mount Sinai and comes back, but no specific reason is given for the trip (1 Enoch 89:28-35). The revelation of the Torah is not directly mentioned. And later the Animal Apocalypse, while accepting the Jerusalem Temple as legitimate, denounces the priesthood currently running it and the ritual cult being practiced in it (1 Enoch 89:73).

On a somewhat similar note, the work known as Aramaic Levi presents a version of the sacrificial cult, one whose compatibility with the rules of P has been debated, but this sacrificial system is presented as lore revealed to Levi by his father Isaac, long before the time of Moses. Perhaps it presents an Enochic perspective on the origins of Temple worship, or conceivably even a third perspective different from both the Mosaic and Enochic ones. The Book of Jubilees, which is closely related to Aramaic Levi, tries to reconcile the Mosaic and Enochic versions of the story behind the Temple cult and priesthood, but it seems pretty clear that there were originally competing versions of the story and it is possible that some of these gave substantially different accounts.

So, were Temple worship, priesthood, and ritual cult (probably along with circumcision, Sabbath observance, and celebration of the major annual festivals) more primary than either the Mosaic or the Enochic (etc?) accounts of the origins of these forms of worship of the God of Israel? This seems to me to be a question worth exploring. (And to be clear — no, I am not volunteering to organize an Enoch Seminar on the subject. But I am interested in the question.)

Second, a question about the Gospel of John. The characters in John's narrative are early first-century Jews who observe the Mosaic ethical and ritual law. They do so as a matter of course and the matter is generally not commented on, except when the details of how to observe some aspect of this law, notably the Sabbath, are debated. But did John expect his readers to practice the ritual law? I used to assume yes, but this has become less clear to me. What did his readers know and not know? He does not need to explain what the festivals were, but he does need to explain that Jews and Samaritans do not use dishes in common. Was John a Jew seeking to convince Torah-observant Diaspora Jews to follow his particular form of messianic Judaism or was he more like Paul, trying to convert Gentile readers to his new Jesus religion without necessarily making them Torah observant as well? Or both? Not that this question has not occurred to Johannine specialists, but perhaps specialists in Second Temple Judaism could help contribute more to the discussion than they have up to the present.

Those were my comments in the final session of the conference. Let me now add one other thought, which I hinted at in my response to Catrin Williams's excellent paper, but which is worth underlining. Septuagint research in the last generation or two has learned to read the Septuagint not just as a translation of the books of the Hebrew Bible, but also as a Second Temple-era Jewish text in its own right, one that makes interpretive decisions that amount to exegesis of the Hebrew Bible. But such interpretive exegesis goes back even further, to the scribal practices of the copyists of the books of the Hebrew Bible in the Second Temple period. We know this from looking at the textual variants in the biblical manuscripts among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some work on the scribal exegesis of the Hebrew text in the Qumran manuscripts has certainly been done, but the subject is far from exhausted and there are still doctoral dissertations to write on it. My student David Larsen dealt with such matters in his 2013 PhD thesis, “Royal Psalms in the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

Those are my thoughts about the conference. None of them have anything directly to do with the Christology of John or messianism in Second Temple Judaism, but some of them may be of interest nevertheless.

I want to take this opportunity also to thank the organizers. Gabriele Boccaccini is the founder of and mastermind behind the Enoch Seminar and his contribution was, as always, vast. He also very kindly looked after me in Florence on the first night of this trip. Benjamin Reynolds and Deborah Forger organized this particular meeting of the Enoch Seminar and did so with scholarly creativity, flawless efficiency, and constant good humor. I am grateful to them all for an excellent conference.

Earlier posts on the "John the Jew" Enoch Seminar are collected here. For some past posts on other Enoch Seminars, see the links collected here. I have not posted any photos of Camaldoli this time around, but it still looks like the pictures in this post.

UPDATE: James McGrath has another post on the "John the Jew" conference here, with URLs (meant to be links?) for a podcast interview with Crispin Fletcher-Louis and for an online version of Crispin's Camaldoli paper. James promises more posts on the conference in due course.

