Through the Prism of Wisdom
Elijah the Prophet as a Bearer of Wisdom in Rabbinic Literature
Series: Judaism in Context, 23
Gorgias Press | 2020
Pages Arabic: 572
Publisher: Gorgias Press
Audience: College/higher education;
Published: 07 Sep 2020
Elijah the prophet’s role in rabbinic literature is a variegated one that encompasses both his role in the messianic era as well as his non-messianic appearances in rabbinic legends. In this work these different roles are explored through the prism of the wisdom tradition. The three stands of wisdom—the Torah-Centered wisdom tradition, the Apocalyptic-Centered wisdom tradition, and the Spirit-Centered wisdom tradition, as enumerated by Cornelis Bennema—serve as a guide in understanding the complex nature of wisdom and its influence on the Elijah legends. The kaleidoscopic and often disparate Elijah traditions can be viewed as a result of complex developments in the study of wisdom and its evolution in Second Temple literature. The nexus of ideas which include the evolution of Torah as wisdom, the merging of wisdom and apocalyptic, and the role of ‘divine spirit’ in attaining wisdom, link Elijah’s messianic role with his depiction in different rabbinic legends. This study demonstrates that the role of Elijah in the messianic era as a teacher of wisdom is a direct result of the messianic expectations of the Second Temple era in which wisdom elements informed the eschatological expectations of a messianic teacher in the End of Days. Furthermore, Elijah’s messianic role as teacher impacted the development of Elijah in rabbinic legends as a bearer of wisdom, as well as a mediator of divine wisdom in an era grappling with the loss of Temple and prophecy. One of the mediums through which these ideas were carried into the rabbinic period was the pietists, ḥasidim, who resembled the holy men of Late Antiquity. These pietists were connected with the Spirit-Centered wisdom tradition in Second Temple texts as well as rabbinic literature. It will be demonstrated that their role was integral to the development of the Elijah traditions and the dissemination of wisdom and pietistic ideas in rabbinic literature. This work will illustrate that the Elijah traditions in rabbinic literature were an outgrowth of the numerous evolutions in wisdom and apocalyptic thought during the Second Temple era. These developments can explain the variegated nature of the Elijah traditions which reflect his role as a teacher of the Law, a mediator of divine secrets, and a conduit for divine inspiration.
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