Acts of God in History: Studies Towards Recovering a Theological Historiography: 317 [Illustrated] 3161521811, 9783161521812

The eleven studies in this volume are connected by the conviction that God acts in history and that it remains necessary

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Acts of God in History: Studies Towards Recovering a Theological Historiography: 317 [Illustrated]
 3161521811, 9783161521812

Table of contents :
Abbreviations and Formal Guidelines
God’s Role in History as a Methodological Problem for Exegesis
1. Towards a Historical-Critical Assessment of the Conviction that God Acts in History
2. Neutrality as the Price for Acceptability
3. Challenging the Dichotomy of Faith and History
4. Positing God in History: Troeltsch, Hengel, and Ratzinger
4.1 Ernst Troeltsch (1865–1923)
4.2 Martin Hengel (1926–2009)
4.3 Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
5. Probings Towards a Theological Historiography
Part One: Historical Studies
The Social Profile of the Pharisees
0. Introduction
1. Seeking Power and Influence
2. The Organizational Quest
3. Conclusion
Jesus the Galilean: Questioning the Function of Galilee in Recent Jesus Research
0. Introduction
1. Galilee Research as Basis for the Quest of the Historical Jesus
2. Jesus and the “Biblical Epic of Israel”
3. Archaeology and the Jewish Galilee
4. The Limits of Knowledge about Galilee
5. The Judean Element in the Jesus Tradition
6. Summary
Jesus and the Jewish Traditions of His Time
1. The Importance of Jesus’ Jewishness
2. Approaching a Crossroads Again (Schweitzer and Kähler)
3. Scripture as the Touchstone of Tradition
4. The Biblical Jesus as a Historical Task
The Apostolic Decree: Halakhah for Gentile Christians or Concession to Jewish Taboos?
0. Introduction
1. The Narrative Context of the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:19–29; 16:4; 21:25)
1.1 Cleansing by Faith (15:9)
1.2 The Position of James: Halakhah based on Moses or Spirit-authorized Rules of Conduct?
2. Halakhic or Ethnic: What is the Primary Orientation of the Apostolic Decree
2.1 The Preservation of the Jewish Ethnos through the Jewish Ethos in the Diaspora
2.2 The Jewish Ethos in Luke–Acts
2.3 ἔθος (and ἦθος) in 4 Maccabees
2.4 The Jewish ἔθνος as Point of Reference of the Apostolic Decree
3. The Four Regulations of the Decree as Indicators of Jewish Identity in the Diaspora
3.1 The Differing Versions of the Apostolic Decree
3.2 Idol Worship and Eating of Meat Sacrificed to Idols
3.3 Porneia
3.4 That Which is Strangled
3.5 Blood
3.6 Summary
Part Two: Responses to the God who Acts
How Long? God’s Revealed Schedule for Salvation and the Outbreak of the Bar Kokhba Revolt
0. Introduction
1. How Long? The Cry for God’s Help in the Psalter
The Wild Boar of Ps 80 and the Tenth Roman Legion
2. The Plea for God’s Limitation of the Time of Punishment in Jeremiah and Zechariah
3. The Search for God’s Schedule for Prospective Salvation in Daniel
4. The “Seventy Years” in the Literature after the Destruction of the Second Temple
5. The Hopes for a New Cyrus?
Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance, Conversion, and Turning to God
0. Introduction
The Conversion of Achior, the Ammonite
The Conversion of Prince Izates of Adiabene
1. Conversion Stories Without Sin or Repentance
2. Conversion Stories Including Sin and Repentance
3. Conversion and the Work of God
The Term and Concept of Scripture
0. Introduction
1. From Holy Scripture(s) to “Holie Bible”
1.1 The First Printed Bible
1.2 The New Tripartite Bibles
1.3 The Changeable Fortune of Bible Printing in England
1.4 Scripture and Doctrine
2. From Holy Scripture to the Word of God
3. From God’s Word to Holy Scripture
3.1 “It is written” in the New Testament
3.2 “It is said” in the New Testament
3.3 Written Revelation in Jewish Writings
3.3.1 The Septuagint (LXX)
3.3.2 Philo and Josephus
3.3.3 Scripture as Deposit of Revelation
4. From the Prophet to the Community: The Social Dimension of Scripture(s)
5. Conclusion
Part Three: Methodological Probings
The Recognition of God’s Acts in History in the Gospel of Matthew: An Exercise in Salvation History
0. Introduction
1. Salvation History as a Meaning-enabling Concept of Time
2. The Contribution of Matthew’s Gospel to the Recognition of God’s Acts in History
2.1 The Demand to Understand the Signs of the Times
2.2 The Possibility of Recognizing the Signs of the Times
2.3 Obedience as a Mode of Understanding
3. How to Employ History for the Purpose of Faith and Salvation
Can the ‘Real’ Jesus be Identified with the Historical Jesus? Joseph Ratzinger’s (Pope Benedict XVI) Challenge to Biblical Scholarship
Bibliographical Note
0. Introduction: Geza Vermes on Ratzinger’s Jesus
1. The Liberation of Jesus Research from “Self Limitations of Rational Positivism”
2. The Inseparability of Faith from History in the Work of Ratzinger
3. The Historical Jesus is God Acting in History
4. Yes; No; Yes, But… — Reactions to Ratzinger’s Jesus Book(s)
4.1 Supportive Readers (“Yes”)
4.2 Disapproving Readers (“No”)
4.3 Disenchanted Readers
4.4 Qualifying Readers (“Yes, but…”)
4.4.1 Christological Beliefs as Later Projections
4.4.2 Christological Beliefs Preserved from Historical Enquiry
5. Is it really that simple? The Objection of Oversimplification
6. Some First Steps to Take
Pre-existence, Incarnation, and Messianic Self-Understanding of Jesus in the Work of Martin Hengel
0. Introduction
1. Historical Research in the Service of Theological Truth
2. Jesus the Messiah
3. From ‘Charismatic Leader’ to the ‘Son of God’
4. From Son of God to Pre-existence, Incarnation, and Mediation in Creation
5. Incarnation and the Historical Jesus
List of Initial Publications
Index of Passages
I. Old Testament
II. Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
III. Philo
IV. Josephus
V. Qumran
VI. New Testament
VII. Early Christian Writings
VIII. Jewish Writings
IX. Greek and Roman Authors
Index of Modern Authors
Index of Subjects
Index of Greek Words

Citation preview

Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament Herausgeber / Editor Jörg Frey (Zürich) Mitherausgeber / Associate Editors Markus Bockmuehl (Oxford) James A. Kelhoffer (Uppsala) Hans-Josef Klauck (Chicago, IL) Tobias Nicklas (Regensburg)


Roland Deines

Acts of God in History Studies Towards Recovering a Theological Historiography

Edited by

Christoph Ochs and Peter Watts

Mohr Siebeck

Roland Deines, born 1961; studied Theology and Judaism in Basel, Tübingen and Jerusalem; 1997 PhD; 2004 Habilitation; 2001–06 Research Assistant for the Corpus JudaeoHellenisticum Novi Testamenti in Jena and Adjunct Professor at the Ben Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, Israel; since 2006 at the University of Nottingham; currently Professor for New Testament Studies. Christoph Ochs, born 1977; PhD in Theology at the University of Nottingham, currently work­ing as a Research Assistant in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Nottingham. Peter Watts, born 1981; PhD candidate and Teaching Associate in Biblical Studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Nottingham.

e-ISBN PDF 978-3-16-152858-3 ISBN 978-3-16-152181-2 ISSN 0512-1604 (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament) Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliographie; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at © 2013  by Mohr Siebeck Tübingen, Germany. This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form (beyond that permitted by copyright law) without the publisher’s written permission. This applies particularly to reproductions, translations, microfilms and storage and processing in electronic ­systems. The book was printed by Gulde-Druck in Tübingen on non-aging paper and bound by Buch­ binderei Spinner in Ottersweier. Printed in Germany.

Heinz-Horst Deichmann benefactor — mentor — friend

. . . one of the great old men who truly inspire

Preface It was during the yearly conference of the Society of Biblical Literature in November 2011, that I was pleasantly surprised with the offer to publish a selection of my essays in WUNT. Slightly hesitant at the beginning, mainly because I felt that my essays strayed in too many directions and lacked a coherent theme, I gradually warmed to the idea. I felt honoured by the trust of the series editors, in particular Professor Jörg Frey, and the encouragement of Dr. Henning Ziebritzki from the side of the publisher. Others signalled their support as well, most notably my doctoral student (and now “doctor”) Christoph Ochs, who was willing to undertake the tedious task of translating the German papers for this collection into English. His enthusiasm for the project continued until the very end, and I owe him not just the initial translations, but also most of the formatting, improving (especially the pictures for the article on Bar Kokhba) and indexing of the volume. Next to him Peter Watts, doctoral student (who will hopefully be fully a “doctor” when this book is out of the press) and biblical languages teacher in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies here in Nottingham, invested with good humour and never-ending gentleness countless hours to polish, clarify and check what I attempted to say. If the English style does still betray some (many?) Germanisms, the blame is not to be laid on the two editors, but on my stubbornness not to let go of some formulations which sound fine (even ‘academic’ or ‘wissenschaftlich’) in German, but not necessarily so in English. It can be said without exaggeration that without their help (and steering pressure) this project could not have been completed in such a short time and in such a satisfying way. I also owe thanks to Lawrence Osborn, the linguistic editor, and Mark Wreford, one of our Nottingham students, for their help in the process of proof-reading and indexing. I am very glad that the support I received gives me the opportunity to publish some of my German papers in English so that at least my students can benefit from them. Besides, editing translations of my own writings in another language was an interesting experience. It taught me the benefit of having with English a lingua franca in contemporary scholarship that allows us to communicate easily with each other across language barriers. But it also revealed the fact that some things can be better expressed either in one language or the other. What makes perfect sense in German can sound rather clumsy in English and vice versa. This is to say that scholarship in general



and theology in particular should resist the temptation to publish in one language only, as this would mean a real loss for the breadth and depth of our discipline. The newly translated texts follow the German originals carefully but not slavishly. I took the liberty to clarify some of the points where I felt it necessary. For the sake of a wider readership we also added English translations for quotes in Greek and Hebrew, which was not always the case in the original publications. Translations of works originally cited in German were used throughout where available. Where English translations were unavailable we translated from the German original, which was not easy at times (and in some cases we therefore supplied the German). Whenever works are cited by their German titles only the translations are our own. The papers that appeared initially in English were also edited linguistically. Again, the main attempt was to improve their readability. The footnotes and bibliographical data were harmonised as far as possible throughout the book without being too anxious about some inconsistencies that may have remained. Most papers were written for research conferences with a clearly defined focus and intended to address colleagues who work in the same field. I hope that this collection and the additional editorial work will be to the benefit of a wider audience. Inevitably, there exists some overlap and repetition, but this would only affect the reader who reads the book from cover to cover. Each essay can be read (and copied) independently and all bibliographical references can be found within the individual essays themselves rather than being consolidated into one single bibliography at the end. This would have saved us perhaps two or three pages but the inconvenience for the reader would be much greater, and the publishing house of Mohr Siebeck is to be praised that they do not bargain with their authors about a few pages more or less. When I occasionally hear from my colleagues that they have to cut their bibliographies or delete source quotations because they went over the agreed word count or number of pages I am always deeply thankful for Mohr Siebeck’s generosity and dedication to the wishes and needs of their authors. Re-publication, especially when combined with translation, is tempting insofar as it offers the chance for major additions and changes. A tight time frame (not least because of the impending “Research Excellence Framework,” abbreviated REF, which assesses the quality of research in UK higher education institutions on a regular basis) and, more importantly, the conviction that the Humanities are ‘slow’ disciplines,1 reined back any such temptations to a minimum. 1

This means that a proposal or thesis needs time to be disseminated and to make an impact. The availability of texts in electronic form makes them seem easily and quickly available but this is an advantage that does not really matter in the long run. What matters, however, is whether one finds readers willing to engage critically and supportively and this



The articles are redacted in the following ways: New literature is added only to a very small degree and somewhat randomly. I usually try to integrate in my papers a representative and fairly wide amount of the literature available and relevant to me at the time of writing, and to interact with it as much as possible. As our discipline produces ever more literature it is impossible to keep up with every topic covered in this volume, let alone to engage all the relevant studies thoroughly in a re-publication. I have, however, added references to some of my later publications if I have re-addressed one of the topics, which then often includes discussions of further literature. The at times (admittedly) extensive footnotes are indicative of my way of engaging with colleagues and my desire to take them seriously. Just to list literature without pointing out to the reader where I agree or disagree with other perspectives and how I tried to develop my own understanding with the help of colleagues does not work well for me. I admire the often almost footnote-free monographs of my British colleagues who are able to present their arguments with great elegance, almost leaving no traces of the hard work that was put into writing them. Having learned my craft from Martin Hengel, I have developed a rather different style, one which (hopefully) shows the material out of which the structure is built. The footnotes serve as an archive for those who want to know about the ‘archaeology’ of an argument, but the hope is that everything above the line separating text and footnotes can be read and understood without the latter. Most of these essays have been written since my appointment in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies in Nottingham (2006), and their editing and reworking for their initial (and now re-) publication took place here in all cases. The strong theological orientation of the Department and its refreshing approach to reality and truth made it possible to further develop thoughts that are normally not at the forefront of historically oriented biblical scholarship but are unavoidable if the historical enquiry is confronted with the question of God, who is, after all the key subject matter of theology and the Bible. This environment, therefore, allowed ideas to resurface which I had written down for the first time as a student in my twenties but somehow became buried during the following years when I started my academic career, following the established (and subtly but inescapably enforced) conventions to discern strictly between the scholarly task as a historian and convictions accepted as true as a Christian. The latter were to be located somewhere in a religious hinterland not to be visited during the scholarly expeditions into the past. What blurs such a convenient separation, however, is that which finally can easily take ten years or so, sometimes even longer. Therefore it is not necessary to update a paper constantly in the light of new literature, because new literature in our fields of research does not usually provide new data (as in the sciences) but rather competing readings of the same sources.



became the title of this collection: God acts in history.2 This is the conviction, based on historical experiences, of those people to whom we owe the biblical and related texts. And it is the conviction (and experience) of those who are Christians (and also those of other faiths) today. The ideal of a strict separation, therefore, between professional, distanced scholarly enquiry of past experiences of the God who acts, and the theologically accepted and daily expressed conviction of him continuing acting as creator, sustainer and perfecter of this world and its history, has lost its persuasiveness. All essays in this volume touch upon the question of God acting in this world and the possibility of experiencing him, in some way. This is, however, not the result of a programmatic outline with which I started in order to prove my case, but rather a common thread that became visible (even to me) only from hindsight. This explains what some might regard as a serious omission, namely a closer engagement with the — fortunately very lively — current debate on the concepts of history and historiography within Biblical Studies, which I follow to a greater degree than is visible via the bibliographies of these essays.3 Some closer engagement can be found in the essay on salvation 2 It was only after I had decided on this fairly presumptuous title that I came across G. Ernest Wright’s small book with the title: God Who Acts: Biblical Theology as Recital (Studies in Biblical Theology 8; London: SCM, 1950). It was written at the peak of dialectical theology, with its emphasis on “the Word of God,” whereas Wright notes — correctly to my mind — that “a more accurate title [for the Bible] would be ‘the Acts of God.’ The Word is certainly present in the Scripture, but it is rarely, if ever, dissociated from the Act; instead it is the accompaniment of the Act” (12). I also saw only recently, glancing over the first two volumes — fresh from the press — of James Barr, Bible and Interpretation: The Collected Essays of James Barr (ed. John Barton; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), that he took up Wright’s phrase and the implied question after “the reality of God’s work in history” (ibid., 2.34), with which he wrestled critically — as it seems — throughout his life. 3 A brilliant summary of this discussion can be found in Ruben Zimmermann, “Geschichtstheorien und Neues Testament: Gedächtnis, Diskurs, Kultur und Narration in der historiographischen Diskussion,” Early Christianity 2 (2011): 417–44, which demonstrates the strength and limitations of these new theories which are all more or less critical of the idea of a factual history behind the historical stories. Disconcerting however is the language Zimmermann uses when he laments that the idea of a history (and related to it of ‘facts’ and not narratives only) is “unausrottbar” (“ineradicable” [432]). I was not aware that it is the task of historians (or exegetes) to eradicate certain convictions, especially those held by most before the ‘linguistic turn.’ But I fully agree with Zimmermann that we need to discuss our historiographical conceptions and specify our methodologies for what is indeed a common task, namely to enable meaning (“Sinnstiftung”) by fostering “confidence in God’s salvific history with the world as it found its narrative condensation in the master narrative of Israel’s and Jesus of Nazareth’ history (“Der Verzicht auf Sinnstiftung oder gar die bewusste Destruktion des Sinns entzieht dem Neutestamentler die Berechtigung seines Tuns. Das Vertrauen in Gottes Heilsgeschichte mit der Welt, wie sie sich in den Meistererzählungen der Geschichte Israels und Jesu von Nazareth narrativ niedergeschlagen hat, muss für Theologen ein notwendiges Postulat historiographischen Arbeitens am Neuen Testament bleiben” [444]).



history, but I am aware that more could be done on this side. What seems missing in this discussion within Biblical Studies, however, or at least what I miss in it — which might be due to my own fault by not searching in the right direction — is an engagement with the role of “transempirical realities” (a term I owe to my Nottingham colleague Anthony C. Thiselton) within the historical process.4 To simply ignore them for the sake of methodological purity (begging the question of who or what defines what is ‘pure’) is in my eyes neither attractive nor upright for a Christian theologian. The hope for these selected studies is therefore to contribute towards the task of recovering a theologically motivated historiography, and to seek a viable reading of history under the assumption that the one God to whom the Holy Scriptures of the Jewish-Christian tradition bear witness is indeed a major cause — indeed ‘the’ cause — in our world, disposed to manifest himself so that he can be experienced and witnessed in such a way that this witness allows others to experience the same God. The introduction of this collection, “God’s Role in History as a Methodological Problem for Exegesis,” is based on my Tyndale New Testament Lecture, which I had the honour of delivering during the Triennial Conference in July 2009. It addressed these questions about God, history, and how to scholarly engage this topic by means of a public lecture delivered to a wider theological audience comprising not only biblical scholars but representatives of other theological disciplines as well. Those familiar with the British theological scene will know that the Tyndale Fellowship, which organises these lectures, represents a high view of Scripture and orthodox Christian doctrine.5 It is the only part in this book where the original context is deliberately left to shine through, so as to allow the reader to understand my main theological objectives more explicitly, which could be formulated in an affirmative and less guarded way in this context. Although all the other essays originated as conference papers too, they were heavily reworked for publication, and 4

For a very interesting debate in this respect see Brad S. Gregory, “The Other Confessional History: On Secular Bias in the Study of Religion,” History and Theory 45 (2006): 132–49; Tor Egil Førland, “Acts of God? Miracles and Scientific Explanation,” History and Theory 47 (2008): 483–94; Brad S. Gregory, “No Room for God? History, Science, Metaphysics, and the Study of Religion,” ibid., 495–519; Tor Egil Førland, “Historiography without God: A Reply to Gregory,” ibid., 520–32. From the perspective of Catholic systematic theology a challenging thesis was made by Klaus von Stosch, Gott – Macht – Geschichte: Versuch einer theodizeesensiblen Rede vom Handeln Gottes in der Welt (Freiburg: Herder, 2006). For a Protestant systematic-theological reading of Jesus as God’s revelation, which deals profoundly with New Testament research see Michael Welker, Gottes Offenbarung: Christologie (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2012). 5 Cf. Thomas A. Noble, Tyndale House and Fellowship: Research for the Academy and the Church — The First Sixty Years (Leicester: IVP, 2006).



therefore betray fewer traces of their original ‘Sitz im Leben’. The Tyndale Lecture also demonstrates that I am not postulating a method for others to follow but that I am trying to formulate what I think needs to be explored and discussed more fully in the future. It is therefore the least ‘finished’ contribution of this volume but correspondingly the most inviting one. The first group of essays, classified as “Historical Studies,” functions as a preparation for the following. With the exception of “Jesus and the Jewish Traditions of His Time” these were written before I allowed myself to get involved in the search for a theologically grounded historiography (which was set in motion, if I look back, by the first volume of Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, in 2007). They show from different areas of the biblical-Jewish tradition what the historical method is able to achieve when it seriously factors in religious convictions as of decisive relevance. These studies all have in common that they deal with groups and individuals who considered God’s acts in history, from creation to their own present, as something meaningful and of significance, and thus responded in that they altered their own behaviour accordingly. “The Social Profile of the Pharisees,” as is argued in the first essay, cannot be understood adequately if their efforts for influence are primarily seen as grasping for social prestige and their religious convictions are only taken as a means to this end. Instead, the attempt is made here to see their social involvement as an overflow of their understanding of God’s will for his people. The subsequent study on the role of Galilee in recent Jesus research, entitled “Jesus the Galilean,” demonstrates (albeit unintentionally) how secular ideology has taken the place of religious convictions and retrospectively seeks to read its own ideals into the biblical texts. The essay on “Jesus and the Jewish Traditions of His Time” then seeks to show to what extent the figure of Jesus of Nazareth is really an exception historically. In the light of the fact that Jesus research of the last 30 years has been able to draw on Jewish comparative material to hitherto unprecedented levels of detail, such a conclusion is warranted. In fact, the contemporary search for the historical Jesus has reached the point where it has to concede that the mere comparison of Jesus to various historical parallels is not able to account for the mystery of his existence and his historical impact. Finally, the study on “the Apostolic Decree” identifies its guiding principle as behaviour in conformity to an intrinsic order of creation, that Jews could also expect non-Jews to respect. Creation, God’s foundational life-giving act, is as such the central point of reference for the ordering of the new, God-given, community of Jews and non-Jews in the name of Jesus. The second set of studies, “Responses to the God who Acts,” show how the experience of God’s acts in history engenders historical effects, which



themselves then initiate the formation of religious tradition and in doing so enable new experiences with God that subsequently affect history. The first essay in this group, “How Long? God’s Revealed Schedule for Salvation and the Outbreak of the Bar Kokhba Revolt,” is on the causes that gave rise to the Bar Kokhba revolt in the year 132 AD. This concrete example demonstrates how the situational reading of Holy Scriptures became a determinative factor in the historical processes after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. The guiding principle is, again, the conviction that in order to understand these events one must factor in that Jewish readers of Scripture at that time tried to understand their own present in the light of biblical texts, ‘overscribing’ their own experiences and relation with God with those of the past. The question in the title “How Long?” formulates a reasonable biblically generated attitude in that regard, that the Temple would not remain in ruin and that the judgement of the people would not remain forever. The psalmists’s question echoed, as such, once again over the ruins of Jerusalem, and the answers derived from the Holy Scriptures determined the expectations and the interpretation of the historical events at the time of Hadrian. Since God had acted on behalf of his people in the past, an analogous act was also to be expected for the immediate future. But the hope that God would step in also implied by necessity that the faithful would not have to wait passively, but, on the contrary, it was able to motivate them to the highest levels of activity. One can, therefore, observe in the historical process an attitude, which also provides a better understanding of religiously motivated zeal in contemporary society.6 The second study, “Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance, Conversion, and Turning to God,” which is the only one that was not written for professional exegetes or historians of religion, shows that conversion, as presented in the biblical tradition, can be defined as a reaction on part of humans to an action of God. The affected persons have experienced this action as so striking that they do not wish to remain as they were and as if this encounter with God had never taken place, but instead to enter into a new loyalty relationship with this God. The frequently felt difficulty to arrive at a positive understanding of the process of conversion — and this is one of the theses of this paper — is intrinsically related to the banishment of God from the public discourse into the ether of the ‘world of faith.’ In other words, God is not understood as active in the present and as such relegated to a reality that is ultimately not relevant to the ‘real world.’ The last study in this middle group, “The Term and Concept of Scripture,” deals with the issue of how 6 On this see also Roland Deines, “Gab es eine jüdische Freiheitsbewegung? Martin Hengels ‘Zeloten’ nach 50 Jahren,” in Die Zeloten. Untersuchungen zur jüdischen Freiheitsbewegung in der Zeit von Herodes I. bis 70 n. Chr. (Martin Hengel; ed. Roland Deines and Claus-Jürgen Thornton; WUNT 283; 3rd rev. ed.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 403–48, esp. 439ff.



biblical texts became Scripture, and shows how the development of what in the end became the canonical “Holy Scriptures” cannot be comprehended without any regard for the experiences of God’s acting and speaking in and through these texts. The fact that such texts in their pre-canonical state were handed on from generation to generation is intrinsically linked to their ability to mediate a fresh encounter with God that is detached from the original historical situation. The final group, “Methodological Probings,” comprises three studies that attempt to break through the methodological limitations that historical exegesis has imposed on itself. That this is more of an ‘attempt’ and a tentative ‘probing’ is due to the fact that one has to rescover here a dimension that for the last 300 years has been pushed to the back of the exegetical agenda, although the Christian faith would never have come into existence without the firm belief in a God who acts in a discernable and comprehensible way. These probings, however, are not to be read as a backward longing for a premodern dogmatic exegesis, as if the future is to be found in the past. Rather, it is an attempt to step forward without wanting to negate the insights of the Enlightenment as a period of learning and better understanding of the conditioning of what we can know. This led to a necessary disenchantment of the historicity and factuality of Christian dogma that was too naively taken for granted, and with it allowed the historical quest as a theologically necessary one to resurface. That the God of the biblical prophets and of Jesus is different from that of the philosophers is not the smallest contribution we owe this period. Yet one should refuse to see the Enlightenment as the final word for all times. The first study, “The Recognition of God’s Acts in History,” deals with the controversial topic of salvation history, by which the history of God’s special acts within the course of human history is meant. Salvation history is defended as a life-enhancing conception of time, which ought to be seen as the specific contribution of theology that is able to advance the contemporary discourses about time and history. The Gospel of Matthew provides a case study, and demonstrates how Matthew presents Jesus’ life and teaching as divine revelation; one that is possible to be recognized, and which therefore demands a response. The two final essays pick up on important insights of Pope Benedict and my teacher Martin Hengel respectively. The attempt is made to bring these to bear on a future exegesis that not only suffices itself with tracing human thinking about God’s acts, but to explore the reality of divine acts as a factor in historical processes. In “Can the ‘Real’ Jesus be Identified with the Historical Jesus?” I discuss Joseph Ratzinger’s three Jesus books, and the challenge of biblical scholarship they represent. Benedict’s conviction that God acts in this world in a discernible and thus describable way has to be reciprocated by



a historical methodology that allows God to be recognized as such. This means for Ratzinger that — at the least for Christian theologians and exegetes — the historical Jesus ought to be understood as God acting in history. This, however, involves a paradigm shift in the current methodological approach, and I conclude with a discussion of the need for this shift and some suggestions for how a new critical methodology might be found. In fact, this book is a humble attempt towards such a new way of doing historical-critical research “as if God is a given” (veluti si Deus daretur).7 Finally, in “Preexistence, Incarnation, and Messianic Self-Understanding of Jesus,” I analyse Martin Hengel’s important contribution to Christology, namely how Jesus’ self-understanding provides a link between the historical Jesus and the preexistent, incarnate Son of God. For Hengel, the development of a very early high Christology, traceable by the means and methods of historical research, points to Jesus messianic self-awareness and authority who saw himself as acting in the place of God, a testimony accepted and purposely perpetuated by his followers. This, to Hengel, is a unique historical phenomenon. These essays, then, ought to be understood as a contribution to striving towards a theologically motivated historiography that has as its basic task the exploration and description of the reality of this world and her history under the premise that God, as witnessed in the Holy Scriptures of the JudeoChristian tradition, is really creator, sustainer, and the fulfilment of this world and its history, or, to say it again with the words of my Nottingham colleague: Christian doctrine relates closely to memory of God’s saving acts in history; attention to God’s present action in continuity with those saving acts; and trustful expectation of an eschatological fulfillment of divine promises.8

All essays in this collection were written at a time when I had the privilege to encounter — in very different ways — three great ‘old’ men, each of whom have a lasting impact on my work. First of all Professor Martin Hengel, whose influence on my theological development started in 1985 and lasts beyond his death in 2009. My gratitude to his inspiring influence and neverceasing interest in my — and all his other students’ — work is expressed in two of the articles in the third part which were occasioned by conferences in his honour. He passed away while I was working on the Tyndale lecture that forms the introduction to this volume. This was less than a year after I had the privilege to accompany him and his wife, together with Professor Peter Stuhlmacher, to the “Schülerkreistreffen” of Pope Benedict in Castelgandolfo, where he and Prof. Stuhlmacher held lectures in the presence of the


On this phrase see below p. 358. Anthony C. Thiselton, The Hermeneutics of Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 65. 8



Pope to discuss with him and his students the quest for the historical Jesus.9 My interest in the work (and person) of Joseph Ratzinger is fairly recent and started only shortly before this meeting as a result of the publication of the first volume of his Jesus of Nazareth (2007). It was during preparation for a Nottingham conference held in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies in June 2008 that I read from and about him for the first time, but this resulted in a deep reverence for his contribution to the Church, and to New Testament and Jesus scholarship in particular, although I am aware that not many share my appreciation of what I call in my essay “a friendly but intentional intrusion into exegetical territory.” To meet him in the same year in person and to see him listen attentively and engage with my own teachers from Tübingen added to my admiration for him as a scholar and as a Christian. This is why I regard him as one of the great old men who enriches my life, even if only from a distance. In yet another way I came to meet Dr. Heinz-Horst Deichmann, who is the rare but truly inspiring combination of a medical doctor by training, successful businessman, devoted Christian and lifelong student of Karl Barth, in whose vision and generosity originated the “Deichmann Program for Jewish and Christian Literature of the HellenisticRoman Era” at The Department of Bible, Archaeology, and Ancient Near East Studies of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Beer-Sheva, Israel). It was launched in 2003 and I had the honour to be involved in it from the beginning. Its most visible activity is the Deichmann Annual Lecture Series, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this year.10 These ten years have involved many meetings, visits, and talks, and the dedication of this volume to Dr. Heinz-Horst Deichmann is a token of gratitude for his support of Jewish and Biblical Studies (among the many other necessary things for human welfare that he very generously supports), but even more so for his friendship.

Nottingham, September 2013


Roland Deines

The meeting is documented in: Gespräch über Jesus: Papst Benedikt XVI. im Dialog mit Martin Hengel, Peter Stuhlmacher und seinen Schülern in Castelgandolfo 2008 (ed. Peter Kuhn; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), and for my slightly personal review of it see Roland Deines, Jahrbuch für Evangelikale Theologie 25 (2011): 244–8. 10 For his motivation see his own reflections: Heinz-Horst Deichmann, “Opening Remarks to the First Deichmann Annual Lecture Series,” Appendix 1 in Larry Hurtado, How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 207–14 (the first four chapters of this book were delivered as the first Deichmann Lectures). For his life story see Andreas Malessa and Hanna Schott, Why Are You Rich, Mr. Deichmann? The Deichmann Story: How to Deal with Money and Responsibility (Wuppertal: R. Brockhaus, 2006).

Contents Preface ........................................................................................................... VII Abbreviations ............................................................................................ XXIII

God’s Role in History as a Methodological Problem for Exegesis ...............................................................................


1. Towards a Historical-Critical Assessment of the Conviction that God Acts in History ........................................................................... 2. Neutrality as the Price for Acceptability .................................................. 3. Challenging the Dichotomy of Faith and History .................................... 4. Positing God in History: Troeltsch, Hengel, and Ratzinger ..................... 4.1 Ernst Troeltsch (1865–1923) .................................................................. 4.2 Martin Hengel (1926–2009) ................................................................... 4.3 Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI ..................................................... 5. Probings Towards a Theological Historiography .....................................

1 3 6 9 10 14 17 20

Part One: Historical Studies The Social Profile of the Pharisees ...................................................... 29 0. 1. 2. 3.

Introduction .............................................................................................. Seeking Power and Influence ................................................................... The Organizational Quest ......................................................................... Conclusion ................................................................................................

29 33 45 51

Jesus the Galilean: Questioning the Function of Galilee in Recent Jesus Research ......................................................................... 53 0. Introduction ............................................................................................... 53 1. Galilee Research as Basis for the Quest of the Historical Jesus................ 60 2. Jesus and the “Biblical Epic of Israel” ...................................................... 70

XVIII 3. 4. 5. 6.


Archaeology and the Jewish Galilee ........................................................ The Limits of Knowledge about Galilee .................................................. The Judean Element in the Jesus Tradition .............................................. Summary ...................................................................................................

75 80 87 92

Jesus and the Jewish Traditions of His Time.................................... 95 1. 2. 3. 4.

The Importance of Jesus’ Jewishness ..................................................... Approaching a Crossroads Again (Schweitzer and Kähler) .................... Scripture as the Touchstone of Tradition ................................................ The Biblical Jesus as a Historical Task ...................................................

95 102 111 118

The Apostolic Decree: Halakhah for Gentile Christians or Concession to Jewish Taboos? ............................................................. 121 0. Introduction ............................................................................................. 1. The Narrative Context of the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:19–29; 16:4; 21:25)................................................................... 1.1 Cleansing by Faith (15:9) ................................................................. 1.2 The Position of James: Halakhah based on Moses or Spirit-authorized Rules of Conduct? ........................................... 2. Halakhic or Ethnic: What is the Primary Orientation of the Apostolic Decree ........................................................................... 2.1 The Preservation of the Jewish Ethnos through the Jewish Ethos in the Diaspora ...................................................... 2.2 The Jewish Ethos in Luke–Acts ....................................................... 2.3 ἔθος (and ἦθος) in 4 Maccabees ..................................................... 2.4 The Jewish ἔθνος as Point of Reference of the Apostolic Decree .................................................................... 3. The Four Regulations of the Decree as Indicators of Jewish Identity in the Diaspora ...................................... 3.1 The Differing Versions of the Apostolic Decree .............................. 3.2 Idol Worship and Eating of Meat Sacrificed to Idols ....................... 3.3 Porneia ............................................................................................. 3.4 That Which is Strangled ................................................................... 3.5 Blood ................................................................................................ 3.6 Summary ........................................................................................... Appendix ......................................................................................................

121 125 126 134 148 159 163 165 169 172 172 175 177 179 185 186 187



Part Two: Responses to the God who Acts How Long? God’s Revealed Schedule for Salvation and the Outbreak of the Bar Kokhba Revolt .................................................... 191 0. Introduction .............................................................................................. 191 1. How Long? The Cry for God’s Help in the Psalter .................................. 195 The Wild Boar of Ps 80 and the Tenth Roman Legion ............................. 197 2. The Plea for God’s Limitation of the Time of Punishment in Jeremiah and Zechariah ........................................................................ 206 3. The Search for God’s Schedule for Prospective Salvation in Daniel................................................................ 207 4. The “Seventy Years” in the Literature after the Destruction of the Second Temple ............................................. 209 5. The Hopes for a New Cyrus? ................................................................... 213

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance, Conversion, and Turning to God .................................................................................. 227 0. Introduction .............................................................................................. 227 The Conversion of Achior, the Ammonite................................................. 231 The Conversion of Prince Izates of Adiabene .......................................... 232 1. Conversion Stories Without Sin or Repentance ....................................... 233 2. Conversion Stories Including Sin and Repentance .................................. 247 3. Conversion and the Work of God ............................................................. 258 Appendix ....................................................................................................... 261

The Term and Concept of Scripture..................................................... 263 0. Introduction .............................................................................................. 263 1. From Holy Scripture(s) to “Holie Bible” ................................................. 264 1.1 The First Printed Bible ...................................................................... 266 1.2 The New Tripartite Bibles ................................................................. 267 1.3 The Changeable Fortune of Bible Printing in England ..................... 271 1.4 Scripture and Doctrine ....................................................................... 276 2. From Holy Scripture to the Word of God ................................................ 280 3. From God’s Word to Holy Scripture ........................................................ 285 3.1 “It is written” in the New Testament ................................................. 286 3.2 “It is said” in the New Testament ...................................................... 290 3.3 Written Revelation in Jewish Writings.............................................. 291



3.3.1 The Septuagint (LXX) ............................................................. 3.3.2 Philo and Josephus................................................................... 3.3.3 Scripture as Deposit of Revelation .......................................... 4. From the Prophet to the Community: The Social Dimension of Scripture(s) ..................................................... 5. Conclusion ...............................................................................................

292 294 297 300 304

Part Three: Methodological Probings The Recognition of God’s Acts in History in the Gospel of Matthew: An Exercise in Salvation History ..................................... 311 0. Introduction ............................................................................................. 1. Salvation History as a Meaning-enabling Concept of Time.................... 2. The Contribution of Matthew’s Gospel to the Recognition of God’s Acts in History ..................................................... 2.1 The Demand to Understand the Signs of the Times ......................... 2.2 The Possibility of Recognizing the Signs of the Times.................... 2.3 Obedience as a Mode of Understanding ........................................... 3. How to Employ History for the Purpose of Faith and Salvation .............

311 314 327 327 334 344 347

Can the ‘Real’ Jesus be Identified with the Historical Jesus? Joseph Ratzinger’s (Pope Benedict XVI) Challenge to Biblical Scholarship ........................................................................... 351 Bibliographical Note..................................................................................... 0. Introduction: Geza Vermes on Ratzinger’s Jesus .................................... 1. The Liberation of Jesus Research from “Self Limitations of Rational Positivism” ............................................... 2. The Inseparability of Faith from History in the Work of Ratzinger ........ 3. The Historical Jesus is God Acting in History ........................................ 4. Yes; No; Yes, But… — Reactions to Ratzinger’s Jesus Book(s) ........... 4.1 Supportive Readers (“Yes”) ............................................................. 4.2 Disapproving Readers (“No”) .......................................................... 4.3 Disenchanted Readers....................................................................... 4.4 Qualifying Readers (“Yes, but…”) .................................................. 4.4.1 Christological Beliefs as Later Projections ............................ 4.4.2 Christological Beliefs Preserved from Historical Enquiry ..... 5. Is it really that simple? The Objection of Oversimplification ................. 6. Some First Steps to Take .........................................................................

352 353 357 371 379 381 382 383 384 388 390 391 396 403



Pre-existence, Incarnation, and Messianic Self-Understanding of Jesus in the Work of Martin Hengel ............................................... 407 0. 1. 2. 3. 4.

Introduction .............................................................................................. 407 Historical Research in the Service of Theological Truth ......................... 408 Jesus the Messiah ..................................................................................... 414 From ‘Charismatic Leader’ to the ‘Son of God’ ...................................... 420 From Son of God to Pre-existence, Incarnation, and Mediation in Creation ........................................................................ 432 5. Incarnation and the Historical Jesus ......................................................... 440 List of Initial Publications ............................................................................. 447 Index of Passages .......................................................................................... 449 Index of Modern Authors .............................................................................. 481 Index of Subjects ........................................................................................... 495 Index of Greek Words ................................................................................... 501

Abbreviations and Formal Guidelines

With the exception of the abbreviations listed below, most references to ancient sources and secondary literature accord with those suggested in P. H. Alexander et al., eds., The SBL Handbook of Style: For Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1999). Likewise, the formatting style is based on the SBL style guide. ABG AJEC AKG BBLAK BKP BSGRT BThSt BWANT EHS EKK ET FASk FS FSÖTh FTLZ GLAJJ GT JAJSup JBTh JSHJ KNT LuThK MthSt SFSHJ SKI SSIR TANZ TBLNT TzF UTB WdF

Arbeiten zur Bibel und ihrer Geschichte Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity Arbeiten zur Kirchen- und Theologiegeschichte Beiträge zur biblischen Landes- und Altertumskunde Beiträge zur klassischen Philologie Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana Biblisch-theologische Studien Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament Europäische Hochschulschriften Evangelisch-katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament English Translation Forschungen zur antiken Sklaverei Festschrift Forschungen zur systematischen und ökumenischen Theologie Forum Theologische Literaturzeitung Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism (ed. M. Stern) German Translation Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplements Jahrbuch für biblische Theologie Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus Kommentar zum Neuen Testament Lutherische Theologie und Kirche Marburger theologische Studien South Florida studies in the History of Judaism Studien zu Kirche und Israel Skrifter utgivna av Svenska institutet i Rom Texte und Arbeiten zum neutestamentlichen Zeitalter Theologisches Begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testament Texte zur Forschung Uni-Taschenbücher Wege der Forschung

God’s Role in History as a Methodological Problem for Exegesis 1. Towards a Historical-Critical Assessment of the Conviction that God Acts in History This long title attempts to encapsulate as precisely as possible one of the dilemmas with which biblical scholars are confronted when they attempt to understand themselves as theologians as well. For as theologians we find ourselves unable to follow the pattern so often found in the works of the Jewish historian Josephus when he is forced by his biblical Vorlage to talk about a miraculous event. After referring to such an event in a way that remains essentially faithful to the biblical text — though typically providing a rationalising explanation — Josephus frequently concludes with this kind of formula: “However, concerning such matters let each one judge as is pleasing to him” (Ant. 1.108: περὶ μὲν [oὖν] τούτων, ὡς ἑκάστοις ᾖ φίλον, οὕτω σκοπείτωσαν).1 By doing so Josephus follows a practice that is wellestablished in Greek and Roman historiography, and which is also adopted by Lucian of Samosata in the 2nd century AD.2 Their recommended approach can be paraphrased as a ‘reserved objectivity,’ which is careful to show no partiality. This seems to be the perfect approach for an historian, and one may well wish that modern historians (and also biblical scholars) could be content with such. Unfortunately such an approach is no longer practicable. What separates our reading of the world and historical processes from that of Josephus, Lucian, and others up until the 18th century is that they lived at a time when, 1

Trans. by L. H. Feldman, Judean Antiquities 1–4: Translation and Commentary (Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary 3; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 39, n. 271. 2 Lucian, in the final chapters of his work Quomodo historia sit conscribenda (Πῶς δεῖ Ἱστορίαν συγγράφειν), which contain criticism of contemporary historians, outlines how the ideal historian should approach this topic. Among the points Lucian addresses briefly is the issue of myth (imagine a modern handbook for historiography including a theoretical discussion of such a point): “Again, if a myth (μῦθος) comes along you must tell it but not believe it entirely (οὐ μὴν πιστωτέος πάντως); no, make it known for your audience to make of it what they will — you run no risk and lean to neither side,” in “How to Write History,” in Lucian VI (LCL 430; transl. K. Kilburn; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959), 2–73 (70–1, § 60).


God’s Role in History as Methodological Problem for Exegesis

as John Milbank puts it, “there was no ‘secular’.”3 This means that the causation of so-called “transempirical realities”4 within the cosmos was not denied but held as a fundamental conviction, a kind of basic position in discourse about reality that more or less all participants accepted. The question was not “does God exist,” or, less theistically formulated, do “spiritual powers” and “cosmic forces” exist (cf. Eph 6:12; Col 1:16 etc.). As long as they are presupposed and acknowledged, the issue is not whether they intervene at all, but how, when, where, and why they intervene, or are claimed by some to do so. The ‘reserved objectivity’ of the ancient historians with regard to the supernatural existed within the context of a world full of gods and spiritual powers. In such a world when there was no secular, critical discourse about God(s) sought to understand divine action in the right way and to ensure that the general acceptance of transempirical realities was not abused for mundane and selfish ends. The authority of the sentence, “God wills it” is a dangerous weapon in the hands of religious leaders, and even more so, from a theological perspective, within the reality of a fallen humanity, for which ‘will to power’ is one of the most disastrous sins. The misuse of that purported to be God’s will for selfish ends has cost the lives of millions who have died on all too many battlefields. And in the wake of catastrophic wars there has arisen the notion that the world would be better off if politics were to be handled etsi deus non daretur (“as though God were not a given”). This famous phrase was coined by the Dutch jurist, philosopher, politician and biblical exegete Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) in the prolegomena to his book, De iure belli ac pacis, published in 1625 during the 30 years war.5 In the midst of a religiously motivated conflict he made the claim that politics should be conducted without ‘playing the God card’ for political ends. This does not mean, however, that he was unconvinced about God’s active participation within this world, which is evident when one reads the whole paragraph in context: What we have been saying would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness, that there is no God, or that the affairs of men are of no concern to Him. The very opposite of this view has been implanted in us partly by reason, partly by unbroken tradition, and confirmed by many proofs as well as by miracles attested by all ages. Hence it follows that we must without exception render obedience to God as our Creator, to whom we owe all that we are and have; especially since, in manifold ways, He has shown Himself supremely good and supremely powerful, so that to 3 John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (2nd ed.; Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), 9. 4 Anthony C. Thiselton, Hermeneutics of Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 377 (italics original). 5 Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace (trans. Francis W. Kelsey et al.; Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1925), 13 (Prolegomena, XI), cf. Eberhard Jüngel, God as the Mystery of the World: On the Foundation of the Theology of the Crucified One in the Dispute between Theism and Atheism (trans. Darrell L. Guder; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1983), 18–9, 58.

God’s Role in History as Methodological Problem for Exegesis


those who obey Him He is able to give supremely great rewards, even rewards that are eternal, since He Himself is eternal.

The same attitude can also be seen in his later apologetic work De veritate religionis christianae written after De iure belli ac pacis, but which started in the form of a Dutch poem written in 1619/20 while he was a prisoner. In this Grotius defends the superiority of the Christian religion against atheism, paganism, Judaism and Islam,6 which he considers to be confirmed — in a very traditional way — through the miracles reported in the Bible and the resurrection of Jesus. This was the time when there was no secular, although the dawn of a secularized age was appearing.

2. Neutrality as the Price for Acceptability Our situation today is completely different. The secular success-story regarding the reality discourses within the western world during the last three centuries is impressive, and its dominance is perhaps even stronger than it is perceived by many on account of the fact that secular societies leave certain places of refuge for religions. As long as theological discourse is willing to confine itself to these designated areas, no open conflict arises.7 But as John Milbank rightly observes: “If theology no longer seeks to position, qualify or criticize other discourses, then it is inevitable that these discourses will position theology” (1). This results in theology and religion becoming objects of study and subjected to a methodology not derived from their own understanding of reality, and instead confined to a so-called ‘objective’ approach that treats religion and faith purely as objects of investigation. This in turn precludes serious participation in reality discourses, let alone making any value judgments or discerning between true and false. The formulation of equality and antidiscrimination rules — as important as they are to certain aspects within the public sphere — correlates well to this expected academic neutrality. Accepting such a positioning seems to be the price to be paid to a secular society, which in return enables biblical scholars to work within the academic setting of publicly funded theology and religious studies departments. George Marsden comments on this situation in his stimulating little book The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship: 6 Cf. Jan Paul Heering, Hugo Grotius as Apologist for the Christian Religion: A Study of His Work De veritate religionis christianae (1640) (Studies in the History of Christian Thought 111; Leiden: Brill, 2004). 7 Examples are abundant; cf. Milbank, Social Theory, 1–2; also the discussion between Jürgen Habermas and Joseph Ratzinger, The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2007), see below in this volume pp. 368, 403–6.


God’s Role in History as Methodological Problem for Exegesis

Many contemporary academics affirm as dogma that the only respectable place for religion in the academy is as an object of study. Suggestions that religious perspectives might be relevant to interpretation in other fields are viewed with puzzlement or even consternation.8

Marsden further suggests that the prominent place theology still holds within many academic institutions is not a sign of its strength or acceptance within contemporary academia, but rather a vestige of the idea of the traditional university where theology often held a prestigious and time-honoured position. Moreover, he indicates that hostility towards “religious perspectives” increased significantly between the 1950s and the 1980s: Old secular liberals and postmoderns, despite their differences, typically agreed that acceptable theories about humans or reality must begin with the premise that the universe is a selfcontained entity.

This means that drawing upon a religious perspective is tantamount to “violating canons of academic respectability.”9 Angus Paddison in a chapter on “Scripture, Participation and Universities” reminds us not to “forget how tightly policed by secular presumptions academic pluralism is.”10 The result is a growing pressure upon theology to justify itself as an academic discipline. Biblical scholars, however, are not at the centre of the storm because Biblical Studies as a historical and literary discipline shares a number of characteristics with other text based disciplines: engagement in textual criticism, source criticism, and literary analysis; the employment of the tools of grammar, semiotics and linguistics; and the writing of commentaries and historical monographs where God appears only in the margins — if at all. When God is discussed, it is not as subject but as object, an expression of cultural and social codes to which religious beliefs also belong. Committed Christians within Biblical Studies sometimes try to bracket out a supra-historical core from historical examination to leave their central beliefs unthreatened. The result is an apparent half-heartedness in (often conservative or evangelical) parts of Christian scholarship resulting from a sense of divided loyalty: On the one hand the desire to do objective and critical scholarship and on the other to pursue a religious commitment. The problem, however, is not the latter, but the pressure exerted from the former to set faith aside for historical enquiry. No wonder, therefore, that the flight into canonical exegesis, narratology, literary criticism and theological exegesis is quite common among evangelical PhD candidates. 8 George M. Marsden, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 13; and idem, The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). 9 Marsden, Outrageous Idea, 18–9, see also 27. 10 Angus Paddison, Scripture: A Very Theological Proposal (London: T&T Clark, 2009), 123.

God’s Role in History as Methodological Problem for Exegesis


This was, and still is, possible because of the traditional place given to theology in western academia, rather than because of the inherent strength of the discipline. But recently, even Biblical Studies has faced attack and been labelled a pseudo-discipline. In this regard it is worth reading Hector Avalos’ 2007 book, The End of Biblical Studies, in which he calls for a complete abandonment of Biblical Studies on account of it being a form of ‘scholarly’ research that is largely driven by confessional interests, subjective eisegesis, and dubious historical assumptions.11 Avalos is still a lonely voice in the desert, but this may change in the not-too-distant future. Therefore, Biblical Studies would do well to invest some thought into its self-understanding as a historical and theological discipline, and to describe more precisely what it offers to the academy. Its genuine, irreplaceable contribution however, is the insistence on the fact that history is not without God and therefore the world is not without God. The fact that the vigorous debate about the plausibility and necessity of theology and religious studies has so far barely impinged upon Biblical Studies (at least as long as it does what is expected from it as “part of a scientific community”)12 should not be taken as an excuse for staying silent. If God’s active role in the history of the world is lost in Biblical Studies, no other theological discipline can retrieve it. Theological contributions to ethical, political, ecological and economic discourses are without foundation when God is no more than a story, or, as Markus Bockmuehl puts it, “to the extent that theologians are not answerable to a biblical account of doctrine, their work is no longer based on Christianity’s historic creeds and confessions.13 That a new current has developed within biblical scholarship 11 Hector Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2007). His opening sentence leaves no room for doubt: “The only mission of biblical studies should be to end biblical studies as we know it” (1, see also 341).!It is worth noting, however, that Avalos’s critique is not primarily directed against more conservative scholars or evangelicals (for whom he has no sympathy nevertheless) as he equally (or even more so) scorns liberal and modernist positions. A pleading for a strict division between secular Biblical Studies in the university setting and theological readings of the Bible in ecclesial contexts can be found in Philip Davies, Whose Bible is it Anyway? (2nd ed., London: T&T Clark International, 2004); Paddison, Scripture, 135, against Davies, argues that the university needs “the witness of theology … to resist adopting a universal perspective on truth in abstraction from particular practices, commitments and the narrative of Scripture” (see also 123–35). 12 This expectation is most clearly expressed by Tor Egil Førland, “Acts of God? Miracles and Scientific Explanations,” History and Theory 47 (2008): 483–94: “I suggest that when doing historical research, historians are part of a scientific community; consequently, historiographical explanations must be compatible with accepted scientific beliefs. Whereas many historians and natural scientists in private believe in supernatural entities, qua professional members in the scientific community they must subscribe to metaphysical naturalism, which is a basic working hypothesis in the empirical quest of science” (483). 13 Markus Bockmuehl, “Introduction,” in Scripture’s Doctrine and Theology’s Bible: How the New Testament Shapes Christian Dogmatics (ed. idem and Alan J. Torrance; Grand


God’s Role in History as Methodological Problem for Exegesis

seeking to engage in theological interpretation without recourse to historical interpretation should be seen as an alarming sign. It looks like yielding the historical realism of the biblical witness to God’s acts in order to gain a licence to do ‘only’ theology.14 This is alarming because history-making is a characteristic of the biblical God who revealed himself to mankind by making himself accessible, knowable, identifiable, visible and audible within this world. The Elder John writes in his first letter that he, and those for whom he speaks, testify according to what they have heard, what they have seen with their eyes, and what they have looked upon and touched with their own hands (1 John 1:1–3). That which could be seen and heard and touched by the apostles is the revelation of God in his Son Jesus Christ within the context of this world. The apostles were actively involved in the history of God with the world, and yet repeatedly it seems to be the case that neither revelation nor incarnation nor anything else that might be described as God’s involvement in mundane matters is understood to fall within the reach or realm of historiography. This does not mean that such transempirical realities are openly denied. Rather, they must remain in their assigned area of ‘subjective beliefs’ and ought not interfere with objective scholarly research. This is the situation that needs to be challenged. The earlier solution of ‘reserved objectivity’ is no longer practicable because now “there is a ‘secular’.”

3. Challenging the Dichotomy of Faith and History Theistically motivated historiography, therefore, needs to engage with the question of God’s role within the historical process in its conceptual and methodological deliberations — at least in such a way that this issue remains a nagging presence, even if one comes to the conclusion that no simple solution that works for all and always is possible. Even a cursory glance at the New Testament (and the Bible as a whole) confronts the reader with a God who is the subject of earthly events: he has spoken through the prophets (Matt 1:22; 2:15), and speaks again in the time of Jesus to his Son (Matt 3:16–17). He sends rain upon the earth (Matt 5:44), he sees the secret deeds of humans and rewards them (Matt 6:4, 6), and he invites those who are called his children to pray to him (Matt 6:9–13). In the prayer Jesus teaches his disciples he encourages them to address God so that he acts on their behalf on a daily basis: to give them their daily bread, to forgive their sins, to lead them away from temptation and to deliver them from evil. God is further described Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 7–13 (12). See also Francesca Aran Murphy, God is Not a Story: Realism Revisited (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). 14 Bockmuehl, “Introduction,” 7; and later in this volume p. 307, note 118.

God’s Role in History as Methodological Problem for Exegesis


as active in this world through his Spirit (Matt 1:20; 4:1) and heavenly messengers (Matt 1:20; 2:13), who speak in his place. The list could be continued nearly endlessly, from God’s acts in creation to re-creation down to taking care of the grass in the fields (Matt 6:30) and the hair of one’s head (Matt 10:30), but these few examples suffice for the key question: How can we take these texts seriously as Christian theologians and biblical scholars in that we allow them to influence our way of seeing the world and what happens in it? The first chapters of Matthew’s Gospel have already provided enough material to make the dilemma clear between ‘subjective’ faith convictions (which are, however, shared by a universal community) and ‘objective’ reality discourses: Each time the Lord’s prayer is prayed, or when Christians pray for somebody else, or that something might happen, this is done on the basis of the underlying assumption that God can act in response to this prayer. And there is thanksgiving for the way he has already acted — either in general, through sustaining life, health and so on, or in the more specific sense that relates to a kind of subjective certainty (a ‘feeling’ or ‘impression’) that God has done something special on behalf of the individual.15 Obviously, therefore, these elements should play a role in a Christian understanding of history as well. Can the biography of a believer be written without reflecting the question of what God has done in and through their life? Probably not. And yet this is exactly what is usually done: A scholarly biography might describe an individual as one who has led an active prayer life and expected that God would answer his prayers, but would bracket out the question of whether this had truly happened. And if any scholar should dare to treat this question in a more substantial way, the biography would no longer be labelled as scholarly, but rather as hagiographic, or a devotional work.16 Such charac15 For an interesting attempt to use Friedrich Schleiermacher and Karl Rahner to overcome the divide between God and the world on the basis that God, understood “as first cause of existence itself,” is known in human conscious activity, see Anne E. Inman, Evidence and Transcendence: Religious Epistemology and the God-World Relationship (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008). 16 A good example is the work of the Swiss pastor, church historian and biographical author Walter Nigg (1903–1988), who emphasized in his books that for biblical figures, saints, ‘heretics,’ artists, and other types of remarkable believers the course of their lives (and the impact they often had on subsequent history) cannot be understood without the historians’ openness to the divine element present in those lives. It is a hopeful sign that in 2009 a major biography on Nigg appeared that discusses all his writings in their biographical and wider social and political context; that only three years later a second edition became necessary demonstrates the interest in this topic: Uwe Wolff, »Das Geheimnis ist mein«: Walter Nigg — Eine Biographie (2nd. ed.; Zürich: Theologischer Verlag, 2012 [1st ed. 2009]). One could further point to the historiography of Christian writers and novelists, who are able — unrestricted by scholarly conventions — to trace and integrate the experience of the divine in their ‘vision’ of the life or period they describe. Reinhold Schneider (1903–1958) and Jochen Klepper (1903–1942) come to mind as German Protestant representatives of this genre.


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teristics are used to mark a conceptual shift from serious scholarship to preaching, and from objectivity and rationality to purely subjective, irrational, and non-communicable beliefs.17 The perceivable dichotomy herein between religious beliefs and historical (scil. scientific) knowledge is as old as the biblical texts themselves. And since the Enlightenment period these two ways of formulating truth claims, namely through religious beliefs and historical/scientific knowledge, have no longer been regarded as compatible and enriching each other, but as antagonistic or hierarchically differentiated in such a way that historical knowledge is the acceptable core, or the ‘real’ thing, whereas associated religious beliefs are something of an optional extra. The removal of such religious beliefs would not affect the analysis of the scientific core of knowledge in any meaningful way. Biblical scholars are all too familiar with this concept in differentiating between the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith.” Knowledge about the historical Jesus relates to head, brain and ratio, and is ascertained on the basis of historical-critical evidence. The “Christ of faith,” however, is a projection onto the historical Jesus that results from spiritual and/or emotional experiences and processes, which are, in all cases, subjective and less ‘real.’ But instead of carrying this dichotomy forward unwittingly, it should be discussed and addressed critically. Is it a helpful distinction that needs to be upheld and even promoted as good news of liberation from a supposedly faith-rooted ignorance, which is often identified as the root of all evils of modern society (fundamentalism; intolerance; racism; violence; zealotism; proselytism; homophobia; etc.), as many would claim?18 And, in this respect, can a politically corrected and purified form of Christianity, stripped from all claims to exclusivity and absoluteness, function as a role model for other more traditional faith communities? In the discussion of so-called Islamic extremism or fundamentalism one often comes across the notion that Islam’s enlightenment process is yet to come. Hidden in this attitude is the assumption that a critical deconstruction of Islam’s faith based assumptions about God, the world, and the obedience the faithful owe to God, would make it easier for a liberal western society to tame what is perceived as threatening in relation to the Muslim world. Since religious approaches to reality tend to make things more complicated, rather than easier, the general climate in

17 Cf. Marsden, Outrageous Idea, 9, where he expresses his reluctance to reduce “faithinformed perspectives” (8) to the idea of “interpreting history in terms of God’s particular providences …, or identifying when the Holy Spirit is or is not shaping events.” Indeed, “faith-informed perspectives” include a much wider range of topics, but those quoted are part of the parcel all the same. 18 Cf. Peter Sloterdijk, Gottes Eifer: Vom Kampf der drei Monotheismen (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag der Weltreligionen, 2007).

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society and academia is clearly in favour of a de-potentialisation of religion.19 However, if the extant distinction between religious beliefs and scientific knowledge, or — in the field of Biblical Studies — between historical and dogmatic truth, is challenged in favour of a stronger representation of faithbased truth claims within the university (and especially theology departments), how can these two sets of ‘processed’ experiences be reconnected in an informed and communicable way? What I am not inclined to do in the remainder of this paper, is engage with the most fundamental assumption for this kind of question, namely whether God exists. For my own deliberations in the following (and in this whole book) I simply accept the reasonable assumption that the God to whom the Holy Scriptures of the Jewish-Christian tradition bear witness is indeed a major cause in our world. Even a cursory look at the literature shows that there are good arguments available for the rationality of a theistic approach to reality.20 Authors I find stimulating — in addition to those already mentioned — include Nicholas Wolterstorff, Richard Swinburne, David Bartholomew, and Louis Dupré among others, although — from a historical perspective — I am convinced that in the beginning is not an epistemological discourse about the existence of God but an experience of being in relation to God (see n. 16).

4. Positing God in History: Troeltsch, Hengel, and Ratzinger How, then, can Christian theologians, who see themselves also as historians, (or historians who approach their subject matter with an openness to the God who acts in history) be honest to both (experienced) faith (in the past and present) in a living, inspiring, ruling, and guiding God, and a historical, critical, methodologically controlled approach to religious texts, which is the result of reflecting on such experiences of God? These experiences would be described as ‘real’ or ‘true’ by those individuals initially affected by them, 19 For a new attempt in this direction from the side of a sociologist see Ulrich Beck, A God of One’s Own: Religion’s Capacity for Peace and Potential for Violence (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010; ET of Der eigene Gott: Von der Friedensfähigkeit und dem Gewaltpotential der Weltreligionen, Frankfurt: Verlag der Weltreligionen, 2008). Beck criticises “the firm belief in the redemptive power of sociological enlightenment” meaning that “with the advance of modernization, religion will automatically disappear” (1), and calls instead for acceptance “that religious terms must be understood and explained in religious terms.” The reason is that the striving for a “demystification of the religious sphere” ignores the “remystification of reality by religion” (2). 20 For a critical survey see Philipp L. Quinn, “Epistemology in Philosophy of Religion,” in The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology (ed. Paul K. Moser; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 513–38.


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and — where the testimony of what they experienced is accepted by a community — they become the source of faith for others. Their approach to the encounters between humans and the divine will be similarly ‘realistic’ as that of the original witnesses, notwithstanding the fact that certain philosophers and literary critics will tell them that there is nothing like ‘truth’ or ‘reality’ to be found in this way. To talk about such topics as an exegete is to expose oneself to the vulnerability of encroaching the terrain of the supposedly more reflective disciplines as one who seems — from their perspective — not informed enough. The deplorable side-effect of this is that biblical scholars with strong historical interests often simply avoid these kind of questions, leaving them instead for the systematic theologians, and continuing to do philological, archaeological, and text-critical work. Signs of a shift in attitude have become evident recently, however, as Dale Allison’s thought-provoking recent book The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus serves to demonstrate. He states right at the beginning that, “the religious implications of my activities have been at the margin of my awareness,” but “recent circumstances have pushed me out of my historical-critical pose.”21 In the following, I will discuss and compare three different approaches to the question of faith and history, namely those of Ernst Troeltsch, Martin Hengel, and Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, which represent what Robert L. Webb categorizes as “ontological naturalistic history,” “methodological naturalistic history” and “critical theistic history.”22 4.1 Ernst Troeltsch (1865–1923) Although not a biblical scholar himself, the influence of the historian, philosopher, and theologian Ernst Troeltsch on New Testament scholarship can hardly be overestimated. As one of the founders of the ‘religionsgeschichtliche Schule’ (history of religions school) and a close friend of Wilhelm Bousset, he exerted a formative influence at the beginning of this movement. His later work stands under the influence of Max Weber with whom he also shared bonds of friendship.23 Troeltsch’s famous essay “Historical and Dogmatic Method in Theology” was written in 1898 in response to an attack by Friedrich Niebergall, who blamed Troeltsch for a “historical relativism” that hindered theologians and historians. The essay was also intended to 21 Dale C. Allison, The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), ix. 22 Robert L. Webb, “The Historical Enterprise and Historical Jesus Research,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus (ed. Darrell L. Bock and Robert L. Webb; WUNT 247; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 9–93 (43). 23 For a comprehensive biography see Hans-Georg Drescher, Ernst Troeltsch: Leben und Werk (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1991).

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demonstrate the superiority of Christianity.24 Interestingly, Troeltsch and Niebergall agreed that Christianity (in its liberal Protestant form, one must add) is the highest form religion can achieve, but Troeltsch — here in contrast to Niebergall — insists that this cannot be demonstrated or proved by way of history: “History is no place for ‘absolute religions’ or ‘absolute personalities.’ Such terms are self-contradictory.”25 Troeltsch therefore distinguishes between history based on “the old authoritarian concept of revelation” and the “genuine historical scholarship of the present” (“ächte, moderne Historie”).26 He compares this new form of history to the revolutionary turn in the natural sciences: “Like the modern natural sciences, it [the historical method] represents a complete revolution in our patterns of thought vis-à-vis antiquity and the Middle Ages.”27 The only way to be part of this new scientific world is the rigorous application of a strict and limited set of historical and sociological methods and the relinquishing of all dogmatic remnants. According to Troeltsch, one must decide between the historical or the dogmatic approach to theology. There is — methodologically — no possible middle ground for the individual scholar. They must decide whether they want to access the biblical texts historically (implying a purely naturalistic methodology) or dogmatically.28 For Troeltsch — and this is often over24 For a discussion of the historical context see Drescher, Ernst Troeltsch, 160–6; Text and introduction can be found in Ernst Troeltsch, “Historical and Dogmatic Method in Theology,” in Religion in History (ed. J. L. Adams and W. F. Bense; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), 11–32 (also in: G. W. Dawes, The Historical Jesus Quest: Landmarks in the Search for the Jesus of History [Leiden: Deo, 1999], 29–53). The English translation is based on the republication of this lecture in Ernst Troeltsch, Zur religiösen Lage, Religionsphilosophie und Ethik (Gesammelte Schriften II; 2nd. ed.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1922 [repr. Aalen: Scientia, 1962]), 729–53, which differs from the first German edition (published in 1900), which is easily accessible in: Ernst Troeltsch Lesebuch: Ausgewählte Texte (ed. Friedemann Voigt; UTB 2452; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 2–25. 25 Ernst Troeltsch, The Absoluteness of Christianity and the History of Religions (transl. David Reid; 2nd ed.; Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2005), 78. 26 “Historical and Dogmatic Method,” 12–3 (= ed. Dawes, 31). 27 Ibid., 16 (= ed. Dawes, 35). 28 Later Troeltsch seemed to have agreed to a kind of compromise, because “total exclusion of religious faith from scientific work is only a possibility for those who for special reasons have killed or let die their notion of religion. Those in whom religion continues to live … will always be convinced that the different sources of knowledge [i.e. scientific and religious] must somehow coincide and harmonise.” The practical religious interest of the Church therefore required a way in which historical theology and dogmatic theology could be allowed to exist next to each other, and he describes the “characteristic division of interests” that resulted from this: “One part is the servant of pure science and only serves the church indirectly. The other part serves the church and practical work; it directly and as a matter of principle assumes the special task of mediating between science and practice. It is obvious that the first part falls to the historical disciplines and the second to dogmatics and ethics. The separation of history and dogmatics, the purely scientific free development of the former and


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looked — there is no way to integrate the two. If one opts for the historical method, everything must be explained historically, which, according to the paradigm of Troeltsch and his followers, precludes recourse to transempirical realities that cannot be demonstrated and proven by his famous triad of criticism, analogy, and correlation. To these must be added a strict innerworldly and mechanical form of causality: “Once employed, the inner logic of the method drives us forward; and all the counter-measures essayed by the theologians to neutralize its effects or to confine them to some limited area have failed, despite eager efforts to demonstrate their validity.”29 With such a method it is “impossible to arrive at some supra-historical core.”30 Therefore, neither the incarnation of Jesus, nor his resurrection can be described as historical events in any way. So too the idea of salvation history is dismissed by Troeltsch, because it establishes “a separate methodology” and claims “special conditions independent of ordinary history.” All this “vitiates and distorts the methodology of secular history in various ways.”31 For Troeltsch, there is no longer any gap into which one can squeeze something like God’s action in the world: “Give the historical method an inch and it will take a mile. From a strictly orthodox standpoint, therefore, it seems to bear a certain similarity with the devil.”32 It is often overlooked that this method exerts a totalitarian approach. It does not allow questions relating to transempirical realities to be left open, which is the way that many scholars today deal with them on account of being faithful Christians. However, Joseph Ratzinger, is well aware of this trajectory when he characterizes the “radicalizing process” of the historicalcritical method with these words.33

the latter’s practical mediating way of working without a strictly scientific attitude, is the result of this changed situation.” Ernst Troeltsch, “Half a Century of Theology: A Review,” in: Writings on Theology and Religion (transl. and ed. by Robert Morgan and Michael Pye; London: Duckworth, 1977), 53–81 (57–8). The German original (“Rückblick auf ein halbes Jahrhundert der theologischen Wissenschaft”) appeared in 1909. 29 “Historical and Dogmatic Method,” 18 (= ed. Dawes, 37). 30 Ibid., 18 (= ed. Dawes, 38). 31 Ibid., 22–3 (= ed. Dawes, 42). 32 In the first German edition (published in 1900), nothing is said about the devil: “Wer ihr den kleinen Finger gegeben hat, wird von ihr [= the historical method] so energisch ergriffen, dass er ihr die ganze Hand geben muss” see Ernst Troeltsch Lesebuch, 7. The additional sentence appears only in the republication in Gesammelte Schriften II, 734. Here the sentence goes: “Wer ihr den kleinen Finger gegeben hat, der muß ihr auch die ganze Hand geben. Daher scheint sie auch von einem echt orthodoxen Standpunkt aus eine Art Ähnlichkeit mit dem Teufel zu haben.” 33 Joseph Ratzinger, “Biblical Interpretation in Conflict,” in God’s Word: Scripture — Tradition — Office (ed. P. Hünermann and T. Söding; trans. H. Taylor; San Francisco: Ignatius, 2008), 91–126 (92); for the full quote see in this volume p. 394.

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Troeltsch remains an important point of departure. He was one of the first to take the question posed by the history of religions seriously. The dilemma he faced was, at its core, apologetic: He was convinced of the absoluteness of Christianity (which includes a sense of uniqueness) but the increased knowledge of “religionsgeschichtliche” parallels to the decisive religious phenomena of the Jewish-Christian tradition (creation; miracles; virgin birth; resurrection; appearances of angels; divine, immediate revelation; etc.) and the demonstration of their dependency upon other religious or cultural influences ruled out any proof of Christianity’s ab-soluteness on the basis of such (meta-)historical phenomena or events. From a historical point of view, it was impossible for Troeltsch to set Christianity apart, that is, as absolute. Instead he demonstrated its absoluteness by applying Hegel’s evolutionary concept through which it can be demonstrated that Christianity comprises the perfected idea of religion in general (“die vollendete Idee der Religion überhaupt”).34 That Troeltsch chose this option is understandable given that he published this article at the turn of the 20th century in Protestant Germany. The optimism that liberal Protestantism would be the final stage of humanity was still unshaken as — from a different perspective — Harnack’s famous centennial lectures on The Essence of Christianity (1900) demonstrate.35 This optimism was misplaced, however, as is now clearly evident, and it might be time to develop the option that Troeltsch dismissed, not trying to find proofs for absolute religion, but in keeping with his critical attitude: If the cosmic-historical and apocalyptic nature of Christ’s lordship is to render the ‘truth’ of history, precisely by way of its concentration on the singular historicity of God incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, such a truth must be communicable without betraying and evading the crisis and burden which Troeltsch and modern theological historicism has discerned and bequeathed to us. If Christian apocalyptic is (. . . ) to insist that apocalyptic has to do with the singular act of God’s decisive transformation of history in the historical reality that is the Messianic arrival of Jesus of Nazareth, then Christian apocalyptic must be able to take up the challenge of historicity and in doing so must give way to its own distinctively theological historicism, a historicism no less rooted in an committed to the complexities, contingencies, and disaccord of historical ‘reality’ than that of someone like Troeltsch.36


Ernst Troeltsch, “Die Stellung des Christentums unter den Weltreligionen,” in Der Historismus und seine Überwindung: Fünf Vorträge (Berlin: Pan Verlag Rolf Heise, 1924), 62–83 (67 = Ernst Troeltsch Lesebuch, 45–60 [48]). On this tension between the allrelativizing effect of historicism and his upholding of Christianity as absolute religion based on a “teleological history” (that is “a transhistorical reality which stands beyond history”) see Nathan R. Kerr, Christ, History and Apocalyptic: The Politics of Christian Mission (Veritas; London: SCM, 2008), 27–30 (the chapter on Troeltsch [23–62] is titled “The Triumph of Ideology and the Eclipse of Apocalyptic”). 35 See Roland Deines, Die Pharisäer (WUNT 101; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 194–206. 36 Kerr, Christ, History and Apocalyptic, 61.


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4.2 Martin Hengel (1926–2009) Martin Hengel was not just a great teacher for many of us, but one of the greatest New Testament scholars of the 20th century. His legacy, I am sure, will continue to influence, stimulate, and direct our discipline. He was an inspiring teacher, supervisor and colleague, whose knowledge of the sources was phenomenal. Nevertheless, one particular criticism was frequently levelled against him, namely that for all his knowledge he eschewed methodology. In an autobiographical article, written in 2002, he remarks: “There is only one exegesis appropriate to the subject-matter, namely the one that does justice to the text (and its contexts).”37 Perhaps having no methodology is indeed a method and possibly even a very good one at that. It is certainly the case that Hengel never followed fashionable methodological trends but relied instead on his own historical ‘instincts,’ which resulted from the medley of his enormous familiarity with ancient sources, practical and economic reason, common sense, an astonishing interest in the details of ordinary life such as finance, health, family relations, and a very grounded Lutheran pietistic form of Christianity, with its strong concern for grace in personal life. Because of this he was able to view his life, career, and achievements as a result of grace even though he worked hard until the final days of his life. He was not a genius but a hard worker. Nevertheless, he regarded even his seemingly boundless energy as a gift, as grace, and was thus very thankful. These characteristics are reflected in what was in effect his ‘methodology’: Hard work on the sources, common sense and an approach to theological as well as social questions from the perspective of ordinary people. But all this was encompassed by a conviction — seldom expressed though always deeply held — that God’s grace held the seemingly unconnected lines together. Frequently one finds in the final sentences of his longer articles or book prefaces theological statements that seem somehow unconnected to the preceding historical argumentation. Yet these express for Hengel what also needs to be said, as is evident on the final page of his aforementioned autobiographical article: The truth, one could also say the ‘center’ of this book [the NT] … consists in the theological unity of Christology and soteriology. Anthropology, ecclesiology and ethics do not form the point of departure or the foundation but contain the materially necessary consequences. The 37 Martin Hengel, “Eine junge theologische Disziplin in der Krise,” in Theologische, historische und biographische Skizzen (Kleine Schriften VII; ed. Claus-Jürgen Thornton; WUNT 253; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 279–91 (283): “Es gibt nur eine sachgemäße Exegese, nämlich diejenige, die dem Text (und seinen Kontexten) gerecht wird.” ET: “A Young Theological Discipline in Crisis,” in Earliest Christian History: History, Literature, and Theology (ed. Michael F. Bird and Jason Maston; WUNT 2.320; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 459–71 (463). See also in the same volume Roland Deines, “Martin Hengel (1926–2009): A Scholar’s Life in the Service of Christology,” 33–72.

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concern is basically with what God has done, does and will do for us ἐν Χριστῷ (2 Cor 5:19). One could indeed describe this with the term ‘salvation history,’ which is so offensive to many.38

In other words, God does something for humans, and when these acts of God are tied together they form what is traditionally called salvation history. But the question remains whether such a statement should be considered as a historical conclusion or ‘merely’ as a confession of faith? In other words, should the sentence, “The concern is basically with what God has done, does and will do for us ἐν Χριστῷ,” be treated as history and therefore incorporated when writing history, or is it solely a faith-based conclusion, which adds a supra-historical meaning to an event that can be sufficiently explained without it? And, if one takes the latter position, does this release the exegete in his historical work from any engagement with this issue at all? To answer this question one has to look at a sequence of short theses that addressed the problem of “Historical Methods and the Theological Interpretation of the New Testament,” which Hengel published as early as 1973.39 It is not possible to discuss them here in any detail and a few remarks must suffice. Not surprisingly in view of his overall work, Hengel strongly defends an historical approach to theological claims (see esp. theses 4.2–4.2.2, cf. 4.4.4) since “the writings of the New Testament bear witness that God has spoken once and for all in a particular human being at a particular time” (4.2.1) and, consequently, “we cannot talk theologically of God’s disclosure of himself in Jesus … without at the same time grasping the form and content of this communication by means of historical research” (4.2.2). ‘No theology without history’ is his starting point, even if he addresses this only in the fourth and final group of theses. Earlier in the theses he differentiates carefully between what historical research can provide and the truth claims of theology: “Historical research provided [the German uses the present tense here: “Historische Forschung vermittelt der Theologie …”] access for theology to its decisive content by means of biblical disciplines and church history. However, it cannot provide a basis for the truth-claim of theology” (2.4.4). And while “the question of the meaning of our existence as individuals” (3.3.1) cannot be separated from “the meaning and unity of history” (3.3),40 the 38

“A Young Theological Discipline in Crisis,” 471. Martin Hengel, “Historische Methoden und theologische Auslegung des Neuen Testaments,” KuD 19 (1973): 85–90. Now in: Studien zum Urchristentum (Kleine Schriften VI; ed. Claus-Jürgen Thornton; WUNT 234; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 99–104. ET: “Historical Methods and the Theological Interpretation of the New Testament,” in Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity (trans. John Bowden; London: SCM, 1979), 127–36. 40 Cf. the quote of Ortega y Gasset in Murphy, God is Not a Story, 172: “Man … has no nature; what he has is … history,” and within this volume 314–26, 347–50. 39


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decisive answers “can only be given by ‘theological judgments’ and not “with the instruments of historical method” (3.3.2). Despite the estimation of history in Hengel’s work, he is very modest in what he thinks historical research can contribute to theology as a whole: it is a “Hilfsdisziplin,” an ancilla theologiae, a maidservant for the ultimate truth claims of theology. Historical knowledge cannot produce the certainty necessary for faith because historical judgments are never absolute but entail degrees of probability (2.4.1–2). Moreover, while “historical method” cannot produce “theological truth” but only prepare for it, “an inappropriate application of historical methods can distort the truth-claim inherent in a text both for me and for others” (2.3.6). He finds such an “inappropriate application of historical methods” in Troeltsch, whose distinction between historical and dogmatic method is for Hengel the “clearest expression” of “the historical-critical method” (1.2–1.2.1). Hengel is particularly critical of Troeltsch’s postulation of “the similarity in principle of all historical events” that makes “unparalleled events” (“analogieloses Geschehen”) reported in “biblical history” inaccessible for the historical method (1.2.7). However, Hengel does not turn his critique of Troeltsch into a positive statement of what should be done instead. He goes no further than saying that “unparalleled events” are part of the “biblical history” but cannot be dealt with properly by Troeltsch’s method. At the same time he insists that “the New Testament writings do not require for their interpretation [a] specifically ‘theological method of interpretation’ which is qualitatively different from all ‘historical methods’” (4.3). But how, then, would the historian be able to allow for these “unparalleled events” to happen? The solution to this problem is not to be found in Hengel’s theses, and only a few hints towards how he dealt with it can be traced in his other writings. I will give just one example: In the final chapter of his last monograph Jesus und das Judentum (coauthored with Anna Maria Schwemer),41 which was intended to be the first of a projected four volume Geschichte des frühen Christentums, he deals with the testimony regarding Jesus’ resurrection. In the introductory paragraph he outlines the notion that early Christian confession about the resurrection was, “to the best of one’s knowledge a completely unexpected turnaround.”42 He then continues to explain that for the women at the tomb, the disciples, and Paul, the resurrection was “a real event in space and time which transcended at the same time the human experience of space and time” (627). He highlights, however, that the early Christian testimonies to this supposedly real 41 Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer, Jesus und das Judentum (Geschichte des frühen Christentums 1; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007). For Hengel’s discussion of the transhistorical (mythical) elements related to Jesus see in this volume “Pre-existence, Incarnation and Messianic Self-understanding of Jesus in the Work of Martin Hengel.” 42 Ibid., 625: “eine radikale, nach menschlichem Ermessen völlig unerwartete Wende.”

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event are confessions of faith. They cannot be accessed by objectifying means and remain alien in a world determined by natural sciences and technology (626). The resurrected Jesus is described in the gospels as “real” but at the same time “mysterious and non-affixable.”43 This seems to me a typical expression of Webb’s methodological naturalistic history, where history is located solely in the natural world, without denying the existence of the supernatural, which is, however, unintegrated into the natural world.44 This is Hengel’s very subtle way of expressing his own belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the empty tomb without crossing the line from an argument that is supposedly purely historical, towards a confession of faith. But Hengel would not be Hengel if the final sentence did not also include a rather more bold confession: “The constitution of the earliest church through the power of the Holy Spirit, looking presently to the God-exalted Jesus and retrospectively to his earthly ministry, is for us the visible and continuing miracle of Easter.”45 Hengel’s approach might be summarized in the following way: the historian who deals with religious history must respect the mysterium that veils some events and keeps them from historical access in the narrow sense. In other words, Hengel’s approach would fall under the verdict of Troeltsch and his followers insofar as he brackets out certain ‘dogmatic’ remnants (even if Hengel calls them mysteries) from a purely historical analysis. Although Hengel attempts to give historical reasons for this, I am not sure that this is convincing for those who do not share Hengel’s religious reverence for Jesus’ resurrection. Why should historical enquiry stop here when immanent historical reasons can be given for the resurrection appearances, such as post-traumatic stress or psychosis in those who grieve over the loss of Jesus? What is lacking is the move to change the range of what ‘historical’ means and should include in a theological perspective. 4.3 Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI Ratzinger’s, or (now) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s, book, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration ignited what I see as a helpful and necessary discussion within New Testament scholarship, which has already been documented in a number of books, reviews and articles that runs into the hundreds.46 What I find challenging, in the best 43

Hengel and Schwemer, Jesus und das Judentum, 647. Webb, “The Historical Enterprise and Historical Jesus Research,” 43. 45 Ibid., 652: “Die Konstitution der Urgemeinde in der Kraft des Geistes, im Aufblick auf ihren jetzt zu Gott erhöhten Herrn und im Rückblick auf sein irdisches Wirken ist das für uns sichtbare und bis heute fortwirkende Wunder von Ostern.” 46 Joseph Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (trans. Adrian Walker; London: Bloomsbury, 2008). For a discussion see in this 44


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sense of the word, is Ratzinger’s methodological deliberation, especially in the first few pages of his book. As a biblical scholar who normally deals more with historical questions than with ‘pure theology,’ I find myself concerned with history and historical questions primarily for theological reasons, because I consider that Christian theology is not possible without a strong historical foundation. At the same time I am well aware that faith and history, “Glaube und Geschichte,” do not make an easy match, which is why many in Biblical Studies seek to remedy this awkward situation through a separation along the lines of Troeltsch, namely a division between a historical and a dogmatic method, whereby the former is defined (and defended) as a secular and positivistic discipline. As such it can work within the boundaries of ‘accepted’ academic standards, which have remained very much the same as those defined by Troeltsch.47 History and faith can live peacefully together so long as they are divorced from each other; as long as faith-based claims about certain occurrences are clearly demarcated as confessional statements only. Moreover, as the Jewish historian and Jesus scholar Geza Vermes shows very clearly in his review of Benedict’s first volume, for him (and in this respect he represents many others) there is, in fact, no longer any issue to be addressed: The man Jesus of Nazareth is the only subject matter for the historian and everything beyond the pure (secular) historical paradigm is merely “the product of … musings” without any value or interest for “a seeker after historical truth.”48 The Christ of faith and the historical Jesus are, for Vermes, as for many others, two completely separate figures that should not even be attempted to be merged into one comprehensive picture. And this is exactly the situation Benedict challenges because he thinks – and rightly so – that this is an unhealthy situation, not only for theology but also for history. Ratzinger claims emphatically in the preface of his book that “The factum historicum (historical fact) is not an interchangeable symbolic cipher for biblical faith, but the foundation on which it stands: Et incarnatus est — when we say these words, we acknowledge God’s actual entry into real history.”49 If one traces his scholarly legacy to discern the meaning of this sentence, one finds throughout his writing a sustained emphasis on this very element: God volume “Can the ‘Real’ Jesus be Identified with the Historical Jesus? Joseph Ratzinger’s (Pope Benedict XVI) Challenge to Biblical Scholarship.” 47 Helpful discussions can be found in Webb, “The Historical Enterprise and Historical Jesus Research,” and Alexander J. M. Wedderburn, Jesus and the Historians (WUNT 269; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010). 48 His review of the first volume of Jesus of Nazareth was published under the title: “Jesus of Nazareth: The scholar Ratzinger bravely declares that he and not the Pope is the author of the book and that everyone is free to contradict him,” in The Times, May 19, 2007. For a detailed discussion see in this volume, pp. 353–7. 49 Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, 1.xv.

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should not be precluded from being a discernible cause within the reality of this world. The biblical scholar “must not” — as Ratzinger stated in his famous Erasmus lecture on “Biblical Interpretation in Conflict” — exclude the possibility that God, as himself, could act in and enter into history.”50 The first volume of Ratzinger’s work on Jesus omits the birth and resurrection narratives and, therefore, the crucial elements relating to what he calls the “real” Jesus. Some reviewers expressed their hope that he would be more careful (which, in fact, means less driven by his Christian conviction that the historical Jesus was indeed the pre-existent eternal Son of the Father) in addressing these topics in his second volume, but this did not transpire, quite to the contrary (as the now available second and third volume demonstrate). Already in a small pamphlet, which appeared in 2004 and had reached a third edition by 2005, Ratzinger laid out his thought on the virginal conception of Jesus and the empty tomb, and its title, Scandalous Realism? (“Skandalöser Realismus”),51 immediately sets the tone. It opens with a short description of what Ratzinger calls “a new Gnosticism”, which relegates God into the realm of subjectivity and bans him from “the world of matter — the objective world” (7), and in so doing denies God to be creator. Against all such anticreational Gnosticisms he posits the virginal birth and the resurrection of Jesus as God’s reminder of himself as creator in this world. They are deliberate revelatory acts of God for the sake of humanity. To miss them being God’s deeds is to miss them (and God in turn) completely. For Ratzinger, the foremost task of theology as a discipline is, therefore, “to recognize again God as acting subject,” for only this vantage point will (re-)connect the various theological disciplines with each other.52 Ratzinger differentiates in this short talk (which addressed a lay audience and not scholars) between historical knowledge gained by (secular) historical research (which can give only hypothetical certainty [“hypothetische Gewissheit”]) and between the certainty about historical events (“Gewissheit über historisches Geschehen”) which only faith can give.53 This is not to say that faith should replace historical research, but certain events cannot be adequately understood without it. One must keep in mind that Ratzinger is dealing in this talk with the virginal birth and the resurrection, that is events on the borderline between the empirical and transempirical. What deserves attention here (despite the obvious shortcomings) is his attempt to widen the range of what can be called historical knowledge by integrating ‘faith-based certainties’ within the process of understanding the past. Nevertheless, his argument 50

Ratzinger, “Biblical Interpretation in Conflict,” 116. Joseph Ratzinger, Skandalöser Realismus? Gott handelt in der Geschichte (3rd ed.; Bad Tölz: Urfeld, 2005). 52 Ibid., 25. 53 Ibid., 9. 51


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remains basically within the secular historical paradigm when he suggests a kind of two-tiered knowledge, one for the mundane facts and one for the spiritual realities. History in this sense is still part of the secular enterprise and faith desires to add to it somewhat randomly. So the question remains: ought not an openness to the transempirical be integrated in the historical method itself? In other words, should one not start with a theistic approach to history that presupposes God’s involvement from the beginning instead of trying to introduce him later?

5. Probings towards a Theological Historiography The final part, though perhaps the most crucial, remains — intentionally — a work in progress. So far, I have attempted to demonstrate that biblical exegetes cannot avoid the question of God’s role and action in this world, and then I examined three major approaches to dealing with the interrelation of God and history. What remains is to discuss and develop a critical methodology (by which I mean a set of questions that need to be asked) that appeals to God not merely when every other attempt to find an explanation has failed. God is not to be found primarily in the gaps of our knowledge,54 and as a last resort in our investigations. Rather he is to be understood as a major cause, disposed to manifest himself in the historical process from the outset, in attempting to describe the past as meaningful history within the setting of a theistic world-view. Therefore I have given this paper the highly, and perhaps 54 Cf. Thomas Dixon, Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 44–6; Dietrich Bonhoeffer also reflected on this question, after he had read in prison the book of Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, Zum Weltbild der Physik (Leipzig: Hirzel, 1943), in a letter to his friend Eberhard Bethge, 29 May 1944: “. . . how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap (“Lückenbüßer”) for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know.” But he finds the same mistake made also in other parts of life, where God is sought only at the beginning and end or in critical situation: “God is no stop-gap … It is his will to be recognized in life, and not only when death comes,” see Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (ed. Eberhard Bethge; London: SCM, 1971), 312. Cf. also the sarcastic comments of Troeltsch, “Historical and Dogmatic Method,” 31 (Dawes, 52), on “the modesty of a theology that has come to the point of finding its foundation ultimately in a gap.” Pushing God into the gaps beyond our responsibility occurs also in the language of legal contracts, where an ‘Act of God’ is a “force majeure,” which can include natural disasters, but also “acts of foreign enemies,” “civil war,” labour disputes, down to limited access to utilities, see Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents (EFP) § 22.2 (LexisNexis Butterworths). I owe this reference to Ellie Wreford. For a more light-hearted example of this idea see Mark Joffe’s film, “The Man Who Sued God” (2001).

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overly ambitious subtitle “Towards a Historical-Critical Assessment of the Conviction that God Acts in History.” This reflects the fact that — for some at least — it is plausible, reasonable, and worthwhile to write history based on the assumption that God acted, is acting and will act in the lives of individuals, as well as in larger social bodies like families, the Church, the people of Israel, in particular, and perhaps within other peoples qua peoples as well. I am aware that such a simple proposition brings with it an array of problems that all seem unsolvable and all of which have their own rich, diverse, and controversial intellectual traditions and scholarly legacies, which a single person cannot so much as trace, let alone fully appreciate and understand. And yet, to avoid these problems completely or to solve them through a compartmentalisation of the ‘historical’ and ‘dogmatic’ (following here Troeltsch’s use of these terms) — with that which is objective and ‘real’ placed in contrast to that which is subjective, and, therefore, mere private musing — seems unsatisfactory. Therefore, I want to encourage these issues to be addressed. First, because of the way the Bible reveals God as a compassionate contemporary of his chosen people. Secondly, because throughout the centuries, and across ethnic, cultural and intellectual borders, individuals as well as groups have described their own and/or their group’s life experiences in conformity with this compassionate contemporary.55 The question about God’s involvement in the history of the world should not be reduced to the rather rare phenomena of what are usually called miracles or supernatural events, although these will undoubtedly remain a prominent feature in such an endeavour. But the presentness of God is a much more pervasive concept than the idea that he intervenes only occasionally and seemingly at random. I have simplified the issue thus far by referring only to the Christian tradition and its understanding of God’s role in the world. But I agree with George Marsden that what is to be claimed for a specific form of Christian scholarship “should apply, mutatis mutandis, to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and persons of other religious faiths or of no formal faith.” Marsden continues: “Recognition of the necessity and value of a plurality of voices in the academic mainstream means that religious scholars must accommodate their messages to the legitimate demands of a pluralistic setting.”56 This means that if one wants to deal with transempirical realities as one element of a historiographic agenda, then it is impossible to limit this approach to one’s own religious tradition in a pluralistic setting.57 If we begin by subscribing to the


For a similar line of thought see Allison, Historical Christ, 46–52. Marsden, Outrageous Idea, 10–1. 57 Even in the biblical literature one can find a pluriform approach to ‘other’ religious traditions, cf. inter alia Gerhard Büttner, ed., Zwischen Nachbarschaft und Abgrenzung: 56


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proposition that transempirical realities can influence mundane matters then the experience of being called or commanded by God/a god in a specific way is an event that needs to be treated with the same openness and scrutiny aside from one’s own religious predilections. There are two major traditional ways of dealing with this point, a religious and a scientific one, and both turn out to be dissatisfying: 1. The religious solution operates according to a scheme in which what one’s god did, does and will do, is right and real, and whatever religious or supernatural experiences others claim are wrong: either they are an illusion, a fraud, or another form of deception, or they are the mimicry of spiritual powers hostile to the ‘true’ god.58 The biblical polemic against other gods runs, to a large extent, along these lines, even if there are some noteworthy exceptions. Martin Luther is quoted as saying: “Wherever God builds a church, there the devil erects a chapel next to it.”59 While this allows for religious experiences outside of one’s own tradition, they are always deceptive and wrong. This is surely no satisfying solution for the topic in question although it cannot and should not be dismissed completely as long as one holds with Paul that there are powers past and present (cf. Rom 8:38–9) able to separate us from the one true God.60 2. The scientific solution can be found in many commentaries and monographs on the Bible. Wherever the Bible reports a revelatory or miraculous event, commentators pile up long lists of parallels, either in the biblical tradition or in other religious traditions. The reason to do this is not always made explicit, but in fact this kind of presentation seems to indicate that the existence of narratives about miraculous conceptions and births in the Old Testament, and in Greek and Roman mythology, proves that Jesus’ birth narratives are modelled along these lines. The tacit point then is that Fremde Religionen in der Bibel (FS Hans Grewel; Dortmunder Beiträge zu Theologie und Religionspädagogik 1; Münster: Lit, 2007). 58 Already Justin develops the idea of demonic mimesis of the works of God or Jesus, cf. Annette Yoshiko Reed, “The Trickery of the Fallen Angels and the Demonic Mimesis of the Divine: Aetiology, Demonology, and Polemics in the Writings of Justin Martyr,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 12 (2004): 141–71; Andrew Daunton-Fear, Healing in the Early Church: The Church’s Ministry of Healing and Exorcism from the First to the Fifth Century (SCHT; Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2009), 48–9; other apologists, like Tatian and Theophilus, followed a similar line (depending on Justin, cf. ibid. 52–3, 54–5). 59 “Wo Gott eine Kirche baut, da baut der Teufel eine Kapelle daneben,” quoted in Erwin Mühlhaupt, ed., D. M. Luthers Evangelienauslegung Teil 1: Die Weihnachts- und Vorgeschichten bei Matthäus und Lukas (4th. ed.; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1964), 237. 60 For a defence of the ontological reality of malevolent forces, see Richard H. Bell, Deliver Us from Evil: Interpreting the Redemption from the Power of Satan in New Testament Theology (WUNT 216; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007)

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because the former are not regarded as historical (which can be agreed upon without further comment), then the same is true for the latter. Again, just as in the religious solution, there is some truth in this notion, and the “religionsgeschichtliche Vergleich” (“history of religions comparison”) is indispensible for any critical approach. But is the proposed non-historical character of an event explained properly by pointing to similar assumedly non-historical events? Is it not possible to reverse Troeltsch’s criterion of analogy for events involving transempirical realities when they appear analogous to each other? So, for example, Dale C. Allison, in his aforementioned book, uses the temptation of Jesus by Satan as an example “of how Jesus is present in places where modern historians typically see only the church.” One of his points as to why this cannot be “sober history” is that we have “similar dialogues between rabbis and Satan” in the rabbinic literature which he dismisses from the outset as ahistorical. And then he asks the question: “Why should I evaluate the Synoptic encounter differently?”61 Indeed, why? Why not treat them in analogy to what is described in rabbinic literature (and occasionally in church history as well)? This does not mean that, in the end, all of this is historical. But it might help to understand better the language employed to describe something which ‘really’ happened, even if it is indescribable to some extent, but needs to be communicated nevertheless. An approach which excludes the agency of the divine from the outset cannot go any further. But, again, if one starts with the acceptance of transempirical realities — should it not be possible to understand such an event differently in a legitimate scholarly way? A further complication lies in the fact that even within the context of a given religious tradition not every claim about a transempirical experience that an individual or group relates back to God’s (or a god’s) intervention can be taken as true without any critical assessment. Individuals quite often believe that God has said, revealed, or shown them something, or that God has done something in their lives, which bystanders — even if they belong to the same religious tradition — do not believe at all. At best they see such a thing as wishful thinking or naive piety, at worst as intentional fraud. More than once biblical texts themselves caution against those who declare their dreams to be God’s word,62 and similar warnings can be found in other religious traditions. In order to open the door to the inclusion of transempirical realities for one mode63 of writing history, it must be undertaken critically from an historical as well as a theological angle. 61

Allison, Historical Christ, 25. Deut 13:1–15; 18:9–22; Jer 23:9–40; Ez 13; Matt 7:15–23; 24:11, 23–4; etc. 63 It is necessary to highlight that this proposal for a faith-informed historiography is one form of historiography, not the only one. But it is one important way, which should not be given up just because it is not a universally accepted approach (an ideal of the sciences and 62


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The task ahead of an historical-critical assessment involves finding ways to address such ambiguities as well as ‘real’ revelatory events within all forms of belief-systems. This requires critical criteria to differentiate between that which can be conceived and discussed as a ‘special’ act of God (or, in a wider sense, events caused by transempirical realities) and other forms of religious expression where this might not be the case. A related difficulty here is that a religious or revelatory meaning can often be attached to an event only from hindsight. This phenomenon is already evident in the Bible, and stated explicitly in the Gospel of John (2:22; 7:39; 12:16; see also 16:5–15). But history writing is, with the exception of the special forms of annals and diaries, always the product of hindsight, and distance from the events is not necessarily a disadvantage; indeed, it can and should be seen favourably. Only distance allows for the understanding of the meaning and importance of an event in light of its history of impact. But the critical task for a theistically motivated historiography remains to discern whether God’s involvement should indeed be seen or heard in an event (even if this is possible only from hindsight, and can only be done with a limited degree of probability), or whether revelatory claims function as an attempt to embellish someone or something for some particular reason. If I were to map out some first elements of such a critical methodology that allows for consideration of transempirical realities, it should fulfil the following criteria: 1. It needs to be critical. This means that it must allow for a differentiation between true and false, and it must be capable of taking criticism; all sorts of self-immunisation should therefore be excluded. 2. It needs to be coherent. This means that what are taken initially as fundamental propositions in approaching the historical process should result in a disposition that enables the application of these propositions to the given evidence.64 That attitude by which a single person can differentiate between being a ‘churchgoer’ and an academic historian, such that something that holds true in an existential and even ontological way in the former category is effectively denied as historically possible in the latter, is, therefore, incoherent.65 Coherence also requires that the historical pronot of the humanities). I am not aiming at the dominion of any approach at all, but favour strongly multiple perspectives that are able to enrich our understanding of a phenomenon. At the same time multiple perspectives should engage, criticise and limit each other. 64 Cf. Thiselton, Hermeneutics of Doctrine, 19–42, on the “Dispositional Accounts of Belief.” The underlying belief “becomes articulated precisely when someone denies it” (37). In the same way one’s basic understanding of the historical process (theistic or a-theistic) is an underlying belief that has to develop its narrative of history in a manner coherent to its initial proposition. 65 As examples cf. Allison, Historical Christ, 43.

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cess can be explained without gaps, that is, in a way that developments can be described as — to use Troeltsch’s definition of correlation — “forming a current in which everything is interconnected and each single event is related to all others.”66 What Troeltsch requires is actually impossible for an atheistic approach to reality, whereas one based on Heb 1:3 can do exactly this. 3. It needs to be rational without being trapped in the notion that what is rational is solely that discovered by the Enlightenment tradition.67 Rational, as I would like to understand it, is that which can be described and made understandable across time, cultures, and ethnic boundaries. In other words, it must — at least theoretically — have the potential to be universally true (the proper German term would be Universalisierbarkeit; perhaps universalibility comes close?). The famous sentence of Saint Vincent of Lérins (died c. 445 AD) in defining catholicity can be modified for this purpose as well: Rational in a universal sense is something that can be explained in such a way that it allows for meaningful discourse everywhere, always and by all who are interested in it.68 4. It needs to be describable in such a way that those taking differing approaches are able to appreciate why this position is held within academia, even if they disagree with it. This implies the acceptance of different levels of “intersubjectivity,” which is the ability to explain why certain things are accepted as true without being able to provide objective evidence for them. 5. The demand for describability calls for comprehensiveness (Nachvollziehbarkeit), even if it will be achievable only by decreasing levels of probability and plausibility. The tripartite scheme proposed by Martin Hengel in his aforementioned theses can be used as point of departure. There he distinguishes between (1) “clearly defined facts”, where the mode of appropriation is “knowing” and “complete intersubjectivity is most easily possible” (2.3.1); and (2) “geistesgeschichtliches Verstehen” (the English 66

“Historical and Dogmatic Method,” 14 (= ed. Dawes, 33). For secularism as a specific development of Western Europe only see Beck, A God of One’s Own, 22–40, and the debate of Habermas and Ratzinger, in this volume, 368, 403–6. 68 “In the Catholic Church itself, every care should be taken to hold fast to what has been believed, everywhere, always, and by all (ut id teneamus, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est). This is truly and properly ‘Catholic,’ as indicated by the force of the etymology of the name itself, which comprises everything truly universal. This general rule will be truly applied if we follow the principles of universality, antiquity, and consent (si sequamur universitatem antiquitatem consensium).” Rudolph E. Morris, “Vincent of Lerins, The Commonitories (Commonitoria),” in The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation (vol. 7; Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1949), 255–332 (270). For the Latin text see Vinzenc von Lerinum, Commonitorium pro catholicae fidei antiquitate et universitate adversus profanas omnium haereticorum novitates (ed. Adolf Jülicher; SAQ I.10; 2nd ed.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1925), 3. 67


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translation is “understanding cultural history” which is too narrow because it does not include the religious element), with “interpretation” as the mode of appropriation; and (3) “value judgements, or the positive or negative answer to the truth-claim of historical sources, persons or groups,” which are appropriated by way of “assenting or dissenting” (2.3.1–4). He admits that “the possibility of controlling communication diminishes with each stage” and becomes only “a contingent possibility”. But this is true for any interpretative work of history. The second step in Hengel’s triad is therefore decisive, because here the interpreters have to reflect their presuppostions and relate to their peers what it is that guides their interpretations. Only if this is done can the assent or dissent on level three be comprehended (not shared) by those who come to a different judgment on the basis of their interpretation. 6. What follows from the previous point is the demand for an intellectual and scholarly climate of fostering a plurality of reasonable interpretations, rather than one where only the currently dominant view receives support. It has to be said that the Church did exactly the latter in times and places when and where it held interpretative power, and the same happened in ideologically grounded political regimes. Academic freedom is therefore the most valuable asset for academia. Any proponent of a reasonable interpretation ought only to argue for such without attempting to enforce its truth claims and value judgments. Non-totalitarian scholarship will always welcome differing approaches that allow the understanding of specific truth claims through careful description of the chosen presuppositions. It follows from the foregoing that any attempt to enforce the abandonment of a faith-informed vantage point in academic discussion just because its intersubjectivity is limited, is ill-advised. It would mean that people bound by religious convictions can speak about and explain religion to non-religious people only if they leave their mode of interpretation behind and adopt a position that precludes any ‘reality talk’ about religious truth. Ultimately it coerces those who desire to talk intelligibly and rationally about God acting in history, and in their own lives, to convert first to a worldview where the very thing they seek to communicate is already assigned to the non-real. And such a mind-set would be of no benefit — either for the university, or the church, or society as a whole. The responsibility of Biblical Studies for a wider audience should not be lost, and this is even more the case if we are convinced that what we believe is not ‘just’ true in an existential and subjective way related to our inner self, but that it is an “ontological truth claim,” which is also meaningful for other disciplines within the university. To stay silent about truth, even if religiously based, even if disputed, is against the ethos of the university and the practice of good scholarship.

PART ONE Historical Studies

The Social Profile of the Pharisees* 0. Introduction In the vast literature on the Pharisees produced over the last 150 years, many and very different suggestions have been given regarding their social profile. In view of this, and given my lack of formal training as a sociologist, I was initially reluctant to accept the invitation to take up this topic again. What follows therefore employs the term “social” somewhat lightly and in a more general way, using Anthony Saldarini’s book on Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society as a starting point. In this seminal study, Saldarini provides a fairly exhaustive survey of the existing opinions: Scholars have pictured the Pharisees as a sect within Judaism, a powerful religious leadership group, a political leadership group, a learned scholarly group, a lay movement in competition with the priesthood, a group of middle-class urban artisans or some combination of these.1

To these Saldarini adds his own, in which he takes the view that the majority of the Pharisees belonged to the so-called retainer class, who “were mostly townspeople who served the needs of the governing class as soldiers, educators, religious functionaries, entertainers and skilled artisans.”2 This picture is heavily based on Gerhard Lenski’s influential book Power and Privilege: * This paper originated in an invited contribution to a symposium held at the K.U. Leuven in January 2006. The title was suggested by the organizers of the symposium. The proceedings can be found in Reimund Bieringer, Florentino García Martínez, Didier Pollefeyt, and Peter J. Tomson, eds., The New Testament and Rabbinic Literature (JSJ 136; Leiden: Brill, 2010). 1 Anthony J. Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees in Palestinian Society: A Sociological Approach (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988; paperback edition with a foreword by James C. VanderKam; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 3. 2 Saldarini, Pharisees, 37–8. See also ibid., 4f: “Retainers included the bureaucrats, soldiers and functionaries associated with the Hasmoneans, the Herods and the Romans as well as the Temple servants and officers associated with the chief priests. It is among the retainers that we shall find the scribes and most of the Pharisees”, and also p. 313 “Glossary” under “Retainer Class.” Here he adds that they “shared the life of the governing class to some extent, but had no independent base of power or wealth (in contrast to the modern middle class).” For various criticisms on these points see James C. VanderKam, “Foreword,” in Saldarini, Pharisees, xi–xxv (xvi–xvii, xix–x).