The Talmud on safe spaces and animal damages

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Shock of Recognition. As the ‘Daf Yomi’ cycle returns to a familiar anecdote about a camel causing a fire, it reveals the Talmud’s complex web of interlaced elements as more than a compendium of laws.
Here one of the Talmud’s perennial concerns—the difference between public and private domains, which plays such a central role in Shabbat law—intersects with the main subject of Bava Kamma, which is damage caused by negligence. At issue is what in American law is called “the standard of care”: How much precaution do you have to take to ensure that your lamp doesn’t cause a fire? Lighting a lamp inside your own home is presumptively safe, because it’s very unlikely that a camel carrying flax will walk through your living room and catch fire. But lighting a lamp that is hung from the front door, or displayed in an open window, is presumptively reckless, because it’s reasonable to expect that a flax-laden camel would be walking down the street. It’s only on Hanukkah that the mitzvah of displaying a menorah in the window overrides this principle.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

More on the GJW story

OVERVIEW: Jesus' Wife? The final debunking (CHARLOTTE ALLEN, The Weekly Standard). This article tells the whole story of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife fragment from the beginning to the publication of Ariel Sabar's article in the Atlantic, with lots of background and sidelines, some of which may be new to some readers.

Background here with oh so many links.

Pan portal at Hippos-Sussita?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Gateway to Ancient Greek God's Compound Uncovered? (Kacey Deamer, LiveScience).
Archaeologists in northern Israel may have unearthed a sanctuary of the Greek god Pan in the ancient city of Hippos.

Excavations by the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa have uncovered a monumental Roman gate, which may have led to a compound dedicated to the worship of Pan, the god of flocks and shepherds, who is depicted as half man and half goat in Greek mythology.

The new archaeological find may help researchers better understand previous discoveries in the ancient city. Last year, the archaeologists discovered a bronze mask of Pan, which is unusually large compared to other such bronze masks of the Greek God that date from the same period. The researchers had said that efforts to date the item or explain the function of the mask would be difficult.

So 2016 seems to be shaping up as the year of the temple gateway. For the Pan mask found at the same site last year, see here. And background on the archaeology of the site of Hippos-Sussita is there and links, plus here.

Jesus vs. Captain Kirk

COUNTERFACTUAL STAR TREK HISTORY: When Captain Kirk slugged it out with Jesus Christ. A new history of the Star Trek franchise reveals the plot of a rejected early script by series creator Gene Roddenberry that doesn’t shy away from theological questions (Times of Israel).
The script about Jesus may have been rejected, but it didn’t entirely disappear.

“Gene had written a script for the first Star Trek movie. Certain elements showed up in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but most did not,” explained Michael Jan Friedman, an author of Star Trek novels who worked on later versions of the Roddenberry script. “So there was this mysterious script floating around that people talked about as if it were the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

Monday, June 27, 2016

Matt's Zohar translation project is concluding

ZOHAR WATCH: A mysterious medieval text, decrypted (Ezra Glinter, Boston Globe).
Like many such works, the Zohar is intentionally obscure. Its language is full of neologisms, linguistic borrowings, occasional grammatical mistakes, and inspired wordplay on rabbinic and biblical passages. Its ideas are often paradoxical and contradictory, referring to esoteric concepts that are never fully spelled out. But with its cryptic Aramaic, lyrical poetry, and radical ideas about God, the Zohar captivated the imagination of both Jewish and Christian thinkers.

The Zohar has also attracted translators and commentators who have attempted to make it accessible, despite — or perhaps because of — its difficulty. These efforts include early translations into scholarly languages like Hebrew and Latin, as well as more recent efforts into English, French, and Spanish. But what is likely the most successful Zohar translation in history is only now nearing completion. The Pritzker Zohar, a 12-volume project from Stanford University Press, saw its 10th volume published in May, with the 11th due in September, and the last installment early next year. Translated primarily by Daniel Matt, a scholar of Jewish mysticism in Berkeley, Calif., with contributions by Joel Hecker and Nathan Wolski, the Pritzker edition will make the Zohar the most accessible it has ever been.

