Tuesday, December 09, 2003

NOW THAT'S A FAST TURNAROUND! This morning I sent off a paper proposal for the Apocrypha section of the July 2004 International Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Groningen. I got an acknowledgement, sent at 6:58 am EST, telling me I should receive an answer by February 1st. Fair enough. But then I got a message from Matthew Collins, sent at 8:11 am EST, accepting the paper. Is that efficient service or what?

For those of you interested, here's the abstract of the paper. It's a summary of another chapter in the book I'm working on and deals with my usual hobby-horses of late.

Did Christians Write Old Testament Pseudepigrapha that Appear to be Jewish?

In recent years I and others have argued that the proper starting point for the study of Old Testament pseudepigrapha transmitted only by Christians is the earliest surviving manuscripts. We cannot assume that, if such works lack obviously Christian features (or contain only a few), they were written by Jews. It remains possible that they were written by Christians who, for whatever reason, omitted such elements.

This paper presents some lateral but positive evidence that Christians in fact did this. Christians wrote documents in the same genres as the Jewish pseudepigrapha (apocalypses, liturgies, oracles, rewritten scripture). They also attributed anonymous Old Testament pseudepigrapha without explicitly Christian features to named Christian authors, such as Tertullian, so ancient Christians themselves saw nothing implausible in the idea of a Christian writing such a work.

Moreover, in some cases texts (including hymns, sermons, and sections of biblical commentaries) on Old Testament themes by known Christian authors (e.g., John Chrysostom and Ephrem Syrus) contain either no explicitly Christian features or else very few and of a such nature that, had the works been transmitted anonymously as Old Testament pseudepigrapha, some modern scholars would excise these features as secondary and take the works to be Jewish pseudepigrapha. Sometimes these documents even include material (e.g., positive references to the Law or circumcision) which we would normally expect of Jewish authors.

Although these observations do not prove that Christians wrote pseudepigrapha that appear to be Jewish, they show that this possibility is entirely consonant with surviving evidence, and they reinforce the principle that for Old Testament pseudepigrapha transmitted by Christians the burden of proof is on anyone who asserts that the works are Jewish compositions. This is an important methodological filter for preventing extraneous sources from contaminating our understanding of ancient Judaism.

By the way, for some reason access to Blogger has been up and down all day. Sorry if any of you have had trouble accessing this site. The problem is outside my control.

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