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A Theory of Social Stratification,3 as well as on the assumption that Palestinian society during the Hellenistic and Roman periods was an “agrarian society,” which, as part of the Roman empire, was integrated into a “large agrarian, bureaucratic and partly commercialized aristocratic empire.”4 The main characteristic of this type of society is the absence of a ‘middle class,’ with the effect that a wide gulf separates the small governing class from the majority of the population, which belongs to the peasant class, whose main function is to fuel society with food and all other necessities for survival.5 The retainer 3 Gerhard Lenski, Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification (MacGrawHill Series in Sociology; New York: MacGraw-Hill, 1966). Lenski is highly interested in the religious factor as well: see idem, The Religious Factor: A Sociological Study of Religion’s Impact on Politics, Economics, and Family Life (Anchor Books A 337; rev. ed.; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1963). 4 Saldarini, Pharisees, 35; Richard A. Horsley, “The Pharisees and Jesus in Galilee and Q,” in When Judaism and Christianity Began (vol. 1: Christianity in the Beginning; FS Anthony J. Saldarini; ed. Alan J. Avery-Peck, Daniel Harrington, and Jacob Neusner; JSJSup 85.1; Leiden: Brill, 2004), 117–45 (119–22). For a critique of the appropriateness of Lenski’s social stratification for Palestinian Judaism see Seán Freyne, “Galilean Studies: Problems and Prospects,” in Galilee and Gospel: Collected Essays (WUNT 125; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000), 1–26 (17–19); Marianne Sawicki, Crossing Galilee: Architectures of Contact in the Occupied Land of Jesus (London: Continuum, 2000), 66–8, 202–3; Gerald F. Downing, “In Quest of First-Century C.E. Galilee,” CBQ 66 (2004): 78–97 (81–2); for a comprehensive theological critique of sociological theories see John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (2nd ed.; Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), and esp. 112–23 for his critique of sociology within Biblical Studies. 5 This overall picture is, of course, over-simplistic. The Roman province of Egypt was also an agriculture-based society, but its documentary papyri, with their precise data on prices, contracts, dowries, and similar financial items, illustrate the relative wealth of a sizeable portion of the society, including Jews. These people were neither pure peasants (who still formed the majority), nor bureaucratic functionaries, or other “retainers,” but members of a financially secure and self-confident “class” who were able to make their case to the official administration as well as to their fellows: see Naphtali Lewis, Life in Egypt under Roman Rule (Classics in Papyrology 1; Oakville, Conn.: American Society of Papyrologists, 1999 [repr. of Oxford: Clarendon, 1983]), 18–83. Jews were well-documented members of this “middle class.” See also the newly published papyri of the Jewish politeuma in Herakleopolis, which give valuable insights into the social reality of Jewish communities: Urkunden des Politeuma der Juden von Herakleopolis (144/3–133/2 v. Chr.) (P. Polit. Iud.): Papyri aus den Sammlungen von Heidelberg, Köln, München und Wien (ed. James M. S. Cowey and Klaus Maresch; Abhandlungen der Nordrhein-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: Sonderreihe Papyrologica Coloniensia 29; Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag, 2001); a similar picture should also be assumed for Eretz Israel. The documentary papyri from the Judean desert — which until now have been underused in the discussion of social stratification — are one potential source to support this point. In addition, the massive scholarly work which was done with respect to Galilee has shown that the “agrarian society” is not a sufficient and extensive enough model for the understanding of Jewish society of the first century, with its strong ‘urban’ characteristics as well: see Seán Freyne, “Urban-Rural Relations in First-Century Galilee: Some Suggestions from the Literary Sources,” in The

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class, belonging to the upper classes, makes up not more than about 5–7% of the population,6 and functions as a pivot between the ruling elite and the peasant class. Their main societal function is to support the governing class in its attempt to maintain its position.7 Retainers can therefore have a great impact on society and culture, especially in times when the governing class is weak.8 Saldarini offers many insights and scrutinizes the available evidence with great care, and — as I have shown elsewhere9 — in his analysis of the sources accords much more influence in society to the Pharisees than in the methodological and summary parts of his book.10 Nevertheless, I think that his overall treatment is too strongly oriented towards the mechanisms of ‘official’ power and influence. To put it another way: societal status as an end in itself seems to be more important than religious values or goals; and religious practices and beliefs are treated primarily as ways to engage society, and not as meaningful in themselves or for Heaven’s sake.11 This is partly due to Saldarini’s Galilee in Late Antiquity (ed. Lee I. Levine; New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1992), 75–91 (= Galilee and Gospel, 45–58); idem, “Town and Country Once More: The Case of Roman Galilee,” in Archaeology and the Galilee: Texts and Contexts in the GraecoRoman and Byzantine Period (ed. Douglas R. Edwards and C. Thomas McCollough; SFSHJ 143; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 49–56 (= Galilee and Gospel, 59–72); idem, “Jesus and the Urban Culture of Galilee,” in Texts and Contexts: Texts in their Textual and Situational Contexts. Essays in Honor of Lars Hartman (ed. David Hellholm and Tord Fornberg; Oslo: Scandinavian University Press, 1995), 597–622 (= Galilee and Gospel, 183–207); idem, Jesus, A Jewish Galilean: A New Reading of the Jesus-Story (London: T&T Clark, 2004), 37–59; Jonathan L. Reed, Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus: A Re-examination of the Evidence (Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity, 2000), 62–99. For the economic situation see Seán Freyne, “The Herodian Economics in Galilee: Searching for a Suitable Model,” in Galilee and Gospel, 86–113; Karl-Heinrich Ostmeyer, “Armenhaus und Räuberhöhle? Galiläa zur Zeit Jesu,” ZNW 96 (2005): 147–70. 6 Saldarini, Pharisees, 38. 7 Ibid., 37. 8 Ibid., 41. 9 Roland Deines, “The Pharisees Between ‘Judaisms’ and ‘Common Judaism’,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism: A Fresh Appraisal of Paul and Second Temple Judaism (vol. 1: The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism; ed. D. A. Carson et al.; WUNT 2.140; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 443–504 (446–9). 10 Compare the summary with respect to material from Josephus: “Whatever influence they [the Pharisees] achieved, they usually achieved it with the help of a powerful patron and they entered into coalitions with other groups among the upper classes in order to gain influence and move those who had power” (Saldarini, Pharisees, 120). 11 John P. Meier, in his very helpful and lengthy description of the Pharisees as Jesus’ competitors, takes for granted that “the Pharisees (as well as the Sadducees) were a Jewish group with both political and religious interests,” see his A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (vol. 3: Companions and Competitors; ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1994), 289–387 (313), the chapter on the Pharisees. No one would doubt this statement, yet its generalizations are far from illuminating. Instead, it is necessary to clarify how “political


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use of “the structural functionalist approach to sociology,” with its main categories of class, status, and power. Two basic assumptions are part of this approach. First, it is assumed “that all human action contributes to human living and specifically human society.”12 Consequently, each action is to be understood in relation to its societal function. Second, it is thought that the main task of human action is the creation of order and the regulation of conflicts, with the intention of keeping society stable. Saldarini is well aware of the limitations of this approach13 and uses an additional set of analytical tools to compensate for it, but the assigning of the Pharisees into the right “group type[]” and their related “communal activities and functions in society” comprise the main focus throughout.14 “Beliefs and and religious interests” related to each other. As far as the Pharisees are concerned, religious interests should be assumed to be dominant, with politics being just a means to serve these religious ambitions (a position which, as far as I can see, is quite close to Meier’s: see ibid., 315–16). See also Lester L. Grabbe, “Sadducees and Pharisees,” in Judaism in Late Antiquity. Part Three: Where We Stand: Issues and Debates in Ancient Judaism. Volume 1 (ed. Jacob Neusner and Alan J. Avery-Peck; HO 1.40; Leiden: Brill, 1999), 1.35–61 (45) (and 60), where he summarizes the presentation of Josephus as “both Pharisees and Sadducees have political aspirations much of the time.” In addition he mentions that “both groups are portrayed as having religious beliefs” — but, again, the interaction between political and religious interests is not clear (but see Lester L. Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian [London: SCM, 1994 (first publ. in 2 vols., Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1992), 483–4]). One gets the impression that the Pharisees concentrated on piety only when politics were not available to them. For the discussion between Grabbe and Mason on Pharisaic influence see Steve Mason, “Revisiting Josephus’s Pharisees,” in Judaism in Late Antiquity. Part Three: Where We Stand: Issues and Debates in Ancient Judaism. Volume 2 (ed. Jacob Neusner and Alan J. Avery-Peck; HO 1.41; Leiden: Brill, 1999), 2.23–56 (44–54); Lester L. Grabbe, “The Pharisees: A Response to Steve Mason,” in Judaism in Late Antiquity. Part Three: Where We Stand: Issues and Debates in Ancient Judaism. Volume 3 (ed. Jacob Neusner and Alan J. Avery-Peck; HO 1.53; Leiden: Brill 2000), 3.35–47. A more helpful portrait of the Pharisees, which is closer to the view of Wellhausen (where religious interests clearly dominate over politics), can be found in Joachim Schaper, “The Pharisees,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism (vol. 3: The Early Roman Period; ed. William Horbury, W. D. Davies, and John Sturdy; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 3.402–27. 12 Saldarini, Pharisees, 18. 13 For Saldarini’s use of the “structural functionalist approach to society,” see Saldarini, Pharisees, 34, and also his comments 17–20 (for the qualification of the method see ibid., 19). For further discussion of its merits and limitations, see Gerd Theißen, “Zur forschungsgeschichtlichen Einordnung der soziologischen Fragestellung,” in Studien zur Soziologie des Urchristentum (WUNT 19; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1989), 3–34 (30–34); idem, “Theoretische Probleme religionssoziologischer Forschung und die Analyse des Urchristentums,” in ibid., 55–76 (= Neue Zeitschrift für systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie 16 [1974], 35–56); Catherine Hezser, The Social Structure of the Rabbinic Movement in Roman Palestine (TSAJ 66; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 40–41. 14 Saldarini, Pharisees, 280–1. “The Pharisees most probably fulfilled many group roles in Jewish society. The discussion of the Pharisees as a group will concentrate on their communal activities and functions in society rather than on a static list of group characteristics.”

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teachings” are only a minor, and perhaps underestimated, factor in this programme.15 To avoid rehearsing Saldarini’s excellent analysis, I have tried to formulate an outline for describing the social profile of the Pharisees that draws on Saldarini’s work alongside Albert Baumgarten’s insightful study on The Flourishing of Jewish Sects in the Maccabean Era. I will address two points: the question of power and influence; and the question of organization. The result will not be another attempt to find the right class-label for the Pharisees, which is in itself a kind of reductionistic approach, with its implied presupposition that the Pharisees can be pigeonholed as one class or another. Rather, my interest lies in the societal orientation of the Pharisees that can be perceived in the available sources; that is, in the particular target group they wanted to reach or influence.

1. Seeking Power and Influence As a starting point for the following deliberations, I take for granted the existence of a social phenomenon or, in the terminology of Max Weber, a “historical individuum” (“ein historisches Individuum”) called Pharisaism. Weber defines a “historisches Individuum” as a multi-faceted complex of historical data and interrelations that can be grouped with regard to its cultural meaning under a single term. The New Testament and Josephus treat the Pharisees and their interactions as part of Jewish society as such a phenomenon that obviously needs no further explanation. The Pharisees existed as an identifiable entity and by the first century already formed a “historical individuum.” This is why most references in our sources speak of them in the plural, “the Pharisees,” and much less of individuals.16 An important task, therefore, is answer15

Ibid., 289–91. Out of 99 references in the NT (including Matt 23:14), 84 are in the plural, mostly with the definite article (77 times); of the 13 references in the singular, 11 are to be found in the Gospel of Luke: see Roland Deines, “Pharisäer,” in Theologisches Begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testament (ed. Lothar Coenen and Klaus Haacker; 2 vols.; 2nd rev. ed.; Wuppertal: Brockhaus, 2000), 2.1455–68 (1462). For attempts to sort out individual Pharisees in the time up to the destruction of the Temple see Shaye J. D. Cohen, “The Significiance of Yavneh: Pharisees, Rabbis and the End of Sectarianism,” HUCA 55 (1984): 27–53, (36, n. 20, listing 11 individuals); whereas Joseph Sievers, “Who were the Pharisees?” in Hillel and Jesus: Comparisons of Two Major Religious Leaders (ed. James H. Charlesworth and Loren L. Johns; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997), 137–55, lists 12 named individuals plus at least two unnamed ones (from Luke 11:37; 14:1). A rather different picture would emerge if one followed Jacob Neusner, The Rabbinic Traditions About the Pharisees Before 70 (3 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 1971), who names more than fifty ‘Pharisees’ and the traditions attributed to them. 16


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ing the question of how, why, and when this “historical individuum” came into being. This was done masterfully by Albert Baumgarten, and there is no need to repeat his work: Baumgarten sees the main ferments for the development of the Jewish sects in “the encounter with Hellenism,” which influenced the daily life of individual Jews in many ways: in the rise of literacy and education, in urbanization,17 and in a specific eschatological outlook. What seems to me especially helpful is his comparative approach, which tries to 17 Albert I. Baumgarten, “City Lights: Urbanization and Sectarianism in Hasmonean Jerusalem,” in The Centrality of Jerusalem (ed. Marcel Poorthuis and Ch. Safrai; Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1996), 50–64, describes the Pharisees as a city-based “reference group” whose function was to guide and direct a society in transition and especially the ‘newcomers’ in the city, which for Baumgarten only concerns Jerusalem. Taking into consideration the strong urbanization of Galilee under Herod Antipas (see above note 5) and the probable fact that Herod’s relation to at least some Pharisees was not that bad (see Ant. 14.172–6; 15.3–4, 370, although the text and its transmission contains some inconsistencies), it therefore seems quite likely that the Pharisaic influence in Galilee increased as the province became more urbanized. It is further evident from Ant. 17.41–5 (see also Bell. 1.571) that the Pharisees also exerted some influence within Herod’s family. Steve Mason, Flavius Josephus on the Pharisees (StPB 39; Leiden: Brill, 1991), 116–19 and 260–80, interprets Josephus’s description of the relation between Herod and the Pharisees as more hostile, but this is partly due to his overall approach, according to which Josephus was opposed to the Pharisaic influence in society; his description is therefore biased (ibid., 373; see further Meier, Marginal Jew, 312; Schaper, “Pharisees,” 417–19). For further discussion of the Pheroras episode, see Saldarini, Pharisees, 100–1; Grabbe, Judaism, 471, 483–4. For an unconvincing attempt to separate the Pharisees from the episode in Ant. 17.41–5, see Ellis Rivkin, A Hidden Revolution: The Pharisees’ Search for the Kingdom Within (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon, 1978), 321–4 (= idem, “Who Were the Pharisees?” in Judaism in Late Antiquity. Part Three: Where We Stand: Issues and Debates in Ancient Judaism. Volume 3 [ed. by Jacob Neusner and Alan J. Avery-Peck; HO 1.53; Leiden: Brill, 2000], 3.1–33 [30–33]). That Pharisaism was linked with urbanism and the social changes caused by it is a long-standing tradition in scholarship: see Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus: An Investigation into Economic and Social Conditions during the New Testament Period (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969 [translation of the 3rd German edition: Jerusalem zur Zeit Jesu, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1962], “with author’s revisions to 1967”), 247; Louis Finkelstein, The Pharisees: The Sociological Background of their Faith (2 vols.; 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1938]; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1962), 1.4–5, 11–23, 82–100 (see also e.g. xxv: “the rural–urban conflict is one of the few constants in the recorded history of civilization”); Rivkin, “Who Were the Pharisees,” 24–5; Schaper, “Pharisees,” 405 (“It was the urban lower middle class that provided the soil for the growth of Pharisaism”); E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief. 63 BCE-66 CE (London: SCM, 1992), 404–47. For the rabbinic movement see Stuart S. Miller, Sages and Commoners in Late Antique ’Ereẓ Israel (TSAJ 111; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 446–66, who describes a clear hierarchy from city to village with respect to the reputation of the sages, but not in the way that study of the Torah or a life according to the halakhic rules was only possible in the cities. What he describes is a “rabbinic network” (451) that had its centres in Sepphoris and Tiberias but that has “tentacles” that reached even as far as the smallest villages (459). Hezser, Rabbinic Movement, 157–84, drew similar conclusions.

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understand the emergence of Jewish sectarianism with a view to “analogous situations in other times and places.”18 While Baumgarten focused on the formative period of what in the end became a “historical individuum,” I want to ask in what way Pharisaism partook in Jewish society in Eretz Israel in the first century before and after the beginning of the Common Era.19 In order to get an idea of what kind of social role Pharisaism might have played, it is necessary to consider the rules, the teammates, the opponents, and, of course, the referee in this game. In other words, what were the rules according to which society was organized and governed? Which modes of participation were possible and accessible? In addition, was participation possible for all, or only for those with special immutable qualifications such as pedigree? Or could specialised knowledge — as a contingent qualification that is, at least theoretically, open to all — serve as an entrance ticket as well? What institutions existed and what was their influence upon the social reality? A glance at the literature reveals mainly discussions of the Sanhedrin, legal courts, synagogues, and schools. Yet what was the scope and impact of these different institutions? These, as already mentioned, are the main questions that Saldarini tried to answer. With respect to the Pharisees, he took it for granted that they were after active participa18 Albert I. Baumgarten, The Flourishing of Jewish Sects in the Maccabean Era: An Interpretation (JSJSup 55; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 35. For similar approaches comparing Pharisaism with Christian pietistic and dissenting groups, see Eyal Regev, “Comparing Sectarian Practice and Organization: The Qumran Sects in Light of the Regulations of the Shakers, Hutterites, Mennonites and Amish,” Numen 51 (2004): 146–81; Roland Deines, “Pharisäer und Pietisten: Ein Vergleich zwischen zwei analogen Frömmigkeitsbewegungen,” Jahrbuch für evangelikale Theologie 14 (2000): 113–33. 19 I regard the first century AD as decisive in more than one respect. Our best sources originate in and deal mainly with the first century (Josephus, New Testament). Furthermore, the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD on the one hand marks the termination of Pharisaism as an inner-Jewish movement labelled under this name, and, on the other, the starting point of the transformation of the Jewish religion into what would become in the course of time rabbinic Judaism, of which Pharisaism was one of the principle and formative forerunners. For a more cautious view of Pharisaic influence within the rabbinic movement, see e.g. Günter Stemberger, Jewish Contemporaries of Jesus: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995); idem, “Qumran, die Pharisäer und das Rabbinat,” in Antikes Judentum und Frühes Christentum (FS Hartmut Stegemann; ed. Bernd Kollmann, Wolfgang Reinbold, and Annette Steudel; BZNW 97; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1999), 210–24; idem, “Mischna Avot: Frühe Weisheitsschrift, pharisäisches Erbe oder spätrabbinische Bildung?” ZNW 96 (2005): 243–58. For my own view, see Roland Deines, Die Pharisäer: Ihr Verständnis im Spiegel der christlichen und jüdischen Forschung seit Wellhausen und Graetz (WUNT 101; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 538–40; for a critical discussion of my position see John P. Meier, “The Quest for the Historical Pharisee: A Review Essay on Roland Deines, Die Pharisäer,” CBQ 61 (1999): 713–22. See also Grabbe, Judaism, 594: “Developing Judaism at Yavneh appears to owe a great deal to the pre-70 Pharisaic tradition,” and Miller, Sages and Commoners, 21–6.


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tion, after “influence and power in Jewish government” wherever they saw a chance.20 To pick up on the image used above: for Saldarini, as for many others, it is beyond doubt that the Pharisees were playing the game of “who runs what.”21 But is this really the way in which Pharisaism exerted its apparent influence?22 Was “Jewish government” truly the sphere in which they most as20

Saldarini, Pharisees, 42 et al. Cf. Sanders, Judaism, 458–90: “Who Ran What?” with its misleading conclusion: “the Pharisees governed neither directly nor indirectly” (459), which in my eyes results from asking the wrong question: see Deines, “Pharisees,” 448, n. 14. Sanders is right when he writes that “it is important to distinguish between the popularity of the Pharisees and their ability to control official and public events” (389; on the reasons for Pharisaic popularity see 402–4). But this still does not explain why the Pharisees — while adding only “minor adjustments” to “common practice” (402) — gained popular prestige within Jewish society when their religious practise and attitude hardly differed at all from their non-Pharisaic compatriots. Contrary to this, I would maintain that the type of household Judaism (see note 57) that emerged from the first century BC is not understandable without an influential group promoting this type of Jewish piety and its strong concerns about purity in the daily life of the common people. Purity was surely not the only concern of this new movement, but it is the one which can be best seen through archaeological findings, see Andrea M. Berlin, “Jewish Life Before the Revolt: The Archaeological Evidence,” JSJ 36 (2005): 417–70; Roland Deines, “Non-literary Sources for the Interpretation of the New Testament: Methodological Considerations and Case Studies Related to the Corpus Judaeo-Hellenisticum,” in Neues Testament und hellenistisch-jüdische Alltagskultur: Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen (ed. Roland Deines, Jens Herzer, and Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr; WUNT 274; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 25–66 (31–38). Other traceable elements are the anti-Pharisaic polemic of the Gospels. The only known group which matches the search criteria for being influential in the first century BC (admitted by Sanders, Judaism, 381–3), oriented towards the people, and interested in the development of ‘everyday Halakhah’ allowing the average citizen to practice a sanctified life within his own house and community, and during daily work and routine, are the Pharisees. Therefore, common Judaism as reflected in “household Judaism” is the result of Pharisaic influence on noticeable portions of Jewish society. In my view, this explains the visible changes in Jewish religious practice, as well as Pharisaic popularity. Additionally, it allows us to locate the connecting lines between Pharisaism and rabbinic Judaism. See also Roland Deines, “Die Pharisäer und das Volk im Neuen Testament und bei Josephus,” in Josephus und das Neue Testament: Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen (ed. Christfried Böttrich and Jens Herzer; WUNT 209; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 147–80. 22 The influence of the Pharisees is well acknowledged in many studies: see e.g. Tal Ilan, “The Attraction of Aristocratic Women to Pharisaism During the Second Temple Period,” HTR 88 (1995): 1–33; Steve Mason, “Pharisaic Dominance Before 70 CE and the Gospels’ Hypocrisy Charge (Matt 23.2–3),” HTR 83 (1990): 363–81; idem, “Revisiting Josephus’s Pharisees;” idem, Josephus on the Pharisees, 372–5; Meier, Marginal Jew, 297– 8, 312–13; Kenneth G. C. Newport, “The Pharisees in Judaism prior to A.D. 70,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 29 (1991): 127–37; Marcel Pelletier, Les Pharisiens: Histoire d’un partie méconnu (Lire la Bible 87; Paris: Cerf, 1990); Noel S. Rabbinowitz, “Matthew 23:2–4: Does Jesus Recognize the Authority of the Pharisees and Does He Endorse Their Halakha?” JETS 46 (2003): 423–47; Rivkin, “Who Were the Pharisees?”; Schaper, “Phari21

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pired to become influential? My impression is that the denial of a significant Pharisaic influence on Jewish society so popular in parts of recent scholarship is based on a sociological model that implies such influence must have been channelled through ‘official’ government-based institutions.23 sees,” although the precise range is disputed. See further Roland Deines and Martin Hengel, “E. P. Sanders’ ‘Common Judaism’, Jesus, and the Pharisees: A Review Article,” JTS 46 (1995): 1–70 (55–67); Deines, “Pharisees”, 451–2 (lit.), 474–91. For a different view see note 19 above. 23 Cf. Saldarini, Pharisees, 120: the Pharisees “were a literate, organized group which constantly sought influence with governing class [sic]” (also 122); similar Sanders, Judaism, 383: “They were not aristocrats, but they nevertheless wished to have governmental power for themselves” (for Sanders they came quite close to their ambitious aims in the time between John Hyrcan and Salome Alexandra, but lost most of their political power during Herod’s reign and regained it only for a short period during the outbreak of the revolt against Rome). In order to minimize Pharisaic influence, Sanders therefore tries to show their absence not only in political decision making bodies but also in the Sanhedrin and the synagogues: see Judaism, 176–7, 472–88; Meier, Marginal Jew, 297. Sanders’ argument is clearly directed against the influential position of Emil Schürer (1844–1910), according to which the Pharisees were closely connected to the Sanhedrin, schools, and synagogues (see Deines, Pharisäer, 80–8). It is worthwhile mentioning that Schürer’s contemporary Julius Wellhausen (1844–1918) in his famous book Die Pharisäer und die Sadducäer: Eine Untersuchung zur inneren jüdischen Geschichte (Greifswald: L. Bamberg, 1874; repr. Hannover: H. Lafaire, 1924; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1967; ET: The Pharisees and Sadducees: An Examination of Internal Jewish History [Mercer Library of Biblical Studies; Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2001]), featured the Pharisees rather differently as a kind of ‘ecclesial party’ that did not actively engage in politics for politics’ sake and whose influence was not based on a formal control of the Sanhedrin or other institutions but on their personal authority within the ordinary people as experts in the Law (Deines, Pharisäer, 44–67). Wellhausen’s book was only translated into English in 2001 and received a rather hostile reception in some quarters: see the reviews by Dennis C. Stoutenburg, JBL 122 (2003): 376–9; idem, Review of Biblical Literature 5 (2003): 32–3. However, it was Schürer’s position that gained predominance in English speaking scholarship over against Wellhausen’s more nuanced one. The main reason for this was that the second edition of Schürer’s famous Lehrbuch der neutestamentlichen Zeitgeschichte (1874), which appeared under the new title Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, was translated into English shortly after it was published (A History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ [transl. by Sophia Taylor and Peter Christie; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1886–91]. Since then it has never been out of print. An abridged one-volume version appeared as late as 1961 (ed. and introduced by Nahum N. Glatzer; New York: Schocken), which also got reprinted several times since. The revised edition of Emil Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (ed. Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar, Matthew Black, and Martin Goodman; 3 vols.; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1973–87), maintained the position of a close connection between the Jewish institutions and the Pharisees, who are described as “men who sought earnestly and consistently to put into practice the ideal propounded by the Torah scholars of a life lived in conformity with the Torah” (2.389). The underlying form of “Torah scholarship” is described in Schürer § 25, which includes a list of “major Torah scholars” consisting only of rabbinic sages. The next section is on “Pharisees and Sadducees” (§ 26), which, in turn, is followed by “School and Synagogue” (§ 27). On the Sanhedrin and the


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A glance at our most important sources for the study of Pharisaism, the New Testament and Josephus, provides a different picture. Starting with the polemical passages in the New Testament, the Pharisees are charged with a great deal of wrong behaviour. This is not an objective description of Pharisaism, of course,24 but the overall direction of the polemics allows one to locate the points of Pharisaic interest and public ‘visibility:’25 In the woes against the Pharisees, a tradition that goes back to Q and therefore to the time before 70, they are attacked for keeping purity regulations with respect to ordinary household items such as cups and dishes (Luke 11:39, par. Matt 23:25); for being precise concerning tithing (Luke 11:42, par. Matt 23:23); and for loving “to have the seat of honour in the synagogues, and to be greeted respectfully in the marketplaces” (Luke 11:43, cf. Matt 23:2, 6–7). In Matt 6:1–5, 16–18, the Sermon on the Mount, the hypocrites are probably depicted in a ‘Pharisaic’ fashion. From Matt 23 one may add the attempts at being visible in society through identifiable clothing (23:5) and by being addressed with the honorific title “rabbi” (23:7b–8). The Pharisees teach the people how to swear an oath (23:16–22) and are engaged in building memorials for the prophets (23:29). The isolated saying of being “lovers of money” (φιλάργυροι ὑπάρχοντες: Luke 16:14), however, seems to be pure polemic.26 influence of the “Torah scholars” on this council see § 23.III (199–226). As a result, during the 20th century Schürer, much more than Wellhausen, set the main trajectory for modern research into Pharisaism and its place within Jewish society. Sanders’ opposition to the “allpowerful Pharisees” (Jeremias, Jerusalem, 265) is nurtured considerably by Schürer’s representation of them; on this see also Douglas R. de Lacey, “In Search of a Pharisee,” TynBul 43 (1992): 353–72 (355–6); on the significance of Schürer’s work within NT scholarship see in this volume “Jesus and the Jewish Traditions of His Time,” esp. 99f., n. 16. 24 Recall the famous dictum of Wellhausen against those who take a polemical statement at face value (Pharisäer, 127; and further Deines, Pharisäer, 66). 25 More fully elaborated in Deines, “Die Pharisäer und das Volk im Neuen Testament.” 26 In response to my paper, John Levison remarked: “What about the accusation that they put heavy burdens on the poor?” As he explained to me, this is an especially important topic in South American liberation theology, partly as a result of books such as Saldarini’s, portraying the Pharisees as bureaucratic functionaries of the exploitation of poor peasants: see John Levison and Priscilla Pope-Levison, Jesus in Global Contexts (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1992). As far as I can see, there are no remarks in the literary sources that the Pharisees oppressed the poor, besides Matt 23:14 (“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour the houses of the widows and for a pretence you make long prayers; therefore you will receive the greater condemnation”), which is text-critically doubtful and not an original part of the seven woes in Matt 23. The saying is obviously a late combination of Mark 12:40 par. Luke 20:47 (addressed against the scribes) and Jas 3:1 (addressed against ‘Christian’ teachers). Against this, see Ant. 18.12: “The Pharisees simplify their standard of living, making no concession to luxury.” But see also Horsley, “Pharisees,” who sees the Pharisees as retainers and therefore as “representatives of and advocates for the Jerusalem temple-state’s interests in Galilee” (134), which means that they were functionaries of an imperialistic regime which exploited Galilee. Jesus’ woes against scribes and

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What can be learned from these texts with respect to our overall question? First, that the Pharisees used their religious prestige — which is, I would claim, presupposed in all 99 references in the New Testament, covering the time span roughly between 50 and 100 AD, or, allowing that some sayings go back to the historical Jesus, from 30 to 100 AD — to impress on their fellow citizens what a life according to God’s will looks (or should look) like. This included praying publicly; openly showing respect towards a specific commandment through clothing; honouring important parts of the nation’s religious tradition with monuments; and helping and instructing others in adopting a similar divinely favoured lifestyle. All these are elements of a religious behaviour oriented not primarily towards institutionalized political influence but towards the people living next door or across the street. In the New Testament the Pharisees are not accused of striving for political power or of seeking influence through key figures in society. Furthermore, they are not accused of collaborating with the ruling class, even though it is clear in the New Testament that Pharisees did have connections with other influential networks in society such as the scribes, Herodians, Sadducees, high priests, and the Sanhedrin (in Acts).27 They did not disappear from public life with the downfall of the Hasmonean kingdom, nor did they change their major orientation From Politics to Piety as Jacob Neusner puts it.28 Nevertheless, as

Pharisees in Q 11:39–52 should therefore not be seen as focused “on the Law and/or purity at all but on the social-political-economic role of the Pharisees and scribes/lawyers” (142). For a critique of Horsley’s portrait of Galilean society, see Roland Deines, “Galiläa und Jesus: Anfragen zur Funktion der Herkunftsbezeichnung ‘Galiläa’ in der neueren Jesusforschung,” in Jesus und die Archäologie Galiläas (ed. Carsten Claußen and Jörg Frey; BThSt 87; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2008), 271–320 [an expanded ET is found in this volume]. 27 See texts such as Mark 3:6 (cf. 8:15; 12:13); 7:1, 5, par. Matt 15:1; Matt 3:7 (cf. 16:1, 6, 11); 12:28 (cf. 23:2ff); 21:45 (cf. 27:62); Luke 5:17, 30 (cf. 6:7; 11:53; 14:3; 15:2, cf. John 8:3); 13:31; John 7:32, 45–8; 11:47 which hint at links between the Pharisees and the bearers of ‘official’ power. In some New Testament texts, individual Pharisees are even described as ruling officials (John 3:1; Acts 5:34; 23:6–9; cf. Luke 14:1). For the relationships between Pharisees and Herodians, see John P. Meier, “The Historical Jesus and the Historical Herodians,” JBL 119 (2000): 740–6; Nicholas H. Taylor, “Herodians and Pharisees: The Historical and Political Context of Mark 3:6; 8:15; 12:13–17,” Neotestamentica 34 (2000): 299–310; for Pharisees and the chief priests, see Steve Mason, “Chief Priests, Sadducees, Pharisees and Sanhedrin in Acts,” in The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting (The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting 4; ed. Richard Bauckham; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 4.115–77; Urban C. von Wahlde, “The Relationships between Pharisees and Chief Priests: Some Observations on the Texts in Matthew, John and Josephus,” NTS 42 (1996): 506–22. 28 Jacob Neusner, From Politics to Piety: The Emergence of Pharisaic Judaism (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973; repr. New York: Ktav, 1979). The book is actually a compilation of his earlier books on Johanan ben Zakkai and the Pharisees: idem, A Life of Yohanan Ben Zakkai (StPB 6; Leiden: Brill, 1962; 2nd rev. ed. 1970); idem, Development of a Legend: Studies on the Traditions Concerning Yoḥanan Ben Zakkai (StPB 16; Leiden:


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far as intentions and motivations can be detected in the texts, their striving for influence was directed towards the religious practice of the ordinary people (as representatives of Israel as a whole) and not towards the ruling elite.29 Accordingly, the topics that interested the Pharisees were, with one exception, purely religious.30 The only question that might be worth considering is whether in some respects they tried to imitate the status-related behaviour of the ruling class in enlarging their own influence on the population. Admittedly, at first glance Josephus’s works give a different impression: Very often, the Pharisees are directly linked with the Hasmonean dynasty (Ant. 13.288–98, cf. b. Qidd. 66a; Bell. 1.110–3 par. Ant. 13.408–12, 432–3), the Herodian court (Bell. 1.571; Ant. 17.41–9, cf. Luke 13:31 and note 11), and also the Sanhedrin (Ant. 14.172–6; 15.1–4, Bell. 2.411; Vita 189–98, cf. Bell. 4.158–61; Ant. 20.200–1). However, a closer look shows that Josephus mostly describes the Pharisees as being invited to partake in court and govBrill, 1970); idem, The Rabbinic Traditions About the Pharisees Before 70 (3 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 1971). 29 See the accusation against the Pharisees as striving for ‘rank at table:’ Luke 11:43, par. Matt 23:6; Luke 14:1–11 (cf. 20:46–7). Also the list of ‘misdeeds’ in Matt 23:2–7 hints at attempts to win over the ‘crowds’ (cf. 23:1). In the Gospels, the Pharisees, along with the scribes, are responsible for the failure of Jesus’ mission within the Jewish people, which again hints at their popular influence; see e.g. David P. Moessner, “The ‘Leaven of the Pharisees’ and ‘this Generation:’ Israel’s Rejection of Jesus According to Luke,” JSNT 34 (1988): 21–46; Gernot Garbe, Der Hirte Israels: Eine Untersuchung zur Israeltheologie des Matthäusevangeliums (WMANT 106; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2005), 57–60. To interpret the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees as a literary device from the post-70 period mirroring conflicts between the early Christian communities and emerging rabbinic Judaism is not at all convincing, because this presupposes a powerful rabbinic movement in the time between 70 and 90 that readers of the Gospels should be able to identify with the former Pharisees. What is often forgotten is that this picture of rabbinic Judaism taking the lead immediately after the destruction of the Temple is again an unhistorical myth created around the so-called ‘synod of Yavneh.’ In the years 70–90, which are relevant for the writing of the Synoptics, the participants at the Yavnean attempt to restructure Judaism’s social and religious order were not “necessarily recognized as representatives of Jews of the country” (Grabbe, Judaism, 593). It is therefore much easier to understand the Gospels as testimony to a situation of ongoing conflict that started between Jesus and the Pharisees and was still vivid when they had been written. 30 The exception seems to be Mark 12:13–7 parr. Matt 22:15–22; Luke 20:20–6 (the question about tribute to the Roman Caesar). As can be seen from the Pharisee Zaddok, one of the founders of the “fourth philosophy” (Ant. 18.4), the question of paying tribute to a foreign emperor was on the borderline between religion and politics. According to Josephus, the refusal to pay taxes and provide political loyalty was motivated by a specific religious conviction (Bell. 2.118, cf. Ant. 18.5). The refusal of the 6,000 Pharisees at the time of Herod to swear loyalty (Ant. 17.42–3; Bell. 1.571; the oath described in Ant. 15.368–71 should not be confused with the later story about the 6,000 Pharisees) might have been similarly motivated by religious concerns based on 2 Sam 24:1–10 (cf. Josephus, Ant. 7.318, who describes the numbering of the people as against Moses’ command). See also note 50 below.

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ernment affairs. The initiative for promoting the Pharisees to powerful positions came from the ruling elite and not from the Pharisees themselves (Ant. 13.289–90, 402–8, cf. Bell. 1.111; Ant. 14.176; 15.3, 370). The reason, according to Josephus, was their enormous influence on the population.31 This was, so to speak, the practical reason; but very often a religious motivation on behalf of the rulers is mentioned as well.32 For example, according to Josephus, John Hyrcanus declares before the Pharisees he had invited for a banquet that “he wished to be righteous and do everything to please God” (Ant. 13.289). Similarily, Salome Alexandra is praised for her strict observance of the national laws (τὰ πάτρια), and that she “deprived of office any offenders against the sacred laws” (εἰς τοὺς ἱεροὺς νόμους: Bell. 1.108). The picture Josephus thus creates is that the Pharisees gained influence partly because some of the Hasmoneans shared their religious aims and partly because their religious attitudes had the support of the masses, without which the ruling elite could not keep society in equilibrium and achieve their goals. Societal interests and religious goals were closely interwoven, and in critical analysis, therefore, the same attention should be given to the religious factor as to the societal. Just as Baumgarten arrives at a better understanding of the development of the Pharisees’ societal status by comparing them with the Puritans in Great Britain, one can gain similar insight here by recalling the influence that German eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Pietists had on aristocrats in Prussia, even including members of the ruling dynasty. Pietists such as August Hermann Francke (1663–1727) were invited to make a contribution to society, which they did. But, as with the Pharisees in Josephus, it was a kind of influence ‘on demand.’33 31 Ant. 13.288: Their influence “with the masses” (παρὰ τῷ πλήθει) is so great that they can set themselves up even against the high priest or king. For a one-sided but typical summary of Josephus’s text about Pharisaic influence in the time of John Hyrcanus, see Meier, Marginal Jew, 316: “During the early part of Hyrcanus’ reign, when the Pharisees enjoyed his favor, they apparently were able to impose their special laws on the people.” Ant. 13.296 mentions the “customs” (νόμιμα) which the Pharisees “had established for the people” (similarly in 297) and which Hyrcanus abrogated. Not a single word in Josephus hints at the point that the Pharisees had been able to introduce their “tradition of the fathers” (παράδοσις τῶν πατέρων; 297) because of Hyrcanus’ favour. The opposite is true: he is described as disciple (μαθητής) of the Pharisees (289), which means that he was initially their partisan and not vice versa. 32 The history of Pietism offers many parallels. 33 See the various contributions in Geschichte des Pietismus (vol. 4: Glaubenswelt und Lebenswelt; ed. Hartmut Lehmann; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004), which deal among other topics with the influence of pietists and/or pietism on philosophy, pedagody, psychology, medicine and pharmacy, sciences and technology, but also art, literature, and music. For the field of politics see Andreas Gestrich, “Pietistisches Weltverständnis und Handeln in der Welt” (556–83) and Rudolf von Thadden, “Pietismus zwischen Weltferne und


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To make sense of these observations with respect to the struggle for political and/or ‘official’ power I would like to distinguish between intended and unintended influence. A person or a group may become influential because they want to be. Others eventually become politically influential while following a different goal. For example, the Christian hermits who appear from the third century onwards did not choose to live in far remote places34 in the desert in order to become famous or influential. They were primarily concerned with sin and personal salvation. Nevertheless, some of them became very influential in the monastic movement as spiritual guides and teachers, or even as bishops within the churches from which they had previously withdrawn.35 This is what might best be called “unintentional influence.” Similar phenomena can be found in later Christian history and in the general history of religion.36 Besides religious motives, such developments obviously also depend on economic, cultural, and political influences. Moreover, mutations and modifications are to be expected in response to changes in the historical context during the existence of such groups or parties. Especially in their formative stages, religious groups often have a rather fluid character and it may even be inappropriate to speak of them as ‘groups.’ The most one can say about them is that they are in a status nascendi. With regard to the social profile of the Pharisees, then, my assumption goes more in the direction of their becoming unintentionally politically influential because, in times of substantial change and crisis, people regarded them as role models for right practice and belief. Pharisees tried to live a sanctified life37 through following inherited traditions based on the Torah and Staatstreue: Politik als Ärgernis” (646–66). For the social agenda of Pietism see Udo Sträter, “Soziales” (617–45). 34 The adverb “far” has been contested by Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia Universtiy Press, 1988), 213–40; but a look at the hermits’ dwellings and their locations, e.g. in Palestine, makes it obvious that the term “far” is still adequate, although Brown is right in the sense that actual distances between the desert and inhabited areas were seldom more than a two-days journey. See also Jürgen Dummer, “Der frühchristliche Mönch — ein unzeitgemäßer Held?” in Philologia sacra et profana (ed. Meinolf Vielberg; Altertumswissenschaftliches Kolloquium 16; Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2006), 202–12 (207), and, for the relation between hermits and ‘official church clergy,’ ibid., 210–11; for the unintentional influence of monasticism see idem, “Leitbild und frühes Mönchtum,” in Philologia sacra et profana, 213–26. 35 See Karl Suso Frank, Geschichte des christlichen Mönchtums (Grundzüge 25; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1988), 13–34. 36 For various examples, see Günter Kehrer, Organisierte Religion (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 1982), 75–90 (“Religiöse Gruppenbildungen in den indischen Religionen und im Islam”). 37 Daniel R. Schwartz, “‘Kingdom of Priests’ — a Pharisaic Slogan?” in Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity (WUNT 60; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1992), 57–80 (first

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the accepted standards of right pious behaviour,38 not in isolation but within their larger social environments of family, residence, profession, and similar social networks to which they belonged.39 Their ‘separation’ was not primarily based on a societal ideology or group identity set up in opposition to other parts of Jewish society, but resulted from a personal religious and spiritual orientation.40 However, as in the case of Elijah, it happens that this isolation did not last long. Whereas Elijah thought that he was the only one left who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:10, 14: “I alone am left”), God himself informed him that he had kept for himself a remnant of more than seven thousand men (1 Kings 19:18, cf. the polemical use of these verses in Romans 11:1–5). This means that, at times when a specific religious commitment is either no longer self-evident (as in the Hellenistic crisis), or new ways of religious practice arise, a kind of religious “Vergesellschaftung” (society making) of like-minded individuals is often discernable. Even if individuals or small groups such as families stand at the beginning with no plans of forming a group of any kind but only the aspiration to do what they regard as God’s will, in the end they may form a more or less tight-knit network of social relations. The first two chapters of 1 Maccabees can serve as an example: individuals and families wanted to keep the inherited Jewish traditions and were not willing to give them up because of the foreign king’s order, so they fled to remote places. This was not an organised movement; there was no strategy behind these flights, only the will to find a way to serve God in the ‘right’ way. With the public resistance of Mattathias, the priest and head of a large family, the situation changed and suddenly, as in the case of Elijah, it was no longer individuals alone but whole groups seeking the ‘right’ way. In publ. in Hebrew in Zion 45 [1979/80]: 96–117), showed very clearly that the Pharisaic imitation of priestly practice was not intended to produce priests but to achieve the same holiness as a priest. As Mek. R.Y. on Ex 19:6 (H. Saul Horovitz and Israel A. Rabin, eds., Mechilta d’Rabbi Ismael [Leipzig: Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaft des Judentums, 1931], 209) formulates, the mandate to be perušim is found in the biblical call for holiness: “(You shall be) holy and sanctified, separated (perušim) from the nations of the world and their abominations” (63); on this see also Deines, Pharisäer, 494–5. 38 For the influence of “ancestral traditions” in Pharisaism see Baumgarten, “Korban and the Pharisaic Paradosis,” JANES 16–17 (1984/85): 5–17; Meier, Marginal Jew, 315–22; Martin Goodman, “A Note on Josephus, the Pharisees and Ancestral Tradition,” JJS 50 (1999): 17–20; Hengel and Deines, “Sanders’ ‘Common Judaism’,” 17–41. 39 See the very illuminating description of this kind of network in Hezser, Rabbinic Movement, 228–39, 492–4; Miller, Sages and Commoners, 446–66; for the German pietists’ networks see Manfred Jakubowski-Tiessen, “Eigenkultur und Traditionsbildung,” in Geschichte des Pietismus (vol. 4: Glaubenswelt und Lebenswelt; ed. Hartmut Lehmann; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004), 4.4195–210 (4203–6). 40 For a similar development within the emerging pietistic movement, see JakubowskiTiessen, “Eigenkultur und Traditionsbildung.”


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the person of Mattathias and subsequently his sons, the individuals gained a voice and become a group — not an organised one but one with a common goal: keeping the law of God and the covenant with God: “Then Mattathias cried out in the town with a loud voice, saying: Let everyone who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!” (1 Macc 2:27). The description of the Pharisees in the New Testament and in Josephus referred to above illustrates a more developed stage in their history,41 but not an entirely different one. They are still committed towards a holy life with a primary orientation towards the ordinary people at large, not the ruling bodies for the sake of political influence or power. I assume that an analysis of the Mishnah and other early layers of rabbinic literature would result in a similar portrait. The orientation of the sages is towards the right halakhic practice of the people and one important principle is what the majority can bear.42 Politics, if it is on their agenda at all, is but one of the means to reach the people, and certainly not the most important. Conflicts between the sages and the ‘crowds’ or the ammei ha-aretz — often used in scholarship as evidence for a negative attitude of the Pharisees and sages against the ordinary folk and a corresponding distancing between them — are not based on fundamental disagreements, but result from different expectations with respect to the level of commitment to halakhic observance. To summarize the main points: 1. Looking only at political and government-based influence is inadequate for understanding the way that Pharisaism might be described as being influential.43 2. A differentiation between intentionally sought and unintentionally gained political influence should be made and developed further in scholarship. 3. The convergence of widely held individual religious motives must be taken into account more seriously as a formative factor in the genesis of religious groups. The shared desire of various individuals to do the will of God in specific situations as well as in ordinary life is hard to grasp with the methodological tools introduced by Saldarini. The aspiration for holiness, which must be recognized as one of the formative factors in the genesis and development of Pharisaism,44 cannot be restricted to the retainer class, although it is possible that many Pharisees, or those receptive of their halakhic guidance, belonged 41 See Saldarini, Pharisees, 280, for changes caused by the existence of a group over a longer period. 42 See Baumgarten, Flourishing of Jewish Sects, 34, about what makes a group extreme. These mechanisms are used neither by the Pharisees nor by the rabbis. 43 See the short but helpful observations in Goodman, “Ancestral Tradition,” 18–19. 44 Rivkin, Revolution, 253: “The Pharisees were powerful because they had revealed the road to life eternal, a road whose milestones were marked by the fulfilment of the commandments of the twofold Law.”

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to it. A poor artisan or peasant could live according to these convictions just as well as a member of an aristocratic and affluent family. Even priests and Levites could adopt such a way of life. Mattathias and his sons are a telling example. As against Saldarini, I would argue that we should not concentrate so heavily on the question of which overall class the Pharisees belonged to, but rather look for clues to different social backgrounds within Pharisaism. Both Paul the artisan and the aristocrat Josephus can boast of close links with Pharisaism.45 And if, as many scholars argue, Jesus and his family were at least influenced by Pharisaic ideas, we have another artisan family that belonged to the wider phenomenon of Pharisaism, while on the other hand we may point to Nicodemus (in John 3:1 described as “a leader of the Jews” [ἄρχων τῶν Aουδαίων]; see also 7:50–2; 19:39)46 and the Gamaliel family for other aristocratic examples. The magisterial treatment of The Social Structure of the Rabbinic Movement in Roman Palestine by Catherine Hezser includes a lengthy chapter on “Status Differences amongst Rabbis,” in which she identifies different levels of Torah learning, social status, genealogy, political influence, connections to leading persons, personal gifts, and geographical sphere of influence. I do not want to assume that what was true for the rabbis must have been true for the Pharisees as well.47 But the way in which the rabbis formed a group and exerted influence through an “informal network of relationships,” as Hezser puts it, might be helpful for allowing that a similar phenomenon existed for pre-70 Pharisaism as well. This brings us to the next set of problems.48

2. The Organizational Quest What kind of group or social entity did the Pharisees constitute? Was it a party, a sect, an identifiable organization, a reformist or a religious movement? What was their self-understanding and how were they seen by others? This is not just searching for the right label but for their major self-definition. To put it simply: were they a ‘closed group’ (however one chooses to define this) 45

For other named Pharisees, see note 16 above. Sievers, “Who Were the Pharisees,” 142; see further Richard Bauckham, “Nicodemus and the Gurion Family,” in JTS 47 (1996): 1–37; Zeev Safrai, “Nakdimon b. Guryon: A Galilean Aristocrat in Jerusalem,” in The Beginnings of Christianity (Proceedings of the Conference held at Tel Aviv University and Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi, Jerusalem 6–8 January 1997; ed. Jack Pastor and Menahem Mor; Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi, 2005), 297–314. The identification, if accepted, of Nicodemus with Nakdimon b. Guryon creates another link between the Pharisees and the rabbinic movement. 47 See Baumgarten, Flourishing of Jewish Sects, 35, n. 109. 48 Hezser, Rabbinic Movement, 228ff. 46


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with membership lists and clear admission regulations, or were they a more or less informal interest-group, with a kind of inner-group social life? Or could both such possibilities have existed under a huge umbrella that we call Pharisaism, whereas the men and women under this umbrella would have called it something else, such as “a Jewish life according to the law of Moses and the traditions of the elders,” or “a life which corresponds to the call to be holy”? Given that God’s promises and blessings are addressed to Israel as a whole would these pious individuals have understood their obedience to God’s commandments as beneficial only for their own group, or for the whole nation? Scholars who have dealt with the social profile of the Pharisees, and many others as well, have mainly opted for the first solution, seeing Pharisaism as a closed sect or movement. Various data, as well as a modern bias, have informed this picture: 1. The name perušim, interpreted to mean “being separated” from fellow Jews who are regarded as unclean;49 2. Josephus’s report in Ant. 17.42 that 6,000 Pharisees refused to swear allegiance to Herod;50 3. the ḥaver/ḥavurot-texts in Mishnah and Tosefta, taken to mean that the terms ḥaverim and Pharisees can be used interchangeably;51 4. related to the ḥaverim-tradition, a deep split and a hateful relationship supposed to exist between Pharisees and ammei ha-aretz;52 49

For example Schürer, History, 2.396–7; see further Albert I. Baumgarten, “The Name of the Pharisees,” JBL 102 (1983): 411–28. 50 Jeremias, Jerusalem, 252. Against any historical value of the number 6,000 (as well as 4,000 for the Essenes) see Berndt Schaller, “4000 Essener — 6000 Pharisäer: Zum Hintergrund und Wert antiker Zahlenangaben,” in Antikes Judentum und Frühes Christentum (FS Hartmut Stegemann; ed. Bernd Kollmann, Wolfang Reinbold and Annette Steudel; BZNW 97; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1999), 172–82. I do not think it is appropriate to understand the figure 6,000 as Josephus’s estimate of “the entire community” of the Pharisees (as for example, Grabbe, Judaism, 471, takes it). It is rather the number of Pharisees who refused the oath of loyalty, and therefore might simply represent those within the overall movement who were less prepared to compromise politically (see above n. 30). 51 See, for example, Schürer, History, 2.386–8. The most influential exponent of this view was again Jeremias, Jerusalem, 247–52 (for his position see Deines, Pharisäer, 464–7; see further Philipp Seidensticker, “Die Gemeinschaftsform der religiösen Gruppen des Spätjudentums und der Urkirche,” Liber Annuus 9 (1958/59): 94–198 (112–17); Günther Baumbach, “‘Volk Gottes’ im Frühjudentum,” Kairos 21 (1979): 30–47 (42–3); idem, “Φαρισαῖος,” EDNT 3 (2nd ed.; 1992), 415–17; Rudolf Meyer, “Φαρισαῖος,” TDNT 9:11– 35 (16–19). This article of Meyer in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament became quite influential; see Deines, Pharisäer, 510–4. 52 Str-B 2.494–6, discusses the ḥaverim-tradition in connection with the statement of the Pharisees quoted in John 7:49: “But this crowd, which does not know the law — they are accursed” (ἀλλὰ ὁ ὄχλος οὗτος ὁ μὴ γινώσκων τὸν νόμον ἐπάρατοί εἰσιν). See further

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5. the theory of the ḥavurot seemed to be confirmed after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls because the yaḥad with its strict membership regulations and means of punishment turned out to be similar to the description of Pharisaism by many scholars;53 6. a tendency to describe the Pharisees more and more as a sect and no longer as a party, movement, or philosophy. On the last point, Neusner’s From Politics to Piety was highly influential in trying to show the development from a political party to a purity sect. Even if the term ‘sect’ is used in very different ways, with much effort spent in liberating it from its negative connotations, the result is the same. Using Baumgarten’s rather broad definition, a sect is “a voluntary association of protest, which utilizes boundary marking mechanisms — the social means of differentiating between insiders and outsiders — to distinguish between its own members and those otherwise normally regarded as belonging to the same national or religious entity.”54 There are good reasons for each of these six points, but they actually gain their persuasiveness mainly in combination with each other. If they are analysed separately, one might get a different picture. I, for one, see neither in Josephus nor in the New Testament any hint of membership regulations in the movement described as Pharisaism. This is especially noteworthy in Josephus, because he describes the membership regulations of the Essenes in some detail (Bell. 2.122, 137–44, 150) betraying his interest in these matters. It is hard to believe that he would have overlooked such regulations with respect to the Pharisees should they indeed have had them.55 Be that as it may, there are a number of reasons why the ‘sect’ model continues to be so attractive: 1. To designate Pharisaism as a ‘sect’ — with all the negative connotations implied by this term — fits fairly well with Christian anti-Judaism. If the Jeremias, Jerusalem, 259, 266–7. Despite the Pharisees’ “uncharitableness and pride” with respect to the ammei ha-aretz (259), Jeremias saw them as “the people’s party” because “they represented the common people as opposed to the aristocracy on both religious and social matters. Their much-respected piety and their social leanings towards suppressing differences of class, gained them the people’s support” (266). 53 See the additions that Jeremias made to the third edition of his influential book, Jerusalem, 247, 259–62 (cf. pp. 294–7 in the German edition, where the additions to the third edition are given in a different font). For a critique see Sanders, Judaism, 440–3. 54 Baumgarten, Flourishing of Jewish Sects, 7 (see, more generally, 5–15); Saldarini, Pharisees, 70–5, 123–7, 285–7. Reservations on using the label ‘sect’ with respect to the Pharisees can be found in Deines, “Pharisees”, 449–50. 55 See Sanders, Judaism, 429; Deines, “Pharisees”, 474–7, comparing Bell. 2.119 on the Essenes with Bell. 2.166 on the Pharisees and Sadducees. Against this kind of argument, see De Lacey, “Search,” 365.


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Pharisees were seen as archetypal Jews, further negative stereotypes can be heaped upon them. They were narrow-minded, selfish, concerned more with purity than with the poor. In Christian tradition the ammei ha-aretz are often identified, erroneously, with the oppressed masses or with orphans and widows. 2. As a ‘sect,’ the Pharisees would have kept their distance from the state, the nation as a whole, and politics; they would even have preferred foreign rule because they regarded purity as more important than freedom. This is a formula that does not hold for periods of national awakenings, either in nineteenth-century Germany or in twentieth-century Israel.56 3. The ‘sect’ concept may be so attractive because it reduces Pharisaic influence and thus leaves room for many other sects besides. My impression is that a modern desire for a pluralist, non-religiously-dominated society in America, Europe, and Israel has been instrumental in reducing Pharisaism to a mere sect. As against this picture of a distinct and closed-off group, I would like to identify an element in the sources that seems to be underestimated, although not entirely overlooked in scholarship, namely religious competition and the freedom or burden of choice. What is meant by this? Religious groups or movements normally find themselves in a situation of competition. The moment a main religion splits up into different ways of life or interpretative traditions, the individual member sees him- or herself57 forced to choose a 56

For various examples in the history of scholarship, see Deines, Pharisäer, 41–2, 112– 13, 504–5. 57 The gender differentiation here makes perfect sense because, at least since the days of the Maccabees, the religious commitment of women has become essential for Jewish religious practice: see 2 Macc 6:10; 7:1, 5, 20–41; 4 Macc 1:8, 10; 12:6–7; 14:11–17:10; 18:6–24. The honorific title of a ‘law-guardian’ (νομοφύλαξ) given to the mother of the seven brothers (4 Macc 15:32) is remarkable and yet fully understandable: to keep a household kosher was mainly the duty of the women. Without their commitment (and knowledge of the relevant halakhic details), a life in purity would not have been possible. Pharisaism’s special influence on women is shown by Ilan, “Attraction.” One reason was surely that daily routine within the house became religiously meaningful for Israel as a whole. Every household became able to contribute to Israel’s obedience and therefore to Israel’s divine blessing. Andrea Berlin describes patterns of Jewish religious practice based on archaeological evidence as “household Judaism,” which Jewish families adopted from the early to mid-first century BC on, “in order to incorporate a religious sensibility into their daily lives” (“Jewish Life,” 417). Although she contends that this new form of Judaism “developed outside halakhic or priestly concerns” (417, cf. 468) it is hard to see how this remarkable change could have taken place without a group or movement promoting the concerns that are visible within this “household Judaism.” The most likely candidates until 70 AD are still the Pharisees, whose religious practices as described especially in the New Testament do indeed reflect a strong element of “household religion.” Also the Psalms of Solomon, whose Pharisaic dye finds new proponents (see e.g. Andreas Lindemann, “Paulus — Pharisäer und

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way of behaviour and of commitment within the given religion.58 For Judaism, the Seleucid era was just such a period, where every individual Jew had to choose how to practise Judaism or give it up altogether, including its cultural implications. This is not the place to contemplate why and how a religion differentiates into diverse branches. Generally, such developments seem interwoven with changes in society as a whole. The moment it reaches a state that allows its members an array of life choices and in which the position and tasks of the individual are no longer fixed by pedigree and family (tradition), the inherited religion of a society is likely to develop a corresponding pluralism.59 Another important factor is education and the level of individuality that a society allows its members. For first-century Judaism, we have to concede a high level of religious diversity. This is the communis opinio in recent scholarship and it means that, right from the beginning, the diverse traditions of construing Jewish identity found themselves competing with each other. Even if somebody — Paul, for example — was close to Pharisaism because of his family’s upbringing, he had to choose at a specific point in his life which type of Judaism he wanted to follow. Josephus described this tellingly in his Vita. According to this autobiographical note, he tried the three different schools in Judaism and afterwards spent some time with a Jewish hermit, before choosing for himself a Pharisaic lifestyle. The use of αἵρεσις (meaning in our context “choice” and accordingly “school of thought”) and similar terms in Josephus and the New Testament for the different Jewish ways of life (with no terminology contradicting this) supports the picture in the Vita.60 Apostel,” in Paulus und Johannes: Exegetische Studien zur paulinischen und johanneischen Theologie und Literatur (ed. Dieter Sänger and Ulrich Mell; WUNT 198; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2006), 311–51 [321–37, esp. 330, n. 97]), show a similar concern: see esp. PssSol 3:7–8; 4:5, 9–12, 20; 6:5; 12:5. For the Mishnah’s orientation along the ideal of Israel made up of households, see Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah in Social Perspectives (HO 1.46; Leiden: Brill, 1999), 117–37; idem, Rabbinic Political Theory: Religion and Politics in the Mishnah (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991), 137–48, 180–214: “The householder, who stands wholly outside the repertoire of political persons and classifications, bears the burden of systemic responsibility, willing to do God’s will” (138). 58 m. Hor. 3:8 might be of some help to see the differences. In the first part, the traditional hierarchy of Jewish society as based on the Torah is given: Priest, Levite, Israelite, bastard (mamzer), temple slave (natin, pl. netinim), proselyte, freed slave. Religious status (besides the last two) is defined through ancestry and seems to be crucial for the individual’s status and basic function in society. But this classic or basic differentiation of Jewish society is quoted only to be surpassed by the rabbinic value system: one who has knowledge of the Torah, even if a bastard, precedes a high priest ignorant of the Law. 59 Kehrer, Organisierte Religion, 18. 60 αἵρεσις is used in Bell. 2.137 and Ant. 13.171, 293; προαἵρεσις in Ant. 13.293 and 15.373. In the NT, see Acts 5:17, referring to clients of the high priestly families; Acts 15:5; 26:5; referring to the Pharisees; and 24:5, 14; 28:22 referring to the ‘new choice’ of the


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In addition, what can be derived from Josephus (and the New Testament as well) is the non-exclusive and intra-Jewish character of these αἱρέσεις. To be a Sadducee or a Pharisee, an Essene or a Zealot, means an intra-Jewish differentiation that is fixed neither by birth (as is the case with priests and Levites, and in a different sense with the Samaritans) nor by wealth or other status-markers, even if they might somehow be important as well. Though Josephus wanted “to choose the best one” (Vita 10–11: αἱρήσεσθαι τὴν ἀρίστην), he admitted that another choice could not be regarded as wrong or as something which drives one to the limits of Judaism, but merely as an inferior option — at least in his eyes and in view of the aims he was pursuing, namely “to live his public life” (Vita 12: πολιτεύεσθαι) in accordance with Pharisaic rules.61 The impression one receives from Josephus of a decision that could be made by an individual with respect to his socio-religious commitment should be taken into account when describing the organizational pattern of a specific religious system or belief. Is it not possible that in second Temple Judaism a form of intra-religious pluralism was possible that Christianity has reached only in the last century — if at all?62 It is my impression that Christian scholarly interpretation of the sources on the Pharisees was unconsciously conditioned by a Christian and Euro-centric perspective and informed by the ‘Sozialgestalt’ of the Christian church. Since the fourth century, the religious and intellectual tradition of Europe has been dominated by the concept of church versus ‘sects’ or other inner-religious deviations on the one side, and ‘wrong’ religions such as Judaism and Islam on the other.63 Individuals belonging to the same basic religion, in this case Christianity, are either members of the church, the community of the saved, or of sectarian communities on the margins of that safe haven — either still within but in danger of being driven outside, or already outside. In all cases, the official membership of the church is the necessary prerequisite for being saved. Membership was or is still regarded as crucial. The problem lies in the tendency to apply this model of membership and its organizational pattern too quickly to the social conditions of first-century Nazarenes. Saldarini, Pharisees, 123–4: “A hairesis was a coherent and principled choice of a way of life, that is, of a particular school of thought” (123). 61 For a different interpretation of this passage, without a religious commitment on the part of Josephus see Steve Mason, Life of Josephus: Translation and Commentary (Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 20–1. 62 This is not to idealize plurality within Judaism. Especially at times of crisis, the boundaries were drawn much more tightly and militant actions against competing groups or individuals could take place: see Hengel and Deines, “Sanders’ ‘Common Judaism’,” 8–9, 39–40, 52–3. 63 This goes back to Ernst Troeltsch, Die Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen und Gruppen (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1912), who differentiates between three social formations of the Christian church: church, sect, and spiritualism; see Theißen, “Einordnung,” 23.

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Judaism and especially to the Pharisees. The frequently asked question “Who was a Pharisee?” is the scholarly expression of this quest which presupposes a clearly defined formal membership. Behind this is the Christian paradigm that allows no real choice. One is either a member of the ‘right’ church or community (and thus saved), or not. This was and is not the case in Judaism, and therefore I would like to advocate re-reading the texts in view of choices and options.

3. Conclusion Let me finish with two impressions. During the preparation of this paper I was looking for what is new in the discussion of the ḥaverim texts in Mishnah and Tosefta Demai, because, as I have already said, this set of texts was one of the most important starting points for a ‘sectarian’ understanding of Pharisaism. The first author whose work I examined was Saldarini. He points to unsolved problems connected with these texts and concludes, “[t]he exact nature of these associations remains unknown.” Nothing can be taken from these texts for the understanding of Pharisaism except the single point “that the Pharisees were a typical group among many in Jewish society.”64 That did not sound very promising. Another book I looked through was Jacob Neusner’s Encyclopaedia of the Law of Judaism, which in a highly idealized way describes what the author calls the “religious principles of Demai’.”65 According to this analysis, the reason behind the Halakhah of the treatise and especially its “differentiating Israel from within”66 is that “the more observant … conduct themselves as to take responsibility for the presence of the less observant.” On this view, the Halakhah of the Dual Torah accepts different standards of behaviour; it “sets forth no recriminations and pronounces no exclusions.”67 All Jews “form a single community,” and the practice of the whole community is taken into account in relation with God. The observant Jew’s tithing of Demai-products is therefore his share for the welfare of all Israel, and the ‘merit’ is not his but Israel’s. If I understand Neusner correctly, he is not interested in the ‘real’ practice of Halakhah, but takes Halakhah as a vehicle for a coherent Jewish worldview, in which Demai stands for “relationship and relativity.”68


Saldarini, Pharisees, 220. Jacob Neusner, The Halakhah: An Encyclopaedia of the Law of Judaism (BRLAJ 1/I; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 470. 66 Neusner, Halakhah, 467; he treats the ḥaverim under that heading. 67 Ibid., 472. 68 Ibid., 470. 65


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Despite some reservations, what I find impressive is the fact that Neusner describes rabbinic Judaism as non-exclusive, and its “theology” (he uses this term explicitly) as directed towards the whole nation. What is even more important is that the religious system that he formulates is able to accommodate various levels of commitment, so that the more observant do what they do for the sake of all Israel. This means that the formation of smaller groups inside ‘Israel’ — such as the ḥaverim or the different schools having a higher commitment to the religious values cherished by them — should not be regarded as attempts to create a new and better ‘Israel’ in the sense of replacement or substitution, but rather as volunteer groups who support Israel in performing its obligations in this world for the sake of the coming one (m. Sanh. 10:1). In other words: a religious agenda within an overarching soteriological horizon created a specific social profile and guided social interactions between devotees of this belief and their surroundings. I am inclined to argue that this ‘ideology’ is Pharisaism’s heritage. Among the findings of my PhD thesis on the Pharisees is the conclusion that they did not conceive of themselves as the holy, but as the sanctifying remnant69 for the sake of all Israel and as a “separate movement within the nation for the nation.” Their attitude towards ‘Israel’ should be understood as a “restitution,” which was thought to be achieved “by way of representation and participation.”70 It was their choice and free will (compare the Pharisees as champions of free will in Josephus!) to do this. This might be a good starting point for a re-reading of the sources — including the rabbinic ones.


See Deines, Pharisäer, 502. Ibid., 501–2. See also James D. G. Dunn, “Pharisees, Sinners, and Jesus,” in The Social World of Formative Christianity and Judaism (FS Howard C. Kee; ed. J. Neusner et al.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 264–89 (274): “But that there were at the time of Jesus a number of Pharisees, and probably a significant body of Pharisees, who felt passionately concerned to preserve, maintain, and defend Israel’s status as the people of the covenant and the righteousness of the law, as understood in the already developed halakoth, must be regarded virtually as certain;” see also Meier, Marginal Jew, 330. 70

Jesus the Galilean: Questioning the Function of Galilee in Recent Jesus Research 0. Introduction “You too were with Jesus the Galilean” (καὶ σὺ ἦσθα μετὰ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ Γαλιλαίου) — Peter is confronted with this allegation in the court of the palace of the high priest in Jerusalem having secretly followed Jesus after he was arrested (Matt 26:69). This little sentence not only reflects the prejudice of a city-dweller against someone from rural Galilee, with its steady stream of troublemakers beginning with the “chief robber” (ἀρχιλῄστης) Ezekias (Hezekiah) in 47 BC,1 but also throws light on the shifting history of the reception 1 Josephus, Bell. 1.204, par. Ant. 14.159 (cf. 14.167–74). On this Ezekias, who potentially had roots in Jewish nobility, and his role in the Galilean revolt against Herod, see Martin Hengel, The Zealots: Investigations into the Jewish Freedom Movement in the Period from Herod I until 70 A.D. (trans. David Smith; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1989), 313–17. After the death of Herod, Judas the son of this Ezekias organized the revolt against the continuation of Herodian rule, which led to the destruction of Sepphoris by the Romans in 4 BC (Bell. 2.56, par. Ant. 17.271f.; cf. Hengel, The Zealots, 327–8, 330–7). It was probably the same Judas who reappeared in 6 AD as the founder of the party of the Zealots (the so-called “fourth philosophy”), though he was now called “Judas the Galilean” (Bell. 2.118: ἀνὴρ Γαλιλαῖος Ἰούδας ὄνομα εἰς ἀπόστασιν ἐνῆγε τοὺς ἐπιχωρίους, otherwise frequently as Ἰούδας Γαλιλαῖος, see Ant. 18:23 etc.; Acts 5:37). Two sons of this Judas were crucified under the procuracy of Tiberius Alexander (45–48 AD) in relation to which Josephus makes reference to their father as the one who caused the people to revolt (Ant. 20.102). Another ‘son’, more probably a grandson, was Menahem, who in 66 AD conquered Masada in a surprise coup and was subsequently murdered in Jerusalem as a Messianic pretender (Bell. 2.433–48). And finally there was John of Gischala (= Gush Halav) who according to Josephus — whose account is strongly influenced by his own dislike and personal rivalry with John — was one of the most brutal ‘warlords’ among the revolt leaders. Accordingly, it was this John who, together with his “Galileans,” became a terrible plague on the locals after his entry into Jerusalem (Bell. 2.585–9; 7.263f.; etc.). In spite of this notable tradition, which frequently tempts one to understand the term “Galileans” as synonymous with insurgents, one should not forget that there were also other insurrectionist movements in other parts of the country: Judea, Perea, and Idumea. Rebellion was as such not an exclusively Galilean phenomenon. Moreover, the majority of the aforementioned activity occurred outside of Galilee. On this, see Uriel Rappaport, “How Anti-Roman was the Galilee?,” in The Galilee in Late Antiquity (ed. Lee I. Levine; New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1992), 95–101; against reading the term “Galileans” as insurrectionists, see esp. Louis H.


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of Jesus the Galilean from his ministry in the first century to the present. And just as in the court of the high priest, it often still rings true today that a reference to Galilee is much more than purely a description of a place of origin. Depending on the context it can carry polemical stigmatization or engender positive resonance, and there is probably no other element of Jesus’ biography that is more excessively used to explain his message, his demeanour, his impact, and his ‘success.’ It has become an integral part of contemporary New Testament studies to understand Jesus’ life in the light of this historical backdrop. There is an impressive list of books and articles that make direct or indirect reference to Jesus’ Galilean origins even in their titles,2 and there is hardly a book on Jesus that does not discuss Galilee at Feldman, “The Term ‘Galileans’ in Josephus,” JQR 71 (1981/82): 50–2; Seán Freyne, “The Galileans in the Light of Josephus’ Life,” NTS 26 (1980): 397–413 (= idem, Galilee and Gospel: Collected Essays [WUNT 125; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000], 27–44); idem, “Behind Names: Galileans, Samaritans, Iudaioi,” in Galilee Through the Centuries: Confluence of Cultures (ed. Eric M. Meyers; Duke Judaic Studies Series 1; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1999), 39–55 (= idem, Galilee and Gospel, 113–31); Folker Siegert, Heinz Schreckenberg, and Manuel Vogel, eds., Flavius Josephus: Aus meinem Leben (Vita): Kritische Ausgabe, Übersetzung und Kommentar (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 164–5. Appendix 4; for an overview, see Mark Rapinchuk, “The Galilee and Jesus in Recent Research,” Currents in Biblical Research 2 (2004): 197–222 (208–10). 2 This is only a phenomenon of the last few decades, however. If one looks through the bibliography of Albert Schweitzer’s Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung (2nd ed.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1913; ET: The Quest of the Historical Jesus: First Complete Edition [ed. J. Bowden; London: SCM, 2000]), one will find a number of works that use Nazareth in their title, but as far as I can see there is not one that explicitly refers to Galilee in the title (the only exception is the subtitle in Albert Dulk, Der Irrgang des Lebens Jesu. vol. 1: Die historischen Wurzeln und die galiläische Blüte, 1884, see Schweitzer, Geschichte, 357, n. 2; Quest, 519, n. 28). Galilee is also largely irrelevant in the text itself, with the exception of the presentation of Ernest Renan’s contribution (Geschichte; 181; Quest, 159; see also the long note 1 on Mark 14:28 and 16:7 in Geschichte, 433–4; Quest, 525–6, n. 26). The same result emerges if one looks through Wolfgang Fenske, Wie Jesus zum “Arier” wurde: Auswirkungen der Entjudaisierung Christi im 19. und zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2005), 265–88. Apparently, Walter Bauer (1877–1960) was the first who explicitly called Jesus a “Galilean” in the title of his work: “Jesus der Galiläer,” in Festgabe für Adolf Jülicher zum 70. Geburtstag (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1927), 16–27; now in: idem, Aufsätze und kleine Schriften (ed. Georg Strecker; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1967), 91–108. Strecker writes in his introduction that this essay “represents the much noticed attempt to accentuate the syncretistic element of Jesus’ Jewish context before the backdrop of the political and religious situation of Galilee” (v). Bauer was followed by Ernst Lohmeyer’s study, Galiläa und Jerusalem (FRLANT.NF 34; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1936), and Walter Grundmann’s notorious Jesus der Galiläer in 1940 (see note 14 below). In the same year Rudolf Meyer published the much more objective Der Prophet aus Galiläa: Studie zum Jesusbild der ersten drei Evangelien (Leipzig: Lukenbein, 1940; repr. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1970). But it was not before Gerd Theißen’s bestseller, Der Schatten des Galiläers: Historische Jesusforschung in erzählender Form (Munich: Kaiser, 1986; numerous translations and reprints; ET: The

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length. The present “Third Quest for the Historical Jesus” is to no small extent Galilee research: Whoever wants to say something about the earthly Jesus does so with reference to Galilee. Accordingly Galilee has become one of the most important keys for the understanding of Jesus of Nazareth in modern Jesus research, or as the late doyen of Galilee research, Seán Freyne (1935–2013), remarked in one of his last comments on the topic: More than once I have been tempted to make the fairly obvious comment that the search for the historical Galilee is about to replace the quest for the historical Jesus.3

This is not entirely new, though. The history of Jesus research shows that from time to time and in certain contexts the emphasis of Jesus’ Galilean origins has played an important role.4 Upon closer examination it can be seen that reference to Galilee nearly always serves either the inner-Jewish qualification of Jesus or his distancing from his Jewish context, whereby the transition from one position to the other is often rather fluid. The first of these

Shadow of the Galilean: The Quest of the Historical Jesus in Narrative Form [transl. John Bowden; London: SCM, 1987]) that a greater public turned its attention to Galilee, and it is since then that the number of ‘Galilean’ Jesus books has increased. A recent German example is Jens Schröter, Jesus von Nazareth: Jude aus Galiläa — Retter der Welt (Biblische Gestalten 15; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2006). 3 Seán Freyne, “Galilean Studies: Old Issues and New Questions,” in Religion, Ethnicity, and Identity in Ancient Galilee (ed. Jürgen Zangenberg, Harold W. Attridge, and Dale B. Martin; WUNT 210; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 13–29 (13). This excellent volume appeared only after the original chapter was submitted, and for the revision of this article I have added only a few remarks. In the last stages of the preparation of this volume came the sad news of Seán Freyne’s death on August 5, 2013. He will be surely missed. On Galilee and Jesus in recent research see further Halvor Moxnes, “The Construction of Galilee as a Place for the Historical Jesus,” BTB 31 (2001): 26–37 (Part I); 64–77 (Part II), cf. also idem, Putting Jesus in His Place: A Radical Vision of Household and Kingdom (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2003), 19–20, 126–38, 142–57; Rapinchuk, “Galilee and Jesus”; Ben Witherington III, The Jesus Quests: The Third Quest for the Jew of Nazareth (2nd ed.; Downers Grove: IVP, 1997), 14–41. A good overview of recent Galilee research can be found in Seán Freyne, “Introduction. Galilean Studies: Problems and Prospects,” in idem, Galilee and Gospel, 1–26 (20–5 on “Galilee and the Jesus Movement”), and now also in idem, “Jesus of Galilee: Implications and Possibilities,” Early Christianity 1 (2010): 372– 405. See also in the following chapter in this volume, “Jesus and the Jewish Traditions of His Time,” 96f. 4 The following is a summary of a longer study, see Roland Deines, “Jesus der Galiläer: Traditionsgeschichte und Genese eines anti-semitischen Konstrukts bei Walter Grundmann,” in Walter Grundmann: Ein Neutestamentler im Dritten Reich (ed. Roland Deines, Volker Leppin, and Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr; AKG 21; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2007), 43–131; see also Volker Lubinetzki, Von der Knechtsgestalt des Neuen Testaments: Beobachtungen zu seiner Verwendung und Auslegung in Deutschland vor dem sowie im Kontext des “Dritten Reiches,” (Münster: Lit, 2000), 282–93 (“Jesus der Galiläer, der Nichtjude, der Arier”); Moxnes, “Construction,” 27–36.


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phenomena can already be encountered in the New Testament5 and it appears again in the nineteenth century, especially in the beginnings of modern Jewish study of Jesus.6 Here, Jesus, as a Galilean, is neither a Jerusalemite nor a Judean, but rather placed on the fringe of the religious and social Jewish centres (where “Jewish” indirectly stands for “Judean”). Being a Galilean, it is “impossible that his knowledge of the law could match the [Jerusalem] standard,”7 which then explains his conflicts with the Pharisees, being less about his messianic claims than about his ignorance of (and contempt for) Halakhah. Nevertheless, Jesus’ relative ‘success’ among his Jewish contemporaries had to be explained, and the solution offered was that his “intensely sympathetic character” made up for his “deficiency in knowledge.” With his enthusiastic and charismatic manner of preaching he was able to impress the 5 Mark 14:70 par. Matt 26:69; Luke 23:6; Matt 26:73 (and also b. Eruvin 53b; b. Meggilla 24b); Acts 2:7 (cf. 4:13); John 7:48–52; cf. Seán Freyne, Galilee, Jesus, and the Gospels: Literary Approaches and Historical Investigations (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 1. 6 Cf. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 108. Accordingly, even during Justin’s time, people warned about the “godless and lawless cult,” which “had been started by Jesus, a certain Galilean deceiver” (αἵρεσίς τις ἄθενος καὶ ἐγήγερται ἀπὸ Ἰησοῦ τινος Γαλιλαίου πλάνου). 7 Cf. Heinrich Graetz, Geschichte der Juden von den ältesten Zeiten bis auf die Gegenwart: Aus den Quellen neu bearbeitet (Vol. III: Geschichte der Juden von dem Tode Juda Makkabi’s bis zum Untergang des jüdischen Staates; two vols.; edited and rev. Marcus Brann; 5th ed.; Leipzig: Leiner, 1905/1906; repr. Berlin: Arani, 1996), 1.276–82. On Paul, see 2.408–25; the quotes are from 1.282. The pertinent passages in the English translation (based on an earlier edition), History of the Jews: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day vol. II: From the Reign of Hyrcanus (135 B.C.E.) to the Completion of the Babylonian Talmud (500 C. E.) (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1893), can be found on 146–65 (on Paul, see ibid., 219–32). Here the passage in full relates: “The measure of his [= Jesus’] mental culture can only be surmised from that existing in his native province. Galilee, at a distant from the capital and the Temple, was far behind Judaea in mental attainments and knowledge of the Law. The lively interchange of religious thought, and the discussions upon the Law, which made its writings and teachings the common property of all who sought the Temple, were naturally wanting in Galilee.” In the preface to the English translation, which appeared in five volumes only compared to the eleven of the original, Graetz describes it as “a condensed reproduction of the entire eleven volumes” (vol. I: From the Earliest Period to the Death of Simon the Maccabee [135 B.C.E.]; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1891), vi. Graetz and his contemporaries attributed the enthusiastic elements of Jesus’ ministry, among which they numbered his exorcisms and prophetic demeanour, to “Essene” influences. This was motivated by the desire to link Jesus to the charismatic-enthusiastic expressions of contemporary Judaism and to isolate him from the ‘ideal’ Judean guise. Whether “Galilean” and “Essene” as simultaneous characterizations were actually historically possible, or not rather mutually exclusive was not made a topic of enquiry. One has perhaps to imagine here a two-step process of influence: first Jesus’ childhood and youth in Galilee, then the discipleship to John the Baptist, who imparted these “Essene” ideas to Jesus. In this way Jesus was, as it were, influenced by two nonrepresentative fringe forms of Judaism.

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equally ill-educated, but all-the-more-spirited Galilean country folk and later also the Gentiles, who were offered his message in Paul’s altered form intended for pagans. He made little impression, however, on the real (‘true’) Judaism as taught by Hillel and Shammai. The quotations above are from Heinrich Graetz (1817–1891), who was one of the first representatives of the Wissenschaft des Judentums that studied Jesus, and they represent fairly well the main thrust of the Jewish contributions to Jesus research in the nineteenth century and beyond, which was also adopted in Christian scholarship as well.8 As a Galilean Jesus belonged to an uneducated, half-pagan fringe form of Judaism, which was guided more by feeling (and therefore also by sentimentality and rash, volatile temperament) than intellect. It was this milieu in which Jesus grew up, and here (and only here!) was he successful, where people were foolish enough to follow him and to consider him to be special.9 For Jerusalemites and Judeans, however, 8 Cf. Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth: His Life, Times, and Teachings (New York: Macmillan, 1925), 167–8, 171–3: in the time of Jesus there were as a result of “endless tumults, and even earthquakes and famines . . . vast numbers of unbalanced men,” which could choose between two extremes: The option for those who “possessed of any strength and vitality” were the Zealots, “whole-hearted antagonists of the government whether with the tongue or with the sword,” whereas the “more weak and downtrodden and passive . . . cultivated secret, mystic doctrines which had little to do with this world and were given up entirely in the heavenly life” (168). Jesus clearly belonged to this latter group for Klausner. According to him, there were also many non-Jews in Galilee, no Torah erudition, and no cities before the time of Antipas. A similar picture of Galilee was painted by Geza Vermes, see pp. 62–5 below. 9 Cf. Graetz, History, 2.152: In his view Jesus focused from the start only on “those who did not belong to, or had been expelled from the community for their religious offenses, and who had either not been allowed or had not desired to return to it” (cf. Geschichte, vol. III, 1.288–9); after the initial failure in Nazareth he moved to Capernaum, where “were . . . a greater number of men steeped in effeminacy and vice, and there existed, probably, a wider gap between the rich and the poor,” so that in this town “Jesus had more scope to work there, and an easier access was found for the earnest, penetrating words which he poured forth from the depths of his soul” (History, 2.153; cf. Geschichte vol. III, 1.290). If one translates this description into sociological terminology, one will find that this is similar to some of the more modern descriptions of Galilee: on the one side economical conflicts, and on the other a stronger Hellenistic-urban culture form the fertile soil for Jesus’ message and account for his success. On the “clientele” of the Church after Easter cf. the unflattering description in History, 2.220–1 (Geschichte vol. III, 2.409–10). The opening of the early Church to the “Greek-speaking Judeans” and in their wake to the Gentiles, effected by Paul and Barnabas, once again brought “besides men of piety and enthusiasts, . . . adventurers, seekers after novelty, and beggars, ignorant of the Law” into the churches, so that “the Greek element soon predominated over the Galilean, Ebionite and Essene elements, of which the community had previously been composed” (History, 2.221, cf. Geschichte, vol. III, 2.410). The reason for Christianity’s success is the same in Jerusalem as it was in Galilee: Those who adopted the new message, as it was with “these Greek Judeans, . . . had never been taught the Law in the schools of Jerusalem and were, indeed, generally ignorant of its tenets” (ibid.).


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“humanity’s salvation came from Zion and Jerusalem, it had to come from Judean blood.”10 With this sentence from Armand (Aaron) Kaminka (1866– 1950) the Wissenschaft des Judentums reached its zenith in terms of distancing Jesus from Judaism: As a Galilean, Jesus belonged to a “mixed race,” which had the status of a foreign nation to Judea. And with this, although hidden behind a few circumlocutions, Jesus’ belonging to the Jewish people was repudiated on account of his Galilean origins.11 About half a century later, this topic was resumed by some New Testament scholars,12 who took it as their task to formulate a “völkische,” or “German” theology. Their ideologically driven, and firmer, conclusions resulted in the claim that Jesus most likely had non-Jewish origins, and in the founding of the Institut zur Erforschung des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben (Institute for the Study of the Jewish Influence on German Church Life), which had the task of making the German church “judenfrei.”13 Proba10 Armand (Aaron) Kaminka, Studien zur Geschichte Galiläas (Berlin: Engel, 1889), 59 (emphasized in the German original as these are actually the last two sentences of the book proper which are then followed by some notes), cf. John 7:42. Orig.: “. . . so blieb als einzige, wichtige Aufgabe (. . .) die Erwartung wach zu erhalten, dass Heil der Menschheit von Zion und Jerusalem und aus jüdischem Blute hervorgehen müsse.” In contrast, Samuel Klein, Galiläa von der Makkabäerzeit bis 67 (Palästina-Studien 4; Wien: Menorah, 1928), 18, notes that “Galilee . . . was never a foreign country to those who lived in Judea.” Klein’s short study contains many important observations, which are worthy to be reviewed in light of the more recent results of Galilee research. 11 Cf. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth, 100, 233 (Klausner disagrees on the Gentile nature of Galilee esp. with Kaminka, see 165, n. 89). Klausner designates Kaminka as the precursor to Ernst Haeckel and Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s attempt to find for Jesus a non-Jewish genealogy. For a detailed discussion, see Deines, “Jesus der Galiläer,” 58–71. 12 Unmentioned here is the long list of more or less intelligent philosophers, writers, ‘prophets,’ and anti-Semites, who sought to distance Jesus from Judaism on account of his Galilean origins. But it needs to be pointed out here that the judgment of the large majority of theologians and representatives of the Wissenschaft des Judentums was much more levelheaded than that of their more journalistic competitors who were, to some extent, rather successful with their, at times, ludicrous theories. In this respect, little seems to have changed. Fenske, “Arier,” offers an initial overview of these kind of aberrations and delusions. Unfortunately the book lacks a subject index, so it is difficult to find the many passages on Galilee, cf. e.g. 15, 17, 21, 40, 59–60, 69–70. Yet, Fenske and many others miss the importance of the Galilee argumentation in distancing Jesus from the Jewish mainstream of his time in Jewish studies of Jesus. 13 On the history of this institute, which was based in Eisenach, see Peter von der OstenSacken, ed., Das mißbrauchte Evangelium: Studien zur Theologie und Praxis der Thüringer Deutschen Christen (SKI 20; Berlin: Institut Kirche und Judentum, 2002), in addition also Otto Merk, “‘Viele waren Neutestamentler:’ Zur Lage neutestamentlicher Wissenschaft 1933–1945 und ihrem zeitlichen Umfeld,” TLZ 130 (2005): 106–18; Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), and also the essay collection on Walter Grundmann mentioned in note 4 (with detailed literature).

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bly the most influential book among the publications of this institute was Walter Grundmann’s Jesus der Galiläer und das Judentum (Jesus the Galilean and Judaism).14 Given this background, it is not unwarranted to enquire into the function of “Galilee” as Jesus’ place of origin in more recent Jesus research, in which critical inquests have repeatedly been reminded of Grundmann.15 Related to this focus on Jesus’ Galilean context is the parallel development that placed special emphasis on a Galilean origin of the sayings source Q,16 which — despite all the unanswered questions of Q studies17 — is doubtless one of the most important sources when it comes to reconstructing the life of the historical Jesus. The aim of the following deliberations is surely not to question the overall importance and usefulness of Galilee studies for historical Jesus research, but only to point out the related pitfalls, and perhaps also their limitations with regard to understanding Jesus.


The monograph appeared as part of the Veröffentlichung des Institut zur Erforschung des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben (Leipzig: F. Wiegand, 1940). A second revised edition was printed by the same publisher in 1941, bringing the total to 5,000 copies. 15 William E. Arnal, The Symbolic Jesus: Historical Scholarship, Judaism and the Construction of Contemporary Identity (London: Equinox, 2005), 16–29; Seán Freyne, “Galilean Questions to Crossan’s Mediterranean Jesus,” in Whose Historical Jesus? (ed. William E. Arnal and Michel Desjardins; Studies in Christianity and Judaism 7; Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997), 63–91 (91) (= idem, Galilee and Gospel, 208–29; the last page of the original essay that refers to Grundmann is missing in the reprint); Peter M. Head, “The Nazi Quest for an Aryan Jesus,” JSHJ 2 (2004): 55–89 (60–1 etc.); John Kloppenborg Verbin, Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 434–5; Moxnes, “Construction,” 33–4, 68; Birger A. Pearson, “The Gospel According to the Jesus Seminar,” Religion 25 (1995): 317–38 (338). See also note 42 below. 16 The emphasis on the Galilean origins of Q is — disregarding some exceptions — a relatively new phenomenon. For the most part it was thought Q originated in Palestine (or southern Syria), although without giving any specifics, John S. Kloppenborg did not discuss the origin or the relationship to Galilee in his first monograph on Q in 1987 at all, see idem, The Formation of Q: Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections (Studies in Antiquity and Christianity; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987). In Excavating Q, published in 2000, the Galilean origins, however, have become foundational for his influential understanding of Q, cf. ibid. 170–5, 214–61 (“Reading Q in the Galilee”). Kloppenborg especially relies here on Jonathan L. Reed, “The Social Map of Q,” in Conflict and Invention: Literary, Rhetorical, and Social Studies on the Sayings Gospel Q (ed. John S. Kloppenborg; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1995), 17–36, reworked in idem, Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus: A Re-examination of the Evidence (Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity, 2000), 170–96 (for more literature see 170, n. 1 and below note 102). 17 For an overview for the current state of research, see Maurice Casey, An Aramaic Approach to Q: Sources for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (SNTSMS 122; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 1–50; and Peter M. Head and P. J. Williams, “Q Review,” TynBul 34 (2003): 119–44.


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1. Galilee Research as Basis for the Quest of the Historical Jesus The starting point of recent Galilee research, which was spearheaded by the late Seán Freyne’s first monograph on the history of Galilee,18 stands in diametric opposition to the process of alienation of Jesus from Judaism mentioned above. Instead it can be understood as a catalyst for the present (“third”) quest for the historical Jesus. For such Galilee research, kick-started by Freyne in the literary realm and archaeologically by Eric Meyers, played a significant part in that the Jew Jesus from Galilee was put in the spotlight. Whereas the hallmark of the “second” phase of Jesus research, which is generally connected to Käsemann and Bornkamm,19 was the criterion of dissimilarity according to which authentic Jesus material was only that different from contemporary Judaism (and to the nascent Church), the representatives of the “Third Quest,” in almost opposite fashion, favour the plausibility and similarity criterion.20 This means that those things that associated Jesus with contemporary Judaism are now deemed most likely to be authentic. But here it had to be asked: With what form, variant, or stream of Judaism? This question has become particularly important because, parallel to the “Third Quest,” the situation of the study of second Temple period Judaism has also changed, and dramatically at that, when compared to the state of 18

Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian: A Study of Second Temple Judaism (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1980). Freyne stayed true to this subject, cf. furthermore (in selection) idem, Galilee, Jesus, and the Gospels; idem, Galilee and Gospel; idem; Jesus, a Jewish Galilean: A New Reading of the Jesus-Story (London: T&T Clark, 2004), and also his presidential address during the SNTS 2006 in Aberdeen: “Galilee as Laboratory: Experiments for New Testament Historians and Theologians,” NTS 53 (2007): 147–64. Cf. also his essay “Die soziale Welt Galiläas aus der Sicht des Josephus,” in Jesus und die Archäologie Galiläas (ed. Jörg Frey et al.; Biblisch-Theologische Studien 87; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2008). 19 The time between the end of the “First Quest” and the start of the “New Quest” is strongly influenced by Bultmann’s existentialist interpretation, which had no interest in the historical Jesus. For this reason this time is often described as the “no quest” phase. But Bultmann’s influence also shaped the “New Quest” of his students, so that at times the whole of the “Second” or “New Quest” is improperly used as a label for the whole phase of Jesus research influenced by Bultmann. The terminology was shaped by James M. Robinson, A New Quest for the Historical Jesus (Naperville, Ill.: Alec R. Allenson, 1959), who called attention to this new trend in Jesus research in the circle of Bultmann’s students. For a short overview, see James Carleton Paget, “Quests for Historical Jesus,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (ed. Markus Bockmuehl; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 138–55. 20 Cf. James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Christianity in the Making vol. 1; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 73–92; Gerd Theissen and Dagmar Winter, The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: Question of Criteria (trans. M. Eugene Boring; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002).

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research during the “Second Quest.” At that time Jesus was seen to be facing a mostly Pharisaic–rabbinic influenced “nomistic” Judaism,21 whereas now plurality of form and content is emphasized, together with geographic diversity, not only between the land of Israel and the Diaspora, but also within the Jewish motherland itself. In terms of geography, Galilean Judaism is now differentiated from Judean and Samaritan Judaism, and in addition to these regional differences (which are further defined internally, e.g. with Upper and Lower Galilee as culturally different regions), there are also sociological variations (e.g., the difference between urban and rural, and foreign dominated and indigenous populations) and cultural variations (e.g., level of Hellenization, education, religious links). This change in Jewish studies has as its consequence that it forces one to define carefully any placement of Jesus on this by now rather intricate map of the Jewish world.22 In this context, Jesus’ Galilean origin seems to provide a solid point of contact for the necessary precise classification. The statement “Jesus was a Galilean who preached and healed” belongs according to E. P. Sanders to the eight facts and activities known about Jesus that can claim the highest level of historical authenticity.23 Even for the members of the Jesus seminar, better known for their generous verdicts against the historicity of most of what the canonical gospels reveal about Jesus’ words and deeds, it belongs to our certain knowledge about Jesus that he was “an itinerant teacher in Galilee,” and also, somewhat surprisingly, that he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.24 21 Cf. E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977). 22 Cf. Kloppenborg Verbin, Excavating Q, 437: It is not enough to say that Jesus was a Jew, but one needs to further define “what kind of Judaism Jesus (or Q) represents,” similarly also 434; on this task, see also Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 255–311. 23 E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (London: SCM, 1985), 11. Galilee does not, however, play a special role in this book (it is not even mentioned in the index), since for Sanders “first-century Judaism,” that is, “Palestinian Judaism” constitutes the primary context for understanding (17). Only in later studies does he explicitly refer to the Galilee-debate, cf. idem, “Jesus’ Galilee,” in Fair Play: Diversity and Conflicts in Early Christianity (FS Heikki Räisänen; ed. Ismo Dudenberg, Christopher M. Tucket, and Kari Syreeni; NovTSup 103; Leiden: Brill, 2002), 3–42; idem, “Jesus in Galilee,” in Jesus: A Colloquium in the Holy Land with J.D.G. Dunn, Daniel J. Harrington, Elizabeth A. Johnson, John P. Meier and E.P. Sanders (New York: Continuum, 2001), 5–26; cf. also Moxnes, “Construction,” 34–6. On Galilee as a “certain” aspect of Jesus’ biography, see also Craig A. Evans, “Authenticating the Activities of Jesus,” in Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (ed. Bruce Chilton and idem; NTTS 28.2; Leiden: Brill, 1999; repr. 2002), 3–29 (3–4, 9–10, 26–7); Peter Richardson, Building Jewish in the Roman East (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2004), 96–9. 24 Robert W. Funk, ed., The Acts of Jesus: What Did Jesus Really Do? The Search for Authentic Deeds of Jesus (San Francisco: Harper, 1998). Against the argument that Jesus preached in Galilean synagogues, see esp. Richard A. Horsley, Archaeology, History and Society in Galilee: The Social Context of Jesus and the Rabbis (Valley Forge, Penn.: Trinity International, 1996), 131–53. In his view the New Testament refers to “assemblies of the


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But what is known about Galilee in the time of Jesus? One look at the prevailing literature shows that behind this simple question is not just one, but a whole plethora of questions: What do we know about the history of settlement and population of Galilee? Was there a specific Galilean Judaism? Or even several? How far was the piety in the villages of Galilee different from that of the two cities Sepphoris and Tiberias? What differences were there between Jewish life in Upper and Lower Galilee? What was Galilee’s relationship to Judea, and to the Temple? Were there Pharisees in Galilee? What status did the priests have there? How did the administration of the villages work?25 And finally — how does Jesus fit into this? What moulded and formed him as a Galilean? The range of answers given to these questions is vast and can only be illustrated here with a few representative examples. The Jewish historian Geza Vermes was one of the first to respond to the “Second Quest” with a book on Jesus the Jew. In it he describes Jesus as “very much at home” in the company of the Hasidim, since “the unsophisticated religious ambiance of Galilee was apt to produce holy men of the Hasidic type.”26 Some twenty years later, John Dominic Crossan came up with the claim that Jesus’ Galilean origins allow us to see him as “a peasant Jewish cynic,” since his “village was close enough to a Greco-Roman city like Sepphoris.” For Jesus, “sight and knowledge of Cynicism are neither inexplicable nor unlikely” even though he avoided the marketplaces of the cities (the primary focus of the Greco-Roman Cynics) and only sought out “the farms and villages of Lower Galilee” in order to preach his message of the kingdom as “the combination of free healing and common eating.”27 local communities” and not to respective buildings. Against this sceptical minimalist understanding see inter alia Sanders, “Jesus in Galilee,” 18; James F. Strange, “Archaeology and Ancient Synagogues up to about 200 C.E.,” in The Ancient Synagogue From Its Origins until 200 C.E.: (ed. Birger Olsson and Magnus Zetterholm; ConBNT 39; Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 2003), 37–62; and furthermore Lee I. Levine, “The First Century Synagogue: Critical Reassessments and Assessments of the Critical,” in Religion and Society in Roman Palestine (ed. Douglas R. Edwards; New York: Routledge, 2004), 70–102. 25 The best and most comprehensive treatment of these issues are in my opinion the two books by Mark A. Chancey, which also offer some excellent insights into the hidden agendas within the history of Galilee research: The Myth of a Gentile Galilee (SNTSMS 118; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); and idem, Greco-Roman Culture and the Galilee of Jesus (SNTSMS 134; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). Cf. also idem, “The Epigraphic Habit of Hellenistic and Roman Galilee,” Religion, Ethnicity, and Identity in Ancient Galilee (ed. Jürgen Zangenberg, Harold W. Attridge, and Dale B. Martin; WUNT 210; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 83–99. 26 Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels (London: Collins, 1973), 79–80. 27 John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (San Francisco: Harper, 1991), 421–2. Despite all the differences, Vermes’ influence on Crossan is not insignificant; cf. ibid, 489, index s.v. Vermes.

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Vermes and Crossan, who in some sense represent the contradictory positions discussed above, nevertheless agree on this one point: they both presume a certain image of Galilee — or reconstruct such — in which they place Jesus and from which they understand his activities. Vermes, in addition to this, emphasizes that the “small group of devotees” who followed Jesus on his journies consisted of “simple Galilean folk.” It was “among the Galilean crowd [that] Jesus was a great success,” whereas his popularity in Judea and Jerusalem “did not match that which he enjoyed in his own country” (30–1). For Vermes, Galilee represents, due to its history, a “territory sui generis” (43) that was only integrated into the Hasmonean realm in the first century BC and thus had a population with “an overwhelming Jewishness” (44). The make-up of this population is only rarely discussed by Vermes, but he seemingly assumes that it was predominantly Jewish settlers who, perhaps together with the evacuees mentioned in 1 Macc 5:14–23, recolonized Galilee in the first century BC. He also mentions in this context the violent pressure directed against non-Jewish inhabitants of Galilee and their forced circumcision (Josephus, Ant. 12.257f., 318f.), without clarifying his position on how many might have been affected by these actions. Although, according to this reconstruction of the historical process, Galilee has to be considered as a region settled by Judeans from the first century BC onwards (on this see note 103 below), they very quickly developed a special “Galilean self-awareness” (45). This was represented particularly (but not solely) by the “rebels,” which made Galilee, according to Vermes, into “the most troublesome of all Jewish districts” (46) from the middle of the first century BC. With passages from Josephus and rabbinic literature (cf. 52–7), he subsequently demonstrates the contentious and aggressive character of this special Galilean nationalism in the north. The suggested genesis of the particular profile of Jewish Galilee, however, does not fully support the distinctive character of Galilee in comparison to Judea; at least, it does not explain its development. It would seem that it is rather the ‘preconception’ of a special culture in Galilee that affects this depiction, motivated not least by the need for this special culture to explain Jesus’ activities. Jesus and the Gospels have to be situated among “the specifically Galilean type,” because only amongst such people could Jesus be understood. Jesus, as a “campagnard,” felt at home with “the simple people of rural Galilee,” and he also shared their “Galilean chauvinism” against nonJews. But in Jerusalem Jesus “must have felt quite alien” (48), and, in turn, as a “Galilean” he would have been seen as a “political suspect” by the establishment of the capital city: “Moreover, if present-day estimates of Jewish historians concerning Galilean lack of education and unorthodoxy are accepted, his same Galilean descent made him a religious suspect also” (57).


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The supposed absence of the Pharisees, or Pharisaic influence, in Galilee serves as explanation for the “lack of education” there. In later publications Vermes appeals to the famous dictum of Yoḥanan ben Zakkai who is said to have lived for eighteen years in Arav, close to Sepphoris: “Oh Galilee, Galilee, you hate the Torah! Your end will be by ‘oppressors’!”28 Pharisaic or (proto-) rabbinic influence in Galilee is regularly disputed by those who hold the assumption of a specific Galilean culture different from that of Judea, and this argument is used whenever such a difference is needed for the explanation of other issues like, in our case, the specific form of Jesus’ Jewishness as Galilean.29 To summarise Vermes’s notion of the Judean perspective upon a Galilean in the first century: a Galilean would have been characterised as having a politically suspect background, a lack of education, the temperament of a farmer, and a deficiency in orthodoxy. And when such a person also behaved in the provocative way that Jesus did, then, for Vermes, it is at least comprehensible why he was surrendered to the Roman authorities.30 It is clearly noticeable that Vermes’s portrayal of Galilee, which was published in 1973, remained deeply rooted in the scientific tradition of the nineteenth century. Parallels to Renan, Graetz, Geiger etc. are not difficult to 28 See y. Shabbat 16.8/3 (15d). On this passage as an argument against Pharisaic(rabbinic) influence and presence in Galilee, see inter alia Klausner, Jesus, 173; Seán Freyne, “The Charismatic,” in Ideal Figures in Ancient Judaism (ed. George W. E. Nickelsburg and John J. Collins; SBL Pseudepigrapha Group 12; Chico, Cal.: Scholars Press, 1980), 223–58 (under the title: “Hanina Ben Dosa: A Galilean Charismatic,” also in idem, Galilee and Gospel, 132–59 [153]); in later publications Freyne modified his position, which had heavily relied on Vermes, see idem, Galilee, Jesus, and the Gospels, 202, 217; and note 31 below. For critiques to such a reading of Yohanan’s dictum, see Shmuel Safrai, “The Jewish Cultural Nature of Galilee in the First Century,” in The New Testament and Christian-Jewish Dialogue (FS David Flusser; ed. Malcolm F. Lowe; Immanuel 24/25; Jerusalem: Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel, 1990), 147–86; on this see already Klein, Galiläa, 21; Eric M. Meyers, “The Cultural Setting of Galilee: The Case of Regionalism and Early Judaism,” ANRW 2.19.1 (1979), 686–702 (691, 698). 29 On the oft-debated problem of the Pharisees in Galilee, or the Pharisaic influence in Galilee, see Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 306–8; Freyne, Galilee, Jesus, and the Gospels, 202– 10; idem, Jesus, a Jewish Galilean, 83; Horsley, Archaeology, 151–2; idem; “The Pharisees and Jesus in Galilee and Q,” in When Judaism Began (FS Anthony J. Saldarini; ed. Alan J. Avery-Peck, Daniel Harrington, and Jacob Neusner; JSJSup 85; 2 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 2004), 1.117–45 (for Horsley the Pharisaic influence is a result of the Judean imperialism he presupposes); Dieter Lührmann, “Die Pharisäer und Schriftgelehrten im Markusevangelium,” ZNW 78 (1987): 169–85; Burton L. Mack, The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins (San Francisco: Harper, 1993), 60; Robert L. Mowery, “Pharisees and Scribes, Galilee and Jerusalem,” ZNW 80 (1989): 266–68 (adding to Lührmann); Rapinchuk, “Galilee and Jesus,” 214–16; Anthony J. Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988; repr. 2001; preface by James C. VanderKam), 291–7. 30 Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 34–6. On his view of Jesus’ trial, see idem, The Passion (London: Penguin, 2005).