Describing the body of texts that make up Zoharic literature is almost as difficult as studying them. Written in the style of the Midrash, or rabbinic commentary on the Bible, the Zohar relates the teachings of Rabbi Shim’on and his companions as they wander through Galilee. But the Zohar also strikes out in bold new directions, describing not only the conversations of Rabbi Shim’on’s mystical fellowship but also their adventures and exploits. On their travels, they encounter strange characters who turn out to be more than what they seem — a beggar or a donkey driver who is actually a hidden sage, a child who displays surprising wisdom. At times, some argue, it comes to resemble a kind of medieval novel.
Back in December of 2015, I posted on an announcement that seemed to imply that the ninth volume was the last in Professor Matt's translation series, but it seems that there were three more coming, and the twelfth and last is due to be published in 2017. Meanwhile, this current article by Glinter gives a good overview of Zoharic studies, with some background on how the new translation got its start.
Matt would know. Now 65 years old, he speaks with a precision that seems to reflect his meticulous process of translation. For nearly two decades, he’s been working on the Zohar and has been studying the text for much longer than that. In the 1970s, he wrote his Brandeis doctoral thesis on “The Book of Mirrors,” a 14th-century Kabbalistic text that contained one of the first translations of the Zohar into Hebrew. In 1983, while teaching Jewish mysticism at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, he published a selection of Zohar translations. Then, in 1995, he was approached by Chicago philanthropist Margot Pritzker, who had been studying the Zohar with her rabbi and was interested in sponsoring a full, scholarly translation. Matt demurred at first — the project would take decades of full-time work, he warned her — but he eventually agreed to take it on, starting in 1997 and publishing the first volume in 2004.

Translating the Zohar turned out to be a more laborious process than he had anticipated. Although he planned to translate from a standard printed edition, he found that every version engaged in its own subtle editing of the text. So, with the help of a research assistant, he went back to early manuscripts, searching for a Zohar unencumbered by the interpolations and “corrections” of copyists and printers. It’s a process that has drawn both praise and criticism. While scholars in the field are quick to praise Matt’s erudition and skill as a translator, some point out that the Zohar he has produced is, in a sense, hypothetical. Ironically, in trying to uncover a more “authentic” Zohar, he has produced a version that never existed before.
That's a criticism that can be made of any critically reconstructed text, including, for example, the critical text of the New Testament that everyone uses. Be that as it may, the article is worth reading in full. I have commented on some of the challenges of deciphering ancient literate, including ancient esoteric literature, here.

For many, many past post on the Zohar and the Matt translation, see the post above (and links) on the ninth volume, as well as here, here, here, here, here, here, and links.

A new Greek Psalm fragment

ETC: Psalm 9.22-26 in a Newly Published 4th-Century Papyrus (Peter Gurry).

Congratulations to AWOL

AWOL: A milestone (of sorts). Five thousand posts on AWOL as of this week. Follow the link for the top ten.

Walters, Aphrahat and the Construction of Christian Identity in Fourth-Century Persia

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | James Walters.
Walters, James Edward. Aphrahat and the Construction of Christian Identity in Fourth-Century Persia. Ph.D. Dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary, 2016.

My dissertation began—as many dissertations do, I imagine—with a simple question: What in the world is going on in this text? The text in question came from the Demonstrations, a fourth-century Syriac corpus attributed to an author known as Aphrahat, the Persian Sage. More specifically, the text to which my question referred was Demonstration 17, in which Aphrahat makes the argument that Jesus is both Messiah and Son of God by using only proof texts from the Hebrew Bible because this argument was directed “against the Jews.” I had only just learned Syriac, so I dove in head first, working out Syriac grammar and puzzling rhetorical arguments with equal amounts of confusion on both. As I continued reading the rest of the Demonstrations, along with all the secondary literature I could get my hands on, that question of “what is going on here?” just kept nagging me.

A past post on another publication that seems to come to somewhat different conclusions is here.

Maternal ‘Arakhin and the fall of Jerusalem

THE GEMARA.COM: Memorializing the Temple through the Maternal Practice of ‘Arakhin (Dr. Rabbi Jane Kanarek).
In the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem, rabbinic literature’s presentation of mothers donating their children’s weight in gold to the Temple – following the rabbinic interpretation of ‘Arakhin – comes to exemplify both piety and tragedy.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

CFP: 2017 Septuagint Symposium

We are organizing a centennial symposium — Soisalon-Soininen Symposium on the Septuagint — in celebration of the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of our esteemed teacher Professor Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen on 4th June, 2017. Professor Ilmari Soisalon-Soininen did pioneering research on the Septuagint syntax, applying what we call the translation technical method, and was the founding father of Septuagint studies in Finland. The symposium is organised by the courtesy of the Centre of Excellence in ‘Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions’ (CSTT) funded by the Academy of Finland. The symposium will take place 1st-3rd June 2017 at the University of Helsinki. The actual symposium will be followed by a small anniversary party on Sunday 4th June at noon.
Follow the link for the Call For Papers.

Coins of the Jewish War

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: David Hendin - Coins of the Jewish War.

Cargill on ancient Jewish sects

BIBLE ODYSSEY: Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes (Robert R. Cargill).