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discern, the only difference being that in place of the “Essene” influence Vermes sets “charismatic Judaism” (cf. 58–82). The argument itself remains similar as he also combines charismatic pietism with Galilean emotionalism against Judean-rabbinic rationalism,31 and understands Jesus exclusively as a healer and exorcist in the context of the former. This then lays the foundation for an all too simple dichotomy between Galilee and Judea. Yet, Jesus also experienced rejection in Galilee, to the point that he was threatened with death (Mark 3:6; Luke 4:28f.),32 and he encountered friendship and acceptance in Judea (Lazarus, Mary, Martha, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Cleopas and the other Emmaus disciple, the family of John Mark — all people who appear to be Judean). It is quite interesting to see that Crossan invokes Vermes so extensively and explicitly for the depiction of his radically different Jesus, whom he places among the socially exploited peasant class struggling for survival.33 For he, like Vermes, assumes that Jesus’ subversive practice of magic (since it was free) and his offer of a Temple-tax free relation to God exerted such a competitive pressure on “the religious monopoly of the priests” that they tried to get rid of this business spoiler as quickly as possible. “The authorities are trapped in their own theology” (324) he claims, and behind this stands, just as with Vermes, a fundamental difference between Jesus and Jerusalem, between the itinerant Galilean and the fixedly located Temple service (355, cf. also 360). According to Crossan, Jesus’ relation to the Temple and the tradition it stood for was at best ambivalent, but probably completely indifferent. As a Cynic, he stood outside of any such fixed institutions and their hierarchies. Burton Mack goes even further in his book on Q, published in 1993, in that he rejects a constitutive connection between the historical Jesus and the traditional Jewish identity markers that have been observed since the Hasmonean period (the Torah, Jerusalem, and the Temple). Based on the 31 This is also true for the early portrait of Yoḥanan ben Zakkai by Jacob Neusner, in which the “spontaneous religion of Galilee, which looked for daily miracles, signs, and wonders” is put in contrast with the more sober and rational halakhic practice in Jerusalem, see A Life of Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai: Ca. 1–80 C.E. (StPB 61; Leiden: Brill, 1962), 32, cf. also the revision, 1970, 57 (on Yoḥanan in Galilee, see 47–58). 32 Which Vermes, in fact, takes note of in another place; see Jesus the Jew, 33–4. For a similar schematic differentiation between Galilee and Jerusalem, see Willibald Bösen, Galiläa als Lebensraum und Wirkungsfeld Jesus: Eine zeitgeschichtliche und theologische Untersuchung (Freiburg: Herder, 1985), 262–74. In some sense, one could say that this division is a continuation of the antagonism between Paul and the Jerusalemite Judaizers postulated by Ferdinand Christian Baur, in which Galilee now takes the role of Paul’s Hellenism with its associated ‘openness’ with regard to the Torah and the non-Jewish world. 33 Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 138–49. Yet, for Crossan, Galilee has no special significance, cf. Freyne, “Galilean Questions,” 65–70 (= Galilee and Gospel, 213–6).


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work of Kloppenborg’s redaction history of Q, which assumes the existence of a first stratum consisting mainly of wisdom-sayings upon which was only later superimposed a ‘biblical’ layer (subduing the original sayings to a “Deuteronomistic understanding”), Mack reconstructed the historical Jesus and his first followers exclusively on the basis of this assumed oldest layer. His goal was nothing less than the restatement of the origins of Christianity: If the shift from wisdom to apocalyptic could be explained, it would have tremendous consequences for the quest of the historical Jesus and a revision of Christian origins. As for Jesus, it would mean that he had probably been more the sage, less the prophet. And as for Christian origins, it would mean that something other than an apocalyptic message and motivation may have impelled the new movement and defined its fundamental attraction.34

His quest for “Christian origins” brings Mack to the social and cultural context of the original “people of Q” (38), who were not yet “Christians,” but representatives of a Galilean Jesus movement. On account of the discovery of this historical situation,35 it is now not only necessary, according to Mack, to bid farewell to the traditional image of Jesus, which sees him as Messiah or at least an inner-Jewish prophet or reformer, but also to the “image of Judaism in Palestine, based on the Christian gospel” (49). Therefore, in order to substantiate the new understanding of the historical Jesus based on Q, it is also necessary to reconceptualize what we know about Galilee once we leave aside the ‘christianized’ gospels’ portrait. To do this, Mack necessitates having “some basic, up-to-date information about the social and cultural climate of first-century Galilee” (49), which he then purports to lay out in the next chapter “Galilee Before the War” (51–68).36 His introductory sentence already makes clear that Mack is mostly interested in seeing Galilee as a world that is separate from Judea (and its form of Judaism): “In the world of the Christian imagination Galilee belonged to Palestine, the religion of Palestine was Judaism, so everyone in Galilee must have been Jewish. Since 34

Mack, Lost Gospel, 37–8. On Mack’s assumed development of Q, which also implies a geographic migration of Q from Galilee via North Palestine, South and North Syria to Asia Minor, see the diagram on p. 259. This is based on Kloppenborg, Formation of Q, cf. idem, Excavating Q, 87–111. 35 Cf. the defence of Mack’s position by William Arnal, “A Manufactured Controversy: Why the ‘Jewish Jesus’ is a Red Herring,” in The Symbolic Jesus, 20–38 (24f.). According to this apology, it is the inescapability of the historical facts, namely the oldest Jesus tradition and thus what is most authentic in what we can know about Jesus, that we cannot relate him to “Israel’s epic tradition” (cf. similarly, Kloppenborg Verbin, Excavating Q, 188–9, likewise defending Mack; on the “epic tradition” see p. 73 below). By necessity this then leads Mack and Kloppenborg to devise a complete reappraisal of early Christianity and its pre-history. 36 However, in his select bibliography (Lost Gospel, 263–7), he does not cite a single recent study on the history of Galilee and its archaeology, which, in the light of the announcement of “up-to-date information,” is rather telling. On Mack’s out-dated image of Galilee, see inter alia Moxnes, “Construction,” 68–9.

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this picture is wrong, and since Q can make no sense as long as it prevails, the reader needs to have a truer picture in mind ”(51). This is then followed by information that has been around at the least since Walter Bauer’s famous Galilee essay (see above note 2), and which was also thoroughly maltreated by Grundmann: “a land of mixed peoples” (53, cf. 56), criss-crossed by international highways (cf. 55), and in close proximity to various realms of diverse ethnic make-up. Galilee itself has no central core, no capital, it is “a no-man’s-land reserved for initial skirmishers in larger undertakings. It was a kind of beachhead where the surge of political crosscurrents constantly kept the people on their toes” (53). Therefore “loyalty to the kings and their gods” is not among the Galilean virtues (ibid.). Since the time of Alexander the Great, Galilee was surrounded by Greek cities with all the characteristics of Hellenistic urban life, but “Samaritans and Galileans did not resist. They did not generate a revolution like that of the Maccabees in Judea” (54). The resistance against foreign Hellenistic cultural influences was, according to Mack, limited to Judea (ibid.). Galilee was “annexed” by the Hasmonean kingdom around 100 BC, but their rule was only exercised there from 100 to 63 BC (55). Pompeius took over, which meant for Galilee “another superimposition of military, political, economic, social, and cultural presence with which Galileans had to contend” (55). In this context, Mack poses the question of whether the Galileans can be described as a separate ethnic group, akin to “Jews (from Judea, the land of Judah, with its temple in Jerusalem), Idumeans, Samaritans, Phoenicians, and Syrians” (56). He answers this in the negative on account of the history of Galilee with its many invasions, claiming that it rather has to be understood as the home of a multi-ethnic mix of peoples (ibid.). Mack furthermore emphasizes the Hellenistic influence on Galilee, which for him is downplayed by many scholars “in the interest of buttressing the picture of Jesus appearing in the midst of a thoroughly Jewish culture” (57).37 He mentions Gadara (“just across the Jordan, a day’s walk from Nazareth”) and Scythopolis with their educational and cultural infrastructure (“theaters, sporting arenas [gymnasia], and schools”), and also, of course, Sepphoris (“an hour’s walk from Nazareth”) as an example of a “thoroughly hellenized city” (58). All of this is 37 Likewise Kloppenborg Verbin, Excavating Q, 437. This position is supported by J. Andrew Overman, “Recent Advances in the Archaeology of the Galilee in the Roman Period,” Currents in Research Biblical Studies 1 (1993): 35–57, who interprets the archaeological data quite tendentiously in that “the presence and influence of so-called pagan culture is now widely recognized as a result of excavations in the Galilee” (45). An adequate image of Jesus cannot be reached if “the cultural, religious and socioeconomic issues and development that were part of the larger Greek East” are not sufficiently consulted (47). Thus, in his view, archaeology demonstrates the “cultural and religious plurality” in Galilee, which has the consequence that the “distinction between Jews, non-Jews or Gentiles and so-called pagans” are not viable any more (49).


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not entirely wrong, though it is a rather one-sided portrayal. It turns out to be more problematic, however, when Hellenization is used as the opposite of “Jewish culture,” as is the case in Mack’s work. By way of a long sequence of rhetorical questions addressing speculative social changes in the wake of the process of Hellenization of the East, he seems to reveal, finally, what lays at the heart of his agenda: What if we let Galilee have its place in the Greco-Roman world? What if the people of Galilee were not isolated from the cultural mix that stimulated thought and produced social experimentation in response to the times? What if Galileans were fully aware of the cultural and intellectual forces surging through the Levant? What if we acknowledged that the compact and convoluted history of foreign conquests in Galilee had created disaffection for many Galileans, and a predisposition for social and cultural critique? . . . What if we thought that Galileans were capable of entertaining novel notions of social identity? What then? Why then we would be ready for the story of the people of Q.38

The Jesus movement that is discerned as standing at the beginning of the redaction history of Q turns out to be a society-critical avant-garde that seeks to find a new identity outside of ethnos and traditional (incl. Jewish) religiosity39 — which ultimately sounds more reminiscent of elitist postmodern and post-Christian circles in California than of Galilee in the first century. Related to this Q-hypothesis is the position — which is both older and worthy of discussion — that the life of Jesus which burst the cultural norms of society and the radical discipleship ethos practised by his followers, can be understood along the lines of itinerant Cynic philosophers and their critique of society.40 More problematic, however, as many critics of the “Cynic Jesus” 38 Mack, Lost Gospel, 68. Despite the rhetorical-suggestive weight of these “what-if” questions, the real scholarly results (at the end of the chapter) are rather thin. Most of them have to be clearly answered in the negative since any references in the available sources that might give rise to an affirmative answer are wanting. But, in fact, they need not even be answered in the negative, since these questions are simply not conformable to the subject matter. On the assumed specific Galilean–Hellenistic ethos in opposition to a “specifically Jewish sectarian milieu” see also idem, A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 73. For a similar Q-utopia, see William E. Arnal, Jesus and the Village Scribes: Galilean Conflicts and the Setting of Q (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001), 193–202 (“The Social Project of the Q Tradents”). 39 Cf. Mack, Lost Gospel, 213–4: Behind the original Q-movement stood the idea that “a mixed group of people could represent the best of the heritage of several ethnically exclusive cultural traditions and claim to be a new kind of community.” See also the last chapter, “The Consequences” (245–58), which strikingly demonstrates that Mack’s analysis of Q is concerned with rooting his “social vision” of a “multicultural world” (whose enemy is imperialist America in collusion with traditional Christianity) in the message of Jesus, which for this reason has to be purged from all disruptive elements. 40 Cf. inter alia Gerd Theißen, “Wanderradikalismus,” ZTK 70 (1973): 245–71 (255–6) (= idem, Studien zur Soziologie des Urchristentum [WUNT 19; 3rd ed.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1989], 79–105 [89–90]). Theißen emphasizes, however, that the analogy between

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have repeatedly pointed out, is that the attempt to draw Cynic analogies to Jesus is often used to loosen the basic rooting of Jesus in Judaism.41 Although the proponents of a “Cynic Jesus” never claim that Jesus was not a Jew, his Judaism is nevertheless not central for the understanding of Jesus (to be read in the sense of both a genitivus subjectivus and a genitivus objectivus).42 Jesus’ kingdom message, which has been preserved undiluted only in the oldest layer of Q, is not related to “any particular tradition or religious thinking” (128), and neither can his “God” be equated with a particular ethnic or cultural tradition. This, according to Mack, could only come about in Galilee: The God in question is not identified in terms of any ethnic or cultural tradition. This fits nicely with Galilean provenance, and since the metaphors of God’s rule are largely taken from the realm of nature the conception of God in Q1 is also compatible with the Cynic tone of the preaching.43

Cynicism and the Jesus movement is based on “structural similarities” and not on “historical links;” Freyne has also made mention of this similarity in an early work, see Galilee, Jesus, and the Gospels, 241, 249; since then he has clearly distanced himself from this position, cf. idem, Galilee and Gospel, see 343, index s.v. Cynics. 41 For an overview of the debate over the Cynic Jesus cf. F. Gerald Downing, Christ and the Cynics: Jesus and Other Radical Preachers in the First-Century Tradition (JSOT Man. 4; Sheffield: JSOT, 1988); idem, Cynics and Christian Origins (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1992); idem, “Deeper Reflections on the Jewish Cynic Jesus,” JBL 117 (1998): 97–104; John S. Kloppenborg Verbin, “A Dog Among the Pigeons: The ‘Cynic Hypothesis’ as a Theological Problem,” in From Quest to Quelle (FS J. M. Robinson; ed. Jón Asgeirsson, Kristen de Troyer, and Marvin W. Meyer; BETL 146; Leuven: Peeters, 1999), 73–117; Burton L. Mack, “Q and a Cynic-Like Jesus,” in Whose Historical Jesus? (ed. William E. Arnal and Michel Desjardins; Studies in Christianity and Judaism 7; Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997), 25–36; idem, “The Case for a Cynic-Like Jesus,” in The Christian Myth: Origins, Logic, and Legacy (New York: Continuum, 2001), 41–58; David Seeley, “Jesus and the Cynics Revisited,” JBL 116 (1997): 704–12; Leif E. Vaage, Galilean Upstarts: Jesus’ First Followers According to Q (Valley Forge, Penn.: Trinity, 1994); for a critique, see Hans Dieter Betz, “Jesus and the Cynics: Survey and Analysis of a Hypothesis,” JR 74 (1994): 453–75; Paul R. Eddy, “Jesus as Diogenes? Reflections on the Cynic Jesus Thesis,” JBL 115 (1996): 449–69; John W. Marshall, “The Gospel of Thomas and the Cynic Jesus,” in Whose Historical Jesus? (ed. William E. Arnal and Michel Desjardins; Studies in Christianity and Judaism 7; Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997), 37–60; Arnal, Jesus and the Village Scribes, 52–64. It is important to point out that the relationship between what is Jewish and what is Cynic is seen quite differently from author to author, cf. e.g. Freyne, “Galilean Questions,” 71–4 (= Galilee and Gospels, 218–21) with Downing’s position. 42 For a defence of this position, and against the related accusation of anti-Judaism, see note 15; also: Arnal, “Manufactured Controversy,” 20–38, 80–2; idem, “The Cipher ‘Judaism’ in Contemporary Historical Jesus Scholarship,” in Apocalypticism, Anti-Semitism and the Historical Jesus (ed. John S. Kloppenborg and John W. Marshall; JSNTSup 275; London: Continuum, 2005), 24–54; and the review by Maurice Casey, JTS 57 (2006): 655–60. 43 Mack, Lost Gospel, 127. In order to arrive at the desired results, he not only accommodates the Q-tradition to postmodern beliefs, but also Cynicism itself: “The use of the term


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What we have in the end is an intersection of several research traditions in the debate about the use of the Galilean origins of Jesus. In the study of Q influenced by Mack and Kloppenborg and their students, Galilee becomes the prerequisite for an original Jesus movement in analogy to a Cynic social critique. In support of this, arguments relating to the strong Hellenization, urbanization, and multi-ethnicity of Galilee are frequently rehearsed. By contrast, the elements that point to inner-Jewish links and Jewish patterns of behaviour are either completely ignored (Mack) or significantly reduced in their validity for coming to an understanding of Galilean identity.44

2. Jesus and the “Biblical Epic of Israel” Thus, “Galilee” is clearly used for an inner-Jewish differentiation and qualification of Jesus, whereby a ‘special’ Galilean form of Judaism made possible a ‘special’ Jesus. The critics see therein, as mentioned, a precarious distancing of Jesus from Judaism in general, which appears to come at least close to that of Grundmann (see note 15). The advocates of this position counter with the question: “What is a Jew?”45 The answers given to this self-imposed question make it clear what the overall thrust behind it is, in that they point out that there were other Jewish identities apart from those rooted in Jerusalem, the Temple, and the other Judean traditions. And this, as one would suspect, was especially the case in Galilee: kingdom of God in Q1 matches its use in the traditions of popular philosophy, especially in the Cynic tradition of performing social diagnostics in public by means of countercultural behavior. The aphoristic imperatives recommended a stance toward life in the world that could become the basis for an alternative community ethos and ethic among those willing to consider an alternative social vision” (126–7). 44 Kloppenborg Verbin, Excavating Q, 223–34: “The Galilee, the Temple, and the Torah.” In his view the adoption of Judean traditions is mostly due to economic reasons, since trade with Judea was only possible with products that were kosher and properly tithed. Cf. this with the view of Andrea M. Berlin, “Jewish Life Before the Revolt: The Archaeological Evidence,” JSJ 36 (2005): 417–70; she describes the archaeological finds for Judea and Galilee as relatively consistent, giving shape to what she calls “household-Judaism,” present from the first century BC onwards at the latest. Beyond Berlin, I would argue that economic reasons alone cannot sufficiently explain such a sweeping process of change that reaches as far as household ceramics, which is why I suggested the Pharisees as the most likely group behind this change in the material culture, see: Roland Deines, “Non-literary Sources for the Interpretation of the New Testament: Methodological Considerations and Case Studies Related to the Corpus Judaeo-Hellenisticum,” in Neues Testament und hellenistisch-jüdische Alltagskultur (ed. Roland Deines, Jens Herzer, and Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr; WUNT 274; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2011), 25–66 (31–8). 45 Arnal, “Manufactured Controversy,” 29–37.

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We may note, with Horsley (1996)46 or Reed (2000),47 that there are various evidences for Galilean cultural distinction from the practices of Judea; and so we may conclude that there need be nothing anomalous about a Jewish Jesus whose key ideas have much in common 46 This refers to Horsley, Archaeology. The hallmark of Horsley’s position is a special Israelite-Galilean identity, which is directed against the Hasmonean conquest and annexation of Galilee into the Judean sphere of control. Related to this is his description of Judean colonialists who came to Galilee in the first century AD. These colonial overlords, in collusion with the Judean aristocracy and later the Romans, oppressed and exploited the longestablished Israelite population. Galileans in the time of Jesus, therefore, considered the Jerusalem Temple and priesthood as nothing else but ciphers for foreign imperial oppression under the protection and shadow of Rome, which was only interested in raising exploitative taxation from the “Israelite” population. A simple summary of his position can be found in his short article, “Jesus gegen die neue römische Ordnung,” Welt und Umwelt der Bibel 7[24] (2002): 27–31; more in-depth, idem, “What has Galilee to do with Jerusalem? Political Aspects of the Jesus Movement,” HTS 52 (1996): 88–104; idem, “Jesus and Galilee: The Contingencies of a Renewal Movement,” in Galilee Through the Centuries: Confluence of Cultures (ed. Eric M. Meyers; Duke Judaic Studies Series 1; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1999), 57–74. The historical basis of this position is a modification of Albrecht Alt’s (1883– 1956) account of the development of the population of Galilee (see Jonathan L. Reed, Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus: A Re-Examination of the Evidence [Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity, 2000], 25; Chancey, Myth, 25). Alt’s series of essays titled “Galiläische Probleme” appeared for the first time in Palästinajahrbuch des Deutschen Evangelischen Instituts für Altertumswissenschaft des Heiligen Landes zu Jerusalem 33 (1937): 52–88; 34 (1938): 80– 93; 35 (1939): 64–82; 36 (1940): 78–92, and then again in idem, Kleine Schriften zur Geschichte des Volkes Israel, vol. II (Munich: Beck, 1953), 363–435; see further idem, “Die Stätten des Wirkens Jesus in Galiläa territorialgeschichtlich betrachtet,” ZDPV [= BBLAK] 68 [1949]: 51–72, now also in Kleine Schriften 2.436–55; these articles were written in the context of Nazi rule in Germany, when the “Galilee of the Gentiles” was frequently abused to prove the non-Jewish character of the ‘Galilean’ Jesus (on this, see the essay mentioned in note 4). Alt’s intention was to demonstrate that at no time was there a majority of non-Jews in Galilee, and moreover that even after the Assyrian period one has to assume the continual presence of an Israelite population. Horsley invokes this, but then — quite contrary to Alt’s intention — assumes a deep rift between this old Israelite population and the new Judean colonialists. For a discussion and critique of Horsley’s position (which also forms the backdrop of Crossan’s view), see inter alia Moxnes, “Construction,” 71; Rapinchuk, “Galilee and Jesus,” 198–200, 202–3, 208–18; Reed, “Galileans, ‘Israelite Village Communities,’ and the Sayings Gospel Q,” in Galilee Through the Centuries: Confluence of Cultures (ed. Eric M. Meyers; Duke Judaic Studies Series 1; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1999), 87–108; Sanders, “Jesus in Galilee,” 17–19; Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 293–7. 47 This refers to Reed, Archaeology. However, Reed’s study hardly supports Arnal’s claims. Though Reed also emphasizes Galilee as “definable region” with its special characteristics (215), but these function mainly as a demarcation against the surrounding regions (“. . . Galilee as a whole — Upper Galilee, Lower Galilee, and even portions of the Golan — was homogenous against its neighbours . . .”), while there are “close parallels to the material culture of Judea” (216). Yet, he warns of a “pan-Palestinian Judaism”: “Even though Galilee was effectively integrated or incorporated into the Hasmonean Kingdom and under Herodian rule, and it and Judea shared many ties, Galilee had its own unique history and socioeconomic, religious, and cultural developments” (ibid.).


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with aspects of the Greco-Roman world, or who was not obviously concerned with the Temple cultus, Torah, or purity issues.48

One can hardly dispute the fact that there have been Jews whose links with the national and religious traditions of their people were weak. It is, however, more difficult to understand Jesus in such a light, which is only possible by means of a radical reduction (and reconstruction) of what is accepted as authentic tradition concerning him. This argument is, of course, not convincing for adherents of the Jesus Seminar or for those of a Q stratigraphy. For they, after all, cannot be held responsible for the fact that their critical analysis of the traditional material, including the deconstruction of Q (which, in their judgment, anybody who thinks historically and is free from any religious traditions and prejudices can and must follow), leads to those results they have presented to the public. It is this heightened claim to intellectual honesty in particular which puts everybody else in the wrong, especially the proponents of the “Third Quest” — with their strong interest in Jesus the Jew — as being those biased by dogmatic (or historical) prejudice. Kloppenborg is surely right in pointing out that historical studies conducted by theologians are often co-determined by various theological premises, which make it difficult to accept certain historical outcomes where they contradict theological convictions. Yet, neither can pure socio-historical research escape such forms of predisposition altogether, for it also has its “Sitz im Leben” in contemporary agendas and seeks to make a contribution to present-day debates with the analysis of historical events or figures that matter and therefore are likely to inspire interest. Kloppenborg’s defence against the allegation of anti-Semitism, which was mostly raised against the thesis that Jesus was a cynic-like figure, can be used as an illustration of a rather onesided distribution of biases. He states: Nothing in the cynic hypothesis entails a non- or anti-Jewish posture. It only sounds antiSemitic if one makes the false collateral assumption that Judaism and Cynicism are polar opposites, and the equally false assumption that the culture of Jewish Palestine was monolithic. Conjecturing a Jesus movement that simultaneously reflected multiple cultural discourses — some critical, some constructive, some conventional — in fact is part of the rigorous contextualization characteristic of social-historical approaches. It is not social and historical contextualization that is to blame for anti-Semitism.49

48 Arnal, “Manufactured Controversy,” 30; cf. this to Robert J. Miller, The Jesus Seminar and its Critics (Santa Rosa, Cal.: Polebridge, 1999), 75: “The Jewishness of Jesus is a phony issue. The accusation that the Jesus seminar strips Jesus of his Judaism is a powerful attention-getter. But it is an accusation without specific content. Everyone in the historical debate agrees that Jesus was Jesus. The real question is what kind of Jew he was” (emphasis mine). 49 Kloppenborg Verbin, Excavating Q, 436, cf. also 412–20.

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If something cannot possibly be anti-Semitic merely because it is based on the methodology of “social and historical contextualization,” then it would appear that confidence in the objectivity of one’s own method is simply too great. Furthermore, the description of the Jesus movement and its “multiple cultural discourses” gives the impression that here — just as with those approaches criticized for their various ‘theological subtexts’ — there is now a sociological ‘subtext’ that predisposes the enquiry and its results from the outset. Nevertheless, one has to agree with Kloppenborg that the anti-Semitism allegation against the Cynic Jesus misses the point. And this is also true for Mack’s interpretations, which, while reminiscent in many places of Grundmann (whose redaction-historical analysis of Matthew came to very similar results),50 are, in contrast to Grundmann, without any anti-Jewish intentions. Nevertheless, I think it is generally unnoticed that these interpretations are ‘anti-epic’ in the postmodern sense; that is, they turn against the “grand narratives” or “master stories” of the Western world, of which Judaism and Christianity form a part. The legitimizing “text” of Christianity is the “gospel story,” which is the “cornerstone of the Christian’s mythic world.”51 The “gospel story” includes the canonical gospels and the writings of the New Testament, which, according to Mack, came about by a linking and domestication of the older (Cynic) Jesus tradition with the “biblical epic.”52 Jesus and 50

Walter Grundmann, “Die Arbeit des ersten Evangelisten am Bilde Jesu,” in Christentum und Judentum: Studien zur Erforschung ihres gegenseitigen Verhältnisses. Sitzungsberichte der ersten Arbeitstagung des Institutes zur Erforschung des jüdischen Einflusses auf deutsche kirchliche Leben vom 1. bis 3. März 1940 in Wittenberg (Leipzig: Wigand, 1940), 55–77 (also in: Das Matthäus-Evangelium [ed. Joachim Lange; WdF 525; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1980], 73–102). For Grundmann, the authenticity criteria was the Galilean Jesus as constructed in opposition to (Judean) Judaism, so that all specific “Jewish” elements of the first gospel, namely Jesus’ messiahship, his davidic sonship, anything related to promise and fulfilment, scriptural proofs, and furthermore the focus of Jesus’ ministry on the “sheep of the house of Israel” are ascribed to the evangelist. For Grundmann, to reach back to the original message of Jesus Matthew’s “work. . . on the image of Jesus,” had to be undone, see: Deines, “Jesus der Galiläer,” 130; Lubinetzki, Knechtsgestalt, 353–4. 51 Mack, Lost Gospel, 238. Suspicion against the grand narratives, or meta-narratives, is a basic element of the postmodern philosophical debate. The term “postmodernism” gained prominence with Jean-François Lyotard, La condition postmoderne: Rapport sur le savoir (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1979; ET: The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984; many reprints]) and is directed primarily against the culture-stabilizing and power-legitimizing function of metanarratives. Postmodern thinking and acting understands itself in contrast as culture-critical and as a deconstructive liberation and emancipation movement. 52 Mack, Lost Gospel, 143 etc. (143–7, 173, 184–5, 212, 234, 241–2). He describes this process of the amalgamation of the original Jesus tradition with the “biblical epic of Israel” (146) as “mythmaking.” It is only in this process, which can be traced in the various stages of


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his first followers, however, were indifferent to this Jewish master story. That is, although they were predominantly Jewish they did not feel loyal to the “epic tradition” of Judaism (marked by Torah, Temple, purity, and the land). That which is Jewish, therefore, can no longer be described in terms of content, and the statement “Jesus was a Jew” is, in a certain sense, meaningless. Accordingly the first ‘lapse’ for this ‘unspoiled’ Q-group came about through an initially loose linking of the Jesus tradition with the epic tradition of Judaism (131–47). But this free play with the master story of Judaism, as was still the case with Q2, was followed by a domestication of the original critical potential of the Cynic Jesus after 70 by the group behind the third redactional layer (Q3, ibid., 149–70). Their desire for political stability conquered and tamed the sayings of the one who came to undermine such stability subversively as agent of a wisdom not yet in bondage to Jewish Scriptures. Therefore, whoever wants to recover the critical potential of the original message of Jesus has to go behind this “Judaization” (cf. 183–5). Thus, the critical scholar has to overcome Christian and Jewish mythology for the sake of intellectual honesty. In this sense this interpretation, or recourse to the historical Jesus understood as Galilean Cynic, is both anti-Christian and antiJewish, as long as Christianity and Judaism are understood in their traditional forms as based on the biblical master story. Galilee as a place of “multiethnic, multicultural mix” (214) thus becomes a retrospective utopia of a better, premodern, multi-ethnic, solidarity-imbued, and in some sense religion-less society, which breaks up and overcomes, by means of a critical discourse, existing power structures that “include gender, ethnicity, social position, economic status, national loyalty, cultural tradition, religion, ideology, and life style.”53 The Galilean Jesus and his first followers have shown the way, which is now, after this process of deconstruction and demythologization, once again cleared. The grand gates of synagogues and churches, on the other hand, are to be avoided at all costs. In the debate with the position mentioned above it is, therefore, necessary to clarify what religious traditions should be rendered as constitutive for a Jewish identity during the second Temple period. But as far as I can see the individual positions within scholarship are seemingly unable to come to an Q and its varying usage in the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, that Jesus becomes the Messiah and son of God (cf. 207–25: “Mythmaking and the Christ”). For a critique, see inter alia Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 217–44. 53 Mack, Lost Gospel, 253, cf. 213–14. The ideals of the Q-group are strikingly similar to certain approaches to solving social problems in the present. Accordingly the reader is invited on p. 243 to discover “Q’s chances for making a difference in the world,” and to be carried along by them. This is followed by an invitation to a new postmodern religiosity, which is based on the “true,” since it is the “original,” message of Jesus (253–4).

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agreement here currently. Moreover, this dissent points to the significance of what is “common” between the various Jewish identities. One has to thank E. P. Sanders for calling attention to this and on insisting on it in the debate about the Galilean Jesus, even if one is not inclined to agree with every point of his description of the content that is held in “common” by the various groups.54

3. Archaeology and the Jewish Galilee The shift in the perception of Galilee, away from a rural, secluded landscape towards a more urban “cosmopolitan” region mentioned above, is due to an extensive archaeological exploration of Galilee and the likewise extensive reception of the results of this in historical and exegetical literature. Galilee research is, as such, a successful example of a fruitful and stimulating cooperation between archaeology and text-based scholarship. Without diminishing any contributions made by other scholars, Eric Meyers and Seán Freyne are particularly deserving of praise in this regard. At the beginning of the rediscovery and reassessment of Galilee stands Meyers’ epoch-making essay “Galilean Regionalism as a Factor in Historical Reconstruction,” published in the 1976 issue of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.55 Based on his archaeological research from the beginning of the 1970s in Upper Galilee,56 Meyers came to realize that 54 See note 23 and also E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief. 63 BCE – 66 CE (Philadelphia: Trinity, 1992), and on this Roland Deines and Martin Hengel, “E. P. Sanders’ Common Judaism, Jesus und die Pharisäer,” in M. Hengel, Judaica et Hellenistica I: Studien zum antiken Judentum und seiner griechischen Umwelt (Kleine Schriften II; WUNT 90; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996), 392–479 (this is an expanded version of: “E. P. Sanders’ ‘Common Judaism,’ Jesus and the Pharisees: A Review Article,” JTS 46 [1995]: 1–70); Roland Deines, “The Pharisees Between ‘Judaism’ and ‘Common Judaism’,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism: A Fresh Appraisal of Paul and Second Temple Judaism Vol 1: The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism (ed. Donald A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brian, and Mark Seifried; WUNT 2.140; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 443–504. 55 For an expanded version see idem, “Cultural Setting.” On Meyers’ significance for the field of Galilee studies, see Moxnes, “Construction,” 69–70. 56 Eric M. Meyers, James F. Strange, and Dennis E. Groh, “The Meiron Excavation Project: Archaeological Survey in Galilee and Golan, 1976,” BASOR 230 (1978): 1–24; Eric M. Meyers, A. Thomas Kraabel, and James F. Strange, Ancient Synagogue Excavations at Khirbet Shema’, Upper Galilee, Israel 1970–1972 (AASOR 42; Durham, N.C.: Published for the American Schools of Oriental Research by Duke University Press, 1976); Eric M. Meyers, James F. Strange, and Carol L. Meyers, Excavations at Ancient Meiron, Upper Galilee, Israel 1971–72, 1974–75, 1977 (Meiron Excavation Project 3; Cambridge, Mass.: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1982); idem, “Preliminary Report on the 1980 Excavations at en-Nabratein, Israel,” BASOR 244 (1981): 1–25; idem, “Second Preliminary


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Upper Galilee (the region around Mt Meiron) had to be distinguished culturally from Lower Galilee (mostly identical to the main area of Jesus’ ministry [95]). The characterization of Galilee as a secluded and backward hinterland, as assumed in many depictions from Renan to Vermes,57 is, in Meyers’ view, only applicable to Upper Galilee, which he found to be decidedly different from Lower Galilee in terms of language, pottery, and architecture. Upper Galilee was, in his words, “less Hellenized and more conservative” (100). Jesus, however, was at home in the “more cosmopolitan atmosphere of the great southern Galilean urban centers,” which were situated along the main trade routes, to which Sepphoris also belonged (95). In this short paragraph we have the keywords that have defined the subsequent discussion ever since: the cosmopolitan character of (Lower) Galilee, its urban centres, and the linkage to a transnational and transcultural network; all of which presents Sepphoris as an epitome of modern Galilee. To this he added the expectation that the linguistic profile of this region ought to have “a substantial Greek component,” which New Testament scholars have repeatedly set out to prove, without, however, applying a precise and sufficiently clear geographic or chronological differentiation.58 Meyers’ main purpose with his essay was to combat the widespread propensity to equate Galilee with a particularly backward population: “The isolation that one often associates with the Galilean personality, then, can hardly be supported by the evidence from Lower Galilee” (95). Meyers further emphasizes that the “developed” Report on the 1981 Excavations at en-Nabratein, Israel,” BASOR 246 (1982): 35–54; idem, Excavations at the Ancient Synagogue of Gush Halav (Meiron Excavation Project 5; Winona Lake,: Published for the American Schools of Oriental Research by Eisenbrauns, 1990). For a summary, see Eric M. Meyers, “The Current State of Galilean Synagogue Studies,” in The Synagogue in Late Antiquity (ed. Lee I. Levine; Philadelphia: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1987), 127–37. See also below note 59. 57 Even at that time, though, there were significant exceptions among those authors who saw, or wanted to see, Jesus as more closely related to a Greek-Hellenistic (and, related to this at times, also Aryan) context. 58 Cf. the collected data in Meyers, Regionalism, 97, with the overview in Chancey, Galilee and Greco-Roman Culture, 122–65. The title of this chapter is “The Use of Greek in Jesus’ Galilee” and Chancey makes it obvious that there is very little evidence for this particular time period in Galilee. Against the occasional exaggeration of the influence of Greek Chancey tends to confine the finds too much (see now also his “Epigraphic Habit”). Yet, one has to take his insistence on geography and chronology seriously, cf. idem, “Galilee and Greco-Roman Culture in the Time of Jesus: The Neglected Significance of Chronology,” SBLSP 42 (2003): 173–88. Stanley E. Porter, “Jesus and the Use of Greek in Galilee,” in Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of the Current Research (ed. Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans; NTTS 19; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 123–54, has argued for a maximal position of the presence of Greek in Galilee. The extent of the cultural changes that came with the second century AD are still underestimated, and all too often finds from the second to fifth century are projected back into the first, cf. on this Sanders, “Jesus’ Galilee,” 39.

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areas of Galilee were, in terms of their religious culture, not particularly different from Judea or Jerusalem. Though this preliminary picture was further refined during the course of consequent excavations, and even corrected at points, in particular with regard to the relative isolation of Upper Galilee, the main features of this view were nevertheless confirmed.59 And in the meantime the borders of Jewish and non-Jewish settlements can be determined with relative accuracy due to the different material legacy. In fact, these archaeological borders are mostly congruent with those of the written sources from antiquity.60 Parallel to the contributions of Meyers, it was Seán Freyne in particular who made Galilee a prominent focus of New Testament studies. In 1980 his history of Galilee from Alexander the Great to the Bar-Kokhba war appeared, though without covering the Galilean Jesus as a separate topic.61 He was more elaborate, however, when it came to the question of the urbanization of Galilee (101–54). He differentiates a first phase, which touched Galilee only marginally (Ptolemais/Akko, Scythopolis/Beth Shean, Philoteria, Antioch, Seleucia, Tyre) from the second phase, in which falls the founding of Jewish cities (Sepphoris, Tiberias). For neither of these periods does he see a lasting influence of these cities beyond their immediately surrounding neighbourhood: 59 Beside the literature mentioned in note 54 see also: Eric M. Meyers and James F. Strange, Archaeology, the Rabbis, and Early Christianity (Nashville: Abingdon, 1981), 31– 47 (“The Cultural Setting of Galilee: The Case of Regionalism and Early Palestinian Judaism”); Eric M. Meyers, “Galilean Regionalism: A Reappraisal,” in Studies in Judaism and its Greco-Roman Context (ed. William S. Green; Approaches to Ancient Judaism 5/BJS 32; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985), 115–31. This is critiqued by Richard A. Horsley, “Archaeology and the Villages of Upper Galilee: A Dialogue with Archaeologists,” BASOR 297 (1995): 5–16, and responded to in Eric M. Meyers, “An Archaeological Response to a New Testament Scholar,” BASOR 297 (1995): 17–26; and again replied to in Richard A. Horsley, “Response,” BASOR 297 (1995): 27–8. Horsley is supported by Pieter F. Craffert, “Digging up Common Judaism in Galilee: Miqva’ot at Sepphoris as a Test Case,” Neotestamentica 34 (2000): 39–56, who attempts to denigrate the finds in order to claim that there was a plurality of Jewish identities in Galilee (see note 37). 60 Meyers, “Archaeological Response,” 23; Mordechai Aviam, “First Century Jewish Galilee: An Archaeological Perspective,” in Religion and Society in Roman Palestine: Old Questions, New Approaches (ed. Douglas R. Edwards; New York: Routledge, 2004), 7–27; idem, “Borders Between Jews and Gentiles in the Galilee,” in Jews, Pagan and Christians in the Galilee (Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2004), 9–21; idem, “Distribution Maps of Archaeological Data from the Galilee: An Attempt to Establish Zones Indicative of Ethnicity and Religious Affiliation,” Religion, Ethnicity, and Identity in Ancient Galilee (ed. Jürgen Zangenberg; Harold W. Attridge, and Dale B. Martin; WUNT 210; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 115–132; Idan Shaked and Dina Avshalom-Gorni, “Jewish Settlement in the Southeastern Hula Valley in the First Century C.E.,” in Religion and Society in Roman Palestine (ed. Douglas R. Edwards; New York: Routledge, 2004), 28–36. 61 But cf. Freyne, Galilee, 373–4 etc.


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[O]ur survey has shown that the cities had only a limited sphere of influence and no one of them seems to have dominated the cultural life in either phase of urbanization. Sepphoris is the most obvious case in point. It can hardly be said to have been a threat to the basic beliefs and value system of the Jewish inhabitants of the province, yet it never became the center despite its geographic location and its administrative role.62

Though Freyne recognizes that there was a gradual Hellenization, in particular with regard to the influence of Greek language, he still sees in Galilee and its population a mostly unbroken tradition with Israelite roots,63 which, in his view, also explains the common culture and close links with Judea and Jerusalem. Despite all the emphasis on Galilee’s peculiarities, it nevertheless remained a thoroughly Jewish region in close contact with the developments in Judea.64 He furthermore gives an in-depth account of the economical situation, which he — in contrast to others — does not judge to be that gloomy for the majority of the rural population. In his view, the landscape was marked by small and mid-sized farms owned by families, who could govern their settlements and affairs largely on their own, despite suffering under heavy taxation. Large farm estates, which were run by labourers and slaves, he views as the exception rather than the norm.65 62 Freyne, Galilee, 138–9. In the meantime it has become clear that the surrounding regions had also profited from the founding of the cities, and that Galilee as a whole had experienced an economic upsurge in their wake, see Morten H. Jensen, “Herod Antipas in Galilee: Friend of Foe of the Historical Jesus,” JSHJ 5 (2007): 7–32 (24–5); idem, “Message and Minting: The Coins of Herod Antipas in their Second Temple Context as a Source for Understanding the Religio-Political and Socio-Economic Dynamics of Early First Century Galilee,” Religion, Ethnicity, and Identity in Ancient Galilee (ed. Jürgen Zangenberg, Harold W. Attridge, and Dale B. Martin; WUNT 210; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 277–313; Jürgen Zangenberg, “Archaeological News from the Galilee: Tiberias, Magdala and Rural Galilee,” Early Christianity 1 (2010): 471–84. 63 Cf. the historical overview: Freyne, Galilee, 23–6, where he follows the view of Albrecht Alt for the most part (see note 46; on Alt’s influence see index, 459 s.v.). In his newer studies, however, he follows Zvi Gal’s population model, which argues that the Assyrian conquest largely depopulated Galilee and assumes the resettlement of Galilee in the Hasmonean period (see note 103). 64 Cf. esp. chapter 7 “The Galileans and the Temple” (Freyne, Galilee, 259–304), and 8.I “Galilee and the Halakha Prior to 70 C.E.” (ibid., 309–23); idem, “Galilee-Jerusalem Relations According to Josephus’ Life,” NTS 33 (1987): 600–9 (= idem, Galilee and Gospel, 73–85); idem, “The Geography of Restoration: Galilee-Jerusalem in Early Jewish and Christian Experience,” NTS 47 (2001): 289–311; for critiques, see Horsley, Archaeology, 33– 4, 94–5; idem, “What has Galilee to do with Jerusalem?”; Kloppenborg Verbin, Excavating Q, 256–8. According to Freyne, the Pharisees were not least among those who made a lasting impact on the religious and halakhic character of Galilee (see note 29). For an overview, see Rapinchuk, “Galilee and Jesus,” 211–2. 65 Freyne, Galilee, 155–207, cf. idem, Jesus, Galilee, and the Gospels, 135–75 (“The Social World of First-Century Galilee”); idem, “The Geography, Politics, and Economics of Galilee and the Quest for the Historical Jesus,” in Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations

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Related to the economic question is that of social stratification, which likewise features heavily in Galilee research since Freyne. In his view, the economic situation of the rural population was not so drastic that it would have ignited a socially motivated uprising, particularly because Galilee had a long tradition of being largely autonomous under foreign rule. Against the image of an all-out insurrectionist landscape reeling under social convulsions, he emphasizes the relative freedom and independence of Galilee, which was more characterized by loyalty to Jerusalem than a particular militant or enthusiastic-apocalyptic “national character.”66 The question “how revolutionary was Galilee” is, therefore, in his view, “a religious rather than a purely social question.”67 With this, Freyne distanced himself from influential older studies that argued for a close relationship between Galilee (and Jesus) and mostly economically motivated social revolutionaries.68 In the study of the Jewish revolutionary movements these two poles, namely social banditry and religious, messianic-apocalyptic motivation, determine the debate to this very day.69 The arguments for Galilee as an exploited and poverty-stricken of the State of the Current Research (ed. Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans; NTTS 19; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 75–121. He receives support inter alia from E. P. Sanders, “Jesus in Galilee,” 19–22; F. Gerald Downing, “In Quest of First-Century C.E. Galilee,” CBQ 66 (2004): 78–97 (95); Karl-Heinrich Ostmeyer, “Armenhaus oder Räuberhöhle? Galiläa zur Zeit Jesu,” ZNW 96 (2005): 147–70. According to Jensen, “Herod Antipas in Galilee,” 8–9, 32, Freyne’s social portrait of Galilee is still overly determined by economic hardship. For a more recent summary of Freyne’s position see idem, “Jesus of Galilee,” 388–94. 66 See note 1 above and Josephus, Bell. 3.41f. 67 Galilee, 245 (cf. the whole chapter 208–55), also idem, “Bandits in Galilee: A Contribution to the Study of the Social Conditions in First-Century Palestine,” in The Social World of Formative Christianity and Judaism (FS Howard Clark Kee; ed. Jacob Neusner; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 50–68; idem, Galilee, Jesus, and the Gospels (163–7: debate with Richard A. Horsley, see also note 69 below). 68 William R. Farmer, Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus: An Inquiry into Jewish Nationalism in the Greco-Roman Period (New York: Columbia University Press, 1956; 2nd ed. 1958); Samuel G. F. Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots: A Study of the Political Factor in Primitive Christianity (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1967); David M. Rhoads, Israel in Revolution 6–74 C.E.: A Political History Based on the Life of Josephus (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976) (see also idem, “Zealots,” ABD 6 [1992], 1043–54). 69 For the first position see esp. the works of Richard A. Horsley, “The Sicarii: Ancient Jewish ‘Terrorists’,” JR 59 (1979): 435–58; idem, “The Zealots: Their Origin, Relationship, and Importance in the Jewish Revolt,” NovT 28 (1985): 159–92; idem, “Menahem in Jerusalem: A Brief Messianic Episode among the Sicarii — Not ‘Zealot Messianism,’ NovT 27 (1985): 334–48; idem, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence: Popular Jewish Resistance in Roman Palestine (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987); idem, Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs: Popular Movements in the Time of Jesus (together with John S. Hanson; New Voices in Biblical Studies; San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), and, in addition, Terence L. Donaldson, “Rural Bandits, City Mobs and the Zealots,” JSJ 21 (1990): 19–40; Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 168–206 (“Bandit or Messiah?”). Of interest in this context is Peter A. Brunt, “Josephus on Social Conflicts in Roman Judea,” Klio 59 (1977): 149–53; now in


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poorhouse at the time of Jesus are further refuted by newer archaeological finds, which point to a relatively prosperous situation. This also has consequences for the interpretation of the Jesus tradition, e.g., for the parables where the narrated reality cannot simply be taken to be a mirror image of the social reality. Furthermore, it is important to follow up a remark Mordechai Aviam made in one of his essays regarding the fact that the area settled by Jews in Galilee shrank (that is, it was decreased by Roman administration) after the banishment of Herod Antipas. The subsequent pressure exerted by the expelled on the remaining Jewish territories has, as far as I know, never been considered as a trigger for social unrest and tension, either within the Jewish population itself or with their non-Jewish neighbours. More research should be done on this question, because this could mean that the social context at the time of Jesus was radically different from that a few years after his death.

4. The Limits of Knowledge about Galilee Modern Galilee studies, of which I have presented only a sketch, have produced a plethora of insights, which no serious research will want to ignore. The soil and history of Galilee and its inhabitants have been thoroughly ploughed through with all the tools of the historical sciences (although many sites still await thorough archaeological exploration). No stone has been left unturned; no line of an ever-so-obscure author has not been studied in detail wherever a relationship to Galilee is evident. Even Galilean kitchen ceramics are studied with the most modern scientific methods to determine their origin, distribution, and the trade routes they travelled.70 And yet, with all these idem, Roman Imperial Themes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 282–7 (with addenda 517–31): In the extensive addenda Brunt completely alters the argument advanced in his original essay. Social reasons are removed from the foreground, in favour of religious. Thus also Thomas Grünewald, Räuber, Rebellen, Rivalen, Rächer: Studien zur Latrones im Römischen Reich (FASk 31; Stuttgart: Steiner, 1999), esp. 130–56 on “ΑΗΣΤΑΙ in Judäa: Antike Sozialbanden?” Grünewald’s result is clear: “in no way were the Jewish λῃσταί social bandits” (156). Cf. also: William Klassen, “Jesus and the Zealot Option,” in The Wisdom of the Cross (FS John Howard Yoder; ed. Stanley Hauerwas et al.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999): 131–49; Richardson, Building Jewish, 17–38 (“Jesus and Palestinian Social Protest in Archaeological and Literary Perspective”); Roland Deines, “Zeloten,” TRE 36:626–30; idem, “Gab es eine jüdische Freiheitsbewegung? Martin Hengels ‘Zeloten’ nach 50 Jahren,” in Martin Hengel, Die Zeloten: Untersuchungen zur jüdischen Freiheitsbewegung in der Zeit von Herodes I. bis 70 n. Chr. (ed. and rev. by Roland Deines and ClausJürgen Thornton; WUNT 283; 3rd ed.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 403–48. 70 Cf. esp. the work by David Adan-Bayewitz et al.: Common Pottery in Roman Galilee: A Study of Local Trade (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1993); idem et al., “Pottery

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immense scientific efforts that are focused on this relatively unimportant region, our knowledge of the everyday life and thinking of individuals at a certain period of time is essentially very small. Thus it is worthwhile also to think about what we do not know about Galilee and its population at the time of Jesus.71 While we can reconstruct the household ceramics used in a Galilean village in the first century quite well and can also speak with some confidence on the appearance of houses, villages, and cities, as soon as we come to a description of everyday life we run into difficulties. To name just some rather general aspects: What impact did the seasons have on everyday life (a question that has to be further refined based on region, profession, social strata, political and religious affiliations)? How did the Jewish festive calendar (or that of Judea or Jerusalem?) influence professional life, at least of the Jewish farmers, craftsmen, fishermen, and their families? If we combine the few remarks found in the New Testament and Josephus and allow for some generalizations, there is a recognizable geographical orientation towards Jerusalem with its pilgrimage festivals, and also a chronological orientation towards the Sabbath, the feasts, and the Sabbath year. Archaeology can, with some limitations, support this picture. Among other things, the presence of miqvaot and stone vessels are indicative of a halakhical practice of piety, which likewise is oriented towards Jerusalem, or which is at least identical with the Judean practice in terms of material culture. Less clear, however, is whether the absence of such elements is indicative of the lack of such an orientation.72 The analysis of the material remains of everyday life provides valuable insights into the ‘inner life’ of a society. Thanks to these studies, it is now no longer possible to seriously dispute the predominantly Jewish character of Sepphoris and Galilee in the first century.73 What has remained controversial, however, is how far the material similarities between Judea and Galilee also Manufacture in Roman Galilee: Distinguishing Similar Provenance Groups Using HighPrecision X-Ray Fluorescence and Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis,” in Modern Trends in Scientific Studies on Ancient Ceramics: Papers presented at the 5th European Meeting in Ancient Ceramics, Athens 1999 (ed. V. Kilikoglou, A. Hein, and Y. Maniatis; BAR International Series 1011; Oxford: Archaeopress, 2002), 361–70. 71 See also Downing, “In Quest of First-Century C.E. Galilee,” 97: “We should for now admit, then, that we know enough only to know how little we know, how much we may only conjecture.” 72 See also note 64 and esp. Berlin, “Jewish Life Before the Revolt.” On the miqvaot see ibid., 451–3 and Stefanie Hoss, “Die Mikwen der späthellenistischen bis byzantinischen Zeit in Palästina,” ZDPV 123 (2007): 49–79. On the stone vessels see Roland Deines, Jüdische Steingefäße und pharisäische Frömmigkeit (WUNT 2.52. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 1993). 73 James F. Strange, “Recent Discoveries at Sepphoris and Their Relevance for Biblical Research,” Neotestamentica 34 (2000): 125–41 (127–8, 137–9) and esp. Chancey, Myth; and Overman, “Recent Advances,” 45–6, 49–51.


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imply an ‘inner’ coherence between the two regions, as, e.g., assumed by Seán Freyne, and vehemently disputed by Richard A. Horsley in presenting widely differing social models for Imperial Judea and Israelite Galilee.74 Furthermore, within pertinent Galilee-oriented Jesus research it is much debated what Jesus’ relation to Sepphoris was.75 The city, built on a hill, which Herod Antipas made into the capital of Galilee at the beginning of his reign (an honour he transferred from Sepphoris to Tiberias around 20 AD) lies only about 6 km north of Nazareth. When it was made into the capital various larger building projects ensued, which, as is often assumed, would also have given employment to the craftsmen in the surrounding villages. And thus, with some degree of regularity, Jesus books will point out how Jesus would have accompanied his father to Sepphoris to work there with him, and in this manner have learnt about the life and the rich culture of a city influenced by Hellenism.76 This is quite possible, but that is all. But in any case, Jesus 74 For a discussion with Horsley, see notes 46 and 69 above. Horsley’s own agenda is anti-imperialist and post-colonial. To this end, he is using the Jewish rebel movement, the Judean ‘colonization’ of Galilee, and the Galilean resistance to it, for which he finds traces in the Jesus tradition, Paul, Q, and the Gospel of Mark. For a critical rebuttal, see Robert H. Gundry, “Richard A. Horsley’s Hearing the Whole Story: A Critical Review of its Postcolonial Slant,” JSNT 26 (2003): 131–49. 75 For a short overview of this issue, see Reed, Archaeology, 103–8. The possible influence of “half-Gentile Sepphoris” (“halbheidnischen Sepphoris”) led Walter Bauer in 1927 to postulate that Jesus was able to disentangle himself from Pharisaism and “the racking fear of impurity transferred through the presence of Gentiles,” (Jesus der Galiläer, 102; cf. my essay mentioned in note 4). Shirley Jackson Case used the “cosmopolitan atmosphere of Sepphoris” and its population which “in Jesus’s days. . . included both Jews and foreigners” to explain Jesus’ friendly, cosmopolitan, and pro-Gentile character. “The unconventionality of Jesus in mingling freely with the common people, his generosity toward the stranger and the outcast, and his conviction of the equality of all classes before God” — all due “in no slight degree to the proximity of Nazareth to Sepphoris” (“Jesus and Sepphoris,” JBL 45 [1926]: 14–22 [17, 19]). For if Jesus had grown up “in a remote village and strictly Jewish surroundings,” the probability would have been much lower that he would have been able “to acquire these generous attitudes which later characterized his public career.” Case also uses — although not in so clearly noticeable a manner as Bauer — a distorted image of contemporary Judaism (at least that of a “remote village”) as a contrast for the urban, humane, and educated cosmopolitism of a city such as Sepphoris. 76 Cf. Case, “Sepphoris,” 17f–8: Jesus as the oldest son, responsible for his widowed mother and at least six younger siblings, would hardly have not taken advantage of the opportunity of finding work in neighbouring Sepphoris. This would have put him in contact “with the many-sided life in a commercial and political center ranking in importance second only to Jerusalem.” More recent literature sees Sepphoris’ general influence on Jesus and Galilee very similarly, cf. e.g. Richard Batey, “Is this not the Carpenter?” NTS 30 (1984): 249–58; idem, “Jesus and the Theater,” NTS 30 (1984): 563–74; idem, Jesus and the Forgotten City: New Light on Sepphoris and the Urban World of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991); idem, “Sepphoris and the Jesus Movement,” NTS 46 (2001): 401–9; F. Gerald Downing, “The Social Context of Jesus the Teacher: Construction and Reconstruction,” NTS

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would not have encountered a ‘half-pagan’ city, but a Jewish one of which there were not a few in Judea — yet all of them were unrivalled by Jerusalem, which would not have been unfamiliar to Jesus if one accepts Luke 2:41–50 as historical. What was Sepphoris, which was still under construction, able to offer to the eye that Jerusalem (and possibly Jericho and other cities on the way from Galilee to Jerusalem) did not have a wealth of?77 Just as Sepphoris and Tiberias as Jewish cities were unable to compete with those in Judea in the time of Jesus, so too were they unable to stand out against the Hellenistic cities in Galilee’s vicinity (Hippos, Gadara, Scythopolis, Caesarea) in which the ‘normal’ religious and philosophical culture of the Eastern Mediterranean world under Roman rule was much more at home. Morten Jensen rightly calls attention to the fact that Sepphoris and Tiberias in comparison are “smallscale cities,” which brought only a limited measure of urbanization into the region.78 So far no reliable data exist that allow us to say with any certainty if, or what influence the Hellenistic cities had on the Jewish population of Galilee. While the Jewish religious-cultural character of Galilee at the time of Jesus is indisputable, many questions about those aspects of life that do not ‘materialize’ still remain unanswered. Although we have literary texts available that originate in this time and mention Galilee, these texts come with their own set of interpretative difficulties that are common to literary sources. They are not simply a mirror image of reality; their purpose is to affect their audience. Generally they are not interested in describing Galilee and life in Galilee, or 33 (1987): 439–51; Horsley, Archaeology, 511–53; Mack, Lost Gospel, 57–8; Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 18–9. 77 Although relatively little is known of how Sepphoris looked and what its cultural and religious make-up was like before the year 28/29 AD, the archaeological and literary finds contradict the notion of a religiously (and, as such, also ethnically) mixed population; the vast majority of those who lived in Sepphoris were Jews. The city’s Hellenistic character is not different from that of Herodian Jerusalem or Jericho, in fact in terms of splendour and infrastructure it is far behind them, cf. the precise and chronologically differentiated listing in Chancey, Myth, 69–83; idem, Greco-Roman Culture, 82–6, 221–2. It is much debated whether the theatre which was discovered during excavations in 1931 (the excavation was directly related to the newly discovered and assumed importance of Sepphoris for Jesus research) already existed during Jesus’ lifetime, see on this: Chancey, Greco-Roman Culture, 84–5, who leaves this question unanswered, and Reed, Archaeology, 119–20, who clearly answers it in the negative. James F. Strange dates the theatre in the time of Herod Antipas, if not in the time of his father Herod, cf. “Recent Discoveries,” 128, 132; idem, “Eine Stadt des Herodes Antipas: Sepphoris,” Welt und Umwelt der Bibel 7 (2002): 22–5. According to Richard A. Batey, “Did Antipas Built the Sepphoris Theater?” in Jesus and Archaeology (ed. James H. Charlesworth; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 111–19, one has to distinguish two building phases, of which the older goes back to Antipas. 78 Morton H. Jensen, Herod Antipas in Galilee: The Literary and Archaeological Sources on the Reign of Herod Antipas and its Socio-Economic Impact on Galilee (WUNT 2.215; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 26. See also Moxnes, “Construction,” 74–5.


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the life of Galileans per se. Rather, these texts, whose focus lies always outside of Galilee, and mostly on Jerusalem, only refer to Galilee when the course of the narrative demands it.79 This is not only the case with the gospels, but also the numerous comments on Galilee by Josephus. There is no study of Galilee that does not refer to his extensive excursus in the Jewish War (Bell. 3.35–44, cf. 2.572–5; 3.516–20 and Vita 235: 204 cities and villages are part of Jewish Galilee).80 But even here one has to pay attention to the fact that this passage is part of a work about the Jewish uprising against Rome that is only interested in Galilee because it was one of the key locations of this conflict and parts of the population of Galilee were involved in various ways in this war. So too, the one who wrote this account was one of the main actors in this conflict, at least while the war was raging in Galilee. The lack of focus on Galilee proper in our available accounts does not diminish their value, and without Josephus’s writings our image of Galilee would lack much colour and detail. But it shows how much the available knowledge of Galilee came about by pure chance. A further gap in our knowledge is the institutional and administrative history of Galilee, which is largely unknown from the village to the city level even if some studies give the opposite impression.81 We do not have any details of the kind that are, e.g., supplied in Egyptian papyri, so that we can only fill in the picture through the help of texts from comparable contexts.82 The resulting image, however, is not ‘typical’ for Galilee in particular, but for all Jewish territories in the Eastern Mediterranean. 79

Ruth Vale, “Literary Sources in Archaeological Description: The Case of Galilee, Galilee and Galileans,” JSJ 18 (1987): 209–26. 80 On the number of towns, see Siegert, Schreckenberg, and Vogel, eds., Flavius Josephus: Aus meinem Leben (Vita), 101, n. 219, appendix 4. For an overview, see Rapinchuk, “Galilee and Jesus,” 208–10. Cf. also Freyne, “Die soziale Welt Galiläas aus der Sicht des Josephus.” 81 Horsley assumes that before the Judean ‘colonization’ the village leadership and clan leaders were autonomous and handled their affairs with social balance; however, this balanced social situation was by and by marginalized by the Hasmoneans, Romans, and Herodians; the ethos of Q is siding with these small social and local circles and is directed against the functionaries aligned with Jerusalem (which he links to Pharisees and scribes), see Richard A. Horsley, Sociology and the Jesus Movement (2nd ed.; New York: Continuum, 1994), 76–80, 134–7; idem, “Jesus gegen die neue römische Ordnung,” 28. According to Arnal, Jesus and the Village Scribes, 151–2, etc, the representatives and scribes of the villages were pushed out through the ongoing urbanization under Herod Antipas (146–55) since they had to hand over their influence and authority to the cities. For Horsley and Arnal, this construed conflict between city and countryside is as such also an ideological conflict between grassroots democracy and imperialism. 82 Cf. Seán Freyne, “Town and Country Once More: The Case of Roman Galilee,” in Archaeology and the Galilee: Texts and Contexts in the Graeco-Roman and Byzantine Period (ed. Douglas R. Edwards and C. Thomas McCollough; SFSHJ 143; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 49–56 (= idem, Galilee and Gospel, 59–72 [65–6]).

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Similarly, when it comes to education and schooling, very little is known if one looks for geographical details. We do not know of particular schools nor about the course of schooling individuals underwent that is specific to Galilee. From Ant. 13.322 Samuel Klein has deduced that “at the time of John Hyrcanus there were men in Galilee who could be entrusted with the education of one’s son,”83 since it is reported there that John Hyrcanus sent his son Alexander Jannaeus to be educated in Galilee (ἐν τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ τρέφεσθαι) in order that he would not threaten the future rule of his older brother. But one cannot deduce that there was a system of schooling in Galilee on the basis of this singular note, which only shows how fragmentary and incidental our knowledge in this regard really is. On the other hand, much has been researched and written about Jewish schools at the time of Jesus.84 But whether there was a school in Nazareth, or whether he went to one, is in the end nothing but a plausible extrapolation, which bases itself on the depiction of Jesus in the gospels as someone who is able to read and write, and who is familiar with the biblical and religious traditions of his people.85 Even for Sepphoris nothing is known about schools at the time of Jesus. The only thing that seems certain is that gymnasia, the typical Hellenistic educational institu-


Klein, Galiläa, 15; cf. 18. Cf. esp. Rainer Riesner, Jesus als Lehrer: Eine Untersuchung zum Ursprung der Evangelien-Überlieferung (WUNT 2.7; 2nd ed.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1984), 182–245. Against this maximal position stands the study of Catherine Hezser who has attempted to disprove the widespread existence of a Jewish elementary education in the time before 70 AD. She argues instead that this was only the case from the third century AD, and that before that education mostly took place within the family, see Catherine Hezser, Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine (TSAJ 81; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 39–109. She maintains that the few rabbinic notes related to the second Temple period are “anachronistic and idealistic depictions” and consequently of no use for the time before 70 AD. For a critique of this minimal position, see my review in Jahrbuch für evangelikale Theologie 16 (2002): 276–81. For recent finds which indicate the presence of a stronger literacy and for the significance of Aramaic as the lingua franca in Galilee, see Ester Eshel and Douglas R. Edwards, “Language and Writing in Early Roman Galilee: Social Location of a Potters Abecedary from Khirbet Qana,” in Religion and Society in Roman Palestine: Old Questions, New Approaches (ed. Douglas R. Edwards; New York: Routledge, 2004), 49–55. 85 See the summary of Craig A. Evans, “Context, Family and Formation,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (ed. Markus Bockmuehl; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 11–24. Crossan’s position, according to which Jesus was illiterate, is the result of a fixation on a particular social model (which Strange, “Recent Discoveries,” 136, rightly calls “a deterministic understanding of models”) in which a member of the “peasant class” to which Jesus belongs (see 421–2) has to be illiterate, cf. Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 370–1; idem, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco: Harper, 1994), 25–6. In contrast cf. the balanced depiction of Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 312–15; and also Alan R. Millard, Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus (New York: New York University Press, 2000), on Galilee see 179–182, 210; 225–6; and on Jesus ibid., 146, 155–6, 188. 84


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tions, are not attested in Sepphoris or Tiberias.86 We do not know anything about the curriculum or the kind of learning that took place in Galilee, that is, if we understand Jesus only in a Galilean context distinct from Judea. For what we know about schools largely originates from Judean sources and rabbinic literature.87 And although the latter has its origins mostly in Galilee, those who transmitted it were Judeans who came to Galilee in the wake of the anti-Roman uprisings and their respective fallout.88 That one of them was called “the Galilean” shows how little the rabbis understood themselves as “Galileans,” even though later generations were born in Galilee.89 The other sources on schools at the time of Jesus that are often used are likewise not as easily related to Galilee. The best known founder of such a school, Ben Sira, is to be located in Jerusalem, and the roots of the Qumran sect are also there and in Judea. Nothing certain can be gleaned from this for Galilee at the time of Jesus. When it comes to the level of the individual, our ability to come to know anything for certain is even more restricted: How individual people, like Joseph and Jesus thought and how people in Nazareth felt about Sepphoris, if that was an issue at all, cannot be deduced from the available sources. Sanders has clearly stressed that geographic proximity does not necessarily mean greater familiarity, or even interest.90 Nor, however, can either be excluded. What was discussed in the family, what topics were important, what individuals thought and felt, and how they saw themselves and their social, religious, and economic roles — all this remains inaccessible to historians, despite all 86

Cf. Chancey, Myth, 83; Reed, Archaeology, 135; Sanders, “Jesus’ Galilee,” 29–34. In contrast Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ attempt of forced Hellenization is related to the construction of a gymnasium (1 Macc 1:15). 87 The various remarks in Josephus, Philo, and in the Qumran texts are also not specifically “Galilean.” For a summary, see Paul Foster, “Educating Jesus: The Search for a Plausible Context,” JSHJ 4 (2006): 7–33; Gerhard Büttner, “Wie wurde in biblischer Zeit (in der Schule) gelernt? Fragen einer historischen Bibeldidaktik,” TBei 43 (2012): 43–48. 88 Vermes has emphasized this: “Nevertheless, an indiscriminate use of these writings [“the Mishnah, . . . the Palestinian Talmud, and the earliest interpretative works on the Pentateuch”] for the reconstruction of the atmosphere in which Jesus lived would be mistaken and create utter confusion. For although it was formulated in the province, the real inspiration of rabbinic Judaism was of Judean provenance” (Jesus the Jew, 43). 89 On “Rabbi Yose the Galilean,” who belonged to Rabbi Aqiva’s generation, see Herman L. Strack and Günter Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (ed. and trans. Markus Bockmuehl; 2nd ed.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1996), 73; Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 57. Worth remembering in this context is Adolf Büchler, Der galiläische ‘Am-Ha’areṣ des zweiten Jahrhunderts: Beiträge zur inneren Geschichte des palästinischen Judentums in den ersten zwei Jahrhunderten (Vienna: Israelitisch-Theologische Lehranstalt, 1906; repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1968), 274–338, who has attempted to show that even before 70 AD, and especially between 70 and 135 AD, there were numerous rabbinic teachers of Galilean origin, cf. also Klein, Galiläa, 39–48. 90 Sanders, “Jesus in Galilee,” 15; idem, “Jesus’ Galilee,” 38.

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the sophisticated methods applied in socio-historical studies, ethnology, and cultural anthropology, which enable access to this past world to a certain extent. Yet, they are more able to discern what is typical, the regularities and long-term historical structures (longue durée) that can be traced through extended stretches of time and space. Individual characters and biographies, however, resist this kind of access as long as they do not leave any textual evidence.

5. The Judean Element in the Jesus Tradition Not only do we have to keep an eye on the limited ability to verify what is specific to Galilee based on the available literary and archaeological evidence in the search for the “Galilean” Jesus, we also have to remind ourselves of the fact that Jesus should by no means be so self-evidently understood as a Galilean, especially if one does not subscribe to the reduction of the authentic Jesus tradition to the hypothetical earliest Q-stratum. That he grew up in Galilee and that most of his public ministry took place there, does this alone make him into a Galilean such that we could explain the motives and circumstances of his actions by recourse solely to this? After all, many New TestaTestament texts point to a basic Judean tradition, which cannot simply be explained as a later accommodation towards a popular messianic expectation related to the house of David. Especially for Matthew, as the only evangelist who explicitly calls Jesus a “Galilean,” (though put in the mouth of an onlooker; 26:69) it is clear that he wants Jesus understood as a Judean. His genealogy is related to David, his parents’ home was in “Bethlehem in Judah” (cf. 2:1: ἐν Βηθλέεμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας), and it was there that he was born as a Judean. He is the new-born “King of the Jews” (2:2: βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων), and the Davidic character of this verse implies both “Jew” and “Judean.”91 From Egypt, the place of escape, the road leads back to “the land of Israel” (2:20, 21), which points to the full extent of the Davidic rule beyond Judea. This then prepares the way for the translocation of Jesus’ family from Judea (2:22) to Galilee in fulfilment of prophetic expectations (2:23; 4:13–16). Jesus repeats this evasive move from Judea to Galilee at the beginning of his ministry (4:12; cf. Mark 1:14), as Matthew clearly places John’s baptism and the temptation account 91 Since Jesus is juxtaposed with Herod as “King of the Jews,” the translation “King of Judeans” has to be rejected here, since Herod’s kingship was not simply limited to Judea. And also with regard to the inscription on the cross, it is clear that Ἰουδαῖοι in Matt 27:11, 29, 37 cannot mean “Judean” (cf. Matt 27:42 where Jesus was ridiculed as βασιλεὺς Ἰσραήλ).


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in Judea. Although Jesus’ ministry is focused in Galilee (cf., 4:18, 23), the horizon is “all of Syria” (4:24), which is further qualified in 4:25 (cf. Mark 1:28, where the “news of Jesus” is at first limited to Galilee, and only in Mark 3:7f. is extended to the whole region). A Judean perspective is also visible in Matt 8:4 (par. Mark 1:44), where Jesus commands the healed leper to go to Jerusalem and to offer a sacrifice there according to the Law of Moses (cf. Matt 6:23f.).92 When Jesus praises the faith of the centurion in Capernaum the point of reference is “Israel,” that is, a comprehensive (salvation-) historical entity (8:10; cf. 9:33; 15:24). The summary of Jesus’ ministry in 9:35–8 also points beyond Galilee, and the commission of the disciples in chapter 10 likewise looks to Israel as a whole (not to the Gentiles nor to Samaria, but to the “house of Israel,” vv. 5f., 23), which also includes a geographic component. According to Matthew, Galilee was the main area of Jesus’ activity (cf. 11:20–24), but his focus was, nevertheless, as someone whose roots and fate were in Judea.93 In Mark’s version of the commissioning speech (6:6b–13) the Galilean context is more strongly implied on account of 6:1–6a, 14ff.94 Also, the two uses of “Israel” in Mark (12:29, 14:32) do not compare to the twelve occurrences in each of Matthew and Luke, which in Matthew are spread more evenly throughout his gospel and, as a whole, have more weight than in Luke. In New Testament exegesis it was, therefore, mostly Markan studies that emphasized the importance of Galilee for Jesus’ ministry. In particular the redaction-historical query regarding the Sitz im Leben of the narratives that were located in Galilee stimulated research, though Seán Freyne rightly drew attention to the fact that the geography of the narrated world does not necessarily allow one to deduce the origin of the narrator or of his audience.95 But even in the Gospel of Mark the focal point of Jesus’ activities is Jerusalem, and the first geographic reference in the Gospel is to Judea (1:5, cf. the return thereto in 10:5). Jesus’ Galilean ministry extends beyond this region to Jerusalem (3:8, 22; 7:1), and attention needs to be given to the fact that in the large Galilee section, Mark 1:14–9:50, numerous important episodes occur 92

On the Galilean orientation towards Jerusalem, see note 64 above. Cf. Matt 16:21 parr. Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22: in the first announcement of Jesus’ suffering only Matthew mentions Jerusalem as the location where this would take place; on the way in which Jerusalem is highlighted in the first Gospel, see inter alia Roland Deines, Die Gerechtigkeit der Tora im Reich des Messias: Mt 5,13–20 als Schlüsseltext der matthäischen Theologie (WUNT 177; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 235, n. 396. It is the rejection in Israel’s capital that makes Jesus go to Galilee. 94 Though in 6:14ff. the link to Galilee is made solely by mentioning the ruler Herod Antipas. The execution of John the Baptist occurred, according to Josephus, in the palace fortress of Machaerus in Perea (Ant. 18.119). 95 Freyne, “Introduction,” 24–5 (see ibid., 20–1), cf. also Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, 222, n. 18. 93

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that are not located in Galilee. Galilee is the starting point, but not — despite 16:7 — the final destination.96 In the Gospels of Luke and John the focus of Jesus’ ministry is even more on Judea. Although, according to Luke 1:26; 2:4, 39, 51, Mary and Joseph’s home is Nazareth, Luke nevertheless emphasizes the family’s close ties to Judea and the house of David (1:27, 32f; 2:4, 11; see also the ties to the Judean priestly family97 of John the Baptist 1:26, 39f.). The annual pilgrimage (Luke 2:41: κατ᾿ ἔτος) to Jerusalem during Pesach likewise points to a strong link to Jerusalem and with that to Judea. In 4:44 the synagogues of Judea are explicitly mentioned as places of Jesus’ preaching. And it is here that we find the house of Jesus’ real father (2:49), in spite of having grown up in Nazareth (4:16). Jesus’ ultimate destination is Jerusalem (13:31; cf. 9:51). In addition to that, the Gospel of John reports elaborately of Jesus’ ministry in Judea (4:1–3; 7:1ff.; 11:1ff.), and in 4:9 it is quite possible that Jesus was called a “Judean” (σὺ Ἰουδαῖος ὢν) by the Samaritan woman (he came from Jerusalem, after all).98 96 Cf. Klaus Scholtissek, “Von Galiläa nach Jerusalem und zurück: Zur theologischen Topographie im Markusevangelium,” in Oleum laetitiae (FS P. Benedikt Schwank, OSB; ed. Anke Haendler-Kläsner and Gunda Brüske; Jerusalemer Theologisches Forum 5; Münster: Aschendorff, 2003), 56–77; on Mark 16:7 see esp. 74–6; also Zbyněk Studenovský, “‘Dort werdet ihr ihn sehen’ (Mark 16:7): Der Weg Jesu nach Galiläa bei Johannes und bei Markus,” in Kontexte des Johannesevangeliums: Das vierte Evangelium in religions- und traditionsgeschichtlicher Perspektive (ed. Jörg Frey and Udo Schnelle; WUNT 175; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 517–59. 97 See e.g. William Adler, “The Suda and the ‘Priesthood of Jesus’,” in For a Later Generation: The Transformation of Tradition in Israel, Early Judaism and Early Christianity (FS George W. E. Nickelsburg; ed. Randal A. Argall, Beverly Bow, and Rodney Alan Werline; Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity, 2000), 1–12. For a priestly-messianic self-understanding of Jesus that is not determined by genealogy, see Crispin H. T. Fletcher-Louis, “Jesus as the High Priestly Messiah,” JSHJ 4 (2006): 155–75; 5 (2007): 57–79. 98 John 4:43–5 is also ambiguous and at least allows for the possibility that Jesus is described more with respect to his Judean roots. Though he is from Nazareth (1:45), his origin is nevertheless described in a manner that gives rise to a creative misunderstanding (1:46–9), which is resolved by confessing Jesus as “King of Israel.” With this the link is made to Davidic expectations that, also in John, are related to Bethlehem (7:42). The fourth evangelist plays with the contradiction of Jesus’ seemingly Galilean roots, Bethlehem as necessary birthplace of the Messiah, and the heavenly origins of Jesus, cf. Charles Kingsley Barrett, The Gospel according to St John: An Introduction With Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text (2nd ed.; London: SPCK, 1978), 330 (and also 316). Julius Wellhausen has argued that these texts (John 4:1–3, 43–54) were part of a redaction in which “Jerusalem and Judea (. . .) were his [= Jesus’] home,” in: Das Evangelium Johannis (Berlin: Reimer, 1908), 20, 23 (= idem, Evangelienkommentare: Mit einer Einleitung von Martin Hengel [Berlin: de Gruyter 1987], 620, 623); on this passage, see also J. Ramsey Michaels, “The Itinerant Jesus and His Home Town,” in Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (ed. Bruce Chilton and idem; NTTS 28.2; Leiden: Brill, 1999; reprint 2002), 177–93 (179–80).


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With these remarks I do not wish simply to declare Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem as historical,99 but want to draw attention to the fact that, at least for the later gospels, Jesus’ ministry cannot be explained without considering a deep rootedness in the Judean tradition.100 Beyond that, neither in Mark nor in Q can we detect an interest in the origins of Jesus (apart from Mark 6:1–4).101 And so, even in these two sources that have a stronger Galilean flavour, Jesus is not related to Galilee in terms of his genealogy.102 It is the place of his ministry, but not necessarily where he is from. Furthermore, both Q and Mark 99 Cf. Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (new updated ed.; New York: Doubleday, 1993), 513–6. Arguing for Jesus’ origins in Bethlehem are: Mark D. Smith, “Of Jesus and Quirinius,” CBQ 62 (2000): 278–93; Markus Bockmuehl, This Jesus: Martyr, Lord, Messiah (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994), 24–34. Papyri documents have, in the meantime, strengthened the plausibility of Luke’s report (though it still leaves open the problems of dating and of the geographic dimensions). Mary’s presence in person would have been necessary if she had to declare her own landed property in Bethlehem, see: Klaus Rosen, “Jesu Geburtsdatum, der Census des Quirinius und eine jüdische Steuererklärung aus dem Jahr 127 nC.,” JAC 38 (1995): 5–15; Hannah M. Cotton, “The Roman Census in the Papyri from the Judean Desert and the Egyptian κατ’ οἰκίαν ἁπογραφή,” in Semitic Papyrology in Context: A Climate of Creativity (ed. Lawrence H. Schiffman; Leiden: Brill, 2003), 105–22. 100 A point that has not received proper attention by Schröter, Jesus von Nazareth, 69–77, to give just one example. 101 Mark 6:2–3. does not mean that the evangelist presupposes that Nazareth was Jesus’ birthplace, but merely the place where he grew up. This becomes evident from the parallel Matt 13:54–6 where Nazareth is called Jesus’ home (πάτρις, v. 54) as in Mark 6:1 regardless of the fact that he and his parents are depicted as Bethlehemites in Matt 2. One could perhaps go even a step further and consider if this emphasis on his brothers and the no-lessconspicuous affirmation that “his sisters are here with us” is not an indication precisely of the fact that this is a family of “newcomers” and that the rest of the family behaves, as it were, according to the local customs. In any case, Mark’s presupposition that Jesus is the Son of David (10:47–8; 12:35–7, cf. 11:10) points to Judea as the home of David’s dynasty. 102 See above, note 16. Based on Luke 10:13–15 par. Matt 11:20–24 it is often assumed that Q, or its postulated earliest stratum, has its origins in Galilee, (cf. the list in Paul Hoffmann and Christoph Heil, eds., Die Spruchquelle Q [Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2002], 22, n. 45; Birger A. Pearson, “A Q Community in Galilee?” NTS 50 [2004]: 475–94 [489–90]; Nicholas H. Taylor, “Q and Galilee?” Neotestamentica 37 [2003]: 283–311 [284]; see also Arnal, Village Scribes, 159–64). However, these woes over the two Galilean cities only demonstrate a certain geographic focus of Jesus’ ministry. This can rightly be contrasted with Luke 13:34–4. par. Matt 23:37–9 (cf. Mark 11:9–10) and argued that Q could have its origins in Jerusalem, cf. Hoffmann and Heil, Spruchquelle Q, 22, n. 46; Pearson, “Q Community,” 492–3; Marco Frenschkowski, “Galiläa oder Jerusalem? Die topographischen und politischen Hintergründe der Logienquelle,” in The Sayings Source Q and the Historical Jesus (ed. Andreas Lindemann; BETL 158; Leuven: Peeters, 2001), 535– 59, cf. also idem, “Welche biographischen Kenntnisse von Jesus setzt die Logienquelle voraus? Beobachtungen zur Gattung von Q im Kontext antiker Spruchsammlungen,” in From Quest to Q (FS James M. Robinson; ed. Jón M. Asgeirsson, Kristin De Troyer, and Marvin W. Meyer; BETL 146; Leuven: Peeters, 2000), 3–42.

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have a perspective that looks to all of Israel. The description “Galilean” for Jesus is, therefore, in some sense reductionist, since it leads all too quickly to a limited assumption of the context in which Jesus has to be understood. It would appear to me that future research needs to pay close attention not just to the Galilean context, but also to the Judean traditions that were attached to Jesus’ person and his ministry. The results of recent Galilee research corroborate the Judean roots of Jesus, which I have only briefly outlined here. The archaeological study of settlements has shown that Lower Galilee, that is, the northern part of the old kingdom of Israel and the main area of Jesus’ ministry, was, to a large extent, depopulated after the Assyrian conquest and subsequent deportation of its population. Only with the conquest of Galilee by Aristobul I around 104 BC was the region newly settled, and this resettlement quite apparently had its origins in Judea and was thus also mostly carried out by Judeans.103 The political, social, and religious profile of this group has not been of much interest so far,104 although one would think that the peculiarities of the Galilean Judeans were related to this generation of colonists. One could imagine that there were not a few among these settlers who did not agree with the respective politics of the rulers in Jerusalem and, therefore, as far as it was possible, tried to get away from the conflicts and tensions there. Josephus reports of many who fled in the time of Alexander Jannaeus to Egypt because they feared for their lives in Jerusalem. When Salome Alexandra took control the inner-Jewish proscriptions continued (though in reverse direction), and the same is true up until the time of Herod. Would budding Galilee not have offered the possibility of an escape to the country, far away from the dangerous, constantly shifting centre of power in Jerusalem? This, then, would mean that at least a part of the immigrant population of Galilee had strong, though also conflicted, Judean roots and interests. It is here that one should begin, in my opinion, to query what a “Galilean” identity is. At the same time, this thesis may account for the religious and cultural proximity to Judea, and also explain the noticeable political and religious tensions. Thus, one should distinguish more precisely, as before, between the gospels’ depiction of the irrelevance of being a Galilean and Jesus’ ministry in 103 Pivotal here is the study by Zvi Gal, Lower Galilee during the Iron Age (American Schools of Oriental Research; Dissertation Series 8; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1992), cf. also Mordechai Aviam, “The Hasmonean Dynasty’s Activities in the Galilee,” in idem, Jews, Pagan and Christians in the Galilee (Land of Galilee 1; Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2004), 41–50 (original in Hebrew, 1995). On this Judean settlement during the Hasmonean period (which also compels a re-evaluation of the compulsory circumcision mentioned in Josephus Ant. 13.318f., which is based on a second- or even third-hand record only), see Reed, Archaeology, 28–43; Chancey, Myth, 30–47; idem, Greco-Roman Culture, 26–42; Pearson, “Q Community,” 491. 104 Excluding Horsley’s colonial interpretation (see above, notes 46 and 74).


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Galilee, which undeniably has its own geo-theological significance.105 “Galilean” as a basic identity designation for Jesus, however, does not befit the New Testament witness, and this is — interestingly enough — also the case for the reductionist Jesus image of a stratified Q-gospel. For there also Jesus was not designated, nor understood to be, a Galilean. Rather, Galilee is the territory where he was active, and this Galilee, after all, was a predominantly Jewish land. I would think it more appropriate to designate Jesus in the traditional way as a Jew when it comes to expressing his belonging to the Jewish people. Prerequisite for this, however, is that one accepts a cultural and religious unity despite the existing regional differences. As more weight is given to the unity of the Jewish people (and here one can and should begin a new debate), the more marginal the regional differences become.

6. Summary After this foray into modern Galilee studies we can conclude: The special religious and cultural position of Galilee remains in the focus of Jesus research and is used to explain certain elements of his ministry and to identify the oldest (and most reliable) traditions related to him. In this there is quite a similarity to Albert Schweitzer’s classic summary of the first phase of the quest for the historical Jesus: “each individual created Jesus in accordance with his own character. There is no historical task which so reveals a man’s true self as the writing of a Life of Jesus.”106 So too with the Galilean origins of Jesus (or Q), which are seemingly so certain that there is now the danger that everyone creates their own image of Galilee first, onto which Jesus and his message can then be projected. What one wants to find in Jesus is hence to be located in Galilee. This leads to the constant task of questioning the respective heuristic function of the designation “Galilean” in the ongoing research. This is particularly the case when Jesus’ Galilean origin is used to position and segregate him within Judaism against other forms of Judaism; concretely, this is where the context of a special (which usually means “different from Judean”) Galilean culture is used to reason for a portrait of Jesus that disassociates him from Jerusalem and Judea, and the Judaism represented 105 Cf. inter alia Freyne, Galilee, Jesus, and the Gospels, 33–68 (with references to older literature), and above, note 96. 106 Albert Schweitzer, Quest, 6. Very similar is Klaus Berger’s assessment of Jesus research at the beginning of the twenty-first century, which he characterizes as a “reduction [“Verkleinerung” of Jesus] through historical criticism:” “The consequence of reducing Jesus was that what was left could be tuned up and trimmed trendy to one’s heart’s content” (Jesus [Munich: Pattloch, 2004], 13). That “Galiläa” is missing altogether in the subject index of this Jesus book is telling.

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by these ciphers. For, based on what is discernible in the literary and archaeological sources, such a Galilee did not exist. Of course, that does not mean there were no regional peculiarities. What it does mean, however, is that there were no foundational differences when it came to, e.g., the attitude towards Torah, non-Jews, or the centrality of Scripture. In Galilee also, “Israel’s biblical epic” was the foundational master story. Where the argument for a special culture in Galilee is made, one will often find that the reasons for it have to be sought beyond Galilee. The examples of Richard Horsley and Burton L. Mack clearly demonstrate this. The latter, in particular, uses Galilee in his arguments in a manner analogous to Walter Grundmann in that he also seeks to motivate a contemporary cultural trend (which has quite strong political implications) by referring to the beginnings of the Jesus movement in Galilee. It is history that urges us not to understand Jesus the Jew as detached from the master narrative of his people and its manifestations such as the Temple in Jerusalem and the Jewish Scriptures. The historical arguments provided in this chapter should not be dismissed from the outset just because they fit the theological master narrative of salvation history as well. When historical and theological reasoning coincide with each other, one might be forgiven for seeing God’s acts in history as part of the fabric.

Jesus and the Jewish Traditions of His Time 1. The Importance of Jesus’ Jewishness The most important achievement of Jesus scholarship in the last century is the acknowledgment of the foundational significance of Jesus being a Jew, appreciated and supported not only by those interested in the historical Jesus but also by the followers of the biblical Jesus who is venerated by Christians around the globe. Official church documents have confirmed repeatedly in the last two decades the basal importance of Jesus’ Jewishness for a proper historical as well as theological understanding. That early Christianity as a whole is not understandable without its rootedness within Judaism is also the legacy of Martin Hengel. In his last monograph, with the telling title Jesus und das Judentum,1 he summarized in conclusion of his lifelong research: “Today, no Christian theologian would deny that early Christianity grew on Jewish mother soil,” but he concedes that only a minority would accept the addition of “entirely,” on which he insisted. Earliest Christianity is from a historical point of view “completely a child of Judaism.”2 With this statement Hengel underlines the opening sentence in the revised version of Schürer: “Since it was from Judaism that Christianity emerged in the first century A.D., nothing in the Gospel account is understandable apart from its setting in Jewish history, no word of Jesus meaningful unless inserted into its natural context of contemporary Jewish thought.”3 It will undoubtedly be one of the lasting merits of the so-called ‘third questers’ that the Jewishness of Jesus is now so deeply incised into Jesus research that a non-Jewish Jesus no longer seems to be a possibility. Even Jesus research that is not done under the flag of the third quest regularly considers 1 Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer, Jesus und das Judentum (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007). 2 Ibid., 21. Similar “Early Christianity as a Jewish-Messianic Universalist Movement,” in Conflicts and Challenges in Early Christianity (ed. Donald A. Hagner; Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity Int., 1999), 1–41 (1). 3 Emil Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (rev. and ed. Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar, and Matthew Black; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1973), 1. It is worthwhile to compare this first sentence in the rendering of Pamela Vermes, the literary editor of the ‘New Schürer,’ with the opening of the ‘Old Schürer.’


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the question of Jesus the Jew and sees him within his Jewish context. The difference between the various approaches is therefore not whether the Jewish traditions of Jesus’ time are of primary importance for understanding him, but rather which of them need to be drawn upon, and to what degree, to contribute to a correct perception of Jesus. The revised Schürer’s second sentence expresses this more specific agenda most eloquently: “The task of the New Testament scholar, when enquiring into the phenomenon of the birth of Christianity, is to relate Jesus and the Gospel, not only to the Old Testament, but also, and above all, to the Jewish world of his time. Such an aim involves a full assimilation of the findings of students of inter-Testamental Judaism and of Hellenistic and Roman Palestine.” This appeal made in 1973 did not go unheeded. As a result Jesus research nowadays is to a large degree — though with notable exceptions and estimable results4 — research within the field of second Temple Judaism.5 Galilee research features especially prominently and seems to offer a never-ending reservoir of new ideas about the historical Jesus.6 4 Cf. for example Jürgen Becker, Jesus of Nazareth (transl. J. E. Crouch; New York: de Gruyter 1998; German: Jesus von Nazareth [Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 1996]); Klaus Berger, Jesus (Munich: Pattloch, 2004); James M. Robinson, The Gospel of Jesus: A Historical Search for the Original Good News (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2006); Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (London: Bloomsbury, 2007); Joachim Ringleben, Jesus: Ein Versuch zu begreifen (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008). 5 To substantiate this point it is enough to look through the most ambitious attempts of contemporary Jesus research and the amount of scrutiny and energy given to describing the Jewish context of Jesus. Perhaps the most obvious example is N. T. Wright, who in his monumental project Christian Origins and the Question of God dedicated the largest part of his first volume The New Testament and the People of God (London: SPCK, 1992) to “FirstCentury Judaism within the Greco-Roman World” (145–338). Again in the third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God (London: SPCK, 2003), a long chapter is devoted to the Jewish context (85–206). Cf. further James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Christianity in the Making 1; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 255–326 (“The Historical Context”); Hengel and Schwemer, Jesus, 39–168 (“Das Judentum unter römischer Herrschaft im 1. Jahrhundert vor und nach Christus”). The four volumes of John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew (ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1991–2009) contain lengthy chapters on the Jewish traditions relevant to Jesus. For the Jewish social world vol. 3 (Companions and Competitors, 2001) is especially noteworthy. For a similar summarizing judgment, see Paul R. Eddy and James K. Beilby, “The Quest for the Historical Jesus: An Introduction,” in The Historical Jesus: Five Views (ed. James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy; London: SPCK, 2010), 9–54, esp. 48–9. 6 Among recent publications, see e.g. Pieter F. Craffert, The Life of a Galilean Shaman: Jesus of Nazareth in Anthropological-Historical Perspective (Eugene, Oreg.: Cascade Books, 2008); David Fiensy, Jesus the Galilean: Soundings in a First Century Life (Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias, 2007); Halvor Moxnes, Putting Jesus in his Place: A Radical Vision of Household and Kingdom (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2003). For some critical reflection, see “Jesus the Galilean: Questioning the Function of Galilee in Recent Jesus Research” in this volume; Jens Schröter, “Jesus of Galilee: The Role of Location in Under-

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To understand Jesus historically,7 one needs to understand his precise place in the Jewish world and its traditions and within his temporal and geographical horizons. This is the major idea behind the impressive array of knowledge about second Temple Judaism that dominates so many modern Jesus books. One often gets the impression that the task is now even seen by some the other way round, namely to reconstruct a specific Jewish setting into which Jesus is made to fit. For such an approach the title of this article would more accurately be “The Jewish Traditions and Jesus’ Place in Them.”8 So, standing Jesus,” in Jesus Research: An International Perspective (ed. James H. Charlesworth and Petr Pokorný; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 36–55. 7 For the (unsolved) terminological problems of the adjective “historical” (often understood in contrast to ‘earthly,’ ‘actual,’ or ‘real’), see Meier, Marginal Jew, 1.1–2, 21–40; 4.5– 8, who defines the label “historical Jesus” as “that Jesus whom we can recover or reconstruct by using the scientific tools of modern historical research as applied to ancient sources.” He concedes that the result “is a modern abstraction and construct” and “not coterminous with the full reality of Jesus of Nazareth.” He further insists on a sharp line between “our knowledge of a Palestinian Jew of the 1st century named Yeshua of Nazareth and our faithknowledge of Jesus Christ” (4.6) but promises to bring these two sides together in the end. For him the historical quest became blurred in the last two centuries: “More often than not, it was an attempt at a more modern form of christology masquerading as a historical quest.” One problem is that scholars use the term “historical” in very different ways, see e.g. Schröter, “Jesus of Galilee,” 37–8; Eddy and Beilby, “Introduction,” 36–7. A helpful differentiation between ontological naturalistic historians, critical theistic historians, and methodologically naturalistic historians is proposed by Robert L. Webb, “The Historical Enterprise and Historical Jesus Research,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence (ed. Darrell L. Bock and Robert L. Webb; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 9–93, esp. 39–55. For a critique of “the way in which history is taken as a measure for theology” and the “real” Jesus, see Luke T. Johnson, The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels (San Francisco: Harper Collins 1996); idem, Living Jesus: Learning the Heart of the Gospel (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998); idem, “The Humanity of Jesus: What’s at Stake in the Quest for the Historical Jesus,” in The Jesus Controversy: Perspectives in Conflict (ed. John D. Crossan, Luke T. Johnson, and Werner H. Kelber; Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity International, 1999), 48–74; idem, “Learning the Human Jesus: Historical Criticism and Literary Criticism,” in The Historical Jesus: Five Views (ed. James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy; London: SPCK, 2010), 153–77. 8 Cf. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 57, n. 155; Johnson, “Humanity,” 65. The insistence of James G. Crossley on social history and social sciences extends this position to an extreme, see his Why Christianity Happened: A Sociohistorical Account of Christian Origins (26–50 CE) (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006), 5–21. Adopting his line about Hitler (“. . . something like what happened in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s would have happened even if Hitler had not been born” [15]) in relation to Jesus, one can say (and the title of his book implies it) that Christianity would have happened even without Jesus. Cf. also Eddy and Beilby, “Introduction,” 42–3. Significant here is Gerd Theissen’s reminder that “social history” is concerned with groups and society and “not with individuals,” which is why “its contribution to research into Jesus’ life is only an indirect one,” see his “Jesus as an Itinerant Teacher: Reflections from Social History on Jesus’ Role,” in Jesus Research: An Interna-


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one of the questions that needs to be answered especially within contemporary Jesus research is to what extent Jesus should be seen as subject or object in relation to the contemporary Jewish traditions of his time. Was he fully formed by them, or only influenced to a certain degree? Was he able to use them in a creative way and make them comply with his own message? But putting the question in this last way already presupposes that he had his own message as distinct from the traditions available at his time. Or is it even possible to say that he was hardly influenced at all by them and just followed his own vocation? At least the gospels seem to be interested in giving this impression when they let Jesus’ contemporaries acknowledge that his words and deeds are unheard of and unseen before.9 That at some point he was brought in line with the prophets of old (Mark 6:14–16; 8:27–8 etc.) does not contradict this, but supports it even further: Obviously the people around Jesus could think of no other analogy to him than those glorified figures of the distant past, and for them — as for now — it was obviously necessary to find at least something within the Jewish heritage with which he could be compared. So it is not just modern curiosity that needs to find an answer as to how Jesus fits into the Jewish world of his time. At the moment Jesus scholarship is in a position where the third quest is bringing in its full harvest with some of the most ambitious projects connected to it being either complete or close to completion: N. T. Wright, who coined the phrase “third quest for the historical Jesus”10 and is one of its most prolific defenders, has already finished three volumes of his impressive project Christian Origins and the Question of God, which is now projected to six (originally five) volumes, the fourth on “Paul and the Faithfulness of God” being expected soon. John P. Meier has already finished his fourth volume of A Marginal Jew and covers intensively and most widely (although these humble words are not enough to describe his herculean endeavour) the Jewish context of Jesus. No end is in sight here. Almost modest in comparison to Wright and Meier is James Dunn’s, nevertheless substantial, projected three volume Christianity in the Making, the first two of which have already been published. Worth mentioning as well is the first volume of Martin Hengel’s (together with Anna Maria Schwemer) Geschichte des frühen tional Perspective (ed. James H. Charlesworth and Petr Pokorný; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 98–122 (98). 9 Cf. Mark 1:27; 2:12; 6:2 etc. Unfortunately, the distinctiveness of Jesus was often used as a way to denigrate Judaism and to emphasize its difference from Christianity over the similarities. Dunn’s “protest” against this malpractice within Jesus research is legitimate, cf. James D. G. Dunn, “Remembering Jesus,” in The Historical Jesus: Five Views (ed. James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy; London: SPCK, 2010), 199–225 (216–24). See also “Jesus the Galilean: Questioning the Function of Galilee in Recent Research” in this volume. 10 In Stephen Neill and N. T. Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861– 1981 (2nd ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 388.

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Christentums, which covers Jesus und das Judentum, and the fine collection Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus.11 Finally, Brill published the four-volume set Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus in mid 2011.12 The number of smaller-scale books on Jesus that place themselves within the third quest is growing constantly, as are related dictionaries.13 A plethora of research summaries in the form of articles and shorter books is necessary in the meantime to access this wealth of scholarly production, which one can hardly hope to read through properly within a single lifetime.14 The best critical textbook introduction is that of Gerd Theißen and Annette Merz, not least because they bring in the best results from the second quest and the German exegetical tradition as well.15 The sheer amount of impressive and fascinating new insights based on a significantly increased number of primary texts, documents, archaeological data, and an evermore sophisticated methodology, can be gauged from the growth of the first reference work of the new literary genre that accompanied the appearance of this new field of studies, Emil Schürer’s Lehrbuch der neutestamentlichen Zeitgeschichte. This first appeared as a one-volume edition in 1874 and expanded for the fourth and final edition into three volumes under the new title (used since the second edition) Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, reflecting developments within the last quarter of the nineteenth century.16 The ‘New Schürer’ (1973–87) under

11 Darrell L. Bock and Robert L. Webb, eds., Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009). For the other books mentioned, see note 5 above. 12 Edited by Tom Holmén and Stanley E. Porter. 13 Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, eds., Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove: IVP, 1992); Craig A. Evans, ed., Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus (New York: Routledge, 2008). 14 Cf. the lament of Dale C. Allison, The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 13: “The number of publications has become as the sand of the sea. Attending the displays of new books at the annual Society of Biblical Literature meetings produces in me mostly despair, because I know that, amid the myriads of throwaway books, are thousands of valuable pages that I will never turn.” Happily, I am not the only one who is overtaken by this kind of despair. For a more profound analysis of this dilemma for the whole discipline of New Testament studies, see Markus Bockmuehl, Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study (Studies in Theological Interpretation; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 33–6. 15 Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz, The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1998). 16 The fourth edition appeared between 1901 and 1909 and was supplemented with a further index volume in 1911. For the bibliographical and historiographical details, see Roland Deines, Die Pharisäer: Ihr Verständnis im Spiegel der christlichen und jüdischen Forschung seit Wellhausen und Graetz (WUNT 101; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 68– 95; Martin Hengel, “Der alte und der neue ‘Schürer,’” JSS 35 (1990), 19–72 (= idem,


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the editorship of Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar, and Matthew Black, can be seen as the starting line of the new wave in second Temple studies which has not yet subsided and which runs parallel to the third quest, the starting date of which is often connected with the publication of Geza Vermes’s Jesus the Jew and E. P. Sanders’s Jesus and Judaism.17 New journals, monograph series, and web-based projects are witnesses to the copiousness of what was once called “Neutestamentliche Zeitgeschichte” but has long since left behind its narrow focus on the New Testament. This plethora of scholarship has, unfortunately, at least one serious disadvantage: it presents the academic as well as the more popular audience with a pick-and-mix situation. There is a Jesus for everything and from everywhere, or what Charlesworth calls “a chaos of opinions.”18 Every Jewish tradition that could be isolated has been connected with Jesus: prophecy, eschatology, apocalyptic expectations, restoration hopes, wisdom, Halakhah, Merkavah mysticism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Pharisaism, Essenism, Zealotism, and so on — whatever tradition may be identified within second Temple Judaism has been brought into conversation with Jesus.19 Sometimes, as Johnson assumes (probably correctly), this is done mainly because a book with “Jesus” in the title sells better, but this is hardly the only reason, because many of these contributions make a valid point. Jesus was indeed something like a prophet,20 and some of his teaching strongly parallels that of other wisdom Judaica, Hellenistica et Christiana: Kleine Schriften II [WUNT 109; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1999], 157–99). 17 Cf. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 88–9; Geza Vermes, Providential Accidents: An Autobiography (London: SCM, 1998), 171–9, 210–24. Vermes’s Jesus book and volume 1 of the “New Schürer” appeared “almost simultaneously” in the summer of 1973 and “the two together made something of a splash” (212). 18 James H. Charlesworth, “Introduction: Why Evaluate Twenty-Five Years of Jesus Research?” in Jesus Research: An International Perspective (ed. James H. Charlesworth and Petr Pokorný; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 1–15 (1). 19 For similar (and even longer) lists, see Johnson, Real Jesus, 85–6; idem, “Humanity,” 53–4, 65; Eddy and Beilby, “Introduction,” 52–3 (this volume itself contains “five views”). 20 That Jesus appeared to many of his contemporaries as a prophet-like figure (and that he understood himself at least partly in such a way) is widely accepted although this very general category of prophet/prophetic leaves plenty of room for all kinds of prophets, cf. Scot McKnight, “Jesus and Prophetic Actions,” BBR 10 (2000): 197–232 (199–201 gives a list of the various ways in which Jesus has been understood as prophet); cf. further Ben Witherington, The Jesus Quest: The third search for the Jew of Nazareth (2nd ed.; Downers Grove: IVP, 1997), 116–61; Hengel and Schwemer, Jesus, 499–501, and the many books dealing explicitly with Jesus as prophet like Dale C. Allison, Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998); Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); William R. Herzog, Prophet and Teacher: An Introduction to the Historical Jesus (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005); Morna D. Hooker, The Signs of a Prophet: The Prophetic Actions of Jesus (London: Wipf & Stock, 1997).