CFP: Distant Worlds Journal

NEW JOURNAL: CALL FOR PAPERS: Second Edition of the Distant Worlds Journal (DWJ). Dealing with Antiquity: Case Studies and Methodological Considerations in the Ethical Engagement of Ancient Materials.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

GJW: Meadows roundup (1)

ROGUE CLASSICISM: Returning to the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: Reflections and Implications (I). David Meadows provides some reflections, some background, and a helpful timeline of events. By the way, the penny only dropped for me this morning that Ariel Sabar, the author of the recent Atlantic article, is the son of UCLA Aramaist Yona Sabar and the author of My Father's Paradise, on whom and on which more here and links.

Many, many past posts on theGJW are here and links.

Schroeder on the GJW

NAASCAL: “Fakes, Forgeries, and Fictions” Preview: Caroline Schroeder’s “Gender and the Academy Online.” A forthcoming article on the now pretty-much settled Gospel of Jesus' Wife controversy, on which much more here and here and links. The article went to press before the recent revelations by Ariel Sabar. Some past comments by Professor Schroeder on the GJW were noted here.

Dan Brown pays it forward

ANOTHER DIGITIZATION PROJECT: Dan Brown Donates €300,000 to Digitization Project at the Ritman Library (NATE PEDERSEN, Fine Books Magazine).
Novelist Dan Brown, known for his runaway bestseller The Da Vinci Code (2003), has donated €300,000 ($338,000) to the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, aka The Ritman Library, in Amsterdam. The money will be used to digitize the library’s core collection of about 4,600 early printed books (pre-1900) and about 300 older manuscripts. Once they are digitized, the collections will be freely available online on the library’s website. The Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds also contributed €15,000 to the project.

The Ritman Library was founded by Dutch businessman and book collector Joost Ritman in 1984. The library specializes in hermeticism, as well as the related fields of Rosicrucianism, alchemy, gnosis, esotericism, and Kabbalah and is widely considered one of the finest collections of its type in existence.

Dan Brown has his good points and his bad points, but in this he has done a good thing and I commend him. My review of The Da Vinci Code novel is here and of the movie is here. And for the 2006 copyright lawsuit against him by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, co-authors of The Holy Blood, and the Holy Grail, which Brown won, see here with lots more in the searchable PaleoJudaica archive. I've enjoyed his novels, but he shouldn't insist that they are based on FACTS. The movies have been better about this.

For many other manuscript digitization projects, start here and follow the links.

1 Enoch 85-90 and the NT

READING ACTS: The Dream Visions (1 Enoch 85-90) and the New Testament. Past posts in the series, plus on related matters, are here and links.

Home now

I'M BACK IN ST. ANDREWS. Got in last night, after a few travel close calls and mixups that will make for entertaining stories, even if they weren't particularly entertaining at the time. Great conference. More on it later.

Friday, June 24, 2016

John the Jew (Camaldoli) day 4

JAMES MCGRATH: John the Jew: The Last Day of the 2016 Enoch Seminar Nangeroni Meeting. James's report on the discussion during the fourth day of the conference. I have some notes on the conference too, which I will try to work up into a blog post in the next few days.

Meanwhile, previous posts on the John the Jew Seminar are here, here (my summary of the St. Andrews Divine Sonship Symposium), here, here, here, and here (my response to Catrin Williams's paper), with links to the other conference posters.

1 Enoch 85-90

READING ACTS: The Animal Apocalypse, Part 1 – 1 Enoch 85-90. Past posts in the series, plus on related matters, are here and links.

Conference on the Talmud and Christianity in Cambridge

H-JUDAIC: Conference: The Talmud and Christianity (Cambridge University, June 27-28).

Ethiopic commentary on Daniel

THE ANCIENT BOOKSHELF: A Critical Edition and English Translation of the Classical Ethiopic Commentary Materials on the Book of Daniel (James Hamrick).
For my dissertation at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München I am preparing a critical edition of the Ge'ez commentary materials on the Book of Daniel. A little bit about the project ...

The objective of my research is to contribute to the study of the reception of Second Temple Jewish literature in the classical Ethiopic tradition by offering a critical edition, English translation, and analysis of the Ge'ez Tergwāmē materials on the Book of Daniel, which contain both Ge'ez versions of the text of Daniel as well as commentary on the book. Manuscripts of these materials have been known to western scholarship for some time, and the text of Daniel in one of the manuscripts was even collated by Oscar Löfgren in his critical edition of Ethiopic Daniel. However, no one has yet published, critically edited, or translated these commentary materials. My dissertation is an attempt to fill that lacuna.

I can't wait to get my hands on this one.

Menachem Fisch: The Rationality of Religious Dispute

Menachem Fisch: The Rationality of Religious Dispute

Edited by Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, Arizona State University and Aaron W. Hughes, University of Rochester. With an Introduction by Noah J. Efron, Bar-Ilan University

Menachem Fisch is the Joseph and Ceil Mazer Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, Director of the Center for Religious and Interreligious Studies, and former Chair of the Graduate School of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University. He is also the Senior Fellow of the Kogod Center for the Renewal of Jewish Thought at the Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem. Trained in physics, philosophy, and the history and philosophy of science, Fisch has confronted epistemological questions and applied his answers to Jewish philosophy, integrating it into the larger discourse of rationality, normativity, religion, politics, and science. His work brings a creative combination of historical, philosophical, and critical insights to an analysis of Talmudic texts, thereby establishing a new and original understanding of rabbinic legal reasoning and religious commitment.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

John the Jew (Camaldoli): my response to Williams

AT THE "JOHN THE JEW" ENOCH SEMINAR THIS MORNING, Catrin H. Williams presented her plenary paper, "Johannine Christology and Prophetic Traditions: The Case of Isaiah." I was the respondent to the paper. With her permission I post my response, which summarizes her paper. I had no significant disagreements with her, but I also raise some speculative points inspired by the paper which I hope may be of some interest. [UPDATE (25 June): a photo of the session is here.]
Response to Catrin H. Williams,
“Johannine Christology and Prophetic Traditions: The Case of Isaiah”
Sixth Nangeroni Meeting of the Enoch Seminar, June 2016
James R. Davila

Catrin Williams has set out to advance our understanding of John’s exegetical use of the Septuagint version of Isaiah, drawing especially on insights into the translation technique of the Greek translator and ways in which the translation reformulates the text of Isaiah so as to create, whether deliberately or otherwise, internal connections of potential messianic interest which are not present in the Hebrew text. In part one, she focuses in particular on the two quotations of Isaiah, 53:1 and 6:10 which appear in John 12:38-40. The Hebrew text already provides catchword links between the two verses and the Septuagint translator has created more links between the two passages containing the verses and has otherwise set the stage for a Christological reading of them. Catrin argues, convincingly in my view, that the translator sets the stage for John’s key theological theme of “humiliation as exaltation” as applied to Jesus.

In part two she argues that, by “streamlining” the translation of some passages, the Septuagint translator opens potential catchword connections between passages with no such connection in the Hebrew text, and John seizes on some of these in his use of Isaiah. The key Greek terms include “glory” (δοξα), “exalt” (υψοω), and “light” (φως), and the new connections serve to create a closer link between God and the Servant, and therefore for John, God and Jesus. Of particular interest is the Septuagint’s treatment of the phrase “the arm of the Lord,” which features in 53:1 and is a characteristic phrase of the Book of Isaiah. Catrin argues, again convincingly in my view, that John’s familiarity with the Greek text of Isaiah has paved the way for him to read Jesus to be “the visible embodiment of ‘the arm of the Lord.’” Some passages in the Greek text hint at a close connection between the arm and the servant and this catchword connection of Isaiah 52:7-15 with Isaiah 40:9-11 informs John’s use of Zechariah 9:9 in John’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In addition the language of the Greek of Isaiah 43:10 makes the Lord a co-witness with the servant and opens up the possibility of an association of both God and the servant with the Greek divine title εγω ειμι, “I Am,” and the Greek text of this verse informs Jesus’ important Christological declaration in John 8:28.

The third section of the paper explores the reception of the book of Isaiah in the Parables or Similitudes of Enoch alongside its reception in the Gospel of John. The Parables have little in the way of overt allusion to Isaiah 6, but they show considerable interest in the Servant Songs, applying the titles Chosen One and Righteous One to the Son of Man figure and regarding him as the chosen but hidden light of the nations, now pre-existent. But, unlike the Christian interpreters of the Servant Songs, the Parables apply the humiliation of the Servant to the chosen and righteous ones on earth, not to the exalted Son of Man figure. Although John and the Parables share, as Collins put it, “belief in a hidden world where the power structures of this world are reversed” and both view this world, at Catrin puts it, as “filtered through an Isaianic lens,” the Parables present this reversal eschatologically with the enthronement of the Son of Man, whereas John presents it — with the help of Greek Isaiah — in terms of humiliation as exaltation.