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teachers,21 even if his eschatological focus on the coming judgment as well as his miracles do not seem to sit well with this. He can be compared with other healers and charismatics, but again, the analogies are only partial and at their heart leave as much unexplained as they explain. Vermes’s résumé at the end of Jesus the Jew can serve as an example: “Second to none in profundity of insight and grandeur of character, he is in particular an unsurpassed master of the art of laying bare the inmost core of spiritual truth and bringing every issue back to the essence of religion, the existential relationship of man and man, and man and God” (224).22 Similar statements can be found quite often. What they have in common is the concession that Jesus cannot be placed in a single category only, or, whenever this attempt is made, Jesus stands out as somehow “unique-ish.” He cannot be understood without the analogies provided by the Jewish world he lived in but at the same time he is not fully encapsulated by them. The same can be said about the titles used by Jesus or attributed to him. They have without doubt Jewish parallels and a Jewish tradition history, and their use within the Jesus tradition cannot be understood without their rootedness in the Jewish thought-world of his time. But again, there is no other figure besides Jesus that has attracted so many titles, and yet none of them fits unqualified.23 Jesus stands out not in spite of, but because of the similarities. It is the unique combination of his life and teaching with his transempirical miraculous deeds, his death on the cross and the resurrection, which is an inseparable element of the Jesus tradition,24 that transcends all too narrowly 21

It needs to be kept in mind that the label “wisdom teacher” is much less concrete than ‘teacher’ or even ‘miracle worker.’ Jesus is referred to only once as wise man (σοφὸς ἀνήρ) in Josephus, Ant. 18.63, and in this designation Josephus placed him alongside Solomon and Daniel rather than any of his contemporaries, cf. Meier, Marginal Jew, 1.63; Witherington, Jesus Quest, 162, 185, where he concedes that ‘sage’ is merely the best “heuristic category” to understand Jesus alongside other characterisations like ‘healer’ and ‘prophet.’ 22 Jacob Neusner, Ancient Judaism: Debates and Disputes (BJS 64; Chico, Cal.: Scholars Press, 1984), 189–93 (192), rejects in a review of Vermes’ book this praise of Jesus’ religious significance and uniqueness by referring to Hillel and other first century sages “who have taught pretty much the same ethical and moral message as Jesus.” Neusner’s comment notwithstanding, the difference remains that Hillel and his colleagues were remembered as sages and teachers only, without any messianic titles or eschatological meanings attached to them. They are not remembered in addition to their teaching as miracle workers, and none of them was believed to have been resurrected. This even includes those who died for their faith like Rabbi Aqiva, despite martyrdom and the belief in resurrection being so closely interwoven in Judaism. 23 Cf. Hengel and Schwemer, Jesus, 526–48. 24 Cf. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 825–7: The resurrection is an inseparable part of how Jesus was remembered by his followers; indeed it is the “crystallization” of the impact he made on them. Christianity is historically not understandable without the conviction of Jesus’ followers that his resurrection really happened. See also Wright, Resurrection, 562–3, 736–7; Hengel and Schwemer, Jesus, 626–7.


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defined categories. The topic “Jesus and the Jewish Traditions of His Time” should therefore not be solely addressed in such a way that a more or less complete list of possible parallels, similarities, and analogies from Jewish sources are accrued and reviewed. The question seems to be, rather, what comes next after we have seen that everything in Jesus’ life and message is inextricably interwoven with his Jewish context?

2. Approaching a Crossroads Again? A Look Back at Schweitzer and Kähler One might be permitted to pause for a moment in the never-ending run after the newest development in the media-sponsored Jesus market with its publicly organized debates and the blogosphere consecrated around it, and try to evaluate what has been achieved so far.25 This is all the more necessary as there seems to be developing a growing unrest within the third quest as to how to proceed. Indeed, the first volume of the Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus contains an article by Ernst Baasland on a possible “Fourth Quest,” while others dispute the validity of the sorting into “quests” as misleading right away.26 And Dale Allison, after having written (at least) three historical books about Jesus in a relatively short period of time suddenly realized that his activities have “religious implications.”27 The result is a further book on Jesus, but this time playing in the title with the famous lecture of Martin Kähler (1835–1912) and trying to map out a more theological or faith-based approach to Jesus. The new impetus for theological interpretation throughout the field can be taken as a further sign that the historical road is approaching a crossroads once again.28 Two opposite directions are presenting themselves: One still sees too many theological interests and biases involved within Jesus research and urges an even more strictly historical and 25

Admittedly, this presupposes what is called simply impossible just a few pages above (see note 14), namely an in-depth engagement with all the above-mentioned publications. 26 E.g. Fernando B. Rubio, “The Fiction of the ‘Three Quests’: An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Historiographical Paradigm,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 7 (2009): 211–53; Clive Marsh, “Quests of the Historical Jesus in New Historicist Perspective,” BibInt 5 (1997): 403–37, cf. also Darrell L. Bock and Robert L. Webb, “Introduction to Key Events and Actions in the Life of Historical Jesus,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence (ed. Darrell L. Bock and Robert L. Webb; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 1–8 (1–4). 27 Allison, Historical Christ, ix. 28 Cf. for a short overview Bockmuehl, Seeing the Word, 55–9, and esp. the last chapter there “Seeing the Son of David” (189–228). Similarly Eddy and Beilby, “Introduction,” 47, consider if “the quest has hit a dead end.”

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sociological understanding without any recourse to transempirical or metahistorical realities and faith-based experiences.29 The other side seeks to overcome the limitations of the purely historical approach through a stronger emphasis on literary analysis, hermeneutics, and theological approaches.30 This present constellation presents some astonishing similarities with that of the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries,31 when the question of Jesus the Jew was already disputed between Jewish scholars like Heinrich Graetz, Abraham Geiger, and Joseph Klausner, liberal Christians like Ernst Troeltsch and Adolf von Harnack, critically and historically oriented Protestant scholars like Emil Schürer, Robert H. Charles, Albert Schweitzer, Wilhelm Bousset, and William Wrede, and their more conservative counterparts like Franz Delitzsch,32 Gustav Dalman, Adolf Schlatter, and of course most famously Martin Kähler. With Emil Schürer’s History of the Jewish People33 and the detailed coverage of second Temple Judaism in the Jewish world histories of Graetz and Geiger, with Dalman’s contributions to the Aramaic language of Jesus, as well as many other historical, editorial, and linguistic achievements during this period, the available knowledge of the Jewish world in the time around Jesus exceeded all previous centuries by far.34 But instead of enlivening Jesus research it ended in a crisis: Jesus 29 Cf. for example James G. Crossley, “Writing about the Historical Jesus: Historical Explanation and ‘the Big Why Questions,’ or Antiquarian Empiricism and Victorian Tomes?” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 7 (2009): 63–90; also more traditional scholars with a positive attitude towards faith support this claim, as the chapter “Renewed Historicism” in Bockmuehl, Seeing the Word, 40–7, shows; cf. further Webb’s description of “Ontological Naturalistic History” (“Historical Enterprise,” 40–5). 30 Cf. Bockmuehl, Seeing the Word, 47–55 (“Final-Form Literary Approaches”); Beverly Roberts Gaventa and Richard B. Hays, eds., Seeking the Identity of Jesus: A Pilgrimage (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008). 31 The enlarged last chapter in the second edition of Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus (first complete edition [= Quest2]; ed. John Bowden; London: SCM, 2000), 478–87, fits mutatis mutandis astonishingly well with the present situation. For the much shorter “Results,” in the first edition, see Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede (transl. W. Montgomery, with a preface by F. C. Burkitt; London: Adam & Charles Black, 1910), 396–401. 32 Delitzsch’s contributions to the understanding of the historical Jesus within his Jewish context are nearly forgotten, although they contain (based on the knowledge of the nineteenth century) many aspects about the Galilean setting of Jesus including political, social, and geographical aspects, cf. Franz Delitzsch, Ein Tag in Kapernaum (3rd ed.; Leipzig: Justus Naumann, 1886); ET: A Day in Capernaum (transl. G. H. Schodde; New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1887); idem, Jüdisches Handwerkerleben zur Zeit Jesu: Nach den ältesten Quellen geschildert (3rd ed.; Erlangen: A. Deicher, 1879); ET: Jewish Artisan Life in the Time of Jesus, According to the Oldest Sources (transl. B. Pick; New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1883). 33 See note 3 and pp. 37–8 in this volume. 34 For an initial overview, see William Baird, History of New Testament Research (vol. 2: From Jonathan Edwards to Rudolf Bultmann; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 195–


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research freed itself from historical constraints to remain meaningful for the life of individual Christians and Christianity as a whole, whereas the historical exploration of the Jewish world of Jesus became more and more the area of specialists, some of whom even turned into anti-Semites who used their knowledge to promote a de-Judaized form of Christianity and to support the Nazis in their fight against the Jewish people and Judaism as a whole.35 The growing emphasis placed on the Jewishness of Jesus after the Second World War and the Holocaust is not least the result of this dismal and shameful epoch in parts of Christian New Testament scholarship. As Jesus research is facing a similar situation to that of a century ago, it is worth asking why this first spring of Jewish studies as a fundamental part of the study of the historical Jesus did not ripen more enduring fruits. Albert Schweitzer himself might provide a clue: he recognized in his study of the history of Jesus research the increased interest in the Jewish world of Jesus as due to the fact that the gospels, as the main sources for the historical Jesus, are deliberately limited in what they actually reveal about the personality and self-consciousness of Jesus. This reduction of historical memories to a minimum can be seen first in Paul (with 2 Cor 5:16 becoming a landmark verse).36 Historical facts, so Schweitzer argues, would have threatened the theological convictions that are “wholly in the future with the Christ who was to come.”37 The eschatological, coming Christ of faith could be believed in only if the historical knowledge was ignored and allowed to fall into oblivion, because the eschatological expectations of the historical Jesus regarding his return as heavenly judge missed their fulfilment and turned out to be a fatal error. Schweitzer was one of the first scholars who understood Jesus mainly from one particular Jewish tradition only. The result was the eradication of any historical base for the development of the post-Easter tradition about Jesus after what Schweitzer sees as his failure at the cross. The history and belief of earliest Christianity, in this perspective, is nothing more than a crutch to maintain some importance for Jesus, but the Jesus fabricated by the disciples after Easter is not the real one; not the historical one who died on the cross. Their motives might have been described by Schweitzer in a more noble way than Reimarus who made the whole resurrection story into a 261; Susannah Heschel, Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1998). 35 Gerhard Kittel and Walter Grundmann are the two best-known examples in this regard, on this see Roland Deines, Volker Leppin, and Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr, eds., Walter Grundmann: Ein Neutestamentler im Dritten Reich (AKThG 21; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2007); Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008); also Deines, Pharisäer, 413–48. 36 Cf. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 74, 181, n. 45; Eddy and Beilby, “Introduction”, 23. 37 Schweitzer, Quest, 4.

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fraudulent deception of the disciples, who were no longer used to or willing to work hard for their living. But the final result is not that different: The Jesus of the faith tradition after Easter (which for Schweitzer is the dogmatic Jesus) does not have much to do with the one before, because only the reconstructed and recovered historical Jesus was real in any historical sense, whereas the one believed in after Easter owes his existence, his teaching, and the expectations connected to him solely to the faith of the disciples. Nevertheless to maintain a form of identity between “the supra-mundane Christ and the historical Jesus of Nazareth” they “had to be brought together into a single personality both historical and raised above time.” The deliberate reduction of the tradition by “primitive Christianity” to “detached sayings, a few miracles, his death and resurrection” was necessary to escape “the inner split” between history and faith, and this is why “primitive Christianity [. . .] handed down to us only Gospels, not biographies of Jesus.”38 With the decisions at Chalcedon in 451 AD the doctrine of the two natures “cut off the last possibility of a return to the historical Jesus.”39 Only after the dogma had been “shattered” in the eighteenth century could the quest for the historical Jesus be raised anew and the gaps so deliberately left by the evangelists be filled again with elements from the “historical” fund. This quest, as Schweitzer makes clear, is “an ally in the struggle against the tyranny of dogma”40 and as such a liberation story.41 But having said this it is also necessary to recall the final chapter of his famous history (cf. note 31). Here he describes vividly — without using Kähler’s terms — how the biblical Jesus of the gospel narratives is still able to convince and to call into his service.42 This Jesus, freed from an all too narrow understanding of the historical quest, is true in an existential sense that pure historical analysis cannot even imagine. For Schweitzer it is Jesus’ eschatological outlook on the world (even if it failed in the end) that makes him so fascinating. Eschatology for Schweitzer means first and foremost “that he looks beyond the consummation and salvation of the individual to a 38

Schweitzer, Quest, 4. Ibid., 5. 40 Ibid. 41 Cf. also Johnson, Real Jesus, 54–6; “Humanity,” 51; Dunn, “Remembering Jesus,” 203, with reference to Robert W. Funk, Honest to Jesus: Jesus for a new Millennium (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1996) et al. 42 “In fact the real Jesus is more easily made known than the modernized Jesus, once we allow that elemental quality to speak to us which makes him real for us, so that we too are convinced by the passion of his preaching rather than by any breadth of scholarship” (Schweitzer, Quest2, 485). For this, see James Carleton Paget, “The Religious Authority of Albert Schweitzer’s Jesus,” in Scripture’s Doctrine and Theology’s Bible: How the New Testament Shapes Christian Dogmatics (ed. Markus Bockmuehl and Alan J. Torrance; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 75–90. 39


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consummation and salvation of the world and to an elect mankind. He is completely filled with and determined by desire and hope for the kingdom of God” (480). Decisive for Jesus’ eschatology is the conviction of “the moral consummation of all things” (482 = “die sittliche Endvollendung der Welt” [636]), in other words a reconciliation between the divine and the human realm with God visibly acting in this world (cf. 391). But for Schweitzer this desire for God’s direct intervention can no longer be held in the modern era, so only the ethical task remains (485). But who can claim the authority to exclude God from acting and accordingly from the agenda of theologians as well as theologically oriented historians?43 This is where the systematic theologian Martin Kähler steps in. Kähler, who is regularly described as an intellectual forefather of the kerygmatic Jesus of dialectic theology as represented by Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann, insists that faith “in the living Christ” came into being not as the result of later projection on Jesus “but because he himself evokes such faith from us.”44 What happened with his first followers and the evangelists repeats itself through the centuries: Jesus is experienced as a compelling and living 43 In Jesus scholarship this big question addressed (but not solved) by Ernst Troeltsch, “Historical and Dogmatic Method in Theology” becomes relevant again and again; for the text, see idem, Religion in History (trans. James Luther Adams and Walter F. Bense; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991), 11–32. The crucial point is to what extent, and at which stage of the critical examination of a past event, has historical methodology to be adjusted to the acceptance of divine intervention, if it wants to avoid the notion that ontological prejudices inhibit the description of events and their cause. For Meier (see above, note 7), who is representative of many, the two realms must be kept separate until the historical task is completed. I think this underestimates the totalitarianism or implicit dogmatism of the historical method, because the moment its work is properly done everything has a historical explanation, which necessarily excludes anything like God as a cause from the outset. Troeltsch allows no loopholes and also no later addition of a theological meaning. This is where Joseph Ratzinger makes a contribution, see J. Ratzinger, “Biblical Interpretation in Conflict: The Questions of the Basic Principles and Path of Exegesis Today,” in Ratzinger, God’s Word: Scripture — Tradition — Office (ed. Peter Hünermann and Thomas Söding; transl. H. Taylor; San Francisco: Ignatius, 2008), 91–126, cf. Roland Deines, “Can the ‘Real’ Jesus be Identified with the Historical Jesus? A Review of the Pope’s Challenge to Biblical Scholarship and the Ongoing Debate,” in The Pope and Jesus of Nazareth: Christ, Scripture and the Church (ed. A. Pabst and A. Paddison; Veritas; London: SCM, 2009) 199–232, and the other essays in this volume. An expanded version of my article on Ratzinger can be found in the present volume. 44 Martin Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus and the Historic Biblical Christ (trans., ed., and with an introduction by Carl E. Braaten; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1964), 87; German original: Der sogenannte historische Jesus und der geschichtliche, biblische Christus (ed. Ernst Wolf; TB 2; 4th edition; Munich: C. Kaiser, 1969), 68; cf. Schweitzer, Quest2, 480: “What does the historical Jesus mean for us when we dissociate him from all false justification of the past by the present? We are immediately aware that his personality, despite all that is strange and enigmatic in it, has great significance for us. There is something there for all periods of time, so long as the world exists”; Johnson, Real Jesus, 141–2.

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counterpart through the gospels and the other New Testament witnesses “to which we are indebted for our knowledge of historical revelation. Even today these books offer to every receptive heart that knowledge of the living God and of his acts through which it has pleased him continually to create trust in himself in the hearts of men.”45 The starting point for Kähler is therefore not the ethical residue after critical investigation has stripped off allegedly contrahistorical dogmatics but the actual experience of the biblical, living Christ within his communities, and ignoring, on Kähler’s part, the ever-so-often changing reconstructions of the life of Jesus research of his day. Like Schweitzer, he acknowledges the gaps within the available sources precluding a biography of Jesus that would “measure up to the standards of contemporary historical science,”46 and this is why the “life-of-Jesus” authors must therefore resort to their own imaginations and the trajectories of their own psychological and spiritual experiences to supplement what is missing.47 For Kähler, this is impossible because Jesus simply was not like us, and therefore analogy (which he accepts as one main element of gaining understanding) cannot be applied to him.48 So Kähler denies, based on theological argumen45 Martin Kähler, “Do Christians Value the Bible Because it Contains Historical Documents?,” in The So-Called Historical Jesus, 100–48 (128). For the German original “Besteht der Wert der Bibel für den Christen hauptsächlich darin, daß sie geschichtliche Urkunden enthält?” see Kähler, Der sogenannte historische Jesus, 81–126, esp. 106. 46 Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus, 48 (German, 21). 47 Similarly Schweitzer, Quest2, 8: The “yawning gaps” of the Synoptics can be filled “at best with historical fantasy” but any attempt to combine “the fortuitous series of episodes” into a historically reliable biography is hopeless because no “clearly defined personality” can be distilled from the Gospels that would allow us to give these episodes “an intelligible connection;” see, in the same vein, also Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus (Tübingen: Mohr, 1926), 11–12. The problem with the described position is that it puts the alternatives in an all too simplistic fashion: Either “exact historiography” or fiction, fantasy, and existentialist reflection, whereas sober historiography always knew that the retelling of history implies selection, interpretation, and construing connections and causalities that are not necessarily obvious, cf. Jens Schröter, Jesus und die Anfänge der Christologie: Methodologische und exegetische Studien zu den Ursprüngen des christlichen Glaubens (Biblisch-Theologische Studien 47; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2001), 6–36. 48 Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus, 53 (German, 25–6): “Will anyone who has had the impression of being encountered by that unique sinless person, that unique Son of Adam endowed with a vigorous consciousness of God, still venture to use the principle of analogy here once he has thoroughly assessed the situation? We must not think that we can solve the problem with a pantograph, reproducing the general outlines of our own nature but with larger dimensions. The distinction between Jesus Christ and ourselves is not one of degree but of kind . . . In view of this fact we would all do well to refrain from depicting his inner life by the principle of analogy.” The exceptionality of Jesus was also recognized and accepted by Troeltsch, when he — despite his emphasis on analogy — made quite an unexpected concession: “Only at one point was this limitation [of the divine force to empower the human spirit (R.D.)] broken through. This point, however, was located at the center of great contemporary and subsequent religious developments, namely, in the religion of the


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tation, that normal procedures of historical research can be applied to Jesus. Schweitzer made the same case, although for different reasons, conceding that “the problem of the life of Jesus has no analogy in the field of history” and that “every ordinary method of historical investigation proves inadequate to the complexity of the conditions.”49 Both agree further that imagination and trajectories from more general human experience, as necessary as they are, offer no satisfactory additional insight beyond what can be found in the gospels. And they also agree that the study of the Jewish context cannot fulfil this task either. For Schweitzer, the lack of knowledge about “the nature of the contemporary Jewish world of thought” makes it impossible to project from a certain, generally accepted “expectation of the Messiah” to the selfconsciousness of Jesus. In other words, the available knowledge about Judaism in the time of Jesus does not enable one to fill in the gaps in the Gospels, so as to add to and aid our knowledge of Jesus.50 In Kähler’s words “the historical analogy” where “one goes back to the conditions and the thought world of Jesus’ environment and to the historical records and Jewish literature which still survive from that period” is not “very promising.” He illustrates this with a comparison between Paul and Jesus: If we compare the Jesus of our Gospels with Saul of Tarsus, we do in fact see a great difference between the disciple of the Pharisees and the Master. On the one hand we see the true Jew, so profoundly and indelibly influenced by the cultural forces of his people and epoch; and on the other hand we see the Son of Man, whose person and work convey the impression of one who lived, as it were, in the timeless age of the patriarchs.51

Kähler’s observation, despite its obvious limitations, is not without a kernel of truth. Jesus, especially in comparison to Paul and according to the available sources, as a fellow human being is less concrete and more ‘biblical.’ This impression is true not only for John but also for the Synoptics. The available sources (and this is somehow true even for the non-canonical sources) present prophets of Israel and in the person of Jesus. Here a God distinct from nature produced a personality superior to nature with eternally transcendent goals and the willpower to change the world” (“Historical and Dogmatic Method,” 27; for further inconsistencies in Troeltsch’s argument, see Webb, “Historical Enterprise,” 43–5). 49 Schweitzer, Quest2, 7. Cf. further Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus, 92 (German, 74–5). 50 Schweitzer, Quest2, 9. This initial statement is, however, not fully confirmed in his representation, when he, for example, discusses positively the contribution of Aramaic for the study of Jesus and the understanding of the Son of Man title (221–33). Also his own portrayal of Jesus depends heavily on the eschatological thinking in the time of Jesus, cf. 248–61, 315–54. 51 Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus, 54 (German, 26). Cf. also his very critical remarks at the end that these “lengthy discourses about first century history . . . keeps the listener preoccupied with things which, after all, are merely the vehicles of the events in the Gospels and keeps him from the real thing . . .” (70; German, 48).

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him as an “elusive Messiah,”52 but not as an inaccessible one. As they stand, the gospels allow knowledge and communication with Jesus,53 because they present the historic Jesus devoid of historical contingencies and therefore, in the true meaning of the term, as “Lord.”54 Two requirements are necessary to arrive at this conclusion: The resurrection, “based on experience, and the witness of the Scriptures. As the living Lord he was for them the Messiah of the Old Covenant.”55 The primary frame of reference to understand how the “unpretentious Rabbi” Jesus came to be venerated as Lord is for Kähler therefore not contemporary Jewish theology or eschatology but first of all Scripture. Kähler’s point is not to deny the value of “historical research” from the outset but he is keen to emphasize its relatively minor contribution for the understanding of Jesus: Obviously we would not deny that historical research can help to explain and clarify particular features of Jesus’ actions and attitudes as well as many aspects of his teaching. Nor will I exaggerate the issue by casting doubt on the historian’s capacity to trace the broad outlines of the historical institutions and forces which influenced the human development of our Lord. But it is common knowledge that all this is wholly insufficient for a biographical work in the modern sense.56

Kähler wrote this at the end of the nineteenth century, when the historical, scientific study of second Temple and rabbinic Judaism were fully established for the first time and achieved impressive results that have lasted until today. In the meantime, new sources and methodologies have enriched our picture of second Temple Judaism to a degree not imaginable for Kähler and his contemporaries. Also, the understanding of a biography of a person from antiquity (and what was conceived as properly biographical in that time) has changed dramatically. So one might conclude that the limitations of historical analogy from Jesus’ contemporary Jewish world might have been true in the time of Kähler but are not so any longer. But is this the case? Luke Timothy Johnson, admittedly a “Kähler-like” Jesus scholar,57 came to a very similar 52

Raymond Martin, The Elusive Messiah: A Philosophical Overview of the Quest for the Historical Jesus (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 2000). 53 Cf. Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus, 60–1. (German, 34–5). 54 Cf. ibid., 63–4 (German, 37–9). 55 Ibid., 65 (German 42; emphasis mine) The coincidence of Kähler’s short summary with Wright’s result in his book on the resurrection is striking (given the fact that Wright is not very fond of Kähler): The belief that Jesus was indeed the Messiah was held by the early Christians “because of his resurrection” (Wright, Resurrection, 554), and the further step that this Messiah is “the world’s true lord” and somehow close to God himself “is rooted firmly in the Psalms” (563). In other words, the resurrection and the testimony of Scripture allowed for the confession that this Jewish man from Nazareth named Jesus was and is the Lord of all. 56 Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus, 54–5. 57 Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 58, n. 156.


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conclusion around 100 years after Kähler, namely that all this new information from Qumran to Nag Hammadi, from archaeology to epigraphy, “while wonderfully illuminating virtually every aspect of life in Jesus’ world, does not add substantially to our knowledge of his life in that world.”58 One might like to think that this is the statement of one with less interest in the more historical questions and therefore not fully aware of the achievements the study of the Jewish context is able to provide,59 but a close look at some recent publications from strongly historically oriented scholars reveals a similar reservation. Jürgen Zangenberg, for example, concludes an article about Jesus and Galilee by saying “the more we know about the diversity of Galilee, the clearer it becomes how little representative Jesus of Nazareth could have been for Galilee.”60 Seán Freyne, one of the pioneers of modern Galilee research, describes the arrival at a sound judgment on the reliability and historical framework of the gospels as the most that can be hoped for in the study of the social and cultural world of Galilee with regard to Jesus studies.61 What is more, Freyne in his book Jesus: A Jewish Galilean, points to a strange omission within modern Jesus scholarship, namely the influence of Jewish Scriptures on Jesus: In most studies of Jesus’ Jewish background there would appear to be a reluctance to envisage the idea that he himself, as distinct from his followers, might have been influenced by the Jewish Scriptures of his day.

Instead scholars “have turned to the more esoteric collections such as the Dead Sea Scrolls or to apocryphal works such as 1 Enoch in their search for 58

Johnson, Real Jesus, 88–9; “Humanity,” 55. Although Johnson keenly defends himself against this accusation, see “Humanity,” 65. Nevertheless he insists: “None of the new knowledge (or re-examined old knowledge concerning Judaism in the first century) appears to touch on Jesus himself.” 60 Jürgen Zangenberg, “Jesus — Galiläa — Archäologie: Neue Forschungen zu einer Region im Wandel,” in Jesus und die Archäologie Galiläas (ed. Carsten Claußen and Jörg Frey; BThSt 87; 2nd ed.; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener 2009) 7–38 (37); idem, “Archaeological News from the Galilee: Tiberias, Magdala and Rural Galilee,” Early Christianity 1 (2010): 471–84: “Of course, Jesus came from Galilee, but how ‘Galilean’ was he? How typical, how representative for ‘the situation in Galilee’ was his message? It more and more seems that Jesus, as he is presented in the New Testament, is not the spokesperson for ‘the average Galilean’, he rather is a representative of a certain milieu that existed in Galilee, but which is not ‘Galilean’ per se in the way that it directly reflected and responded to social problems and religious needs in the Galilee of Antipas. So: Who were the poor that Jesus addressed, and where were they? Of course, the contours of that milieu certainly need to be further explored, but I have the impression that Jesus’ message is more inspired by a theological interpretation of reality than by the complex reality itself” (482; emphasis original). 61 Seán Freyne, “Jesus in Galiläa,” in Jesus und die Archäologie Galiläas (ed. Carsten Claußen and Jörg Frey; BThSt 87; 2nd ed.; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2009), 209–26, esp. 212, cf. idem, Jesus, A Jewish Galilean: A New Reading of the Jesus-Story (London: T&T Clark, 2004). 59

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suitable “background.”62 Consequently, Freyne tries to reconstruct how Jesus might have experienced Galilee as a “biblical” landscape and how the biblical narratives formed the horizon of his ministry.

3. Scripture as the Touchstone of Traditions Freyne’s reminder regarding Scripture can be enriched by Kähler’s phrase “the historic, biblical Christ,” of which only the first part has been received approvingly within form criticism and the second quest, namely that the “real Christ is the Christ who is preached” and “the Christ who is preached . . . is precisely the Christ of faith.”63 As a consequence, the gospels were taken as documents of this very faith. But the second element of Kähler’s title, namely that Jesus is described as the biblical Christ has not received enough attention even though it is a remarkable historical phenomenon that a person from the most recent past — at a time when his closest family members were known and still alive, and whose disciples experienced him not only as ‘special’ but at the same time as a ‘normal’ human being who was hungry, thirsty, tired, and mournful — is remembered and venerated immediately after his death (maybe even during his lifetime) with a biblical imagery and language that places him as close as possible to God himself.64 This was conceivable, and here again Kähler and Schweitzer share a similar insight, through a reduction of the collective memory of his followers to a core tradition that transcends historical contingencies. But what, in Schweitzer’s eyes, is a distortion of the historical Jesus that needs to be corrected by critical scholarship is for Kähler the transformation from the merely historical into the historic.65 For those who confessed him as Lord “only the activity of Jesus as a grown man” was of any importance, and in these testimonies he is 62

Freyne, Jewish Galilean, 19; “Jesus in Galiläa,” 213–16. Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus, 66 (German, 44). 64 A short selection of available titles must suffice: Simon Gathercole, The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006); Martin Hengel, Studien zur Christologie (ed. Claus-Jürgen Thornton; WUNT 201; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006); in this volume esp. noteworthy are Der Sohn Gottes (1975; 2nd ed.; 1977); “‘Setze dich zu meiner Rechten!’: Die Inthronisation Christi zur Rechten Gottes und Psalm 110,1” (1993); “Abba, Maranatha, Hosanna und die Anfänge der Christologie” (2004). Furthermore see William Horbury, Jewish Messianism and the Cult of Christ (London: SCM, 1998); Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 2003); idem, How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005). 65 Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus, 63–4 (German, 37–8). What is transmitted from Jesus “are not the reports of impartial observers” but “testimonies and confessions of believers in Christ” (92; German, 75). 63


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described as “prophet” (in relation to John the Baptist), “master teacher” (in his relation to the wider and narrower circles of disciples), “resolute Messiah” (the one who is able to read the signs and to direct his life towards God’s ends), and “the royal sufferer.” But above all he is known as the one “who rose from the dead, a stranger to his table and travel companions, and yet, at the same time, familiar to them beyond all doubt.”66 The truly remarkable development for Kähler is that, for the followers of Jesus after his death, these things and these things alone are the memorable references of his life, although they certainly knew “many fascinating and winsome details about him, inasmuch as, like ourselves, he lived a busy and active life subject to the routine tasks of the day.” But they ignored everything trivial about his life and whatever they reported was “for the sake of its religious significance.”67 The historical reductionism of the canonical gospels (which Kähler sees in line with the paucity of Jesus narratives in the Pauline corpus) is actually their greatest achievement. By stripping off the merely historical, they allowed their readers to meet and to experience what he called the biblical or the real Christ.68 This emphasis on the biblical Christ can serve as a helpful reminder for the task at hand, which is indeed a historical one even if it was originally part of a more defensive “Flight from History” for Kähler.69 It includes a number of related aspects:


Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus, 93 (German, 75–6). Ibid., 93 (German, 76–7), cf. also 87–91 (German, 68–74). 68 This reduction to what was regarded as essential took place again in the second century with the introduction of the regula fidei and a “canonical principle” (“Kanonprinzip”), cf. Oscar Cullmann, “The Tradition: The Exegetical, Historical and Theological Problem,” in The Early Church (ed. A. J. B. Higgins; London: SCM, 1956 [transl. from La Tradition (Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestlé, 1953); German edition: Tradition: Die Tradition als exegetisches, historisches und theologisches Problem (Zürich: Zwingli, 1954)], 53–99: “By establishing the principle of a canon the Church recognized that from that time the tradition was no longer a criterion of truth. It drew a line under the apostolic tradition. It declared implicitly that from that time every subsequent tradition must be submitted to the control of the apostolic tradition. That is, it declared: here is the tradition which constituted the Church, which forced itself upon it. Certainly the Church did not intend thereby to put an end to the continued evolution of the tradition. But by what we might call an act of humility it submitted all subsequent tradition to be elaborated by itself to the superior criterion of the apostolic tradition, codified in Holy Scriptures (90, emphasis in the original). 69 Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 71–3, discusses Kähler in his chapter “The Flight from History” (67–97), which is a well-established reading of Kähler, although others insist that he has a different approach to history, and that he sees in the Gospels a reliable source for the real Jesus despite the fact that they were written from a perspective of faith, cf. Hans-Georg Link, Geschichte Jesu und Bild Christi: Die Entwicklung der Christologie Martin Kählers in Auseinandersetzung mit der Leben-Jesu-Theologie und der Ritschl-Schule (NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener, 1975), 9–10 (see also 225–67). 67

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1. Jesus and Scripture, meaning the question of how the earthly Jesus understood himself and his mission in light of Scripture; 2. the reappraisal of the nature of Scripture as constitutive word of God against the Jewish traditions as derived from Scripture; 3. the historical evaluation of the fact that Jesus, from the earliest available testimonies on, is depicted as a biblical figure who lived by Scripture (understood as God’s word, cf. Matt 4:4 par. Luke 4:3, quoting Deut 8:3b; cf. also John 4:34), saw himself as guided by Scripture (e.g. Mark 9:11–12; 10:3–9; 11:16–17; 12:10–11, 24–37), fulfilled Scripture through his ministry (e.g. Luke 4:17–21; Matt 11:2–6 par. Luke 7:18–23), and could be more fully understood retrospectively through a fusion of his followers’ experience with the earthly Jesus and a scriptural horizon (e.g. Rom 1:1b– 4; 1 Cor 15:3–5) which resulted in a double transformation: Jesus became fully the biblical Christ and Scripture became a testimony to him (cf. Luke 24:25–7, 32, 45–8).70 There is not much room to develop this further at this point. But I share the astonishment of Seán Freyne that in all the large works about Jesus mentioned above, one does not find a chapter on Jesus and Scripture. That is not to say that this question is not addressed at all,71 but seldom in a way that allows one to see Jesus’ own understanding of his mission as primarily based on his specific and personal application of Scripture, although this is the only Jewish tradition he knew for sure. There is an immense amount of literature on the use of the Old Testament in the individual New Testament writings, and it is well established that their authors used Scripture as their primary, one can even say their only, explicit reference text. But it is much less obvious and hardly emphasized at all to what extent the extensive use of Scripture in the New Testament and especially in the Gospels needs to be understood as a consequence of Jesus’ own application of Scripture to his ministry.72 Quite 70

Cf. Otfried Hofius, “Das apostolische Christuszeugnis und das Alte Testament: Thesen zur Biblischen Theologie” (1995), in Neutestamentliche Studien (WUNT 132; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000), 329–39. 71 Often Jesus’ knowledge and learning of Scripture is discussed in connection with his upbringing and education, see Rainer Riesner, Jesus als Lehrer (WUNT 2.7; 3rd ed.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1993), esp. 224–45; Meier, Marginal Jew, 1.268–78 (although narrowed down in focus to the question “Was Jesus Illiterate?”); Theissen and Merz, Jesus, 319–21; Craig A. Evans, “Context, Family and Formation,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (ed. Markus Bockmuehl; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 11–24 (15– 21). 72 What R. T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament: His Application of Old Testament Passages to Himself and His Mission (London: Tyndale, 1971), 13, observed in the midst of the second quest is still true despite the changes brought about by the third questers: “The reason is not far to seek. The prevalent attitude to the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospels is one of scepticism as to their dominical origin. The quotations of the Old Testament


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regularly he asks his opponents “have you not read” and then refers to a biblical event or saying (Mark 2:25–6 par. Matt 12:3–4, [5–7]; Luke 6:3–4; Mark 12:10–11, 26 par. Matt 21:42, 31–2; Luke 20:17, 37; Matt 19:4–5). Or if he understood John the Baptist as the foretold Elijah who is to come to prepare his way (Matt 11:7–11 par. Luke 7:24–8, quoting Mal 3:1 in combination with Exod 23:20), should we then not assume that he understood his own life similarly as part of the ‘biblical’ history through which the God of Israel interacts with his people?73 But more often than not, these and other sayings where Jesus quotes Scripture are dismissed “as probably a Christian reflection added to an authentic logion of Jesus concerning the Baptist,” although Meier concedes that “Jesus would be a very strange Jewish teacher in 1st century Palestine if he had never quoted, commented on, or argued about the meaning of the Jewish Scriptures.”74 In the chapter about Jesus’ education Meier rightly observes that Jesus is presented by almost all the Gospel traditions as engaging in learned disputes over Scripture and halaka with students of the Law, that he was accorded the respectful — but at that time vague — title of rabbi or teacher, that more than one Gospel tradition presents him preaching or teaching in the synagogues (presumably after and on the Scripture readings), and that, even apart from formal disputes, his teaching was strongly imbued with the outlook and language of the sacred texts of Israel.

Therefore he argues, and rightly so, that “it is reasonable to suppose that Jesus’ religious formation in his family was intense and profound, and included instruction in reading biblical Hebrew.”75 The teaching techniques and especially the memorisable forms that are distinguishable in Jesus’ sayings are likely to reflect the influence of the good education he had received from either his father or another teacher. The Gospel of Luke contains more than one hint that the wider family of Jesus was well connected with literate

attributed to him are tacitly, and sometimes explicitly, regarded as reflecting the scriptural interpretation not of Jesus himself, but of the churches in which the Gospels emerged.” For a new approach to this topic and a reflection on the history of scholarship, see Emerson B. Powery, Jesus Reads Scripture: The Function of Jesus’ Use of Scripture in the Synoptic Gospels (BIS 63; Leiden: Brill, 2003), 15–22; Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans, “Jesus and Israel’s Scripture,” in Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research (ed. Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans; NTTS 19; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 281–336; Craig A. Evans, “‘Have You Not Read . . . ?’ Jesus’ Subversive Interpretation of Scripture,” in Jesus Research: An International Perspective (ed. James H. Charlesworth and Petr Pokorný; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 182–98. 73 For a concise summary, see Peter Stuhlmacher, Biblische Theologie des Neuen Testaments (vol. 1; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992), 1.40–161 (“Die Verkündigung Jesu”). 74 Meier, Marginal Jew, 2.141–2. 75 Ibid., 1.276.

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Jerusalem,76 and Freyne is right to question the nearly unanimously held assumption that Jesus originated from a rather poor family background (which in any case in Judaism does not by any means infer illiteracy).77 But if this is so, why does it not influence the way Jesus’ ministry is depicted? Most of the creative exegesis that can be found in the gospels is granted to the evangelists and hardly anything to Jesus himself,78 which is less than convincing if one takes seriously that Jesus is regularly described and addressed as teacher.79 But it would also be much too narrow to focus solely on the explicitly marked quotations in the sayings of Jesus. To be shaped by a scriptural mindset and to have the word of God as daily bread goes far beyond the textual surface. This leads to the second suggestion: What seems necessary is a stronger differentiation between an authoritative tradition and the interpretation of this authoritative tradition. This distinction gets lost (to take just one example) when in Meier’s otherwise helpful chapter on the background of Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God, the Old Testament tradition is placed as the first in a row, followed by “God’s Kingly Rule in the Pseudepigrapha,” and “at Qumran,”80 thus creating the impression that these derived traditions would be on the same level as the scriptural source for them. A similar pattern 76 Cf. Luke 1:63: Zechariah, the uncle of Jesus, is supposed to be able to write and the composition of the Benedictus in 1:67–79 is attributed to him; the Magnificat in 1:46–55 is a further carefully drafted early Christian psalm full of biblical imagery. Although it is impossible to demonstrate Mary’s part in its composition, it cannot be ruled out that these texts reflect the spiritual atmosphere of Jesus’ extended family. Ulrike Mittmann-Richert, Magnificat und Benedictus (WUNT 2.90; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996), 97–144, assumes these hymns originated very early in the history of the Jerusalem church (132), which means at a time when Mary and the brothers of Jesus were part of it (cf. also Luke 2:19, 51: Mary as a source for tradition about Jesus’ childhood). The phrases that Jesus “was filled with wisdom” (2:40 πληρούμενον σοφίᾳ) and “made progress in wisdom” (2:52 Ἰησοῦς προέκοπτεν [ἐν τῇ] σοφίᾳ, cf. Gal 1:14, Paul’s hint to his pharisaic education in Jerusalem: καὶ προέκοπτον ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ), which frame the visit of the twelve-year-old Jesus to the Temple, need not imply that no formal education through teachers took place. 77 Freyne, Jesus, 21. 78 Cf. as an example Dale C. Allison, The Intertextual Jesus: Scripture in Q (Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity, 2000). The book displays in great detail the scriptural intertextuality of Q, which reveals how nearly every saying is immersed in biblical allusions. But the most often deployed subject in Allison’s analysis is “Q”: Q refers, Q agrees, Q follows, etc., and only on the last pages (213–222) does he discuss (affirmatively, at least) the possibility that some of the scriptural allusions actually go back to Jesus himself. Here he is willing “to entertain the possibility that the intertextual Jesus of Q is not a misleading representative of the historical Jesus” (215), only to retract it partly in his latest book (idem, Historical Christ, 16–17). 79 Cf. Riesner, Jesus als Lehrer; “Jesus as Preacher and Teacher,” in Jesus and the Oral Gospel Tradition (ed. Henry Wansbrough; JSNTSup 64; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), 185–210; Hengel and Schwemer, Jesus, 358–60. 80 Meier, Marginal Jew, 2.237–88.


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can be found in many monographs on a specific New Testament topic when the tradition history of a given topic needs to be explored. The usual way to do this is to start with the Hebrew Bible, and then follow the tradition in the presumed chronological order. But this is hardly the way Jewish teachers in the first century would have approached their tradition. If anything can be learned from the Jewish literature in the centuries around the turn of the era it is that the Jewish Scriptures held such an unsurpassable authority that virtually all Jewish literature known today can be labelled as biblically inspired in one way or another. There is hardly any preserved Jewish literature81 for which Scripture is not the definitive intertext and point of departure.82 In other words, Scripture is the single authoritative tradition that is always accessed directly and is not mediated by anything in between. There is of course a difference if someone accesses Scripture in the original Hebrew, via a Greek translation, or a Targumic rendition,83 but this does not undermine the argument. The Jewish world is — judged on the basis of the extant literature — a community formed and held together by its ongoing recourse to scriptural pre-texts84 and the institutions (land, nation, priesthood, Temple) derived from them. New social and religious developments in search of 81

Freyne, Jesus, 19–20; Allison, Intertextual Jesus, 213. The authoritative status of Scripture as different from other writings (some of which might nevertheless aspire to Scripture-like authority) does not presuppose an already fixed canon, cf. Meier, Marginal Jew, 1.274–75. Also the fact that different text-forms of Scripture were available and used in second Temple Judaism does not hamper the argument. 83 For the assumption that Jesus used Isaiah in a Targumic version, see Bruce D. Chilton, A Galilean Rabbi and His Bible (Wilmington, Del.: M. Glazier, 1984). 84 Cf. as example the bold statement in the letter sent by the high priest Jonathan and the Jewish people to the Spartans in which a reference is made to a former exchange of friendship declarations (. . . τὰς ἐπιστολάς, ἐν αἷς διεσαφεῖτο περὶ συμμαχίας καὶ φιλίας; 1 Macc 12:8), before it continues: “We are not in need of these (declarations) because we have as encouragement the holy books that are in our hands” (ὄντες παράκλησιν ἔχοντες τὰ βιβλία τὰ ἅγια τὰ ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν ἡμῶν). The importance of the Temple library containing the books of the kings, the prophets, David, and archival documents (the Torah is not mentioned explicitly but is surely presupposed) is also mentioned in 2 Macc 2:13–14. The diaspora community in Egypt was formally invited to use it and to fill the gaps within their own libraries if necessary. The shared possession of Scriptures serves in this ideal and probably unhistorical description as the bond of unity between Judaea and the Diaspora. For the influence of Scripture in second Temple literature, see the results of a several years long research project of the University of Vienna under the leadership of Armin Lange, which is now available in: Armin Lange and Matthias Weigold, Biblical Quotations and Allusions in Second Temple Jewish Literature (JAJSup 5; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011). For Philo’s use of Scripture, not covered in this volume, see Jean Allenbach et al., eds., Philon d’Alexandrie (Biblia Patristica suppl.; Paris: Éditions du Centre national de la recherche scientifique, 1982); Naomi G. Cohen, Philo’s Scriptures: Citations from the Prophets and Writings: Evidence for a Haftarah Cycle in Second Temple Judaism (JSJSup 123; Leiden: Brill, 2007). 82

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recognition had to fall in line within a biblical trajectory to win acceptance and following and no religious legitimacy or authority was possible without biblical backing. For the understanding of the Jewish tradition for Jesus and his time this is crucial, because the decisive source from which all other traditions derive their authority is Scripture. And this means that religious teaching within a Jewish context needed to be justified with reference to Scripture. At least this is what can be seen — admittedly with varying emphases — with regard to written traditions. The Pharisaic idea of a non-written, authoritative tradition can be seen within this world as an astonishing invention, but its further development demonstrates that at some point the connectivity with scriptural authority needed to be regained, as the emergence of the concept of the Dual Torah demonstrates. In this way the rabbinic Halakhah is ideally connected with Moses and the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai, which then provides a scriptural framework for the oral Torah as well.85 For Jesus as a man with a theological message for his people it was, therefore, essential to locate himself within the scriptural world. He could expect that people would ask him about what he thought of certain laws of Moses, or specific sayings of Isaiah or one of the other prophets etc., but there is hardly any evidence that there was any need to justify oneself with regard to other traditions. So however widespread the theological thinking as preserved in the Qumran scrolls might have been, there is no evidence within the preserved Jewish literature that their specific theology was discussed outside their community or used as a kind of “hermeneutical lens” through which Scripture was accessed. It might have been the case within the community that groupspecific exegetical insights and traditions were used as hermeneutical guidelines in their approach to Scripture, but in the main, even within the Qumran corpus the biblical texts were accessed directly. This can be demonstrated by the fact that the individual texts regularly contain a certain amount of scriptural quotations but hardly any others. So I disagree with Meier’s judgment that “a treatment of Jesus and the Law that does not seriously engage the Dead Sea material is in essence flawed.”86 It is true that important facets of the interpretation and application of the Torah in first-century Judaea would be missed without the scrolls, but there is no way to make a direct link from them to Jesus’ perception of it. What the scrolls provide are additional simultaneous readings of the Torah next to that of Jesus, and by this they shed light on how Jesus’ position may have been perceived by members of their community or someone close to it. Consequently, the question of Jesus and the Jewish traditions needs to be addressed by comparing Jesus’ approach to the 85 Cf. Jacob Neusner, Uniting the Dual Torah: Sifra and the Problem of the Mishnah (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Deines, Pharisäer, 325–34. 86 Meier, Marginal Jew, 4.4.


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scriptural heritage with that of other Jewish groups or individuals in the first century. Scripture is the spring of Jewish traditions and many parallel streams originated at the same time from the same spring without necessarily influencing each other. Additionally, the established hierarchy within Scripture (Torah, Prophets, and Writings were authoritative in a descending order) should perhaps be taken more seriously when Jewish traditions are used to describe Jesus within Judaism.

4. The Biblical Jesus as a Historical Task Perhaps it is time that we — informed now by three quests — accept that approaches to Jesus the Jew that seek to understand him solely on the basis of what can be hypothesized about the man from Galilee behind the gospel narratives and on the basis of historical analogies to his Jewish context do not bridge the gap between the life of Jesus up to his death in Jerusalem and what was believed about him after Easter. No Jewish teacher, prophet, charismatic healer, or sage known from the centuries around Jesus was placed into a biblical trajectory in any way similar to him. In this respect, Schweitzer, Kähler, and many others are right in their insistence that any historical enquiry needs to accept that the way Jesus was remembered by those close to him is a unique phenomenon in history. And as the principle of equality has it, it is necessary that unequal things are treated unequally, which is missed when Johnson postulates that the task of reconstructing the historical circumstances of Jesus’ life should be done in the same way as for those “of Socrates or Napoleon or Christopher Columbus.”87 The gospel writers’ reduction of the historical details of Jesus, which Kähler and others perceptively recognized, enabled the fusion of horizons through which this first-century Jew almost immediately after his death was perceived as a biblical figure, and what is more, became the only figure who in the biblical traditions was anticipated in the future: the Messiah, the heavenly judge, the fulfiller and restorer of righteousness, the saviour of his people and the blessing for all the nations of the earth, the one through whom God himself is present amidst his creation as a shepherd and king. Jesus Christ, hailed as Lord, is none other than this first-century Jew, Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee who was remembered by those close to him as the pre-existent Son of God incarnate. To conceive Jesus in this way as the biblical Christ is not possible without a biblical horizon, and attempts to replace the biblical colouring of his portrait by a more “realistic” first-century social landscape fail to convince not only the followers of the biblical Christ but also their 87

Johnson, “Human Jesus,” 157.

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more secular colleagues as the endless flow of contradictory books about the so-called real historical Jesus demonstrates. What can be done instead, and what is already done successfully in many contributions, is to understand Jesus alongside the other Jewish traditions of his time that originated, like the tradition that he initiated, in Israel’s scriptural heritage and the embodied experience with Israel’s God therein, who is a God in communication with his people in various forms. The biblical heritage was the origin of the wealth, depth, and beauty of the Jewish traditions that were alive during the first century. Therefore, most of them allow us to understand individual aspects of Jesus’ life better (or, to take up the metaphor from above, individual colours of his portrait). They help to contextualize what would otherwise look bizarre or extreme. But if singled out they fail to comprehend Jesus solely within these set limitations. They supply the colours rather than the details. Jesus participated in them but he is not exhausted by them. In what is remembered about him, he transcends all these categories by being either less or more. He is not comprehensible without the messianic titles provided by Scripture-inspired tradition and the eschatological expectations connected to them, but the given traditions do not easily function as proof-texts for his ministry. In the future, retrospectively, this might become the major theological achievement of the third quest (even if its contribution to theology is sometimes unwittingly made), when the results of the quest become clearly visible: all attempts to narrow down Jesus into one particular tradition simply failed to convince. The more determinedly its proponents attempt this, the more convincing is the negative result. The zealous one-sidedness of some Jesus scholars to promote their understanding of Jesus serves the discipline well, because it allows for those who are historically interested in the real Jesus (and not only in his historical shadow)88 to see him even better as the biblical Son of God. What was for Kähler a negative result, namely that the Jewish context is unable to fill all the gaps left by the evangelists, can now be 88 I understand Meier’s statement according to which the “historical Jesus” is only a “modern abstraction” that does not cover the “full reality of Jesus of Nazareth” (see note 7 above) in this way. Meier obviously presupposes a ‘deeper’ reality of what Jesus was than the one that can be addressed by the “scientific tools of modern historical research.” This reality behind the purely historical Jesus is only accessible through faith-based propositions. Nevertheless, these transempirical assumptions about Jesus are regarded as true. I assume that for Meier, as for most other Christians, the real Jesus is the pre-existent Son of God who became human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and who is now reunited with his heavenly father. But if this is true (even if this truth can be accessed only by faith) how can it be gated out from a historical enquiry? If the chosen (secular) methodological tools do not allow one to describe the transempirical, what do they describe? A part of Jesus’ true reality that leaves room for the indescribable elements of his full reality to be added by those who want to do so? On this questions see in this volume “God’s Role in History as a Methdological Problem for Exegesis.”


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acknowledged in a positive sense. It is indeed essential that the person Jesus of Nazareth is to be understood within the Jewish traditions of his time, but at the same time it is equally true that he cannot be fully captured by any or even all of these traditions. As a result, the historically informed judgment can be made that Jesus Christ the Lord who is known and venerated by the Christian communities from the beginning is a likely and plausible recollection of the person Jesus of Nazareth within a biblical horizon. The historical Jesus and the historic, biblical Jesus can be differentiated but are not different. That the available testimonies about Jesus were almost completely given by those who believed in him did not, given all that we know about second Temple Judaism and its traditions, distort the image of Jesus in a way that he would no longer be recognizable as a first-century Jew from Galilee.89 The somewhat dated Enlightenment mission of rescuing the historical Jesus from the dogmatic, faith-bound distortions of the Church no longer promises new results but turns out to be rather repetitive. Similarly repetitive are the attempts to separate the story from history and to be content with a meaningful narrative about Jesus. The next quest needs to think through what it means historically and, therefore, for the understanding of history, that in the Jew Jesus of Nazareth God came into this world.


Cf. especially Dunn, “Remembering Jesus,” 207: “We cannot realistically expect to find a Jesus different from the Jesus of the Jesus tradition.”

The Apostolic Decree: Halakhah for Gentile Christians or Christian Concession to Jewish Taboos?*• 0. Introduction I want to emphasize at the outset that the question mark in the title is genuine. What I present in the following has its origin in my unease with the dominant halakhic interpretation of the so-called “Apostolic Decree” in contemporary studies of the Book of Acts. By halakhic interpretation I refer to a position such as that formulated and extensively defended by Jürgen Wehnert. According to Wehnert the Decree (Acts 15:19–21) implies that for Luke the Gentile Christian churches remain, in principle, liable to a form of Torah obedience, despite the exemption from circumcision, and this Torah conformity also “extends to central demands of the purity law.”1 It is not the case that the Apostolic Decree “sums up the Law,” as Conzelmann argued,2 but more precisely, as Wehnert states, it is the “sum of the ritual law,” by which he means a specific “segment of the ritual law in the Old Testament for the Gentile Christians.” This stands alongside the “ethical commands of the * This essay originated in my contribution to the “Münchener Bibelwissenschaftliche Symposien” on “Jewish Identity in the Greco-Roman World” held on July 15th, 2003 and May 11th, 2004 at the Faculty of Protestant Theology of the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich. The symposium was led and organised by Jörg Frey (Munich) and Daniel R. Schwartz (Jerusalem). The proceedings appeared as: Jörg Frey, Daniel R. Schwartz, and Stephanie Gripentrog, eds., Jewish Identity in the Greco-Roman World (AJEC 71; Leiden: Brill, 2007). 1 Jürgen Wehnert, Die Reinheit des »christlichen Gottesvolkes« aus Juden und Heiden: Studien zum historischen und theologischen Hintergrund des sogenannten Aposteldekrets (FRLANT 173; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997), 72. 2 Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of St Luke (trans. Geoffrey Buswell; London: Faber & Faber, 1961), 147. For Conzelmann this ‘sum’ guarantees the Israel-character of the new people of God, comprised of Jews and Gentiles, which thereby stands in a salvation-historical continuity with biblical Israel. However, he did not include his own position in his commentary on Acts, in which he understands the Apostolic Decree only in the sense of a “concession to the Gentile Christians,” “which would enable Jewish Christians to live with them, and particularly to have table fellowship,” cf. idem, Acts of the Apostles (trans. James Limburg, A. Thomas Kraabel, and Donald H. Juel; Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), 118.


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Torah,”3 which remain valid for all. The reduction of the purity laws for Gentile Christians to a “minimum” is for Wehnert part of Luke’s comprehensive loyalty towards Torah, and this adaptation actually corresponds to the “character of the Torah” in imposing on “non-Jewish believers a lighter ‘burden.’”4 The positive emphasis on the Decree is the consequence of Luke’s ecclesiology, according to which “Gentile Christians, by their keeping of the regulations of abstention, show themselves in a special way to be part of the God-chosen λαός (Acts 15:14), namely as co-heirs of the Torah.”5 Luke’s rendering is, however, already part of the “reception history” (Reinheit, 82) of the Decree, which, in its historical (according to Wehnert: Aramaic and possibly oral) and pre-Lukan form, has its origin in the “Torahobservant faction” of the church in Jerusalem, whose paraenesis “in line with a particular Jesus tradition (cf. Matt 5:17–19; Luke 16:17f.)6 has essentially oriented itself towards the Torah.”7 Nevertheless, Luke and the intention of the pre-Lukan Apostolic Decree largely agree with each other: It is a “catalogue of Moses’ rules” (212), which were taken from Lev 17f. and regarded as compulsory for all believers. That Jewish and Gentile Christians could live together was therefore “established on the basis of Torah” (268), whereby the “alien Christians [Fremdlingschristen]” (268) had to “subject themselves to the minimum of the purity laws prescribed for resident aliens in the Torah, which were therefore indispensable (ἐπάναγκες)” (269). The position represented by Wehnert is to a large degree inspired by the influential work of Jacob Jervell on Acts from the mid 1960s onwards.8 3

Wehnert, Reinheit, 72–3, n. 76. Wehnert, Reinheit, 73, n. 77; such a liberty for non-Jewish believers from complete Torah obedience on the basis of the Torah itself is also endorsed by Klaus Müller, Tora für die Völker: Die noachidischen Gebote und Ansätze zu ihrer Rezeption im Christentum (SKI 15; Berlin: Institut Kirche und Judentum, 1994), 156; Christina Kurth, »Die Stimmen der Propheten erfüllt«: Jesu Geschick und »die« Juden nach der Darstellung des Lukas (BWANT 148; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2000), 209. 5 Wehnert, Reinheit, 82. In contrast to Jervell, Wehnert is less interested in the theology of Luke (or Acts); instead he focuses on the conviction on which the Apostolic Decree was originally based, cf. ibid., 13, 15, etc. 6 For a different perspective on Matt 5:17–19 see: Roland Deines, Die Gerechtigkeit der Tora im Reich des Messias (WUNT 177; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 257–412; for an English summary see: idem, “Not the Law but the Messiah: Law and Righteousness in the Gospel of Matthew — An Ongoing Debate,” in Built upon the Rock: Studies in the Gospel of Matthew (ed. John Nolland and D. M. Gurtner; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 53–84. 7 Wehnert, Reinheit, 213. 8 Cf. (chronologically): Jacob Jervell, “The Law in Luke-Acts,” HTR 64 (1971): 21–36 = idem, Luke and the People of God: A New Look at Luke-Acts (2nd ed.; Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1979), 133–51; idem, “The Church of Jews and Godfearers,” in LukeActs and the Jewish People: Eight Critical Perspectives (ed. Joseph B. Tyson; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1988), 11–20; idem, “Gottes Treue zum untreuen Volk,” in Der Treue Gottes trauen: Beiträge zum Werk des Lukas (FS G. Schneider; ed. Claus Bussmann, and Walter 4

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According to him, Luke was writing from a Jewish point of view, in which a life according to the Torah was the obvious starting point, as was also the case for his story of Jesus.9 Correspondingly, the ideal church, as Luke depicts it, is determined by the fact that “the Jews in the church keep the law in toto, the Gentiles, however, keep only those [laws] for non-Israelites, namely, the decree.”10 He neither replaces the law nor reduces it to a minimum. Luke’s theology presupposes no critique or curtailment of the law. Rather, corresponding to the given differentiations within the Torah between Israelites and non-Israelites, the Apostolic Decree encapsulates and imposes the part of the law that is relevant to Gentile Christians, in the same manner as the whole Torah is relevant and remains mandatory for Jewish Christians. The question of the law is, accordingly, first a question of ecclesiology: The Gentiles are added to a renewed Israel, from which only the unbelievers are separated.11 That is, the Church is the continuation of biblical Israel and precisely not a new people of God composed of Jews and Gentiles:12 “To Radl; Freiburg: Herder, 1991), 15–27; idem, The Theology of the Acts of the Apostles (New Testament Theology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); idem, “Das Aposteldekret in der lukanischen Theologie,” in Texts and Contexts: Biblical Texts in Their Textual and Situations (FS Lars Hartman; ed. Tord Fornberg and David Hellholm; Oslo: Scandinavian University Press, 1995), 227–43; and the summary in his large commentary on the Book of Acts: Die Apostelgeschichte (KEK 3; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998). On Jervell being the founder of a “‘new look’ in Lukan studies,” see W. Ward Gasque, A History of the Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (2nd ed.; Peabody: Hendrickson, 1989), 348; Martin Hengel, “Der Jude Paulus und sein Volk: Zu einem neuen Acta-Kommentar,” TRu 66 (2001): 338–68 (= review of Jervell’s commentary), also available in Martin Hengel, Studien zum Urchristentum (Kleine Schriften VI; WUNT 234; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 212– 41. 9 Luke’s understanding of the law cannot be examined here in detail. For recent studies apart from Jervell’s, see the bibliography in François Bovon, “The Law in Luke-Acts,” in Studies in Early Christianity (WUNT 161; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 59–73 (65); also, Helmut Merkel, “Das Gesetz im lukanischen Doppelwerk,” in Schrift und Tradition (FS Josef Ernst; ed. Knut Backhaus and Franz Georg Untergassmair; Paderborn: F. Schöningh, 1996), 119–33; Burkhart Jürgens, Zweierlei Anfang: Kommunikative Konstruktionen heidenchristlicher Identität in Gal 2 und Act 15 (BBB 120; Berlin: Philo, 1999), 144–55, etc. 10 Jervell, “Aposteldekret,” 230. 11 It is this point in particular that gave rise to criticism, cf. Günter Wasserberg, Aus Israels Mitte — Heil für die Welt: Eine narrativ-exegetische Studie zur Theologie des Lukas (BZNW 92; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1998), 95–8; Kurth, »Stimmen der Propheten,« 26–7. 12 On the ecclesiology of Luke, see the report by François Bovon, Luke the Theologian: Thirty-three Years of Research (1950–1983) (PTMS 12; Allison Park, Penn.: Pickwick, 1987, 2nd rev. ed. Waco, Tx.: Baylor University Press, 2005), 290–408 (2nd ed.: 329–462) for his critique of Jervell, see ibid., 334–9 (2nd ed.: 377–81, also 507–8); see also idem, “Studies in Luke-Acts: Retrospect and Prospect,” HTR 88 (1995): 175–96 = idem, Studies in Early Christianity (WUNT 161; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 19–37 (28–32); Karl Loening, “Das Evangelium und die Kulturen: Heilsgeschichte und kulturelle Aspekte kirchlicher Realität in der Apostelgeschichte,” ANRW 2.25.3 (1985), 2604–46, like Jervell clearly


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Israel ‘a people from the Gentiles’ is added (Acts 15:14). Now, after the people of God has been restored, the Gentiles also seek the God of Israel.”13 The continuity between the community of Jesus’ followers and biblical Israel is based on their mutual Torah obedience: “Because the church is Israel now, Torah cannot be abrogated, for it is and remains Israel’s hallmark.”14 Accordingly, Luke is taken by Jervell, and those who follow his interpretation, as the representative of a foundational and comprehensive fidelity to the Torah, for only when “the church fulfils the law” can she assert her claim to be Israel.15 Jervell (and with him many others) maintains: “The church is ruled by the law, and also by the Decree.” Therefore, “one should not deny anymore that the Decree also means the obligation to keep the law.”16 The following contribution is directed against the notion that this is the final word on the matter, in that — based on and initiated by the topic investigated by this symposium of “Jewish Identity in the Greco-Roman World” — an attempt is made to read the Apostolic Decree (so far only on the level of the Book of Acts)17 as an indicator of what is absolutely necessary for Jewish identity in assumes that Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians continued to live as distinct entities within the one church (2619 etc.). 13 Jervell, “Aposteldekret,” 239, cf. 231. 14 Ibid., 239, cf. also 232, n. 29, according to which the obedience to the law is not soteriological but ecclesiological. Whether these can be kept separate is, however, questionable in my opinion. Like Jervell, also Jürgens, Zweierlei Anfang, 131, 133, who wants the particulars of the Decree understood as a “constitutive part of the Gentile Christian existence” for whom the individual decrees “although not redemptively operative (“soterisch”), still are relevant in terms of belonging to the people of God.” But how is such a relevance conceivable in regard to belonging to the people of God, when it is soteriologically inconsequential? Against such a separation, see Markus Bockmuehl, “The Noachide Commandments and New Testament Ethics: With Special Reference to Acts 15 and Pauline Halakhah,” RB 102 (1995): 72–101 = idem, Jewish Law in Gentile Churches: Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics (London: T&T Clark, 2000; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 145–73 (164, n. 86). His position is that the Apostolic Decree has to be understood on the basis of Acts 15:1: It defines what Gentile Christians must do in order to be saved. This is, however, not reconcilable with Acts 15:11 in my opinion. 15 Jervell, “Aposteldekret,” 239; cf. also the final section, 240, which can hardly be topped in terms of its emphasis. Also, idem, Apostelgeschichte, 51, 100–2, etc.; critical of this is Hengel, “Der Jude Paulus und sein Volk,” 351–62. 16 Jervell, “Aposteldekret,” 232 and n. 32, where he provides a long list of those who hold to this ‘right’ position. 17 The historical questions regarding the origin and dissemination of the Apostolic Decree are, as is well known, rather difficult, for they are related to the historicity and dating of the apostolic council, and also to the relationship of Acts 15 to Gal 2. See the detailed material on this issue in Wehnert, Reinheit. For the history of research see: Ralph Hennings, Der Briefwechsel zwischen Augustinus und Hieronymus und ihr Streit um den Kanon des Alten Testaments und die Auslegung von Gal. 2,11–14 (VCSup 21; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 121– 30, 218–91; Andreas Wechsler, Geschichtsbild und Apostelstreit: Eine forschungsgeschichtliche und exegetische Studie über den antiochenischen Zwischenfall (Gal 2,11–14) (BZNW

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the Diaspora — at least from Luke’s perspective. This attempt is further warranted as the Apostolic Decree has not so far been used as a means to describe Jewish identity in the Diaspora.18

1. The Narrative Context of the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:19–29; 16:4; 21:25) I begin with the narrative context of the Book of Acts in which the Apostolic Decree is set. Its triple repetition and prominent position in the middle of the book shows the importance the author of the Book of Acts attaches to it. His work, therefore, has to be read as the first commentary on the Decree, which allows us to see how Luke wants it to be understood.19 In Luke’s presentation the Decree is the result of a discussion among the church leadership in Jerusalem, represented by the brother of the Lord, James, and a delegation from Antioch, represented by Paul and Barnabas, with Peter taking the role of mediator between the two. The place of the discussion is Jerusalem, the occasion a controversy created in the church in Antioch by external — and more precisely Jerusalemite — agitators, who questioned the status of non-Jews who had accepted the new faith in Christ in that church. The claim of these alleged emissaries from Jerusalem (15:1, 5, cf. v. 24: their commissioning is explicitly denied in the letter; “some of our number to whom we gave no instruction”) is that “redemption,” that is, participation in the eschatological salvation and acquittal at the final judgment, is only possible for these Gentile believers if they receive circumcision “according to the custom of Moses” (15:1: τῷ ἔθει τῷ Μωϋσέως), and “keep the law of Moses” (15:5: τηρεῖν τὸν νόμον Μωϋσέως). This maximal demand — that a Gentile wanting to be saved by Jesus also had to be circumcised and accept the yoke of Torah (cf. 15:10), in other words, had to undergo a complete conversion to Judaism — is unanimously rejected in asserting that faith is the 62; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1991); Holger Zeigan, Aposteltreffen in Jerusalem: Eine forschungsgeschichtliche Studie zu Galater 2,1–10 und den möglichen lukanischen Parallelen (ABG 18; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2005). 18 I have only seen the brief comment by John M. G. Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora from Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE–117 CE) (Hellenistic Culture and Society 33; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), 434. 19 The traditional character of the Apostolic Decree, although preserved only in a Lukan fashion, is generally accepted, cf. Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary (Oxford: Blackwell, 1971), 470 (Luke “describes a living tradition which was probably even then traced back to the Apostles”); Gerd Lüdemann, Das frühe Christentum nach den Traditionen der Apostelgeschichte: Ein Kommentar (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1987), 176–7; Wehnert, Reinheit, 63–70, etc.


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only criterion for salvation (15:9, 11: “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are”). 1.1 Cleansing by Faith (15:9) Noteworthy in the context of the Decree is that the formulation in Acts 15:9 concerning the criterion of faith has a halakhic connotation: Through faith God “cleanses” the hearts of Jews and Gentiles,20 whereas the imposing of the “yoke” (of the Torah) after this cleansing constitutes a testing of God (cf. Gal 5:1). God is the subject of the cleansing, and his verdict ought to be recognized for he is the “knower of hearts” (καρδιογνώστης).21 That cleansing (καθαρίζειν) is for Luke a clear reference to Jewish purity rituals is evident in Luke 11:39, Acts 10:14, 11:9 (cf. Luke 2:22). But equally evident is that he relativizes their significance (Luke 11:39, 41; Acts 10:15; 11:9). The most important passage for Luke is doubtless the Cornelius episode (Acts 10:1–11:18), which provides in narrative form, as Günter Wasserberg rightly notes, “the norms that reign over the interpretation of Acts 15.”22 When Peter was attacked by the Jerusalemites because he ate with non-Jews in a non-Jewish house,23 he defends himself by recalling the vision he had 20 Hengel, “Der Jude Paulus und sein Volk,” 362: “a unique word use in the New Testament.” It is possible that this formulation hints at an understanding of circumcision as cleansing, at least for non-Jews who are converting to Judaism. At any rate, the related immersion bath represents a ritual cleansing. Also in Philo, Spec. 1.5, circumcision is understood as cleansing (although more in a hygienic sense) by which the circumcised people are likened to priesthood. That the uncircumcised could be seen as polluting the land of Israel can be deduced from Gen 34:25f.; Jub. 30; T. Levi 6:3–8; Jdt 9:2–4, cf. also 1 Macc 2:46, and Josephus, Ant. 13.257f., 318, see: Otto Betz, “Beschneidung II: Altes Testament, Frühjudentum und Neues Testament,” TRE 5 (1976), 716–22 (717–8). Cf. also Jos. Asen. 11:9: after meeting Joseph, Aseneth feels “stained” when eating sacrificed meat (twice), also in 11:16; 12:5. After her prayer of confession, the ruler of the angels appears to her and announces that she is accepted by God, and she is asked to wash herself with “living water” (14:12, 15). This denotes her renewal and acceptance by God (15:5), so that she can become the wife of Joseph. Thus the available evidence allows the understanding of circumcision and conversion to Judaism as a form of “cleansing.” For an in-depth discussion of all (and many more) mentioned passages, see Andreas Blaschke, Beschneidung: Zeugnisse der Bibel und verwandter Texte (TANZ 28; Tübingen: Francke, 1998); for the replacement of circumcision with baptism, see Friedrich Avemarie, Die Tauferzählungen der Apostelgeschichte (WUNT 139; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), 396. 21 καρδιογνώστης only herein the NT and in the election of Matthias Acts 1:24. 22 Wasserberg, Israels Mitte, 297: Based on the “narrative guiding” (“Erzählführung”) by Luke, Acts 15 is “to be interpreted in light of Acts 10f.” On Wasserberg’s question of whether the regulations of the Apostolic Decree “fall short of Acts 10f.,” (which he answers in the negative), see ibid., 302–3. 23 This is explicitly said in 11:3: “You went to uncircumcised men and you ate with them” (Εἰσῆλθες πρὸς ἄνδρας ἀκροβυστίαν ἔχοντας καὶ συνέφαγες αὐτοῖς), and also

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received shortly before, in which a heavenly voice instructed him to slaughter unclean animals and to eat them (Acts 10:13–15): Stand up, Peter, slaughter and eat! But Peter said: “Not ever, Lord, because I have never eaten anything profane or unclean!” And the voice (said) to him again for a second time: “That which God has cleansed, you do not profane!” Ἀναστάς, Πέτρε, θῦσον καὶ φάγε. ὁ δὲ Πέτρος εἶπεν, Μηδαμῶς, κύριε, ὅτι οὐδέποτε ἔφαγον πᾶν κοινὸν καὶ ἀκάθαρτον. καὶ φωνὴ πάλιν ἐκ δευτέρου πρὸς αὐτόν· ἃ ὁ θεὸς ἐκαθάρισεν, σὺ μὴ κοίνου.

Almost synonymous is the parallel in 11:7–9. Only Peter’s response (though, not God’s request, which is twice ‘quoted’ verbatim) is slightly modified in verse 8: “Not ever, Lord, because never has anything profane or unclean entered into my mouth!” Μηδαμῶς, κύριε, ὅτι [. . .] κοινὸν ἢ ἀκάθαρτον οὐδέποτε εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸ στόμα μου. (difference underlined)

For each of Peter’s three refusals he likewise hears three times: “That which God has cleansed, you do not profane!”24 Thus, at least on the narrative level, presupposed in 10:28 “It is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with or to visit a Gentile” (ἀθέμιτόν ἐστιν ἀνδρὶ Ἰουδαίῳ κολλᾶσθαι ἢ προσέρχεσθαι ἀλλοφύλῳ) and 10:48. That Luke refrained from “even hinting at table fellowship between Peter and Cornelius,” as Wehnert, Reinheit, 77, deduces from this, is completely odd. For an understanding of Acts 10:48; 11:3 that presupposes a table fellowship see: Hans H. Wendt, Kritisch exegetisches Handbuch über die Apostelgeschichte (6th and 7th ed.; KEK 3; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1888), 238–9, 243–4; Otto Bauernfeind, Die Apostelgeschichte (THKNT 5; Leipzig: A. Deichert, 1939), 151 (cf. 145); Adolf Schlatter, Die Apostelgeschichte (Erläuterungen zum Neuen Testament 4; Stuttgart: Calwer, 1962, 1984), 137–8; Jürgen Roloff, Die Apostelgeschichte (NTD 5; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1981), 174–5; Wasserberg, Israels Mitte, 292–5 (see also 284–7); cf. esp. Avemarie, Tauferzählungen, 340–98, who has shown that even in the pre-Lukan tradition “the formal integration of the convert into the Christian fellowship, which in this case finds its immediate continuation in hospitality and table fellowship,” (395) was of great importance and remained so in the Lukan account. On the importance of hospitality and communal eating in early Christian mission, see Eckhard J. Schnabel, Early Christian Mission (2 vols.; Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), 1.716–17. (cf. 1.414–15); Roger W. Gehring, House Church and Mission: The Importance of Household Structures in Early Christianity (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2004). 24 Acts 10:15; 11:9. κοινοῦν appears in the NT only in Mark 7:15–23 par. Matt 15:11– 20, in a passage that is missing in Luke, who, however, compensates for this omission with the Cornelius pericope and offers with it a practical application of what Mark 7:15–23 means. Luke avoids κοινοῦν in his Gospel, but uses it in Acts twice here (10:15 par. 11:9), and once in 21:28 where Paul is accused of having made “unclean” a “holy place,” i.e. the Temple. Otherwise the verb occurs only once more in Heb 9:13, and likewise in the LXX, with 4 Macc 7:6 as the only reference, where it is used for ritual pollution through μιαροφαγία = “the eating of unclean things” (only in 4 Macc). In this verse, the attitude of the old priest Eleazar is praised for his keeping of “goodliness and purity” (θεοσέβεια καὶ καθαρισμός).


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it is clear that for the author of Acts, God explicitly approves, and even more commands, the communal eating of Jews and Gentiles. Likewise God’s “cleansing” (he is twice the subject of καθαρίζειν) lifts the differentiation between clean and unclean animals. While one can assume — although this is not mentioned — that Cornelius did not offer compromising foods to his Jewish guests, the fundamental character of this episode cannot be denied. The question of historicity is also of secondary nature in regard to the narrative function: Luke presents the story to his primary reader, Theophilus, as a factual account and thereby gives it the character of a prequel to the discussions that will lead to the passing of the Apostolic Decree. This is further highlighted in that the speech that Peter gives during the council of the apostles is, in terms of the subject matter, closely related to the Cornelius episode. The foregoing events in Caesarea provide the precedent for the new case, and, again, God is introduced as the subject of the verb καθαρίζειν, this time with the non-Jews as object. In Luke’s presentation, it is God himself who declares the animals that Peter recognizes as unclean, as clean, for he himself has cleansed them. From this Peter is to learn that consequently there can also no longer be any differentiation between clean and unclean people (10:28, see also Luke 15:1f.). And this is then also true vice versa: If the differentiation between clean and unclean is lifted with regard to people through God’s own intervention, it can hardly endure with regard to animals.25 The way this realization has come is clear here: The abandonment of the separation between clean and unclean animals (i.e. the abandonment of at least the respective dietary laws) leads to the abandonment of the separation It is evident, then, that Luke’s purity terminology in Acts 10:15; 11:9 refers precisely to the subject matter of eating unclean food. 25 Cf. Schlatter, Apostelgeschichte, 131; Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles, 80, 82–3; Rudolf Pesch, Die Apostelgeschichte (Apg 1–12) (EKK 5.1; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1986), 346, cf. 339; see also Hermut Löhr, “Speisenfrage und Tora im Judentum des Zweiten Tempels und im entstehenden Christentum,” ZNW 94 (2003): 17–37 (31). On the history of interpretation of this issue and the respective view of the church fathers, see François Bovon, De Vocatione Gentium: Histoire de l’interprétation d’Act 10,1–11,18 dans les six premiers siècles (BGBE 8; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1967). Different, Peter J. Tomson, “Jewish Purity Laws as Viewed by the Church Fathers and by the Early Followers of Jesus,” in Purity and Holiness: The Heritage of Leviticus (ed. Marcel J. H. M. Poorthuis and J. Schwartz; Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series 2; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 73–91 (89): “The disputed issue, the author wishes us to understand, is that Peter entered a Gentile home and ate in it, not that he ate forbidden foods.” The interpretation of the church fathers, however, who saw in this the revocation of the Jewish dietary Torah is in his opinion a “systematic misunderstanding.” I would think, to the contrary, that the church fathers understood Luke here quite correctly, although Luke — and in this Tomson is quite right — did not wish to say that the apostle Peter was intentionally eating unclean foods in Cornelius’s house. For Luke, it is crucial that the dietary laws no longer separate Jews and Christians.

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between clean and unclean people and thus provides the way for a new form of fellowship of Jews and ‘Christians,’ among whom are people from “all nations” (10:35).26 The “word” that was preached to the “children of Israel” as gospel has also been believed (10:43f.; cf. the term λόγος in 10:36, 44; 15:7)27 by “the nations” (τὰ ἔθνη in 10:45 and 15:7), so that it is no longer possible to make distinctions.28 It is the “word” sent by God that “saves” (11:14, cf. 15:11). It is generally known that in the Gospel of Luke the parallel passage to Mark 7:1–23 par. Matt 15:1–20 (see note 24) is missing. But the reason for this is not because Luke is suspicious of the revocation of the purity laws in this passage, as many assume,29 but rather because he deals with this question in Acts, and precisely at the point where the transition from the JewishSamaritan mission to the Gentile mission is taking place. Before the step into the world of the nations becomes possible, the barriers that separate Israel from the Gentile world must be dealt with. In Mark and Matthew, therefore, the story of the Syrophoenician woman, whose faith has won over even Jesus 26 So also H. Hübner, “νόμος,” EDNT 2 (1991), 471–7 (475); Stephen G. Wilson, Luke and the Law (SNTSMS 50; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 73. Wehnert, Reinheit, 74–7, who only wants to understand the vision in regard to the differentiation of clean and unclean people (so also Haenchen, Acts, 361; Jervell, Apostelgeschichte, 305–6, 308–9, 316–7), in contrast even attempts to argue for the adherence to the purity laws: “Are the Gentiles who have been called to faith, who according to Luke’s understanding have been declared as ‘clean’ as Jews, not almost compelled to preserve their newly attained purity through appropriate observance of the Torah, the source of purity for the Jewish people of God?” This question can, against Wehnert, be definitively answered with a clear no. The twice emphasized “slaughter and eat!” (10:13; 11:7) counteracts this, and to assign it to the pre-Lukan tradition, as Wehnert does, is hardly sufficient as explanation. Because even then, one has to explain why Luke integrated the divine command with such emphasis into his own narrative. That Acts 13:38–9 is missing in Wehnert’s scriptural index is, therefore, hardly an accident (he casually mentions it in 73, n. 77). 27 Cf. Bovon, “Law,” 66: “The word of salvation.” 28 Cf. the striking use of διακρίνειν in 10:20; 11:2, 12; 15:9, where it always has to be understood in the sense of “separate,” “distinguish,” “to differentiate by separating,” cf. also Rom 14:23. On the removal of the separation, see also Acts 10:47: the gift of the Holy Spirit was received by the nations ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς, he came on them ὥσπερ καὶ ἐφ᾿ ἡμᾶς (11:15), and, it was given to them καθὼς καὶ ἡμῖν (15:8). They have received τὴν ἴσην δωρεὰν (11:17) and there is no distinction “between them and us” (οὐθὲν διέκρινεν μεταξὺ ἡμῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν 15:9), so that both “were saved in the same way” (πιστεύομεν σωθῆναι καθ᾿ ὃν τρόπον κἀκεῖνοι 15:11). 29 E.g., Wehnert, Reinheit, 81–2: “The regulations of the Apostolic Decree would not have been reconcilable with a Jesus tradition that fundamentally denies the existence of polluting foods (Mark 7:14–23).” So also with further literature B. J. Koet, “Purity and Impurity of the Body in Luke-Acts,” in Purity and Holiness (ed. Marcel J. H. M. Poorthuis and Joshua Schwartz; Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series 2; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 93– 105 (104–5), cf. however Blaschke, Beschneidung, 454; Deines, “Not the Law but the Messiah,” 68–9.


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(Mark 7:24–30 par. Matt 15:21–8), follows the revocation (or at least major qualification) of the purity laws.30 Luke omits these passages apart from a short, but important, remark in the commissioning speech, “eat what they put in front of you,”31 (Luke 10:8: ἐσθίετε τὰ παρατιθέμενα) which anticipates the crossing of the boundaries to the Gentiles within the life of Jesus. This was possible for Luke given that he was planning a second volume in which he could deal with this more extensively. Notably however, the sequence of events in Acts follows exactly the pattern of Mark and Matthew: the revocation of the purity laws, then the first conversion of a Gentile, which clears the path for mission among non-Jews (this two-part structure, first Israel, then the nations, is also quite nicely visible in Acts 11:19f.).32 This, in my opinion, also answers the objection of Roloff, who counters the revocation of the purity laws with the argument that the context gives no reason “for the revocation of the boundary between clean and unclean.”33 The way to the Gentiles could not be traversed without overcoming the foundational separation between Jews and Gentiles, epitomized in the dietary laws, as Lev 20:24–6 explicitly shows in regard to the land Israel (cf. also Deut 14:3–21; Let. Aris. 139–41).34 The distinction between clean and unclean animals is already in the Torah itself an expression of the separation of Israel from the nations, which would no longer exist in the realm of God’s eschatological kingdom and rule (although in doing so the annulment of separation does not imply the removal of any differentiation between Israel and the nations). It is primarily the separating function of the Torah that is lifted, not its character as a special gift to Israel. This is a difficult distinction to maintain for Luke: On the one 30 Also the summary of Mark 7:37 par. Matt 15:29–31 and the subsequent feeding of the 4,000 is located in the area of the Decapolis and is addressed more towards non-Jews (cf. Matt 15:31: the praise of the “God of Israel” is a confession from the mouth of non-Jews). 31 The phrase is missing in the Matthean parallel, and Luke likewise does not have the Matthean restriction only to go to the house of Israel, so there are good reasons to assume that the Lukan addition is indeed meant as a pointer to the revocation of the food purity Halakhah for the sake of missions, as Löhr, “Speisenfrage,” 31–2, convincingly argues. 32 That Acts 10:1–11:18; 15:1–21 was written (or edited) with Mark 7 in mind can be seen by two further indicators: in Mark 7:1 the Pharisees and scribes come from Jerusalem, as also in Acts 15:1, 5 (cf. 11:1f.). In Acts 11:8 (not as strongly in 10:14) Luke has Peter say κοινὸν ἢ ἀκάθαρτον οὐδέποτε εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸ στόμα μου, which is almost precisely the same as in Matt 15:17 (πᾶν τὸ εἰσπορευόμενον εἰς τὸ στόμα [. . .], cf. Mark 7:18: πᾶν τὸ ἔξωθεν εἰσπορευόμενον εἰς τὸν ἄνθρωπον [. . .]). In addition, there is the emphasis on the heart as the actual centre of impurity (Mark 7:19, 21 par. Matt 15:18f., cf. the quote of Isa 29:13 in Mark 7:6 par. Matt 15:8). This corresponds to the acceptance of the Gentiles through the ὁ καρδιογνώστης θεὸς Acts 15:8 (cf. 10:34: οὐκ ἔστιν προσωπολήμπτης ὁ θεός). On this cf. Wasserberg, Israels Mitte, 282, 293. 33 Roloff, Apostelgeschichte, 170. 34 Cf. Beate Ego, “Reinheit und Schöpfung: Zur Begründung der Speisegebote im Buch Leviticus,” ZABR 3 (1997): 131–44 (137–9); Löhr, “Speisenfrage,” 21–2.

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hand, not to negate the Torah as the special hallmark of Israel; and on the other, to clarify and to insist that the Torah should not lead to a segregation within the Church.35 But even beyond the Cornelius episode, Luke presupposes that Jews and non-Jews live and eat together as an integral part of the life of nascent Christianity and the early mission:36 Already in the prelude to Peter visiting Cornelius, he narrates in Acts 10:23 how Peter called Cornelius’ messengers into the house and “lodged” them. This initially means no more than that he offered them food and drink, and that he let them sleep in the house. But it also presupposes that Jews and non-Jews had fellowship around the table in a Jewish house and with a Jewish host. Also, Luke presupposes Jesus’ example in the case of Peter with regard to ritual impurity: In Acts 9:39f., Peter does not hesitate in entering the room of a deceased person (Tabitha) and consequently from becoming ritually unclean, just like Jesus (cf. Mark 5:41). But does Luke intend the reader to assume that Jesus or Peter subsequently underwent the seven-day cleansing ritual with the ash of a red heifer as prescribed in the Torah (Num 19)? Moreover, it is often pointed out that Peter stayed with a tanner (9:43; 10:6, 32: the triple accentuation of the host’s vocation is striking). This trade, because of its constant contact with the corpses of animals, was at the least “despised,” as the continuous handling of dead bodies made one unclean.37 Luke frequently testifies to such close relationships between Jews and Gentiles after the council of the apostles as well: Lydia (who is called a “God-fearer”) invites Paul and his co-workers to stay in her house (Acts 16:15). She explains her invitation with the words: “If you consider me to be a believer in the Lord, enter into my house and stay” (εἰ κεκρίκατέ με πιστὴν τῷ κυρίῳ εἶναι, εἰσελθόντες εἰς τὸν οἶκόν μου μένετε). That is, faith is almost a prerequisite for table fellowship. Acts 16:34 is also striking in this respect: Luke reports about the jailor in whose prison Paul and Silas 35

Cf. Bovon, “Law,” 61, 68–73; in addition also Matthias Klinghardt, Gesetz und Volk Gottes: Das lukanische Verständnis des Gesetzes nach Herkunft, Funktion und seinem Ort in der Geschichte des Urchristentums (WUNT 2.32; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1988). 36 Cf. e.g. Christoph W. Stenschke, Luke’s Portrait of Gentiles Prior to the Their Coming to Faith (WUNT 2.108; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1999), 372–4; John P. Heil, The Meal Scenes in Luke-Acts: An Audience-oriented Approach (SBLMS; Atlanta: SBL, 1999). 37 Wasserberg, Israels Mitte, 280, 304 (with further references, 280). On this see also Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus: An Investigation into Economic and Social Conditions during the New Testament Period (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969) 5–6, 310 (on m. Ketub. 7:10; t. Ketub. 7:11 [ed. M. S. Zuckermandel 269:27]; b. Qidd. 82a/b), who notes that tanning, though not immoral or sinful per se, “was repugnant because of the smell,” and under “the suspicion of immorality” (310) as the trade implied frequent contact with women. Further references in Str-B 2:695. According to m. B. Bat. 2:9, tanneries were not to be within city premises. Jervell, Apostelgeschichte, 297–9, seeks to mitigate this issue with the remark that it is not known “if this perception also existed during the time of Luke.”


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are kept, and who subsequently experiences a kind of spontaneous conversion, that, “he brought them into his house and set [food] before them, and he rejoiced greatly that he had come to believe in God, together with his entire household.”38 Also, the so-called third missionary journey, which ends in the journey to Jerusalem,39 — and, in fact, the entire Pauline missionary endeavour — presupposes the communal living of the various co-workers and travel companions of Paul with the Christians in the individual churches that they visited on their way. The last journey to Jerusalem is part of Acts’ first-person (“we”) report and includes a variety of details that imply the presence of Luke as a member of the travelling group. But Luke is far from being Paul’s only travel companion. In Acts 20:4 a whole list appears of those who left Macedonia together with Paul as co-workers in the collection for Jerusalem: Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea,40 Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, and Timothy, as well as Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. To this is then added the “we-group” of 20:5, which is, besides Paul, probably Luke, Titus, and possibly further representatives of the churches of Philippi and Corinth, not mentioned before this point. That is, the group consists of at least nine persons, including Paul, though others assume at least thirteen persons.41 This group is clearly made up of Jewish and Gentile Christians, even if we are not able to prove the ethnic origin of each individual in the list. We can, however, safely assume that Trophimus of Ephesus (cf. Acts 21:29) is of non-Jewish descent, so too Titus, and probably Luke himself. By cross-referencing Pauline material, this travel group can be seen to comprise predominantly representatives of the churches who have given to the collection for Jerusalem. If so (cf. Paul’s apprehensions in Rom 15:31), they would have been mostly Gentile Christians. This group itself, then, and their travelling together, is an impressive example of the close communal living of Jewish and Gentile Christians. After arriving in Israel they first spent some days in Caesarea with the evangelist Philip, one of the seven (Acts 21:8, cf. 6:5; 8:4–6, 26–40), and then went in the company of more Christians up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. Thus, the group ultimately consisted of at least a dozen, but probably more — 38

ἀναγαγών τε αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν οἶκον παρέθηκεν τράπεζαν καὶ ἠγαλλιάσατο πανοικεὶ πεπιστευκὼς τῷ θεῷ. Cf. Acts 2:46: The church in Jerusalem celebrated the breaking of bread together in their houses and shared communal meals with rejoicing (μετελάμβανον τροφῆς ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει), that is, the same stem as in Acts 16:34 is used here, which is striking, especially since the verb, and likewise the noun, are rare in the NT. 39 On this cf. Byong-Mo Kim, Die paulinische Kollekte (TANZ 38; Tübingen: Francke, 2002). 40 Possibly identical with the Sosipater mentioned in Rom 16:21, cf. Wolf-Henning Ollrog, Paulus und seine Mitarbeiter (WMANT 50; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1979), 58. In this case he would be a Jewish Christian. 41 See Ollrog, Paulus, 57.

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up to twenty people. They lodged in the house of Mnason of Cyprus, a “disciple from the earliest times” (21:16: συνῆλθον δὲ καὶ τῶν μαθητῶν ἀπὸ Καισαρείας σὺν ἡμῖν, ἄγοντες παρ᾿ ᾧ ξενισθῶμεν42 Μνάσωνί τινι Κυπρίῳ, ἀρχαίῳ μαθητῇ). This communal lodging in the house of a longstanding, reputable, Christian shows that in Jerusalem at that time, table fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians was possible — though it might have been watched with suspicion by the Jewish zealots in the city. I would imagine that Mnason — like Simon of Cyrene — owned a kind of villa rustica in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem, which would have had space for such a large group and where they could have stayed somewhat out of sight. This kind of rather en passant remark by Luke should be considered more carefully than is currently the case in order to understand his ecclesiology better.43 Finally, that for Luke the mission to the Gentiles is not bound to the Torah can also be seen in Acts 13:38–9: The resurrection of Jesus is God’s sign of approval that forgiveness of sins can be received in the name of Jesus (“Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the law of Moses;” cf. Acts 4:10–12). While it was impossible for the Torah to make one righteous, everyone who believed in Jesus would be made righteous. It is within these narrative specifications that Luke’s view of the Apostolic Decree has to be understood. Already from the narrative context then it appears impossible to see in it a recourse to or reintroduction of salvifically necessary Torah regulations.44 The solution must be found somewhere else. 42 The verb ξενίζω is used by Luke in Acts to describe how Christians stay as guests in the houses of people who are supportive or interested, but not (yet) identified as believers. See here: Acts 10:6, 18, 32 (Peter in Joppa in the house of Simon the tanner); 10:23 (Cornelius’s invitation of Peter to stay as his guest); 28:7 (Publius lodges the shipwrecked in Malta). 43 Cf. the, in my opinion, strongly distorted depiction in Loening, “Evangelium,” 2619– 21, who describes the table fellowship in Cornelius’s house as a “singular, temporary contact,” “for which heaven has granted a [special] dispensation” (2620). 44 Klinghardt differs here, Gesetz, 97–114 (on Acts 15:10–11 and 13:38–39): In his opinion, Jews and Gentiles are indeed in the same situation when it comes to the lack of purity (Acts 15:10), but this is not true in regard to the obligation of the law which remains in place in its totality for Jews, whereas it applies to Gentiles in the form of the Apostolic Decree (cf. 156–224). According to Klinghardt, nothing is mentioned in 13:38–39 about the “function or ability of the law,” rather it is expressed here “that the Torah for Jews is insufficient as criteria of belonging to the people of God, that is, for salvation, unless conversion is added to it” (114). Thus, the resurrection of Jesus means a turn in salvation history, which necessitates new obligations. He argues that the law, albeit in a modified form, remains valid for the eschatological community of faith consisting of Jews and Gentiles (cf. 306–10). For a critique of this position see Merkel, “Gesetz,” 127.


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1.2 The Position of James: Halakhah based on Moses or Spirit-authorized Rules of Conduct? After Peter — in agreement with the overall thrust of Acts — has answered the question of how one is saved without making reference to the Torah,45 James, the brother of Jesus, states his position. Incipiently, he acknowledges that God has looked favourably upon (ἐπισκέπτεσθαι) those beyond Israel, “to take from among the Gentiles a people for his name” (15:14: ὁ θεὸς ἐπεσκέψατο λαβεῖν ἐξ ἐθνῶν λαὸν τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ). While in Luke’s gospel ἐπισκέπτομαι with λαός as referent is always related to Israel, here the regular Lukan description of Israel as λαός is used in a unique way46 for the church composed of Gentiles.47 What Peter, Paul, and Barnabas had reported about their experiences of the Spirit and the displays of God’s mighty acts, Luke lets James qualify as God’s own election. Thus, the — uncircumcised — Christians are recognized as “God’s people.” And, moreover, it is James who not only expresses their formal acceptance but also sets this event into the greater context of Israel’s eschatological expectations, in particular the promise to David (Amos 9:11 LXX). According to this promise God would rebuild the ruined tent of David so that the rest of humanity, who in the parallelism are referred to as “all nations on whom the name of the Lord has been called” (καὶ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη ἐφ᾿ οὓς ἐπικέκληται τὸ ὄνομά μου ἐπ᾿ αὐτούς), would seek after the Lord. Thus, experience and Scripture together testify that the house God rebuilds for David also shelters “those who remain” of the nations next to the remnant of the one people.48 This is then endorsed through the final allusion to Isa 45:21 as God’s plan from ancient times.49 James then concludes (v. 19: διὸ ἐγὼ κρίνω [. . .], cf. 21:25: 45

See also Bovon, “Law,” 65: “The road that leads to salvation does not go through the

law.” 46 Only in Acts 18:10 is λαός used again for the Corinthian church without, however, distinguishing Jews and Gentiles. From the narrated story it is clear, however, that the “people” of God in Corinth were made up of both parties. In Acts 26:17, 23 Paul reports of his calling to minister to the people (λαός) and the Gentiles. 47 Of the 48 occurrences of λαός in Acts, 45 refer to Israel. One has to distinguish, however, between an unspecific use, where the word designates a larger group of people that belong to Israel (e.g. 2:47; 3:9, 11 etc., where even with the qualification of πᾶς it is clear that only a part is meant, which, however, is representative of the ‘whole’ nation), and those passages where the addition of “Israel” make this link definite (4:10, 27 [= the only plural use for Israel]; 13:17, 24 cf. also 12:11: “Jewish People”). Related to non-Jewish peoples, one can find the plural once in parallelism with ἔθνη in an OT quote (Acts 4:25, citing Ps 2:1 LXX); furthermore, in Acts 5:37 the word is used to describe the followers of Judas the Galilean. 48 Cf. Amos 9:9–10. The proclamation of salvation over the ruined house of David is preceded by the announcement of judgment (and with it a separation within Israel). 49 Isa 45:22 likewise has a universal scope.

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κρίναντες)50 from God’s promises to Israel which had now also resulted in the nations being brought under the dominion of God, that those who turn to the God of Israel from among the nations should not be further troubled (μὴ παρενοχλεῖν). By using παρενοχλεῖν Luke does not employ a halakhic term (in contrast to 15:1, 5), but rather it is an expression that designates something annoying or troublesome, something that is undesirable to encounter.51 Bauer–Aland translates this hapax legomenon in the New Testament as “to trouble, upset, annoy.”52 It is more common in the LXX.53 It is also found occasionally in Jewish tomb inscriptions and refers there to the disturbance of the rest of the deceased.54 More helpful for our context is the letter exchange reported in 50

Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 31; New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998), 556, emphasizes that the verb is not expressing a formal legal decision, but an “opinion” derived from Scripture. Cf. also the use in Acts 13:46; 16:15; 25:25; 26:8. 51 παρενοχλεῖν: The double composite is a hapax legomenon in the NT, the simplex ὀχλεῖν occurs only in Acts 5:16, the composite ἐνοχλεῖν only in Luke 6:18 and Heb 12:15. In both Lukan occurrences it refers to being harassed by demons, in Hebrews to becoming bitter, which is to be avoided as being harmful to oneself. In the context of these parallels nowhere do we deal with laws or halakhic matters, but rather something that afflicts and impairs. 52 BDAG, 775. 53 Cf. Johan Lust, Erik Eynikel, and Katrin Hauspie, Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (rev. ed.; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2003), 470: “to trouble, to annoy.” None of the 16 occurrences has a halakhic context: Judg 14:17; 16:16; 1 Sam 28:15; Ps 35 (LXX 34):13; Job 16:3; Mic 6:3; Jer 46 (LXX 26):27; Dan 3:50; 6:19, 24; 1 Macc 10:35, 63; 12:14; 2 Macc 11:31. Mic 6:3 is especially important: God asks the people (λαός) with what he has burdened them (within a sequence of three verbs: “what have I done to you, or how have I grieved you, or how have I troubled you?) and then points to the Exodus from Egypt and the protection on their journey to the land. The (laws of) offerings are then mentioned as a possible response by the people, only to be explicitly rejected (6:6f.), indicating that the “troubling” does not imply the imposing of specific commandments. The verb does not occur in Philo, but the noun παρενόχλημα is used three times: Philo, Mos. 1.30, Flacc. 14, Legat. 94; cf. also ἐνοχλέω in Philo, Ebr. 180, Mos. 2.24, Spec. 1:336 (ὀχλέω does not occur at all). In Philo, Mos. 2.24, eating and drinking encumber the devotion in worship (as reason for fasting during Yom Kippur), but the laws themselves are not said to be burdensome. 54 Walter Ameling, Inscriptions Judaicae Orientis vol. II: Kleinasien (TSAJ 99; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), numbers 233 (Cilicia, second/third century) and 238 (Cilicia, third century). Cf. also G. H. R. Horsley, “Minor Philological Notes 77: παρενοχλέω,” in New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity 4 (North Ryde, NSW: Macquarie University, 1987), 166–7. Cf. also Markus Öhler, Barnabas: Die historische Person und ihre Rezeption in der Apostelgeschichte (WUNT 156; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 411, n. 96. Jervell, in his commentary, did not consider this lexeme at all (ibid., 396). According to him, the Gentile Christians are, indeed, not “burdened,” by which he means “circumcision and with it the sum of the laws of Torah.” This, however, does not imply “liberty from the law,” but “concerns the living together of Jews and Gentiles, which implies that the Gentiles were


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2 Macc 11:22–33, which seeks to appease the insurgents in Judea (v. 23). The Seleucid king concedes that the Jews can live according to their own way of life and rules. In a second letter to the official in charge, this royal wish is then made into an order. Finally, it is mentioned that nobody is to be retroactively charged for something done unwittingly (“. . . and none of them shall be troubled in any way for errors made through ignorance” — καὶ οὐδεὶς αὐτῶν κατ’ οὐδένα τρόπον παρενοχλεῖν). The terminology shows various similarities to Acts 15:19–29. The negation of παρενοχλεῖν denotes here, as often in official writings, the explicit release from a judicial obligation and the related hassles, cf. 1 Macc 10:35, 63; Josephus, Ant. 14.230 (διενοχλεῖν); 16.170. And this is how it is also to be understood in Acts 15:19: There is no subsequent obligation towards Torah, and what is positively demanded stands in a different context. Nevertheless, James’s introductory remarks are followed by a “but,” which is a ‘but rather’ and not meant in the sense of a ‘stark contrast’ to what has been said. Instead it describes the related ‘inner consequence.’55 Thus, instead of further trouble, or subsequent legal obligations, James’s recommendation is to send a letter to the Gentile Christians56 to prompt them to abstain in a variety of ways (NRSV: “to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood;” τοῦ ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν ἀλισγημάτων τῶν εἰδώλων καὶ τῆς πορνείας καὶ τοῦ πνικτοῦ καὶ τοῦ αἵματος).57 These four instructions remain here, and in two obligated to keep some of the laws, but not the Law in toto.” As demonstrated, the use of παρενοχλεῖν does not support this understanding. 55 See Ernst Baasland, “Rhetorischer Kontext in Apg 15:13–21: Statuslehre und die Actareden,” in Texts and Contexts: Biblical Texts in Their Textual and Situations (FS Lars Hartman; ed. Tord Fornberg; David Hellholm; Oslo: Scandinavian University Press, 1995), 191–226 (216). On ἀλλά “as particle of a sharp contrast,” see Ernst G. Hoffmann, and Heinrich von Siebenthal, Griechische Grammatik zum Neuen Testament (Riehen: Immanuel, 1990), § 252, 1. 56 ἐπιστέλλειν: “to send sth. or sb. to instruct by letter” or “inform by letter.” In the NT the verb is always related to letter writing: Acts 15:20; 21:25; Heb 13:22. Though the respective letters call for a certain behaviour, they are not orders, cf. C. K. Barrett, The Acts of the Apostles (ICC; 2 vols.; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998), 2.730. 57 I will not deal with the much-debated text-critical problem of whether the ‘cultic’ sequence of four or the ‘moral’ sequence of three of the so-called western text is original. I will rather assume the sequence of four as the original version, following the majority of interpreters and text-critics; for a survey, see Werner G. Kümmel, “Die älteste Form des Aposteldekrets,” in Spiritus et Veritas (FS Karlis Kundzins; ed. A. Ernstsons; San Francisco: Ernstsons, 1953), 83–98, = idem, Heilsgeschehen und Geschichte: Gesammelte Aufsätze 1933–1964 (MThSt 3; Marburg: Elwert, 1965), 278–88; Wehnert, Reinheit, 25–9; Peter Head, “Acts and the Problem of Its Texts,” in The Book of Acts in Its Ancient Literary Setting (ed. Bruce W. Winter and Andrew D. Clarke; The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting 1; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; 1993), 415–44 (on the Decree, 438–42); Christopher Tuckett, “How early is the ‘Western’ Text of Acts,” in The Book of Acts as Church History: Text,

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further passages where they appear with little variation (15:29; 21:25), without further elaboration. Yet, there follows in 15:21 (and only here) a final rationale, which includes the motivation for this suggestion: “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him,58 since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”59 The understanding of the Apostolic Decree depends heavily on the interpretation of this verse that, almost proverbially, is one of “the most difficult of the New Testament” (so Martin Dibelius, and since then often quoted), which is also why we will begin with it here. Firstly, it is debated which element of James’s previous speech is to be supported by this (vv. 16–18; v. 19; or v. 20?), and furthermore, which position in understanding the Apostolic Decree is substantiated by it.60 Even when taking the majority view that v. 21 provides the reason for the instructions given in v. 20, one still has to ask what this means in terms of the understanding of the Apostolic Decree. For Jervell, the relationship is clear-cut and simple: “V. 21 gives the reason for v. 20; the law is the reason for the Decree. The Decree is necessary because the law demands it.”61 The reference to Moses thereby gives the physical place where the command can be found, that is, the Decree is more or less to be understood as a summary of the passages in the Torah that deal Textual Traditions and Ancient Interpretations — Apostelgeschichte als Kirchengeschichte: Text, Texttradition und antike Auslegung (ed. Tobias Nicklas and Michael Tilly; BZNW 120; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2003), 69–86 (84–5). For those who hold the moral version as original, see Müller, Tora, 141–5. 58 Μωϋσῆς γὰρ ἐκ γενεῶν ἀρχαίων κατὰ πόλιν τοὺς κηρύσσοντας αὐτὸν ἔχει [. . .] (see next note for the continuation). On Moses “preaching,” see Gal 5:11: “to preach circumcision.” 59 ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς κατὰ πᾶν σάββατον ἀναγινωσκόμενος. Cf. Acts 13:27 (the sermon in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch): καὶ τὰς φωνὰς τῶν προφητῶν τὰς κατὰ πᾶν σάββατον ἀναγινωσκομένας (cf. also 18:4). In other places Luke also uses ἀναγινώσκειν in relationship to the synagogue: Luke 4:16, 6:3; 10:26, cf. also Acts 8:28–32. On the reading of Moses in the synagogue on the Sabbath, see Philo, Spec. 2.62–64; Josephus, C. Ap. 2.175, 282. On the Lukan use of the word, see Wehnert, Reinheit, 46. 60 For an overview of the different positions, see Barrett, Acts, 2.737–8; Öhler, Barnabas, 414–5. Older literature can be found in Wendt, Apostelgeschichte, 341–2; Daniel R. Schwartz, “The Futility of Preaching Moses (Acts 15:21),” Biblica 67 (1986): 276–81 (276– 7). For v. 20 as the most obvious and natural reference, see Conzelmann, Acts, 120; Haenchen, Acts, 450; Schwartz, “Futility.” It was further considered to link v. 21 to v. 19, but that would make James say here: there are enough who preach Moses, nothing needs to be added to this (v. 20 is then also occasionally taken to be secondary), cf. the discussion in ibid., 278–9 and n. 17. A third suggestion was to see in v. 21 a reference to the quote in Amos 9:16f. (see ibid., 277 and n. 5), in that the calling out of God’s name over all peoples occurs by way of the preaching in the synagogues. But Haenchen is right to ask here: “But what reader would have hit upon this meaning?” (Haenchen, Acts, 450, n.1). 61 Jervell, “Aposteldekret,” 231; cf. idem, Apostelgeschichte, 399; similar Wehnert, Reinheit, 211.