Catrin’s paper is an important piece of work that improves our understanding of the origins and background of John’s Christological theme of humiliation as exaltation and places it in a larger context in Second Temple Judaism with the comparison to the messianic exegesis of Isaiah in the Parables of Enoch. I find her arguments and conclusions persuasive and I have no criticisms worth mentioning. Rather than looking for details to nitpick, I want to mention two areas of potential interest in relation to her paper, one as additional background to Second Temple Jewish exegesis of Isaiah and the other involving some observations concerning how her conclusions might help us understand another messianic controversy in late antiquity.

Firstly, a central concern of Catrin’s paper is how the translation decisions of the Septuagint translator facilitated the construction of John’s Christology. It is difficult to know how many of the messianic implications of the translation decisions were deliberate, but it is hard to image, for example, that the translator did not intend to emphasize and consolidate the relationship between God and the Servant in Isaiah. It is worth noting that there is some evidence for similar exegesis in the scribal treatment of the Hebrew text of Isaiah. In a number of cases readings found in the larger Qumran Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) seem to shift the text in a more messianic direction. In Isaiah 7:14 the Lord, rather than his mother, is the one who names (וקרא) the child Immanuel. In Isaiah 61:1, with the omission of a verb and the addition of a conjunction, the anointing of the speaker is tied directly to his power of healing. And in 53:14, rather than the Servant’s appearance being marred, we are told that God has anointed (משחתי) his appearance. And so on. And, in light of Catrin’s paper, it is perhaps of interest that, with the Septuagint but against the MT, 1QIsaa, IQIsab, and 4QIsaa tell us in 53:11 that the Servant will see light (אור). I do not know if anyone has done a comprehensive analysis of potential messianic exegesis in the readings of the Qumran Isaiah scrolls — probably someone has — but if not, this seems worth doing. The examples above underline that Second Temple-era exegesis of scripture involved not only commentary on the text, but the transmission of the text itself, a point important for Catrin’s paper.

Secondly, in one of the last sessions of this conference it is perhaps worthwhile to move the discussion briefly in the direction of late antiquity and ways in which the Christology of John may have influenced Jewish and Christian interactions over messianic theologies. Peter Schäfer has argued that the book of 3 Enoch, with its remarkable quasi-divine figure of Metatron, was a late antique Jewish response to Christian appropriation of Jewish messianic themes, a response that offered another messianic figure who was a divinized man who acted as savior and celestial judge, but who was not pre-existent and whose exaltation was not tied to a humiliating death.* The book of 3 Enoch and its figure of Metatron were clearly influenced on some level by the Parables of Enoch and its Son of Man, so bringing it in here is not entirely irrelevant to Catrin’s inquiries. And as I was reading her paper, a number of interesting connections between her conclusions and 3 Enoch occurred to me.

The figure of Metatron in 3 Enoch, like the Son of Man in the Parables, is a chosen one (6:3), who is lifted up off the earth in great glory from a corrupt generation (chapter 5 and 6:1), after which he is enthroned on his own throne in heaven (10:1-6). Metatron also has parallels with the Christ of the Gospel of John in his exaltation in glory and his divinization as the Lesser YHWH. But this positive picture of Enoch-Metatron is to a large degree rejected in 3 Enoch from the point of his dethronement in chapter 16 onward. From that point he functions almost exclusively as the interpreting angel for R. Ishmael’s tour of heaven.

The Book of 3 Enoch quotes and alludes to the book of Isaiah extensively and it would be worthwhile for someone to explore its exegesis of Isaiah in depth. But a few points are worth raising here. Unlike in the Similitudes, Isaiah 6:2-3 is quoted or alluded to a number of times in 3 Enoch (1:12; 19:7, 20:2, 24:3; 35:6; 40:2) but, unlike the use of the chapter in John, the passage is used essentially to provide details about the heavenly realm. More interestingly, 3 Enoch makes extensive use of the Isaianic passages about the arm of God, incorporating them into its theology of the right hand of God, which (on the basis of an old midrash) remains bound behind his back until the eschaton, when it acts to bring deliverance to Israel. His right hand is mentioned first in 3 Enoch 44:7, combining an allusion to Isaiah 42:5 (the only reference to a Servant Song in the book) with the creation of the heavens and earth by it in Isaiah 48:13. The highest density of references is in the appendix chapter 48A of 3 Enoch, where God’s released right hand becomes the arm of the Lord bringing God’s deliverance according to Isaiah 51:9, 63:12, 59:16, 63:5, and 52:10. The emphasis is on the arm of the Lord as God’s instrument and there is no messianic sense attached to it. Indeed, the passage emphasizes (v. 8) that God is acting to prevent profanation of his name. The passage concludes in 48A:9-10 with the revelation of the arm of the Lord, “and the appearance of its splendor is like the splendor of the light of the sun in its might at the summer solstice.” Israel is then redeemed from among the gentiles, the Messiah comes and brings them up to Jerusalem with great joy and feasts with them. The peoples of the world are either invited or not, depending on which textual variant one accepts. The passage concludes with quotations from Isaiah 52:10; Deuteronomy 32:12, and Zechariah 14:9, asserting that the arm of the Lord and God’s deliverance will be manifest before the nations, no foreign God shall be with him, and the Lord will be king over the whole earth.

At minimum this passage independently collects numerous scriptural themes also used by John. But is it possible that the connection is more direct? This appendix to 3 Enoch makes God’s arm his instrument at the eschaton and associates it with glory and light and the prevention of the profanation of God’s name, while carefully separating it from the Messiah. The Messiah brings Israel to Jerusalem joyously in what could be called a triumphal entry, but one in which the gentiles are at best subservient and at worst not invited at all. This almost reads like a rejection of John chapter 12, in which Jesus leads his followers joyfully into Jerusalem, where he is glorified and glorifies God’s name. He is the light of the world, at least implicitly he acts as the arm of the Lord, and the gentiles at the feast of Passover who ask to see him are not rejected. If more parallels to New Testament passages with this level of detail can be found in 3 Enoch, I may yet find myself persuaded by Schäfer’s theory.

Meanwhile, let me thank Catrin for her stimulating paper, which has advanced our understanding of John’s use of the Greek scriptures to construct his Christology and has helped place his use of Isaiah in the context of Second Temple-era Jewish exegesis. It has also stimulated me to think about some tangentially related matters in new ways and I am grateful for that as well.
*Schäfer, The Origins of Jewish Mysticism (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 315–327, 330; idem, The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 103–149.

Review of Schmitt, Mantik im Alten Testament

2016.06.11 | Rüdiger Schmitt, Mantik im Alten Testament, Alter Orient und Altes Testament 411, Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2014. pp. xi + 212. ISBN: 978-3-86835-100-2.

Review by William L. Kelly, University of Edinburgh

Many thanks to Ugarit-Verlag for generously providing a review copy.

Divination is a topic which has enjoyed a growing amount of attention in contemporary scholarship, especially the relationship between divination and prophecy in the Hebrew Bible. Scholars now recognise that ancient prophecy was not an isolated phenomenon; it existed within a larger complex of religious ideas, symbols and practices related to communication between humans and gods. In Mantik im Alten Testament, Rüdiger Schmitt examines the practitioners, instruments and discourses related to divination in the Hebrew Bible. Schmitt is already a contributor to this area of research, e.g. as with his Habilitationsschrift published as Magie im Alten Testament (AOAT 313, Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2004). These two works are closely related; as he notes in the foreword, Mantik im Alten Testament is like a companion volume to Magie im Alten Testament. Schmitt has tried to avoid redundancies in Mantik im Alten Testament by referring the reader to his 2004 work for fuller discussions of research and method. This aim is understandable, though it does weaken Mantik as a standalone work. Still, interested readers will find a great deal of useful information distilled into this handy volume.


John the Jew (Camaldoli) day 3

JAMES MCGRATH: John the Jew, Kingship, Priesthood, and Divinity: Enoch Seminar Day 3. James's report on yesterday's discussion.

Previous posts on the John the Jew Seminar are here and links.

1 Enoch 82-83

READING ACTS: The Dream Visions – 1 Enoch 82-83. Past posts in the series, plus on related matters, are here and links.

CPF: Helsinki workshop on Jewish texts in their Hellenistic context

The Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence “Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions” aims at a more comprehensive understanding of the emergence and influence of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and other ancient Jewish literature within the multicultural milieu of the ancient eastern Mediterranean region. It provides an interdisciplinary approach to cultural, societal, ideological, and material changes in the period when the sacred writings of Judaism were created, transmitted, and continuously transformed. The researchers of the CSTT examine ancient Jewish texts from the point of view of archaeology, sociology, and history of religion, to mention but some of the most influential methodological frameworks.