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with those Gentiles who want to live with the people, or in the land, of Israel. For Jervell, and many others, the primary biblical reference text is Lev 17f., since this passage on the purity of God’s people also includes explicit obligations for those resident aliens who live among them (see below). A further possibility considered is whether or not the entire Torah was (or is during the time of Luke) made known to the Christians by means of the synagogue service (especially when one takes the former God-fearers as possible addressees), so that the Decree recalled only those laws that are especially important for the Gentiles living among Israel.62 However: “If James’s commands had already been given in the Torah, then a letter to Gentile Christians would not have been necessary, one could have directly pointed to the Torah.”63 Following an interpretation of J. K. L. Gieseler in the early nineteenth century, Schwartz interprets v. 21 with reference to what he considers the Torahcritical tendency of the Book of Acts as a rejection of any kind of legal demand, since experience had shown that even the Jews — for Luke explicitly in Acts 7:53 and 13:38 — could not keep the Torah, although they heard it taught week by week: James means only that since long and widespread Jewish experience shows that Gentiles will not (by and large) accept Mosaic law, a Christian attempt to impose it upon Gentiles (whether already converted or contemplating it) would be futile. Thus, without stating that the conservatives [= the Jewish-Christian group behind 15:1, 5] are wrong in principle, he dismisses their demand by appealing to practical experience.64

Unfortunately, Schwartz does not deal with the issue of the content of the Decree. For if one follows his view, it would be necessary to explain how such a negative perspective on the Gentiles’ ability to adhere to the Torah could serve as a reason to heed the Decree. Of course, one could argue in favour of Schwartz: though the Gentiles do not keep Torah, at least these four simple commands are reasonable. But likewise it could be argued: If they cannot (or do not want to) keep Torah, how and why would it be any different with this Decree? 62

So Barrett, Acts, 2:737. Öhler, Barnabas, 415. Also Acts 15:28 (the Holy Spirit as the instigator of this course of action) hardly fits with a quasi ‘ancient’ command already given in the Torah. But this is precisely what Jervell maintains, “Aposteldekret,” 238: “There is nothing new given by James or the apostles (15:19, 23; 21:25).” 64 Schwartz, “Futility,” 279; agreeing with him, Fitzmyer, Acts, 558. I deem Schwartz’s remark important whereby in the only other place in Acts where a regular reading during the Sabbath is mentioned (13:27, see note 59), “the point is the same: despite regular reading, its message still had no effect on the audience” (280). In other words, inefficacy is presupposed there also. This fits with Luke 16:29–31, where “Moses and the prophets” likewise are heard, but this does not lead to any form of repentance, see Deines, Gerechtigkeit, 344, n. 695. 63

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Therefore I want to offer an alternative for understanding v. 21 in the sense of giving a positive reason. The starting point for this is those people mentioned in v. 19 “from the nations, who have turned to God.” These are precisely those who do not know Moses; in other words, they are not like Cornelius who stood in contact with the synagogue before becoming a Christian. Rather, they had only come into contact with the Jewish world through their conversion.65 It is exactly their unfamiliarity with Jewish things that makes them so susceptible to becoming unsettled by such matters as seen in 15:1, 5, 24.66 Since this unsettledness comes in the wake of referring to Moses (15:1, 5), Moses is also mentioned in the reassurance of their salvation (cf. 15:9–11, 24f. and the μὴ παρενοχλεῖν in v. 19). However, with this the Christians are not referred to Moses; instead, it is explained to them that the four rules of conduct are given with regard to those who regularly hear Moses.67 The causal conjunction γάρ can then be seen as relating to v. 20, and thus also as justification for the stipulations of the Decree. It is further assumed in the Decree that the Mosaic Torah was known in the Diaspora and was normative in its ‘proclamation.’ But this can only be applicable for those who were Jews and those who went regularly to synagogue! Yet, this is the group with which newly converted Gentile Christians were to come into closer (albeit perhaps more often indirect) contact in the future due to their conversion,68 so that it became necessary to find a kind of modus vivendi that addressed the needs of both sides in this historically completely new situation. 65 This could also explain (again, for the moment only on the narrative level of Acts), why, after the Cornelius episode and the decisions made in it, it was felt necessary once more to present a foundational decision after the first missionary journey. The way to the Gentiles went from the god-fearers and sympathizers, step by step and with some hesitation, to those who had never been within the sphere of influence of the synagogue. Cf. Avemarie, Tauferzählungen, 393, who likewise points out that Acts 15 deals with “problems that came in the wake of the ecclesial integration of Gentile Christians.” 66 Similarly argues Martina Böhm, “Abraham und die Erzväter bei Philo: Überlegungen zur Exegese und Hermeneutik im frühen Judentum,” in Philo und das Neue Testament: Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen (ed. Roland Deines and Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr; WUNT 172; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 377–95 (394), with regard to the opponents of Paul in Galatia, who, according to her, used the relative ignorance of the newly-converted Christians in matters of the Jewish Law for their own purposes. 67 So also, although with a different rationale, Loening, “Evangelium,” 2626; Öhler, Barnabas, 415–16, who concretely thinks of the synagogues in Asia Minor to which Gentile Christians had no access (anymore). 68 I am presupposing here that at that time in the Diaspora Jews and Jewish Christians were not yet separated, but continued to form together the body of the Jewish ethnos with its rich variety of social and professional interactions. The parting of Judaism and Christianity, as with that of Jews and Jewish Christians, was more hesitant and probably also much less radical than many have assumed; on this, see Adam H. Becker and Annette Yosiko Reed, eds., The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (TSAJ 95; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003).


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The Decree, in my opinion, achieves two things: (1) The concerns of the believing Pharisees, who are behind the initial demand for circumcision, are in some sense respected, because they hear Moses every week and feel obligated by this,69 and yet (2) what counts is not Moses, but the procedures determined by the Spirit and the apostolic leaders. From this it follows — in accordance with the ‘tendency’ of the Book of Acts to portray Christians (whether of Jewish or of Gentile background) as respecting genuine Jewish issues (cf. 16:3, the circumcision of Timothy)70 — that v. 21 explains the concessions made to Jewish, and possibly also stricter Jewish-Christian, sensitivities. In other words, because Jews in the Diaspora knew the Torah, and the Torah had normative significance for the Jewish selfunderstanding, the “believers from the nations” (cf. 15:23 in the letter prescript) are to refrain from the things mentioned, in order not to disturb the communal life of the Christian Church, and also of the whole Jewish community any more than is absolutely necessary.71 69

That is, James indeed acts here in a mediating function, cf. Schlatter, Apostelgeschichte, 190; Schwartz, “Futility,” 279, and n. 20; Wehnert, Reinheit, 72–3, 81, etc. on the irenic attitude of Luke or the Book of Acts, which seeks to prevent the embarrassment of one of the Christian parties. 70 On this, see esp. Walter Schmithals, Paulus und Jakobus (FRLANT 85; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963), 77–80: The circumcision of Timothy was necessary, on the one hand, in the interest of preserving the fellowship of Jewish and Gentile Christians, and on the other hand to prevent the straining of relationships between Jews and Jewish Christians that would result from the (new and close) relationship of Jewish Christians with Gentile Christians. He further points out that circumcision meant “first of all the incorporation into the Jewish people” (79), which was especially true for the Diaspora; cf. also Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer, Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: The Unknown Years (trans. John Bowden; London: SCM, 1997), who likewise see in this a historical event, which was possible as long as it was clear that “the ritual law was not a further presupposition of salvation” (197 [the German edition, Paulus zwischen Damaskus und Antiochien: Die unbekannten Jahre des Apostels [WUNT 108; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998] is here much more elaborate, see 302–3]). Hengel and Schwemer, therefore, attributed to Paul the attitude that circumcision was tolerable as individual or ethnic custom; similarly also Blaschke, Beschneidung, 460–4, whereas Haenchen differs vigorously, attributing this considerateness in 16:3 to Luke, but otherwise holding this to be utterly incompatible with Paul’s position (Acts, 478–81, he is followed by Gottfried Schille, Die Apostelgeschichte des Lukas (ThHK 5; Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1983), 333; and also, though less abrasively, Roloff, Apostelgeschichte, 240. 71 This position is not new, but seldom stressed in recent times, cf. Conzelmann, Acts, 119 (the Decree could have been issued “due to the binding of the Jewish [Christians] to the well-known Law of ‘Moses’”); similarly Roloff, Apostelgeschichte, 233 (but likewise in rather unclear wording); Merkel, “Gesetz,” 127–8; for older representatives of this position, see Wendt, Apostelgeschichte, 341, Schwartz, “Futility,” 278, and n. 11; this understanding is already extensively argued by John Lightfoot, “Hebrew and Talmudic Exercitations upon the Acts of the Apostles,” in A Commentary in the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (orig. 1684; 4 vols.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1859; reprint Peabody, Mass.:

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What was mentioned in regard to v. 11 has to be kept in mind as well, namely that on the literary level of the Book of Acts the only requirement to be saved, for Jewish Christians as for Gentile Christians, is faith, and that both groups together form God’s people in the end times (v. 15f.). Thus, also on the narrated level the Apostolic Decree has no soteriological importance for Christians.72 The behaviour that is requested from Christians without a Jewish background is primarily formulated with regard to the preaching of Moses in the synagogues in the Diaspora73 (that Moses is preached in Israel needs no substantiation), but not with regard to the salvation of Gentiles. This too follows from the authorization of the Decree in the introduction and ending of the letter, which calls for a concrete behavioural response, but neither in the sense of a requirement that is necessary for salvation (Acts 15:1), nor in the sense of a binding regulation (Halakhah) authorized by Torah:74 “therefore I decree” (διὸ ἐγὼ κρίνω; James in Acts 15:19); “for it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (15:28: ἔδοξεν γὰρ τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ καὶ ἡμῖν; cf. 15:25: ἔδοξεν ἡμῖν);75 and “we [. . .] having decreed” ἡμεῖς [. . .] κρίναντες 21:25). The Decree is exclusively issued by the “apostles and elders” (15:23) and is not legitimized with the Torah, as is also the case with the decision against circumcision on account of the “words of the prophets” (15:15).

Hendrickson, 1989), 4.5–153 (129): “[. . .] that the converted Gentiles might not give offence to the Jews if they should not abstain from all these things,” cf. 131: the Gentile Christians were permitted “to judaize in some things for peace’ sake,” 132–3: “These I suppose were forbidden the Gentile converts for the sake of the Jews, and by way of condescension, that they might not take offence.” 72 See note 14. The reception of the Apostolic Decree in the Jewish-Christian tradition of the Pseudo-Clementines, as delineated by Wehnert (Reinheit, 145–85), is in my opinion a later attempt to reintroduce at least some Torah commands as soteriologically relevant on the basis of the these regulations, and accordingly to demand a comprehensive kosher lifestyle also from Gentile Christians. Thus, the compromising middle line position of the Decree was not accepted by the later Gentile-Christian majority, nor by the anti-Pauline Jewish Christian minority. 73 The typical Lukan expression κατὰ πόλιν (Luke 8:1, 4; 9:6 [κατὰ τάς κώμας]; 13:22 [plural]; Acts 15:36; 20:23; cf. also 24:12 [referring to Jerusalem] and Titus 1:5) refers in the Gospel to the whole land of Israel (in Luke 8:39 it designates the area of the Decapolis, cf. Mark 5:20), and in Acts to the territory of Paul’s ministry. The expression might imply a certain sense of unity between the Jewish community in the motherland and the Diaspora, which would correspond to the historical situation and also the Lukan perception. The stark contrast between Israel and the non-Jewish countries, as expressed in Matt 10:5; 15:24, finds no correspondence in Luke’s depiction. 74 See above notes 51–4 on παρενοχλεῖν. 75 Although the term δόγματα is usually used by Luke for imperial edicts (Luke 2:1; Acts 17:7), in 16:4 it clearly refers to the decision resulting from the δοκεῖν of those assembled in Jerusalem.


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A similar argument can be made for the verb ἀπέχεσθαι76 in v. 20 (cf. 15:29), which is used with regard to the demands of the Decree. Instead of being used for a legal obligation, it rather describes the right behaviour that results from proper discernment. The best passage in the New Testament for understanding its usage here is, in my opinion, 1 Thess 4:1–3: There also we have an admonition of “how one ought to walk” (πῶς δεῖ ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν) in reference to Jesus as the kyrios, and this includes heeding the παραγγελία that Paul has given to the Church. In accordance with God’s desire for sanctification, this includes “to abstain from porneia” (v. 3: Τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, ὁ ἁγιασμὸς ὑμῶν, ἀπέχεσθαι ὑμᾶς ἀπὸ τῆς πορνείας). Thus, like in Acts 15:20, the call to refrain comes in the context of a binding behavioural demand for which the underlying reason is unmistakably Christian. Also, in 1 Thess 5:22 the request “Abstain from every form of evil” (ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ ἀπέχεσθε) is part of the description of God’s desire for sanctification (cf. 5:18, 23).77 This admonition is motivated by referring to the “Gentiles,” or to those “outside” (4:5, 12); thus, in both texts the external effect of the Christian Church is a major concern. Where Paul can be said to be considerate with regard to the Gentile context, Luke does the same with regard to the Jewish milieu (cf. 1 Cor 10:32, where in the context of discussing meat sacrificed to idols it is Paul who asks for behaviour that gives “no offence either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the Church of God”). The assembly agrees with James’s verdict, and a letter is written to the “believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia” (v. 23). In its introduction, the initial situation and occasion for the letter are described once more, in that the illegitimate and nameless envoys from Jerusalem are juxtaposed with those now formally commissioned delegates, who are properly named and introduced. Then the specific decrees are repeated, once again, with an introduction that makes clear that they are not “an additional burden.” Instead of referring to the reading of Moses in the synagogues as the underlying reason, the recipients of the letter are given a kind of self-motivating incentive with

76 ἀπέχεσθαι “to abstain,” in Acts only here and in the repetition in v. 29; in Luke, except 6:24 (“receive,” cf. Matt 6:2, 5, 16; Phil 4:18; Philemon 15) always in the sense of “being at some [geographical] distance from” (7:6: 15:20; 24:13). On the usage in Acts, see Baasland, “Kontext,” 216; different Wehnert, Reinheit, 45. 77 As a counter-argument against this positive understanding of ἀπέχεσθαι one could point to 1 Tim 4:3, where the verb is part of the ascetic undertaking of the false teachers to forbid certain foods: “They prohibit marriage, and to abstain from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” ([. . .] κωλυόντων γαμεῖν, ἀπέχεσθαι βρωμάτων, ἃ ὁ θεὸς ἔκτισεν εἰς μετάλημψιν μετὰ εὐχαριστίας τοῖς πιστοῖς καὶ ἐπεγνωκόσι τὴν ἀλήθειαν). The letter’s defence against these ascetic claims can, in a certain sense, be read as a critical commentary on Acts 15:28–9, in that — al-though in agreement with Acts 10:14–15 — all foods are declared permissible.

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regard to the overall tone of the letter: “if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well.” The difference in wording of the letter in Acts 15:28–29 from James’s speech creates some difficulties, and it initially appears to confirm the understanding of those who want to see in the Decree a catalogue of halakhic demands based on an understanding of Torah that also make it obligatory for Gentile Christians: For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden but these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well (NRSV with modification) ἔδοξεν78 γὰρ τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ καὶ ἡμῖν μηδὲν πλέον79 ἐπιτίθεσθαι ὑμῖν βάρος πλὴν τούτων τῶν ἐπάναγκες, ἀπέχεσθαι εἰδωλοθύτων καὶ αἵματος καὶ πνικτῶν καὶ πορνείας, ἐξ ὧν διατηροῦντες ἑαυτοὺς εὖ πράξετε (Acts 15:28–9).

Wehnert finds warrant for his assumption that Luke understood the Apostolic Decree as a “catalogue of concrete Torah commands”80 primarily in the replacement of the verb ἀπέχεσθαι (15:20, 29) with φυλάσσειν in 16:4, 21:25 (here as middle, which precludes it from meaning “to keep the law”), 78 This “it seemed [good to us]” extends from v. 22, through v. 25, to v. 28, and to the δόγματα in 16:4. 79 The translation of μηδὲν πλέον [. . .] πλὴν as “to lay on you no greater burden than . . .” (NRSV; cf. the German revised Luther translation and, for example, Pesch, Apostelgeschichte, 2:71) is imprecise, because it gives the impression that the four Decree regulations are the inevitable and irreducible remainder, as it were, of the “burden” (of the Law) (so also Barrett, Acts, 2.744–5). Yet, based on Luke 3:13 (the only passage in the NT where μηδὲν πλέον occurs), it is more probable that the expression signifies an emphatic “nothing,” cf. Haenchen, Acts, 453. The adverb πλήν “except,” “only,” “nevertheless,” “rather” is used in the NT as a conjunction, or as an improper preposition followed by a genitive (Mark 12:32; Acts 8:1; 15:28; 27:22), cf. BDAG, 826; Hoffmann and von Siebenthal, Grammatik, § 252, 54. As a conjunction, πλήν often signifies a stark contrast, whereby the newly introduced element is not seen as qualifying or partly revoking what was said in the preceding clause, but as something entirely different, cf. Luke 6:24, 35; 10:14, 12:31; 23:28 (best translated as “against it” or “in contrast”); 10:20; 22:42. With regard to the prepositional use, the three passages in Luke allow for both nuances: in Acts 8:1 πλήν relativizes the preceding statement: “they were all scattered [. . .] except the apostles,” in 27:22 πλὴν emphasizes more the contrast: nobody on the ship would be harmed, except for the ship. Thus, linguistically both of the following are possible: (1) the Decree regulations could have been exempted from the general lifting of the burden as the irreducible remainder of the Law; (2) πλήν introduces something else, in the sense that what precedes it is definitely not applicable, whereas that which follows needs to be considered. This is, in my opinion, how it has to be understood here: they are burdened with “nothing” — that is, there is no obligation to follow Torah — nevertheless, there are still some necessary things to be considered, without implying that this requires adherence to the Torah or parts of it. 80 Wehnert, Reinheit, 211.


The Apostolic Decree

and the addition of διατηρεῖν in 15:29. Since Luke uses both verbs to express Torah adherence, the same usage must be presumed with regard to the Apostolic Decree. Furthermore, in the place of παρενοχλεῖν we find ἐπιτίθεσθαι βάρος. Also, ἀπέχεσθαι is further qualified by ἐπάναγκες as “necessary.”81 However, the linguistic evidence is not as clear-cut as Wehnert supposes: 1. There is no question that φυλάσσειν can denote the keeping of Torah, as seen in Acts 7:53 (“you received the law by decrees of angels, and you have not kept it” — ἐλάβετε τὸν νόμον εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων καὶ οὐκ ἐφυλάξατε) and 21:24 (James to Paul: “but you yourself conform to the law by keeping it” — ἀλλὰ στοιχεῖς καὶ αὐτὸς φυλάσσων τὸν νόμον). However, neither in Luke nor in the remainder of the NT is φυλάσσειν the terminus technicus for the keeping of Torah: In Luke, it occurs in this sense only in 18:21 parr. Mark 10:20; Matt 19:20 (in Mark and Matthew 81 For the linguistic peculiarities of the whole expression, see Barrett, Acts, 2.745. The Adverb is a hapax legomenon in the NT (also not in the LXX; in Philo and Josephus – once in – in the sense of a religious legal obligation; Hypoth. 7.5 [the verb occurs also once in Philo, Spec. 2.74 in the context of a financial need]; Josephus, Ant. 16.365). In Acts 13:46 the related ἀναγκαῖος has to be understood as something “necessary” in terms of the history of salvation, that is, to share the Gospel first with the Jews. It is not soteriology that makes it “necessary” for Barnabas and Paul to preach first to the Jews (cf. 1 Cor 9:6: ἀνάγκη), but God’s election of Israel as his chosen people. In regard to enforced religious practices, the root of the word is often seen in the context of (imposed) circumcisions, cf. Gal 2:3; 6:12; Josephus, Ant. 13.318 (cf. 257); Bell. 1.34 (compulsion to not be circumcised in order to outlaw Judaism), cf. also Acts 26:11: Paul’s punishment forced the Jewish Christians to “blaspheme.” This is also how Gal 2:14 ought to be understood, because ἀναγκάζειν linked with ἰουδαΐζειν is often used in the context of (demanding) circumcision: Esth 8:17 (πολλοὶ τῶν ἐθνῶν περιετέμοντο καὶ ιουδάιζον διὰ τὸν φόβον τῶν Ιουδαίων: to convert to Judaism/become a Jew by means of circumcision); Theodotos, a Jewish poet of unknown dates (preserved in Eusebius, Praep. Ev. 9.22.5): the Shechemites were only allowed to marry into the tribe of Jacob after they had become “Jewish by means of circumcision” (περιτεμνομένους ἰουδαΐσαι); Josephus, Bell. 2.454: the Roman Metilius is forced to become Jewish in Jerusalem in order to save his life: μέχρι περιτομῆς ἰουδαΐζειν; it would therefore make sense also to understand the ἰουδαΐζαντες in Josephus, Bell. 2.463 as proselytes. Applied to Gal 2:14, this means that Paul saw Peter’s behaviour as entering the path that ended in the requirement to be circumcised (which he together with James had rejected), cf. Ronald Y. K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 111; Christfried Böttrich, “Petrus und Paulus in Antiochien (Gal 2,11– 21),” BTZ 19 (2002): 224–39 (231, n. 37). But, it is also clear that Luke focuses his attention more on the salvation historical necessities (cf. Luke 14:23), and that he is not thinking about the use of force in the Apostolic Decree (in Acts 26:11 the verb is qualified with πολλάκις τιμωρῶν, which emphasizes its violent nature). The demanded necessaria, therefore, are not to come under the yoke of Torah, but they become necessary for inner ecclesial reasons. They furthermore represent a behaviour that is in accordance with God’s order of creation (see section 3 below). Different here is Barrett, Acts, 2.745, who sees this “presumably as a condition of salvation.”

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the only occurrence of φυλάσσειν), where only the context evinces that it refers to the Torah of Moses. Otherwise, Luke uses the verb for the keeping of sheep (Luke 2:8), and the guarding of prisoners (Acts 12:4; 23:35; 28:16; cf. Luke 8:29) or property (Luke 11:21; Acts 22:20). Where the verb refers to Torah, this is made explicit (so also in Rom 2:26; Gal 6:13, the only undisputed Pauline passages). For the “hearing and observing of the word of God,” see Luke 11:28; in relation to ethical behaviour (to keep oneself from greed), see Luke 12:15. This is also the only use of the middle voice of φυλάσσειν in Luke, and therefore the closest parallel to Acts 21:25 (in the NT the only other middle voice forms are in 1 John 5:21: “to guard oneself from idols”; 2 Peter 3:17 and 2 Tim 4:15: to beware of false teachers). 2. In the case of τηρεῖν, the only occurrence in Acts (it is not used in Luke’s gospel) that relates to the Torah is in 15:5 (again made clear by the explicit use of the term νόμος: “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses” — δεῖ περιτέμνειν αὐτοὺς παραγγέλλειν τε τηρεῖν τὸν νόμον Μωϋσέως). “Already by using the word τηρέω Luke shows how this demand (by which 15:5 is meant) has to be understood, for he uses the term exclusively for the imprisonment by state authorities.”82 Neither does Paul use τηρεῖν as a technical term in relation to the law. The composite verb διατηρεῖν occurs only once in the NT apart from Acts 15:29 (with a reflexive pronoun, that is, as a middle form) in Luke 2:51 (of keeping words in one’s heart). Luke clearly does not side with the position advocated in Acts 15:5, and this advises against reading the meaning of τηρεῖν in that verse into the use of διατηρεῖν in v. 29. 3. ἐπιτίθεσθαι βάρος also has a clear connotation when it comes to Torah. In Peter’s sermon it is depicted almost as a temptation to place “on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (15:10: . . . ἐπιθεῖναι ζυγὸν ἐπὶ τὸν τράχηλον τῶν μαθητῶν ὃν οὔτε οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν οὔτε ἡμεῖς ἰσχύσαμεν βαστάσαι). In Matt 23:4 it is the Pharisees and scribes whose interpretation of Scripture burdens people with heavy loads. But Luke’s wording makes clear that here this phrase is not about any Torah “burden” at all. What is required in the Decree is not to be understood as obligation towards Torah or Halakhah,83 but arises as a ‘heilsgeschichtliche Notwendigkeit’ (salvation-historical necessity). 4. Less noted is what could be called the last word on the matter, namely, the final motivation mentioned in Acts 15:29 (which replaces the reference to Moses in 15:21): “in that/if you keep yourselves free from such things, you 82

Öhler, Barnabas, 403, n. 62, cf. Jürgens, Anfang, 130. Cf. Gerhard Schneider, Apostelgeschichte (2 vols.; HTKNT 5; Freiburg: Herder, 1982), 2.187: it is a “liberation-decree” (“Befreiungs-Dekret”), similar Müller, Tora, 155, etc. 83


The Apostolic Decree

will do well” ([. . .] εὖ πράξετε). In commentaries, this final section is often given little attention and rarely questioned in terms of its degree of compulsion,84 as it is frequently seen merely as a part of the letter ending.85 The letter in 2 Macc 11:22–6 mentioned above again provides a good parallel, where, at the culmination of the royal edict, the respective government official is given specific instructions with the expression: “You do well to send [this message] to them . . .” (εὖ οὖν ποιήσεις διαπεμψάμενος πρὸς αὐτοὺς [. . .]). Christian Habicht has called this wording “the common form of courtesy, by which Hellenic kings send instructions to higher functionaries.”86 However, this needs to be qualified, as this — or similar expressions — is also encountered in contexts where we are not dealing with the courteous circumlocution of directives, such as in 1 Macc 12:18, 22 (καὶ νῦν καλῶς ποιήσετε, resp. καλῶς ποιήσετε γράφοντες ἡμῖν), in the letter exchange between the Hasmonean court and Sparta seeking to establish an alliance between the two states. Here the expression conveys a strong expectation directed towards the recipients. This is also true for 2 Macc 2:16, the letter in which the Judeans invite (or ask) the Egyptian Diaspora to join with them in their celebration of Hanukkah. After the long aetiology of the feast, it is said in the conclusion: “Therefore, you do well celebrating these days” (καλώς οὖν ποιήσετε ἄγοντες τὰς ἡμέρας). Behind this lies the expectation that the Jewish people would stand united with the Temple as a common focal point. Thus the letter seeks the establishment of a shared loyalty with regard to the Temple. In wisdom literature εὖ ποιεῖν is used at times to describe appropriate, helpful, and considerate behaviour towards one’s neighbour (Prov 3:27f.; Sir 12:1f.; 14:13; cf. also Job 24:21). James 2:8 also needs to be mentioned here: Whoever keeps the law of love of Lev 19:18 “does well” (καλῶς ποιεῖτε).87 Joseph Fitzmyer is therefore correct when he writes: 84

Usually it is pointed out that εὖ πράσσειν has a double meaning, which could mean either “thus you will do well” or “thus it will be well with you,” cf. Bauernfeind, Apostelgeschichte, 194; Conzelmann, Acts, 120; Roloff, Apostelgeschichte, 234; Schille, Apostelgeschichte, 324. The respective references can also be found in BDAG, 401–2, s.v. εὖ. Philo, Virt. 170, Decal. 43, and Josephus, Ant. 12.156 are listed for the meaning of “to get along well, be prosperous.” In 2 Macc 9:19 the syntagm is used as part of a letter preface. For the meaning “to do well, i.e. act correctly or rightly” (under which Bauer–Aland also group Acts 15:29) reference is made to Philo, Mut. 197 (in a comparison of common virtues and vices); Josephus, Ant. 4.286 (in regard to conscience); also Ignatius, Eph. 4:2, Smyrn. 11:3; Justin, 1 Apol. 28.3. 85 Cf. Haenchen, Acts, 453–4; differently Barrett, Acts, 2.746; Pesch, Apostelgeschichte, 2.83. 86 Christian Habicht, 2. Makkabäerbuch (JSHRZ 1/3; Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1976), 258. 87 James 2:19 (καλῶς ποιεῖς) is less obvious, since it also can be understood ironically.

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The Gentile Christians are not to think that their observance of such regulations will guarantee their salvation, for God grants salvation only on the merits of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. [. . .] It thus inculcates a crucial distinction, one that Christians of all ages have to recall: there are demands of Christian life that are essential, and others that, while nonessential, may preserve harmony and peace.88

The apostolic letter sent to the non-Jewish members in the Christian communities in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia should therefore not be understood as introducing halakhic rules derived from the Torah of Moses but as a means of encouragement for “behaviour appropriate for a Christian,” which is indispensable for a harmonious coexistence of Jews with Gentiles.89 In summary, this means that within the narrative context of the Book of Acts, James’s letter is not to be understood as obliging Gentile Christians to keep Torah. For Luke, salvation depends on faith, and not on Torah, though he acknowledges its continuing significance for the Jewish people. The Decree is not, therefore, a minimum Halakhah for Gentile Christians, rather — based on 15:21 — it seeks to outline a mode of coexistence within the new community of Christians, between the circumcised and the uncircumcised, a community which was founded by God and prescribed “from ancient times,” and also to make this tolerable for the Jewish community that is not (yet) part of this new λαός.90 Assuming that this thesis is correct, namely that the Lukan context of the Decree is primarily the Jewish communities in the Diaspora, then the four regulations can be seen as encapsulating the required ethical and behavioural minimum that, from a Jewish perspective, was regarded as indispensable for tolerating such close communion with non-Jews as is presupposed in the new communities of Jesus followers. In this case, the regulations of the Decree would represent the boundary markers of Jewish identity in the Diaspora (that is, for close social contacts).91 In order to further buttress this thesis, the halakhic interpretation of the Apostolic Decree, which, in my opinion, is overly influenced by assumptions regarding Jewish life in the land of Israel, will be contrasted with an interpretation that orients itself on the Jewish ethos based on the conditions of Jewish existence in the Diaspora. 88 89

Fitzmyer, Acts, 563. Müller, Tora, 151. In Codex D this behaviour is explicitly motivated by the Holy

Spirit. 90 James is the foremost representative of Jewish Christianity and the Christian mission within the Jewish people, which would sufficiently justify his interest in the avoidance of unnecessary conflicts (his behaviour in Acts 21:18–25 has to be seen in the same light). 91 Although it must be said here that this is initially only posited with regard to Luke. Whether this Decree reflects accurately what (non-Christian) Jews would maintain as an ethical and behavioural minimum needs to be examined separately.


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2. Halakhic or Ethnic: What is the Primary Orientation of the Apostolic Decree? The widespread halakhic interpretation of the four regulations of the Apostolic Decree is, as is generally known, taken to be the attempt to integrate the Gentile Christians into fellowship with Israel by means of a minimum consensus based on certain Torah precepts. As Jervell puts it: To Israel is added “a people taken from the nations” (Acts 15:14). Now also the Gentiles seek the God of Israel, after the people of God have been restored (15:17). In this something new happens: The living-together — not specifically the table fellowship — of Jews and Gentiles in the Church. The question, henceforth, is how Israel and the “people taken from the nations” can live together. Since the Church is now Israel, the Torah cannot be abrogated, for it is and remains the hallmark of Israel. And the Law is being kept, by the Jews and also by the Gentiles, and, by the latter precisely what, and as much of the Law as is necessary.92

This position draws almost exclusively for justification on the Torah regulations concerning resident aliens (‫ תושב‬or ‫ )גר אשר־יגור בתוכם‬as found in Lev 17f.93 The sequence of these regulations, which are explicitly applicable for “foreigners,” is parallel to that in Acts 15:29 and 21:25 (cf. Lev. 17:7f.: idol meat; 17:10–12: blood; 17:13: that which is “strangled”; 18:6–23: illicit sexual relationships).94 92

Jervell, “Aposteldekret,” 239. In the biblical accounts both terms designate resident aliens in the land of Israel, who on account of their permanent residence in Israel are protected by a variety of regulations and are also responsible to follow certain stipulations, cf. Müller, Tora, 73–4; Jürgens, Anfang, 161–2. This has to be distinguished from the rabbinic ‫גר תושב‬, who has taken it up on himself to follow the seven Noachide laws in front of witnesses (b. ‘Abod. Zar. 64b, see Müller, Tora, 72–3). In the biblical texts, ‫ תושב‬and ‫ — גר‬except in Lev 25:47 (which is, however, text-critically uncertain) — are always connected with a waw (Gen 23:4; Lev 25:23, 34, 47; Num 35:15), and as such have to be understood as two separate designations, although it is not really clear what the difference between the two was. Both terms appear frequently by themselves. In Ps 39:13 both terms appear in a parallelism. 94 This position, which explains the sequence and the content of the regulations in the Apostolic Decree, was initially formulated by Hans Waitz, “Das Problem des sogenannten Aposteldekrets,” ZKG 55 (1936): 227–63, and has subsequently been adopted by many, see Bauernfeind, Apostelgeschichte, 197; Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in Light of the Jewish Religious History (trans. Harold Knight; London: Lutterworth, 1961; repr. Cambridge: James Clarke, 2002), 66–7; Conzelmann, Acts, 118; Haenchen, Acts, 470; David R. Catchpole, “Paul, James and the Apostolic Decree,” NTS 23 (1977): 428–44; Roloff, Apostelgeschichte, 227; August Strobel, “Das Aposteldekret als Folge des antiochenischen Streites: Überlegungen zum Verhältnis von Wahrheit und Einheit im Gespräch der Kirche,” in Kontinuität und Einheit: für Franz Mußner (ed. Paul-Gerhard Müller and Werner Stenger; Freiburg: Herder, 1981), 81–104 (91); Pesch, Apostelgeschichte, 2.81; Jürgen Becker, Paulus: Der Apostel der Völker (3rd ed.; UTB 2014; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 93

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Next to this is a second interpretative line, which combines the Decree with the so-called Noachide laws. The main representative of this position in the contemporary discussion is Markus Bockmuehl.95 According to him, the Noachide law comprises “what second-century rabbinic Judaism considered the Halakhah to require of righteous Gentiles:” Its basis lies in the conviction that God gave certain pre-Sinaitic laws equally to all humankind, laws that may therefore form the ethical foundation of Jewish dealings with Gentiles.96

Included in this concept of a universal law are, according to Bockmuehl, those passages in the Pentateuch that concern the gerim, of which he distinguishes two categories. One expands Israel’s “social welfare rights” to include the resident aliens, the other formulates commandments for the gerim in Israel. The latter category is particularly found in the Holiness Code of Lev 17–26.97 In his opinion, Acts 15 seeks to apply these Torah regulations for non-Jews to “the halakhic status of Gentile believers.”98 This has nothing to do with seeking a compromise, but “simply spells out the halakhic consequences” that they are saved “as Gentiles,” so that it is enough “to apply to them the same ethical principles that would in any case apply to a righteous Gentile living with the people of Israel, i.e. resident aliens.”99 With regard to the decisive role of the Torah in defining the principles of communal life for Jewish and Gentile Christians, Bockmuehl’s position is — despite his differing reference point within the Torah — hardly different from that of Jervell, Wehnert, and the other representatives of the halakhic understanding based on Lev 17f.100 1998), 97–8; Wehnert, Reinheit, 213–38; cf. also Markus Bockmuehl, “James, Israel and Antioch,” in Jewish Law in Gentile Churches: Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics (London: T&T Clark, 2000; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 49–83 (78), also published under the title: “Antioch and James the Just,” in James the Just and Christian Origins (ed. Bruce Chilton and Craig. A. Evans; NovTSup 98; Leiden: Brill, 1999), 155–98; Schnabel, Mission, 2.1015–20 (with good summary and literature). 95 Cf. Bockmuehl, “The Noachide Commandments,” 164–7. For an extensive discussion of the rabbinic tradition, see Müller, Tora, 25–136; for their relation to the Apostolic Decree, see 138–99 (including a detailed account of the history of research on this topic). Müller himself rejects the connection of the Decree with the Noachide tradition (likewise Klinghardt, Gesetz, 177–80) and sees instead in Lev 17f. the biblical point of contact. Only the later ethical version of the Decree is formulated closer to the Noachide commandment (161– 6, 195). 96 Bockmuehl, “The Noachide Commandments,” 150. 97 Ibid., 153. 98 Ibid., 164. 99 Ibid., 165. 100 Cf. Cana Werman, “The Concept of Holiness and the Requirements of Purity in Second Temple and Tannaitic Literature,” in Purity and Holiness (ed. Marcel Poorthuis and Joshua Schwartz; Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series 2; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 163–79


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Common to the two interpretative models is that they are both based on a grid that takes “land of Israel” and “holy nation” as its two axes, and in both cases it is the Torah that provides the coordinates.101 Thus, the Jews who believed in Messiah Jesus would have understood themselves as the “holy nation,” to which the Gentile Christians stand in a relationship similar to that of the resident aliens102 and therefore must obey the law of the host-nation, that is, the Torah,103 especially as formulated in Lev 17f. for all those who wish to live ‘in the midst’ of the people of God and the Holy Land.104 It is (173–4): She sees in the Apostolic Decree “an expansion of Genesis [referring to ch. 9] in the light of Leviticus 17.” Similarly, Roloff, Apostelgeschichte, 227. 101 The title of Bockmuehl’s essay collection, Jewish Law in Gentile Churches, shows how far he is willing to go with this. His theological efforts to find the basis of a universally valid ethic, which expresses itself in “binding norms,” leads him, in my opinion, to assume all too easily a seamless Torah and Halakhah-reception within early Christianity. 102 Here the question of the Lukan ecclesiology (or the Jewish-Christian ecclesiology handed down by him) resurfaces. That Jervell, Bockmuehl, and other representatives of the halakhic interpretation more strongly suppose the existence of a bipartite people of God that — despite the Apostolic Decree, which according to this position precisely does not wish to regulate any table fellowship — live more next to each other than with each other, is therefore only consequent, cf. Bockmuehl, “James, Israel and Antioch,” 72: “[. . .] James advocates separate Jewish and Gentile communities [. . .],” see also 75, and idem, Jewish Law, xi. 103 Clearly formulated by Becker, Paulus, 100: “Now the Jewish Christians are accepted in the synagogue as more qualified Christians (“qualifiziertere Christen”), the continuity with Israel’s history of salvation is indispensable, and the Law has constitutive importance with regard to salvation (“heilskonstitutive Bedeutung”), otherwise one would not have to insist on it. Christianity, theologically, mainly has to be understood as an inner-Jewish group, just as Jesus and his disciples were active only in the midst of the chosen people (“Heilsvolk[]”). Jewish Christians are a tolerated exception, and the desire is to limit them to this exceptional position. They have to consider the Jewish Christians, for reasons that pertain to the Law, not the other way around.” 104 Richard Bauckham, “James and the Jerusalem Church,” in The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting (The Book of Acts in Its First-Century Setting 4; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 415–80, tries to show that the selection of the four regulations is based on the preposition ‫בתוך‬, which in Lev 17f. is found only in Lev 17:8, 10, 12, 13; 18:26, and occurs precisely in those commands that also appear in the Apostolic Decree. Their selection is, according to him, based on an “exegetical link” (460) between these passages and the eschatological statements in Jer 12:16 LXX and Zech 2:11 LXX, which subsequently also influenced the wording of Amos 9:11f. in James’s speech (Acts 15:16–18) (cf. 454–5, 458). In both cases, “foreigners” are assumed to be “in the midst of” the eschatological people of God. Bauckham, however, also points out that ‫ בתוך‬also appears in Lev 16:29; Num 15:14– 16:29; 19:10 with regard to foreigners “in the midst of” Israel, and that passages like Exod 20:10; Deut 5:14; Lev 24:16–22 likewise refer to foreigners, albeit without using ‫בתוך‬. But, since the former passages are referring to the Temple cult, they were not applied, because the Christian church was understood as the eschatological Temple. This explanation, however, is not entirely convincing, since the fasting during Yom Kippur is unrelated to the Temple (Lev 16:29). Furthermore, the purification ritual with the ashes of the red heifer (Num 19:10) concerns the people throughout the land of Israel and is also not a Temple ritual. In addition,

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only in this manner that coexistence (which does not culminate in, but includes, table fellowship) between Jews who believe in Jesus and Gentile Christians was possible — at least in the estimation of those who penned and promulgated the Apostolic Decree. The Decree regulations, according to this understanding, were meant to protect the Jewish Christians from ritual contamination. Representative of this widespread view is Ulrich Wilckens, who writes in his New Testament Theology: The argument of the Jerusalemites was: “If uncircumcised Gentile Christians are allowed into the Church (“Gemeinde”), then the Jewish-Christian part has to be protected from (ritual) defilement, which especially occurs at the communal meal with the uncircumcised.” For this “the laws, which the Torah prescribes for resident aliens in Israel” provide the necessary guidance, for “if at least these are made obligatory to them [= Gentile Christians], it is justifiable to recommence the disrupted table fellowship. Thus, the Law of God is at least rudimentarily satisfied in the Church that is made up of Jews and Gentiles.”105

The last issue concerning table fellowship is debated within this interpretative tradition and maintained mostly by those who see in the Apostolic Decree the subsequent attempt by the church leadership in Jerusalem to solve the Antiochene conflict (Gal 2:11f.),106 whereas others, in my opinion rightly, the absence of the Sabbath laws (Exod 20:10 par.) and the prohibition of blaspheming God’s name (Lev 24:16) are, in my opinion, insufficiently explained by the suggestion that they are ignored simply because they lack ‫בתוך‬. More problematic, however, is Bauckham’s suggestion that the Church forms the eschatological replacement of the Temple, without considering a similar notion with regard to the land, which is according to Lev 18:25–8 (cf. also 20:22f.) the reference point for the commandments in question. In other words: if those early Christians substituted the Temple in Jerusalem with their own community as the eschatological Temple (which affects large parts of the Mosaic Torah), why should they be so concerned about specific Torah regulations when it comes to the inner life of their community? Should the spiritualization of the Temple not also affect the theology of the land? 105 Ulrich Wilckens, Theologie des Neuen Testaments vol. 1: Geschichte der urchristlichen Theologie part 2: Jesu Tod und Auferstehung und die Entstehung der Kirche aus Juden und Heiden (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2003), 264, cf. Roloff, Apostelgeschichte, 227: the Decree is a “protective measure” for Jewish Christians, whose “ritual defilement” by means of fellowship with Gentile Christians has to be prevented. Similarly Conzelmann, Acts, 118 “The decree is conceived rather as a concession to the Gentile Christians, which would enable the Jewish Christians to live and eat with them”; perhaps also Udo Schnelle, “Muß ein Heide erst Jude werden, um Christ sein zu können?,” in Kirche und Volk Gottes: (FS Jürgen Roloff; ed. Martin Karrer, Wolfgang Kraus, and Otto Merk; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2000), 93–109 (102–5). 106 It is due to the “Tübingen School” that the Apostolic Decree is understood by the majority of exegetes as a compromise for the Antiochene conflict, and that the Apostolic Council and the issuing of the Decree are two, temporally separate incidents; for a summary of the older literature see: Haenchen, Acts, 455–7; Müller, Tora, 147–50, and more recently Zeigan, Aposteltreffen, see index s.v. “Aposteldekret.” Widely accepted and quite influential was August Strobel’s (1930–2006) essay, “Aposteldekret” (see above n. 94, and Zeigan, Aposteltreffen, 60, n. 136, who also lists the contemporary representatives of this position).


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emphasize that the question of table fellowship was precisely not the problem of Acts 15, but is something carried from Gal 2:11f. into this context. Rather, Acts 15 deals with the participation of non-Jews in the eschatological people of God, and the consequences that arise from this for their way of life in relation to the Jewish people in general.107 Moreover, there are some additional difficulties that, in my opinion, are not given sufficient weight in the discussion of the aforementioned positions: 1. First among these difficulties — beside the problematic and occasionally recognized limitation to the laws for resident aliens mentioned in Lev 17f.108 — is the transference of laws explicitly bound to the land of Israel (behind which stands a corresponding theological concept of a holy land)109 to the fellowship of (Christian) Jews and Gentiles in the Diaspora. To support this assumption, attention is drawn to the precise specifications regarding the geographic territory mentioned in Acts 15:23. It is said that the Apostolic Decree refers primarily to this region, which was thought to belong to the land of Israel in the messianic age.110 Since Syria and Cilicia,

107 Cf. Kümmel, “Die älteste Form des Aposteldekrets,” 283; Bockmuehl, “James, Israel and Antioch,” 72–3; “The Noachide Commandments,” 164–5; Öhler, Barnabas, 413–14. 108 A survey of all the laws concerning foreigners can be found in Klinghardt, Gesetz, 185f., who likewise criticizes the limitation to Lev 17f. (158–80, he sees in the “Ausrottungsformel” the “criteria for the combination of the Decree regulations,” see 181–200); Bockmuehl, “The Noachide Commandments,” 153–4. Against Lev 17f. as point of reference, see Wilson, Luke and the Law, 74–102; A. J. M. Wedderburn, “The ‘Apostolic Decree:’ Tradition and Redaction,” NovT 35 (1993): 362–89 (on the — partially justified — critique of this, see Wehnert, Reinheit, 209–13); Jürgens, Anfang, 158–69. 109 Lev. 18:3, 24–8 give the reason for not defiling the land. Only the keeping of these commandments allows for the continual existence in the land (cf. Lev 17:5, 9: the Tabernacle as the cultic centre), cf. Klaus Grünwaldt, Das Heiligkeitsgesetz Leviticus 17–26: Ursprüngliche Gestalt, Tradition und Theologie (BZNW 271; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1999), 394–6; Werman, “Concept of Holiness,” 163–8. 110 Among others Bauernfeind, Apostelgeschichte, 186, 194; Lüdemann, Das frühe Christentum, 177; Pesch, Apostelgeschichte, 2.82; Merkel, “Gesetz,” 129, all, however, without referring to the eschatological borders of Israel. They are appealed to in particular by Bockmuehl, “James, Israel and Antioch,” 61–70: “For religious Jews concerned about the redemption of the Twelve Tribes, Antioch’s status as a large metropolis inside the biblical Promised Land might well carry special halakhic sensitivities” (70). On the eschatological borders of Israel, see Martin Hengel, “Ἰουδαία in the Geographical List of Acts 2:9–11 and Syria as ‘Greater Judea,’” BBR 10 (2000): 161–80, although he does not apply this to Acts 15. On the halakhic significance of Syria, see ibid., 176–7, also Günter Stemberger, “Die Bedeutung des ‘Landes Israel’ in der rabbinischen Tradition,” Kairos 25 (1983): 176–99 = idem, Studien zum rabbinischen Judentum (SBAB 10; Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1990), 321–55. Antioch in post-exilic times belonged, at least according to the main stream of rabbinic opinion, not to the areas where the Halakhah for Eretz Israel was applicable. Besides, the inner-rabbinic debate is strongly influenced by political and economic aspects

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with Antioch as centre, form part of the eschatological realm of the Messiah, Torah and Halakhah are therefore in force and are applicable in the same way as in the land of Israel. Against such an understanding, however, we first need to recognize that Luke, at least, did not understand the Decree as a regulation restricted to a certain locality but pertaining to all Gentile believers. The universal perspective of Acts 15 is clearly evident in v. 12: “amongst the nations” (ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν). This is affirmed by Acts 16:1–4 and 21:25,111 and also the later reception of the Decree.112 Moreover, the endeavour to connect the ecclesiology of the early Church with the sanctity of the promised land seems to me a serious overestimation of the theological meaning of the latter for early Christianity.113 Furthermore, it needs to be more carefully considered that Lev 17f., although it deals with the rights of foreigners in the land, does not in fact regulate communal life, that is, there is no provision whatsoever for table fellowship or conjugal bonds of Israelite and foreign families. Instead it only contains regulations that deal with the tolerance of foreigners in the land.114 But, within the context of the theology of Luke, is it conceivable that the regulations of the Apostolic Decree define a kind of tolerated status for non-Jewish believers within the Church of God, which does not, however, allow for any sort of table fellowship? Furthermore, it needs to be kept in mind that the followers of Jesus, including those in the land of Israel, are bound first of all by the commandments and example of Jesus rather than the Torah, as if Jesus had never existed. Wasserberg is correct when he writes concerning the Lukan understanding of the law: “The Christ event (“Christusgeschehen”) related to the two Jewish revolts, which prevents any safe assumptions about the situation for the Christian Church in the first century (331–6). 111 This is admitted by Bockmuehl, “James, Israel and Antioch,” 78, but not taken into further account. 112 For a survey of the later use of the Decree, cf. Haenchen, Acts, 471–2; Conzelmann, Acts, 121; very detailed Wehnert, Reinheit, 145–208, Martin Meiser, “Textraditionen des Aposteldekrets — Textkritik und Rezeptionsgeschichte,” in The Book of Acts as Church History: Text, Textual Traditions and Ancient Interpretations — Apostelgeschichte als Kirchengeschichte: Text, Texttradition und antike Auslegung (ed. Tobias Nicklas and Michael Tilly; BZNW 120; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2003), 373–98. Löhr, “Speisenfrage,” 30–1, has, rightly, emphasized that not all passages mentioned by Meiser are related to the Apostolic Decree. 113 Against the notion of a Lukan theology of the land see Joachim Jeska, Die Geschichte Israels in der Sicht des Lukas: Apg 7,2b–53 und 13,17–25 im Kontext antik-jüdischer Summarien der Geschichte Israels (FRLANT 195; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001), 193. See also Roland Deines, “Die Bedeutung des Landes Israel in christlicher Perspektive,” Judaica 62 (2006): 309–30. 114 Different here is Wehnert, Reinheit, 254, who relates the biblical commandments in Lev 17f. to the “interactions of the groups,” which, in my opinion, goes far beyond the biblical evidence.


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not only completes (“vervollständigt”) the law and the prophets, but it is also the axiom from which the relationship to the law is redefined.” The scandalous table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners practised by Jesus was most likely the example for early Christian communal praxis, rather than the meals based on the halakhic codex of the Pharisees (Luke 12:37–41; cf. 5:27–32; 19:2–10).115 2. Irrespective of the question of whether the Decree’s directives should be understood as a Christian Halakhah, and also leaving aside their salvific necessity (on this, see note 14), I also wonder whether, according to Jewish understanding, there ever was an obligation to live in the Diaspora according to the Halakhah based on the land of Israel.116 It is further unclear which texts ought to be considered ‘normative’ for such a Jewish understanding. In the exegetical literature various assumptions are all too easily held concerning the rabbinic position in regard to the Diaspora, judgments about the non-Jewish territory and non-Jews,117 whereas newer research about the different forms of Jewish existence in the Diaspora is hardly factored in. It has been shown, however, that there has never been only one (law-abiding) Jewish way of life, nor was the demarcation between Jews and non-Jews experienced as particularly problematic. Instead, the interaction between Jews and non-Jews in religious and cultural affairs was al115

Wasserberg, Israels Mitte, 300, n. 64. On this see Peter J. Tomson, Paul and the Jewish Law: Halakha in the Letters of the Apostle to the Gentiles (CRINT 3.1; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 36–47 (“Halakha in Diaspora Judaism”); E. P. Sanders, Jewish Law From Jesus to the Mishna: Five Studies (London: SCM, 1990), 255–308 (“Purity, Food and Offerings in the Greek-Speaking Diaspora”). In this context, the rule in m. Qidd. 1:9 is often cited: “Every commandment that is bound to the land is applied only in the land; every commandment that is not bound to the land is to be kept inside and outside the land.” Whether this rabbinic rule already existed and was asserted in the Diaspora in the first century cannot be demonstrated, and furthermore one has to accommodate a rather wide spectrum of possible interpretations (the continuation in the Mishna already lists exceptions). 117 Compiled, e.g., by Str-B 4/1.353–414 (“Die Stellung der alten Synagoge zur nichtjüdischen Welt”); cf. also Shmuel Safrai, “Relations between the Diaspora and the Land of Israel,” in The Jewish People in the First Century: Historical Geography, Social, Cultural and Religious Life and Institutions (CRINT 1.1; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1974), 184–215. That the rabbis, after the two revolts against Rome and the dramatic loss of life, sought to make living in the land religiously compulsory for Jews in order to maintain a Jewish presence is insufficiently heeded, cf. Shmuel Safrai, “The Land of Israel in Tannaitic Halakha,” in Das Land Israel in biblischer Zeit (ed. Georg Strecker; GTA 25; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983), 201–25; Katherine E. Wolff, «Geh in das Land, das ich dir zeigen werde. . .»: Das Land Israel in der frühen rabbinischen Tradition und im Neuen Testament (EHS 23.340; Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1989), 126–53 and passim; Hermann Lichtenberger, “‘Im Lande Israel zu wohnen wiegt alle Gebote der Torah auf,’” in Die Heiden: Juden und Christen und das Problem des Fremden (ed. Reinhard Feldmeier and Ulrich Heckel; WUNT 70; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1994), 92–107 (the title quotation is from t. ‘Abod. Zar. 4:3). 116

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most randomly varied. Further, it is not possible to prove any kind of anxious separation or avoidance of contact between the Jewish and nonJewish worlds.118 Jonathan Klawans leaves no doubts here: As I have argued here and elsewhere, however, it ought not to be assumed that Jews considered Gentiles to be a source of ritual defilement. Moreover, even if Jews considered Gentiles to be ritually defiling it would not necessarily be unlawful for Jews to associate with Gentiles, for it was not considered sinful to contract ritual impurity. The assumption that a notion of ritual Gentile impurity played a significant role in the dynamic of JewishGentile relations in the Diaspora cannot be sustained and thus is not directly relevant to understanding either Galatians 2 or Acts 15.119

Jewish identity was secured primarily through the synagogue, as the cultural and religious centre of the Jewish ethos, and through maintaining bonds to the motherland by sending financial donations and the voluntary Temple tax, in going on pilgrimages, by celebrating Jewish feasts — especially the Sabbath, circumcision, the observance of dietary laws and the avoidance of active participation in pagan religious cults — though all these differed in their degree for individuals, families, or groups,120 in ad118 Seminal is Barclay, Mediterranean Diaspora, 82–124, 320–35, 399–444; further, and partly critical of this, Leonard V. Rutgers, The Hidden Heritage of Diaspora Judaism (CBET 20; Leuven: Peeters, 1998), 15–42; Erich S. Gruen, Diaspora: Jews Amidst Greeks and Romans (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002), 5–6, 232–52; Paula Fredriksen, “What ‘Parting of the Ways?’ Jews, Gentiles, and the Ancient Mediterranean City,” in The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (TSAJ 95; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 35–63; Hans-Josef Gehrke, “Das sozialund religionsgeschichtliche Umfeld der Septuaginta,” in Im Brennpunkt: Die Septuaginta. Studien zur Entstehung und Bedeutung der griechischen Bibel. Band 2 (ed. Siegfried Kreuzer and Jürgen P. Lesch; BWANT 161; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2004), 44–60; Stefan Krauter, Bürgerrecht und Kultteilnahme: Politische und kultische Rechte und Pflichten in griechischen Poleis, Rom und antikem Judentum (BZNW 127; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004), esp. 267– 79, on the participation of Jews in the life of the Greek poleis. Although there were some isolated conflicts, he finds that “Jews, who maintained their cultural traits, were integrated in the social, cultural and political life without any problems” (279). These conclusions are further corroborated in the second part of his study where he examines the special situation of the Jews in Rome (ibid., 304–25). 119 Jonathan Klawans, Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 151, cf. 43–8, 134–5; idem, “Notions of Gentile Impurity in Ancient Judaism,” AJSR 20 (1995): 285–312. Only with the Tannaitic Halakhah did Gentiles and Gentile territories become a source for ritual impurity, whereas earlier literature saw them only as a “source of moral defilement” on account of idol worship (134). 120 This pertains especially to the various professional groups. The epigraphic data indicate that Jewish men and women worked in many different professions and held a diverse array of positions and offices, which could not have been conducted without close, daily contact to their non-Jewish surroundings. A study on this subject is urgently needed. Preliminary indicators can be found in Gehrke, “Das sozial- und religionsgeschichtliche Umfeld der Septuaginta,” 49–50. See now also Walter Ameling, “Die jüdische Diaspora Kleinasiens und


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dition to regional differences. The last two points had most influence in creating an image of Jews as social outsiders, yet here also it is necessary not to make generalizations and to interpret each piece of evidence in its respective context.121 3. With regard to those who understand the Apostolic Decree as the minimal requirements for table fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians derived from Lev 17f., it has to be asked whether in fact the Decree could have facilitated such table fellowship,122 and how it might have overcome the assumed difficulties related to ritual defilement, at least in the Diaspora. In other words, what is achieved for the table fellowship, in which Jews were to be safeguarded from impurity, if Gentile Christians lived according to the regulations of the Decree? Would they then no longer be unclean? Indeed were they unclean in the first place, and if so, why, and according to whom? If the point of reference is the rabbinic definition, then ignoring uncleanness that came from touching corpses or carcasses, which in the respective literature is often related to life outside of Israel, is surprising to say the least.123 Furthermore, it is not considered that such a der ‘epigraphic habit,’” in Jewish Identity in the Greco-Roman World (ed. Jörg Frey, Daniel R. Schwartz, and Stephanie Gripentrog; AJEC 71; Leiden: Brill, 2007), 253–82; Friedrich Avemarie, “Jüdische Diasporagemeinden in der Antike: Ihr Selbstverständnis im Spiegel der Inschriften,” in Kirche – Christus – Kerygma: Profil und Identität evangelischer Kirche(n) (ed. Ulrich H. J. Körtner; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2009), 21–61; Andrew Chester, “Jewish Inscriptions and Jewish Life,” in Neues Testament und hellenistisch-jüdische Alltagskultur: Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen (ed. Roland Deines, Jens Herzer, and KarlWilhelm Niebuhr; WUNT 274; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 383–441. 121 On this see esp. Peter Schäfer, Judeophobia: Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997): “The Greeks and Romans were mostly preoccupied with the monotheism of the Jews, their customs and rituals such as abstinence from pork, Sabbath, and circumcision, and their success: proselytism” (9); each topic is further discussed in the remainder of the book: “The Jewish God” (34–65, see esp. “One God:” 34–50), “Sabbath” (82–92); “Circumcision” (93–105); “Proselytism” (106–18). For the special dietary laws (“Abstinence from Pork”), see 66–81, where he writes with regard to Porphyry, Abst. 4.11 (= M. Stern, GLAJJ 2, no. 455): “Once more the abstinence from pork is singled out as the most characteristic and probably also most important of the Jewish laws” (76); cf. on this also Löhr, “Speisenfrage,” 19–20; Cristiano Grottanelli, “Avoiding Pork: Egyptians and Jews in Greek and Latin Texts,” in Food and Identity in the Ancient World (ed. Cristiano Grottanelli and Lucio Milano; History of the Ancient Near East Studies 9; Padova: S.A.R.G.O.N. editrice e libreria, 2004), 59–93. 122 Cf. Löhr, “Speisenfrage,” 20, who points out that “table fellowship between Jews and Christians [. . .] was not forbidden per se” (but cf. also 21–22). 123 For the uncleanness of the non-Jewish territory, see Josh 22:19; Amos 7:17; the (nonrabbinic) primary passage about the impurity of all those coming from gentile territories due to contact with corpses is Philo, Spec. 1.262, 2.205, according to which all those from the Diaspora who desired to take part in Temple worship first needed to undergo the seven-day purification ritual applying the ash of the red heifer (Num 19). Also Jub. 22:16f. insinuates that all Gentiles are unclean on account of coming in contact with the dead, which is why one

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supposedly kosher table fellowship can only work if one assumes that it was exclusively Jewish Christians who acted as hosts. Otherwise Gentile Christians should also have been made to refrain from any unclean foods,124 for it was especially this difference between Jews and non-Jews that functioned as a Jewish identity marker in Israel125 and also in the Diaspora.126 Wehnert has seen this more clearly than others, and he also draws from this the conclusion that the four regulations of the Apostolic Decree might have been only the tip of the iceberg: “it would be realistic to assume that the establishment of the AD [= Apostolic Decree] was linked to an introduction into the entirety of the Jewish purity laws.”127 But this seems to contradict his main thesis that Lev 17f. provides the frame of reference of the Decree, for the entire ratio of this argumentation is, in fact, that only the laws mentioned there for the resident aliens are applicable for the Decree. If, however, the aim was to establish a kosher table fellowship, which he seems to assume here, then the Gentiles would, at least, have needed to be instructed to observe the differentiation of clean and unclean animals (Lev 11; 20:25; Deut 14:3–20). 4. I find it further problematic that it is assumed from the outset that Jewish Christians in the Diaspora rigorously observed the purity laws to such an extent128 that they were subsequently also made into the standard to be should not eat with them. However, this is part of the narrative fiction where Abraham warns his son Jacob, that is, it pertains to the land of Canaan and its inhabitants; as a witness for the situation of the Diaspora, Jubilees is only of limited use. Moreover, according to Klawans, Impurity, 135, these passages deal with “moral impurity” and only the Tannaitic sages applied the concept of “ritual impurity” to Gentiles and their lands (see also Sacha Stern, Jewish Identity in Early Rabbinic Writings [AGJU 23; Leiden: Brill, 1994], 52–6 and passim). In my opinion, it is not possible to have such a sharp differentiation between ritual and moral impurity as Klawans attempts. He is, however, right in pointing out that such a differentiation is necessary, and he clearly describes how insufficient the current positions are that speak so sweepingly of Gentile impurity. On this cf. also Christine E. Hayes, Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities: Intermarriage and Conversion from the Bible to the Talmud (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), who develops Klawans’ approach further. 124 On the rabbinic regulations, see Str-B 4/1.374–6. 125 Next to the Cornelius story, this is seen in Matt 8:8 par. Luke 7:6, cf. also John 4:7–9. 126 For the keeping of the dietary laws in the Diaspora, see Sanders, Jewish Law, 272–83; for their function as a symbol for the entire Torah, which when kept would “save the nation,” see Tessa Rajak, “Dying for the Law: The Martyr’s Portrait,” in Portraits: Biographical Representation in the Greek and Latin Literature of the Roman Empire (ed. M. J. Edwards and Simon Swain; Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), 39–67 = idem, The Jewish Dialogue with Greece and Rome: Studies in Cultural and Social Integration (AGJU 48; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 95–133 (128–9, cf. 115–16). 127 Wehnert, Reinheit, 254, cf. 253, n. 60. Also Öhler, Barnabas, 415–16, n. 121, mentions the insufficiency of the Apostolic Decree in terms of establishing table fellowship. 128 Worthy of further discussion, although this is not the topic here, is that it is simply assumed that the majority within the Jerusalem mother church, including her leaders, and


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applied to Gentile Christians, even though there is neither literary nor archaeological evidence for the Diaspora that would indicate a particularly rigid or noticeable practice of purity rituals.129 The kind of typical archaeological evidence for the practice of purity laws comparable to those of the rabbinic Halakhah that is found in the land of Israel, namely stone vessels and miqvaot, is almost entirely unattested in the Diaspora.130 The finds related to synagogues indicate that it was common to purify one’s hands before prayer, and, in general, that water was commonly used for purification. But there is no evidence whatsoever that the striving for purity was related to living in close proximity to Gentiles or being in any contact with here especially James, are first and foremost Torah-centred, and that there was apparently nothing more important than the “safeguarding of the elementary ritual purity of the Jewish Christians” (Wilckens, Theologie 1, 2.262). It is indisputable that there were such tendencies within the Jewish Christian community. But that this was supported by the majority, and that James was its central proponent, is far from sure. See Öhler, Barnabas, 400, who rightly points to Acts 11:19: the emissaries from Antioch on their way to Jerusalem were “also greeted by the Jewish Christian churches (11:19), which they visited on their journey, without exception (πάντες), [. . .] Antioch does not play a special role with regard to the Gentile mission, rather those τίνες from Judea are a minority.” 129 Non-Jewish authors constantly emphasized the abstinence from pork (see note 121), but they never mention any special purity rites. The remarks by Justin, Dial. 47.2 refer to Jewish Christians who apparently stayed away from Gentile Christians altogether. Their description corresponds to those of the Jewish ‘hardliners’ in Acts 11:2f.; 15:1, 5. On the difficulty of distinguishing Jews from non-Jews in the Diaspora, see Shaye J. D. Cohen, “‘Those Who Say They Are Jews and Are Not:’ How Do You Know a Jew in Antiquity When You see One?,” in Diasporas in Antiquity (ed. idem, and Ernest S. Frerichs; BJS 288; Atlanta: Scholar Press, 1993), 1–45. 130 As far as I know, no stone vessels were ever found (for their use as indicators of halakhic practice see “Jesus the Galilean,” 81), though, in the vicinity of many Diaspora synagogues there are water installations; in Delos there is even a miqve, cf. Rutgers, Hidden Heritage, 105, and Acts 16:13. Some synagogues were built close to the water, which is explicitly mentioned in the decree of Harlikarnassos (cited in Ant. 14.256–8) as “the custom of the fathers” (τὸ πάτριον ἔθος), see Miriam Ben Zeev Pucci, Jewish Rights on the Roman World: The Greek and Roman Documents Quoted by Josephus Flavius (TSAJ; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998), 210–11: in the same decree the Jewish feasts are designated as κατὰ τοὺς Ἰουδαϊκοὺς νόμους. Close to the synagogues of Priene and Sardes larger water pools were found, which seem to have served the purpose of hand washing (which is a practice attested in the Diaspora, Sib. Or. 3:591–3, Let. Arist. 304–6 par. Ant. 12.106, cf. Justin, Dial. 12.2). Indicators of ritual baths are also found in Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, though it is not clear if this pertains to conditions in Israel, cf. 13.1, 14.1, 18.2, 19.2, 24.2, 46.2; see also Sib. Or. 4:165 (which mentions a kind of baptism of repentance), further on this cf. Anders Runesson, “Water and Worship: Ostia and the Ritual Bath in the Diaspora Synagogue,” in The Synagogue of Ancient Ostia and the Jews of Rome: Interdisciplinary Studies (ed. Birger Olson et al.; SSIR 4.57; Stockholm: P. Astroms, 2001), 115–29. On the passages in Philo (where it is not clear what he assumes as biblical custom in the Temple or Israel, and what as the practice in Alexandria), see Sanders, Jewish Law, 263–71; Jutta Leonhardt, Jewish Worship in Philo of Alexandria (TSAJ 84; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 256–73.

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‘unclean’ non-Jews. On the contrary, the Jewish Diaspora community was open to non-Jewish attendees (God-fearers) without requiring them to keep certain ritual entry conditions.131 Thus, the reality of the Jewish Diaspora shows how little support there is for the traditional interpretation of the Apostolic Decree. In summary: The interpretation that holds Lev 17f. and the Torah as normative for the Apostolic Decree effectively assumes that (rabbinic) halakhic regulations developed for life in the land of Israel were used to maintain the identity of Diaspora Jews, and in turn also influenced the way that Jewish Christians wanted to structure their relations with Gentile Christians. Since most of the elements of this theory cannot be supported from the available sources, I would like, tentatively, to outline a new approach to understanding the Apostolic Decree. 2.1 The Preservation of the Jewish Ethnos132 through the Jewish Ethos133 in the Diaspora As a working hypothesis, which is also meant to govern the interpretation of the Apostolic Decree, I propose with regard to the responsibility, or loyalty, of Israel towards her God that we have to differentiate categorically between the inhabitants of the land of Israel and those who live in the Diaspora: • In the land of Israel obedience to God, who is its owner and in effect its landlord, is the prerequisite for the possibility of a blessed and continual existence in the land. This is the heritage of the Deuteronomistic interpretation of history: Obedience guarantees the continual existence of and in the land; disobedience leads to its destruction and loss. This is exemplified in the first Jewish revolt against Rome during which the Zealots built miqvaot, furnished their strongholds with synagogues, and collected tithes. For them the “freedom of Zion” (according to a legend on their coinage) could not be achieved without or against the Torah.134 From the time of the Mac131

Cf. Krauter, Bürgerrecht, 210–29 (“Nichtjuden im synagogalen Gottesdienst”). The terminology follows Stern, Jewish Identity, xv, n. 2. This means that “ethnos” and “ethnic” are not defined primarily on the basis of a biological entity, but rather as a common culture, and, as a result of this, a certain sense of belonging together. Common origin in a biological sense, plays an important role in this, but not exclusively so. 133 “Ethos” has to be understood as a “a moral which is socially binding, characteristic of a group, a profession, a class or a whole society. That does not mean that this Ethos is always practised in the particular society, but it is recognized in it.” Gerd Theissen, A Theory of Primitive Christian Religion (London: SCM, 1999), 336, n. 1. 134 Martin Hengel, The Zealots: Investigations into the Jewish Freedom Movement in the Period from Herod I until 70 A.D. (trans. David Smith; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1989), 91–2 (see also 219–22); for the Zealots in general and the discussion since Hengel’s pivotal study, 132


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cabees up to the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt, obedience to the Torah was one of the most effective Jewish ‘weapons.’135 As it is written in 4 Macc 18:4: “Because of them [i.e. the martyrs for the Torah] the nation gained peace, and by reviving observance of the law in the homeland they ravaged the enemy” (Καὶ δι’ αὐτοὺς εἰρήνευσεν τὸ ἔθνος, καὶ τὴν εὐνομίαν τὴν ἐπὶ τῆς πατρίδος ἀνανεωσάμενοι ἐκπεπόρθηκαν τοὺς πολεμίους). However, Torah obedience is impossible to maintain without halakhic interpretations, extrapolations, and delineations. In other words, Halakhah as an integral part of Torah fidelity is soteriologically necessary, though one must differentiate here between the meaning of ‘salvation’ in Jewish and Christian contexts. Halakhah defines what has to be observed as an expression of one’s loyalty to God, and with it the obligations necessary to stay in the entrusted land. • As much as the entire Torah belongs to the irreducible requirements of living in the land of Israel, this is little evident for life in the Diaspora. Rather, it was the central task of the Diaspora to hold on to biblical monotheism136 and to the identity as a people,137 and furthermore to look forsee Roland Deines, “Zeloten,” TRE 36 (2004), 626–30; idem, “Gab es eine jüdische Freiheitsbewegung? Martin Hengels ‘Zeloten’ nach 50 Jahren,” in Martin Hengel, Die Zeloten: Untersuchungen zur jüdischen Freiheitsbewegung in der Zeit von Herodes I. bis 70 n. Chr. (ed. Roland Deines and Claus-Jürgen Thornton; 3rd rev. ed.; WUNT 283; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 403–48. On the coin legends during the revolt, see Ya’akov Meshorer, Ancient Jewish Coinage Volume II: Herod the Great through Bar Cochba (Dix Hills, N.Y.: Amphora Books, 1982), 96–131; idem, Das Heilige Land: Antike Münzen und Siegel aus einem Jahrtausend jüdischer Geschichte (Staatliche Münzsammlung München in Zusammenarbeit mit The Israel Museum Jerusalem; Munich: Staatliche Münzsammlung, 1993), 104–15; Hengel, Zealots, 116–18; Deines, “Freiheitsbewegung,” 432–4. 135 Cf. Roland Deines, “Reinheit als Waffe im Kampf gegen Rom: Zum religiösen Hintergrund der jüdischen Aufstandsbewegung,” in Mit Torah und Todesmut: Judäa im Widerstand gegen die Römer von Herodes bis Bar Kochba (ed. Hans-Peter Kuhnen; Stuttgart: Theiss, 1994; 2nd ed. 1995), 70–87 (= Württembergisches Landesmuseum Stuttgart. Archäologische Sammlungen: Führer und Bestandskataloge III, 1992). On Bar Kokhba, see Aharon Oppenheimer, “Bar Kokhba and the Observance of Mitzvot,” in Between Rome and Babylon (TSAJ 108; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 283–91 (first publ. in Hebrew in The BarKokhba Revolt: A New Approach [ed. idem and U. Rappaport; Jerusalem: Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi, 1984], 140–6); idem, “Sabbatheiligung im Bar-Kochba-Aufstand,” in ibid., 292–302 (first publ. in Hebrew in Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple, Mishna and Talmud Period: Studies in Honor of Shmuel Safrai [ed. Isaiah M. Gafni et al.; Jerusalem: Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi, 1993], 226–34), and in this volume “How Long? God’s Revealed Schedule for Salvation and the Outbreak of the Bar Kokhba Revolt.” 136 The Epistula Jeremiae = Baruch 6 is typical of this. Cf. also Philo, Praem. 162: the punishments, which he describes in great detail in 127–61, are meant for those who disregard “the righteousness and piety of the holy laws” and were taken to polytheism (ταῖς πολυθέοις δόξαις ὑπαχθέντας). Thus, for Philo the summit of the law pyramid, which is characteristic for the Diaspora perspective in my opinion, is Israel’s commitment to the one God of Israel.

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ward to redemption, which was understood as return from the Diaspora.138 There is no doubt that this identity was also secured by the Torah. But the context is entirely different from the situation in Eretz Israel, since Jewish identity had to be based on a selection of commandments, while at the same time excluding many regulations related solely to existence in the land.139 The agreement in content (but not extent) between Halakhah and Diaspora-ethos should not mislead one to overlook their different religiosocial functions. It is also crucial to understand Diaspora piety as a form of obedience or loyalty to God and his covenant with Israel, though the point of reference is not the enabling of life in the land, but the preservation of the ethnic identity of God’s elected people.140 137

This is demonstrated by the problems of the Mishna, cf. e.g. Add Esth 4:17u [ed. Rahlfs; in some translations this is labelled as Addition C 26; NRSV Esther [Greek] 14:15; LÜ: Stücke zu Esther 3:11], T. Levi 9:9f., 16:6; T. Jud. 13:3–8l; 14:6; T. Dan. 5:5; Jos. Asen. 8:5f.; Philo, Spec. 3:29; Josephus, Ant. 4.129–55, 8.190–6, 12.187; more extensively on this and on further passages, Hayes, Gentile Impurities, 68–91 and passim. On the rabbinic passages, see also Str-B 4/1.378–83; Stern, Jewish Identity, 159–70. The epigraphic evidence does not attest to any mixed marriages (implied also by Tacitus, Ann. 5.2), see Walter Ameling, “Die jüdische Diaspora,” and Andrew Chester, “Jewish Inscriptions and Jewish Life,” who do not list any references pertaining to it. 138 Cf. also Tob 13:5–18; 14:5: in order to experience the return to the land, the people and every individual in the Diaspora must prove themselves; Philo, Praem. 115–17: the return to the land is an example for the “return of the dispersal of the soul.” But despite this psychological interpretation, the hope of physical return to the land is not abandoned, Philo, Praem. 164–72. The Philonic expositio legis culminates in the expectation of the end of exile! Then the nations will see that they have blasphemed against a race of noble heritage (εἰς εὐπατρίδας), see Naoto Umemoto, “Juden, ‘Heiden’ und das Menschengeschlecht in der Sicht Philons von Alexandria,” in Die Heiden: Juden und Christen und das Problem des Fremden (ed. Reinhard Feldmeier and Ulrich Heckel; WUNT 70; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1994), 22–51 (47–8); Isaiah M. Gafni, Land, Centre and Diaspora: Jewish Constructs in Late Antiquity (JSPSup 21; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 35–49 (“Dispersion as a Universal Mission”). 139 One indicator of the differing needs can perhaps be seen in the order the books of the Pentateuch were translated into Greek. According to Cornelius G. den Hertog, “Erwägungen zur relativen Chronologie der Bücher Levitikus und Deuteronomium innerhalb der Pentateuchübersetzung,” in Im Brennpunkt: Die Septuaginta. Studien zur Entstehung und Bedeutung der Griechischen Bibel — Band 2 (ed. Siegfried Kreuzer and Jürgen P. Lesch; BWANT 161; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2004), 216–28, the Pentateuch was not translated in chronological order, but first Genesis and then Deuteronomy. The subsequent translation of Leviticus and Numbers is dependent on that of Deuteronomy. As one possible reason for this, he states that the “books of Leviticus and Numbers mainly contain cultic regulations which were only of limited significance for the Diaspora Jews; especially since the list of clean and unclean animals is given in a slightly abbreviated form also in Deut 14” (217). 140 Cf. Hengel and Schwemer, Paul, 71–3 (again, the German edition is extended, see Paulus, 119–25); Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr, “Hellenistisch-jüdisches Ethos im Spannungsfeld von Weisheit und Tora,” in Ethos und Identität: Einheit und Vielfalt des Judentums in


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In summary this means: In the land, Israel proves itself as God’s covenant partner by keeping the commandments (= halakhic orientation). In the Diaspora, on the other hand, Israel proves itself through remaining Israel as God’s covenant partner. In place of the Halakhah — though still based on the Torah — stands the Jewish ἔθος (or ἦθος).141 Luke relates in his writings to this form of Jewish existence, with which he was perhaps familiar on account of his biography.142

hellenistisch-römischer Zeit (ed. Matthias Konradt and Ulrike Steinert; Paderborn: Schöningh, 2002), 27–50. 141 On the relationship of these related words see H. H. Esser and K. Haacker, “ἔθος,” TBLNT 1 (2nd ed.; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1997), 618–20 (618). In the NT ἦθος only appears in 1 Cor 15:33, in the context of the proverb “Bad company corrupts good morals” (φθείρουσιν ἤθη χρηστὰ ὁμιλίαι κακαί), which originates in Menander’s Thais (Fr. 218): for further possible derivations, see Wolfgang Schrage, Der erste Brief an die Korinther (1 Kor 15,1–16,24) (EKK 6.4; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2001), 247, n. 1201. In a similar way ἔθος is used in Heb 10:25. Furthermore, in Acts 16:21 and 26:3 in some manuscripts ἔθος is replaced with ἦθος (see M. E. Glaswell, “ἔθος,” EDNT 1.384; which is not mentioned in the apparatus of UBS3 or that of NA27). As a translation, ἦθος does not appear in the LXX, except for Sir 20:26 (with the meaning of “behaviour,” though some manuscripts read ἔθος). The only other occurrences are in SirProlog 35 and five times in 4 Macc (1:29; 2:7, 21; 5:24; 13:27). SirProlog 35 is noteworthy, because as the last sentence of the prologue it functions as a summary: the translation by the grandchild serves the purpose that those who live in foreign lands are also able to practise the customs of the law (τοῖς ἐν τῇ παροικίᾳ βουλομένοις φιλομαθεῖν προκατασκευαζομένους τἀ ἤθη ἐννόμως βιοτεύειν). The word group is prominent in Philo: the word ἦθος alone occurs 105 times, in addition to a number of composites, and the adjective ἠθίκος 21 times; of the 105 times it occurs, 23 are attested in the tractate Philo, Spec.; ἔθος occurs 195 times (although often unspecified). Where Philo deals with the Jewish ethos, it is often a disposition shaped by education and Torah (e.g. Philo, Spec. 4.149f.), which through practice becomes a natural habit (cf. Philo, Decal. 137, Spec. 4.218). For Philo the “custom of the fathers” (τὸ πάτριον ἔθος, Philo, Spec. 2.148, cf. ἔθη πάτρια in Spec. 4.150) may originate from the Torah or the ἄγραφοι νόμοι (Philo, Spec. 2.149), without seeing therein a contradiction. For the “unwritten laws” are as the natural law (on this controversial interpretation, see note 155 below) none other than those which are made explicit in the Torah, see Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr, Gesetz und Paränese: Katechismusartige Weisenreihen in der frühjüdischen Literatur (WUNT 2.28; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1987), 53–5; furthermore, Hans G. Kippenberg, “Die jüdischen Überlieferungen als πάτριοι νόμοι,” in Die Restauration der Götter: Antike Religion und Neo-Paganismus (ed. Richard Faber and Renate Schlesier; Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 1986), 45–60; Bernd Schröder, Die ›väterlichen Gesetze‹: Flavius Josephus als Vermittler von Halakhah an Griechen und Römer (TSAJ 53; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996) (which also includes an extensive section on further Greek-Hellenistic literature alongside a discussion of Josephus). 142 One does not have to go as far as Jervell, who sees in Luke a Jewish Christian (Apostelgeschichte, 84 and passim), but it is obvious that he is familiar with Jewish traditions and viewpoints and that he is able to describe them with expertise and respect, cf. Hengel, “Der Jude Paulus und sein Volk,” 346–7, who sees in him a “god-fearer” (364).

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2.2 The Jewish Ethos in Luke–Acts The suggested differentiation between life in the land of Israel and the Diaspora is tested in the following with regard to Luke–Acts, which already — based solely on statistics — shows a heightened interest in the related terminology: In the New Testament the noun ἔθος occurs twelve times, of which ten are found in Luke–Acts (Luke 1:9; 2:42; 22:39; Acts 6:14; 15:1; 16:21; 21:21; 25:16; 26:3; 28:17; the two other references are John 19:40 and Heb 10:25). This noteworthy feature is best explained with reference to Luke’s Diaspora perspective as can be seen in Acts 6:14 and 21:21: In both verses Jews from the Diaspora (cf. 6:9; 21:27f.) accuse Stephen and respectively Paul in Jerusalem of having changed the customs commanded by Moses (cf. Acts 15:21). To the Jewish pilgrims from the Diaspora this is an attack on “the people” (21:28, framed by the antithetical terms Ἰσραηλῖται and Ἕλληνας), whose identity, according to these texts, is determined by the Temple in Jerusalem as the “holy place” and by the law of Moses (which is understood as an identity-giving whole and unrelated to specific commandments). That in both cases the attack comes from members of the Jewish Diaspora can be explained by the fact that “they were especially conscious of the danger of losing the tradition and of assimilation into the Gentile environment (cf. Acts 6:9; 21:27f.). They fought against the Jesus-movement as a modernism that endangered the adherence to a specifically Jewish lifestyle and threatened the cohesion of the Jewish community.”143 In Acts 15:1 it is Jewish Christians from Jerusalem who demand in Antioch the circumcision “according to the custom of Moses” (τῷ ἔθει τῷ Μωϋσέως). This is Luke’s only use of the singular ἔθος in Acts, while wherever he assumes the perspective of the Diaspora, he uses the plural: 6:14, 16:21, 21:21, 26:3 (in the context of Paul’s apology before Agrippa II and Bernice; here the Diaspora perspective is least distinct, although Agrippa probably also represents an outside-of-the-land perspective), and 28:17. The singular in 15:1 is closer to the meaning of “commandment,” or νόμος, like in Luke 1:9 and 2:42 (both are singular; see also the NT hapax legomenon ἐθίζειν which is linked in Luke 2:27 to νόμος: κατὰ τὸ εἰθισμένον τοῦ νόμου). However, in Luke 22:39 the singular designates a personal habit of 143 Esser and Haacker, “ἔθος,” 619. Cf. Philo, Legat. 184, 194: Caligula’s threat against the Temple is a danger for the entire Jewish nation; see Sarah Pearce, “Jerusalem as ‘MotherCity’ in the Writings of Philo of Alexandria,” in Negotiating Diaspora: Jewish Strategies in the Roman Empire (ed. John M. G. Barclay; LSTS 45; London: T&T Clark, 2004), 19–36 (32); she also points (35) to Josephus, Bell. 4.258: the defence of the metropolis was the highest duty also for the Idumeans; likewise from Philo, Flacc. 45, it becomes clear that Jerusalem is the μετρόπολις, whereas the “homeland” (ἡ πατρίς) is the place of one’s residence. For the significance of Jerusalem for the Diaspora, see also Lichtenberger, “Im Lande Israel . . . ,” 92–3; Gehrke, “Umfeld,” 54. Krauter, Bürgerrecht, 412, comments upon “consistent dual loyalty relationships” with regard to Philo, Flacc. 45f. and Philo, Legat. 281, without one excluding the other. Decisive for the “religious identity of all Jews” was, however, “the relationship to Jerusalem, the city of the Temple.”


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Jesus (so also the verbal adjective εἴωθος in Mark 10:1, derived from ἔθειν “to be accustomed to,” which in Luke 4:16; Acts 17:2 describes the habitual visitation of synagogues by Jesus and Paul). Acts 25:16 refers to Roman customs (likewise Matt 27:15: εἰώθει ὁ ἡγεμὼν).

Luke’s preference for the stem ἐθ- is unmistakable, as is the notion that the related behavioural patterns are an expression of Jewish piety, which take as their primary reference point, however, not the law (though, of course, many are based on the law), but the Jewish ethnos. It is these Jewish customs that make it possible to discern who belongs to the Jewish people, and this is important to Luke. In his theology of salvation history he is interested in Israel, and only because of this also in Torah, but not the other way round. Wasserberg rightly comments: “The law for Luke is ethos, and no longer a necessary norm for salvation (“Heilsnorm”). But as ethos it definitely has some influence . . .”144 That this points to a Diaspora perspective is seen in the use of ἔθος in the LXX and the literature dependent on it: The word does not belong to the translation vocabulary repertoire, occurring in the LXX only six times, with the first occurrence in 1 Macc 10:89 describing a non-Jewish custom that is unrelated to religious practice. It is also used with the sense of a habit or local custom in the Additions to Daniel, Bel and the Dragon 15 (Theodotion) and 2 Macc 13:4. In Wis 14:15f., hero worship is aetiologically explained in that the bereaved made an image of the deceased and then proceeded to honour it cultically. With time this “godless custom was regarded as a law” (τὸ ἀσεβὲς ἔθος ὡς νόμος ἐφυλάχθη).145 In this terminology, then, the difference in meaning is clearly seen: ἔθος is not νόμος, but just as νόμος, it can become a fixed obligation. The letter of the Seleucid king, Antiochus V, to his teacher Lysias, which is related in 2 Macc 11:22–6, also notably attests how the Jewish ethnos is distinguished by particularly ancient “customs.” It displays an outsider’s perspective and use of non-Jewish terminology. The sender recognizes in the letter that the Jews do not wish to adopt Greek customs (τὰ Ἑλληνικά), but prefer their own νόμιμα. This is to be allowed to them and, “that this nation shall be undisturbed, we have judged to restore them their Temple, and that 144 Wasserberg, Israels Mitte, 300, n. 64, cf. Loening, “Evangelium,” 2633, n. 44; Merkel, “Gesetz,” 129–33. 145 The related verbs are also rare: ἔθειν in Num 24:1; Sir 37:14; Dan 13:13; 4 Macc 1:12; ἐθίζειν only in 2 Macc 14:30 (twice); συνεθίζειν only in Sir 23:9, 13, 15 (always as an admonition not “to accustom” the mouth to evil talk); the noun ἐθισμός occurs 6 times: Gen 31:35; 1 Kings 18:28; Jdt 13:10; 2 Macc 4:11; 12:38; Sir 23:14, but only once as a term to designate a custom related to the Torah: In 2 Macc 12:38 the Maccabean army “purified itself according to custom and kept the Sabbath” (κατὰ τὸν ἐθισμὸν ἁγνισθέντες αὐτόθι τὸ σάββατον διήγαγον). However, in 2 Macc 4:11 the regulations that are based on Torah (νομίμοι πολιτείαι) are juxtaposed with “lawless customs” (παρανόμοι ἐθισμοί).

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they may live according to the customs of their forefathers” (τοῦτο τὸ ἔθνος ἐκτὸς ταραχῆς εἶναι κρίνομεν τό τε ἱερὸν ἀποκατασταθῆναι αὐτοῖς καὶ πολιτεύεσθαι κατὰ τὰ ἐπὶ τῶν προγόνων αὐτῶν ἔθη). The Jewish ethnos146 is here clearly determined by the Temple and the Jewish customs that are based on Torah. In the subsequent letter (11:27–33; introduced with “to the nation — πρὸς δὲ τὸ ἔθνος by the author of 2 Maccabees), which is addressed to the “Gerousia of the Jews (Judeans) and the rest of the Jews” (τῇ γερουσίᾳ τῶν Ιουδαίων καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις Ιουδαίοις), reference is accordingly made to “. . . their own supplies (for the Temple service) [see 2 Macc 3:3] and laws” (τοῖς ἑαυτῶν δαπανήμασιν καὶ νόμοις). 2.3 ἔθος (and ἦθος) in 4 Maccabees The fourth Book of the Maccabees is another example of the ethos-based Diaspora perspective, in which the ἔθος / ἦθος word group is quite noticeable. Moreover, due to its possible place of origin in Antioch,147 the book may also be relatable, to some extent, to Acts 15. In 4 Maccabees the Diaspora looks to Jerusalem and strengthens its own identity — vicariously — through the martyrdom taking place there. As in Philo, Torah is the constitutive basis, but ultimately determinative is that Torah functions as paternal custom (“väterliche Ordnung”), without which one’s own identity cannot be maintained. In 1:31–2:6 the anonymous author offers one example of each of a mental and physical lust, to demonstrate that, with the help of Torah, reason can master both temptations: mental lust is the longing after forbidden foods, and physical temptation is equated with sexual corruptibility. Thus, as in the Apostolic Decree, food and sexuality are closely related.148 Also, the further examples mentioned in the introduction taken from the Torah (2:7–3:20) emphasize the social and ethical (and with it the ideal) character of the Mosaic constitution, which, again, is typical for the Diaspora perspective. This 146 In the letter of Antiochus V “Jewish” can be understood as “Judean,” but for the author of 2 Macc, who incorporates this letter into his composition, it becomes an expression that is important for the whole Jewish ethnos since he addresses his writings to the Jews in Egypt (1:1). 147 Cf. Hans-Josef Klauck, “Hellenistische Rhetorik im Diasporajudentum: Das Exordium des vierten Makkabäerbuchs (4 Makk 1,1–12),” NTS 35 (1989): 451–65 = idem, Alte Welt und neuer Glaube: Beiträge zur Religionsgeschichte, Forschungsgeschichte und Theologie des Neuen Testaments (NTOA 29; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994), 99–113 (on p. 100 with more literature); idem, 4. Makkabäerbuch (JSHRZ 3/6; Gütersloh: Mohn, 1989), 667; Hengel and Schwemer, Paul, 191 (GT: Paulus, 293–4). 148 See also Philo, Virt. 182: Philo laments that those who fall away and stop keeping the holy laws use their freedom for the pleasures of the belly and those parts further below it. For further examples, see Klinghardt, Gesetz, 160 (for the Christian reception history of this, see 160–6).


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selection is representative, particularly since in the continuation all weight is put solely on unclean food,149 whereby the actual narrative — despite 5:2 where it talks about “pork and food sacrificed to idols” (κρεῶν ὑείων καὶ εἰδωλοθύτων)150 — focuses exclusively on the consumption of pork.151 ἦθος appears only five times (1:29; 2:7, 21; 5:24; 13:27), twice within the syntagm ἦθη καὶ πάθη (1:29; 2:21), which refers to human “habits and inclinations,” that is, the impulses on an individual from the inside (“inclinations”) and outside (“habits”) dependent on human formation and divine provision, over which reason and the law of God may exercise dominion (cf. 2:7; 5:24). The composite συνήθεια occurs in the LXX only in 4 Macc 2:13; 6:13; 13:22, 27. In addition, ἔθος is used once in 18:5 and εἴωθα in 1:12. For the issue of the Jewish ethos the only significant passages are 13:22, 27. There, the shared education and character formation of the seven brothers in the house of their parents is described with the words συντροφία, συνήθεια, παιδεία, and ἄσκησις ἐν νόμῳ θεοῦ (v. 22), so that their brotherly bond is based on “nature and shared custom and virtuous habits” (v. 27: τῆς φύσεως καὶ τῆς συνηθείας καὶ τῶν τῆς ἀρετῆς ἠθῶν). Accordingly, the education in “the Law and the Prophets” (18:10)152 leads to a corresponding moral (“reasonable”) and character disposition, which is superior to that of the Gentiles, represented by the blood-thirsty and arrogant Antiochus, in every respect. In the end, in 18:5, this disposition is honoured as the keeping of the “customs of the fathers,”153 whereby the verbs of demarcation, ἀλλοφυλεῖν

149 In comparison, the topic of circumcision is hardly mentioned: the women who died together with their children on account of circumcision are remembered (4:25), but this is not discussed further. Also the chastity of Joseph (2:1–6) is not related to circumcision despite the fact that it could represent one’s mastery of sexual lust (Philo, Spec. 1.90). 150 4 Macc 5:2 is the only occurrence of εἰδωλόθυτον in the text. Of the two categories of forbidden foods mentioned here, Luke keeps the second in the Apostolic Decree while leaving the first completely unmentioned. 151 4 Macc 5:6; 6:15, cf. 5:14, 16–38; 6:1–21 (v. 19 emphasizes the model character of this behaviour); 7:6–9; 8:2, 14, 29; 9:16f., etc. A plethora of general expressions is used for eating unclean foods, most frequently μιαροφαγία (5:27; 6:19; 7:6; 11:25) or the related verb μιαροφαγεῖν (5:3, 19, 25; 8:2, 12, 29; 11:16; 13:2). Since the underlying adjective μιαρός (not in the NT) can also mean “blood-stained,” it is also possible to associate here the notion of blood consumption or the culpable shedding of blood, cf. 4:26; 9:15, 17, 32; 10:10 and 2 Macc 4:19; 5:16; 7:34; 9:13; 15:32. The adjective is often used as a superlative to characterize the persecutors of the law-abiding Jews. The subject of idol worship, however, is not mentioned at all. 152 νόμος, which is attested a total of 38 times, and exclusively in the singular as a reference to the Torah, is the medium of education par excellence, cf. Hengel and Schwemer, Paul, 192 (GT 294–5). The Torah makes a reasonable life, which includes all other virtues (1:17; 2:23), possible, which is also why one has to die for it in extreme circumstances. 153 4 Macc 18:5 “The tyrant Antiochus [. . .] when he was in no way whatsoever able to compel the Jerusalemites to become allophyles and change their way of life from their ancestral customs, left Hierosolyma and marched against the Persians” (καὶ ὁ τύραννος Ἀντίοχος [. . .] οὐδὲν οὐδαμῶς ἴσχυσεν ἀναγκάσαι τοὺς Ιεροσολυμίτας ἀλλοφυλῆσαι καὶ τῶν πατρίων ἐθῶν ἐκδιαιτηθῆναι . . .). Text-critically τῶν πατρίων ἐθῶν is not certain, see the apparatus in Alfred Rahlfs, Septuaginta: Editio minor (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1979) ad loc; also Hengel and Schwemer, Paul, 191, 436, n. 1004 (GT

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and ἐκδιατεῖν, designate the ‘national’ or ethnic character of this paternal ethos. This becomes quite clear in 4:19, which is the summary of Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ attempt to eradicate the particular Jewish customs: “And he forced the people to another manner of living, and changed their constitution into all lawlessness” (καὶ ἐξεδιῄτησεν τὸ ἔθνος καὶ ἐξεπολίτευσεν ἐπὶ πᾶσαν παρανομίαν). The reason why adherence to the dietary laws and to circumcision (as the two causes of martyrdom, and which required further explanation for a non-Jewish audience) is non-negotiable, is because this is the only way possible for the upholding of a corporate Jewish identity. Antiochus is described as being aware of this connection, which is why he attempts to target a key element of the Jewish “ancestral law” (4:23: ὀ πάτριος νόμος is used here for the first time): “by means of tortures he himself forced each one of the nation, by tasting forbidden meats, to abjure the Jewish religion [= Jewish identity]” (4:26: διὰ βασάνων ἕνα ἕκαστον τοῦ ἔθνους ἠνάγκαζεν μιαρῶν ἀπογευομένους τροφῶν ἐξόμνυσθαι τὸν Ιουδαϊσμόν). This verse is a transition from the introduction to the martyrdom of Eleazar (chs. 5–6), whom the author praises in ch. 7 with a eulogy, in which again the safe-guarding of the Jewish identity is central (seen in the terms φιλοσοφία in 7:9, 21 and εὐνομία in 7:9). To keep the customs of the fathers, especially the dietary laws, thus means nothing less than saving the people (16:16; 17:9f.).154

It would also be interesting to examine Philo, who greatly favours the use of the term ἔθος, on this issue. However, there is a controversy regarding the extent to which Philo’s use of language was influenced by the halakhic developments in Israel, which is why one cannot simply point to a consensus here.155 That said, in my opinion there can be hardly any doubt that the position represented by Philo is not comparable to those “zealous for the law” depicted in the Book of Acts. The participation in public and cultural life in Alexandria, including attendance at the gymnasium and probable visits to agon competitions and theatre plays, indicates a high level of assimilation156 295, n. 1216). To live according to the customs of the fathers (τῷ πατρίῳ πολιτευόμενοι νόμῳ) occurs the first time in 4:23 in Antiochus’ decree; whoever does such, ought to die. 154 Cf. Rajak, “Dying for the Law,” 115f., 129. 155 On the halakhic focus of Philo, see esp. Naomi G. Cohen, “The Jewish Dimension of Philo’s Judaism: An Elucidation of de Spec. Leg. IV 132–150,” JJS 38 (1987): 165–87; eadem, “Agrippa I and De Specialibus Legibus IV 151–159,” The Studia Philonica Annual 2 (1990): 72–85; eadem, Philo Judaeus: His Universe of Discourse (BEATAJ 24; Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1995). On the earlier discussion, see the overview in Tomson, Jewish Law, 20–4. In contrast, John W. Martens has argued that ἔθη is not referring to the oral Torah, but to those traditions that are binding and characteristic for the Jewish ethos, which are congruent with natural law, see John W. Marten, “Unwritten Law in Philo: A Response to Naomi G. Cohen,” JJS 43 (1992): 38–46 (on this, see Cohen’s reply: “A Response to John W. Martens,” JJS 44 [1993]: 114–15); idem, One God, One Law: Philo of Alexandria on the Mosaic and Greco-Roman Law (Studies in Philo of Alexandria and Mediterranean Antiquity 2; Leiden: Brill, 2003), 175–85. On this see also Markus Bockmuehl, “Natural Law in the New Testament?” in Jewish Law in Gentile Churches: Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics (London: T&T Clark, 2000), 113–43 (107–9); Krauter, Bürgerrecht, 403–4. 156 Cf. Philo, Congr. 74, 76; Spec. 2.230 (cf. also 246) and in addition Maren Niehoff, Philo on Jewish Identity and Culture (TSAJ 86; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 181–4 (in


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without, however, abandoning the distinctiveness and ‘mission’ of the Jewish people in any way. The Torah enables this distinct ethos of the Jewish ethnos,157 which has a special task for all nations, especially in the Diaspora.158 Josephus, in his apology Contra Apionem likewise refers to the unifying function of the law. Because all Jews, whether great or small, women or men, free or unfree, know it, there is such a “remarkable concord” (τὴν θαυμαστὴν ὁμόνοινα) among the people (2.179, cf. 178, 181), for: “the keeping of one and the same opinion (δόξαν) concerning God, and not differing in anything with regard to manner of life or customs (τῷ βιῷ δὲ καὶ τοῖς ἔθεσι) leads to a perfect harmony (καλλίστην συμφωνίαν) in the customs of men (ἐν ἤθεσιν ἀνθρώπων)” (2.179).159 This harmony is risked, however, when individuals begin to move away from the consensus. Therefore, despite the noticeable openness to the surrounding Gentile world and what it offers, there are nevertheless limits that ought not to be transgressed unpunished: Philo heavily criticizes the radical allegorists who, on account of their exegesis, no longer keep the Sabbath or circumcision in a physical sense (Philo, Migr. 83–93), but they nevertheless remain part of the Jewish ethnos (cf. also Philo, Mos. 2.211). However, he reacts with extreme ferocity when he sees an ostentatious transgression of the Sabbath (Philo, Spec. 2.249–51; Philo, Mos. 2.217f.). He also defends the execution of the “disobedient son” (Deut 21:18–21, cf. Philo, Spec. 2.232), most likely because here the ancestral (that is, paternal) laws were not heeded even within the family (cf. Philo, Praem. 162), and he explicitly defends the spontaneous execution of blatant transgressors of the law (Philo, Virt. 182).160 Also, we addition, Philo presupposes a Jewish education, see ibid., 117–18); Barclay, Mediterranean Diaspora, 113–14, 158–80; Krauter, Bürgerrecht, 267–9; Gregory E. Sterling, “The Place of Philo of Alexandria in the Study of Christian Origins,” in Philo und das Neue Testament: Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen (ed. Roland Deines and Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr; WUNT 172; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 21–52 (27–8). In Philo’s eyes, Greek paideia does not contradict Jewish values. Rather, for him “the best of Greek philosophy is nothing but an imitation of the Torah” (Niehoff, Jewish Identity, 182, cf. 137–58). 157 On Philo’s preference for ἔθνος (in comparison to λαός), see Umemoto, “Juden, ‘Heiden’ und das Menschengeschlecht,” 23–5. Cf. also Niehoff, Jewish Identity, 94, n. 81, for a description of “Philo’s ethics as an ethnic boundary.” Likewise in 4 Macc ἔθνος is attested 17 times, while λαός occurs only once. 158 Umemoto, “Juden, ‘Heiden’ und das Menschengeschlecht,” 42–50; Peder Borgen, “‘There Shall Come Forth a Man:’ Reflections on Messianic Ideas in Philo,” in The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity (ed. James H. Charlesworth; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 341–61; Krauter, Bürgerrecht, 406–7. 159 On this (and C. Apionem in general), see the helpful commentary of John M. G. Barclay, Against Apion (Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary 9; Leiden: Brill, 2007). 160 Cf. Torrey Seland, Establishment Violence in Philo and Luke: A Study of NonConformity to the Torah and Jewish Vigilante Reactions (BIS 15; Leiden: Brill, 1995), 103–

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could mention here the “persecutor” Paul (Acts 9:2; 22:19; 26:11), and, after his conversion, the Apostle Paul, who was deemed to be a danger by the Jewish side he had left, and was subjected five times to the synagogal punishment of forty lashes less one (2 Cor 11:24). I suppose that the reason for these differing reactions from tolerance to persecution and execution is based on how each transgression served as an indication of the ‘offender’s’ connectedness to the Jewish people and its customs: Wherever the transgression of a commandment was seen (or suspected) as basically a rejection of the ethnos,161 tolerance ended, whereas even a very liberal sanctification of the Sabbath could still be accepted as such. 2.4 The Jewish ἔθνος as Point of Reference for the Apostolic Decree The narrative context of the Apostolic Decree in Acts appears to lend itself, in my opinion, to an understanding of the Decree within this Diaspora framework, that is, within a context that deals with the identity of Israel as a people. My suggestion is, therefore, that the actual intention of the Decree is not a halakhic, Torah-based one, ascribing to the Gentile Christians a ‘half-kosher’ character between God-fearers and proselytes, and obligating them to keep at least parts of the Torah (which, as Paul emphasizes, has ramifications since the Torah ideally represents a whole). Rather, it expresses a concession to the ethnic loyalties of the Jewish members of the mixed Christian communities. It follows that Luke’s intention with the Apostolic Decree is not to be understood as primarily relating to the relationship of Jewish and Gentile Christians, but to the relationship of the local Christian community (comprising Jewish and Gentile Christians) with the respective local Jewish communities.162 81; Niehoff, Jewish Identity, 176–7. Krauter, Bürgerrecht, 385–6, assesses Philo’s attitude less harshly, cf. ibid., 380–6 on the possibility of the exercise of discipline in the synagogue. On this see also John M. G. Barclay, “Who was Considered an Apostate in the Jewish Diaspora?,” in Tolerance and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity (ed. Graham N. Stanton and Guy G. Stroumsa; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 80–9. 161 For Philo this becomes clear when one considers his interpretation of Lev 24:10–16 in Philo, Mos. 2.193–203. The son of a Jewish mother and an Egyptian father is already ‘borderline,’ but he becomes an enemy by leaving his mother’s “ancestral customs” (τὰ πάτρια ἔθη) and turning to Egyptian customs and gods (which is Philo’s interpretation and not given in the biblical text), so much so that he curses the God of Israel, which makes him into the most cursed person there is (2.196). Stoning is, as such, an appropriate punishment, because the whole nation can participate. On Paul as a persecutor, see Martin Hengel (in collaboration with R. Deines), “Der vorchristliche Paulus,” in Paulus und Jakobus: Kleinere Schriften III (WUNT 141; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), 68–192 (161–82). 162 See above n. 71 and further Schille, Apostelgeschichte, 322; cf. also Barrett, Acts, 2.737; Loening, “Evangelium,” 2626–7; Böttrich, “Petrus und Paulus,” 234–9: according to


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That James is the driving force behind the decree is, in my opinion, based on the fact that James — in contrast to Peter — was the Christian leader who was most concerned for the interests of the Jewish-Christian segment of the Christian community, and therefore the one who sought as much as possible to guard the inner-Jewish fellowship between Jesus-believing Jews and the rest of the Jewish people. Limiting the historical setting of the Apostolic Decree to the conflict between Jewish and Gentile Christians cannot properly take into account the various loyalties and social contexts of the parties involved. The Jewish communities in the Diaspora lived as a social entity within a Gentile context. This gave rise to an obligation to solidarity within the community that was motivated by being a single ethnos163 based on and held together by a common ethos. The ethnic definiteness (“Bestimmtheit”) signified belonging to the overarching ethnos of all Israel that had its centre in Jerusalem and in the land of Israel, and the ethos-bound definiteness related the whole ethnos to the Torah as the basic constitution of Jewish existence. The attitude of the Jewish minority in the Diaspora was therefore determined by a certain ethos that signified belonging to a distinct ethnos, which meant that ethos had the function of protecting and with it (also, to a certain degree) of disassociating themselves from their surroundings.164 A complete integration of non-Jews into the community was only possible through accepting the Jewish ethos, whereas the deliberate disregard of the “paternal ethos” (Philo, Spec. 2.148: πάτριον ἔθος) led to the losing of one’s affiliation with the ethnos as well. Christians of Jewish background were, at the time of the Book of Acts, still members of the Jewish community of a given locality, and as such bound (and most likely also interested) to keep the regulations of affiliation effective there. Their loyalty to their primary social unit, however, could become suspect and threatened through their close contact with Gentiles, that is, Gentile Christians.165

him, the Apostolic Decree wants to emphasize that “the fellowship with Israel . . . (must) not be dissolved” (238, cf. 234: “Peter defends the union of God’s people of Israel, from which the Jewish Christians may also not become detached”). 163 On the Jewish solidarity in the Diaspora, see Gruen, Diaspora, 248–50. 164 I want to emphasize that this is only a partial aspect. Nevertheless, it was an aspect that was clearly observed by non-Jews, cf. the assessments of the Greek and Roman authors of the Jewish refusal of social contacts. 165 It is likely that there were regional differences here, that is, what was tolerated in Alexandria may have been a transgression in Asia Minor. However, the sources are too sporadic to make a safe assessment here, but on this cf. the remarks of Sterling, “Place of Philo,” 27– 8. In this regard, the existing texts available to us ought to be examined with the question in mind what social and private contacts were possible between ethno-loyal Jews and non-Jews at the time.

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Likewise, the Gentile Christians must also have felt a conflict of loyalties within their particular localities, since their new commitment to a Christian life did not simply nullify the familial, economic, social, and political allegiances of their Gentile milieus and origins. In other words, they were also bound by ethos and ethnos (or by ethos and polis). On top of that, there was the missionary dynamic of the Christian churches that aimed for integration; that is, the entry hurdles were — compared to those of the Jewish community — rather low.166 As a result, the Christian community of the first century, which typically comprised Jewish and non-Jewish members, faced the challenging task of adequately balancing the inner-communal as well as various external loyalties. The Apostolic Decree’s request of a certain behaviour from the Gentile Christians is to be understood as applying to such a situation as existed when the Christian community was still extensively ‘proselytizing’ within Israel. The Decree’s aim was to ensure that the close contact with Gentile believers in Christ had no compromising effect on the Jewish Christians within the Jewish (synagogal) community. In other words, the interaction between Jewish Christians and Jewish ethnos was meant to be obstructed as little as possible through fellowship with Gentile (Christians).167 This presupposes that the Jewish Christians continued to be in close contact with the Jewish community, and, even as ‘Christians,’ continued to consider themselves as belonging ethnically to the Jewish population of a given locality, not to mention continued familial, social, and economic bonds that existed within the Jewish communities in foreign lands, which could not have been dissolved easily, nor should be according to Luke’s understanding.168


However, cf. the objection to this by Krauter, Bürgerrecht, 424–5. At this point we also ought to consider the contemporary tensions between Jews and non-Jews, which, having begun with the pogrom in Alexandria in 38 AD, (cf. Philo, Flacc.; Philo, Legat.) also erupted in the city of Antioch (cf. Hengel and Schwemer, Paul, 183–91 [GT 281–6, 305] and also in Judea [Caligula’s edict to erect his statue in the Temple, cf. Josephus, Bell. 2.184–203]), and which did not abate until the beginning of the Jewish revolt in 66 AD. 168 Cf. Acts 18:26: The Jewish couple Priscilla and Aquila meet Apollos in the synagogue of Ephesus, to which they still belong. Cf. also Wasserberg, Israels Mitte, 303: “That Luke with his attitude takes a moderate position, which neither shares the radicalness of Paul’s freedom from the law (Gal 3ff.), nor keeps to Mark’s abrogation of the dietary laws (Mark 7:19b) — a position which precisely did not have to strengthen Gentile Christians in their freedom from the Torah (anymore) — may point to the fact that Luke wrote in another situation compared to Paul and Mark before him.” The latter is certainly right and ought to be considered when looking at the differences between Paul and Luke; yet, it needs to be kept in mind that Paul and Mark (or Jesus) are making soteriological statements. They do not touch on the topic of concessions for the sake of others; Wasserberg himself emphasizes that soteriologically the Torah has come to its end for Luke (see above n. 22). 167


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3. The Four Regulations of the Decree as Indicators of Jewish Identity in the Diaspora The points mentioned in the Apostolic Decree concern, according to this interpretation, identity-giving cultural taboos, which set apart and stabilized the Jewish ethnos within the pagan environments of the Diaspora, while at the same time they were intended to control contact between Jews and nonJews.169 The Decree could therefore tentatively be considered not only as a source for nascent Christianity but also for the question of Jewish identity in the Diaspora per se. A thorough comparison with the respective Jewish sources is not intended in the following, but remains an important task. A few remarks must therefore suffice. 3.1 The Differing Versions of the Apostolic Decree Luke mentions the Decree three times altogether in Acts, each time with small differences. The first reference is the verbal proposal offered by James as part of his deliberations: “write to them to abstain” (ἐπιστεῖλαι αὐτοῖς τοῦ ἀπέχεσθαι) (a) “from things polluted by idols” (τῶν ἀλισγημάτων τῶν εἰδώλων), (b) “from fornication” (καὶ τῆς πορνείας), (c) “from what is strangled” (καὶ τοῦ πνικτοῦ), (d) “and from blood” (καὶ τοῦ αἵματος; 15:20), followed by the ‘official’ version in the letter to the churches: “abstain (ἀπέχεσθαι) (a) “from what has been sacrificed to idols” (εἰδωλοθύτων), (d) “from blood” (καὶ αἵματος), (c) “and from what is strangled” (καὶ πνικτῶν), (b) “and from fornication” (καὶ πορνείας; 15:29), of which James reminds Paul in 21:25, again in verbal form: “to keep themselves” (φυλάσσεσθαι αὐτοὺς) (a) “from both what has been sacrificed to idols” (τό τε εἰδωλόθυτον), (d) “and blood” (καὶ αἷμα), (c) “and what is strangled” (καὶ πνικτὸν), (b) “and fornication” (καὶ πορνείαν). Thus, between James’ proposal and the ‘official’ version Luke makes two small modifications: The change of the difficult to understand τῶν ἀλισγημάτων τῶν εἰδώλων (NRSV translates as “things polluted by idols”) into the more common τὸ εἰδωλόθυτον (NRSV “what has been sacrificed to idols”), and the switching 169 On the socio-cultural function of taboo regulations, which especially “mark [. . .] phenomena within a social order or value system,” which “cannot clearly be determined through traditional, culturally formed schema of perception and behaviour,” see A. Schmidt, “Tabu,” Handbuch religionswissenschaflicher Grundbegriffe 5 (2001), 160–2 (161). Sexuality and food (and often also its natural excretion) belong to the areas that most strongly concern taboos. For a Diaspora identity, to which the traditional mechanisms of social order could be applied only in a limited way, these kinds of abstinence regulations are particularly important for the establishment of strong and stable demarcation lines.

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of the second and fourth regulations with each other, so that πορνεία takes the last position, whereas blood and that which is strangled, in reverse order to the proposal, move up into the middle. In regard to ἀλισγημάτων (τῶν εἰδώλων) we first need to ask if the rare term and NT hapax legomenon τὸ ἀλίσγημα is to be understood as (ritual) defilement, forming a kind of headline for the four decree regulations, or whether (as the modified versions in 15:29; 21:25 suggest) it simply refers to the phenomena of Gentile idol worship, or even more concretely, to the meat that is slaughtered in the context of these pagan rituals. LXX, Philo, and Josephus do not use the noun, and though the verb ἀλισγεῖν occurs five times in the LXX,170 it is missing in the NT, Philo, and Josephus. Among the few Jewish-Hellenistic occurrences, we need to consider especially Par. Jer. (= 4 Bar) 7:37. Here the prophet Jeremiah warns the exiles in Babylon “to abstain from the defilements of the Gentiles of Babylon” (ἀπέχεσθαι ἐκ τῶν ἀλισγημάτων τῶν ἐθνῶν τῆς Βαβυλῶνος), by which he mainly means worship of foreign gods and marriage to non-Jewish spouses (cf. 7:29f.; 8:2– 8). For only the one who keeps separate from Babylon — that is, remains faithful to one’s own ethnos — can hope for redemption, which refers to the return to Jerusalem (cf. 6:17, 24f.) in the context of this passage. Based on the language use, it is quite possible that ἀλίσγηματα is a generic headline for all subsequent topics. An even more far-reaching and occasionally suggested possibility is to relate all regulations of the decree to elements of Gentile idol worship (namely, sacrificial meat, blood, and that which is strangled as relating to specific pagan sacrificial rites, and πορνεία accordingly associated with ritual prostitution).171 In this case, the Decree would be an instruction to refrain from idol worship in its various aspects. Likewise, it is conceivable that Luke intended to use this rather ambivalent term (which possesses a somewhat undefined history of tradition) to refer to a religious–moral taboo, whereby ritual or moral ‘defilement’ (as a consequence of transgressing the taboo) cannot be clearly distinguished. The category of “moral impurity,” which Jonathan Klawans and Christine Hayes have introduced to the discussion, can be helpful here, for it makes clear that impurity does not necessarily deal with ritual, cult, or the Torah (although “moral impurity” uses this kind of ‘grammar’). By taking into account what 170 Mal 1:7–12; Dan 1:8 (Theod. twice); Sir 40:29. In Malachi it refers to unsuitable (defective) sacrifices offered by the Israelites (cf. 1:8, 13, 15), while the other two passages refer to pagan foods. In Dan 1:8 the LXX replaces Theodotion’s second ἀλισγεῖν with συμμολύνεσθαι, “to defile oneself,” which is yet another hapax legomenon in the LXX, but the simplex μολύνειν incl. derivatives is relatively common. In the NT it is used in 1 Cor 8:7 in relation to εἰδωλόθυτον (otherwise only in Rev. 3:4; 14:4 in regard to “defilement” through sexual transgression). More occurrences are discussed in Wehnert, Reinheit, 45. 171 So e.g. Müller, Tora, 160; Jervell, Apostelgeschichte, 396f.; cf. also Öhler, Barnabas, 412, n. 101.


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has been proposed above about everyday interactions between Jews and nonJews in the Diaspora, and the (partly passive) participation of the Jewish population in the social and religious life of their pagan environments in the Diaspora, the Apostolic Decree describes those areas in which Jews on the whole found the behaviour of non-Jews morally corrupt. What was reprehensible was not, however, regarded as a transgression of Torah commandments (Gentiles are not expected to follow Torah), but rather as a disregard of the fundamental signs God had inscribed in creation, which should, therefore, be respected by all. Where these are transgressed no fellowship can exist.172 Closest — though not quite congruent — to Luke’s language use, in my opinion, is therefore the expression “abominations of the nations.” The LXX translates ‫כְּתוֹעֲב ֹת הַגּוֹי ִם‬173 with τὰ βδελύγματα τῶν ἐθνῶν in Deut 18:9 (cf. 20:18); 1 Kings 14:24; 2 Kings 16:3; 21:2; 2 Chron 28:3; 33:2; and 36:14, and also (without Hebrew Vorlage) 1 Esd 7:13 (cf. Ezra 9:1, 11, 14). The scriptural passages refer to idolatrous practices that were related primarily to Moloch worship (that is human sacrifices and offerings to the dead) and cultic prostitution (1 Kings 14:24). With these practices the earlier inhabitants of Canaan had polluted the land and as a result were expelled from it. By adopting these practices Israel was to share their fate. In these passages it is decisive that the criterion for the judgment of the nations is not the Torah, but the indirect expectation that they should have an overall understanding of what is right and wrong.174 This primordial ethical understanding, however, is distorted, where even the most fundamental order of life is so harmed that not only is idolatry practised, but — much worse — fathers end up killing even their own children as a result.175 As for sexual “abominations,” according to 172 It is possible for there to be an ordered and peaceful coexistence side by side (not necessarily ‘with’ each other [“Miteinander”] but ‘next’ to each other [“Nebeneinander”]; that is, the consequence is not life in the ghetto. This is similarly argued by Paul in 1 Cor 5:10–12: there is an outer circle with which one has contact, but does not have fellowship, and where other rules than those within the community reign. This corresponds, in my opinion, to the Diaspora ethos: a ‘soft’ participation in some areas of non-Jewish life that are considered reprehensible is often inevitable, which is why it is not made into an issue. The limit is where the contemptible intrudes permanently into the realm of one’s own identitygiving community and tries to legitimize itself there. 173 Cf. H.-D. Preuß, “‫תועבה‬,” TDOT 15.591–604. 174 The conspicuous phenomenon that ‫ תועבה‬frequently occurs in wisdom literature affirms this further, as wisdom represents a form of trans-ethnic koine of right and wrong. 175 Cf. Ps 106:34–40: Israel becomes an “abomination” for God because it adopted Moloch worship from the nations, so that they sacrificed their own sons and daughters. Deut 12:31 and Lev 20:2–5 show that in God’s eyes Moloch worship is a far more serious transgression than idol worship per se: Even the foreigner must die if he sacrifices to Moloch; thus, even for Gentiles this is not tolerable (v. 2f.). For the issue at hand, it is irrelevant whether the biblical understanding of Moloch worship actually corresponded to reality; the biblical authors certainly understood the practice as an actual atrocity.

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Lev 18:22–30;176 20:13–21; Deut 23:18f.; 1 Kings 14:24 (cf. also Deut 22:5), this seems to refer in the first place to practices that undermine the created order that correlates a man to a woman.177 According to Preuß, ‫ תועבה‬is a label for “something in the human realm that is ethically abhorrent, either as an idea or as an action,” precisely because, “above all it is irreconcilable with YHWH,” and is “contrary to his character and his will as an expression of that character.” The expression describes its object as “chaotic and alien, and therefore dangerous, within the cosmic and social order . . . a negative taboo,” which has to be avoided at all costs.178 Applied to the Apostolic Decree this means that it is not meant as an “escape from the world” (cf. 1 Cor 5:10), but as the avoidance of those things that are, from a Jewish perspective, so obviously wrong that they must be avoided by all humans. 3.2 Idol Worship and Eating of Meat Sacrificed to Idols The understanding of the rationale for the Decree proposed above, as being connected to the fundamental signs of an ethical order that God has inscribed in creation, and which is accessible to all humans, is not very precise when it comes to idol worship. For from a Jewish perspective it is obvious that the Gentile world is primarily marked by the worship of non-gods as gods (= idols). Idol worship is the definitive element of Gentile identity, that is, as it is constructed from the Jewish perspective.179 Nonetheless, especially in the 176

It needs to be noted that ‫ תועבה‬occurs in Lev 18 for the first time in v. 22, which indicates that the incest laws do not belong to this (different in T. Reu. 3:12; T. Jud. 12:8); Lev 18:21 mentions Moloch worship, and thus the Gentile abominations par excellence, and from v. 22 onwards homosexuality and sodomy are introduced as further taboos, which are not only applicable to Israel but also to Gentiles (which therefore obligates all foreigners who live in Israel). These are the transgressions that result in the loss of the land and eradication. In the similar list in Lev 20:10–21 only homosexuality is referred to as ‫( תועבה‬v. 13), but the other transgressions (adultery, incest, sodomy) are also punished by death. The Book of Ezekiel continues in this trajectory, cf. Preuß, “‫תועבה‬,” 597–9. 177 Pertinent here is also T. Jud. 23:2, which decries girls from the tribe of Judah acting as dancers and prostitutes, with the result that the Judahites become “intermixed with the abomination of the nations.” In T. Dan. βδελύγματα ἐθνῶν also have sexual connotations. 178 Preuß, “‫תועבה‬,” 602. In the rabbinic literature this expression is likewise related to sexual transgressions, but beyond that also to great number of foreign customs, cf. Stern, Jewish Identity, 181–91. 179 Cf. e.g. Philo’s interpretation of the first and second commandments, Philo, Decal. 52–81; Philo, Contempl. 3–9; also Wis 11:15; 12:4–6; 1 Pet 4:3 (on τὸ βούλημα τῶν ἐθνῶν); for the rabbinical passages, see Str-B 3.47–62; Stern, Jewish Identity, 4.27–9; Müller, Tora, 94–103; on Paul’s image of idol worship as “the hallmark of the Gentiles,” see Ulrich Heckel, “Das Bild der Heiden und die Identität der Christen bei Paulus,” in Die Heiden: Juden und Christen und das Problem des Fremden (ed. Reinhard Feldmeier and Ulrich Heckel; WUNT 70; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1994), 269–96 (283f.).


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Diaspora (but not only there) tolerance of non-Jewish religious practices was apparently not an issue for Jews, even as far as passive participation (through non-intentional attendance) in pagan cultic rituals. Accordingly, the Apostolic Decree’s first requirement is to avoid any deliberate or ostentatious participation in pagan cultic rituals, part of which was the public (visible) consumption of meat sacrificed to idols. That this is the main issue can be seen in the replacement of ἀλισγημάτων τῶν εἰδώλων with εἰδωλόθυτον, which, as Volker Gäckle has emphasized, primarily designates meat that had been ritually slaughtered in a temple and made available on the regular meat market.180 If we follow Gäckle and relate the term to religiously contaminated meat that was sold outside of a temple, and especially in the macellum,181 it is important to note — against the prevalent view182 — that profanely slaughtered meat (home slaughter was common in antiquity) was also on offer there, and was even the norm.183 For Paul the line is where active participation in idol worship takes place, for it is there that a κοινωνία with demons occurs (1 Cor 10:20) since the person sacrificing, or the one who participates in it actively and directly, turns to worship the idol of the respective cult.184 This could also be the reason why Luke further specifies ἀλισγημάτα τῶν εἰδώλων as εἰδωλόθυτον. Where the meat unambiguously is related to pagan deities, separation becomes inevitable, for there ritual communio occurs between that which is not God and humans (cf. Acts 7:41). If this is the case, it would be worth considering whether (at least) in the Book of Acts εἰδωλόθυτον does not indeed relate to meat that “was consumed in the context of sacrificial feast in temples,”185 or, as Burkhard Jürgens has put it, includes “the aspect of declaring one’s loyalty to a foreign deity.”186 180 Volker Gäckle, Die Starken und die Schwachen in Korinth und Rom (WUNT 2.200; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 115–18. Gordon Fee and Ben Witherington have argued against this explanation, preferring to understand the term as “referring exclusively to meat that was consumed within the context of the respective ritual meals” (see Gäckle, Die Starken und die Schwachen, 117 and bibliography). 181 Gäckle, Die Starken und die Schwachen, 176–80. 182 Ibid., 178, n. 356f. 183 Cf. the important study by Michael MacKinnon, Production and Consumption of Animals in Roman Italy: Integrating the Zooarchaeological and Textual Evidence (JRA Supp. 54; Portsmouth: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 2004), 181–4. That sacrificial meat (e.g. the chapter: “Animal butchery, meat preservation and cooking” [161–87]) is hardly ever mentioned in this study (but see 173) would lead one to the assumption that the weight of NT exegesis, based on 1 Cor 8; 10:14–22, has been too one sided in this respect. Sacrificial meat would appear to be something that was avoidable without much difficulty in everyday life. 184 Cf. Gäckle, Die Starken und die Schwachen, 272–5, 279. 185 Ibid., 170, where he rejects this opinion however. 186 Jürgens, Anfang, 178. See his extensive discussion of the use of the expression of εἰδωλόθυτον and its early Christian reception history, ibid., 170–80.

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3.3 Porneia The second regulation is also primarily a very general rule, and in some sense a self-evident matter for Jews and Christians alike (and many Gentiles as well!). The decisive element in explaining its inclusion, it seems to me, was the Jewish construct of non-Jews as ‘sexaholics’ who would neither shy away from members of their own family, from those of the same sex, nor from animals.187 The relationship of idolatry and sexual excesses, testified to in various texts, is also part of this Jewish construct.188 In contrast, the Apostolic Decree expresses the positive expectation of a sexual morality that is in congruence with the biblical commandments, whereby the biblical norm is, as a general rule, seen as being in line with natural law.189 Moreover, the biblical parameters also preclude all forms of cultic prostitution as part of the Decree. Philo’s summary of the law can serve as an example here, as conveyed by Eusebius’s Praeparatio evangelica (VIII 7.1–20 = Hypothetica). It starts (at least according to what is preserved) with a defence of capital punishment for sexual transgressions (pederasty, adultery, rape, prostitution), before he deals with other offences in the realm of the law on damages that are also liable for the death penalty. Philo explicitly emphasizes this severity and contrasts it with the laxity of Gentile punishments in these matters (7:1). Parallel collections of laws, mostly in the same order, can be found in Josephus (C. Ap. 2.190–219) and Pseudo-Phocylides.190 Philo’s interpretation of the sixth commandment in De specialibus legibus 3.1–50 (sections 51–82 do not mention Gentile practices)191 can be read for the most part as a compendium

187 Cf. Stern, Jewish Identity, 23–6; Müller, Tora, 110–6 (only with rabbinic references); also Heckel, “Bild der Heiden,” 284–9 on “fornication” as the “cardinal sin” of the Gentiles. 188 Especially important for this issue is the history of impact of Gen 6:1–4 (the intermingling of things that ought not be mixed) and the Phinehas narrative (Num 25), where the temptation of idol worship was titillated through ‘foreign’ women on account of the Gentile prophet Balaam’s advice, who in Rev 2:14 is characterized as the one who tempts with food sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality, and likewise also the ‘foreign’ queen Jezebel in Rev 2:20 (here in reverse order, sexual immorality, then food sacrificed to idols). More generally on the relationship of porneia and idol worship, see Klinghardt, Gesetz, 166–9; Niebuhr, Gesetz und Paränese, 92f. and passim; Jürgens, Anfang, 182–5. 189 Cf. Helmut Burkhardt, “Der Naturrechtsgedanke im hellenistischen Judentum und im Neuen Testament,” in Begründung ethischer Normen (Wuppertal: Brockhaus, 1988), 81–97 (81–90); Bockmuehl, “Natural Law,” 107–10. For evidence related to sexuality and procreation, see Philo, Abr. 135–7, 248f.; Spec. 2.170; 2.32f., 37–42, 46–8, 112f.; Praem. 108f.; cf. also Philo, Virt. 131–3. 190 Cf. Sterling, “Place of Philo,” 36–9. On sexual ethics, see Pseudo-Phocylides 3.177– 90, and also Niebuhr, Gesetz und Paränese, 26–31. 191 Different in Philo, Decal. 121–31: Here he limits himself to adultery and the upsetting consequences for the involved families.


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of Jewish revulsion at Gentile sexuality.192 For example, the “Persian custom” (τὸ Περσίκον ἔθος) of marriage within the family is οὐ θέμις (3.12f.), which Colson has translated as “forbidden by the moral law.”193 Philo twice employs for this practice the expression ἀνοσιούργημα, meaning “impious act” or “sacrilege” (3.13–14) in the superlative: μέγιστον/δυσσέστερον ἀνοσιούργημα (see also 3.19). These kinds of relations destroy the harmony between humans and are the cause of war and violence (3.15–19, cf. also Let. Arist. 152).194 That Philo sees marriage relations within the family as a transgression of elementary norms is evident from the vocabulary he uses to express his revulsion: It is an “un-human (unnatural) relation” (κοινωνία ἀκοινώνητος) and an “un-harmonic harmony” (Philo, Spec. 3.23: ἁρμονία ἀνάρμοστος; cf. 3.28: the marriage of two sisters destroys the “natural harmony” [κατὰ φύσιν ἁρμονία] between them); it is something which is to be loathed (Philo, Spec. 3.13, 24, 50: μυσάττεσθαι or ἐκμυσάσσεσθαι), and from which one needs to turn away (Philo, Spec. 3.13, 50, 66: ἀποστρέφειν). It would be worthwhile to examine in more detail the semantic field Philo uses to label taboo-transgressions. For the Apostolic Decree it is, furthermore, important to note Philo’s remark in 3.19, according to which not only do those who perform such deeds act impiously (ἀσεβεῖν), “but also those who freely subscribe to them (συνεπιγράφονται).” Paul’s extremely harsh critique of the behaviour of the Corinthians (1 Cor 5:1–13) becomes understandable when one sees it in this context. For Paul also, this is not just one sin among others (cf. 1 Cor 5:10), but the transgression of a taboo that was not tolerable even “among the Gentiles.” Josephus introduces the section in Contra Apionem that deals with marriage laws (γάμων νόμοι) with the statement that the law recognizes only one way for man and woman to relate to each other, namely the one “according to nature” (κατὰ φύσιν) and with the aim of procreation (2.199). Sodomy, marriage due to unethical reasons (on account of dowry, rape, robbery, or deception), and also marriage between closely related family members (cf. Lev 18:6ff.) are expressly rejected. Moreover, any type of sexual relation outside of marriage is forbidden, which Josephus explicitly affirms for both 192

Lev 18 and 20 are important here, which shows that the appeal to Lev 17f. is not entirely without reason. But the main function of this text for the Diaspora was its use as an ethical benchmark, and not its function with regard to the land. On the significance of Lev 18–20 (and Deut 22) as the “basic source for the ethical instruction in the Diaspora,” see Sterling, “Place of Philo,” 38–9, also Niebuhr, Gesetz und Paränese, 30f., 35–8, 59–66 with additional literature. 193 F. H. Colson, Philo VII (LCL 320; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1937; various reprints), 481. 194 Klinghardt, Gesetz, 201, however, finds that the use of πορνεία “was determined not by social but by cultic motives.” This is the result of his reduction of the Decree to demands that were to “satisfy Jewish Christian purity requirements.”

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man and woman (2.201). Neither is abortion (cf. Pseudo-Phocylides 184f.; Hypoth. VIII 7.7) allowed, and a woman who does so is called a “childmurderer” (τεκνοκτνόνος), because she “has destroyed a soul and diminished the race” (ψυχὴν ἀφανίζοθσα καὶ τὸ γένος ἐλαττοῦσα, Josephus, C. Ap. 2.202). Josephus provides a similar list of sexual taboos in his other systematic presentation of the law of Moses in Ant. 3.274f. There he calls the transgression of these commandments ἐξυβρίζειν, “to be insolent.” Many more examples could be mentioned here.195 What matters is that in Jewish sensibilities sexuality has its limits (applicable to all human beings) and to transgress them means to transgress the inherent order of things, and is as such not only disrespectful towards creation but also to the creator (cf. Rom 1:19, 24–7). Thus, notwithstanding the problems of terminology for modern readers, we deal here with a ‘naturally’ understood sexuality, which is based on procreation within the context of marriage. This is brought out in the Apostolic Decree, although without allowing one to determine, for example, the extent to which forbidden marriage relations in the family are included (in my opinion, they are). What appears crucial to me is that the Decree inculcates an irreproachable lifestyle in this regard, so that — as for the issue of idol worship — the close coexistence of Jews and Gentiles in the Christian communities could not raise any kind of suspicion, and in fact would dispel it from the outset. Ulrich Heckel summarized Paul’s attitude with regard to 1 Cor 5:10f.; 9:6f. on Gentile vices, in particular idol worship and fornication, by saying that “the church members in Corinth are at least not to behave worse than that [behaviour] known among the topoi of [Jewish] Gentile polemic.”196 This minimalistic requirement, however, would not have satisfied the authors of the Apostolic Decree, for such company would have “ruined the good morals” of the Jewish community (cf. 1 Cor 15:33). 3.4 That Which is Strangled The abstention from that which is strangled (τὸ πνικτόν)197 is the main argument for the halakhic interpretation, which sees here a command that relates 195 Cf. the index of Niebuhr, Gesetz und Paränese, s.v. Blutschande, Homosexualität, Sicherung der Nachkommenschaft (Abtreibung, Empfängnisverhütung, Kastration, Kindesaussetzung), Sodomie, Unzucht (Prostitution, Vergewaltigung). A wealth of information can also be found in the Sibylline literature and the pseudo-Philonic sermons De Jona and De Sampsone, cf. the references in Stenschke, Luke’s Portrait, 75f. 196 Heckel, “Bild der Heiden,” 289. 197 The form is a participle of πνίγειν, “to strangle” or “to choke” (cf. Matt 13:7: the thorns “choke” the seed; 18:28: the slave “throttles” his fellow slave; Mark 5:13: the pigs “choke,” that is, drown in the water; in the LXX only in 1 Sam 16:14f.: the demons “choke” Saul), and thus “that which is strangled.” The context makes it evident that in the Decree a


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in a particular way to the Jewish (rabbinic) ritual law, and for which there is no ethical explanation whatsoever. The difficulty for exegesis lies in the fact that τὸ πνικτόν does not occur in the LXX and that in the NT it only appears in Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25. The common interpretation is that it refers to meat from animals that are not slaughtered in a kosher way, so that, according to Bauer–Aland, “Israelites were forbidden to eat” it. Since here, and also in the written Torah, all details with regard to the correct (kosher) mode of slaughtering animals are lacking, these are supplied from elsewhere, usually by referring to the rich anthology of (Strack-)Billerbeck.198 If one accepts this interpretation, then the Decree puts forward the demand that only meat that is slaughtered according to the specific Jewish (rabbinic) regulations should be eaten. Behind this prevalent interpretation are, however, a number of unanswered questions, which usually go unrecognized. In my opinion, abstention from that which is strangled first of all refers only to the refusal to eat meat that, as it were, became available without human intention and without the shedding of blood. This would mean, based on the OT passages, animals that died naturally (nevela) or were killed by other animals (terefa) (Lev 17:13, 15f.). The change of the order in the two versions of the Apostolic Decree from “whatever has been strangled and from blood” (Acts 15:20) into “blood and that which is strangled” (v. 29) in the official version would then have to be understood as a deliberate arrangement, first to express the ban on blood, and then, related to this, also those things which are strangled, which would indicate that this is a further specification of the ban on blood. In particular, from the perspective of the intended non-Jewish recipients of the Decree, this instruction must have appeared especially important, which in turn allows us to draw some conclusions about Jewish behaviour in the Diaspora. Unfortunately, one has to concede that there is no clear evidence available that would allow for further investigation of this topic. If my suggestion is correct, then any kind of meat that had become available through ‘normal’ butchering (whereby the blood is allowed to flow out) would be permissible for consumption. Philo, in his exegesis of the commandment “You shall not covet,” also deals with the ban on terefa and nevela (Philo, Spec. 4.119–23). He explains by way of introduction: specific Jewish word use is to be expected, and not the Greek usage (where πνικτόν refers to things that are “boiled” or “steamed” in a special way, cf. Klinghardt, Gesetz, 202f.), so that further deliberations about boiled foods are, in my opinion, not necessary; different here Öhler, Barnabas, 412f. A good overview of the difficulties involved in properly understanding the term can be found in Jürgens, Anfang, 186–8. 198 Str-B 2.703, 730–4; cf. also the detailed description of the Targum tradition in the context of rabbinic regulations in Wehnert, Reinheit, 221–32.

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He [= Moses] forbade them to have anything to do with bodies of animals that have died of themselves or have been torn by wild beasts (μήτε θνησιμαῖον μήτε θηριάλωτον προσίεσθαι), the latter because a man ought not to be table mate with savage brutes and one might almost say share with them the enjoyment of their feasts of flesh; the former perhaps because it is a noxious and insanitary practice since the body contains dead serum as well as blood (ἐναποτεθνηκότος199 τοῦ ἰχῶρος200 μετὰ τοῦ αἵματος); also it may be because the fitness of things bids us keep untouched what we find deceased, and respect the fate which the compulsion of nature has already imposed.201

It is striking, as Isaak Heinemann notes in his [German] translation, that Philo follows the LXX in his interpretation,202 whereas the rabbinic tradition is entirely different here. According to the Torah, the Israelites are forbidden to eat animals that die of natural causes (Deut 14:21: ‫ ;נבלה‬LXX: θνησιμαῖον), nevertheless, it is still permissible to sell the carcasses to “the foreigner (‫)גר‬, who is in your gates,” and who is allowed to eat the meat. Furthermore, the Israelites are to avoid any carrion of unclean animals (Lev 11:8, 11, 24f., 27f., 35–40; cf. 5:2), though it is permissible to use the fat of clean animals that died by themselves (likewise that of ‫ )טרפה‬as raw material (but not as foodstuff; Lev 7:24). These regulations are mentioned once more with regard to the priests (Lev 22:8; Ezek 4:14; 44:31). The only OT passages where ‫ נבלה‬and ‫( טרפה‬LXX: θηριάλωτος) occur as a pair are Lev 7:24; 17:15; 22:8; Ezek 4:14; 44:31.203 ‫ טרפה‬occurs as a separate commandment only in Exod 22:30: Meat found in the field, that is ‫טרפה‬, is not to be eaten, but should be given to the dogs. Lev 17:15 is instructive for putting this commandment into perspective: After the admonition is given to consume no animal blood under any circumstances 199 ἐναποθνῄσκειν, “to die in (sth.),” is also used by Philo in Mos. 1.100 (about the death of fish in the water of the Nile, which had turned to blood); Philo, Decal. 71 (to die of hardship), and Aet. 65 (to die in labour); in the LXX it occurs only in 1 Sam 25:37 (Nabal’s heart died within him); also in 4 Macc 6:30, 11:1 (for the death of the martyrs through torture). 200 ὁ ἰχώρ, “blood-liquid,” “the watery part of blood;” a hapax legomenon in Philo, which is missing in the NT (see on the subject matter John 19:34), but occurs in the LXX in Job 2:8; 7:5; and 4 Macc 9:20. 201 Philo, Spec. 4.119 (Colson, LCL). Cf. Isaak Heinemann, Philo von Alexandria: Die Werke in deutscher Übersetzung (2nd ed.; 7 vols.; ed. Leopold Cohn et al.; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1962), 2.281. 202 θνησιμαῖον and θηριάλωτος are missing in Albert-Marie Denis, Concordance Grecque de Pseudépigraphes d’Ancien Testament (Louvain-la-Neuve: Institut Orientaliste, 1987), and in Josephus, who only very briefly refers to this commandment in Ant. 3.260. 203 ‫ טרפה‬and θηριάλωτος each appear only nine times. Apart from the passages mentioned above one needs to mention Gen 31:39: Jacob tells Laban that he replaced that which was “torn” by beast (cf. Exod 22:13: the shepherd has to give evidence for “that which is torn,” so that he does not have to make restitution); in Nah 2:13 it is a lion who drags something “torn” into his lair. ‫נבלה‬/θνησιμαῖον are more common since they also designate human corpses.


The Apostolic Decree

(Lev 17:10–14), not even from the prey of hunting, the statement is made in v. 15f. that whoever eats ‫ נבלה‬or ‫טרפה‬, whether an Israelite or a foreigner, is unclean until evening, which is why they are to wash their clothes (v. 15). Whoever does not observe this is “to bear his guilt” (v. 16). While the consumption of blood is forbidden by death, the contamination from eating of ‫ נבלה‬or ‫ טרפה‬is apparently very weak. The corresponding purification requirement does not differ much from the regulations concerning (legitimate) sexual intercourse (cf. Lev 15:18). In Jer 16:18 we encounter ‫ נבלה‬in the context of idolatrous abominations with which Israel polluted the land by adopting the “abominations of the Gentiles.” This was obviously seen as a kind of taboo-transgression and entailed radical consequences.204 The rabbinic interpretation of terefa and nevela, however, is entirely different: Terefa are animals with life-threatening injuries or deformities (m. Hul. 3:1–5; cf. 2:4), whereas nevela are animals that were not slaughtered appropriately, which, in the rabbinic Halakhah, means those whose trachea, oesophagus, and both arteries were not severed in one cut (m. Hul. 2:4).205 There is no indication of such differentiation in Philo. Rather, both categories are still closely related, and for both he provides a natural rationale: Humans are not to eat from the table of the animals, thus, humankind’s special role in creation is not to be dissolved (cf. Her. 83f.). In the case of carrion, humans are to feel dread (αἰδεῖσθαι) in response to the necessities of nature (τὰς φύσεως ἀνάγκας, cf. Acts 15:28: ἑπάναγκες) that led to the death of the animal. Related to this in Philo is the imagination of the blood being trapped in the body and having died therein, which disrupts the natural or created order because for Philo, following biblical precepts, the blood is the actual life force and belongs exclusively to God.206 Josephus summarizes the subject very briefly in Ant. 3.260: Moses has forbidden any consumption of blood because he “regards it as soul and spirit” (ψυχὴν αὐτὸ καὶ πνεῦμα νομίζων). Then, without any further explanation, we read: “He also forbade 204 The Israelites are filling God’s land and inheritance (‫“ )נחלה‬with the carcass of their abominations and their abhorrences” (‫ ;בנבלת שקוציהם ותועבותיהם‬LXX: ἐβεβήλωσαν τὴν γῆν μου ἐν τοῖς θνησιμαίοις τῶν βδελυγμάτων αὐτῶν). In other words, “carrion” (‫ )נבלה‬is where God’s ‫ נחלה‬should be, cf. Preuß, “‫תועבה‬,” 598. 205 The halakhot concerning ritual slaughter are largely anonymous, the few rabbis mentioned in the context are mostly from the second and third Tannaitic generations (first half of the second century), and only once do we have a disagreement between the schools of Hillel and Shammai (m. Hul. 1.2). 206 Philo, Praem. 144; cf. Philo, Spec. 1.216, 218: Food is turned into blood (which again points back to the significance of eating the right food); Det. 79–84, 91f. (on Gen 4:10; Lev 17:11): The blood is for bodily existence what the divine pneuma is for immaterial existence. Philo also explains the prohibition of some animals by asserting that they eat blood (Spec. 4.116f.); cf. also Let. Arist. 146: the birds not fit for consumption are those that eat meat and carrion.

The Apostolic Decree


us to eat the flesh of an animal that died of itself” (καὶ κρέως τοῦ τεθνηκότος αὐτομάτως ζῴου τὴν βρῶσιν διεκώλυσεν). Nothing even remotely similar to the rabbinic understanding of proper slaughtering can thus be found in this context (or anywhere else in Josephus’s writings). Philo continues his explanation with a discussion of animals killed in the hunt, especially criticizing the use of dogs in hunting, which is praised by “many of the Greek and barbarian lawgivers” (Philo, Spec. 4.120: οἱ πολλοὶ τῶν παρ’ Ἑλλησι καὶ βαρβάροις νομοθετῶν). The reason is the same here as before, namely that humans and animals are not to share the same food, which is why the eating of carrion and of animals killed by predators or dogs should be forbidden. From the continuation in 4.121 one might conclude that Philo rejects the consumption of game entirely; however, the list in 4.105 of edible game would then be practically meaningless. Also the Torah does not ban the consumption of game (cf. Gen 27:3; Lev. 17:13; cf. also Josephus, Ant. 1.267). It is therefore possible that 4.121 deals specifically with the use of dogs in hunting (the ownership of hunting dogs by Jews is presupposed in Josephus, Ant. 4.206). Moreover, one needs to note that the possibility of the consumption of game itself precludes any kind of rabbinic slaughter from the outset, that is, assuming that animals were not just caught but killed in the hunt. In the transitional paragraph to his treatment of the prohibition of blood consumption, Philo discusses a special food or sacrificial custom in which the animal is strangled to death, so that the blood would not pour out and was “buried” in the body (4.122): In doing so “they strangle and choke the substance of the soul, which ought to remain free and unrestrained” (ἄγχοντες καὶ ἀποπνίγοντες, καὶ τὴν ουσίαν τῆς ψυχῆς, ἥν ἐλεύθερον καὶ ἄφετον ἐχρῆν ἐᾶν, τυμβεύοντες τῷ σώματι τὸ αἷμα).207 The abhorrence of and contempt for such practices are also visible in another text, which belongs in the context of the Jewish legends about Alexander the Great, and which is known as the “Imprisonment of the Unclean Nations” (“Einschließung der unreinen Völker”). Alexander encountered these nations “at the borders of the north” and “locked them on account of their impurities” (διὰ τὴν ἀκαθαρσίαν) behind iron gates, so that they could not corrupt the civilized world.208 An initial trace of this story can be found in Josephus, Bell. 7.244f., 207 On this text, see Wehnert, Reinheit, 228–30, whose analysis, however, is not convincing. Perhaps also Jos. Asen. 8:5 (ἄρτος ἀγχόνης) is to be understood this way, cf. Klinghardt, Gesetz, 203, n. 44. 208 This episode is only found in recensions γ and ε of the Alexander novel (also in Ms K, which belongs to recension β), cf. Franz Parthe, ed., Der griechische Alexanderroman Rezension Γ Buch III (BKP 33; Meisenheim am Glan: Hain, 1969), ch. 26a; Jürgen Trumpf, ed., Anonymi Byzantini: Vita Alexandri Regis Macedonum (BSGRT, Stuttgart: Teubner, 1974), 145–48 ( = Vita Alexandri 39 [recen. ε]), and in addition the tradition in the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius, cf. appendix III in Helmut van Thiel, ed., Leben und Taten


The Apostolic Decree

where he reports of a brutal Scythian tribe209 that planned a pillaging campaign through Media. In order to carry this out, they had to cross a mountain pass, “which King Alexander had made lockable with iron gates” (245). Since Josephus explicitly equates the Scythians with the nation of Magog in Ant. 1.126 (the list of the “unclean nations” in the Alexander novel begins with Gog and Magog), we have here a first recalling of Alexander’s imprisonment of at least Magog, which subsequently is further developed in the Alexander novels. The nations are reported as eating “abominable and rotten meats” (κρέη μυσαρά210 τε καὶ κίβδηλα) of unclean animals, such as dogs, mice, and snakes, and moreover that of miscarriages, premature births, carrion, and also embryos of animals and humans. “They likewise eat the dead.” Here we have — most likely from a Jewish perspective — a description of the utter depravity of various Gentile food practices. At least twenty-two nations of the north are suspected of practising such atrocities. With the suggested understanding of the Apostolic Decree in mind, I believe it is important to see that the Jewish ethnos could associate the nonJewish world (or parts thereof) with this kind of ‘unnatural’ behaviour (ethos), which was to be rejected by all means. To keep away from “strangled things,” therefore, is a reference to refrain from meat that was not “slaughtered” in the ‘normal’ way, meaning that the blood of the animal was allowed to drain out.211 A demand for correct halakhic (kosher) slaughter cannot be deduced from this text, nor from anything else we know otherwise about Jewish life in the Diaspora.212 Alexanders von Makedonien: Der griechische Alexanderroman nach der Handschrift L (TzF 13; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1974), 248–52. The quotations in the text follow Trumpf’s edition. 209 On the proverbial cruelty of the Scythians, see 4 Macc 10:7; Josephus, C. Ap. 2.269. Their appearance in Col 3:11 is to be understood in the sense that even Scythians, that is members of a notorious people, could be part of the Church, cf. Eduard Schweizer, The Letter to the Colossians: A Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1982), 199. 210 The adjective is based on the same root as the verb(s) μυσάττεσθαι/ἐκμυσάσσεσθαι in Philo, Spec. 3.13, 24, 50 (s.v. porneia). 211 On the usual slaughtering practice in antiquity, in which the blood was allowed to drain out, see MacKinnon, Production, 178. The only indicator in non-Jewish sources referring to a special Jewish practice is in the letter of Emperor Julian (361–363), who emphasizes that Jews keep to their traditions: They rather would die of hunger than eat pork, or meat that is not immediately “pressed out” (μηδὲ κρέως τοῦ μὴ παραχρῆμα ἀποθλιβέντος), which is understood as the pressing out of blood (= Stern, GLAJJ II, no. 483). But even this passage is not proof of a particular slaughtering practice, but of the preference of a complete draining of the blood of the animal. 212 So also Müller, Tora, 158f. If one considers the non-Jewish sources on this issue, it becomes evident that most observers know that Jews do not eat pork, but it is mentioned nowhere in this context (or anywhere else) that Jews do not eat meat at all. Yet, since there is also no indication of specific Jewish supply facilities or of any special slaughtering methods (see above note), it is not helpful to assume the existence of kosher Jewish butcheries during

The Apostolic Decree


3.5 Blood Closely related to “strangled things” is the avoidance of “blood,” which should be seen as a prohibition against the consumption of blood in any form.213 This also has deep roots in the biblical and early Jewish tradition, though in the context of the Decree, like the other regulations, it has to be understood in terms of creation theology and not according to ritual law.214 The reactions to Jesus’ paradoxical call to drink his blood (John 6:53–5) likewise show that his behaviour was not primarily felt to be a transgression of a commandment, but on a border that turned away even those among the closest circle of the disciples (6:60–67). The avoidance of blood in Gen 9:3f. is obligatory for all humanity, and Lev 3:17; 7:26f.; Deut 12:16, 23–5 relate this as clearly as possible: Wherever Israel resides, no blood of any kind is to be consumed, and according to Lev 17:10–14 this extends also to foreigners in Israel. Blood is the carrier of the soul and thus the lifeforce over which God has not given humans any power of control (except when it comes to sacrifices, cf. Lev 17:11). From Luke 11:50f., 13:1; Acts 5:28; 18:6; 20:26, 28; 22:20 it becomes evident that for Luke also “the weight was on the lifecarrying properties of blood, in contrast to the solely physical character,”215 although the aforementioned passages refer only to humans. The various passages relating to this topic found in Philo (see note 206) and other sources216 allow the conclusion that this particular command had a high significance for Jewish identity in the Diaspora, even if non-Jewish sources are silent here. the time of Luke (which the common view must presuppose), even if Margaret Williams presumes to have found a first epigraphic indicator for this: “Alexander, bubularus de macello: Humble Sausage-seller or Europe’s First Identifiable Purveyor of Kosher Beef?” Latomus 61 (2002): 122–33. The inscription belongs, however, to the 3rd or 4th c., and her evidence for the beginning of ritual slaughtering does not go beyond the rabbinic sources. 213 In the ethical (and most likely secondary) interpretation of the Apostolic Decree, “blood” is seen as the shedding of blood and murder, but such an admonition does not make much sense, at least not in the context of Acts, and is therefore not the primary issue, but cf. Barrett, Acts, 2.733, who wants to relate the Apostolic Decree to the three cardinal sins (idolatry, the shedding of blood, and incest; 734f.; more elaborate on this issue is Müller, Tora, 51–9, 166–94); Meiser, “Textradition,” 374f., shows that in the reception history there is no clear demarcation between ethical and ritual interpretation, not even in the sense that the tripartite form would always have been understood ethically. Worth mentioning in this context is also Ezek 33:24–6, where the prophet recalls the sins that polluted the land and caused the Babylonian exile: blood consumption, idolatry, the shedding of blood, and adultery. The reception history of this text would also need to be examined more closely; for a start, cf. Werman, “Concept of Holiness,” 167–9. 214 On the rabbinic regulations see Str-B 2.734–9. 215 Jürgens, Anfang, 188. 216 Jub. 6:7, 12–14, 18; 7:28–33; 21:6, 17f.; cf. also the further passages in Löhr, “Speisenfrage,” 18, n. 8.


The Apostolic Decree

3.6 Summary The four individual regulations of the Apostolic Decree express, according to this interpretation, four areas in which Gentile Christians are admonished to heed Jewish sensibilities with regard to the elemental aspects of human existence: Idolatry, in whatever form, conflicts with the confession of the one creator God. Likewise any form of ‘unnatural’ sexual behaviour is contrary to God’s will as revealed in creation, in which humanity is created male and female, and with a view to procreation. Also, the consumption of blood — and related to it, any meat in which the blood has been “choked” (carrion) — is contrary to God’s order revealed to humanity, for blood is the inaccessible matter of life that comes from God’s creative Spirit. The Jewish texts allow us to see that even Gentiles are expected to heed these demarcations.217 Where this is not the case, any kind of fellowship is impossible, and in its place distance and defensiveness are required. In other words, these four regulations mirror Israel’s limits for their interaction with other nations, which must not be transgressed at any cost as they guard Israel’s identity and are expressions of the loyalty that God demands from his people. Conversely this means that trans-ethnic communal life (or at least good neighbourship) becomes possible where humans stay within these limits. We should therefore not speak of the four decrees as ritual or cultic regulations, since this is not the actual context. Neither are they to be classified as purity laws. Rather they could be grouped under the category “moral impurity,” but I think it more appropriate to designate them as (moral) depravations, which are concomitant with the loss of recognizing the creator. Therefore, idolatry can be rightly seen as the dominant element in the Decree, inasmuch as idolatry is the most obvious and damaging consequence of having lost the relationship to God.218 If, then, the Decree obliges Gentile Christians to live a life according to the most basic elements of God’s order of creation (cf. the references to Luke’s creation theology in Acts 14:15–17; 17:24–7), it follows that this does not denote submission to the Torah (notwithstanding that for Luke, as also for Philo, there is no contradiction between the creation order and the Torah), but it is an expression of their faith and their relation to the God of Israel, who has called them in Jesus to be his people. Thus, the decree regulations are neither “Halakhah for Gentile Christians,” nor is their significance exhausted 217 In this sense, the observations, which relate the text to the Noachide Law, are correct, for their common point of reference is God’s universal claim. The references to the laws concerning foreigners (in Lev 17f. and beyond) also remain relevant, within the limits drawn here, since they have played an important role with regard to the development of the traditions of Judaism in contact with non-Jews. 218 Meiser shows that the reception of the Apostolic Decree often occurs in the context of Christians distancing themselves from Gentile paganism (“Textradition,” 384, 396). Its Christian use, thus, reflects the purpose it had in its original context.

The Apostolic Decree


as “concessions to Jewish taboos,” although in terms of group sociology this was their primary function. Their lasting significance, however, lies in the component that relates them to natural law. It points to the obedience to which Christians from the nations are called on account of their allegiance to Jesus, which is similar to that of the Jewish people, who know and live out this order through the Torah.219 Appendix I want to mention at least one important collection of essays dedicated to the Apostolic Decree that appeared after the original publication of this article in 2007. It is the result of a conference held in Vienna, Austria, in 2009220 and contains 13 articles, of which 10 are directly related to the Decree: Friedrich Avemarie, “Die jüdischen Wurzeln des Aposteldekrets: Lösbare und ungelöste Probleme” (5–32); Wilhelm Pratscher, “Der Beitrag des Herrenbruders Jakobus zur Entstehung des Aposteldekrets” (33–48); Hermut Löhr, “‘Unzucht:’ Überlegungen zu einer Bestimmung der Jakobus-Klauseln im Aposteldekret sowie zu den Geltungsgründen von Normen frühchristlicher Ethik” (49–64); Loren T. Stuckenbruck, “The ‘Cleansing’ of the Gentiles: Background for the Rationale behind the Apostles’ Decree in Acts 15” (65–90); Matthias Klinghardt, “Das Aposteldekret als kanonischer Integrationstext: Konstruktion und Begründung von Gemeinsinn” (112); Matti Myllykoski, “Ohne Dekret: Das Götzenopferfleisch und die Frühgeschichte der Didache” (113–137); Markus Lang, “Die Bestimmungen des Aposteldekretes im zweiten und frühen dritten Jahrhundert” (139–59); Richard S. Ascough, “The Apostolic Decree of Acts and Greco-Roman Associations: Eating in the Shadow of the Roman Empire,” (297–316); Eva Ebel, “Regeln von der Gemeinschaft für die Gemeinschaft? Das Aposteldekret und antike Vereinssatzungen im Vergleich,” (317–39); Markus Öhler, “Das Aposteldekret als Dokument ethnischer Identität im Spiegel antiker Vereinigungen” (341–82).

The intention was to solve the historical and theological enigma of this notoriously difficult text with a joint effort, but — as often in conference 219

On the significance of spiritual guidance (paraclesis) of Gentile Christians as a topic in Luke, see Stenschke, Luke’s Portrait, 347–77: “The pagan life, so natural and deeply entrenched, is not a praeparatio evangelica but determined by notions and values that need to be eradicated. The fact that even Gentile Christians, following their salvation and endowment with the Spirit, need continuous correction, instruction, exhortation and encouragement and still will sin, has negative implications for the capacities of Gentiles prior to faith. The impact of paganism in spiritual, intellectual and moral issues and consequently Luke’s strong emphasis on correction including all the measures to ensure its continuity and effectiveness, implies the need of God’s saving intervention. The capacities of a pagan mind-set so deep and thoroughly in need of correction should not be overestimated in the appropriation of salvation” (375–6). 220 Markus Öhler, ed., Aposteldekret und antikes Vereinswesen: Gemeinschaft und ihre Ordnung (WUNT 280; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011).


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volumes — the interaction between the contributions is mostly superficial at best. The editor, Markus Öhler, summarizes the result: Although the Apostolic Decree cannot be understood as the legal foundation of an association (“Vereinsnomos”), it functions in a way comparable to the membership regulations of such associations as an “identity- and communion-enabling document” (“identitäts- und gemeinschaftsbestimmendes Dokument”).221 In his own contribution, Öhler discusses quite extensively the question of ethnos and identity (342–8). He refers positively to my suggestion of understanding the Decree as defining Israel’s limits (Öhler, however, prefers the term “Judeans”) for their interaction with other nations (373–4), but seems to ignore the clearly necessary differentiation — at least for my position — between those “Judeans” (following his terminology) who belong to the Christian community and those who do not, with regard to the intention of the Decree. He also sees the Gentile Christians as coming into the Judean (local) communities as new members (375), which is why they have to adapt to a certain extent to the ethos of their new primary social context. This ‘ethnoecclesiological’ understanding is the result of Öhler’s acceptance of Lev 17f. as the preferential biblical reference for the Decree, which can be said to be the generally accepted position among most of the contributors.222 Occasionally the difficulties with this derivation are mentioned (esp. Avemarie and Löhr), but without discussing my critique. Engagement with my article can be found in the contributions of Avemarie, Pratscher (35–6; explicitly against my proposal he defends the Decree as issuing “ritual claims” [rituelle Forderungen]), and Öhler. My own position can be strengthened by many details from the various contributions (even if none agrees with it in general, but this is due to the fundamental disagreement about the relevance of Lev 17f. and, related to it, the need for Christian Torah obedience), and I see no reason at this point to modify it.223 The articles of Myllykowski and Lang provide helpful surveys of later reception either of the Decree itself or of the subject matter of the four stipulations. On the latter it is especially the articles of Avemarie, Löhr, and Ascough (esp. 307–23: he sees the focus of the prohibitions “not on moral purity or on minimalist Torah obedience but on banquet etiquette” [312], which is interesting but hardly convincing) that offer important additions.


Markus Öhler, “Aposteldekret und Vereinswesen: Zur Einleitung,” in ibid., 1–4 (4). Cf. Avemarie (8–10); Pratscher (34); Löhr (51, 57–8, 62); Myllykoski (115–6); Öhler (372–3). 223 Especially helpful is Stuckenbruck’s contribution to Acts 15:8–9, who rightly emphasizes that after “the giving of the Holy Spirit which purifies the heart . . . the socially boundaried existence between Israel and the Gentiles cannot be maintained” (88). 222

PART TWO Responses to the God who Acts

How Long? God’s Revealed Schedule for Salvation and the Outbreak of the Bar Kokhba Revolt* 0. Introduction The title hints at two different but interrelated points. In accordance with the overall conference topic and the respective lecture series, the first highlights the function of time-based expectations of a better future, or the end of a recent tribulation, as a major factor in overcoming a crisis. The second point asks in what way such ‘knowledge,’ or assured expectation, can be seen as a motivation to action. In other words: if one knows the precise point in time when redemption will be at hand, does this mean that measures have to be taken so that the moment is not missed? With these deliberations I want to contribute to the long-lasting question of the reasons underlying the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba revolt in the spring or summer of the year 132, sixty-two years after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Strangely, the fact is hardly ever addressed that the outbreak of this last Jewish revolt against Roman dominion took place in the seventh decade and/or in the tenth week of years after the destruction of the Temple. Doron Mendels is one of the few I have come across who mentions, albeit briefly, that “It is not accidental that in the seventh decade after the end of the Great War against Rome, another major nationalistic revolt broke out in Palestine (132–135 C.E.).”1 But despite its palpability, this chronological * This essay originated in a paper given as part of a lecture series, “Judaism and Crisis,” at the University of Vienna between 2005 and 2008, focussing on the way in which the different crises in Jewish history functioned as a catalyst for Jewish cultural history. See further, Armin Lange, K. F. Diethard Römheld, and Matthias Weigold, eds., Judaism and Crisis: Crisis as a Catalyst in Jewish Cultural History (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011). 1 Doron Mendels, The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism (ABRL; New York: Doubleday 1992; repr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 386. Further references to the seventy years according to Jer 25:11–12 can be found in Martin Hengel, “Die Bar-Kokhbamünzen als politisch-religiöse Zeugnisse,” Gn 58 (1986): 326–31 (350) = Judaica et Hellenistica: Kleine Schriften I (WUNT 90; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996), 344–50 (350); idem, “Hadrians Politik gegenüber Juden und Christen,” in Ancient Studies in Memory of Elias Bickerman


How Long?

argument is rarely mentioned in the literature dealing with the causes of the outbreak of Bar Kokhba’s revolt.2 Aharon Oppenheimer and Benjamin Isaac give a list of six possible causes or combinations of causes for the revolt, which I want to present briefly with comments, where relevant, pointing to the inherent religious connotations.3 1. The Roman historian Cassius Dio (Hist. 69.12.1–2)4 reports that the revolt broke out as a reaction to Hadrian’s decision to re-found Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina and turn it into a pagan city. The available numismatic evidence proves with near certainty that the decision to found Aelia Capitolina took place before the outbreak of the revolt in 130 or shortly afterwards when Hadrian visited Judaea,5 and was not, as Eusebius made (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987 [= JANESCU 16/17 (1984–85)]), 153–82 (160, n. 36) = Judaica et Hellenistica, 358–91 (366). 2 For helpful summaries of the reasons brought forward, see (in chronological order): Shimon Applebaum, Prolegomena to the Study of the Second Jewish Revolt (A.D. 132–135) (BAR Supplementary Series 7; Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 1976), 2–9 (his own study is limited to the social and economic elements supporting the upheaval, without excluding “intellectual and religious forces”); Peter Schäfer, Der Bar Kokhba-Aufstand (TSAJ 1; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1981), 29–50; Aharon Oppenheimer and Benjamin Isaac, “The Revolt of Bar Kokhba: Ideology and Modern Scholarship,” JJS 36 (1985): 33–60, now in Aharon Oppenheimer, Between Babylon and Rome (TSAJ 108; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 197–224, esp. 208–13; for a critical engagement, see Peter Schäfer, “Hadrian’s Policy in Judaea and the Bar Kokhba Revolt: A Reassessment,” in A Tribute to Geza Vermes: Essays on Jewish and Christian Literature and History (ed. P. R. Davies and R. T. White; JSOTSup 100; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990), 281–303; Lester L. Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian (London: SCM, 1994), 569–75; Larry J. Kreitzer, Striking New Images: Roman Imperial Coinage and the New Testament World (JSNTSup 134; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 203–4; Hanan Eshel, “The Bar Kochba Revolt; 132–135,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism (vol. 4: The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period; ed. Steven T. Katz; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 4.105–27 (106–8, with further literature n. 7); Peter Schäfer, “Preface,” in The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered: New Perspectives on the Second Jewish Revolt Against Rome (TSAJ 100; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), VII–XX (IX). 3 Anthony R. Birley, whose biography of Hadrian is one of the standard works, succinctly remarks: “Religion was unquestionably the driving force behind the uprising.” Hadrian: The Restless Emperor (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 270. 4 All relevant texts are available in Menahem Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, vol. II: From Tacitus to Simplicius (Jerusalem: Publications of the Israel Academies of Sciences and Humanities, 1980). 5 Hanan Eshel, “The Date of the Founding of Aelia Capitolina,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls Fifty Years After Their Discovery (ed. Lawrence H. Schiffman, Emanuel Tov, and James C. VanderKam; Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 2000), 637–43; Eshel, “Bar Kochba Revolt,” 107. According to Yoram Tsafrir, “Numismatics and the Foundation of Aelia Capitolina: A Critical Review,” in The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered: New Perspectives on the Second Jewish Revolt Against Rome (ed. Peter Schäfer; TSAJ 100; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 31–6, the numismatic evidence should not yet be regarded as “ultimate

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popular (Hist. eccl. 4.6.3–4), part of the punitive measures in its aftermath after all Jews had been banned from Jerusalem and its surroundings. The religious implications of such a decision are hard to miss (see below). 2. The second point is the alleged ban on circumcision as indicated in the Vita Hadriani of the Historia Augusta attributed to Spartianus, but this text itself is not free of problems.6 Although there are scholars who see some value in it as cause for the revolt,7 the majority take a position similar to Oppenheimer, who concludes that “the ban on circumcision belonged to the repressive legislation following the Bar Kokhba revolt.”8 3. The third point in Oppenheimer’s list is the combination of both these, namely the foundation of Aelia Capitolina and the ban on circumcision, as two elements that cling together quite firmly.9 proof.” Similar Schäfer, “Hadrian’s Policy,” 285. For Hadrian’s visit to Judaea, see Kreitzer, Images, 151; Hengel, “Hadrians Politik,” 379; Birley, Hadrian, 231–4. Disputed is a second visit in Judaea late 134 or 135 (for which the major sources Scriptores Historiae Augustae (SHA) Vita Hadrian 14.2; Cassius Dio, Hist. 69.12–14; Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 4.6.1–4 give hardly any evidence), cf. Kreitzer, Images, 152–3, 175–6; Hengel, “Hadrians Politik,” 385–6; Birley, Hadrian, 272. The publication of a letter of Hadrian written in Jerusalem in 130 that mentions the traditional city name may change the discussion again, cf. Jörg Fündling, Kommentar zur Vita Hadriani der Historia Augusta (2 vols.; Antiquitas IV.3.4; Bonn: R. Habelt, 2006), 2.673, referring to Tullia Ritti, “Documenti adrianei da Hierapolis di Frigia: le epistole di Adriano alla città,” in L’hellénisme d’époque romaine: Nouveaux documents, nouvelles approches (Ier s. a.c.—IIIe s. p.C.) (Actes du colloque international à la mémoire de L. Robert. Paris, 7–8 juillet 2000; ed. S. Follet; Paris: de Boccard, 2004), 297–340, 450–2 (for Jerusalem, see 336 line 13, and 337–9). 6 SHA Vita Hadriani 14.2 The reference to the events in Judaea comprises just one brief sentence: “At this time also the Jews began war, because they were forbidden to practise circumcision.” For the text with bibliography and commentary, see Stern, Authors, no. 511 (pp. 619–21); see further Herbert W. Benario, A Commentary on the Vita Hadriani in the Historia Augusta (American Classical Studies 7; Chico, Cal.: Scholars Press, 1980); Fündling, Kommentar, 2.669–75. 7 Stern, Authors, 620–1; Benario, Commentary, 98; Glen W. Bowersock, “A Roman Perspective of the Bar Kokhba War,” in Approaches to Ancient Judaism (vol. 2; ed. W. S. Green; BJS 9; Missoula, Mont.: Scholars Press, 1980), 131–41 (135–7, 138); Leo Mildenberg, The Coinage of the Bar Kokhba War (Aarau: Sauerländer, 1984), 79, 104–7: Hadrian’s measures are seen in line with his vision “to colonize and hellenize all the provinces within a Roman oikoumene” (104). 8 Aharon Oppenheimer, “The Ban on Circumcision as a Cause of the Revolt,” in Between Babylon and Rome, 243–55 (255) (originally published in Schäfer, ed., The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered, 55–69); cf. also Benjamin Isaac, “Roman Religious Policy and the Bar Kokhba War,” in The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered, 37–54; Ra’anan Abush, “Negotiating Difference: Genital Mutilation in Roman Slave Law and the History of the Bar Kokhba Revolt,” in The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered, 71–91: they both see no direct cause between the legislation on circumcision/castration and the outbreak of the revolt. 9 This position is best represented by Hengel, “Hadrians Politik,” 380–4, 391: “Bereits die Gründung von Aelia Capitolina war das Äußerste, was der Kaiser den Juden in Palästina


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4. The fourth point is that Hadrian had originally decided, or was believed to have decided, that the Jewish Temple was to be rebuilt.10 When it turned out that this was not the case, the revolt started. In the second part of my paper, I will argue that, with some modifications, this seems to be a very decisive point. Not necessarily in the way that an actual decision was indeed made or not, but rather in the way that such a decision was expected from him because of the biblical precedence after the destruction of the first Temple. 5. The fifth point is the suggestion “that the destruction of the Temple created a psychological climate which led to renewed violence, irrespective of any decisions which may have formed the immediate cause of the revolt.”11 According to this reading it was mainly Jewish nationalism that prepared the climate for the revolt but evidence for this is scant and the argument did not find much support. 6. The economic situation also fails to be a convincing reason for many. The information that can be deduced from currency and the contracts found in the caves close to the Dead Sea points to a stable economic development, and there are no indicators that Jewish inhabitants of the province suffered from intentional mistreatment.12 7. Before turning to the impact the counting of years and the assumed knowledge of God’s schedule might have had on the build-up to the revolt, I shall give reasons as to why it is at all probable that Jews in Judaea believed that a kind of time schedule was in operation which reveals a terminating date for the existing crisis that started with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the summer of 70 AD.

zumuten konnte. Das Beschneidungsverbot entzündete dann das Feuer des Aufruhrs.” (ET: “Already with the founding of Aelia Capitolina the emperor had stretched Jewish tolerance to the limit. The ban on circumcision finally ignited the revolt”). 10 The most complete treatment of the available evidence esp. in partly obscure Christian sources was made by Gedaliah Alon, The Jews in Their Land in the Talmudic Age (70–640 C.E.) (transl. and ed. G. Levi; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989 [repr. in one vol. of the Jerusalem edition: Magnes, 1980–84; the original Hebrew version appeared 1955–58]), 435–60. Alon himself saw Hadrian’s interest mainly in a restitution of the city of Jerusalem, and it was only as a corollary of this that some Jews also expected the rebuilding of the Temple. 11 Oppenheimer and Isaac, “Revolt,” 209. 12 Mildenberg, Coinage, 85, n. 227, 91, 102–3; Hengel, “Hadrians Politik,” 364–5; idem, “Bar-Kokhbamünzen,” 346. The economic argument was brought forward mainly by Shimon Applebaum, Prolegomena, 9–17, cf. also idem, “Judaea as a Roman Province: The Countryside as a Political and Economic Factor,” ANRW 2.8 (1977): 355–96 (esp. 385–95); Grabbe, Judaism, 581–4, 602.

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1. How Long? The Cry for God’s Help in Times of Hardship in the Psalter The Hebrew ‫“ עד־מתי‬how long?” (and the less used synonyms ‫ עד־מה‬and ‫ )עד־אנה‬addressed towards God in a cry for help or deliverance is often used in the Psalms.13 What is meant by the question following the “how long?” is not so much to get precise information about a future event but to urge God to reveal his help. It is a cry for God’s compassion and sometimes includes a reproachful tone, blaming God for not doing what he promised.14 In the Book of Psalms the request for the time of help can be found in the lament of the individual as well as in the communal laments. For the former, Psalm 6 is instructive. The voice praying in this Psalm sees itself inflicted with divine wrath and punishment; it is terrified by God’s judgment. The description of fear and terror ends with the simple question (6:3[4]): ‫ ְואַתָּ עַד־מָתָ י י ְהוָה‬. This very short question includes the confession of sin and the acceptance of the judgment, but in addition it asks for commensurability: as sins are limited so should be the wrath over them: “How long?” In Psalm 6 this question introduces the turning point to new hope and the end of the prayer is marked by expectant confidence (6:9–10 [11]) including the outlook that “all my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror.”15 The pattern is obvious: judgment is accepted as a limited time of infliction caused by ‘enemies’ or 13 ‫ מתי‬is used in the Hebrew Bible forty-three times in forty verses, and twenty-nine occurrences appear in the combination ‫עד־מתי‬. As a question towards God ‫ עד־מתי‬is used in Ps 6:3; 74:10; 80:4 [5]; 82:2; 90:13; 94:3 (twice), in Ps 119:82, 84 ‫ מתי‬alone is used in addressing God. Similarly, in the prophetical writings ‫ עד־מתי‬is used in pleas directed towards God either for ending a time of hardship (Isa 6:11; Jer 4:21; 12:4; Zech 1:12; Dan 8:13; 12:6) or asking for how long the misbehaviour of Israel (or individuals) will last (Jer 4:14; 13:27 [‫מתי‬ only]; 23:26; 31:22; 47:5; Hos 8:5; Hab 2:6, cf. also Exod 10:3, 7; Num 14:27; 1 Kgs 18:21). ‫ עד־מה‬is used five times and in two cases God is the addressee (Ps 79:5; 89:47 [48], cf. also Ps 74:9); ‫ עד־אנה‬is used thirteen times (and once ‫ עד־אן‬in Job 8:2), addressed to God in Hab 1:2; Ps 13:2–3 [3–4] (four times; cf. also Jer 47:6) and for the length of Israel’s disobedience in Exod 16:28; Num 14:11 (twice); Jos 18:3 (for the sins of individuals see Ps 62:3 [4], cf. also Job 18:2; 19:2). 14 Cf. Ernst Jenni, “‫ ָמתַ י‬mātay when?,” in TLOT 2.691–2 (692). In Ps 82:2 the other gods are blamed by the most high God himself not to judge righteously and in time. 15 All biblical quotations are following the NRSV. Further examples are Ps 13 (four times in vv. 2–3 [3–4] the question “how long?” appears), 35:17 (‫ ;) ַכּ ָמּה‬42/43, esp. v. 3 [4] and also the rhythm of the adhortative sections in 42:5 [6], 11 [12]; 43:5 [6] with the assured outlook on a situation of future salvation; the composition reveals a balanced structure in which momentous grief can be sustained by the expectation of a turn to the better in the future. The longing of Psalm 42/43 is towards the Temple and the feasts celebrated there. Cf. also Ps 119:82, 84: it is God’s word that empowers the psalmist to hope and ask: “When will you comfort me?” (v. 82), and, connected to this question: “How many days (of negligence) for your servant (! ֶ‫ ?) ַכּ ָמּה י ְ ֵמי־ ַעבְדּ‬When (‫ ) ָמתַ י‬will you judge those who persecute me?”


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other constraining powers, but when the prescribed time is over the tables should turn. A similar scheme is obvious in the communal laments. The question “how long?” or “when?” appears respectively in Psalm 74:9–10; 79:5; 80:4 [5]; and 94:3 (cf. also 89:46 [47]; 90:13). If one reads these Psalms from a post-70 AD perspective with the question of possible reasons for the religious build-up of the second revolt in mind, in some cases the resonance with the situation is striking: Psalm 74 is a lament over the desecrated Temple on Mt Zion, which the enemies razed to the ground (v. 7). They erected their signs within it (v. 4), whereas the signs of God’s people are no longer visible (v. 9). The Temple is described as having lain in ruins for a long time (v. 3) and this leads to the inevitable question: “How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever?,” reminding God of his mighty deeds in the past and his responsibility as Zion’s and Israel’s king of old (v. 12), to whom he is connected by the bonds of the covenant (v. 20).16 It is more or less exactly what can be found in Cassius Dio’s aforementioned text: the “signs of God’s people” are in danger of disappearing completely (cf. v. 9) when Jerusalem is no longer called the city of the Lord but the city of Jupiter, and his statue or temple will be erected where formerly the Temple of YHWH stood. If it were not impossible for other reasons, one could easily be tempted to read the Psalm as a vaticinium ex eventu to the events around 130.17 Psalm 79, again, is formulated as a lament in the light of the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem (v. 1), where the scattered bodies of God’s servants serve as prey for the birds and animals (v. 2). The judgment over the city and her inhabitants is the result of their sins, but mainly those of the previous generation: “Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors (‫ )אַל־תִּ זְכָּר־לָנוּ עֲוֹנ ֹת ִראשֹׁנִים‬but instead “hurry (‫ ) ַמהֵר‬and let your compassion come to meet us” (v. 8). The unavoidable question in such a situation where a later generation suffers from the misdeeds of their forefathers is “How long,

16 In Ps 94 a similar picture I painted where God’s people are seen in desperate need, who are longing and asking for the help of God (v. 3): “O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?” The psalmist’s conviction is that the enemies’ triumph over God’s people is going to be limited. The time for them to enjoy their victory is “until a pit is dug” for them (v. 13b). The pious have to hide in the meantime and comfort themselves with the Torah (vv. 12–13a) but then, at the day of revenge, one will stand up for the pious against their enemies (v. 16; obviously the psalmist called God to stand at his side, vv. 17, 22–23, but this does not exclude the possibility that God’s help may be mediated through a chosen human). 17 For the dating, see Erich Zenger and Frank-Lothar Hossfeld, Psalms 2: A Commentary on Psalms 51–100 (ed. K. Baltzer; transl. Linda M. Maloney; Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 243.

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O Lord? Will you be angry forever? (‫)עַד־מָה י ְהוָה תֶּ ֱאנַף ָלנֶ ָצח‬.” The hope expressed in this Psalm is that ‘victors’ will turn into ‘losers’ at the end.18 Closely connected to Psalm 79 is Psalm 80,19 which is a further moving appeal to God’s intervention for the sake of his people: “How long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? (!‫שׁנְתָּ בִּתְ פִילַּת ַע ֶמּ‬ ַ ‫)עַד־מָתַ י ָע‬.” The psalmist describes Israel as a vine brought by God out of Egypt to be planted in the land after its former inhabitants had been cast out (vv. 8 [9], 14 [15]). The vine grew in the land but wild boars ravaged it (v. 13 [14]). Between verses 14 [15] and 15 [16] the metaphor used for Israel changed from the vine to that of the “son” whom God made strong for himself (vv. 15 [16], 17 [18]). The LXX and the Targum intensify a messianic reading of this Psalm in such a way that the “son” in vv. 15 [16] and 17 [18] can be seen as an allusion to the “Son of Man” in Dan 7:13.20 According to Zenger and Hossfeld, the primary form of this Psalm reflects the fall of the northern kingdom and was “actualized for the Jerusalem Temple liturgy.” They see a further actualization in the addition of v. 15b [16b] intended “to locate the psalm within the horizon of the Messianic Psalter” after the end of the Davidic dynasty.21 The on-going reapplication to changed historical contexts shows the vitality and creativity in the reception history of such a text, which does not end with the fixation of the canon. The Wild Boar of Ps 80 and the Tenth Roman Legion Imagining for a moment the reading of these Psalms, esp. Ps 80, in the time after the destruction of the second Temple, the accuracy with which they fit this situation is almost overwhelming: The vine, the wild boar, the son — all three elements play a significant part in the second revolt: the vine-leaf and the bunch of grapes are among the most prominent motifs on the coins struck under Bar Kokhba’s command, and both are often combined with others directly connected to the Temple and its cult like the flagon, the harp, the lyre, the trumpets (shofarim), and the lulav surrounded by a wreath.22 But the 18

Cf. Zenger and Hossfeld, Psalms, 307: the Psalm mirrors the contrasting experience described in Zeph 3:8–10. Ps 79:2–3 [3–4] are quoted in 1 Macc 7:17, and elements of the Psalm are visible in Rev 6:10–17 (“how long?” [v. 10] does God allow the nations to suppress his holy ones) and 11:2 (the desecration of parts of the Temple through the nations [cf. Ps 79:1] is limited to for forty-two months, cf. Dan 8:13). 19 Cf. the link between 79:13 and 80:1 [2]; Zenger and Hossfeld, Psalms, 305, 307 (“Psalm 79 can be understood as an interpretation of Ps 74”). 20 Zenger and Hossfeld, Psalms, 318. 21 Ibid., 311–12. 22 For the full range of motifs and combinations, see Mildenberg, Coinage, 365–8 (fully illustrated on the plates); a good selection can likewise be found in Ya’akov Meshorer,


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most significant element of the coinage of the second revolt is the Temple itself, which was, unlike the other motifs mentioned, never represented on coins from the first revolt. According to Mildenberg “in A.D. 132, . . . the Temple was only a memory, but a memory to be cherished and to be kept alive until the Temple itself stood once again.”23 The boar, on the other hand, is one of the symbols of the Legio X Fretensis, which was garrisoned in Jerusalem from 73 until 290 AD.24 The depiction of the boar is visible on bricks and tiles from the production of their kilnworks located where the Binyane Ha-‘Umma (the International Convention Center) is today.25 However, the boar is not just to be found on the legion’s pottery, but also on their coins, which were often countermarked with the boar (sometimes in combination with other symbols). Countermarking was done to mark a payment to the military, or by subsequent rulers on older coins that were worn, and effective-

A Treasury of Jewish Coins: From the Persian Period to Bar Kokhba (Jerusalem: Yad BenZvi; Nyack, N.Y.: Amphora, 2001), 143–51 with plates 64–72. 23 Mildenberg, Coinage, 68. 24 It is not clear where the camp of this legion was. Josephus, Bell. 7.1–2, locates it in the ruins of Herod’s palace (close to modern day Jaffa Gate) but the archaeological evidence is not conclusive. For the discussion see Benjamin Isaac, “Roman Colonies in Judaea: The Foundation of Aelia Capitolina,” Talanta 12–13 (1980/81), 31–53, repr. with additions in idem, The Near East under Roman Rule: Selected Papers (Mnemosyne Suppl. 177; Leiden, New York, Köln: Brill, 1998), 87–111 (88, n. 6); idem, The Limits of the Empire: The Roman Army in the East (rev. ed.; Oxford: Clarendon, 1992), 280, 427–8; Werner Eck, Rom und Judaea: Fünf Vorträge zur römischen Herrschaft in Palaestina (Tria Corda 2; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2007), 60; Eilat Mazar, “Hadrian’s Legion: Encamped on the Temple Mount,” BAR 32/6 (2006): 52–8, 82–3, assumes that the camp moved from the area around the Jaffa gate to the Temple Mount in the wake of the foundation of Aelia Capitolina immediately before the second revolt started. 25 Cf. Benny Arubas and Haim Goldfus, “The Kilnworks of the Tenth Legion Fretensis,” in The Roman and Byzantine Near East: Some Recent Archaeological Research (ed. J. H. Humphrey; Journal of Roman Archaeology, Supplementary Series 14; Ann Arbor, Mich.: 1995), 95–107. They assume that around 130–35 AD in the wake of planning and building Aelia Capitolina “under the charge of the Tenth legion, a full-size army factory for producing pottery and, more importantly, bricks and tiles, was constructed” (107). For a stamp impression with the boar which they date into this early period of the factory see fig. 10 (p. 105); cf. further Dan Barag, “Brick Stamp-Impression of the Legio X Fretensis,” Bonner Jahrbücher 167 (1967): 244–67 (for the boar see figs. 2:1–2; 4:1–3); Hillel Geva, “Stamp Impressions of the Legio X Fretensis,” in Jewish Quarter Excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem Conducted by Nahman Avigad 1969–1982 (vol. 2; ed. Hillel Geva; Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 2003), 405–22 (only two out of forty-eight specimens show the boar together with the galley [409, see 420 pl. 17.1 T2 and 422 pl. 17.3 T45], all others display only the name of the legion; a picture of another tile in Hillel Geva, “Searching for Roman Jerusalem,” BAR 23/6 (1997): 34–45, 72–3 (fig. 2); Martin Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilisations (London: Allen Lane, 2007), 453, 496. It needs to be noted however that the majority of the stamped tiles and bricks found bear only the name of the legion.

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ly became a way of extending their circulation.26 Some of the most interesting coins with the Fretensis countermark are from the Bar Kokhba revolt, e.g. original Roman bronze coins which are countermarked by the Legion, and then re-struck by the Bar Kokhba minters.27 Somewhat revealing is a Bar Kokhba coin that has a countermark portrait of Hadrian, which shows that restriking was undertaken by both sides of the conflict (fig. 1).28 Fig. 1: Bar Kochba. Bronze (8.89g). 132–133 AD. Seven branched palm tree with two bunches of grapes, “Shimon Prince of Israel” / Vine leaf, countermark portrait of Hadrian. Source: Image by courtesy of A.H. Baldwin & Sons.

Taking into consideration the unique role the minting of money played in both Jewish revolts (no other upheaval against the Romans produced its own currency and coins), it is at least a possibility to see the remarkable scale of Legio X Fretensis countermarking as a deliberate action against the Jewish 26 I owe the information about countermarks of the Tenth Legion, end especially those on Bar Kokhba coins to the courtesy of Dr Larry J. Kreitzer, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, who kindly provided me with bibliographical pointers, as well as pictures of the actual coins, some of which I have discussed in the following. For the practice of countermarking in general, see Christopher J. Howgego, Greek Imperial Countermarks: Studies on the Provincial Coinage of the Roman Empire (Royal Numismatic Society Special Publication 17; London: Royal Numismatic Society, 1985; repr. London: Spink, 2005), 17–31 (on legionary countermarks), and 159, no. 291 (pl. 12.291) for the boar as countermark of the Tenth Legion, struck mainly onto coins of Domitian’s rule from the year 84/5 (for other Legio X Fretensis countermarks see pp. 251–5); furthermore see also Dan Barag, “The Countermarks of the Legio Decima Fretensis,” in The International Numismatic Convention, Jerusalem 27– 31 December 1963: The Patterns of Monetary Development in Phoenicia and Palestine in Antiquity (Tel Aviv, 1967), 117–25 with plates IX–XI; Meshorer, Treasury, 161, 191, and pl. 79.381e (with the boar); pictures of such coins bearing the countermark of the Legio X Fretensis and their respective imagery can also be found on various websites, for example (accessed 28 August 2013). From the material collected by Christopher Howgego it is obvious that no other Roman legion is attested with a similarly large number of coins that bear their countermarks (see also table 1, ibid., 22). 27 The Bar Kokhba mintage comprises only overstrikings of existing coins. No flans of their own were manufactured. To prepare the coins for overstriking and thus re-issuing their original images were hammered flat or filed, cf. Mildenberg, Coinage, 22–3. However, the countermarks usually survived this flattening because they are generally very deep and therefore often remain visible even after the restriking process. 28 This coin was obviously unknown to Mildenberg, Coinage, 24, whose comment on countermarking Bar Kokhba coinage by Roman officials therefore needs to be revised. The existence of Bar Kokhba coins countermarked by the Tenth Legion is discussed accordingly in Barag, “Countermarks,” 122–3.


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concerns regarding foreign money.29 After 70 the Roman authorities no longer respected Jewish sensibilities in this regard. Up to this point the Jewish prutah had been the most widespread small coin from the Hasmoneans until the first revolt. Even the coins of the Roman praefects30 of Judaea followed the Jewish pattern and avoided offences for Jews like the image of the emperor, otherwise the most common feature on other provincial coinage.31 After the revolt, all issued coins are typical of Greek imperial coinage in both fabric and design. The Jewish special path (Sonderweg) in minting was no longer supported.32 The peculiarity of the Bar Kokhba coinage in using solely existing coins finds its reason here, because, according to Ya’akov Meshorer, it is not that Bar Kokhba had not had enough time to establish a real mint but rather that his coinage was based on a religiously inspired political decision: The aim of the war was to overthrow the Roman authorities that not only represented oppressive foreign rule but also the pagan world whose influence had begun to penetrate into the disappointed Jewish community. The removal from circulation of all those coins bearing the heads of hated Roman emperors, their gods, and their temples, and their defacement by the restriking on them the revolt’s symbols and slogans, was a sort of small act of vengeance and a clear political declaration. This was the purport of the revolt: to get rid of the Roman emperor, his culture, and his religion.33

29 Cf. in this context Rev 13:16–17: neither buying nor selling is possible without the name of the beast or the number of its name. Admittedly, the sign in Revelation is at the forehead or the hand and not on the money itself, but the idea is quite similar: Did the soldiers of the Tenth Legion use the sign of the boar on their coins deliberately to prevent trade with Jews? According to Howgego, Countermarks, 29–31, the army and the money it provided had a deep impact on the local economies, and the fact that countermarks of the Tenth Legion appeared in an unusual high number on city coins (as opposed to imperial coins) “may be explained by postulating an unusual relationship between the legion and the cities which lay within its area of operation” (28). He also allows for the possibility that “legionary countermarks might also have served to emphasize the subjection of the Jews after the revolt, as the Judaea Capta series did” (30). 30 For the problem with the titles praefectus and procurator (after 44 AD), see now Eck, Rom und Judaea, 25–48. 31 Meshorer, Treasury, 167–76. 32 Cf. Andrew Burnett, Michael Amandry, and Ian Carradice, Roman Provincial Coinage, vol. II: From Vespasian to Domitian (AD 69–96), part I: Introduction and Catalogue (London: British Museum Press, and Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 1999), 301–18, esp. 303. 33 Meshorer, Treasury, 137. A similar aggression against non-Jewish religious culture can be seen in the revolt under Trajan, where the insurgents deliberately destroyed temples along their way, cf. Helmut Schwier, Tempel und Tempelzerstörung: Untersuchungen zu den theologischen und ideologischen Faktoren im ersten jüdisch-römischen Krieg (66–74 n.Chr.) (NTOA 11; Freiburg: Universitätsverlag; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989), 339– 42 (he sees it as a revenge for the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple); Hengel, “Messianische Hoffnung,” 319–20; Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 480. The hostility of Bar Kokhba against Jewish Christians is not totally clear and might fit in here as well, seeing their

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The boar also appears on the city coins of Aelia Capitolina (fig. 2)34 and one can add the fact that Vespasian and Titus in the years between 77 and 79 AD minted coins showing on the obverse their portrait and on the reverse a sow walking left with three piglets (fig. 4). Fig. 2: Antonius Pius. Bronze (17mm, 4.52g). Aelia Capitolina. 138–161 AD. IMP CAES H ANToNINo / KAC Laureate head / boar Source: Image by courtesy of The Ashmolean Museum © Trustees of The British Museum. Fig. 3: Herrennius Etruscus. Bronze (28mm, 13.4g). Aelia Capitolina. 251 AD. C M Q DECIVS ETRVSCVS AVG / COL AEL CAP COM P F Laureate head / boar, on its back, legionary eagle with the standard LXF (Legio X Fretensis). Source: Image by courtesy of Classical Numismati Group.

This can be interpreted as pointing to the legend of Aeneas being shown the location of the site of Rome by a white sow and her thirty piglets (Virgil, Aen. 3.424–428; 8.53–55). But it is remarkable that, according to my knowledge, Vespasian and Titus used this motif for the first time on Roman coins in the time of transition of power from father to son.35 particular way of Jewishness as a threat to the Jewish identity in a similar way as the preChristian Paul had done about 100 years earlier, cf. Mildenberg, Coinage, 79–80; Schäfer, Bar Kokhba-Aufstand, 59–60. Additionally, Schäfer assumes that within the Jewish population of destroyed Jerusalem was a Rome-friendly group who gave up their Jewish identity in an attempt to assimilate with the Roman culture in a similar way that the Hellenists did in the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, ibid., 46–50, see also Schäfer, “Hadrian’s Policy,” 287–96; Grabbe, Judaism, 572–3. 34 Either as a single feature on the obverse (see fig. 2) or as part of the standard of the Tenth Legion (see fig. 3), cf. George Francis Hill, Catalogue of the Greek Coins of Palestine (Galilee, Samaria, and Judaea) (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1914), xliv, 82, no. 3 with pl. VIII.18 (Hadrian); 87, no. 29 with pl. IX.8 (Antoninus Pius); for the types with the legion’s standard see xliv and pl. XL.2, 10 (from Elagabalus and Herennius Etruscus); Ya’akov Meshorer, City-Coins of Eretz-Israel and the Decapolis in the Roman Period (Jerusalem: Israel Museum, 1984), 60–3 (nos. 165, 174, 177; the boar as part of the legion’s standard appears also on coin from Neapolis, ibid., 50–1, no. 139, see also 44–5, no. 113); Meshorer, The Coinage of Aelia Capitolina (Jerusalem: Israel Museum, 1989), 22, 28–9, 46– 7, 58 (nos. 4, 30, 131, 132, 169); Mildenberg, Coinage, 99–101. 35 Cf. Harold Mattingly, The Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum. Volume II: Vespasian to Domitian (London: Trustees of the British Museum 1930), 39, nos. 212–15 (pl. 6.13–14 = Vespasian, 77–78 AD), 41, nos. 227–9 (pl. 7.3 = Titus, 77–78 AD), 62, nos. 21– 2 (Vespasian hybrid). Mattingly saw these coins as part of a series “with types drawn from country life” and as the “outline of a programme for the restoration of agricultural prosperity”


How Long? Fig. 4: Vespasian. Silver Denarius (18mm, 3.18 g). Struck 77–78 AD. CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG / IMP XIX Laureate head / sow walking with three little piglets. Source: Image by courtesy of Classical Numismati Group. Fig. 5: Domitian (under Vespasian). Silver Denarius. Struck 77–78 AD. DOMINITIANUS CAESAR AVG F / COS V Laureate head / wolf suckling twins. Source: Image by courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles. Los Angeles, California.

The sow, therefore, could be taken as a reference to the boar of the Tenth Legion in Jerusalem, reminding the Roman people of the victory which was at the beginning of the Flavian dynasty.36 According to Jerome N. Farnum, the Legio X Fretensis had the unusual number of four symbols, namely Bull, Dolphin, Galley, and Boar,37 but the boar (often in combination with the dolphin or the galley) seems to be the one used more often than the others in Jerusalem (fig. 6 and 7).38 (xli). Mattingly missed the connection of this motif with Virgil’s story about the foundation of Rome, which would then link this type of coin to those with the contemporary motif of the she-wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus (see fig. 5; described as well with loving detail in Virgil, Aen. 8.640–645), cf. also the more tentative remarks in The Roman Imperial Coinage. Volume II: Vespasian to Hadrian (ed. H. Mattingly and E. A. Sydenham London: Spink & Son, 1926, repr. 1997), 7: “The exact reference of the Sow and pigs and Shepherd types is obscure. The She-wolf and twins is a natural echo of the foundation legend of Rome” (for the coins, see ibid., 27, no. 109; 39, no. 220). Antoninus Pius, Hadrian’s successor, issued a coin similar to the sow and piglets type in the first years of his reign (sow standing under a holm-oak, suckling seven young, and one or more around her) together with his portrait on the obverse, ibid., vol. III: Antoninus Pius to Commodus (London, 1939), 111, no. 629; 119, no. 722; 120, no. 733 (pl. 6.119); 124, no. 768, cf. Mattingly, ibid., vol. IV: Antoninus Pius to Commodus (London, 1940), 208, no. 1298 (pl. 30.10); 261, nos. 1624–5 (pl. 39.4). Similar coins depict the suckling she-wolf with the twins (see fig. 5), which makes it likely that the two motifs should be seen as related. 36 Also in the New Testament the word “legion” (Mark 5:9, 15 par. Luke 8:30) is connected to pigs (cf. Mark 5:1–17 parr. Luke 8:26–33; Matt 8:28–34 omits λεγιών). 37 Jerome H. Farnum, The Positioning of the Roman Imperial Legions (BAR International Series 1458; Oxford: Archaeopress, 2005), 22. 38 There is a discussion over whether this symbol was deliberately chosen to mock Judaism and its religious feelings but this is mostly denied, see Barag, “Stamp-Impressions,” 246. According to the list of symbols in Farnum’s catalogue of the Roman legions, all the other legions have but one, seldom two symbols. Under the symbols a few were used by more than one legion. The boar is used besides the Legio X Fretensis only by the I Italica (formed 66

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Fig. 6: Domitian. Bronze (24mm). Sebaste (Samaria). Laureate head, countermark LXF (Legio X Fretensis) / Tyche seated, countermark boar (LXF) and galley. Source: Image by courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles. Los Angeles, California. Fig. 7: Domitian. Bronze (23mm, 13.74 g). Sebaste (Samaria). Struck 81–82 AD. Laureate head, countermark LXF / Tyche standing, countermark boar (LXF) and galley. Source: Image by courtesy of Classical Numismati Group.

Eusebius, as transmitted by Jerome, mentions a wild boar that was sculpted in marble over the gate leading towards Bethlehem (probably the place of today’s Jaffa Gate and therefore close to the camp of the Tenth Legion) to demonstrate Rome’s power over the Jews. Eusebius dates the erection of the gate to the year 136 in connection with Hadrian’s founding of Aelia Capitolina, but mentions that some thought that the boar had already been erected under Titus.39 The Hebrew word which is translated as “boar” in Ps 80:13 [14] is ‫חזיר‬, the same word used in Lev 11:7 and Deut 14:8 for pig as a nonkosher animal (in Isa 65:4; 66:17 the eating of pork is a sign of idolatry; in 1 Macc 1:47, 56 the sacrifice of pigs on God’s altar in Jerusalem is mentioned). In the Psalms the word is only mentioned here as part of a plea to God that he allows his people to return to Zion. In Isaiah 66:5–18 judgment is pronounced on those who “eat the flesh of pigs” (v. 17) within Jerusalem whereas those who “hear the word of the Lord” (v. 5) receive the promise of the glorious and triumphant restoration of Jerusalem. For those Jews who read Scriptures with the question of “how long?” on their heart, the time of salvation and liberation from those who “eat the flesh of pigs” might be at AD by Nero in Italy for a proposed Eastern campaign) and XX Valeria Victrix, which crushed Boudicca’s rebellion in Britain in 61 (Barag, “Stamp-Impressions,” 246, n. 10 mentions the Legio II Adiutrix as further legion with this symbol, which is not supported by Farnum). When therefore the Tenth Legion chose out of their diverse symbols to display mainly the boar in Palestine it may be asked if this is by chance only (see also above, notes 25f.); Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 453, cf. also ill. 30, an oil-lamp from Aelia Capitolina depicting a boar). A study of the chronological display of the different symbols of Legio X Fretensis seems to be a necessity. 39 Eusebius, Chron. ad ann. Abr. 2152: “Aelia ab Aelio Hadriano condita et in fronte eius portae, qua Bethleem egredimur, sus scalptus in marmore significans Romanae potestati subiacere Iudaeos. Nonulli a Tito Aelio, filio Uespasiani, extructam arbitrantur.” For the text see Rudolf Helm, ed., Die Chronik des Hieronymus (Eusebius Werke VII = GCS 47; 2nd ed.; Berlin: Akademie, 1956), 201.


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stake when a messianic “son” (Ps 80:15 [16], 17 [18]) of the star appeared in “the borderlands of Moab” (Num 24:17).40 The very basic assumption I want to bring forward is a point that is quite often neglected when dealing with the Bar Kokhba War: Israel in times of crises gets its strength to endure and survive from the Scriptures. The texts alluded to above are most probably responses to the destruction of the first Temple. The traumatic experience generated new texts out of the entanglement of a specific situation with a sanctified scriptural tradition which themselves finally became Scripture as well. The fact that misery teaches at least some people to pray is a common biblical and widely documented Jewish experience. But misery also teaches one to read the Scriptures with a new thirst for meaning, comfort, orientation, and hope. In a way, it is pivotal for a biblically shaped faith to continuously entangle one’s own situation with the wealth of faith-experience stored in the Scriptures.41 It was there people were searching for answers as to what happened, for clues as to why this might be, and how long it will endure. The Jewish literature between the two revolts reveals this as true not just for the time after the destruction of the first Temple but also for the time after the second.42 One way to understand the buildup of the Bar Kokhba War and its inner dynamics, therefore, must be the attempt to envisage the reading of the Jewish scriptural heritage in this time. Not much is known about the personality of Bar Kokhba, but the few glimpses his heritage allows us to catch are enough to see in him a figure with a biblical profile:43 Clearly the name he has chosen (or accepted, or at least the name that was used in connection to him) as his nom de guerre needs to be 40 In rabbinic literature the pig is connected with the fourth empire (because it is the fourth animal in the list of those forbidden to eat, Lev 11:4–7; Deut 14:7–8) and with Edom, which both represent Rome, cf. Lev. Rab. 13.5 (ed. Mordechai Margulies, 291–4); Gen. Rab. 65.1 (ed. J. Theodor and Chanoch Albeck, 713), and Friedrich Avemarie, “Esaus Hände, Jakobs Stimme: Edom als Sinnbild Roms in der frühen rabbinischen Literatur,” in Die Heiden: Juden, Christen und das Problem des Fremden (ed. by Reinhard Feldmeier and Ulrich Heckel; WUNT 70; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1994), 177–208, esp. 186–7, 197. Cf. also Günter Stemberger, Die römische Herrschaft im Urteil der Juden (Erträge der Forschung 195; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1983), 178–9 index s.v. “Edom” and “Schwein.” 41 Cf. e.g. Rolf Rendtorff, “Offenbarung und Geschichte: Partikularismus und Universalismus im Offenbarungsverständnis Israels,” in Kanon und Theologie (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1991), 113–22. 42 For a helpful summary with comprehensive bibliography, see Michael Becker, “Apokalyptisches nach dem Fall Jerusalems: Anmerkungen zum frührabbinischen Verständnis,” in Apokalyptik als Herausforderung neutestamentlicher Theologie (ed. Michael Becker and Markus Öhler; WUNT 2.214; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 283–360, and further Oded Irshai, “Dating the Eschaton: Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Calculations in Late Antiquity,” in Apocalyptic Time (ed. Albert I. Baumgarten; SHR 86; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 113–53. 43 For a good summary, see Schäfer, Bar Kokhba-Aufstand, 51–77 (esp. 73–7).

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mentioned.44 But the coins he minted, the use of the palaeo-Hebrew letters on them (see fig. 1), which can be seen not just as a link to the biblical past of Israel but also to the Hasmoneans and the first revolt, the organization he wanted to establish within his people (himself as nasi, “a prince,” and a priest as a second leading figure) and his aspiration to celebrate the biblical feasts even in such times of trouble according to the Law — all these should be enough to assume that Bar Kokhba was driven by biblical images and therefore was also looking for them.45 The efficient organization of the revolt and the new “state”46 needed more than just a charismatic warlord; nevertheless the question about Bar Kokhba’s intellectual and spiritual formation is seldom addressed. This is quite astonishing in view of the Jewish insurgents’ history where several people were attributed the label σοφιστής or ἐξηγητής, “teacher” and “interpreter” respectively.47 In whatever way the connection to Rabbi Aqiva is understood, it seems at least to indicate that Bar Kokhba was not isolated from rabbinic circles.48 But even if he was not a scholar in the narrow sense of the word, he could nevertheless be deeply influenced and driven by biblical expectations and motifs. The life and teaching of Jesus might be used here as an analogy. 44 The name refers back to Num 24:17. For the problems connected with the name and the question of whether it was already used during the revolt by Shim’on ben Kosiba for himself, see Schäfer, Bar Kokhba-Aufstand, 51–5; Mildenberg, Coinage, 75–6, 79–80; Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 491, nevertheless thinks that “Bar Kokhba” was “presumably his preferred designation.” The name Bar Kokhba is neither attested in his letters nor on any of the coins but already known to Justin Martyr (1 Apol. 31.6 = Euseb, Hist. eccl. 4.8.4). 45 Peter Schäfer, “Bar Kokhba and the Rabbis,” in The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered, 1–22, sees Bar Kokhba as closer to “the Maccabees, the Qumran community, and the Zealots than to the Rabbis” (22). 46 Cf. Mildenberg, Coinage, 69–72; Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 488–91. 47 Judas Galilaeus is called a σοφιστὴς δεινότατος in Bell. 2.433 (cf. also 2.118), the same title is given also to his son Menahem Bell. 2.445. Furthermore, the two Jerusalemite teachers who encouraged their disciples during the last days of Herod’s reign to tear down the eagle he had erected above one of the Temple gates are called σοφισταί (Bell. 1.648–56; 2.10; Ant. 17.152, 155) or ἐξηγηταί (Ant. 17.214, 216). Josephus attributes to Judas the founding of the “Fourth Philosophy” together with the Pharisee Saddok (Ant. 18.4–10), cf. Martin Hengel, The Zealots: Investigations into the Jewish Freedom Movement in the Period from Herod I until 70 A.D. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1989), 330–4 (for their ideology and theology see ibid. chs. III–V; it is very likely that similar ideas can be attributed to Bar Kokhba as well). The name of the pharisaic co-founder makes it likely that he belonged to a priestly family, and a similar link can be assumed for Bar Kokhba and the priest Eleazar. 48 Cf. Peter Schäfer, “R. Aqiva und Bar Kokhba,” in his Studien zur Geschichte und Theologie des rabbinischen Judentums (AGJU 15; Leiden: Brill, 1978), 65–121; see also the shortened English version of this study: “Rabbi Aqiva and Bar Kokhba,” in Approaches to Ancient Judaism (vol. 2; ed. W. S. Green; BJS 9; Missoula, Mont.: Scholars Press, 1980), 113–30; Schäfer, “Bar Kokhba and the Rabbis,” 2–7; Grabbe, Judaism, 579–81, 603; Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 489.


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2. The Plea for God’s Limitation of the Time of Punishment in Jeremiah and Zechariah The expectation of a temporal limitation of God’s punishment developed mainly in the aftermath of Jeremiah 25:11–12; 29:10. In connection to it, the structuring of the whole of history since the creation according to heptads, i.e. chronological structures based on the number seven, becomes an important element in many parts and parties of the Jewish world during the second Temple period.49 For the Jewish people coping with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD the first point of reference was without any doubt the destruction of the first one. The seventy years of Jeremiah, which were interpreted as God’s decreed time span for the devastation over Jerusalem and Judaea, was never seen as merely a date in the past.50 The Book of Jeremiah also illustrates the pastoral function of this calculation of time. What can be seen is a frequent, and sometimes even dramatic, oscillation between the announcement of ultimate judgment (e.g. 5:10–17; 15:1–16:13; 5:15–17), the prophet’s plea for mercy (e.g. 8:18–23; 14:7–9, 19–22), and signs of hope (5:18–19;51 16:14–16). The plea of the prophet is for a ‘measured,’ not an ultimate judgment, cf. 10:24; 30:11. The announcement of the seventy years of judgment in Jer 25:11–12; 29:10–11,52 can therefore be read as an answer to the prophet’s plea: the judgment will come, but it will be limited in duration and at the end of it there is hope.53 The 49

Cf. Christoph Berner, Jahre, Jahrwochen und Jubiläen. Heptadische Geschichtskonzeptionen im Antiken Judentum (BZAW 363; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2006): The study focuses on the first part of the development which took its point of departure from Jeremiah, namely Daniel 9:20–27, 1 Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, texts found in Qumran, and the Testament of Levi. Cf. also Klaus Koch, “Sabbatstruktur der Geschichte,” ZAW 95 (1983): 403–30 [= Von der Wende der Zeiten: Beiträge zur apokalyptischen Literatur (Ges. Aufsätze 3; ed. Uwe Gleßmer and Martin Krause; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1996), 45–76]. 50 In Jeremiah, the seventy years “refer not to the length of Judah’s exile or to ‘Jerusalem’s desolations’ but to Babylon’s tenure as a world power.” Only in the post-exilic tradition (Zech 1:12; 7:5; 2 Chr 36:21; Dan 9:2) did the notion appear that this is also the time span Jerusalem and the Temple had to lie in ruins, thus Jack R. Lundbom, Jeremiah 21– 36: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 21B; New York: Doubleday, 2004), 249 (see ibid. and 353 for seventy as stereotyped number); William L. Holladay, Jeremiah 1: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah Chapters 1–25 (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1986), 668–9. For the influence of Jeremiah, see Christian Wolff, Jeremia im Frühjudentum und Urchristentum (TUGAL 118; Berlin: Akademie, 1976). 51 Holladay, Jeremiah 1, 190–1: vv. 18–19 are the prophetic assurance that the words of YHWH in vv. 10–17 are not his last words and no total annihilation of his people is intended. 52 See also 25:13–29: a similar punishment for all the nations is envisaged; in Isa 23:15– 18 a seventy-year period of punishment is allocated to Tyre. 53 William L. Holladay, Jeremiah 2: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah Chapters 26–52 (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989), 144, comments on 29:10–11:

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‘guarantee’ for this hope is God’s word as given through the prophet (25:13; 29:10b). In a similarly comforting way, the seventy-year period is used in the Book of Zechariah as well (1:12–16; 7:5). A further reflection of Jeremiah’s seventy years is 2 Chr 36:20–21, at the very end of the book, where the length of the punishment is related to the period of negligence of the sabbatical regulation.54 The last verses of 2 Chronicles then point towards the edict of Cyrus with its permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the house of the Lord (v. 23). Common to these references is that the seventy years are seen as such, and not yet as part of a “Sabbath-structure” as Klaus Koch labels the following development, although the combination of the seventy years with the “sabbaths the land had to make up for” (2 Chr 36:21, cf. Lev 26:32–45) can be seen as a first step towards it. Koch is also right when he points to the fact that the astonishing accuracy of Jeremiah’s prophecy, namely that the inauguration of the second Temple was celebrated in 515 almost exactly seventy years after the destruction of the First, strengthened Israel’s faith in the arcane, hidden but revealed, power of time structures based on the number seven.55

3. The Search for God’s Schedule for Prospective Salvation in Daniel The Book of Daniel (9:2) interprets Jeremiah’s seventy year schedule for salvation within a wider horizon of God’s salvation history. An arch is drawn from the narrated time of Daniel during the Babylonian exile to the actual time of the author during the Maccabean period in the second century BC. Thus the seventy years is turned in Daniel into “seventy weeks” (9:24): Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.