Follow the link for further particulars.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

John the Jew (Camaldoli) day 2

JAMES MCGRATH: John the Jew and Torah Observance: Enoch Seminar Day 2. James's report on yesterday's discussion. The Twitter hashtag for this Enoch Seminar is #johnthejew. You can also see the tweets collected at the Enoch Seminar Twitter feed.

Previous posts on the John the Jew Seminar are here and links.

Report on the Shenoute Conference

ALIN SUCIU: Report on the International Conference “Shenoute and the Bible” (Göttingen, May 17-21, 2016).

The conference was noted as upcoming here. Cross-file under Coptic Watch.

Game of Thrones (sort of) re-enacts Battle of Cannae (spoilers!)

PUNIC WATCH: Sunday's huge battle on 'Game of Thrones' was partially inspired by a real Roman fight (Kirsten Acuna, Tech Insider).
Sunday's "Game of Thrones" converged in an enormous battle that fans have been waiting to see all season. Jon Snow and Lady Sansa finally went up against Ramsay Bolton to take back their home, Winterfell.

As the battle waged, things weren't looking good for Jon and his small, but fierce, army as they became encircled by Ramsay's forces.

If you're a history buff, the setup may have felt familiar. That's because it was inspired by a battle from the Second Punic War.

"We went back to the Roman fight against the Carthaginians in the Battle of Cannae where the Romans got caught in a encirclement by Hannibal and just slaughtered," explained "Game of Thrones" showrunner D.B. Weiss in a behind-the-scenes featurette on the episode. "We used that as sort of our model."

Also, at Time Magazine Melissa Chan provides a quotation from Polybius describing the ancient battle: Here’s the Real History That Inspired the Game of Thrones ‘Battle of the Bastards.’ Past posts involving the Battle of Cannae are here, here, here, here, and here.

Geza Vermes's birthday

THIS DAY IN JEWISH HISTORY: 1924: The Priest Who Noticed Jesus Had Been Jewish Is Born. Geza Vermes was born Jewish himself, became a Catholic priest, but came back to Judaism, and Jesus (David B. Green, Haaretz).
June 22, 1924, is the birthdate of Geza Vermes, the Hungarian-born scholar who was among the first to study Jesus as a Jew, and was also one of the first academics to write about the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Vermes himself also had an unusual spiritual journey, which included a spell as a Catholic priest before his return to Judaism.


Vermes was on the faculty of the University of Newcastle from 1958 until 1965, when he was invited to Oxford University, becoming first professor of Jewish studies at Iffley (later, Wolfson) College there. Later, he helped found what is now known as Oxford’s Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He also published the first English translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in 1962 (unfortunately, the first edition had an upside-down image of a scroll page on its cover), revising it several times over the next half-century. His first book about Jesus, “Jesus the Jew,” was published in 1973, and was followed by several other books looking at the Jewish origins of Christianity.

Though today it is common for people to speak about Jesus as a Jew, that wasn’t the case four decades ago, and it is Geza Vermes who deserves much of the credit for this historical correction. By 1993, even the “Shorter Oxford Dictionary” had adopted Vermes’ definition of Jesus as “a Jewish preacher (c 5 BC-c AD 30) regarded by his followers as the Son of God and God incarnate,” in place of the earlier “Founder of Christianity.”

Vermes died on May 8, 2013, at age 89.
Read it all for lots more on Professor Vermes's interesting life. Background here and links.

St. Peter's fish bones found in ancient shipwreck

MARINE ARCHAEOLOGY: Bones of Extinct Fish Found in Shipwreck Off Israel's Coast. Geneticists identify bones in 7th-century vessel as belonging to subspecies of tilapia, aka St. Peter's fish, usually a fresh-water species (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
Genetic tests conducted on fish bones found in a shipwrecked vessel off the coast of Israel, south of Haifa, indicate that a now-extinct subspecies of tilapia existed as early as 1,300 years ago in the country.

The seventh-century ship (from the early Islamic period) was found in the Mediterranean Sea about 100 meters away from Dor Beach, at the foot of the Carmel Mountains.

The species of tilapia that still exists in Israel, and popularly called St. Peter's fish (musht, in Hebrew), typically lives in fresh water.

The name of the fish comes from the story in Matthew 17:12-27 (NRSV):
24 When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax[i] came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?”[j] 25 He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” 26 When Peter[k] said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. 27 However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin;[l] take that and give it to them for you and me.”