“And the words are words of judgement on the exiles for now, but words of salvation after a lapse of seventy years.” The comforting aspect of 29:11–14 is also highlighted in Lundbom, Jeremiah 21–36, 353–5. 54 Cf. also 1 Esd 1:58: “Until the land has enjoyed its sabbaths, it shall keep sabbath all the time of its desolation until the completion of seventy years.” 55 Klaus Koch, “Sabbatstruktur,” 427 (= 72–3); idem, “Die Bedeutung der Apokalyptik für die Interpretation der Schrift,” in Mitte der Schrift? Ein jüdisch-christliches Gespräch (ed. M. Klopfenstein et al.; Judaica et Christiana 11; Bern: Peter Lang, 1987), 185–215 (187–92) = idem, Die Reiche der Welt und der kommende Menschensohn: Studien zum Danielbuch (Gesammelte Aufsätze 2; ed. Martin Rösel; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1995), 16–45 (18–23).


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Without going into the details, it is already obvious from the inner-biblical development from Jeremiah to Daniel that the seventy years allowed and invited a form of creative exegesis through which the number of years could also be rendered meaningful for later situations and crises.56 The seventy years of Jeremiah became seventy weeks of years, divided in three blocks: the first seven weeks of years, followed by a further sixty-two before the last week of years arrived. It is obvious that the last week or the last heptad is seen as the decisive one.57 The last week is divided into two halves (Dan 9:27) and the time of about 3½ years seems to be connected to various numbers of dates which all result in a time span of between three and four years: “a time, two times, and half a time” in Dan 7:25; 12:7; 2,300 evenings and mornings in Dan 8:14, which amount to 1,150 days; and 1,290 resp. 1,335 days in Dan 12:11–12. In Dan 8:13 the question is asked: for how long will the sanctuary of the God of Israel be desecrated? (This is connected to the visionary annunciation of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 8:8–12.) The answer — after 2,300 evenings and mornings (8:14, 26) — is, on the one hand, a very precise time, but on the other hand quite open because the vision is connected to “the appointed time of the end” (8:17, 19) and pertains to a time in the distant future (8:26). It is a repeated notion in the Book of Daniel that the visions are concerned with the end only (10:14; 11:35; 12:4, 6, 9, 13, cf. 12:6 the question ‫“ עַד־מָתַ י‬when?” will the end come), which allows for a constant reapplication whenever a generation or a group experienced itself in an end-time situation because as long as the promised glory has not appeared the end has not yet arrived.58 As a result the number 3½ increasingly becomes the notion “for the stereotypical period of distress in apocalyptic literature.”59 56 Koch, “Bedeutung der Apokalyptik,” 191–207 (= 22–30); Michael A. Knibb, ‘“You are indeed wiser than Daniel’: Reflections on the Character of the Book of Daniel,” in The Book of Daniel in the Light of New Findings (ed. Adam S. van der Woude; BETL 106; Leuven: Peeters, 1993), 399–411 (esp. 405–6); Ida Fröhlich, ‘Time and Times and Half a Time’: Historical Consciousness in the Jewish Literature of the Persian and Hellenistic Eras (JSPSup 19; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 156–8. 57 Rainer Stahl, “‘Eine Zeit, Zeiten und die Hälfte einer Zeit’: Die Versuche der Eingrenzung der bösen Macht im Danielbuch,” in The Book of Daniel in the Light of New Findings (ed. Adam S. van der Woude; BETL 106; Leuven: Peeters, 1993), 480–94. 58 For this ongoing readjustment of eschatological time schedules based on oracles, even if they seemed to be “proven wrong,” see Stahl, “Zeiten,” 489–93; Fröhlich, ‘Time and Times and Half a Time,’ 12; David E. Aune, Revelation 6–16 (WBC 52B; Dallas: Word Books, 1998), 595. 59 Aune, Revelation 6–16, 621, cf. e.g. Luke 4:25; Jas 4:17 with 1 Kgs 18:1; see also Koch, “Bedeutung der Apokalyptik,” 44–5. In the rabbinic texts the sieges of Jerusalem and Betar which ended the two revolts in climactic catastrophes, lasted each 3 ½ years, clearly indicating that these events are seen in the light of Daniel’s prophecy, see: Holger M. Zellentin, “Jerusalem Fell after Betar: The Christian Josephus and Rabbinic Memory,” in

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4. The “Seventy Years” in the Literature after the Destruction of the Second Temple The perceived importance of Jeremiah’s and Daniel’s calculation of time as a clue to understanding present crises can be seen in the New Testament in reaction against persecution by the Roman empire, as well as in the Jewish literature dealing with the disastrous events of the year 70. The Book of Revelation can be read as a Christian answer to a crisis, very similar to the one the Book of Daniel was confronted with.60 In chapter 11, the scenario is based in Jerusalem and the Temple (using inter alia the vision of the Temple’s rebuilding from Zech 2:5–9 as well as 4:1–14 as inter-texts), which will be under the control of the gentiles for forty-two months (Rev 11:2; 13:5). This time span corresponds to the 1,260 days in Rev 11:3; 12:6 (cf. also 12:14: “a time, times, and half a time”). The time for God’s two witnesses is identical with the time of the gentiles’ control of the Holy City, but in an eschatological climax the two witnesses get killed and their bodies shall lie unburied in the streets for “three and one-half days” (Rev 11:9, 11). Their resurrection after 3½ days is the inaugural moment for the proclamation of the universal Kingdom of God’s Messiah (11:15), accompanied (or performed) by the “seventh angel.” The heavenly temple will open again and the Ark of the Covenant will be revealed (11:19). Revelation 11 can be seen as a specimen text in showing how different biblical expectations could be conflated into a new text which transforms, but in doing this also continues, the expectation of God’s saving action in history according to a fixed, although mysterious, revealed timetable. For the author of the Gospel of Matthew, incidentally the only NT writer who mentions Jeremiah by name (in Matt 2:17; 16:14; 27:9), Jeremiah and Daniel are two key prophetic figures not least in relation to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.61 The use of the Danielic “desolating sacrilege” (Dan Envisioning Judaism (FS Peter Schäfer; ed. Ra‘anan S. Boustan et al.; 2 vols.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013), 1.319–65 (330, 343–4). 60 The influence of a time-schedule based on the number seven can be seen throughout the sevenfold structure of the book of Revelation, cf. David E. Aune, Revelation 1–5 (WBC 52A; Dallas: Word Books, 1997), xciii-xcv. Within these meta-chronological divisions the influence of Daniel’s counting of the time is conspicuously visible, especially in chapters 11 and 12, complemented with references to the visions of Zechariah about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple. 61 Matthias Konradt, “Die Deutung der Zerstörung Jerusalems und des Tempels im Matthäusevangelium,” in Josephus und das Neue Testament: Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen, II. Internationales Symposium zum Corpus Judaeo-Hellenisticum. 25.-28. Mai 2006, Greifswald (ed. Christfried Böttrich and Jens Herzer; WUNT 209; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 195– 232, esp. 216–226.


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9:27; 11:31) in Mark 13:14 par. Matt 24:15 can serve as an example of how easily apocalyptic images could be transferred into a future event after a “fulfilment” (namely the destruction of the Temple 70 AD) had taken place. At least in Matthew’s understanding, the warning of Jesus goes beyond the year 70.62 Besides the New Testament the influence of the seventy years can be seen in Josephus,63 more indirectly in 2 and 4 Baruch, and 4 Ezra, and in some of the rabbinic texts connected to the Bar Kokhba revolt.64 There are, to be sure, other possible heptadic calculations as well, and it is not just Revelation that indicates that calculations based on seven can be combined with those based on decades or twelve-year periods.65 But the mere fact that pseudepigrapha related to Jeremiah were written after the year 70 is enough reason to assume 62 David C. Sim, Apocalyptic Eschatology in the Gospel of Matthew (SNTSMS 88; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 99–108. 63 Josephus refers to the seventy years of Jeremiah in Bell. 5.389 (as part of his own speech to convince the Jerusalemites to give up their fight against Rome); Ant. 10.112, 184; 11.1–2; in the context of Josiah’s death Josephus mentions Jeremiah for the first time and introduces him with the words: “This prophet also announced the misfortunes that were to come upon the city, and left behind writings concerning the recent capture of the city, as well as the capture of Babylon” (transl. R. Marcus; Josephus: Jewish Antiquities Book IX-XI [LCL Josephus VI; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; 1937; repr. 1987], 201). For Josephus and Daniel see below p. 214f. 64 Robert Kirschner, “Apocalyptic and Rabbinic Responses to the Destruction of 70,” HTR 78 (1985), 27–46; the sixty-six years, which play an important (but unclear) role in 4 Bar. 5:30; 6:5; 7:24, can hardly be understood as not referring to the seventy years of Jeremiah; for the discussion, see Jens Herzer, 4 Baruch (Paraleipomena Jeremiou) (Writings from the Greco-Roman World 22; Atlanta: SBL, 2005), xxx–xxxi, 82–3. 65 2 Baruch e.g. divides time into twelve parts (27:1; 53; 56–68), but the narrative setting is reminiscent of Jeremiah throughout (e.g. 2:1; 5:5; 9:1; 10:1; 33:1 etc.). Repeatedly God tells Baruch that the time of destruction and exile will be “for a time” (1:4; 4:1; 5:3; 6:9 etc.), which clearly reminds the reader of the time span revealed to Jeremiah (in 28:2 is an unclear reference to Dan 12:10, which itself is based on Jeremiah’s seventy years; for Baruch’s use of the Danielic scheme of the four empires, see 39:2–8). In his prayer, Baruch asked about God’s schedule for salvation (21:19, cf. 82:3) and the answer was that “salvation has drawn near” (23:7, cf. 25:1; 26:1; 68:5; 82:2; 83:1). A similar scheme can be found in 4 Ezra: Situated is the plot of Ezra’s vision in Babylon, thirty years after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 (3:1). Ezra wants to know how long it will take before the end comes and when it will be (4:33, 35; 6:7, 59; 8:63 cf. also 4:51; 5:4, 41; 7:75). The on-going answer of the interpreting angel is that God has preordained the length of the times and periods, and nothing and nobody can make him change his initial determination (4:37; 5:46–55; 7:28–31; 7:74; 11:44). At the same time, Israel receives the reassurance that God will never forget her (12:47) and God is praised for his governing the times (13:58). Like 2 Baruch, 4 Ezra also divides the time of the world into twelve parts (14:11–12) from which 9½ have already passed. The direct hints to Daniel (described as “your brother Daniel” in 12:11) are stronger than in 2 Baruch and comprise the scheme of the week of years (7:43) as well as that of the four empires (11:39; 12:11–36).

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that at least some circles expected a change of affairs after seventy years in a similar way as in the time of Jeremiah. Martin Goodman in his recent book Rome and Jerusalem is right when he comments that although “the three schools of Judaism” (namely the Pharisees, the Essenes, and the Sadducees) are able to survive without the Temple (447), it is unlikely that they expected this Temple-less situation to last for long (at least not longer than seventy years) in the immediate aftermath of its destruction. There was hope because Scripture provides hope: “Jerusalem had lost one Temple in 587 B.C.E. only to see it restored” (448). Already Josephus brushed his depiction of the destruction of the second Temple with the colours of the biblical narrative and date of the first one: both fell on the ninth of the month of Ab (Bell. 6.250, 268–269). It was therefore the fall and reerection of the first Temple that fuelled the hope of the restoration of the second.66 But this inevitably led to the questions: When? And, equally important, how? (a) The question of “when” this will happen and therefore how long the time of punishment will persist is relatively easy to answer because the key for it is scriptural: for almost exactly seventy years, the first Temple lay in ruins. In the literature that reflects the destruction of the second Temple the counting of years is a common topic. One should therefore expect — even without any other evidence — an intensified expectation as the completion of this time span grew closer. With the Danielic division of the period of seventy years into smaller units of multiples of seven, one can further expect the dawn of the seventh decade (around 130)67 or of the tenth heptad (around 133) to be 66 Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, not only emphasizes the importance of the rebuilding of the Temple after 70 for the Jews (447–9, 454, 469–70, 475, 484, 499, 511) but argues that this was traditional Roman practice as well (452, 459, 463–4, 480), cf. also James Rives, “Flavian Religious Policy and the Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple,” in Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome (ed. Jonathan Edmondson, Steve Mason, and James Rives; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 145–66. 67 For a division of the seventy years of Jeremiah into decades see Sib. Or. 3.280: “Therefore, your fruit bearing land and the wonders of the Temple will be entirely empty of you for seven decades (ἑπτὰ χρόνον δεκάδες). But a good outcome and the greatest glory await you; the immortal God will bring it to pass for you. But you, go on relying on the holy laws of God, when you will raise yourself towards the light, tired from stretching the knee. And then God will send a king from heaven [= Cyrus], and he will judge each man in blood and beams of fire. There is a certain royal tribe, whose race will never stumble. And as the years roll by, this will reign, and begin to erect a new temple for God. And all the kings of the Persians will supply gold, bronze, and iron wrought with much toil. For God himself will give a holy dream at night, and then the Temple will again be as it was before” (Sib. Or. 3.280–294; transl. Rieuwerd Buitenwerf, Book III of the Sibylline Oracles and its Social Setting: With an Introduction, Translation, and Commentary [SVTP 17; Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2003], 194). Even if this text refers back to the return from the first exile, as Buitenwerf interprets it (ibid., 207–8), its meaning can change to a future event when read again after the


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especially sensitive dates. These are not necessarily sensitive dates, because a straightforward reading of Jeremiah or Zechariah remains always a possibility. But if something extraordinary happened around these times, either supporting or impeding the expectations of restoration/salvation being implemented soon, this more sophisticated calculation might be set in motion. (b) Inevitably related to any such disturbing factors then is the question of how to understand them in the course of events: Accept them as a final trial that has to be passively endured? Or see in them a challenge (or temptation) that demands a faithful action to make restoration/salvation real? Here the biblical narratives give a less clear answer — or should one say, a less clear answer for those who want to be proactive to assure that God’s acknowledged schedule will be realized?68 In the case of the first Temple it is God himself who had chosen Cyrus as his servant, first to overthrow and implement divine vengeance on Babylon, and then to let him allow the Judeans to go home. Everything was done for God’s people, they just had to wait and endure until the predetermined number of years had passed.69 destruction of the second Temple. Buitenwerf dates Book III between 80 and 40 BC and proposes a provenance from Asia minor (ibid., 126–33); he remarks that the interest in the Sibylline prophecies was fuelled and followed by Roman expansion (ibid., 133), which makes it possible that it was known in the Land of Israel in the first century. 68 Sometimes God expects active fighting from his people, and refusal is a sign of unfaithfulness which gets punished (e.g. Num 13:28–14:10, see also 14:39–45; Josh 6:2; 8:1; 10:8–14, 30, 42; 11:6; Judg 1:2–4; 2:1–5; 4:6–7; 6:12–16; indeed Abraham gave an example of brave fighting which earned him the blessing of God, Gen 14:14–20). Sometimes God wants them to wait for his help (Exod 14:13–14; Isa 30:1–17; 31:4–5, 8; 37) and trust solely on his protection (Zech 2:8–9). Occasionally he urges them to trust in his help and not surrender to threatening powers (Isa 7:4–9, cf. 2 Kgs 16:1–9), but occasionally he expects unconditional surrender (Jer 38:17). The conflict among the prophets as described in Jer 27– 28 is a good example of this uncertainty in a position that wants to rely on God’s will in a specific historic situation. The lists of Israel’s heroic ancestry in Sir 44–49 and 1 Macc 2:51– 60 are illustrative of this: they venerate and display as examples those who fought for Israel as well as those who remained passive. 69 This position is taken by Josephus in his famous speech before the besieged walls of Jerusalem, Bell. 5.362–419, see esp. 390, 400. For a similar, more passive mind-set in Rabbinic traditions, cf. Günter Stemberger, “Reaktionen auf die Tempelzerstörung in der rabbinischen Literatur,” in Zerstörungen des Jerusalemer Tempels: Geschehen — Wahrnehmung — Bewältigung (ed. Johannes Hahn; WUNT 147; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), 207–36; Karin Hedner-Zetterholm, “Elijah and the Messiah as Spokesmen of Rabbinic Ideology,” in The Messiah in Early Judaism and Christianity (ed. Magnus Zetterholm; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), 57–78, 133–38 (notes), esp. 69–75, cf. also the remarks in Becker, “Apokalyptisches nach dem Fall Jerusalems,” 304, n. 62. Herzer, 4 Baruch, who dates the book around 130 AD, sees in it a warning “against the one-sided hope of political and temple-cultic restoration held by an influential part of the population”; instead, the author wanted to assure his readers that “a turning point in the fate of the Jewish people can only be expected from God (4. Bar. 6:13–22; 8:1–2),” (xxiv).

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But history had not only taught God’s people to wait until God puts his deliverance into action, but to anticipate what is expected, and, even more, to fight for it if necessary. The Maccabean revolt is the model for this notion,70 and its continuation can be found in the ideology of the fourth philosophy.71 I propose that the actions of Bar Kokhba and his followers are an attempt to repeat or resume this glorious, but past history. This is even more likely if one allows some parallelization of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Hadrian.72

5. The Hopes for a New Cyrus? With the seventy years of punishment coming to an end, one should expect that the lookout for signs of change in the existing circumstances in Judea might have intensified. The focus of this expectation was most naturally the Temple in Jerusalem and its probable rebuilding.73 The available sources comprise only two ambiguous passages, namely Gen. Rab. 64.10 and a passage in the pseudepigraphal Letter of Barnabas (16:1–5), which can be read positively towards an allowance on the part of Rome for a rebuilding of the Temple.74 The passage from Genesis Rabbah mentions neither Bar Kokh70 Josephus obviously saw this and reports a battle otherwise unknown in which the Judeans were beaten severely Bell. 5.394 (in the context of the plundering of Jerusalem by Antiochus IV Epiphanes mentioned in 1 Macc 1:21–28; in Ant. 12.246 he says explicitly that Antiochus “took the city without battle”). He combines this first attack on Jerusalem wrongly with the 3½ years in which the Temple lay desecrated (which started only two years later, 1 Macc 1:29). For Josephus, even against an enemy as evil as Antiochus resistance is not the God-pleasing answer. The hint towards the 3½ years of Daniel is here meant to remind the Jewish reader that God grants the right to punish his people only for a limited span of time. But even Josephus is not totally consistent when he describes the spirit and fighting of the Maccabees (cf. e.g. Ant. 12.280–5). 71 Josephus, Ant. 18.5, see Hengel, Zealots, 122–7. 72 The parallels, esp. with respect to their support of the cult of Zeus Olympios and the rebuilding of his temple in Athens, are in some respect striking, cf. Hengel, “Hadrians Politik,” 389–90; Birley, Hadrian, 2, 183, 228–9; Mary T. Boatwright, Hadrian and the Cities of the Roman Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 130, 150–3; Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 484. 73 Cf. Birley, Hadrian, 79, 232–3. 74 Cf. Stemberger, Urteil, 83–4; Schäfer, Bar Kokhba-Aufstand, 32–4: Schäfer rejects the notion that here the building of the third Temple is envisaged; instead it should be seen as a hint at the erection of the Roman (Jupiter) temple within the newly founded city of Aelia Capitolina. Schäfer is right when he insists that the interpretation that sees the reference to the Jewish Temple here must be able to explain why Hadrian changed his mind not long after; but on the other hand, his own solution neglects the anti-Jewish stance of the author of Barnabas, who tries to demonstrate that the Jewish hopes would not succeed. That Barn. 16:1–5 indeed reveals that the hope of rebuilding the Temple is connected to Hadrian is


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ba nor Hadrian, but uses Ezra 4:13 (referring to the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in the time of Artaxerxes)75 as a pointer to the new Temple. Although usually taken as confirming evidence, doubt remains; and Peter Schäfer proposes that the whole episode should be dated to the period of Trajan if it has a historical core at all.76 Barnabas 16:1–5 does not necessarily reflect an imperial decision about the rebuilding of the Temple, but instead can be taken as an indication that Christians looked with dislike, and perhaps even with fear, upon the possibility of it being rebuilt. Notably, in verse 6, the possible allusion to a rebuilding of the Temple is connected to a calculation based on weeks, which is reminiscent of Daniel 9:24 (see also 1 Enoch 91:13). If the Temple were to be rebuilt, Christians would be in danger of losing their most obvious historical argument that Jesus indeed inaugurated a new era and brought to an end the old one the hallmark of which was the Temple in Jerusalem and its sacrificial cult based on the Torah.77 But even if one accepts that these two passages cannot prove positively any official measure to rebuild the Temple, one can safely assume that such expectations were projected towards Hadrian by at least parts of the Jewish community. Revealing in this respect is a look at Josephus’ portrait of Cyrus and his support for the rebuilding of the Temple. Josephus describes at length the esteem in which the Persian kings held Daniel (Ant. 10.249–66, cf. already 211),78 not least because he was given insight by God about the times to come (Ant. 10.194, 200, 203–5, 217, 237–9, 267–8), and the changing fortune of the world’s empires (including the Roman one, which in Josephus’ inter-

supported inter alia by Hengel, “Bar-Kokhbamünzen,” 346; “Hadrians Politik,” 366; Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 470 (dating Barn. in the time of Nerva). For a detailed analysis, see James N. Rhodes, The Epistle of Barnabas and the Deuteronomic Tradition (WUNT 2.188; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 71–87, who however advocates the same interpretation as Schäfer above. 75 Ezra 4:13 is already wrongly associated with the rebuilding of the Temple in the sixth century. The contextual framework around Ezra 4:(6)7–23 in 4:3, 24 addresses the rebuilding of the Temple, whereas in 4:12–13, 16, 21 only the city and its walls are in focus. For the literary questions, see Antonius H. J. Gunneweg, Esra (Kommentar zum Alten Testament 19.1; Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1985), 86–8, 93. 76 Schäfer, Bar Kokhba-Aufstand, 29–32. 77 For the Christian use of the argument that the destruction of the Temple is God’s visible proof that the Torah has come to its end, see Rudolf Brändle, “Die Auswirkungen der Zerstörung des Jerusalemer Tempels auf Johannes Chrysostomus und andere Kirchenväter,” in Tempelkult und Tempelzerstörung (70 n.Chr.): Interpretationen (ed. S. Lauer; Judaica et Christiana 15; Bern: Peter Lang, 1994), 105–17; Heinz-Martin Döpp, Die Deutung der Zerstörung Jerusalems und des Zweiten Tempels im Jahre 70 in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten n.Chr. (TANZ 24; Tübingen: Francke 1998), 252–75; Konradt, “Deutung;” Zellentin, “Jerusalem Fell after Betar,” 321, 352–61. 78 See also Ant. 11.32, 58–9, on the friendly relations between Darius and Zerubbabel.

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pretation is the fourth as described in Dan 2:40–44).79 Differing from other prophets, Daniel is not only able to prophesy about the future “but he also fixed the time” (καιρὸν ὥριζεν, Ant. 10.267). He was “a prophet of good tidings” even for the foreign kings (ἀγαθῶν . . . προφήτης, 10.268). Josephus distinguishes between foreign kings who listened to God’s warnings, like Nebuchadnezzar, and those like Belshazzar who refused to acknowledge God’s power (Ant. 10.241–2). The behaviour he ascribes to Darius the Mede80 (Ant. 10.249, 263) and then Cyrus can be read as admonition for and/or expectation from the Roman emperor who would be in charge at the time when redemption for the Jewish people was at hand: Cyrus, in the seventieth (!) year of the exile,81 allowed the Judeans to return because “He foretold my name through the prophets and that I should build His temple in Jerusalem in the land of Judaea” (Ant. 11.3, cf. Isa 44:1–45:13).82 Cyrus knew about this “from reading the book of prophecy which Isaiah had left behind


Ant. 10.208–10: Josephus makes clear that he expected that the Roman empire will be ended by God’s intervention but he avoids (for understandable reasons, since he was living in Flavian Rome) making an overly explicit comment. But he advises his readers: “If, however, there is anyone who has so keen a desire for exact information that he will not stop short of inquiring more closely but wishes to learn about the hidden things that are to come, let him take the trouble to read the Book of Daniel, which he will find among the sacred writings” (transl. R. Marcus, Josephus, 275). For Josephus and Daniel, see Steve Mason, “Josephus, Daniel, and the Flavian House,” in Josephus and the History of the Greco-Roman Period: Essays in Memory of Morton Smith (StPB 41; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 161–94; Peter Höffken, “Weltreiche und Prophetie Israels bei Flavius Josephus,” TZ 55 (1999): 47–56 = Josephus Flavius und das prophetische Erbe Israels (Lüneburger Theologische Beiträge 4; Münster: Lit, 2006), 24–35. For the Flavian context of Josephus’ writing, see Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome (ed. Jonathan Edmondson, Steve Mason, and James Rives; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). 80 For the identification of Darius the Mede in this text and his puzzling role, see Klaus Koch, “Dareios, der Meder,” in The Word of the Lord Shall Go Forth (FS David N. Freedman; ed. Carol C. Meyers and Michael P. O’Connor; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1983), 287–99 (also in Koch, Die Reiche der Welt und der kommende Menschensohn: Studien zum Danielbuch [Gesammelte Aufsätze 2; ed. Martin Rösel; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1995], 125–39). 81 Josephus seems here to use the number seventy deliberately together with a reference to Jeremiah (although he knew that the time between the destruction of Jerusalem and the edict of Cyrus was shorter than the biblical prophecy announced) to mark the return from exile as the implementation of God’s plan for the salvation of his people. For the “seventieth year” see note below. 82 Josephus follows mainly the biblical template in 2 Chr 36:22–3; Ezra 1:2–4; 1 Esd 2:1–6, but added the phrase quoted above. He adds also the numbers of years in Ant. 11.5, after which Isaiah prophesied about Cyrus 140 years (2×70) before the Temple was destroyed; the fulfilment of Jeremiah’s prophecy happened after seventy years so that the whole period was 210 years (3×70). Salvation history ideally develops itself in seventy-year periods, even if the actual chronology is somehow different.


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two hundred and ten years earlier” (Ant. 11.5).83 The behaviour Josephus attributed to Cyrus (without any biblical basis) after he had read the prophecies about himself and his specific duty within God’s plan is precisely what he might expect from the Roman emperor at his own time: And so, when Cyrus read them, he wondered at the divine power and was seized by strong desire and ambition to do what had been written; and, summoning the most distinguished of the Jews in Babylon, he told them that he gave them leave to journey to their native land to rebuild both the city of Jerusalem and the temple of God, for God, he said, would be their ally . . . (transl. R. Marcus, LCL).

In the following paragraphs Josephus does not forget to mention and even to list the Temple vessels that Cyrus returned to the Jews so that they could be restored to their original purpose (Ant. 11.10–11, 14–15, 92, 100, cf. 1 Esd 4:43–44 = Ant. 11.58, 63). These measures were taken by Cyrus “that the kingdom of Persia may long endure” (11.17, cf. 119).84 In a similar way, Josephus also connects Alexander the Great with the Temple, Jerusalem, and the Book of Daniel:85 He describes Alexander marching in roused anger against Jerusalem, which wanted to remain loyal to the Persians. But when he saw the high priest in his priestly vestments with the name of God written on his mitre approaching him together with the other priests, he “prostrated himself before the Name and first greeted the high priest” (Ant. 11.331). He then entered Jerusalem and the Temple “where he sacrificed to God under the direction of the high priest . . . And, when the Book of Daniel was shown to him, in which he had declared that one of the Greeks would destroy the 83 Cf. Peter Höffken, “Zur Rolle Jesajas und seines Buches bei Josephus in den Antiquitates,” TZ 60 (2004): 37–48 = Höffken, Josephus Flavius und das prophetische Erbe Israels (Lüneburger Theologische Beiträge 4; Münster: Lit, 2006), 13–23 (esp. 21–3); Christopher Begg, “Isaiah in Josephus,” in Josephus und das Neue Testament: Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen (ed. Christfried Böttrich and Jens Herzer; WUNT 209; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 233–43 (238–40). 84 The successor of Cyrus, Cambyses, revoked the orders of Cyrus (Ant. 11.28), and died after only a reign of six years (Ant. 11.30). But Darius, the next Persian king, returned again to the ways of Cyrus (Ant. 11.31, 63, 78, 86, 106, 113: in all these references, Cyrus and Darius are always mentioned together as the ones who supported the Judeans in the restoration of the Temple and city of Jerusalem), as well as his son Xerxes after him (11.120), “who held the Jews in the highest esteem.” Like his ‘good’ predecessors (see notes 78 and 82) he kept close friendship to the wisest among the Jews in his time, Ezra (11.121). In addition, Xerxes is eager to restore the former cult vessels from Jerusalem to their former use (11.125, 136). A similar treatment of favouritism was also received by Nehemiah (11.159–167). 85 Ant. 11.317–339. For the questions and problems involved in Alexander’s supposed visit of Jerusalem, see Shaye J. D. Cohen, “Alexander the Great and Jaddua the High Priest according to Josephus,” AJSR 87 (1982/83): 41–68; Erich S. Gruen, Heritage and Hellenism: The Reinvention of Jewish Tradition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 189– 202; James C. VanderKam, From Joshua to Caiaphas: High Priests After the Exile (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2004), 65–85.

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empire of the Persians, he believed himself to be the one indicated” (336–7). As a result, he granted certain privileges to the Jews in Judaea as well as in Babylon and Media that they might be able to live according to “their country’s laws” (χρήσασθαι τοῖς πατρίοις νόμοις 338, cf. 339: τοῖς πατρίοις ἔθεσιν ἐμμένοντες). The rulers of the second and third empire — this is what the reader is to learn from these paradigmatic stories — listened to the biblical prophets to their own advantage, and Josephus obviously saw himself as the prophet for the fourth, the Roman, empire. His position as foreseer of Vespasian’s reign and then member of the Roman imperial court placed him in the historical role of Jeremiah (as the prophet who taught Israel, although in vain, to accept foreign rule as God’s punishment) and the court counsellors Daniel and Ezra, who were able to help the foreign rulers not to miss their place and task within God’s already determined plan for salvation.86 Josephus’ interest in the Temple vessels, their display, and whereabouts after being displayed publicly in the triumphal march of Vespasian and Titus becomes perspicuous in the light of the precedent of Cyrus.87 Josephus did not live long enough to see Hadrian come to power in 117 AD, but is it too farfetched to assume that hopes, nurtured by him and other Jewish authors, were raised for a new return to Zion and a rebuilding of the Temple? In opposition to the expansionistic politics of his predecessor Trajan, whose attempt to conquer Mesopotamia threatened the local Jewish diaspora with Roman rule,88 Hadrian put an end to all plans for conquering new 86

That Jeremiah was for Josephus a kind of role model is often addressed, cf. inter alia Jonathan Price, “Josephus and the Dialogue on the Destruction of the Temple,” in Josephus und das Neue Testament: Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen (ed. Christfried Böttrich and Jens Herzer; WUNT 209; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 181–94 (esp. 189); Konradt, “Deutung,” 227–9 (with further literature in n. 148); Zellentin, “Jerusalem Fell after Betar,” 326–7 with n. 18; less often are the connections with Daniel addressed, but see Christopher T. Begg, “Daniel and Josephus: Tracing Connections,” in The Book of Daniel in the Light of New Findings (ed. Adam S. van der Woude; BETL 106; Leuven: Peeters, 1993), 539–45. 87 Bell. 7.148–150, 161–162, see also 6.271, 387–391; b. Gitt. 56b (Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 503). It is of course highly likely that Josephus’ hopes are based on a complete misunderstanding of the function the victory over Jerusalem and her Temple had for the Flavian dynasty, cf. Fergus Millar, “Last Year in Jerusalem: Monuments of the Jewish War in Rome,” in Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome (ed. by Jonathan Edmondson, Steve Mason, and James Rives; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 101–28; Timothy D. Barnes, “The Sack of the Temple in Josephus and Tacitus,” in ibid., 129–144; Rives, “Flavian Religious Policy,” esp. 152 on the public display of the Temple items. 88 For the involvement of the Mesopotamian Jews in the Revolt under Trajan, see Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism in Turmoil 116/117 C.E.: Ancient Sources and Modern Insights (Interdisciplinary Studies in Ancient Culture and Religion 6; Leuven: Peeters, 2005), 191–217. According to her, the Jews in Mesopotamia who fought together with Parthian troops against the Roman intruders had their own good reasons to join them, most notably the avoidance of the Fiscus Iudaicus (211).


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territories. He further dismissed Lucius Quietus immediately after he came to power in the summer of 117,89 and even sentenced him to death in 118.90 This Lucius was one of Trajan’s generals in Mesopotamia and was sent in 117 as new governor to Judaea, obviously to suppress any attempts of Judean Jews to participate in the diaspora upheavals.91 Hadrian’s harsh punishment of him could easily be seen as divine vengeance.92 Further support of a Jewish case by Hadrian — this time against Alexandrian Greeks, which ended with the execution of the Greek accuser — can be found in the Acta Pauli et Antonini, which date between 117 and 120.93 It is therefore at least possible that Hadrian could have been seen, like Cyrus, as God’s agent for the inauguration of a better period of time for the Jewish people in the diaspora as well as in their native land. In the Fifth Sibyl, whose final redaction took place in Hadrian’s time but before the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba War, he is (as is Nerva) described in a very favourable way (Sib. Or. 5.46–50): “He will also be a most excellent man and he will consider everything (ἔσται καὶ πανάριστος 89

Probably the day of his dismissal is celebrated in the Megillat Ta‘anit as yom Tirjanus (12. Adar), cf. with bibliography Hengel, “Hadrians Politik,” 364; Stemberger, Urteil, 76–7; Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, 240–3. 90 For Lucius Quietus, see Benario, Commentary, 65; Hengel, “Messianische Hoffnung,” 322–4; “Hadrians Politik,” 364, 391, n. 128; Birley, Hadrian, 78–9; Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, 220–7; Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 480–2. 91 For the connection of Judaea with the Diaspora revolts, see Benario, Commentary, 62; Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, 219–57; Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 480–1. 92 Cf. the end of book 7 of Josephus’ Jewish War, where he describes the death of the Roman general Catullus, who crushed the unrest stirred up by Jonathan the weaver. Influenced by “the madness of the Sicarii,” this Jonathan attacked the cities of Cyrene (Bell. 7.437–450), and led the Jews “forth into the desert, promising them a display of signs and apparitions (σημεῖα καὶ φάσματα).” In the wake of his sedition many Jews were killed and Catullus tried to get money and prestige from what he called “a Jewish War” (443). For this he used wrong accusation as pretence to kill many wealthy Jews and to confiscate their property. Although he was not punished for his misdeeds by the emperor, Josephus ends his Jewish War with the story of how Catullus’ bad conscience made him sick and brought onto him a miserable death as a final demonstration “how God in his providence inflicts punishment on the wicked” (7.453, transl. H. St. J. Thackeray, LCL). Philo used in a similar way the fatal end of the Roman prefect Flaccus, who was responsible for the pogrom in Alexandria in 38 AD, as a didactic play to show how divine providence punishes those who dare to treat God’s people unjustly (Flac. 169–175, 191; the fall of Flaccus, his punishment, exile, and death are described in full detail starting in 146 until the end). See Friedrich Avemarie, “Juden vor den Richterstühlen Roms: In Flaccum und die Apostelgeschichte im Vergleich,” in Philo und das Neue Testament: Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen (ed. Roland Deines and Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr; WUNT 172, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 107–26, esp. 123–5. 93 Hengel, “Hadrians Politik,” 362–3; for the text and dating, see Herbert A. Musurillo, The Acts of the Pagan Martyrs: Acta Alexandrinorum (Oxford: Clarendon, 1954), 49–60, 179–95; CPJ II, nos. 157–8 (pp. 82–99); Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, 133–42; Andrew Harker, Loyalty and Dissidence in Roman Egypt: The Case of the Acta Alexandrinorum (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 85–90.

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ἀνὴρ καὶ πάντα νοήσει).” In his time “all these days will come to pass (τάδ᾽ ἔσσεται ἤματα πάντα)”.94 The Fifth Sibyl envisages a restoration brought about by “a blessed man from heaven” (414) of Jerusalem and her Temple, which will — after destruction and war against the evildoers (418– 19) — be admired and attended by the whole world (5.420–7, cf. 249–66).95 The “man from heaven” is clearly authorized by God and he is announced as the restorer of the city and the Temple, but the text shows no sign that he himself belongs to the Jewish people. Hadrian, the famous founder and restorer of so many cities and sanctuaries could be seen as this man very much in line with Cyrus during the first period of his reign.96 Against this very positive picture with its high-flying expectations stands the negative characteristic of Hadrian in the Eighth Sibyl (50–8),97 which is in sharp contrast with another more positive encomium in the same book (8.133–8). Whereas the first oracle is mostly regarded as having been written by a Jewish author, the latter is attributed either to a pagan or to a Christian author.98 It says that his rule will be over the whole earth and “he will rule by the counsels of the great God without contamination” (135). The negative 94 Transl. J. J. Collins, “Sibylline Oracles: A New Translation and Introduction,” in OTP 1.317–472 (394). In the expression “he will consider everything” one might be able to see an allusion to behaviour similar to Cyrus, namely considering with the help of the prophetic books what God has decreed about his people, city, and Temple. The Roman emperors in this list (starting with Caesar) are easily identifiable because the author reveals the numeric value of the first letter of his name. Remarkably, Hadrian is not introduced in this way, whereas Vespasian, “a certain great destroyer of pious men” has “a clear initial of seven times ten” (5.37, likewise in 12.101). Again, for a reader versed in biblical imagination, this hint functions more or less inevitably as a reminder to the seventy years of Jeremiah and is therefore able to stir up hopes connected to the ruler who will rule at the designated time. 95 The destruction of the Temple (attributed to Nero) is lamented bitterly in 150–1, 397– 413. For the eschatological temple built by God’s agent, see Andrew Chester, Messiah and Exaltation: Jewish Messianic and Visionary Traditions and New Testament Christology (WUNT 207; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 471–96 (“Messiah and Temple in the Sibylline Oracles”). 96 The problem of this interpretation is to correlate it with the anti-Roman elements in Sib.Or. 5 (e.g. 162–78), which are highlighted by Hengel, “Messianische Hoffnung,” 329–35. Chester, Messiah, 482, who emphasizes the anti-Roman elements in a similar way as Hengel, nevertheless refers to Cyrus and Isa. 45:1, 13 as one of the very few texts who relate the messiah with the (re-)building of the Temple. 97 Hadrian is described as polluting the world with his gifts, as vicious, greedy, and idolatrous, but no mention is made of the Bar Kokhba War at all. For the author of this book, the Jewish revolts seem no longer worth mentioning. Cf. also Kreitzer, Images, 187–211 (“Hadrian and the Nero Redivivus Myth,” originally published in ZNW 79 [1988]: 92–115), who sees a very close line between Nero and Hadrian in Sib.Or. 5, 8, and 12. 98 For the introductory questions see Collins, “Sibylline Oracles,” 1.415–17, who attributes the first part 8.1–216 to a Jewish author (with the exception of 131–8 and 194–216, which he attributes to a pagan and Christian author respectively) and to a time around 175 AD.


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characteristic 8.50–8 has a positive match in the Twelfth Sibyl (12.164–75), which looks like “a deliberate inversion of the attack on Hadrian in Sib. Or. 8.50–9.”99 It is preceded by a depiction of Trajan, under whose reign “another very great evil will come upon the Jews, and Phoenicia, after these things, will drink torrential slaughter” (12.152–3). The author of the first part of the Twelfth Sibyl is presumably Jewish (cf. 99–104, 132),100 so it is all the more astonishing that he saw no need to mention the evil that had befallen the Jews under Hadrian.101 A similarly mixed impression can be found in the rabbinic tradition, where on the one hand Hadrian is described as the one who destroyed Bethar and is responsible for the killing of thousands of Jews, whereas a smaller group of texts present him rather positively.102 So it is reasonable to conclude that Jews were initially able to connect their hopes for an end of their misery after the expiry of the seventy years with Hadrian, especially in the early years of his reign.103 But the closer the time came to its fulfilment, the more they had to realize that he was not the hoped for new Cyrus but a second Antiochus, whose intention was to unite the empire under the visible presence of the Roman gods with Zeus Olympios/Jupiter Capitolinus at the fore. The desolating abomination of Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11 became a threat (or even a reality) again. With a change of the name of Jerusalem into one that is connected to Hadrian’s own name Publius Aelius Hadrianus and to the highest God in the official Roman pantheon Jupiter Capitolinus (who received the Jewish temple tax after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple) he intentionally demonstrated a strong disrespect for the Jewish religion. As Birley puts it, “Now Jupiter was actually taking over from Jehovah.”104 Jerusalem is in a unique way the place of residence of 99

Collins, “Sibylline Oracles,” 1.449 n. f2. See Collins, “Sibylline Oracles,” 1.443; Hengel, “Hadrians Politik,” 359–60. It was written in the third century, probably in Alexandria. The last reference in the book is the death of Alexander Severus in 235 AD. 101 Even his depiction of Vespasian is on the whole very positive; the destruction of Jerusalem is mentioned only briefly (12.103–104). 102 Schäfer, Bar Kokhba-Aufstand, 236–44; Stemberger, Urteil, 78–86; Hengel, “Hadrians Politik,” 360–1, 380. 103 See e.g. Tsafrir, “Numismatics,” 33: “The conclusion that Hadrian had in mind the restoration of a city named Hierosolyma is more likely than the conclusion that he had decided on a completely new name already as early as 130.” For Hadrian as a benefactor of cities and his interest in building and rebuilding see Boatwright, Hadrian and the Cities. 104 Hadrian, 233. At least two temples were built for Hadrian in connection with his visit to the province of Judea, one in Caesarea, the other in Tiberias (ibid., 233–34; Schäfer, Bar Kokhba-Aufstand, 48, n. 81). Based on the city-coins of Tiberias (see Meshorer, City-Coins, 34, no. 81) which depict a temple (interpreted as the Hadrianeion mentioned in Epiphanius, Pan. 30.12), some scholars date its construction to the time around 119/20 and therefore in the immediate aftermath of the revolt under Trajan, cf. Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, 100

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the Jewish most high God (cf. Deut 12:5; Ps 46:4–5),105 it is the place he has chosen for himself to be venerated by his people. This place became deserted in the destruction of the first Temple, but for a limited time only, and this was clearly the hope and expectation for the second destruction as well. Hadrian’s intentions made the fulfilment of this hope impossible. Although it is not clear what Hadrian’s deliberations for the Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem looked like, it is nevertheless obvious that the transformation of Jerusalem into a Roman colony,106 the alteration of her name into Aelia Capitolina, and the intention — at least according to Cassius Dio — to build “on the site of the temple of the god a new temple to Jupiter” indicates a major and deliberate shift in the city’s identity.107 Taking into consideration Hadrian’s military career that brought him into direct contact with the Jewish uprising under Trajan,108 and his intellectual 228. The difficulty with the early date is, as Epiphanius mentions, that the building was never completed even though this should have been expected when the emperor’s visit of the city was in sight. For the visible signs of Roman rule in Hadrian’s Aelia Capitolina, cf. Eck, Rom und Judaea, 60–74. The unsolved difficulty is that no building activities can be dated with certainty in the time before the outbreak of the revolt and it is unclear how far reaching the changes in Jerusalem had been already. Whereas Eck seems to presuppose some major changes in connection with the visit of the emperor in the city, Isaac (“Roman Rule,” 87) is rather sceptical, but the more recent archaeological and epigraphic evidence since Isaac’s article is more in support of Eck’s position. An appealing suggestion which supports Eck’s position, was brought forward by Herzer, 4 Baruch, xxxiii–xxxiv, in his interpretation of 4 Bar. 5:3–12: This passage, which Herzer dates in the time around 130 AD, describes how Abimelech, the protector of Jeremiah (cf. Jer 38:7–13), returned to Jerusalem after a miraculous 66-year-long sleep, which fell on him on the day the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the first Temple. As he came to the city he did not recognize it because everything had changed. Herzer finds here “an allusion to Hadrian’s architectural changes.” 105 Even if the Psalm referred initially to Dan, it is clear that its setting within the book of Psalms turns the “city of God” inevitably into Jerusalem, cf. Ps 132:13–14; 135:21; 147:2, 12 (see also Ps 122). For Jerusalem/Zion in the Psalter, see Corinna Körting, Zion in den Psalmen (FAT 48; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), esp. chapter B “Gott in seinem Heiligtum auf dem Zion” (87–162). 106 For the legal implications, see Isaac, “Roman Colonies,” 106: “Hadrian decided in 130 to organize Aelia as a garrison town, dominated by the legionary headquarters and the veterans of the X Fretensis.” Cf. also idem, The Limits of the Empire, 323–5, 352–4, 428–9; Boatwright, Hadrian and the Cities, 197–203. 107 Cf. Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 483–4. For a different interpretation of Cassius Dio’s statement see Bowersock, “A Roman Perspective,” 137; Schäfer, “Hadrian’s Policy,” 289. For the possibility that the camp of the tenth Roman legion was moved to the Temple Mount, see above, note 24. 108 Hadrian accompanied Trajan during the Parthian campaign, and was appointed governor of Syria in the year 117, cf. Birley, Hadrian, 68–75; according to Shimon Applebaum, “The Second Jewish Revolt (A.D. 131–35),” PEQ 116 (1984): 35–41 (37); idem, “The Jewish Revolt in Cyrene in 115–117, and the Subsequent Recolonisation,” JJS 2 (1950/51): 177–86; and Schwier, Tempel und Tempelzerstörung, 343–4 with n. 23, Hadrian was in


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ambitions including the strong affiliation with Greek culture, it is more than likely that he was aware of the provocative nature of the policies he introduced to the Jewish population of Judaea. He was a well-educated and wellread intellectual and one should assume that he knew about the attempts of Antiochus IV Epiphanes to change the religious and cultic orientation of the Temple in Jerusalem.109 As “a man with a great thirst for knowledge,”110 one who “wished to inform himself in person about all that he had read concerning all parts of the world”111 and therefore widely travelled, he was used to studying the histories of the provinces he visited quite well. Following a reference in the Historia Augusta to Hadrian’s magnificent villa in the foothills of the Tiburtine Mountains outside Rome, the large building and landscaped complex is often described as an empire in miniature, which demonstrated his intimate knowledge of the provinces and their most spectacular buildings.112 For his antiquarian and cultural interests regarding the provinces, the four series of coins, which celebrated his extensive travels throughout the empire, need to be mentioned as well.113 The depiction of the Cyprus around 115–16 and directly involved in the restitution of the provinces ravaged through the Jewish revolt. 109 Detailed knowledge about Antiochus IV was amply available in the time of Hadrian with inter alia the now (partly lost) works of Polybius of Megalopolis (Histories), Diodorus Siculus, (Bibliotheca Historica), Livy (esp. book 41, 44–46; unfortunately the description of the life and career of Antiochus is preserved only badly, see Livy, Rome’s Mediterranean Empire: Books Forty-One to Forty-Five, and the Periochae [translated with an introduction and notes by Jane D. Chaplin; Oxford World’s Classics; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007], 3, 22–3, 174–7, 257), and Josephus. For a list of sources on Antiochus, see Otto Mørkholm, Antiochus IV of Syria (Classica et Mediaevalia: Dissertationes 8; Copenhagen: Glydendalske, 1966), 17–21. For Hadrian’s knowledge of Antiochus IV and his ‘Jewish’ policy, see Hengel, “Hadrians Politik,” 383–4; Birley, Hadrian, 228–9. 110 These are his characteristics in the Dialogue between Timothy and Aquila, quoted in Alon, Talmudic Age, 445. 111 SHA Vita Hadriani 17.8 (cf. also 14.8–16.11; Cassius Dio, Hist. 69.3.2; 69.11.3). Stephen A. Stertz, “Semper in omnibus varius: The Emperor Hadrian and Intellectuals,” ANRW 2.34.1 (1993): 612–28. 112 SHA Hadrian 26.5. Against this interpretation, see now Thorsten Opper, Hadrian: Empire and Conflict (Catalogue for the Hadrian exhibition at the British Museum from 24 July to 26 October 2008; London: The British Museum Press, 2008), 148. 113 The first series (province types) shows the provinces he visited represented as female figures with typical attributes (the only exception is the Judaea issue, see below). A second series is devoted to the armies (exercitus types) of the Empire; the third group are the adventus types celebrating the coming of the emperor to a province, again represented by a female figure, this time in the gesture of offering in front of Hadrian; the fourth is the restitutor-series showing Hadrian as “restorer” who stretches out his hand to raise a female personification of the province kneeling in front of him to her feet (Judaea is not attested). Cf. Harold Mattingly and Edward A. Sydenham, The Roman Imperial Coinage. Volume II: Vespasian to Hadrian (London: Spink & Son, 1926; repr. 1997), 331–2; Kreitzer, Images, 153–86 (with a detailed description for each province); Thomas Witulski, Kaiserkult in

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individual provinces reveal that “local characteristic is not despised but selected for honour” and that his care for the provinces included “that he seriously endeavoured to keep alive the local spirit and traditions.”114 The standard type of the so-called adventus augusti coins, which were issued to commemorate the provinces he inspected, shows Hadrian facing a female representative of the respective province by a scene of sacrifice.115 Fig. 8: Hadrian. Bronze Sestertius (23.07 g). Struck 134–138 AD. HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P / ADVENTVI AVG IVDAEAE SC Source: Image by courtesy of Classical Numismati Group.

The types celebrating his visit to Judaea, which took place in 130, show, accordingly, a female representative of Judaea on the right side offering incense on a burning altar in front of the emperor standing on the left (fig. 8). The woman is flanked by two or three children with palm branches in their hands. Some types even show a sacrificial animal lying close to the altar.116 As Leo Mildenberg points out, the children do not appear on Adventus bronze issues of other provinces.117 Looking at the picture, it is hard to avoid reKleinasien: Die Entwicklung der kultisch-religiösen Kaiserverehrung in der römischen Provinz Asia. Von Augustus bis Antoninus Pius (NTOA/SUNT 63; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007), 156–62. It is important to mention that the coinage is not covering the whole range of provinces he visited, and it is assumed that Hadrian himself was responsible for the selection and the types, cf. Henning Wabersich, “Hadrian — ein Kaiser der Blütezeit des Reiches,” in Moneta Augusti: Römische Münzen der Kaiserzeit und Spätantike im Akademischen Münzkabinett der Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena (ed. Angelika Geyer; Katalog zur Ausstellung im Stadtmuseum Göhre in Jena vom 10. Februar bis 1. Mai 2005; Jenaer Hefte zur Klassischen Archäologie 6, Jena: Glaux, 2005), 214–33 (219). The majority of numismatic publications dates them between 134 and 138 AD. 114 Harold Mattingly and Edward A. Sydenham, The Roman Imperial Coinage. Volume II: Vespasian to Hadrian (London: Spink & Son, 1926; repr. 1997), 331; cf. Kreitzer, Images, 154; Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 483. 115 Mattingly and Sydenham, Roman Imperial Coinage, 332, 451–6. 116 Illustrations are available e.g. in Mattingly and Sydenham, Roman Imperial Coinage, pl. XVI 325; Karl Matthiae and Edith Schönert-Geiß, Münzen aus der urchristlichen Umwelt (Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1981), 118, no. 71; Mildenberg, Coinage, 98 fig. 17; Bernhard Overbeck and Ya’akov Meshorer, Das Heilige Land: Antike Münzen und Siegel aus einem Jahrtausend jüdischer Geschichte (Katalog der Sonderausstellung 1993/94 der Staatlichen Münzsammlung München; Munich: Staatliche Münzsammlung München, 1993), 144, nos. 355–356; Kreitzer, Images, 176, fig. 32–33; Meshorer, Treasury, 135. 117 Coinage, 97, n. 270, cf. Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, 483–4. In the provinces series (see above, note 113) it is only the Judaea coins which presents children in front of the emperor (who is not depicted at all on the other provinces’ coins). They are accompanied by a standing female representation of the province sacrificing over an altar in front of Hadrian.


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calling two stories from the Maccabean history: the one in 1 Maccabees 2:15– 23 where Mattathias is summoned to offer on an altar in Modein to a foreign god; he refused and killed the one who actually presented an offering; the other story is the one of the seven brothers and their mother who would rather die than transgress the commandments of the Torah (2 Macc 7:1–41, cf. 1 Macc 1:59–61). With his coin, Hadrian presented a ‘better’ mother, one who leads her children to worship before the emperor and therefore into a supposedly better future. As already mentioned (see notes 113, 117) the dating is disputed, but even if the actual minting of these coins took place only some years after Hadrian’s visit, they can nevertheless serve as an illustration of how Hadrian wanted to be seen and hailed in Judaea. Close to the beginning of the final week of years, presumably in the midst of the Sabbatical year that started in the month of Tishri in 131,118 Shimon bar Kosiba, the prince of Israel, summoned his brethren to take up weapons for what they might have hoped to be the last battle for the “redemption of Israel” and the “freedom of Jerusalem.”119 Supported by biblical prophecies they sought to withstand the test and overcome the crisis. The threat of a final loss According to Mattingly and Sydenham, Roman Imperial Coinage, 332, “the national resistance to Rome here made local allusions impossible. What is shown instead is the introduction of the new order of Graeco-Roman civilization by Hadrian,” cf. similarly Mildenberg, Coinage, 99. For Mildenberg the differing choice of the motif shows that Hadrian was well aware of the specific situation in Judaea and that he wanted to demonstrate his wish to Hellenize this province by the issue of these coins which he therefore dates in the years 130 to 132 immediately before the outbreak of the war. Mildenberg’s dating is accepted by Schwier, Tempel und Tempelzerstörung, 343–4. Goodman’s comments also seem to presuppose that the adventus coins were issued at the arrival of the emperor in the particular province. Against such a hostile interpretation of the image see Jercy Ciecieląg, “Anti-Jewish Policy of the Roman Empire from Vespasian until Hadrian, in the Light of Numismatic Sources — Fact or Myth?,” Israel Numismatic Research 1 (2006): 101–10. He argues that “the children may equally symbolize the renewal of the previously destroyed province” (108). But even then it is clear that the restoration was for the benefit mainly of non-Jews including, if Schäfer is right (see note 33), the assimilated Jews who did not take offence at sacrifices in front of the emperor. 118 For the beginning of the war early in 132, see Schäfer, Bar Kokhba-Aufstand, 28; for the dating of the Sabbatical cycle, see Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community: A History of the Jewish Calendar Second Century BCE—Tenth Century CE (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 91–2. According to Ben Zion Wacholder, “the inevitable coming of the messiah would take place during the season when Israel celebrated the sabbatical year” (idem, “Chronomessianism: The Timing of Messianic Movements and the Calendar of Sabbatical Cycles,” HUCA 46 [1975]: 201–18 [201] = idem, Essays on Jewish Chronology and Chronography [New York: Ktav], 240–57 [240]). The Zoar inscriptions (see Stern, Calendar and Community, 87–97) reveal the existence of a Jewish era starting with the destruction of the second Temple and therefore corresponding to the first year of a Sabbatical cycle (91), but there is no evidence that this era was already in place at the time of Bar Kokhba. 119 For the legends of the Bar Kokhba-coins, see Meshorer, Coinage, 349–65.

How Long?


of Jerusalem and with her, the Temple, which became clearer every day after Hadrian’s decision to re-found the city as Aelia Capitolina, turned further patience into cowardice. The situation became more and more similar to those at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt: “If we all do as our kindred have done and refuse to fight [on a Sabbath] with the Gentiles for our lives and for our ordinances, they will quickly destroy us from the earth” (1 Macc 2:40). The Hasmoneans won back the Temple and Israel’s freedom, Bar Kokhba and his men almost lost them forever. His way to overcome the crisis that resulted in the loss of the Temple in 70 AD turned out to be a tragic failure. The severity of this blow can be seen in the fact that the traditional means of overcoming a crisis were no longer deemed suitable: The destruction of the First Temple instigated a blossoming of theological thinking and writing which gave shape to the Hebrew Bible. The Hellenistic crisis gave rise to the Hasmoneans and, again, a new wave of biblically inspired Jewish literature in Greek, which bridged the gap between Jewish and Hellenistic culture by maintaining at the same time Jewish identity in a changed world. Even the destruction of the Second Temple could initially be understood and made bearable through recollecting and rephrasing the messages of Jeremiah, Baruch, and Ezra. After the defeat of Bar Kokhba, no comparable literature was written. The next development of Jewish literature was the Mishnah, at the beginning of the third century. It was a new start on different ground.

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance, Conversion, and Turning to God 0. Introduction The original German title of this paper “Biblische Aspekte zu Umkehr — Konversion — Bekehrung” lists three terms that are used more or less indiscriminately to describe the movement from disbelief to faith, or from a life without God to a life with God. The title was given to me by the organizers of a conference on “Conversion between Empirical Research and Theological Reflection” (Konversion zwischen empirischer Forschung und theologischer Reflexion) that was held in February 2011 in Greifswald (Germany) by the Research Institute for Evangelism and Church Development (Institut zur Erforschung von Evangelisation und Gemeinde-entwicklung), which is part of the Theological Faculty of the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University of Greifswald. One of the Institute’s projects was an empirical study devoted to the question “How do adults find faith?” (“Wie finden Erwachsene zum Glauben?”). Its aim was to find out how the journey to faith of adults in the Protestant churches in Germany could be assisted and supported. The results were published in Wie finden Erwachsene zum Glauben? Einführung und Ergebnisse der Greifswalder Studie.1 The conference brought together theologians and social scientists to discuss the results of the study and to support the churches in their task of evangelization. The organizers of the conference used the three keywords mentioned in the title in inviting me to contribute the biblical viewpoints for this event. The use of three semantically closely related terms seemed to me to display a certain hesitation as to which of them best describes what is at stake here. “Konversion” is particularly noteworthy, as the English term conversion used in a religious context is translated in German dictionaries as “Bekehrung,” and it is hard to see a major semantic difference between the two. The difference in German between “Konversion” and “Bekehrung” is rather a ‘felt’ one: “Konversion,” based on the Latin conversio, sounds less pious and rather academic and does not carry the latent taint of religious bigotry that is often 1

Edited by Johannes Zimmermann and Anna-Konstanze Schröder; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2010.


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

associated with “Bekehrung” (for examples, see note 75 below), although the related noun “Konvertit” (one who has converted from one religion or denomination to another, a proselyte) has an equally negative taint as “Bekehrung.” If one looks up the German “Bekehrung” in English dictionaries one finds in addition to conversion also proselytism, and — to add to the confusion — synonyms given for conversion, which include adaptation, alteration, change (of heart), metamorphosis, modification, proselytization, rebirth, reformation, and regeneration. These are nearly all terms with German equivalents that — as in English — were loanwords from Latin, which is often an indication of the common repertoire of both languages within the biblical-Christian linguistic capital. The biblical literature itself presents a plethora of expressions that describe the act of turning to the one God who testifies to himself in the Holy Scriptures, an act which is both necessary for salvation and existentially determinative. This array of expressions is the result of differing points of departure from which individuals or a group of people turn towards God. Turning to God is actually rather seldom used to describe the act of becoming part of the people of God, since the Old Testament texts are not particularly interested in one person or an entire group of people joining themselves to the God of Israel.2 It is, after all, maintained that the God of Israel is the God of the whole world and of all peoples, and from this arose the expectation that faith in this one God would be extended eschatologically to all peoples. The Jerusalem Temple, despite being the centre of the faith and worship of Israel, was still meant to become “a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isa 56:7).3 Yet this did not lead to an active mission or campaign of proselytization, though it 2 On conversion as entry into a faith community, see H. Mohr, “Konversion/Apostasie,” HrwG 3 (1993), 436–45. As definition, in the widest sense, one has to take the “turning to or from a belief system,” which more narrowly defined manifests itself as “entry into” or “exit from a religious community.” These ideal points at the end of a process, namely “entry” or “exit,” however, do not apply to the majority of biblical texts, and neither is it the standard situation with regard to the question posed by the Greifswalder study “Wie finden Erwachsene zum Glauben?” [“How do adults come to faith?”]. For a first overview on the topic of conversion as entry, in particular, to Judaism see K. G. Kuhn, “προσήλυτος,” TDNT 6 (1968), 727–44; idem and Hartmut Stegemann, “Proselyten,” PWSup 9 (1962), 1248–83; M. A. Singer, “Konversion II. Judentum,” TRE 19 (1990), 563–66. For the attitude concerning foreigners in the Hebrew Bible, see Markus P. Zehnder, Umgang mit Fremden in Israel und Assyrien: Ein Beitrag zur Anthropologie des “Fremden” im Licht antiker Quellen (BWANT 168; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2005). Zehnder points out that next to entry into the people of God, the OT also recognizes the possibility “of honouring the true God without the necessity of formally enjoining oneself to the religious community of Israel” (308). 3 See the summary by Eckhard J. Schnabel, Early Christian Mission (2 vols.; Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), 1.55–91; Zehnder, Umgang mit Fremden, 304–8; and more exhaustively Erich Scheurer, Altes Testament und Mission: Zur Begründung des Missionsauftrages (Giessen: Brunnen, 1996).

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


was always possible, albeit not uncontroversial, to join oneself to the people of Israel, and with this to the blessings and obligations of a covenant relationship with Israel’s God.4 What is more important than becoming part of the people of God in the Hebrew Bible is that Israel as the human partner in this relationship was constantly admonished to keep her covenant obligations. Accordingly, the prophetic call to repentance is localized in the established relationship between God and his people. It is not so much a singular or first act of conversion (and therefore not an initiation experience), but rather a return, or turning to God, followed by a corresponding change of behaviour.5 Luther described this event with the word “Bekehrung” [conversion] or “sich bekehren” [to convert] and in so doing deeply influenced the understanding of these words in the German language.6 As a result of this translation, conversion and repentance are often used together, since the turn to God typically implies the admission of wrong behaviour towards God on the part of the Israelites. Since turning, or returning, to God (and related to this a deepening and renewal of the relationship to God) within an existing belief system7 is denoted by the same term that is used for the initial entry into this system, the semantic blurring described above between conversion and repentance is unavoidable. This lack of conceptual clarity is further increased within the German context, because confessional change from one church to another has also been designated as conversion since the Reformation.8 4 On the question of the existence of a Jewish mission in the Hellenistic-Roman period see Schnabel, Mission, 92–172, and the summary by Rainer Riesner, “A Pre-Christian Jewish Mission?,” in The Mission of the Early Church to the Jews and Gentiles (ed. Jostein Ådna and Hans Kvalbein; WUNT 127; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000), 211–50. 5 See the dictionary articles on ‫שוב‬, which is the terminus technicus for this kind of turning to God: J. A. Soggin, “‫ שׁבו‬šūb zurückkehren,” THAT 2 (1984), 884–91; A. Graupner and H. J. Fabry, “‫ וּשׁב‬šûḇ etc.,” TDOT 14 (2004), 461–522. Within the philological discussion there is a debate whether the basic meaning of the verb implies the return to an initial beginning point” (Soggin, ibid., 886). This was claimed in particular by William L. Holladay, The Root šûbh in the Old Testament: With Particular Reference to its Usage in Covenantal Contexts (Leiden: Brill, 1958), and was taken up in the subsequent discussion so that turning to God was primarily understood as return (to God). Yet, there is good evidence which contradicts this understanding, which is why Graupner and Fabry have assumed as basic meaning “turn around, turn” which does not imply “any explication of direction” (ibid., 464). 6 On this, see Friso Melzer, Das Wort in den Wörtern: Die deutsche Sprache im Dienst der Christus-Nachfolge. Ein theo-philosophisches Wörterbuch (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1965), 31–35 (“Bekehren”). 7 On the terminology see G. Kehrer, “Belief (system),” HrwG 1 (1988), 120f. 8 Originally conversion was exclusively used for joining the Roman Catholic Church, see R. Kollar and B. Brenner, “Konversion III. Historisch,” TRE 19 (1990), 566–75; see also B. Brenner, “Konversion IV. Praktisch-theologisch,” TRE 19 (1990), 575–8. Until 1983, in official Catholic terminology conversio described the process of joining the Catholic Church (from another), whereas perversio was used to designate the leaving of or change to another


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

When it comes to the biblical texts, therefore, one always needs to pay attention to whether they deal with conversion within an existing relationship with God that is no longer seen as sufficient, or with a turning to the God of Israel from without. The same is true of the New Testament. John the Baptist’s call to repentance among the Jewish people, and equally that of Jesus and the apostles, relates to a change within the framework of the existing relationship of Israel with God, whereas the missionary speeches to nonJews — although frequently using the same terminology — demand a categorically different change. In the latter a change of religions is meant, in the former a new alignment within an existing relationship with God. Common to both is that the causal necessity for the conversion originates in what was believed to be a God-enacted, revelatory event within history. The nonJewish God-fearers stand between these two groups,9 yet in regard to the Jesus-event they are in a similar position to the Jews, in that they are also confronted with the question as to whether they accept Jesus as God’s word and deed. What the biblical texts do not envisage, however, is a conversion from an atheist position to a relationship with God. This complexity, which is only hinted at here, cannot be captured with a single comprehensive term nor unfurled from such. Neither is this necessary. Gerhard von Rad noted in his book Wisdom in Israel that the semantically similar, but non-congruent, Hebrew terms for knowing and learning unlock a semantic field, or space, in which a plethora of links and identifications are possible, which allows the localization of intersecting experiences and insights.10 When it comes to the topic of conversion, it is primarily narratives, often of a biographical nature, that set up such a semantic space in which an individual’s experiences of God can be located and into which others can be invited to talk about their encounter with God. In other words, the best starting point for an investigation of “Biblical Viewpoints on Conversion, Repentance and Turning to God” is not a single term or concept but those stories in which people turn to God in whatever way and for whatever reason. This is why, in preparing this paper, I asked my students and colleagues what they church (576). In English, however, according to The Oxford English Dictionary, conversion used without qualification, means “conversion to Christianity.” 9 For the historical details, see Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer, Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: The Unknown Years (London: SCM, 1997), 61–70. 10 Von Rad labels such an accumulation of terms a “‘stereometric’ way of thinking,” which is applied to create “the desired extension of the conceptual range,” Wisdom in Israel (London: SCM, 1972), 13 with notes 19 and 27. See also Michael Herbst, “‘Mama, Gott hat dich in die Kirche geschoben!’ — Welche Konsequenzen ziehen wir aus der Studie?,” in Wie finden Erwachsene zum Glauben? Einführung und Ergebnisse der Greifswalder Studie (ed. Johannes Zimmermann and Anna-Konstanze Schröder; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2010), 169–87, who describes “conversion” as “relational event” which is marked out by “a multiplicity of beginnings” (170–1).

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


regard as the three best conversion stories in the Bible. For whoever wants to speak about conversion has to tell stories. In addition, I hoped that they might point out important texts that I had missed. At the beginning of this talk, I asked the same question of the audience and had them fill out a short questionnaire, asking them to note what they felt were the three best biblical conversion stories. These were collected before I presented my own selection of biblical texts. A short summary of the answers can be found at the end of this essay. At the conference itself I began this talk, therefore, not with definitions and classifications, but with the following two stories. The Conversion of Achior, the Ammonite A hostile army was on its way to besiege Jerusalem. The enemy commander conferred with his vassals from the coastal towns and with the eastern neighbours of Israel, the Moabite and Ammonite rulers (Judith 5:1), about how best to attack the people of Israel. Achior, one of the Ammonite leaders, explained to the commander that these were a special people. He told him the history of Israel, of Abraham’s election, the exodus from Egypt, and the crossing of the Red Sea, up to the conquest of Canaan, claiming that the God of Heaven aided these people when they called on him. But this, their strength, was also their weakness. If they sinned against the laws of their God, they could be defeated. However, he added that currently the people were experiencing a time of returning to their God (5:19: ἐπιστρέφειν) and any attack was futile for that reason. Achior apparently knew a lot about these people, but not much about how to talk to his superiors. The enemy commander accused him of treason and delivered him alive into the hands of the Israelites. He was to experience the attack while in their city, to die together with its defenders, and in this manner pay for his erroneous beliefs. The Israelites received this enemy and listened to his story about what had happened in the opposition camp. One of the leaders of the besieged city let Achior the Ammonite reside in his house. On the next morning, the siege of the city Bethulia began. When the situation was most dire, a woman, named Judith, was able to trick the enemy commander and caused him to lose his mind — and head. The enemy forces retreated, great rejoicing ensued, and God was praised. And Achior? About him it was said: “And when Achior had seen all that the God of Israel had done, he believed in God greatly, and circumcised the flesh of his foreskin, and was joined unto the house of Israel until this day.”11

11 Judith 14:10: ἰδὼν δὲ Αχιωρ πάντα, ὅσα ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τοῦ Ισραηλ, ἐπίστευσεν τῷ θεῷ σφόδρα καὶ περιετέμετο τὴν σάκρα τῆς ἀκροβυστίας αὐτοῦ καὶ προσετέθη εἰς τὸν οἶκον Ισραηλ ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ταύτης.


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

The Conversion of Prince Izates of Adiabene After the king of Adiabene married his sister Helena, she was eventually found to be with child. One night, while the king was sleeping with his hand on the belly of his pregnant wife, he heard a voice commanding him to take away his hand, so as to not harm the child, which, on account of God’s providence (θεοῦ προνοίᾳ), would be blessed in life from beginning to end. When the child, Izates, was born he became the king’s favourite son, whom he loved more than his other sons. Yet out of fear for Izates’ life, he sent him away to the court of a friendly ruler, who gave his daughter to the young man as his wife and further endowed him with land. When Izates’ father died, his mother Helena gathered all the rulers of the realm and convinced them to entrust the throne to the dead king’s dearest son. The council agreed and offered Izates the crown. However, in the meantime Izates has made the acquaintance of a Jewish merchant called Ananias, who had taught the women of the court where he lived to honour God as is customary among Jews (20.34: ἐδίδασκεν αὐτὰς τὸν θεὸν σέβειν, ὡς Ἰουδαίους πάτριον ἦν). Izates is also persuaded and beseeches the Jewish merchant to accompany him back to his father’s court. There, to his surprise, he finds that his mother Helena was also taught (διδαχθεῖσαν) by a Jew to be “carried over” (μετακεκομίσθαι)12 to the Jewish law, and thus found “to enjoy the customs of the Jews” (20.38). So Izates decides to validate his turn to the Jewish faith with circumcision, because only then can he “be firmly a Jew” (εἶναι βεβαίως Ἰουδαῖος). With difficulty his mother and the Jewish teacher Ananias are able to keep him from taking this step. The people, so their argument runs, would not recognize a king who belongs to a different people. His teacher allays his fears that he cannot worship God without being circumcised (20.41f.). Izates finally gives in. After a while, a Galilean Jew by the name of Eleasar arrives at the court and finds Izates studying Torah. Eleasar convinces him that it is not sufficient only to read the law, one also has to do what it decrees (20:45: τὰ προστασσόμενα ποιεῖν). Hearing this, Izates receives circumcision, and God responds to his obedience by giving him the kingdom and blessing his reign.13 12 μετακεκομίσθαι is a passive perfect participle from μετακομίζω, “to transport sth./sb. from one place to another,” see Josephus, Ant. 7.84, 200; 8.99, 101; 13.210; Vita 404, with figurative meaning only here in Ant. 20.35. The word does not occur in the NT, and only once in the LXX (in Judith 11:14 for the messengers who are sent from Bethulia to Jerusalem to obtain dispensation for a changed legal interpretation). 13 This story is told by Josephus (Ant. 20.17–48). The royal house of Adiabene had a close friendship with the Jewish people, and the sons of Izates were fighting together with the Jewish insurgents against Rome. The monumental tomb of his mother Helena can be seen in the city even today. For the historical details, see Emil Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ: 175 B.C.–A.D. 135 (rev. and ed. Geza Vermes, Fergus

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


1. Conversion Stories Without Sin or Repentance The preceding conversion stories belong to the historical context of the New Testament. The story of Achior is a side plot in the Book of Judith, which probably originated around the year 100 BC. In the first epistle of Clement (55:4–6) Judith is already acclaimed as an example of faith to the believers in Corinth. And with the Book of Judith the story of Achior, the Ammonite who joins the people of God, also became widely known, even though, according to Deut 23:3–4, Ammonites were not permitted to enter the congregation of Israel. The second conversion story was penned by the Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote his Antiquities of the Jews (Antiquitates) in Rome around the year 95 CE. Both of these Jewish texts, in a way, frame the formation of Christianity. What strikes one at first is that these narratives lack the terms μετάνοια (“a change of mind”), μετανοεῖν (“to change one’s mind”), ἐπιστροφή (“a turning”), or ἐπιστρέφειν (“to turn around”) — the standard conversion terminology for exegetical studies, which generally takes a central role in Biblical Studies of this topic.14 These studies usually describe and discuss in laudable detail the verbs μετανοεῖν and ἐπιστρέφειν and their cognates, tracing their path from the Hebrew Bible through the Septuagint and the writings of early Judaism. This is indeed an important and fruitful way into the subject matter; however, in the following discussion it shall remain in the Millard, Matthew Black, and Martin Goodman; vol. III.1; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1986), 183–5. On the tomb of Helena and the history of the family, see Max Küchler, Jerusalem: Ein Handbuch und Studienreiseführer zur Heiligen Stadt (OLB IV.2; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007), 985–94. This conversion was not an isolated case, but expresses something of the attraction of the Jewish faith to non-Jews around the change of the Common Era, in particular from the upper classes of society. For a brief overview with many bibliographical references, see Hengel and Schwemer, Paul, 61–90 “The problem of the ‘sympathizers’ and Jewish propaganda”; for the royal house of Adiabene, see 64, 71. 14 Beside the literature mentioned in note 5, the classical (albeit not unproblematic) example is the study by Erich K. Dietrich, Die Umkehr (Bekehrung und Buße) im Alten Testament und im Judentum (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1936) (helpful are pp. 14–18, where he briefly deals with synonymous terminology); further examples are Helmut Burkhardt, Die biblische Lehre von der Bekehrung (2nd ed.; Giessen: Brunnen, 1985), 9f.; Hermut Löhr, Umkehr und Sünde im Hebräerbrief (BZNW 73; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1994), 139–62; Gregory Sterling, “Turning to God: Conversion in Greek-Speaking Judaism and Early Christianity,” in Scripture and Traditions (FS Carl R. Holladay; ed. Patrick Gray and Gail R. O’Day; NovTSup 129; Leiden: Brill, 2008), 69–95; Mihamm Kim-Rauchholz, Umkehr bei Lukas: Zu Wesen und Bedeutung der Metanoia in der Theologie des dritten Evangelisten (NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener, 2008) (for the most part the study traces Luke’s use of μετάνοια/μετανοέω). More interested in the topic of repentance is the likewise philologically oriented and material-rich essay by Richard H. Bell, “Teshubah: The Idea of Repentance in Ancient Judaism,” The Journal of Progressive Judaism 5 (1995): 22–52.


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

background, in order to avoid limiting the focus to just one form of conversion from the outset. The reason for this is that a whole range of narratives dealing with the process of holistically turning to God (in the sense of an allencompassing religious reorientation) exist that lack this kind of terminology. In the context of a conference that wants to explore the question “How do adults come to faith?” I suggest, therefore, paying attention to any story that reports the conversion of an individual or a group, rather than basing the selection of texts on the presence or absence of certain terms.15 But how then should we select texts? What makes a text a ‘conversion story,’ if not the terminology used in it? One could answer that the underlying experience on which the narrative is based is decisive. Yet, one could object that an experience is only accessible for others when it is narrated. And to do this, one has to choose a certain mode of speech, which — following given conventions — can then be understood by others as a conversion experience. In addition, those affected by such an experience inevitably put it into words (and thus it is ‘conceptualized’ and ‘conventionalized’) in order to make it possible to reflect on the fact that something has happened to them. What sounds quite complicated on a theoretical level presents no real problem for those affected by it (either those who have converted and want to explain what has happened to them, or others who are told about this, or who themselves want to retell it). Those who find themselves confronted with such an experience will easily discover that established linguistic features exist within their respective cultural or religious contexts that they can use to describe what has happened to them. One is hardly ever confronted with an experience for which no speech conventions exist.16 The problem of a scientific description of what conversion means has, therefore, to be distinguished from that of 15 On the increasing importance of narratives for Christians in the postmodern period, see Alister E. McGrath, ‘Erzählung, Gemeinschaft und Dogma: Reflexionen über das Zeugnis der Kirche in der Postmoderne’, TBei 41 (2010): 25–38. 16 This, however, cannot be completely ruled out. The experience of something special, e.g. an epiphany of the divine that surpasses the traditional, can demand new ways of expressing itself. This may lead to the creation of new words, or changes of word meanings, but in general the ‘building blocks’ for expressing new experiences are drawn from existing linguistic patterns, which find a new use. For an example of such a search for new words as the result of a new religious experience, see the confession of Lucius in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (which is also the most frequently cited conversion story from the Pagan context of early Christianity). When confronted with the epiphany of the heavenly deity Isis, who appears to him on account of his prayer, he seeks for words to describe her “heavenly face” (divina facies), “at least as far as my poor human mouth is able to” (facultatem paupertas oris humani), and he trust that the goddess would further supply to this “out of her own accord rich eloquence” (dapsilem copiam elocutilis facundiae subministraverit). On the conversion of Lucius, see Arthur D. Nock, Conversion: The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933; many reprints), 183–55.

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


new converts expressing the significance of their experience. The example of Izates demonstrates this well. His problem was that his turning to the God of Israel, and his concomitant commitment to Judaism, had political consequences, not that he had difficulties in finding the right terminology to express himself in this regard. What is true for conversion is equally true of prayer. A person who prays, even for the first time of his/her own accord and by him/herself, does not have to invent language. In intending to pray (or, in retrospect, realizing that he or she has prayed), the ‘right’ language comes about almost by itself. Prayer is defined by the direction of address and the attitude expressed in it, not by the use of certain terminology. The New Testament (indeed, the Bible as a whole) does not offer a definition of prayer. For the people we encounter in the Bible, prayer is something given, which — in very different forms — is practised when a particular moment arises. Theological reflection about how one can pray, and how it is best done, is foreign to biblical thinking. The same can be said about conversion. For the semantic field of conversion/turning to God/repentance there is no theological reflection in the biblical texts, and consequently no prescribed ideal procedure (ordo salutis) of how one turns to God. This is why accessing the topic of conversion solely by means of the terms “conversion” and “repentance” is too limiting.17 In both examples I gave at the beginning, the traditional themes of contrition, conviction of sin, and confession do not play any role. The ‘felt’ close connection of conversion and sin most likely results from the fact that conversion is generally understood as being equal to repentance, and therefore expressing a move from that which is wrong towards that which is right.18 With the latter an important element of the prophetic call to repentance is acknowledged, but 17 Especially repentance is the constant companion of conversion, which from the outset steers the access to this topic in a certain direction; see e.g. the Theologische Begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testament (ed. Lothar Coenen and Klaus Haacker; 2 vols.; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1997–2000) which does not even have a separate entry for “Bekehrung” [conversion], but in its place redirects to “Buße” [repentance] (1.236; cf. also ibid., 1.230–8). “Umkehr” [turning back] does not exist in the index nor as entry, the same is true for “Hinwendung (zu Gott)” [turning to God]. Interestingly, in the first edition of that same dictionary (ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard; 3 vols.; Wuppertal: R. Brockhaus, 1967–1971; ET: The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology [3 vols.; ed. Colin Brown; Exeter: Paternoster, 1976]), the terms “Conversion, penitence, repentance, proselyte” were dealt with under the heading “Conversion” (1.353–5), with no separate entries for “Repentance” or “Penitence” (in the German original, the keywords are “Bekehrung, Buße, Reue” [1.69–76]). Discussed are the terms ἐπιστροφή, ἐπιστρέφω, μετανοέω, μετάνοια, and μεταμέλομαι (“to regret,” “to change one’s mind/purpose/line of conduct,” “to repent;” in the NT used only in Matt 21:29, 32; 27:3; 2 Cor 7:8; Heb 7:21). 18 For an impressive and influential example the German context see Julius Schniewind, “Das biblische Wort von der Bekehrung,” in Geistliche Erneuerung (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1981), 10: “Conversion is return to God,” see ibid. 12–21.


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

this is a special and non-transferable case within the framework of the aforementioned covenantal relationship between God and Israel with its mutual obligations. The above stories, however, deal with the conversion of non-Jews, who join themselves to the people of God. For them it is not the realization of their own wrong behaviour and subsequent turning (in the sense of returning to God) that is of primary importance, but the experience of God’s present acts and the future possibilities they open up for them. These non-Jews are captured by God’s wisdom, power, glory, care, and/or love. This creates the desire to join themselves to this God, for, in light of what they have experienced about him, the impotence and emptiness of their previous belief system becomes evident. Contrition can have a motivating role, but it is only secondary at best. In Christian reception history, however, the aforementioned perception of conversion as the return to God within an already existing relationship is clearly prevalent. This is understandable since most of the biblical texts focus on Israel’s relationship to God, and the Church saw herself, for the most part of her history, as being in Israel’s place. For a missiological situation, however, such an in-group concept of conversion-as-return is not at all helpful. This conversion-as-return concept is probably why the pattern of an earlier ‘life in sin’ and repentance from this lifestyle has become a solid, albeit also problematic, topos in Christian conversion stories throughout the ages.19 For children who were raised in Christian households and who gratefully and almost naturally grew into a faith relationship with God, this can even become burdensome: they did not take drugs, had nothing to do with wanton sex, did not try to quench the futility of life with Eastern meditation techniques, and therefore often wonder whether they missed out, or were really ‘converted’.20 In his dissertation Reconceptualising Conversion,21 the Canadian New Testament scholar Zeba Crook attributed the cause for this reductive view to the fact that the conversion of Paul was seen as paradigmatic in the Christian tradition, and that this (at least in modern times) was mostly understood within psychological categories. Crook points to the American psychologist 19

See e.g. Stephen Brian, “Deconstructing the Alpha Testimonies,” Theology 108 (2005): 193–202, see 196–7. 20 See the example in Schniewind, “Bekehrung,” 19. 21 Zeba R. Crook, Reconceptualising Conversion: Patronage, Loyalty, and Conversion in the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean (BZNW 130; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004). Also noteworthy is Alan F. Segal, Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1990). He understands conversion as “changing commitment from one social group in Judea to another” (72) and explains all of Paul’s theology from this change of groups and the associated heightened “commitment” to the new group. Segal’s work contains many important and interesting aspects, albeit also a number of not very convincing speculations (e.g. 224ff. on Rom 7).

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


William James (1842–1910) who has had an enduring influence in the study of the history of religions on the understanding of conversion in the 20th century, especially on account of his book The Varieties of Religious Experiences (1902). In it he defines conversion as a “process, gradual or sudden, by which a self hitherto divided, and consciously wrong, inferior and unhappy becomes united and consciously right, superior and happy, in consequence of its firmer hold upon religious realities.”22 Along these lines, an inner conflict is often attributed to Paul before his conversion in that he was suffering under the burden of sin, viz. his inability to keep the law, from which he was liberated by the message of God’s sola gratia redemption.23 By doing so Martin Luther’s ‘soul anguish’ before his Reformation breakthrough was projected onto Paul, which in turn has strongly influenced the understanding of conver-


William James, The Varieties of Religious Experiences (New York: Penguin, 1984), 189 (cited in Crook, Reconceptualising Conversion, 22). See also the definition of Nock, Conversion, 7: “By conversion we mean the reorientation of the soul of an individual, his deliberate turning from indifference or from an earlier form of piety to another, a turning which implies a consciousness that a great change is involve, that the old was wrong and the new is right.” Otto Bischofberger, “Bekehrung/Konversion,” RGG4 (1998), 1.1228–9, is quite similar in describing the conversion event as retrospective biographical reconstruction, whereas “the life before conversion was marked as empty, unhappy, and even bad, after conversion it is seen as full of meaning and happiness” (1228). The cause of conversion is therefore often a crisis experience. 23 However, there always was a strong exegetical opposition, see Kim-Rauchholz, Umkehr, 176–8, who also points to older literature on this. What stands out is that this psychological understanding of conversion primarily bases itself on Rom 7:7–25, and less on Paul’s own three accounts in the Lukan texts (Acts 9:1–19; 22:3–16; 26:9–18), which have no trace of psychological agony or suffering under sin, even if in 22:16 baptism is related to the washing away of sins (see also 26:18, 20); also in the brief remarks in the epistles (Gal 1:15f; cf. 1 Cor 1:17, 9:1; Phil 3:8f) this idea is missing, see Beverly Roberts Gaventa, From Darkness to Light: Aspects of Conversion in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), 17–40 (esp. 33). For a defence of the understanding that Paul is speaking of his life before conversion in Rom 7:7ff, which has been documented since Origen, see Robert H. Gundry, “The Moral Frustration of Paul before his Conversion: Sexual Lusts in Romans 7:7– 25,” in The Old is Better New Testament Essays in Support of Traditional Interpretations (WUNT 178; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 252–71, and also Gaventa, From Darkness to Light, 33–6. The most forceful voice against this interpretation (and the understanding of Paul’s calling as conversion) is Krister Stendahl, Paul Among Jews and Gentiles and other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976); in this small book, which created an upheaval in Pauline studies, is also another famous essay: “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West” (78–96; on Rom 7, see 92ff., originally in HThR 56 (1963): 199– 215). For a brief overview of the different interpretations of the ‘conversion’ of Paul see Christian Strecker, Die liminale Theologie des Paulus: Zugänge zur paulinischen Theologie aus kulturanthropologischer Perspektive (FRLANT 185; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999), 83–93. On his own understanding as “initiation,” see ibid., 94–157, on the relationship of initiation and conversion, see ibid., 95.


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

sion.24 In light of this, it would be interesting to review sermons given in the past and present on the topic of Paul’s ‘conversion’ to see what response the audience was encouraged to make and how this might have influenced the prevalent understanding of conversion in Christian circles. Crook attempts to overcome this reduction to psychology by relating conversion to the patron–client relationship in antiquity: The patron is understood as the benefactor, and the benefits derived from such a benefactor are in turn reciprocated with loyalty by the protégé. Conversion can thus be described as a change from one patronage to another. The reason for such change is the expectation that the new patron can provide better benefits, or that enjoying this patronage would result in more favourable conditions. Paul’s case does not easily fit this approach, and he is in some sense paradigmatic for any member of the Jewish people since the patron (God) does not change, only the manner in which the relationship to God is experienced.25 Crook’s quasiutilitarian description at first seems very clinical, but it is precisely this that helps to create the necessary distance from something that seems so familiar. It has the added positive effect that the language conventions used to describe conversion — or, to use Crook’s language, a “change of loyalty”26 — are not restricted to one semantic field (which also means that one should not take Crook’s terminology as absolute). The descriptive change includes, further, that the narrator of a conversion experience is no longer compelled to add to his account the plight of real or imagined sins, just to comply with the (unwritten) rules of the genre of ‘conversion testimonies.’27 This is also where 24

Schniewind, “Bekehrung,” talks in this essay several times about Luther’s “conversion” (11, 19), and Luther’s experience and understanding of personal sin is central for Schniewinds’ influential study, which Otto Michel already pointed out in his laudation of Schniewind (ibid., 150–52). Often a direct line is drawn from Paul, through Augustine, to Luther, as e.g. by Mohr, “Konversion/Apostasie,” 439, who names the three as example for individual conversions and the related psychological experiences (incidentally together with the calling of shamanists and conversion in Billy Graham events). Against the understanding that Luther’s experience near Stotternheim is analogous to Paul’s Damascus road experience (a connection that Luther’s contemporaries made, but not he himself), see Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man between God and the Devil (trans. by Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart; London: Yale University Press, 1989), 125–7. 25 Crook, Reconceptualising Conversion, 255. 26 Ibid., 242. 27 To my knowledge no thorough study investigating early Jewish and New Testament conversion accounts in terms of their Formgeschichte is available, but see the brief remarks in Klaus Berger, Formgeschichte des Neuen Testaments (Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer, 1984), 272, and for Luke Fernando Méndez-Moratella, The Paradigm of Conversion in Luke (JSNTS 252; London: T&T Clark, 2004). That the turning away from what in retrospect is seen as a misguided way of life traditionally belonged to the topic of conversion has been shown by Berger, Formgeschichte, 13–35, by means of what he called the genre of “postconversional admonition speeches.” Their main characteristic is a strict dichotomy (catalogues of virtues and vices; the taking off of the old and putting on of the new; darkness and

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


systematic theological reflections need to begin to investigate the extent to which confession of sin and the plea for forgiveness is the central and primary determinative feature of conversion processes. It is further necessary to distinguish between those who already belong to the people of God and those who join from the outside (return or entry). For the first group, conversion entails a return to the God they already know, or should have known, whose covenant and laws they have ignored or rejected, thus incurring guilt.28 For those who join the people of God from the outside, one might point rather to Acts 17:30 (cf. 14:16f.): God overlooks (ὑπεριδεῖν, only here in the NT) the time of ignorance, if they turn now (τὰ νῦν) to the message of the Gospel, and repent (μετανοεῖν).29 This broader definition of conversion also accommodates the Old Testament, which for nascent Christianity was not merely a document of the past but Holy Scripture, through which God speaks to his people, teaching, warning, and guiding them. However, the terminological repertoire describing conversion offered by the Old Testament is rather sparse, especially when dealing with the question “How do adults come to faith (in the present)?” Only a few texts can be described as proper conversion stories or conversion light; death and life imagery), together with boundary rules against that which was before (esp. in relation to idolatry and false desires), and/or demands to a new lifestyle which corresponds to the newly found way of salvation (sanctification). These patterns can already be found in early Jewish texts, see ibid., 134f., and also Christoph Burchard, Der dreizehnte Zeuge (FRLANT 103; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1970), 52–88, who analyses parallels to Acts 9:1–19 (esp. the Jewish novel Joseph and Aseneth); Méndez-Moratella, Conversion in Luke, 23–55; Segal, Paul the Convert, 79–105; Sterling, “Turning to God,” 74–88. Also noteworthy is Philo’s chapter on μετάνοια in De Virtutibus 175–86, see Sterling, “Turning to God,” 84–8. For Philo, μετάνοια both entails conversion to monotheism and equally “ethical reform.” For Joseph and Aseneth, see further Eckart Reinmuth, ed., Joseph and Aseneth (Sapere XV; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009). 28 However, this form of returning was not necessary for all in the same way. An example would be the prophet Samuel, who from childhood grew into his role and position as servant of God (1 Sam 2:11). 29 Again one has to ask in how far the element of turning away from sin (and connected to this the idea of contrition and repentance) is constitutive for the use of the verb μετανοέω in the New Testament. For Acts 17:30 this is clearly presupposed by the context (and the normal use by Luke): 17:16 reports of Paul’s anger on account of the idol images in Athens, the critique of this defines a large part of his speech on the Areopagus (17:24f., 29), and at its end stands the announcement of judgment (17:31). Yet, one should not overlook that μετανοέω does not mean here so much a backward turning move, but a new orientation towards the future in view of the Gospel, which only now has become a possibility, to not only ‘seek’ the unknown God, but also to find him (17:27). When Paul emphasizes that the Athenian images have come about thanks to human craftsmanship and deliberation (ἐνθύμησις), the cognitive element in μετανοέω is potentially invoked. For the Athenians are not only to introspectively repent of their sins, rather, in the light of the message of the gospel they are to grasp that the adoration of ‘self-made’ gods must be wrong.


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

experiences,30 even though the call to repent, either as explicit command, or as more implicit,31 is an integral part of the prophetic message.32 Yet the biblical texts rarely report that an individual or Israel as a whole actually heeded this call. Texts that describe this turning to God as a reaction to a call to repentance are relatively few, and even rarer are the examples in which specific conversion language is used: 1. In 2 Kings 23:25 it is said of Josiah that “before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might” (so the NASV) in that he reinstated the Law of Moses (surprisingly this is mentioned only after the report in 2 Kings 22:1ff. of how he did God’s will and walked in all the ways of David). One of his lesser known predecessors in the line of the ‘good’ kings of Judah was Asa (1 Kings 15:8–24). In 2 Chronicles 15:1–4 it is reported how he was approached by a prophet named Azariah, who entreated him and the whole people to “seek the Lord.” The prophet reminded the king that whenever Israel was in trouble and “turned to the Lord,” God allowed himself to be found by them (v. 4). It is not clear if this is referring to a particular incident, or is rather a kind of summary of the dynamism of oppression and 30 The relative scarcity of conversion stories (where someone comes to faith) is sometimes missed because no clear distinction is made with calling stories. The latter deal with the intensification of an already existing relationship to God, in regard to a new task, but this is not primarily a turning towards or returning to God (again, Paul is an exception here). Forgiveness of sins can play a role in this (see Isa 6:5f.; Zech 3), but does not have to (see the calling of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Jer 1:4–10; Ezek 1:1–3:4). The responses on the questionnaire, which I asked to be filled out during the lecture, show that the two types of stories are quite easy to confuse, when some suggested not only Moses, Isaiah, or Jonah, but also Sarah and Mary as examples of conversions. Even Dietrich, Umkehr, 27–31, attempts to interpret the calling of Abraham and Moses as a conversion. He claims that Abraham felt “existentially touched through God’s demand,” and therefore “turned from the heathen city with its idol and demon worship, and from the patronizing power of the priests,” towards the “true God”. Dietrich even seems to know about Moses’ feelings after his encounter with God in the burning bush: “…he proclaims not his own word, he does not rely anymore on his own power, but from now on he proclaims God’s word, God’s will, and in God’s strength he trusts” (29). Here Abraham and Moses become proto-Lutherans with a pietistic bent, and a respective dogmatic understanding of conversion as a way from sin to undeserved grace (“Nothing I have to bring, all, Oh Lord, are you”) is added to the texts. 31 As imperative or with imperative meaning, ‫ שוּב‬is used in 2 Kgs 17:13; 2 Chron 30:9; Neh 9:26, 29; Isa 31:6; 44:22; 55:7; Jer 3:12, 14, 22; 4:1; 18:11, 25:5; Eccl 3:40; Ezek 18:30; 33:11; Hos 12:7; 14:2–3; Joel 2:12–13; Zech 1:3–4; Mal 3:7, see also 2 Chron 30:9; Jonah 3:8. The fivefold “still you have not returned to me” in Amos 4:6–11 likewise has to be read as an indirect imperative: God’s concomitant punishment should have demonstrated to the Israelites that turning to God was the inevitable reaction. 32 Graupner and Fabry and, “‫ שוּב‬šûḇ,” draw attention to the fact that this is not the case for all prophets, and that “The theme of ‘returning to God’ is not attested in Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Obadiah or in the work of their redactors” (491).

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


divinely prompted rescue that is so typical of certain strands of the Hebrew Bible (for a good example, see Judg 2:10–19). 2. The Book of Jonah is actually the only true example of a successful call to repentance, but in several ways it is also an exception among the prophetic books. Moreover, the fate of the prophet and his turn from disobedience is the central aspect of the narrative, and not the people of Nineveh. About them it is said only that after hearing the prediction of the imminent destruction of the city they “believed God,” that they called for a fast, and entreated God to relent and spare the city (Jonah 3:5–10). This attitude is described in v. 10 with the perfect tense of the verb ‫שוב‬,33 that is, God acknowledges that they have turned from their evil ways. However, this turning should not be understood as if they had entered into a permanent relationship with God (the same is true for the confession of the sailors in Jonah 1:14–16). A Hellenistic-Jewish sermon on the Book of Jonah around the turn of the Common Era gives an impression of how certain Jewish circles envisioned the attitude of the population of Nineveh prior to their ‘conversion.’ Particularly impressive is the way in which the short admission of their sin in Jonah 3:8b is expanded into a long list of offences and reflection over the ingratitude of humankind towards God the creator.34 3. A last example is found in the prophet Zechariah (1:7) as part of a review of God’s prophets who were active before the exile, and whose message was proved to be true. The ancestors of those who returned from exile had not been blind to this, and therefore “turned” and confessed that God had 33 The LXX translates the behaviour of the Ninevites as ἀποστρέφω, to turn/walk away (3:8, 10). The same verb (together with μετανοέω) is also used with God as subject in 3:9f., to give expression to the hope that God would relent of his verdict of judgment (so also Joel 2:14 in relation to Israel). 34 The text was made accessible by Folker Siegert, Drei hellenistisch-jüdische Predigten I: Übersetzung aus dem Armenischen und sprachliche Erläuterungen (WUNT 20; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1980), 9–48 (for the conversion sermon of Jonah and its reception by the Ninevites, see 27–37 = §§ 104–57). An in-depth commentary is provided by idem, Drei hellenistisch-jüdische Predigten II: Kommentar (WUNT 61; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1992), see also idem, “Die Heiden in der pseudo-philonischen Predigt De Jona,” in Die Heiden: Juden, Christen und das Problem des Fremden (ed. Reinhard Feldmeier and Ulrich Heckel; WUNT 70; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1994), 52–8. In contrast to this detailed conversion narrative stands Josephus, who restricts the content of the Book of Jonah almost exclusively to the sea journey and the miraculous rescue of the prophet, whereas he leaves out the repentance of Nineveh and its rescue (Ant. 9.208–14). How controversial the topic of conversion of Gentiles was in the times around the New Testament can also be seen in the slightly later Jewish literature, see Beate Ego, “‘Denn die Heiden sind der Umkehr nahe:’ Rabbinische Interpretationen zur Buße der Leute von Ninive,” in Die Heiden: Juden, Christen und das Problem des Fremden (ed. Reinhard Feldmeier and Ulrich Heckel; WUNT 70; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1994), 158–76. These texts show how different Jewish contemporaries of nascent Christianity thought about the conversion of non-Jews.


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

acted as he promised. The present generation was to take heed of this and likewise return to God (1:3–6). There are, however, a few more important texts in the Old Testament that need to be mentioned here. They clearly demonstrate that reducing the subject matter to the presence of certain terminology is unhelpful, but because this approach is so widespread the following examples are hardly (if ever) mentioned as examples of conversion stories: 1. The most detailed conversion story of all is, in my opinion, that of the Canaanite Rahab of Jericho, who shelters the scouts and who together with her whole family joins the people of Israel after the conquest of Jericho.35 This text is of special importance because it mentions the motive of the woman to be drawn to the God of Israel and his people. In explaining why she sheltered and concealed Joshua’s scouts, she says, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you” (Josh 2:9). She further recalls what she had heard about the Israelites since the exodus from Egypt and how God had helped them. This God, as her words reveal, cannot be resisted. And so her short speech ends with the confession, “YHWH, your God, he is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (2:11). In other words, this woman recognizes that the various historical events that have transpired (i.e. the political changes around her) are the God of Israel’s doing, and she responds by acknowledging God’s might and adapting her own behaviour accordingly: She pleads for her and her family to be spared, and this is granted.36 They survive the conquest of Jericho and she joins the people of God (Josh 6:22–5). This conversion means entry into a new social and religious community and, at the same time, it is a break with her original tradition (both for her and her whole family). According to Zeba Crook’s taxonomy, she turns from one divine


See also Zehnder, Umgang mit Fremden, 483–5. The motif applied by the author of this story to Rahab, namely coming to realize one’s own ‘soteriological’ position by observing God’s involvement in the course of events is also found in the prophetic call to repentance. Striking in this respect is Amos 4:6–11 with the fivefold highlighting of God’s punitive actions, seen in famine, draught, agricultural damage, etc., which however did not result in the people having come to their senses and their turning to God (see note 31 above); likewise Hag 1:5–11; 2:15–19; Mal 3:10–11. Cf. also 1 Kgs 8:33–50 par. 2 Chron 6:24–39: in Solomon’s consecration prayer of the Temple, it is striking that the Israelites are to “return” (the verb, however, never stands by itself, but always in parallelism with expressions like “to confess your name,” “ask,” and “beseech”), whereas foreigners who want to pray to the God of Israel are not required to do so (1 Kgs 8:41–3, par. 2 Chron 6:32f.). They come to recognize that the God of Israel is the true God through his deeds (1 Kgs 8:42), and turn to him “for his name’s sake” (8:41, 43). 36

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


patron to another and reciprocates the benefit she derived from this new patron with her loyalty. It is interesting to look at Rahab’s impressive ‘career’ in later biblical texts. According to the Matthean genealogy of Jesus, we find that “to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab” (Matt 1:5). Boaz himself, according to the Book of Ruth, married a Moabitess, who, like her (ancestral) motherin-law, had a similar conversion experience (chronologically this is of course a reduction as several generations are simply omitted by Matthew in order to delineate the salvific trajectory clearly). Following this family tree, King David would be the grandson of the proselyte Ruth (Ruth 4:17– 22), and his father Boaz the descendant of the proselyte Rahab. That both women are mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy is surely no coincidence, though the narrative and/or theological purpose of the four women in Jesus’ genealogy is debated, and what it is (if anything) they have in common that leads to them being mentioned here together.37 In the New Testament, Rahab appears not only in Jesus’ genealogy, but she is also a member of the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1), which the Letter to the Hebrews lists as those who display faith (πίστις; 11:31).38 Notably she is the only non-Israelite in this list (excluding those who lived before Israel became a people). For the author of the Letter of James, Rahab is an example of a faith that has proved its validity through appropriate behaviour (Jas 2:25). The other example is Abraham, and this parallelism already shows the high status that Rahab possesses as an exemplary proselyte. Her conversion was not fruitless or without consequences. 2. In Joshua 9 can be found a fake conversion, usually known as the Gibeonites’ deception, which has in common with Rahab’s conversion – despite obvious differences – that the motivation for conversion is instant survival. This group, consisting of the Canaanite inhabitants of four cities surrounding Jerusalem (9:17; 10:1f.; in 11:19 they are called Hivites), pretended to have come from far off and to have heard of God’s deeds on behalf of the 37

See Roland Deines, Die Gerechtigkeit der Tora im Reich des Messias: Mt 5, 13–20 als Schlüsseltext der matthäischen Theologie (WUNT 177; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 470f., n. 41 for further literature. Interestingly Josephus completely ignores the conversion of Rahab in his retelling of the story in Ant. 5.5–15, 30. She is assigned land, but it is not mentioned at all that she joined the people of Israel; the relationship to the Davidic family (Matt 1:5) is missing in the Jewish texts, where she is instead taken to be the ancestral mother of prophets (e.g. of Jeremiah and Ezekiel) and priests; some texts even make her into the wife of Joshua, see Str-B 1.20–3. 38 See Heb 11:1: The behaviour of Rahab, as depicted in Joshua 2, is taken as an expression of faith. She doubts not that God is with Israel, and she directs her behaviour and her hope accordingly. Her confession of the God of Israel “as the God in heaven above and on earth below” (Josh 2:11b) can further be related to Heb 11:3, where the acknowledgment of God as creator is understood as an expression of faith.


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

Israelites (like Rahab), wherefore they wished to make a special treaty with the people of Israel (9:9–11). In reality, however, they only sought to escape from their impending destruction by the Israelites. But the ruse worked and a peace treaty was agreed and only afterwards was their deception detected. As punishment, they were admitted to live amongst Israel only as Temple slaves, that is, they had to serve the God they had sought to deceive as dependent and bonded labourers.39 Despite this seemingly harsh outcome, the next chapter, Joshua 10, relates how the Israelites fulfilled their covenantal obligations to the Gibeonites by rescuing them from their former allies who were now attacking them. Interestingly, this victory is not described primarily as a military achievement of the Israelites, but as the result of divine intervention (Josh 10:8, 10–14). God himself enabled the Gibeonites’ survival within the land and by doing so confirmed their belonging to Israel and her promises. In Joshua 18:25, the city of Gibeon becomes part of the territory of Benjamin, and, furthermore, is assigned to the Levites as their allotment (Josh 21:17). The special status of the Gibeonites is endangered during the time of Saul, but it is God himself who — by bringing a famine upon the land on account of the blood-guilt against them — helped them to receive justice (2 Sam 21:1–9). During the time of David the tabernacle was in Gibeon, and Zadok officiated as its priest (1 Chr 16:39; cf. 1 Kgs 3:4). Thus, the fate of the Gibeonites illustrates that the change of religious (and social) loyalties to obtain some kind of advantage is not only a phenomenon of modern mission history. And the biblical example and its positive outcome provokes the question of how to deal respectfully with such an issue in the present as well. 3. The conversion story of the Moabitess Ruth, who would become the ancestor of David and Jesus, is somewhat different. After the death of her husband, she decides to accompany her mother-in-law Naomi back to Bethlehem. It is her loyalty towards her mother-in-law that moves her to join herself to the people of Israel: “Your people is my people, and your God is my God” (Ruth 1:17). In the course of the narrative this scene is recalled and it is remarked that, “you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. May YHWH reward your work, and your wages be full from YHWH, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge” (2:11b–12). Not only is her conversion retold here, but it is also theologically recognized and legitimized, which is important since, according 39 See Zehnder, Umgang mit Fremden, 490–2. Josephus retells the story with obvious sympathy for the actions of the Gibeonites (Ant. 5.45–57). He comments in the end that they found “safety and security” due to their actions. It is striking that he adopts here the profession of God’s activity on behalf of Israel from the biblical text (Ant. 5.54), yet in the case of Rahab he omits any kind of religious statement in his retelling (see n. 36 above).

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


to Deuteronomy 23:3–5, no Ammonite or Moabite is allowed to join the assembly of the people of God (cf. Neh 13:1–3, 23–6).40 Although outwardly this is an utterly human gesture, namely not abandoning one’s mother-in-law and forcing her to return alone,41 behind it lies the theological message of this text, which — possibly during a period of national segregation from all foreign elements — defends and legitimizes such a turnturning to the God of Israel. Solidarity with one’s family is, in this way, a legitimate reason for conversion. In addition, the text offers with the phrase “to seek refuge under the wings of God” perhaps one of the most beautiful expressions of what it means to convert. The phrase is also found in the Psalms as an expression of being safe in God’s care in times of distress (Pss 36:7; 57:1; and similarly in Pss 17:8, 63:7). In the New Testament, Jesus laments that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were persistently unwilling to find shelter under his wings (Matt 23:37 par. Luke 13:34).42 4. The last example from the Hebrew Bible is that of the Syrian general Naaman, who, at the suggestion of his Israelite slave girl, seeks healing from the God of Israel, which he eventually receives through the mediation

40 On this, see Roland Deines, “Die Abwehr der Fremden in den Texten aus Qumran: Zum Verständnis der Fremdenfeindlichkeit in der Qumrangemeinde,” in Die Heiden: Juden, Christen und das Problem des Fremden (ed. Reinhard Feldmeier and Ulrich Heckel; WUNT 70; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1994), 59–91. The Book of Ruth is showing in an exemplary way how especially women could become members of the people of Israel through conjugal bonds; yet, whereas Ruth represents the positive ideal, in that she also religiously converts to the faith of her new family, there are also are numerous stories about foreign women, esp. the queens since Solomonic times, who turned their husbands or the whole people from worshiping YHWH (Num 25:1–18; 31:16; 1 Kgs 11:1–10; but see also Lev 24:10–23 about the marriage between a Israelite woman and an Egyptian). Here one needs to mostly think of Jezebel, the wife of Ahab (1 Kgs 16:31–3), who according to 1 Kgs 18:4, 13 almost waged a war against the YHWH-prophets. On these texts, see Zehnder, Umgang mit Fremden, 402–7, 414–18, 428–47, who in moreover also deals with the issue of mixed marriages in Ezra and Nehemiah. 41 Mohr, “Konversion/Apostasie,” 422, calls comparable contemporary incidents as “Anpassungskonversion” (conformity conversions). The ‘conversion’ of the Gibeonites could also be called this, and the same is possible for the forced conversions of the Idumeans and Itureans in the Hasmonean period, when the non-Jewish inhabitants of the newly conquered territories had to choose between getting circumcised or leaving the country (Josephus, Ant. 13.257f., 318f.). Related to the requirement of getting circumcised is the need to follow the Jewish lifestyle (see Bell. 2.454). Circumcision, and related to this conversion to Judaism, is also mentioned in the case of foreigners who wanted to marry into the Herodian family, see Ant. 20.139, 145f. (see already Gen 34:14–17 and the subsequent tradition). For a full treatment of these and related texts, see Andreas Blaschke, Beschneidung: Zeugnisse der Bibel und verwandter Texte (TANZ 28; Tübingen: Francke, 1998). 42 Similar to 1 Cor 10:4, the pre-existent activity of Jesus in the history of Israel is assumed in this saying.


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

of Elisha.43 In response he confesses that the God of Israel is the only God in all the earth (2 Kgs 5:15). This solemn declaration of his loyalty is further highlighted in that he immediately asks Elisha to receive a kind of thanksgiving offering, because he “will no more offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to YHWH” (v. 17). The gift is meant to further solidify the mutually loyal relationship between the new patron and his protégé. That Naaman is serious in his profession of fealty is further seen in his request for an exemption from this exclusive relationship at times when he has to assist the Syrian king in offering sacrifices (v. 18f.). Again, this is an impressive conversion story, which, with those already mentioned, is not generally treated in conversion studies due to the lack of ‘typical’ conversion terminology.44 The recollection of such often overlooked conversion stories is on account of my interest in finding alternative ways to approach this topic, away from the all too common and often unhelpful perspective of the exclusive notion of repentance from sin. I am aware that theological reflection has already recognized this problem. My experience in German and English congregations that have a missionary orientation (and my infrequent reading of the corresponding literature) leads me to suspect, however, that in practice the topic of sin remains the dominant door through which one is invited to ‘a new life with Jesus.’ Therefore most conversion sermons still strive to identify various psychological deficiencies (e.g. emptiness, meaninglessness) from which the audience is suffering (or should suffer), and to induce a sense of guilt that — 43 On this, see Peter Marincović, “‘Geh in Frieden’ (2 Kön 5,19): Sonderformen legitimer JHWHverehrung durch ‘Heiden’ in ‘heidnischer’ Mitwelt,” in Die Heiden: Juden, Christen und das Problem des Fremden (ed. Reinhard Feldmeier and Ulrich Heckel; WUNT 70; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1994), 3–21. 44 See e.g. Burkhardt, Bekehrung: In the chapter “Bekehrung im Alten Testament” (11– 19) [Conversion in the Old Testament] these texts are all missing, because the treatment is limited to the prophetic call of repentance and the related lexical features. The same is true for Dietrich, Umkehr; J. Fichtner, “Bekehrung I. Im AT,” RGG3 1 (1957), 976–8; different is J. Zumstein, “Bekehrung/Konversion III. Bibel,” RGG4 1 (1998), 1230–2, who mentions under the heading “Konversion außerhalb Israels” [conversion outside of Israel] next to Ruth also Naaman and the Ninevites. He further points to texts dealing with the participation of non-Israelites in the YHWH cult (he mentions Exod 20:10 par. Deut 5:14; Exod 12:19; Gen 17:12), though what he references in support can hardly be taken to express participation since these are rather requirements that the foreigner has to commit to in order to live in the country of Israel. More significant in this respect are the eschatological hopes found in Isa 2:2–4; Mic 4:1–2; Zech 8:20–3; 14:16–21; Pss 22:28; 86:9; etc., on this see also Schnabel, Mission, 67–91; Zehnder, Umgang mit Fremden, 499–540. In the NT, see Acts 8:27; John 12:20f.; see also Jörg Frey, “Heiden — Griechen — Gotteskinder: Zur Gestalt und Funktion der Rede von den Heiden im 4. Evangelium,” in Die Heiden: Juden, Christen und das Problem des Fremden (ed. Reinhard Feldmeier and Ulrich Heckel; WUNT 70; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1994), 228–68.

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


perhaps ‘hidden’ and ‘deep down’ — is harming one’s life, so that the good news of Jesus Christ really can rescue such a person. This focus on real or presumed deficits creates the fatal impression that a person is willing to follow God’s call to discipleship only out of a sense of inner distress, so that coming to faith is always the result of foregoing weakness and defeat. The Greifswald study “How does an adult come to faith?” therefore stands out in that it avoids the entire semantic field of guilt and sin. Only in the context of thesis four, “Konversion und Krise” (Conversion and Crisis), is it mentioned at all, unless I have overlooked something. But even there it is quite hidden within the chapter “Belastende Auseinandersetzungen” (Burdensome Conflicts).45 That people are suffering on account of their guilt (or, within the horizon of the New Testament, come to see for the first time that they are guilty in the eyes of God), and therefore seek forgiveness and a new beginning, apparently no longer constitutes an accepted (or studied) reason for conversion. This, however, appears to me to be an equally debatable decision. While a fixation on the topics of sin and guilt is without doubt a reduction of the biblical data, the near complete exclusion of these topics is likewise conspicuous and questionable in the face of the biblical texts. With this in mind it is also important to consider those conversion stories in which sin actually plays a significant role.

2. Conversion Stories Including Sin and Repentance Julius Schniewind (1883-1948), who taught New Testament from 1927 to 1929 in Greifswald (where this talk was delivered initially), should not be left unmentioned. Time and again in his writings on conversion he emphasizes that there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7: χαρὰ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ἔσται ἐπὶ ἑνὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ μετανοοῦντι, cf. 15:10 “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents [μετανοοῦντι]”).46 These sayings of Jesus at the end of the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin also define the following parable of the prodigal son. The son finds his way back to his father’s house when he comes to the realization, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight” (vv. 18, 21: πάτερ, ἥμαρτον εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ ἐνώπιόν σου). Here it is the father who organizes a joyful feast in celebration of his son’s return from 45 Zimmermann and Schröder, eds., Wie finden Erwachsene zum Glauben, 92–101, for the quote see 94. 46 See his essays: “Was verstand Jesus unter Umkehr?,” in Geistliche Erneuerung (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1981), 24–38 (33); “Die Freude im Neuen Testament,” in ibid., 39–48 (44f.).


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

death to life (v. 32, cf. the fourfold use of εὐφραίνω “to cheer”, “to rejoice” in vv. 23, 24, 29, 32, together with the synonym χαίρω in this last reference). So too the tax collector in the Temple who confesses his sin returns home justified (Luke 18:13–14), and it is “salvation” (σωτηρία, Luke 19:9) that comes into the house of the chief tax collector and ‘sinner’ Zacchaeus when Jesus decides to stay with him, and he receives Jesus “joyfully” (Luke 19:6). The typical conversion terminology is missing in this last episode. Only the changed attitude and activity of Zacchaeus is reported, but not that its cause was contrition and repentance, which the reader can nevertheless easily read between the lines. More important for Luke is that the table fellowship with sinners initiated by Jesus results in salvation (19:9). In contrast, the conversion stories in the Book of Acts begin with the fact that the audience for Peter’s Pentecost address are “pierced to the heart”47 when they realize “that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ” (2:36). On account of their blindness in the light of God’s deeds, they ask what they should do now. The response, which is given here for the first time, becomes the leitmotif for the Book of Acts: repentance (μετανοήσατε; 2:38), baptism in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins, and, in the wake of this, the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. already Luke 24:47):48 1. Acts 3:11–26: After the healing of the paralytic in Solomon’s Colonnade Peter preaches again. Here the decisive point of reference for the call to repentance is that God had raised Jesus from the dead, to which Peter and John can testify (v. 19 “Repent [μετανοήσατε] therefore, and turn [ἐπιστρέψατε] to God so that your sins may be wiped out”; v. 26 “in turning [ἐν τῷ ἀποστρέφειν] each of you from your wicked ways”). The movement to repentance (ἐπιστρέφειν) is used in two ways in this one story: as a turning toward forgiveness of sins, and as a turning away from all wickedness. 47

κατανύσσομαι is found only here in the NT. The verb means to “be pierced, stabbed” but can also be used figuratively “of the feeling of sharp pain connected with anxiety, remorse etc.” (BDAG, 523). For a comparable figurative expression with the sense of indignant rejection see διαπρίω in Acts 5:33, which is actually “saw through, saw asunder,” but can, in the passive, relate to the emotion of “being cut to the quick” (BDAG, 235). 48 For the foundational connection of baptism and conversion see Friedrich Avemarie, Die Tauferzählungen der Apostelgeschichte (WUNT 139; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002). He points out that, aside from Acts 19:1–7, “Luke only reports about baptism in connection to conversion” (45). Although baptism “regularly is the aim and closing point of conversion,” Luke does not end any of his detailed narratives with a reference to baptism, but rather he “almost always asserts that the baptized stay in whatever way in fellowship with those who are already Christians” (49). See also the subject index, 543 s.v. “Bekehrungsgeschehen” (conversion events), which unfortunately does not lead to all relevant sections in the book. On the conversion stories in the Book of Acts, see also Gaventa, From Darkness to Light, 96–129.

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


2. Acts 5:29–32: This short summary of nascent Christianity’s kerygma is framed with reference to the requisite of obeying God (πειθαρχεῖν in v. 29 and 32).49 The apostles, since they must obey God’s commission, proclaim Jesus as the one whom God raised from the dead, who has been elevated to the side of God as ruler and saviour, “to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (τοῦτον ὁ θεὸς ἀρχηγὸν καὶ σωτῆρα ὕψωσεν τῇ δεξιᾷ αὐτοῦ [τοῦ] δοῦναι μετάνοιαν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ καὶ ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν). The apostles testify to this, and they promise the gift of the Holy Spirit to all who obey God. If one reads this with the demand of obedience in v. 31 in mind, one might wonder whether μετάνοια is not better understood with more of a sense of obedience: God has offered to Israel “obedience and forgiveness of sins.” 3. Acts 17:30–1: On the Areopagus in Athens Paul proclaims that God will no longer “overlook the times of ignorance” (τοὺς … χρόνους τῆς ἀγνοίας ὑπεριδὼν, cf. 14:16), but that everyone, everywhere is to repent (τοῖς ἀνθρώποις πάντας πανταχοῦ μετανοεῖν; see note 29 above) and that all should accept the offer to believe in (πίστιν παρασχὼν πᾶσιν) the future judge of the world, whom he has validated by raising him from the dead.50 49 In the NT otherwise only in Acts 27:21 (without a theological reference point) and Titus 3:1. The next parallel is Rom 1:5, where Paul gives as reference point for his apostolic ministry among the Gentiles “the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for his (= Jesus’) name’s sake” (εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ), and also Rom 6:16 (see also ὑπακούω in 6:12, 16f.); 15:18; 16:25f.; 2 Cor 10:5; 1 Peter 1:2, 14, 22; 2 Thess 1:8; also the expected (but not commanded) obedience to the apostles should be mentioned here (2 Cor 7:15; 10:6; Phlm 21; Phil 2:12; 2 Thess 3:14, see also 1 Peter 3:6), since it represents in some sense obedience towards God. The theological foundation is that redemption is based on the obedience of Christ (Genitivus subjectivus; Rom 5:19: Heb 5:8f.). 50 Most newer translations and commentaries understand the phrase πίστιν παρασχὼν πᾶσιν, following Josephus, Bell. 2.212 and Vettius Valens (277, 29f.; 2nd cent. CE), in the sense that God has furnished “all with proof” that judgment is coming through the resurrection of Christ, e.g. Hans Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Augsburg Fortress, 1987), 146; Gottfried Schille, Die Apostelgeschichte des Lukas (ThHK 5; Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1983), 359. This is, however, not stringent; the Josephus passage was, e.g., translated by Henry St. John Thackeray as “their belief in the promise of God was confirmed” (Josephus IV, LCL 242), whereas the newest translation by Louis H. Feldman understands πίστις likewise as proof: “…offered confirmation of those things that had been prophesied by God,” Judean Antiquities 1–4: Translation and Commentary (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 193. For the older translation tradition see e.g. Hans H. Wendt, Die Apostelgeschichte (KEK 3; 7th ed.; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1888), 391: “What is meant is the cause that prompts one to believe [auffordernde Veranlassung zum Glauben], which does not exclude human selfdetermination to accept and appropriate this divine παρέχειν,” so also Adolf Schlatter, Die Apostelgeschichte: Ausgelegt für Bibelleser (Erläuterungen zum Neuen Testament 4; Stuttgart: Calwer, 1962), 217 (“indem er allen den Glauben anbietet” [in that he offers faith


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

4. Acts 26:18, 20: Paul describes here his commission as the apostle to the Gentiles, “to open their eyes so that they may turn [or turn away ἐπιστρέψαι] from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith” in Jesus. This commissioning through the heavenly voice (and thus by God himself) is subsequently understood by Luke’s Paul that he is to proclaim to Jews and nonJews alike “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (ἀπήγγελλον μετανοεῖν καὶ ἐπιστρέφειν ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν, ἄξια τῆς μετανοίας ἔργα πράσσοντας). In the aforementioned texts, which all use the ‘typical’ conversion terminology μετανοεῖν/μετάνοια or ἐπιστρέφειν — at times almost synonymously — the act of turning to God is always linked to a turning from sin.51 Yet not all the Lukan texts follow this pattern indiscriminately. In the conversion story of the Ethiopian official in Acts 8:26–39,52 of Paul in Acts 9:1–18,53 of the to all]). Luke uses πίστις 15 times in the Book of Acts, and, with the exception of this passage, it always implies faith in Jesus. Luke’s usage would therefore suggest that here too it should be translated with this sense. Moreover, in Acts 5:31 and 11:18 Luke uses a very similar formulation when he writes that God has “given repentance” to Israel and also the nations (δοῦναι μετάνοιαν and τὴν μετάνοιαν εἰς ζωὴν ἔδωκεν). To accommodate both possibilities one could translate: “God provided for all [a reason to have] faith [in him = Jesus], in that he raised him from the dead.” 51 In Acts μετανοεῖν is used five times (2:38, 3:19, 8:22, 17:30, 26:20), and the immediate relation to forgiveness of sins is given in 2:38, 3:19, 8:22; it appears only in the background in 17:30 (see note 29 above) and 26:20 (cf. 26:18). The link with sin is less strong in the case of the noun μετάνοια (six times: 5:31, 11:18, 13:24, 19:4, 20:21, 26:20), which directly relates the topics of sin and forgiveness only in 5:31 (indirectly in 26:20), while it is not explicitly mentioned in 11:18 (a retelling of Cornelius’s conversion), 13:24 and 19:4 (both relate to the preaching of John the Baptist), and 20:21. Luke uses the verb ἐπιστρέφω eleven times, eight of which are with the sense of marking the beginning of an existence-transforming relation with God (3:19, together with μετανοέω [so also 26:20]; 9:35; 11:21; 14:15; 15:19; 26:18, 20); an immediate connection to the topic of sin appears only in 3:19; 26:18, 20. The resulting use of ἐπιστρέφω in 9:35; 11:21; 15:19 is noteworthy as well since here it describes those who have converted, that is, those who were new to the faith (so also the sole use of the noun ἐπιστροφή in 15:3), though it can be assumed that Luke likewise combines with this the turning from and renunciation of a godless lifestyle (cf. Acts 3:26: the offer of repentance, 3:19, is achieved by a turning from [ἀποστρέφειν, only here in Acts] all wickedness). 52 See Avemarie, Tauferzählungen, 54–81. Although the reference point of this text is Isa 53:7f., the baptism account (Acts 8:35–8) does not mention the forgiveness of sin. 53 The pivotal points in 9:3–6 (cf. 22:7–10:14f.; 26:14–17) are recognition, commission, and then obedience. Although in Paul’s case it would have been quite appropriate to refer to his guilt and to have him confess his sin before his baptism (1 Tim 1:15), this thought is at best secondary (22:16). It is his commissioning that is crucial (9:13–18; 22:14–21; 26:16– 20). See also Gaventa, From Darkness to Light, 52–95 and n. 23 above.

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10:1–11:18), and of the merchant Lydia (Acts 16:14f.) the topic of forgiveness remains in the background (and with it the related repentance terminology). It is not said of these individuals that they first have to admit their guilt before they are baptized; instead, they recognize and believe that God acted in Jesus.54 Furthermore, Luke writes — more in the form of a summary — about those who come to faith on account of the apostles’ performance of miracles (5:12–14; 6:6–14; 9:32–5, 36–42; 12:11f.; 15:12–14).55 The extent to which one needs to guard against the notion that the turning to God follows a fixed scheme can also be seen in the variety of expressions that Luke uses in the Book of Acts alone to describe either the call to faith or the results seen in those who have come to faith.56 Restricting oneself to the semantic field of μετανοεῖν/μετάνοια or ἐπιστρέφειν/ἐπιστροφή risks missing out a range of expressions, especially since these rather specific terms are often found in combination with others to describe the redemptive turning to God: 1. To the expressions that invite or call one to faith belong “to call on the name of the Lord” (Acts 2:21 in the quote from Joel 3:5; cf. also 4:12), “be saved” (2:40: σώθητε [a passive imperative]; cf. also 2:21; 4:12), “to turn away from evil” (3:26), “to be/become obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7 ὑπήκουον τῇ πίστει; cf. Rom 1:5; 10:16: ὑπήκουσαν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ; 15:16; 2 Thess 1:8; Heb 5:9), or simply the imperative “believe!” (Acts 16:31; cf. 19:4). The call to be baptized (2:38) also belongs to the call to repentance. Conversion language, furthermore, can be seen in the expression “to enter the kingdom of God” (14:22),57 “to open the door of faith” 54 So also Kim-Rauchholz, Umkehr, 198, in spite of the fact that she emphasizes so strongly the idea turning from sin. See also H. Merklein, “μετάνοια,” EWNT2 2 (1992), 1022–31, who writes too sweepingly: “The connection of conversion and forgiveness of sin is characteristic for Luke’s understanding” (1028). 55 Also Acts 16:30–3 can be included here: The jailor in Philippi recognizes God’s activity in the miraculous release of the prisoners (in relation with their behaviour) and gets baptized together with his family. Less clear is 3:1–8: About the healed paralytic it is only said that he praised God together with Peter and John; later, however, he appears again in the company of the apostles who healed him (4:14; see also 4:22); conversion is not mentioned here, though it might be implied; See also 14:3f. (also here to be “with the apostles” probably means a turning to faith in Jesus; so also 17:4, 34); in 2:40–4 it is not the miracles that give cause to conversion, but are part and parcel of the experience of the newly converted (also in 4:29; 19:11f.; 20:9–12). On Malta, in contrast, Paul performed healings, yet no mention is made that people came to faith (28:7–10), and in Lystra his miracle activity even led to the wrong conclusions (14:8–18; see also 6:8; 16:18–22). 56 See Avemarie, Tauferzählungen, 82–7, on “preaching and faith” as prerequisites for baptism. 57 On the synoptic background of this expression, see Rudolf Pesch, Die Apostelgeschichte (Apg 13–28) (EKK 5.2, Neukirchen-Vlyn: Neukirchener, 1986), 64. See also Acts


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

(14:27, cf. 1 Cor 16:9), and “to open the heart” (Acts 16:14, with God as subject; cf. 3:20). Acts 26:28 even allows one to say that through persuasive argumentation a listener is “made a Christian” (Χριστιανὸν ποιῆσαι).58 2. Corresponding to this are the expressions for turning to God for salvation: “to receive the word (of the sermon or the gospel)” (Acts 2:41: ἀποδεξάμενοι τὸν λόγον), “to be baptized” (2:41; 8:12; 9:18; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:3–5), “to come to faith” or “to believe” (different forms of πιστεύειν, see 2:44; 4:4; 5:14, 8:12; 9:42; 10:43, 45; 11:17, 21; 12:12; 13:39, 48; 14:1, 23, 27; 16:15; 17:12, 34; 18:8, 27; 19:2, 18; 22:19), “to be saved” (different forms of σῴζειν, see 2:21; 4:12; 11:14; 15:1, 11; 16:31), “to be added to the Lord” (11:24), “to be justified” (13:38f.), “to enter the kingdom of God” (14:22, see also note 57), “to be cleansed” (15:9), “to call on the name of Jesus” (22:16), and “to remain in the grace of God” (13:43, cf. 14:22: “to remain in the faith”). 3. Conversion is often preceded (or accompanied) by a cognitive process: “to let [the sermon] pierce one’s heart” (Acts 2:37; see note 47), “to give attention to what was said” (8:6; cf. 16:14), “to be amazed at the teaching of the Lord” (13:12), “to be persuaded” (17:4; 26:28; 28:24), and “to be instructed in the way of the Lord” (so Apollos, 18:25). 4. The rejection of turning to God is described as “to reject [the word]” (Acts 13:46: ἀπωθεῖν, cf. 7:39), “to harden oneself” (19:9: σκληρυνεῖν), “to remain unconvinced” (14:2, 19:9: ἀπειθεῖν), or simply “not to believe” (28:24, cf. 13:8: to keep or turn someone from believing). Attentive listeners are contrasted with those who cover their ears (7:57). This list could easily be expanded with similar terms used by Paul or in the Johannine and other writings of the New Testament. These qualifying remarks concerning the topic of sin in relation to conversion are, however, not to be understood as if Luke portrayed one kind of conversion that includes the forgiveness of sins, and one without. In Luke’s case — as elsewhere — one has to allow the main theme to determine the understanding of individual pericopes, even if certain vocabulary is not found in them.59 There can be no doubt that for Luke Jesus has come to “call sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32; cf. the double πάντες in Luke 13:3, 5), and in his version of the Great Commission, repentance for the forgiveness of sins is even explicitly mentioned as the goal (24:47 “repentance and the forgiveness of sins [μετάνοιαν εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν] is to be proclaimed in his name to 17:7; 20:25; 28:23, 31, where also Paul’s preaching stands in recourse to the kingdom of God. 58 The next verse (Act 26:29) implies accordingly that Paul understood himself as Χριστιανός (cf. 11:26). On the term Χριστιανός, see Hengel and Schwemer, Paul, 225–30. 59 See Kim-Rauchholz, Umkehr, 178; Méndez-Moratella, Conversion in Luke, 218f.

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


all nations”).60 What I seek to draw out is that turning from sin is not the only manner in which the initial new alignment to Christ (or in the Hebrew Bible to the God of Israel) is described. The work of Mihamm Kim-Rauchholz (see note 14 above) has shown the difficulties this poses for exegetes. Her entry into the subject follows the — as it were — classic methodology by tracing the Lukan use of the terms μετανοεῖν/μετάνοια. This terminology is, however, missing in the passages about the conversion of Paul. Nevertheless, she ends up following Hans Pohlmann, and finds that the conversion of Paul is “essentially μετάνοια.”61 She herself concludes that it is “highly unlikely” “that Luke, whose interest in the μετάνοια motif is clearly visible in LukeActs, did not recognize this aspect in Paul’s conversion.”62 But would that not raise the question, especially in the light of Luke’s indubitable interest in this topic, of why this theme, despite the threefold recollection of Paul’s Damascus Road experience, is not mentioned in relation to Paul precisely where we would expect it? In Acts 26:20 Luke at least allows Paul to say to King Agrippa that, immediately after his encounter with the resurrected Christ, he began to preach to the Jews in Damascus, Jerusalem, and all of Judea, and then also to the Gentiles, “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (τοῖς ἐν Δαμασκῷ πρῶτόν τε καὶ Ἱεροσολύμοις, πᾶσάν τε τὴν χώραν τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἀπήγγελλον μετανοεῖν καὶ ἐπιστρέφειν ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν, ἄξια τῆς μετανοίας ἔργα πράσσοντας). Apparently it was more important to Luke to recall and emphasize the calling of Paul as an irresistible act of God, rather than as an act of repentance on the side of the apostle. God wanted Paul’s zeal and effort, but for another goal. Is it not possible for sermons on conversion to recognize that it is not always necessary to reduce people to their sin and self-absorption before 60

See Kim-Rauchholz, Umkehr, 165–9. Hans Pohlmann, Die Metanoia als Zentralbegriff der christlichen Frömmigkeit: Eine systematische Untersuchung zum ordo salutis auf biblisch-theologischer Grundlage (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1938), 55. Cited by Kim-Rauchholz, Umkehr, 174. Hans Pohlmann was one of the co-workers at the infamous “Institut zur Erforschung (und Beseitigung) des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben” (Institute of the Research [and Eradication] of Jewish Influence on the Life of the German Church) in Eisenach and published a book through the “Verlag Deutsche Christen” entitled: Der Gottesgedanke Jesu als Gegensatz gegen den israelitisch-jüdischen Gottesgedanken (Weimar: Verlag Deutsche Christen, 1939), in which he contrasts Jesus’ understanding of God with that of his Jewish compatriots in a very one-sided manner. One should perhaps explore the question of how far his depiction of μετάνοια as “central concept of Christian piety” was also motivated by an essentialist antiSemitic interest in demarcation from Jewish piety, and furthermore the attempt to align Paul, Luther, and German piety, cf. also idem, Hat Luther Paulus entdeckt? Eine Frage zur theologischen Besinnung (Studien der Luther-Akademie N.F. 7; Berlin: A. Töpelmann, 1959). 62 Kim-Rauchholz, Umkehr, 178. 61


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

addressing them with some ‘good’ news?63 The biblical texts make it equally possible to call the audience to serve God with their strengths and channel them towards this goal (cf. Matt 6:33). Exemplary in this respect is the conversion story of Cornelius (Acts 10:1–11:18): From Peter’s concluding sentences in 10:42f. it is clear that the apostle directs his sermon towards the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the God-appointed judge of the living and the dead. The apostles are witnesses of this, and they are to proclaim it so that “everyone who believes in him” could receive the forgiveness of sins through his name (ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν λαβεῖν διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ πάντα τὸν πιστεύοντα εἰς αὐτόν). This is also the message to which “all the prophets” testify. It is interesting to see here how Peter begins this sermon after having told Cornelius that for a Jew it is actually improper to enter the house of a non-Jew (10:28). Would it not have been obvious to raise the issue of the sins of the Gentiles, and the sins of Cornelius in particular, so that the offer of the forgiveness of sins would fall on a prepared heart? However, instead of bringing Cornelius to recognize his sinfulness and then to receive Jesus, Peter begins with a captatio benevolentiae, which, in my opinion, is often underappreciated theologically: “I now truly grasp,” Luke has Peter exclaim, “that God does not show favouritism, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him” (10:34–35). The intended topic of “forgiveness of sins” is not immediately focused on the individual, but rather developed within the much wider horizon of the fulfilment of God’s salvific promise within an eschatological and universal context. And it is only as far as this that God allows Peter to preach when, to the amazement of his Jewish company, the Holy Spirit is suddenly poured out on Cornelius and those with him (10:44–46). The audience audibly receives the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (δωρεὰ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος). In retrospect, Luke has Peter summarize this event with the words: “Consequently, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles” (11:18 ἄρα καὶ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ὁ θεὸς τὴν μετάνοιαν εἰς ζωὴν ἔδωκεν). Μετάνοια is here used as the all-inclusive term for the new alignment of one’s entire existence in relation to God acting in Jesus and is, therefore, more appropriately translated as “turning [to God]” than “repentance.”64 Neither the guilt of an individual, nor the confession of sin, is prominent. Central instead is the gift-character of this event. The “gift of the Holy Spirit” and this new life, made possible through μετάνοια, are, however, not the results of human action, but solely


See Schniewind, “Bekehrung,” 11. So also Acts 20:21, where Paul describes his ministry with the words, “I testified to both Jews and Greeks the turning toward God (τὴν εἰς θεὸν μετάνοιαν) and faith toward our Lord Jesus (πίστιν εἰς τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν).” 64

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


due to God’s initiative.65 In addition, Cornelius’s fear of God and his righteous deeds are in no way depicted as prerequisites for this gift, though neither are they pushed aside, as is (was?) so often the case in evangelistic sermons. Luke, more than any other biblical author, shows that one does not have to first end up with the pigs, as in the parable of the prodigal son, before God can reach them, neither does one have to attract God’s attention with good works and preparatory contrition. Does this not also mean that we can invite people to convert by beginning with their strengths and good intentions and from there point them to the actual goal, which is the recognition of God acting in Jesus and, consequently, a turning towards this God? So as not to be misunderstood on this point, let me again emphasize: With the whole biblical account in view, that is, within the greater horizon of the Son of God becoming a man, who came to give his life as a “ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, par. Matt 20:28), and so to “redeem his people from their sin” (Matt 1:21 αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν), it is, in my opinion, unavoidable to insist that there is an inevitable connection between conversion/repentance and the forgiveness of sin. The atoning death of Jesus on the cross for the remission of sins is the core of the message of salvation in the New Testament and especially for Luke, as Ulrike Mittmann-Richter has so emphatically stressed recently (see note 65). Conversion and repentance have as their eschatological aim the rescue from judgment, to which humanity is doomed, because they are essentially mute, deaf, and blind before their maker. And so one ought to agree with Julius Schniewind, who has quite consciously linked the Reformation understanding of conversion to the biblical texts in defining conversion as: “To ratify God’s sentencing (of the sinner) to death and (unexpected) life.”66 The question that needs to be pondered, however, is how one arrives at this insight. The individual biblical accounts distinctly show that comprehension of this fateful disobedience towards God does not have to stand at the beginning of turning to God and faith in the God-sent Messiah. This is the crucial difference between the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus. The wording is the same in Matthew (3:2; 4:17; cf. Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3): “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” But John warns with this of coming judgment. His call to repentance is meant to warn and alarm (cf. Matt 3:7–12; Luke 3:1– 18). But with Jesus the turning to God is, in contrast, based on the nearness of 65 See Kim-Rauchholz, Umkehr, 179–87, who especially emphasizes the “the giftcharacter of μετάνοια” (184). See also Ulrike Mittmann-Richert, Der Sühnetod des Gottesknechts: Jesaja 53 im Lukasevangelium (WUNT 220; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 242– 44, and note 78 below. 66 “Dem Todesurteil Gottes und dem Lebensurteil Gottes recht geben,” Schniewind, “Bekehrung,” 18.


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

God made available through him, which is seen in his healings and the attention he gives to the needs of his contemporaries (in particular those who are ‘sinners’). He helps those who suffer under heavy burdens and invites people to let him help them.67 Whoever accepts this invitation and turns to God, who is no longer willing to be known and confessed apart from Jesus, will not desire to avoid the liberating necessity of being justified by grace. This is displayed in a fairly impressive way in the person of Peter. The moment he comes to understand something of the majesty of Jesus, he is almost horrified and exclaims: “Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man” (ἔξελθε ἀπ᾿ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι ἀνὴρ ἁμαρτωλός εἰμι, κύριε). This Lukan version of Peter’s confession will have an impact upon all those who allow themselves to be influenced by the texts of the New Testament. Yet, at the same time, they will also find themselves asking, in the words that Peter speaks to Jesus on another occasion (John 6:68–69): “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (κύριε, πρὸς τίνα ἀπελευσόμεθα; ῥήματα ζωῆς αἰωνίου ἔχεις, καὶ ἡμεῖς πεπιστεύκαμεν καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν ὅτι σὺ εἶ ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ). The order is not what matters, or the how, or when.68 The only thing that matters is the recognition “that with Jesus’ life and deeds the saving act of God has become manifested.”69 Conversion is the turn in one’s life whereby God’s action ‘for us’ is taken so seriously that the entirety of life is now governed by it. The historian Ramsay MacMullen, who dealt extensively with the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empire, describes Christian conversion as “that change of belief by which a person accepted the reality and supreme power of God and determined to obey Him.”70 67 See Merklein, “μετάνοια,” 1026. The term μετάνοια is not typical of Jesus in the same manner as for John the Baptist. Common to both is the understanding that “whoever does not turn, falls under judgment,” but unlike John the Baptist’s usage the term requires in Jesus’ usage that “one has to open up to Jesus’ word and deed” and “therefore has to be seen in the context of the proclamation of the basileia.” Turning to God means, therefore, the forward-looking “life from the proclaimed and already present salvation of God’s rule that nullifies all past guilt.” 68 See e.g. Acts 19:18f.: The burning of the magical books is not described as a prerequisite of, nor as an immediate consequence of conversion, but is subsequent to the failed attempt at an exorcism by Jewish priests. This means that the understanding that magical practices and faith in Jesus are not compatible is the result of a learning process subsequent to conversion. 69 “[D]aß mit Jesu Leben und Wirken das rettende Handeln Gottes offenbar geworden ist,” Ferdinand Hahn, Theologie des Neuen Testaments. Band II: Die Einheit des Neuen Testaments (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), 375. 70 Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire (A.D. 100–400) (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984), 5. He further points out that the Church “interpreted the initial process very loosely, without, of course, abandoning the duty to perfect it thereafter” (ibid.).

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


Just as Rahab recognized and accepted that from now on God had given the land to the Israelites, Paul on his way to Damascus had to recognize and accept that this Jesus, whom he persecuted, was in fact God’s messenger, who was validated by him, and who is now seated at his right hand as the exalted Messiah.71 Conversion, biblically speaking, and in an attempt to express this as a short formula, is the appropriate reactio to God’s actio. The appropriate reactio was different in Rahab’s time, different again when the prophets called the people of Israel to turn from religious and political idol worship, and different yet again when Amos castigated the rich upper class in the northern kingdom, who, despite God’s repeated acts of punishment, refused to repent. The appropriate response of the inhabitants of Nineveh was different from that required of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And when God calls through his messengers to turn to him, the appropriate response for Jews is different from that of non-Jews, though the aim is the same: To respond to God’s present activity and words. If something can be seen as a common motive within these various groups, which inspires the conceptually different forms of conversion and appropriation of God’s present revelatory action, it is the sure knowledge of being confronted by God’s activity in such a form that, from this point onwards, one is no longer willing or able to live without being aligned with this activity. In this respect, Jewish and Christian conversion can be equated with each other. The areas in which God’s activity can be experienced in such an involving manner are creation72 and — recall Rahab and Achior — the concrete historical experiences or observations that are interpreted as the activity of the God of Israel. The frequent challenges to “hear,” “see,” and “know” implicitly point to the modi of the knowledge of God. The ways of Judaism and Christianity part, however, when it comes to the question of whether Jesus also embodies the speaking and activity of God in the same manner, so that expressing loyalty to this God is not possible anymore without the inclusion of Jesus (John 1:1–17; Rom 1:1–4; Heb 1:1–3). Or to put it in the words of 1 John 2:23: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (πᾶς ὁ 71 See Udo Schnelle, “Paulus und das Gesetz: Biographisches und Konstruktives,” in Biographie und Persönlichkeit des Paulus (ed. Eve-Marie Becker and Peter Pilhofer; WUNT 187; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 245–70. In regard to the calling of Paul, he writes: “All texts show that Damascus is to be interpreted in a christologic-soteriological way, and that it has its centre in the overwhelming recognition of Jesus Christ belonging to God and Paul’s calling to be an apostle.” 72 References to creation theology play an important role especially in Luke’s conversion sermons (Acts 14:17; 17:24–8). Related to this is the emphasis of the first commandment. There is only one God, and he has made himself known to be the creator (Acts 14:15; 17:16, 22–9; see also 19:26f.; 1 Thess 1:9). Already in the OT one finds that Israel’s return to God is related to the first commandment (Deut 4:27–31; 1 Sam 7:3; Isa 31:5–7; Jer 3:1–4:1, etc.).


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

ἀρνούμενος τὸν υἱὸν οὐδὲ τὸν πατέρα ἔχει, ὁ ὁμολογῶν τὸν υἱὸν καὶ τὸν πατέρα ἔχει). This dimension of a history of developing redemption is important for the understanding of the various and even changing types of conversion within salvation history, and it is the task of the preaching and teaching of the Church to convey this multidimensional, fascinating occurrence of what we call conversion in all its facets. Ferdinand Hahn wrote concerning this task in the second volume of his Theology of the New Testament under the title “Gospel Proclamation and Present Salvation:” “The writings of the New Testament share a fundamental commonality in that the Christian message is the bearer of salvation. It is through the proclamation that the unique realization of salvation finds its permanent salvation-giving power in the history of Jesus Christ.”73 Furthermore, from this follows: “The observations derived from the New Testament texts concerning the ongoing proclamation of the salvation message have immediate relevance for the preaching and practice of the church in the present,” for “salvation is mediated by people, who with the acceptance of this message [that is, their own conversion] also received the command of further passing it on.”74 There cannot be anything better and more important for the Church than to convert people, for nothing better can happen to a person than to find refuge under the wings of the living God.

3. Conversion and the Work of God Since the biblical accounts consistently value conversion as something positive and as something joyous, why is it that there is this frequent disassociation from that which is considered the best that could happen to a person?75 It is in some way telling that Ferdinand Hahn includes in his Theology of the 73

“Zwischen den neutestamentlichen Schriften besteht eine fundamentale Gemeinsamkeit darin, daß die christliche Botschaft Trägerin des Heils ist. Durch die Verkündigung besitzt die einmalige Heilsverwirklichung in der Geschichte Jesu Christi ihre bleibende heilstiftende Kraft,” Hahn, Theologie, 437. 74 “Die Beobachtungen an den neutestamentlichen Texten zur Weiterverkündigung der Heilsbotschaft haben unmittelbare Relevanz für die Predigt und Praxis der Kirche in unserer Gegenwart,” and: “Heil wird vermittelt durch Menschen, die mit der Annahme der Heilsbotschaft auch den Auftrag zu deren Weitergabe übernehmen,” ibid., 439. 75 See e.g. Martin Reppenhagen, “‘Willst du uns bekehren oder was?’ Das Verständnis von Bekehrung im missionstheologischen Wandel,” TBei 41 (2010): 39–53; see also the revised edition in Michael Herbst, Jörg Ohlemacher, and Johannes Zimmermann, Konversion zwischen empirischer Forschung und theologischer Reflexion (Beiträge zu Evangelisation und Gemeindeentwicklung 18; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2012), 127–46; Michael Herbst, “Wie finden Erwachsene zum Glauben?” TBei 41 (2010): 235–41 (237f.); idem, “Mama,” 172–6.

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


New Testament, of which the second volume is in the truest sense ‘evangelistic,’ a chapter on hindrances that stand in the way of acceptance of the faith, but nothing on what could further or support it. Hardening and stubbornness is pondered, yet the God-given possibilities that help to further the spread of the gospel are not considered with the same intensity.76 Theologically, a similar strong emphasis on God enabling and supporting the call to convert could also undermine the often heard suspicion of conversion as an act of self-redemption (in German the often used phrase in testimonies of conversions is “Ich habe mich bekehrt,” which can be understood in such a way that the subject and object of the verb are identical: “I converted myself”). But to react to God’s action has nothing to do with self-redemption, for it is based on the enabling of God: God adds to the Church (Acts 2:47: ὁ δὲ κύριος προσετίθει, cf. 5:14; 11:24;77 15:4), which grows by the work of the Holy Spirit (9:31); God himself sends his word, which proclaims the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (10:36 τὸν λόγον [ὃν] ἀπέστειλεν τοῖς υἱοῖς Ἰσραὴλ εὐαγγελιζόμενος [God is subject of both verbs] εἰρήνην διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ), and it is his word, that “increases” and grows the Church (6:7; 12:24); and it is also God who opens to the nations the door of faith (14:27; cf. 15:8; 16:14: God opens the heart of Lydia, so that she can receive what Paul says), and cleanses their hearts through faith (15:9); he seeks the nations in order to take for himself a people (λάος) from them (15:14; see also 18:10: God has “many people” in Corinth). And it is also God who stands behind the fate of Jesus and Israel’s repentance (μετάνοια) and who gives forgiveness of sin (5:31; cf. 11:18 and note 65 above). Luke leaves no doubt that it is God who enables conversion, which is offered to all through preaching (see also 2 Cor 5:11; 18–20).78 Why is it then that conversion is seen with so much suspicion and is treated as something almost embarrassing in so many theological quarters? One reason that many cannot (or will not) relate to the biblical conversion stories and the experiences contained in them lies, in my opinion, in that the motivations for turning to God in the biblical texts have become brittle in the present age. According to the biblical accounts, God acts as the creator, he acts in 76

See e.g. passages such as Acts 1:8; 2:47; 4:29–31, 33; 5:11f., 19f.; 6:7f., 10 etc., which all report how God enables mission and continually supports it. 77 Both passive constructions of προστίθημι should be understood as passiva divina, that is, God is the one who adds to the Church, see Rudolf Pesch, Die Apostelgeschichte (Apg 1–12) (EKK 5.1; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1986), 206f., 353. The last passage in particular shows beautifully that this does not entail an abrogation of human responsibility for immediately before it is said that a large number “were added to the Lord,” we find that Barnabas was “a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” 78 On the accusation that the call to conversion is effectively synergetic, see Burkhardt, Bekehrung, 52–6; on the biblical background, ibid., 20–2, 27–9; Avemarie, Tauferzählungen, 92–100; Kim-Rauchholz, Umkehr, 172f., 186–9.


Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance

history through Israel, and in Jesus he is himself a part of this human, earthly history. These are the three related areas based on which humans are called, challenged, or invited to this God. The crisis of conversion, therefore, is related to the fact that it is difficult today to believe in, think of, and proclaim convincingly that God is acting in history within the horizon of these three concentric circles.79 If conversion is the human reaction to God’s deeds and words, which are either experienced directly or in the preaching of the gospel, then the present crisis of conversion is related to the loss of ‘God-reality’ in the present reality of this world. Where God acting in history cannot be (or is not allowed to be) thought of as ‘real’ anymore, conversion withers into an inner process of the soul, in which individuals have to admonish themselves, or are admonished by others, to redirect their focus to God, whose relation to reality, however, is naively left undetermined, or is shifted to the realm of ‘faith’ (as the part of experience which is beyond what the natural sciences and common perception understand as reality).80 Conversion, biblically 79

For my attempt to approach this topic see Roland Deines, “Can the ‘Real’ Jesus be Identified with the Historical Jesus? A Review of the Pope’s Challenge to Biblical Scholarship and the Various Reactions it Provoked,” Didaskalia 39 (2009): 11–46; “Das Erkennen von Gottes Handeln in der Geschichte bei Matthäus,” in Heil und Geschichte: Die Geschichtsbezogenheit des Heils und das Problem der Heilsgeschichte in der biblischen Tradition und in der theologischen Deutung (ed. Jörg Frey, Stefan Krauter, and Hermann Lichtenberger; WUNT 248; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 403–41. Both papers, the first one thoroughly revised and extended, can be also found in this volume. 80 See Hermann Hafner, “‘Wo Gott nicht mehr gedacht werden kann.’ Karl Heim und das säkulare Weltbild,” in Evangelisation im Gegenwind: Zur Theologie und Praxis der Glaubensverkündigung in der säkularen Gesellschaft (ed. Herbert H. Klement; Giessen: Brunnen, 2002), 149–61; impressive in this regard is also the final section by Klaus Koch, Daniel 1–4 (BKAT 22.1; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2005), 445–50. Koch summarizes here Nebuchadnezzar’s confession (Dan 3:31–4:34) — itself containing elements of a profession of conversion (Dan 4:24, 31–4; cf. 5:21) — which consists in “that every political power base, as mighty it may appear, does not exist out of its own and for itself, but depends on an invisible, profound divine ‫[ ַמלכוּתָ א‬royal rule]” (446). He then points out that this theological conviction expressed in the biblical text is nowadays hardly taken seriously: “Western theology in the modern age, however, has more and more cancelled such political theology and understanding of history from its programme, and nowadays has confined itself in the academic realm to a very limited political ethic. This ethic calls then for the respect of human worth on the basis of God’s law, or, particularly based on the Sermon on the Mount, draws out the Christian obligation to maintain peace. However, when it comes to the concrete political actualization, or even to the course of world history, one avoids to relate divine providence. . . . While churches call the believers to pray for peace and to come together in times of looming war, they do not ring the bells when the danger is averted, or the war is over. It appears to be unacceptable to understand, as with Nebuchadnezzar in the past, or Hitler or Stalin in the present, these as the tools of God.” In the light of this dilemma the author asks with his last sentence of his commentary: “Where do we stand then when we speak of God the Almighty in our Christian confession of faith?” (450). Though it appears at first easier to reflect about God acting in the life of an individual than in regard to what is

Biblical Viewpoints on Repentance


speaking, is, however, the grateful and joyous recognition and acceptance of God’s activity in history, as one who speaks to and approaches the individual. What was once possible in the pre-secular epochs of the history of religion, namely, to allow for transempirical realities as causations in the historical process and — within a biblically shaped perspective — to see the God of Israel acting in creation, in the history of his people, and ultimately in Jesus, is not so easily the case anymore. But without such an open horizon for God’s intervention, conversion cannot be fully understood. This is the task that conversion studies — and theologically motivated Biblical Studies in general — must face if they want to prepare a way to experience God truly. Appendix In answer to the request for suggestions of the best biblical conversion stories a total of 41 different propositions were made (in 58 completed questionnaires, on which most gave three suggestions as requested). A favourite was clearly Paul, who was mentioned 41 times, followed by the Ethiopian eunuch (21×), Zacchaeus (14×), Peter (12×), Cornelius (8×), Lydia (7×), Moses (5×), the women at Jacob’s well (5×), Jonah (4×), Levi/Matthew (4×), Naaman (4×), the prodigal son (4×), David (in connection with Nathan; 3×), Nathanael (3×), Ruth (3×), Andrew and Philip (2×), the Emmaus-disciples (2×), Bileam (2×), the jailor in Philippi (2×), and the robber on, and the centurion at, the cross (2× each). It is clear that Luke’s conversion stories are the most popular, and, likewise, that many see conversion and calling as closely related (Peter, Moses, and from those only mentioned once Isaiah, Ananias, and Joseph, the husband of Mary). Furthermore, repentance and turning to God after particular misconduct are seen overlap with the theme of conversion (David, Jonah, and, taken from the single occurrences, Adam and Eve).

happening in the world, the two, as the example of Nebuchadnezzar clearly shows, cannot be separated from each other. On these questions, see also Eilert Herms, “Theologische Geschichtsschreibung,” Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte 10 (1997): 305–30: “In der Sicht des Glaubens ist es die ursprüngliche Bestimmung des geschichtlichen Daseins in allen seinen möglichen Gestalten, Weg zur Erreichung dieser eschatischen Vollendung der Gemeinschaft der Geschöpfe mit dem Schöpfer und untereinander zu sein” (316 “From the perspective of faith it is the original purpose of historical subsistence in all its possible forms, to be the way of achieving the ultimate fulfilment of the fellowship of creatures with the creator and to each other.”

The Term and Concept of Scripture 0. Introduction This essay follows very closely the specific questions the organizers of the conference distributed to the contributors in advance.1 The main focus of the second part of the conference programme was to come to a better understanding of the conceptual ideas implied by the different terminologies that are applied to collections of biblical books. In this, the task was to sharpen the specific profile of the term Scripture compared to Bible in the “Wissenschaft des Judentums,” as well as the terms Torah, Miqra’, Tanakh, Old and New Testament. The sequence of this list, with Scripture placed between the Tanakh and the Old Testament, puts it rightly in a middle position between explicit Jewish designations and Christian ones, given that Christianity inherited the language regarding Scripture from its Jewish matrix. Only in later Christian contexts Holy Scripture would appear to be used interchangeably with Bible (meaning in Christian language Old and New Testament). While the designation Bible was treated separately in the third part of the conference, this paper had the task of exploring how the term Scripture was used historically and how it is used in current discourses: What philosophical, hermeneutical, or religious concepts are expressed with this terminology and to what extent does the term Scripture signify something different from the Old and New Testament? To put the question this way implied from the outset the expectation that the term Scripture is to be explained within the Christian canonical framework (otherwise it would be pointless to speak of the Old and New Testament). The final task then was to explore “the transition from authoritative scriptures to canon.” Interestingly, in this last question the adjective “authoritative” was added for the first time, and Scripture was put into the plural; at the same time it lost its capitalization. Does this then already suggest part of the answer? From authoritative scripture(s) to Scripture and finally into the canon? 1

The original paper was given at a conference organized by Armin Lange and Karin Finsterbusch in Landau (Germany) in May 2010. The respective contributions can be found in the original conference publication: Karin Finsterbusch and Armin Lange, eds., What is Bible? (CBET 67; Leuven: Peeters, 2012).


The Term and Concept of Scripture

But what does the canon offer to Scripture? Does it narrow down the meaning of individual books or does it open new dimensions? These are more questions than one can hope to be able to answer within such a paper. But just putting the questions on the table is revealing and challenging in the best sense of the word. Terms that were used so far without reflection suddenly lose their familiarity and can no longer be used with the same naivety again.

1. From Holy Scripture(s) to “Holie Bible” The first question “how was the term Scripture used historically, and how is it used in current discourses?” actually contains two questions: What can be said about the historical use of the term Scripture? (discussed in Section 2 below), and “how is it used in “current discourses”? The second question requires additional qualifications, namely, by whom and in which setting? Which “current discourses” should be looked at: Christian theological faculties or religious studies departments, church(es), Jewish communities, other religious traditions, the wider society? It will not be possible to survey all aspects of the second question and thus the focus will be the use of Scripture within the Christian theological tradition (and here, due to my own biographical setting, a rather Protestant one). That means the term Scripture will be used as relating to that which Christians refer to as the Old and the New Testament. Using ‘current’ rather generously, I want to start with the sixteenth-century Reformation period. For the first time in human history the mass production of books became a reality — the first of which was the ‘Book of books’ — made possible through the invention of mechanical movable type printing in around 1439.2 Very quickly, the Bible became widely available, not only through professional editions to clerics and scholars, but also to common people through translations into different vernaculars. Already in 1530, the English King Henry VIII saw the need to forbid “the hauinge of holy scripture, translated into the vulgar tonges of englisshe, frenche, or duche.”3 For 2 Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983 [many reprints thereafter]); eadem, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe (2 vols.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Jean-Francois Gilmont, ed., The Reformation and the Book (St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History; Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998). 3 Henry VIII (King of England), A proclamation made and diuysed by the kyngis highnes, with the aduise of his honorable cou[n]saile, for dampning of erronious bokes and heresies, and prohibitinge the hauinge of holy scripture, translated into the vulgar tonges of englisshe, frenche, or duche, in such maner, as within this proclamation is expressed.

The Term and Concept of Scripture


our question it is interesting to see under which titles Bibles made their first appearance on the book market, and further, which individual biblical books were included under such a title. Which of the available terms was chosen to introduce the Holy Scriptures to a wider readership outside of monasteries, universities, and the liturgy of the churches? The following survey shows that Bible editions and translations made in the wake of the Reformation (not only by Protestants but also by Catholics) display, at least initially, some freedom about the individual books and their respective order published under the title Bible or Holy Scripture.4 The early sixteenth century saw, therefore, a relative diversity in the production of complete Bibles similar to the time of the great Greek codices of the fourth and fifth centuries, Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus.5 This was despite (London: Thomas Berthelet, 1530). Available electronically at Early English Books Online (EEBO): Actually, since the time of John Wycliffe (c. 1330–1384), there were attempts in English legislation to forbid any translation of the Bible or its parts into the vernacular, cf. Alister McGrath, In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language and a Culture (New York: Anchor, 2001), 19–22, 33, 80–9; David Daniell, The Bible in English: Its History and Influence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 66–76. The first complete Bibles in English were translated under the influence of Wycliffe and based on the Vulgate. A good number of complete Bibles were translated in these years, and many more in part. For a complete list and precise description of the remaining c.175 manuscripts made mainly between 1385 and 1410, see Josiah Forshall and Frederic Madden, eds., The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testament, with the Apocryphal Books, in the Earliest English Versions made from the Latin Vulgate by John Wycliffe and His Followers (4 vols.; Oxford: University Press, 1850). 4 The printing of Bibles in England began in 1525 with the New Testament translated and edited by William Tyndale (c.1490–1536). For details, see Arthur S. Herbert, Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible 1525–1961 (London: The British and Foreign Bible Society, 1968), 1 (for different selections published earlier, see ibid. xxx– xxxi); parts of the OT followed in turn (1530: Psalter; 1530: Pentateuch; 1531 Jonah, accompanied by an introduction “to understōde him and the right use also of the scripture, and why it was written, and what is therein to be sought” [ibid., 4]; 1531: Isaiah; 1534?: Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; 1534: Jeremiah and Lamentations, and added Exod 15:1–18). A general overview of translations and early prints in the different European vernaculars can be found in G. W. H. Lampe, ed., The Cambridge History of the Bible (vol. 2: The West From the Fathers to the Reformation; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 338–491 (“The Vernacular Scriptures”), and in “Bibelübersetzungen III. Mittelalterliche und reformationszeitliche Bibelübersetzungen,” TRE 6 (1980), 228–66 (multiple authors); for the later period cf. S. L. Greenslade, ed., The Cambridge History of the Bible (vol. 3: The West From the Reformation to the Present Day; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963). 5 For the variants in order and content of biblical canon lists since the second century and of the first codices which are to be regarded as complete Bibles, see Martin Hengel (with the assistance of Roland Deines), The Septuagint as Christian Scripture: Its Prehistory and the Problem of its Canon (Old Testament Studies Series; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2002, 57– 70). For an exhaustive treatment, see Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New


The Term and Concept of Scripture

the dominant position of the Vulgate, which represented the standard Bible within the Latin tradition of the West,6 and which became even more widely available during the fifteenth century as a result of the new printing technology. The variation with regard to content and sequence is further influenced by the fact that editions of the Hebrew Bible (first complete edition Soncino 1488) and the Septuagint (Venice 1518) with their differing lists and orders of books were printed next to the Vulgate. 1.1 The First Printed Bible A good example of the layout and content of a standard Vulgate edition is the first ever printed complete Bible from around 1454–55 which appeared in two volumes and was made by Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1398–1468). With his edition he set the standard for the time to come, although his own work looks rather like a printed manuscript and not like a ‘modern’ book. The first century of printing saw not only a development in technology but also in layout. Practical and didactic aspects had to be considered more carefully since the book was no longer produced for professional users but was intended for a wider audience. When one opens a Gutenberg Bible for the first time, the reader may be surprised that it contains neither a title nor a title page, nor Testament Church and its Background in Early Judaism (London: SPCK, 1985), 181–234. The Western tradition is influenced by Augustine, who defended the deuterocanonical books as part of the Bible against Jerome and others on the basis of their established use in the churches, cf. as a short summary Franz J. Stendebach, “Der Kanon des Alten Testaments in der katholischen Kirche,” in Die Apokryphenfrage im ökumenischen Horizont (ed. Siegfried Meurer; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1989), 41–50 (43); for the recent theological discussion (including the historical development), see Andreas Hahn, Canon Hebraeorum — Canon Ecclesiae: Zur deuterokanonischen Frage im Rahmen der Begründung alttestamentlicher Schriftkanonizität in neuerer römisch-katholischer Dogmatik (Berlin: Lit, 2009). In 1442, the Council of Florence confirmed again the larger canon for the West, cf. Heinrich Denzinger and Peter Hünermann, Enchiridion symbolorum definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum (43rd ed.; Freiburg: Herder, 2010), no. 1334. For the Decretum Damasi (fourth century), see nos. 179–180. For the Greek Orthodox attitude to the Apocrypha, see Elias Oikonomos, “Die Bedeutung der deuterokanonischen Schriften in der orthodoxen Kirche,” in Die Apokryphenfrage im ökumenischen Horizont (ed. Siegfried Meurer; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1989), 26–40; Panagiotis J. Boumis, “The Canons of the Church Concerning the Canon of the Holy Scripture,” Theologia 67 (2007): 547–602. 6 A standardization of the diverse Vulgate traditions was often attempted and finally achieved with the edition made at the Sorbonne in Paris (Paris Bible) in the 13th century. “It is this Paris version of the Vulgate that would go on to become widely used and accepted within medieval Christianity. When a medieval Christian writer talks about ‘the Bible,’ it is quite likely that it is this specific Latin translation of the Bible that is being referred to” (McGrath, Beginning, 56). Cf. also Raphael Loewe, “The Medieval History of the Latin Vulgate,” in The Cambridge History of the Bible, 2.102–54 (145–8) on the Paris Bible.

The Term and Concept of Scripture


a table of contents. The only help to the reader is a running head indicating the biblical book, but otherwise one has to know what to look for. The only introduction to its content is Jerome’s Letter to Paulinus at the beginning, which is a guide to reading Scripture and contains a short summary of the books of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.7 Not every biblical book starts on a new page; instead a short line informs the reader that a book ends and that the next begins. Jerome’s prologues of larger sections and individual books are reproduced in their respective places. Both devices, opening with a new page and the prologues, combine individual books into groups,8 but everything else is left to the reader. It is quite obvious that there was no discussion about individual books belonging to the Bible at the time of this first printing. The so-called Stuttgart Vulgate, printed 1519 in Lyon, demonstrates the development in Vulgate printing before the influence of the Reformation.9 The content and order of the biblical books is unchanged, but now a table of contents and other indices support the reading and study of this Biblia. The official post-Reformation Vulgate edition of 1590–92 follows in this tradition, although some important changes were made as a result of the canon debate in the sixteenth century, and in agreement with the Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures of the Council of Trent (1546; see pp. 277, 281). 1.2 The New Tripartite Bibles The age-long Christian tradition represented in these Vulgate editions was changed decisively when the first complete Protestant editions of the Bible appeared. With the Zurich Bible in 1531, the Swiss Reformers can claim the 7 Epistula 53. Jerome is known to be a defender of the Hebrew canon against the wider canon of the Septuagint that includes the so-called Apocrypha, cf. Ralph Hennings, Der Briefwechsel zwischen Augustinus und Hieronymus und ihr Streit um den Kanon des Alten Testaments und die Auslegung von Gal. 2,11–14, (VCSup 21; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 110–21, 131–217. For further literature, see 193, n. 261. 8 The following groups of books are marked out by beginning with a new page: Pentateuch; Joshua — Judges — Ruth; 1–4 Kings; 1–2 Chronicles and Prayer of Manasseh — 1/2 Ezra; 3 Ezra starts on a new page, followed by a left blank page before 4 Ezra, which is again followed by a blank page; Tobit — Judith — Esther (with additions, sixteen chapters) — Job — Psalms (end of vol. 1); vol. 2 continues with Prov — Eccl — Cant — Wis — Sir; Isa — Jer — Lam — Bar — Ezek; Dan (with additions, fourteen chapters) — Dodekapropeton; 1–2 Macc; the beginning of the New Testament is not marked specifically, but opens with Jerome’s letter to Pope Damasus on the Evangelists (as prologue). The sequence in the NT is Gospels, Letters of Paul, Acts and the Catholic Letters, and finally Revelation. Differing from the canon list from Florence (see above, note 5) Gutenberg’s Vulgate contains 3–4 Ezra and the Prayer of Manasseh, but 4 Ezra is separated from the other books by blank pages. 9 Available online:


The Term and Concept of Scripture

credit of being the first who printed this new type of Bible (see below, note 10), although it was Martin Luther who inaugurated this new development. He had discussed the question of the books that are not part of the Jewish canon in 1519–20 with regard to the Prayer of Manasseh and 2 Maccabees, and in 1523, when he published the first part of his translation of the Old Testament, he added a numbered list of the books of the Old Testament. This numbered list includes only the books of the Hebrew Bible, but arranged according to the Vulgate order. Set apart at the end and without ordering numbers, he lists Tobit, Judith, Baruch, Ezra, Wisdom, Sirach, and 1–2 Maccabees. His former student, Johannes Lonicer (1497–1569), used this division for the first time in print in an edition of the Septuagint (Strasbourg: Wolfgang Köpfel, 1526). The title Apocrypha was also used for those books for the first time, and they were placed in an additional section after the books of the Hebrew Bible: Ἀπόκρυφαι, αἳ παρ᾽ Ἑβραίοις ἐκ τοῦ τῶν ἀξιοπίστων ἀριθμοῦ συγκαθίστανται (“Apocrypha, which amongst the Hebrews are set outside of the number of those [books] that are trustworthy”). Besides the books already mentioned by Luther, he also included in this rubric the Greek Additions to Daniel. This was followed by the Dominican Santes Pagninus (1470–1541) in his new Latin Bible translation (Lyon 1527). Here the books of the Apocrypha are put in their own section under the title “Libri agyographi, qui non sunt in hebraeo inter canonicos libros.”10 But it was only with the publication of the first editions of complete German Bibles by the Swiss and Wittenberg Reformers in 1531 and 1534 respectively, with their translations no longer based on the Vulgate but on the Hebrew and Greek texts, that this new presentation of the biblical books set a new standard for the wider public: While the traditional Christian Bible contains two sections, namely the Old and New Testament, it is now rearranged into three major parts. From now on the new section, placed between the Old and New Testament, is called the Apocrypha in the Protestant tradition. Thus these books no longer form an integral part of the Old Testament but a separate group between the Old and the New Testament, and hold, to some degree, a reduced authority. But they are still regarded as part of what is called Holy Scripture, as the title indicates: Biblia, das ist die gantze Heilige Schrifft Deudsch.11 In this Bible, which no longer contains the introductory 10 For further details, see Hans Volz, “Die Wittenberger Übersetzung des Apokryphenteils des Alten Testaments,” in D. Martin Luthers Deutsche Bibel, 1522–1546, vol. 12: Die Übersetzung des Apokryphenteils des Alten Testaments (WADB 12; Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1961), XV–XCVIII (XIX–XXI), and Klaus Dietrich Fricke, “Der Apokryphenteil der Lutherbibel,” in Die Apokryphenfrage im ökumenischen Horizont (ed. Siegfried Meurer; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1989), 51–82. 11 Printed in 1534 in Wittenberg by Hans Lufft. For the Zurich Bible, entitled Die ganntze Bibel der vrsprünglichen Ebraischen vnd Griechischen waahrheyt nach . . ., see Christoph

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remarks of Jerome but instead those of Luther, the reasons for this rearrangement are quite carefully explained. In the prologue to the Book of Judith, Luther wrote in 1534 (and repeated it in his last edition in 1545) that it would be a noble and fine part of the Bible if only it matched the historical frame provided by Jeremiah and Ezra: WO man die Geschichte Judith künde aus bewereten, gewissen Historien beweisen, So were es ein eddel fein Buch, das auch billich in der Biblien sein solt. Aber es wil sich schwerlich reimen mit den Historien der heiligen Schrifft, sonderlich mit Jeremia vnd Esra, welche anzeigen, wie Jerusalem und das gantze Land verstöret gewest, vnd darnach kümerlich wider erbawet worden sind, Zu der zeit der Persen Monarchia, welche alles Land innen hatten umbher.12

The terminological differentiations in this short passage are noteworthy: For Judith to be part of the Bible (as a printed book) is not seen as a problem, but measured against the Holy Scriptures (here Luther seem to mean those within the Hebrew canon) its historicity is doubtful. For Luther, the obvious historical errors in the book are a deliberate device of its author to inform the reader that he is reading an uplifting fiction or story but not history (“. . . daß der Dichter wissentlich und mit Fleiß den Irrtum der Zeit und Namen drein gesetzt hat, den Leser zu vermahnen, daß er’s für ein solch geistlich, heilig Gedicht halten und verstehen sollte”).13 But despite this historical-critical judgment regarding the apocryphal books, the early Protestant tradition followed Luther’s well-known maxim that the Apocrypha are good and expedient reading even if they are not regarded as equal in authority to the biblical books proper (“Apocrypha: das sind Bücher: so der heiligen Schrifft nicht gleich gehalten, und doch nützlich und gut zu lesen sind, Als nemlich, I Judith. II Sapientia. III Tobias. IIII Syrach. V Baruch. VI Maccabeorum. VII Stücke in Esther. VIII Stücke in Daniel.”)14 Luther and the other Reformers Siegrist, ed., Die Züricher Bibel von 1531: Entstehung, Verbreitung und Wirkung (Zurich: Theologischer Verlag, 2011). 12 1545 edition (WADB 12, 5). A convenient collection in modernized German is Heinrich Bornkamm, ed., Martin Luther: Vorreden zur Bibel (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2005), 147. An English translation of the quotation can be found in Edward A. Engelbrecht, ed., The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes (St. Louis: Concordia, 2012), 5: “If one could prove from established and reliable histories that the events in Judith really happened, it would be a noble and fine book, and should properly be in the Bible. Yet it hardly squares with the historical accounts of the Holy Scriptures, especially Jeremiah and Ezra (. . .).” For the custom and history of introductions to the individual biblical books, which goes back to Jerome, see Maurice E. Schild, Abendländische Bibelvorreden bis zur Lutherbibel (QFR 39; Gütersloh: Mohn, 1970); Jürgen Quack, Evangelische Bibelvorreden von der Reformation bis zur Aufklärung (QFR 43; Gütersloh: Mohn, 1975). 13 Bornkamm, Vorreden, 148, cf. WADB 12.7. 14 WADB 12.2–4 (this sentence forms the title and content page for this part of the Bible); “Maccabeorum” refers to 1–2 Maccabees. Not mentioned on the title page but part of


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(including initially Catholic scholars and printers) were, in this first phase of the Reformation, quite flexible in their estimation of what was Scripture: They accepted without discussion the books of the Hebrew canon and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament,15 and included as part of the Apocrypha those books they valued as spiritually beneficial readings.16 Slight differences in judgment existed without causing controversies or much discussion. Luther for example omitted 3–4 Ezra completely from his translation of the Bible whereas the Swiss tradition kept them. In the preface to Baruch, he informs the reader that the theological and historical value of this book is very limited and cannot possibly be the work of someone close to the prophet Jeremiah. He therefore considered removing Baruch altogether from his translation as he did with 3–4 Ezra. That he kept it in the end and translated it, despite its many flaws, is justified by Baruch’s two strengths, namely the stark condemnation of idolatry and its strong adherence to the Mosaic law: “Baruch, however, we shall let run with the pack because he writes so vigorously against idolatry and sets forth the law of Moses.”17 this section is also the Prayer of Manasse (WABD 12.528–33), which Luther valued very highly and published separately in 1519 and then again in 1525, cf. Volz, “Wittenberger Übersetzung,” LIX. A similar comment also introduced the separate edition of the Apocrypha that was made by the Swiss Reformers in Zurich in 1529 (and which became part of the complete Zurich Bible in 1531). They commented that they do not equal the other biblical books in authority and esteem and are therefore not counted among the biblical books of the Holy Scriptures (“die Biblischen heyliger geschrifft bücher”), but because many want to read them and because they contain nothing against the biblical Scriptures, faith, and love, but indeed are based in God’s word (“sind doch vil ding darinn, die Biblischer gschrifft, dem glouben und liebe keins wägs widersträbend, ja ouch etliche jren grund in Gottes word findend”; quoted in Volz, “Wittenberger Übersetzung,” XXIII n. 5). In addition to those books included in the Luther Bible, the Swiss edition of the Apocrypha contained 3–4 Ezra and 3 Maccabees, but lacked the Prayer of Manasseh, the Additions to Esther, and two parts of the Additions to Daniel (Prayer of Azariah, Song of the Three Young Men), cf. Hans Volz, “Continental Versions to c. 1600: I. German,” Cambridge History of the Bible, 3.94–109 (105–6); Wilhelm H. Neuser, “Die Reformierten und die Apokryphen des Alten Testaments,” in Die Apokryphenfrage im ökumenischen Horizont (ed. Siegfried Meurer; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1989), 83–103. 15 The only book from the OT that was disputed was Esther, which Luther openly disliked (cf. Volz, “Wittenberger Übersetzung,” XXI), but in the end kept in its traditional place. In the NT, his degradation of Hebrews, James and Jude, and Revelation are well known. 16 For example, the Book of Jesus Sirach became a real bestseller. Luther’s translation appeared as a separate edition for the first time at the beginning of 1533; there were at least eleven further editions in Wittenberg alone during his lifetime and many more elsewhere. Next to the New Testament and the Psalter, the Book of Sirach was, in the sixteenth century, the most often printed part of Scripture (Volz, “Wittenberger Übersetzung,” XLIII). 17 Engelbrecht, ed., The Apocrypha, 142. Orig.: “Baruch lassen wir mitlaufen unter diesem Haufen, weil er wider die Abgötterei so hart schreibet und Moses Gesetz vorhält,” Bornkamm, Vorreden, 159, cf. WADB 12.290–291. In a later edition of the Luther Bible,

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1.3 The Changeable Fortune of Bible Printing in England In 2011, England and the English-speaking world celebrated the 400th anniversary of the Authorized Version of the Bible, better known under its unofficial name as the King James Bible.18 It is probably the most famous English Bible, but nevertheless only one of the many different Bible editions that were made in less than a century. The diversity of English Bible editions, a result of the complicated Reformation history in Britain, allows for the tracing of the process and development from “Holy Scripture” to “Holy Bible.” The first complete English Bible, highly influenced by the developments on the Continent and printed either in Cologne or Marburg, was made by Miles Coverdale (1488–1568). It was published in 1535 under the title Biblia. The Bible, that is, the holy Scripture of the Olde and New Testament, faithfully and truly translated out of Douche and Latyn in to Englishe. The translation was based on German and Latin versions as well as on Tyndale’s New Testament translation.19 It contained a list of “The Bokes of the hole Byble,” divided into six parts (in the Bible itself these six parts each started with a new illustrated table of contents), namely the five books of Moses; the historical books from Joshua to Esther; the Hagiographa (Job–Canticles), the Prophets (with Lamentations and Baruch after Jeremiah); the Apocrypha, and the New Testament. The contents page for the Apocrypha explains: “The bokes and treatises which amonge the fathers of olde are not rekened to be of like authorite with the other bokes of the byble, nether are they founde in the Canon of the Hebrue.” This was followed by a list of the books to be reckoned apocryphal: “The thirde boke of Esdras. The fourth boke of Esdras. The boke of Tobias. The boke of Judith. Certayne chapters of Hester. The boke of Wyßdome. Ecclesiasticus. The Storye of Susanna. The Storye of Bell. The first boke of the Machabees. The seconde boke of the Machabees.” In a further note the editor explained why Baruch was not listed here: “Unto these also belongeth Baruc, whom we haue set amonge the prophetes . . . [one word unreadable] to Jeremy, because he was his scrybe, and in his tyme.” The order of Old Testament books in this edition stood clearly under the influence of Luther’s new arrangement of the biblical books but again exhibiting an amazing amount of freedom: Against the judgment of the German Reformer

made in Frankfurt 1569 and 1575 by the printer Sigmund Feyerabend, 3–4 Ezra were included, cf. WADB 12.291, n. 10. 18 For details, see online:, where a digitized copy of the 1611 edition can also be found. 19 For a more detailed description, see Herbert, Catalogue, 9–11; McGrath, Beginning, 89–91; Daniell, The Bible in English, 173–89.


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3–4 Ezra were kept and Baruch was placed alongside Jeremiah among the prophetic books.20 In 1537 a second version of a complete English Bible (The Byble, which is all the holy Scripture: In whych are contayned the Olde and New Testament truly and purely translated into Englysh), commonly known as “Matthew’s Bible,” was published (perhaps at Antwerp), “which welds together the best work of Tyndale and Coverdale” and which “is generally considered to be the real primary version of our English Bible.”21 A new preface was provided for the Apocrypha, and, as in Coverdale’s Bible, they were placed by themselves after the prophetic books under the title The volume of the bokes called Apocripha: Contayned in the comen Transl. in Latyn whych are not founde in the Hebrue nor in the Chalde. The section contained the same books as in Coverdale’s Bible and in addition, for the first time in English, a translation of the apocryphal Prayer of Manasseh, rendered from the French of PierreRobert Olivétan’s Bible of 1535. Another minor change was that Baruch became part of the Apocrypha and was no longer linked to Jeremiah. A revision of this version made by Richard Taverner appeared in 1539 under the title The Most Sacred Bible, Whiche is the holy scripture conteyning the old and new testament, translated into English, and newly recognised with great diligence after most faythful exemplars.22 This is the first time that Bible in the title is qualified with an adjective, here sacred. With regard to the Apocrypha, it followed Matthew’s Bible in content and order. No introduction to the specific character of these books was provided; the only indication of their different status was on the title page mentioning that they “are not founde in the Hebrue nor in the Chalde.” In the same year, 1539, not only due to the complicated history of the Reformation in England but also because of the complicated married life of King Henry VIII, a further edition of the English Bible, called the “Great Bible,” became necessary (The Byble in Englyshe, that is to saye the content of all the holy scrypture, bothe of ye olde and newe testament, truly translated after the the veryte of the Hebrue and Greke textes, by ye dylygent studye of dyuerse excellent learned men, expert in theforsayde tonges). Thomas Cromwell, the king’s vicegerent, decreed that it should be used in all churches and there be made available for all parishioners to read.23 The now established place and number of the apocryphal books remained the same, but the con20 Cf. also Bruce M. Metzger, The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 61; Daniell, The Bible in English, 186–8, who fails to mention the dependence of this order upon Luther’s Bible edition. 21 Herbert, Catalogue, 18. On “Matthew’s Bible,” cf. also McGrath, Beginning, 91–3; Daniell, The Bible in English, 190–7. 22 Herbert, Catalogue, 24; Daniell, The Bible in English, 219–20. 23 For the details and the historical background of this additional edition, see Herbert, Catalogue, 25–6; McGrath, Beginning, 93–8; Daniell, The Bible in English, 198–209.

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tents page listed them now as “The bookes of hagiographa,” as they were also called on the title page for the fourth part of the Old Testament The volume of the bokes called Hagiographa. A preface “To the Reader” informed of their lesser status by referring to Jerome’s attitude that they may be read for edifying purposes “but not to confyrme & strengthen the doctrine of the Churche.”24 Compared to the biblical texts proper they were “an uncerten ymagynacyon and phantasye” and for the “Christian fayth” one had to follow the “infallible verite” which was to be found only in those books which were surely “inspyred wyth the holy goost.” Notwithstanding this limiting qualification, the interest in Scripture-like Jewish writings and their positive reception did not come to a halt in these early years of the Reformation period. This can be seen by the excitement with which 3 Maccabees was presented in 1550 in a manual for the study “of the whole Bible,” which was originally compiled by the Zurich Reformers Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575), Leo Jud (1482–1542), and Conrad Pellicanus (1478–1556).25 The list “of the bokes of the olde testament” still followed the Vulgate (four books of Ezra after Chronicles, followed by Tobit and Judith; Wisdom and Sirach after Songs of Songs; and 1–2 Maccabees at the end), with the one exception that now 3 Maccabees is listed as well. The title page declared solemnly: “The third boke of the Machabees a booke of the Bible also prynted onto this boke which was neuer before Translated or prynted in any Englyshe Bible.” And the introduction to the translation says: 24 Interestingly, this preface comments on the name Hagiographa with an explanation that can only be taken to fit the meaning of Apocrypha: “. . . whych are called hagiographa (because they were wont to be reade, not openly and in comen, but as it were secret and aparte).” 25 A briefe and compendiouse table, in a maner of a concordaunce, openyng the waye to the principall histories of the whole Bible, and the moste co[m]mon Articles grounded and comprehended in the newe Testament and olde, in maner as amply as doeth the great concordau[n]ce of the Bible. Gathered and set furth by Henry Bullyuger, Leo Iude, Conrade Pellicane, and by the other ministers of the churche of Tygurie. And nowe first imprinted in Englyshe (London: Gwalter Lynne, 1550 [a second edition appeared in 1563]). The book contained a concordance of all proper names in the Bible, followed by a biblical chronology and a presentation of all Old Testament quotations within the New Testament. One of its authors, Conrad Pellicanus (or Konrad Pellikan), had written a commentary on all biblical books in seven volumes (Commentario Bibliorum [Zurich: Christoph Froschauer, 1532–39]), including in vol. 5 the Apocrypha (Tomus Quintus In quo continentur omnes libri veteris instrumenti qui sunt extra canonem Hebraicum, perperam Apocryphi, rectius autem Ecclesiastici appellati, puta Tobiae, Iudith, Baruch, Sapie[n]tiae, Ecclesiastici, libri singuli, Ezrae, duo, Machabaeorum duo, cum fragmentis Danielis & Esther, 1538). He also edited the first textbook for biblical Hebrew, cf. Beate Ego and Dorothea Betz, “Konrad Pellican und die Anfänge der wissenschaftlichen christlichen Hebraistik im Zeitalter von Humanismus und Reformation,” in Reinhold Mokrosch and Helmut Merkel, eds., Humanismus und Reformation: Historische, theologische und pädagogische Beiträge zu deren Wechselwirkung (Münster: Lit, 2001), 73–84.


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“The thyrde boke of the Machabees not founde in the hebrew canons but translated out of the Greke in to Latyn, and taken in the steede of one of the bookes of holy Scripture, worthy to be reade of all godly men, neuer before this set forth in the Engleshe tounge.”26 Again, an astonishingly wide and open understanding of Bible and Holy Scripture is discernible in these remarks: Although 3 Maccabees was recognized as not belonging to the Hebrew canon nor having been part of any printed English Bible so far, it was nevertheless regarded as Scripture-like and therefore recommended to be read. It was also quite obvious that the terms Bible and Scripture could be used more or less interchangeably. The only semantic difference seems to be that Bible denoted rather the book in its material form, whereas Scripture tended to be a signifier for the divine authority of its content, evident in the description of the third part which introduced the lists of Old Testament quotations in the New Testament: “All the testimonies of the olde Testament, Whiche Christe Jesus the truwe expositour of the Scripture, and his Apostles, and Euangelistes, by the inspiracion of the holy ghoost hauve repeted in the newe Testament.” A third major Protestant Bible edition, the so-called “Geneva version,” was produced in the early years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, which can be labelled as the first proper study Bible with cross-references and a clear, reader-friendly layout, as the title proudly pointed out: The Bible and Holy Scriptures conteyned in the Olde and Newe Testament. Translated according to the Ebrue and Greke, and conferred With the best translations in diuers langages. With moste profitable annotations vpon all the hard places, and other things of great importance as my appeare in the Epistle to the Reader. The Protestant principle that Scripture interprets itself (Scriptura sui ipsius interpres27) becomes now apparent in the graphical presentation of the biblical text, which sends the message, as McGrath suggests, “Scripture speaks within itself: the Word of God is one.”28 Although never officially approved, 26 This might not be correct. Herbert, Catalogue, 45, catalogues an edition of the “Taverner’s Bible” made in separate volumes, the fifth of which (published in 1549) is entitled The volume of the bokes called Apocripha, which contains as its last book 3 Maccabees. According to Herbert, “3 Maccabees appears here for the first time in English.” The translation is based on the German edition of Leo Jud and refers to it in the preface. 27 This maxim, first used by Luther in his defence against the papal threat to excommunicate him (Assertio omnium articulorum M. Lutheri per bullam Leonis X. novissimam damnatorum) is decisive for the Protestant tradition (see also Calvin, Institutio Christianae Religionis I.6–7); cf. Martin Ohst, “Schrift, Heilige IV. Kirchengeschichtlich,” TRE 30 (1999), 412–23 (418); Folker Siegert, “‘Expliquer l’Ecriture par elle-même:’ origine et vicissitudes d’une maxime ‘protestante,’” Etudes Théologique et Religieuses 71 (1996): 219– 44. 28 Daniell, The Bible in English, 296. See also ibid., 275–319; Herbert, Catalogue, 61–2; McGrath, Beginning, 99–129.

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it became “the most widely read Bible of the Elizabethan, and subsequently the Jacobean era.”29 But the ecclesial establishment was not happy with the influence of the “Geneva Bible” because of its downright “Calvinist” character. Under the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker (1504–1575), the bishops produced a revision of the “Great Bible” (The holie Bible conteyning the olde Testament and the newe, 1568, or from 1569 onwards only The holie Bible) as a rival edition which became known as the “Bishops’ Bible.” This was the first edition of an English Bible without the term Scripture in the title. In economic terms it was not a big success, although it was “ordered that copies of this edition should be placed in every cathedral, and as far as possible in every church.”30 Between 1583 and 1603, only seven editions were published whereas the “Geneva Bible” went through fifty-one editions in the same period.31 The latter became the favourite Bible for the Puritan movement within the English Church. The final stage was reached in 1611 with the “Authorized” version, or King James Bible, which followed the “Bishops’ Bible” by omitting the term Scripture from the title and cemented for the time to come the unfortunate combination of holy and Bible: The Holy Bible, Conteyning the Old Testament, and the New: Newly Translated out of the Originall tongues: & with the former Translations diligently compared and reuised, by his Maiesties speciall Cōmandement. Appointed to be read in Churches.32 It still contained the Apocrypha (under this title) in its usual place and order after the prophetic books, but without any introductory comment. Only Jesus Sirach had a short prologue “made by an vncertaine Authour.” But the now well-established Protestant layout did not go unrivalled: Shortly before the appearance of the King James Bible, a group of Catholic scholars based at Douai and Rheims in France produced a new translation of The Holie Bible . . . ovt of the avthentical Latin. Diligently conferred with the Hebrew, Greeke and other Editions in diuers languages (2 vols., Douai: Laurence Kellam, 1609–10).33 As with the “Bishops’ Bible,” Scripture was no longer part of the title, although in the introduction to the reader “(holie) Scriptures” (and once each “Gods word” and “Gods written word”) was used throughout. In a second introduction (“The Summe and Partition of the holie Bible”), the translators included “a brife note of the Canonical and Apocryphal Bookes,” to defend the Catholic viewpoint against the Protestants. The 29

McGrath, Beginning, 127. Herbert, Catalogue, 70. 31 McGrath, Beginning, 128–9. 32 Herbert, Catalogue, 130–3; McGrath, Beginning, 149–216; Daniell, The Bible in English, 427–60. 33 Herbert, Catalogue, 127–9. 30


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traditional Vulgate canon in its pre-Reformation order was repeated, and it was affirmed that “Al these Bookes are vndoubtedly Canonical,” whereas the “Apocrypha” are, following the meaning of Jerome,34 and in contrast to the new Protestant meaning, those books where it is “not so euident, whether they were Diuine scripture, because they were not in the lewes Canon, nor at first in the Churches Canon, but were neuer reiected, as false or erronious.” In this category falls the Prayer of Manasses and 3 Ezra and 3 Maccabees, and — with even “more doubt” — 4 Ezra and 4 Maccabees. Further “Annotations” were placed before Tobit (after Nehemiah) “concerning the bookes of Tobias, Iudith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Maccabees” (p. 989) to defend their character as “diuine Scripture” which was denied to them by “Protestantes and other Sectaries of this time.” The order of the biblical books followed the Vulgate, and after 2 Maccabees a further section was added containing the Prayer of Manasseh, and 2 (= 4)- 3 Ezra. They were “placed after the Canonical bookes, of the old Testament: because they are not receiued into the Canon of Diuine Scriptures by the Catholique Church.” 1.4 Scripture and Doctrine The overview given above demonstrates that the term Scripture was used for the generally accepted canonical books (although the list of which books these are differs between Catholics and Protestants from now on), but in a wider sense all books which were printed as part of a Bible could be brought under this title as well, even if a lesser degree of authority was attributed to some of the additional writings (the Apocrypha in the Protestant Bibles, in the Catholic tradition 3–4 Ezra, Prayer of Manasseh). It is also interesting to see that all but one edition of the sixteenth century felt the need to explain the term Bible on their title pages with Holy Scripture, as can be seen clearly from the examples given above. Only the last three versions, beginning with the “Bishops’ Bible,” gave up the term Scripture in the title completely and transferred the adjective ‘holy’ from Scripture to Bible. From now on Holy Bible became more and more common as a standalone designation. But it seems that it was exactly the development behind this shift from Holy Scripture to Holy Bible that marked the problem Protestants increasingly encountered with their basic principle of sola scriptura. If the true and inspired word of God can be found only in the universally accepted books of the Hebrew canon (there was no debate concerning the twenty-seven books of the New Testament), why then should a Bible contain the questionable ones as well? The problem gained momentum from the fact that the Catholic side argued 34

Cf. Hengel, Septuagint, 50 n. 80; 56 n. 96; 64, 70–4, for the complicated history of the term Apocrypha.

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for some disputed doctrines mainly by referring to books not in the Hebrew canon. Holy Scripture became suddenly a controversial dogmatic issue and by this lost its connection with the historical circumstances since the time of the early Church. Protestant theology took the notion of inspiration to extremes to safeguard their most basic principle (and consequently had to deny in the long term that the Apocrypha had any inspired quality) whereas the Catholic side exaggerated the authority of ‘the’ Church in the delimitation of the wider canon by ignoring the relatively limited scope of the decisions on the canon which were made by local authorities in the fourth century. In the heat of the argument against each other, both sides lost the ability to differentiate levels of authority within their respective canons. Now the content of their Holy Bible(s) was more or less identical with the inspired, infallible word of God, and consequently, starting with the Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures of the Council of Trent (1546), the delimitation of the books regarded as Holy Scripture became widespread. Trent included under the rubric “Old Testament” all the books of the Hebrew Bible and in addition Baruch, Tobit, Judith, Sapientia, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), 1–2 Maccabees. The decree further mentioned the “Latin Vulgate edition” as the standard Bible and anathematized all who “knowingly and deliberately repudiate the aforesaid traditions.”35 There is no space to describe the use of Scripture in the earliest doctrinal documents (‘creeds’) through to the Reformation period. But it is obvious from the oldest creedal formulation in the New Testament (1 Cor 15:3–5) that conformity of the churches’ teaching with Scripture was always seen as the most basic requirement. This is why most reform movements within Church history started with a claim to be more faithful than the existing Church to the true will of God as found in Scripture. As a result, reform movements often provoke conflicts about the content and appropriate interpretation of Scripture. Accordingly, the first Protestant creeds also refer regularly to the Holy Scriptures36 as the main authority for all faith- and Church-related matters, 35

For the text, see Dean P. Béchard, ed., The Scripture Documents: An Anthology of Official Catholic Teachings (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2002), 4 (this collection covers documents from Trent to 1993); Denzinger and Hünermann, Enchiridion, 463, no. 1504. 36 The term “Bible,” however, seems to be rarely used in any of the Reformation creeds. For one example, see The principal Articles concerning our Faith (also called the Ten Articles), which were the first creedal formulation of the emerging Anglican Church, authored by the then Archbishop of Canterbury designate, Thomas Cranmer, in 1536. The first article declares, “We will, that all bishops and preachers shall instruct and teach our people by us committed to their spiritual charge, that they ought and must most constantly believe and defend all those things to be true which be comprehended in the whole body and canon of the Bible; and also in the three creeds or symbols . . .” (text in: Thomas Fuller, The Church History of Britain: From the Birth of Jesus Christ until the Year 1648 [new edition


The Term and Concept of Scripture

but this was done initially without listing which books are regarded as such. The first major Protestant creed, the Augsburg confession from 1530, introduces itself as doctrine “derived from the Holy Scriptures and37 pure Word of God.” This equation gives the most widely accepted understanding of the term ‘Scripture’38 within the Christian tradition: It is regarded as “pure Word of God” and as such it is the basis of the life of the Church as well as of every individual Christian. Inevitably therefore, the Protestants had to decide what they regarded as this pure word of God and from the 1559 Confessio Gallicana onwards (The French Confession of Faith, prepared by Calvin) a list of the books of Holy Scripture became common usage for Reformed (not Lutheran) Protestant creeds.39 Already in 1581, a harmony of Protestant confessions was published in Latin (an English translation of it appeared for the first time in 1586), of which the opening section is entitled “Of Holy Scripture being the true word of God; and of the interpretation thereof.”40 To summarize a long discussion briefly: Whereas the Catholic Church condemned all, who did not recognize their book list “as sacred and canonical . . . in their by J. S. Brewer in 6 vols.; Oxford: University Press, 1845], 3.145 [originally published London, 1662]). 37 . . . doctrinam ex Scripturis Sanctis et puro verbo Dei . . . The “and” here needs to be understood as an epexegetical “and,” in the sense of “that is.” For the text, see Philip and David S. Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom vol. 3: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds (New York: Harper and Row, 6th ed. 1931 [many reprints]), 4, see also vol. 1: The History of Creeds, 216–17; Jan Rohls, Reformed Confessions: Theology from Zurich to Barmen (Columbia Series in Reformed Theology; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998), 29–45. 38 I am not aware that there is a difference in meaning between the singular “Scripture” and the plural “Scriptures.” Both are used interchangeably. The adjective “holy” is often attached, but not consistently. Scripture is often used as the subject of a statement and as the ruling noun of a verb as in the example “Scripture says.” Only context decides if “(Holy) Scripture” designates the Bible as a whole, a specific verse or pericope (often quoted or mentioned in the immediate context), or in a more general sense the message or word of God as it is believed to be contained in Scripture. 39 Text in Schaff, Creeds, 3.356–82: 360–1. The list, as all those which follow this example, includes the books of the Hebrew Canon and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament under the title: “These Holy Scriptures are comprised in the canonical books of the Old and New Testament.” It is also regularly followed by a statement about the Apocrypha: “We know these books to be canonical, and the sure rule of our faith, not so much by the common accord and consent of the Church, as by the testimony and inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, which enables us to distinguish them from other ecclesiastical books upon which, however useful, we can not found any articles of faith” (361–2). 40 Peter Hall, The Harmony of Protestant Confessions Exhibiting the Faith of the Churches of Christ, Reformed After the Pure and Holy Doctrine of the Gospel (London: T. C. Johns, 1842; repr. Edmonton, Alb.: Still Waters Revival Books, 1992), l, cf. 1–18. On the growth and development of the Harmony itself, see Rohls, Reformed Confessions, 9–10. A similar, but modern harmony can be found in Joel R. Beeke and Sinclair B. Ferguson, Reformed Confessions Harmonized (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999). For a synopsis of canon lists, see 10–15.

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entirety and with all their parts,”41 the Westminster Confession finally decreed in 1647, that the Apocrypha had no more authority than any other human writing.42 No wonder then that the place of the Apocrypha within Protestant Bibles has been disputed ever since. The first English Bible where they are deliberately omitted was a “Geneva Bible” from 1640.43 This form without the Apocrypha became even more widespread with the decision of the British and Foreign Bible Society founded in 1804 (followed by the American Bible Society in 1827) to omit them, allegedly to reduce costs,44 but it is without 41

Béchard, Scripture Documents, 4 (Council of Trent, 1546, see above). Art. 3: “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the Canon of the Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings (nullam aliam authoritatem . . . nec aliter quam alia humana scripta).” Text: Schaff, Creeds, 3.602. This final statement marks a significant downgrading from their earlier status as it is expressed e.g. in the 1561 Confessio Belgica (see below, note 47). It lists the apocryphal books in art. 6 (text ibid., 387) (starting with 3–4 Ezra followed by the usual ones from Tobit to 2 Maccabees). Although they are to be distinguished from the books of the Holy Scripture (see art. 4– 5), all of them “the Church may read and take instruction from, so far as they agree with the canonical books.” So even if their testimony alone cannot “confirm any point of faith,” and they are not able “to detract from the authority of the other sacred books,” they can be used as supporting evidence and they retain a certain dignity of their own. For Calvin’s actual use of references from the Apocrypha, see Neuser, “Die Reformierten und die Apokryphen,” 87–98. 43 Herbert, Catalogue, 180–1, cf. ibid., xiv: “The rise of Puritanism is reflected in the practice of omitting to bind up the Apocrypha with many early seventeenth-century copies.” He also mentions an ordinance as early as 1615 of the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot (1562–1633, Archbishop from 1611), who was actively involved in the translation of the King James Version, which forbade “any stationer to issue a Bible without the Apocrypha, under penalty of a year’s imprisonment” (ibid.). According to Owen Chadwick, “Die Bedeutung der deuterokanonischen Schriften in der anglikanischen Tradition,” in Die Apokryphenfrage im ökumenischen Horizont (ed. Siegfried Meurer; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1989), 104–16 (107), the first of such Bibles without Apocrypha appeared in 1595 and 1599: they mentioned the Apocrypha on their title page but did not actually print them; in 1619 and 1629 King James Bibles were produced without the Apocrypha (ibid., 108, cf. Herbert, Catalogue, 148–9, 159), but it is not clear if this was intentional or a misprint or misbinding. The Puritan revolution accelerated the aversion further (ibid., 108–10), and attempts were then made to forbid the printing of the Apocrypha between the Old and New Testaments. For a similar development with regard to the Luther Bible and within Orthodox Protestantism, see Fricke, “Apokryphenteil,” 60–70. The famous Dutch Bible of 1637 (Biblia, dat is de gantfche H. Schrifture, vervattende alle de Canonijcke Boecken des Ouden en des Nieuwen Testaments, printed in Leiden), whose preparation had been ordered by the Reformed Synod of Dort (or Dordrecht) in 1618, placed the Apocrypha after the New Testament and printed them in smaller letters. They were regarded neither as canonical nor as inspired and therefore unfit for public reading in the Church, cf. Neuser, “Die Reformierten und die Apokryphen,” 99–100. 44 Cf. Daniell, The Bible in English, 187. The main object of the Bible Society “was to multiply and cheapen copies of the Scriptures in the United Kingdom” (Herbert, Catalogue, 42


The Term and Concept of Scripture

doubt that doctrinal reasons played their part as well. The transition from Holy Scripture to Holy Bible was the beginning of this development, and the question is how deeply this affected the understanding and use of Scripture in the Protestant churches. It seems that along with this terminological shift was one from faith in the message contained in Scripture (the word of God) to faith in the content of the Bible-book, and this led to two intertwined developments: On the one hand an attitude that is sometimes called ‘bibliolatry’ in mostly conservative corners of Protestantism with an accompanying fundamentalist approach to the Bible, and on the other hand the feeling of a constant crisis with regard to the ‘Schriftprinzip.’45 This crisis results from Protestantism’s dependence on Scripture as word of God, which is challenged by the appearance on the scene of the historical-critical interpretation of the Bible. It has weakened the Protestant position to such an extent that the principle of sola scriptura is nowadays seen as a dilemma rather than as an asset.46 It is the broken cord between the biblical text and its character as word of God that causes its character as Scripture to pale into insignificance.

2. From Holy Scripture to the Word of God The twofold designation, (Holy) Scripture(s) and Word of God (and not Holy Bible), which is regularly attested in confessional statements and liturgical formulae until today reveals that the oral communication process (revelation) 326). But against Daniell’s claim, the Bible Society never completely abandoned its printing of Bibles including the Apocrypha. In fact, in the first years of its existence the majority of their Bibles included them (see Herbert, Catalogue, 327ff. for details), see also Chadwick, “Bedeutung,” 110–11. 45 Part of the work of James Barr revolves around this problem, cf. his The Bible in the Modern World (London: SCM, 1973); idem, Fundamentalism (London: SCM, 1977); idem, The Scope and Authority of the Bible (Explorations in Theology 7; London: SCM, 1980; repr. 2002 with a preface by John Barton); idem, Holy Scripture: Canon, Authority, Criticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983). For some more recent comments, see Jörg Frey, “Qumran und der biblische Kanon. Eine thematische Einführung,” in Qumran und der biblische Kanon (ed. Michael Becker and Jörg Frey; BThSt 92; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2009), 1–63 (9–12). 46 Cf. the interesting debate between the Protestant exegete Ulrich Luz and his Catholic colleague Marius Reiser: Ulrich Luz, “Kann die Bibel heute noch Grundlage für die Kirche sein? Über die Aufgabe der Exegese in einer religiös-pluralistischen Gesellschaft,” NTS 44 (1998), 317–39; Marius Reiser, “Bibel und Kirche: Eine Antwort an Ulrich Luz,” TTZ 108 (1999), 62–81 (= Reiser, Bibelkritik und Auslegung der Heiligen Schrift, WUNT 217, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007, 39–61, cf. also 209–14); Ulrich Luz, “Wirkungsgeschichtliche Hermeneutik und kirchliche Auslegung der Schrift,” in Die prägende Kraft der Texte: Hermeneutik und Wirkungsgeschichte des Neuen Testaments (ed. Moisés Mayordomo; SBS 199; Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 2005), 15–37.

The Term and Concept of Scripture


between the human messenger and the divine interlocutor was never lost from sight despite the strong emphasis on the written side of the Word of God. This can be seen inter alia from the already mentioned Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures of the Council of Trent (1546): The holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Spirit and with the same three legates of the Apostolic See presiding, keeps ever in view this purpose: that in the Church errors be removed and the purity of the Gospel be preserved. It was this gospel, promised of old by the prophets in the Sacred Scriptures, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first proclaimed with his own lips and then commissioned his apostles to preach to all creatures (cf. Matt 28:19–20; Mark 16:15) as the source of all saving truth and rule of conduct.47

The gospel was “promised” by the prophets, “proclaimed” by Jesus, and “preached” by his apostles. The condensation or deposit of this oral proclamation is now to be found in sacred Scriptures and, according to the Catholic understanding, tradition: The Council also clearly perceives that this truth and rule are contained in the written books and unwritten traditions that have come down from us, having been received by the apostles from the mouth of Christ himself or related by the apostles themselves under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and passed down, as it were, from hand to hand (cf. 2 Thess 2:15). Following, then, the examples of the orthodox Fathers, it accepts and venerates with an equal measure of piety and reverence all the books of the Old and New Testaments, since the one God is author of both, together with the traditions concerning both faith and morals, as coming from either Christ’s spoken words or from the Holy Spirit and preserved in the Catholic Church in unbroken continuity.48 47

Béchard, Scripture Documents, 3. Ibid. This follows the list of the books and the already quoted anathema (note 34). The topic of Scripture and tradition is a further important element in the Catholic–Protestant debate about the function of Scripture within the Christian tradition, but this cannot be discussed here fully. The main issue is whether Scripture is the one single authority for doctrine and life (sola scriptura) or needs to be combined with other authoritative elements (tradition). The latter position is defended with the argument that the canon of Scriptures is a product of the Church’s authoritative tradition, which itself is the result of the authority that was entrusted to the church by Jesus via his apostles and their successors. According to the Protestant tradition, the Church is the result of the word of God (ecclesia est creatura verbi divini), cf. John Webster, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 44: “The natural correlate of Scripture is not church but revelation. Scripture is not the word of the church; the church is the church of the Word.” A Catholic position sees Scripture as entrusted to the Church by God and through the mission of the Church proclaimed to the world. A Protestant position would rather argue that the Church relies on God’s on-going use of his own word in Scripture so that the Church is sustained by God’s on-going commitment to his word. Cf. — as an authoritative voice of the Catholic Church — Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), God’s Word: Scripture — Tradition — Office (ed. Peter Hünermann and Thomas Söding; San Francisco: Ignatius, 2008), esp. 41– 89, where he defends the decision of Trent against the Protestant position: “Trent continued 48


The Term and Concept of Scripture

A good summary of the meaning and concept of Scripture for the Reformation movement can be found in the first articles of the Confessio Belgica, which stands in the Reformed tradition.49 It starts with a confession of the one God (art. 1) and asks next (art. 2) “by what means God is made known unto us”? The answer points to a twofold form of revelation, namely the “most elegant book” of creation (= natural revelation, later developed in the concept of a book of nature and a book of history) and his “holy and divine word” (= special revelation). This word is accessible in the “written word of God,” which itself is believed to be the result of God’s initiative, revelation, and inspiration (art. 3): We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the will of man, but that holy men spake from God as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, as the apostle Peter saith. And that afterwards God, from a special care which he has for us and our salvation, commanded his servants, the Prophets and Apostles, to commit his revealed Word to writing; and he himself wrote with his own finger the two tables of the law. Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures.50

to hold that the word [of God, i.e. Scripture, R.D.] is not an independent reality floating above the Church, but rather is something the Lord passed on to the Church and so is not at the mercy of any vague arbitrariness” (45). For further discussions, see Gunther Wenz, “Das Schriftprinzip im gegenwärtigen ökumenischen Dialog zwischen den Reformationskirchen und der römisch-katholischen Kirche: Eine Problemskizze,” in Sola Scriptura: Das reformatorische Schriftprinzip in der säkularen Welt (ed. Hans Heinrich Schmid and Joachim Mehlhausen; Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1991), 304–16; Wolfhart Pannenberg and Theodor Schneider, eds., Verbindliches Zeugnis I. Kanon — Schrift — Tradition (Dialog der Kirchen 7; Freiburg: Herder, 1992); Benedict Thomas Viviano, “The Normativity of Scripture and Tradition in Recent Catholic Theology,” in Scripture’s Doctrine and Theology’s Bible (ed. Markus Bockmuehl and Alan J. Torrance; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic), 125–40. 49 Text in Schaff, Creeds, 3.383–436; for parallel traditions, see Beeke and Ferguson, Reformed Confessions, 8–11. The Belgic Confession was originally composed in 1561 by Guido de Bres for the churches in Flanders and the Netherlands. It was adopted by a Reformed Synod at Emden, in 1571. During the Synod of Dort (Dordrecht) in 1618–19, several editions of the Confession in differing languages (French, Dutch, and Latin) were carefully examined and an official, revised edition was produced. The text in Schaff is the revised edition of 1619, cf. also Nicolaas H. Gootjes, The Belgic Confession: Its History and Sources (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007). 50 Schaff, Creeds, 3.384–5. Art. 4 then lists the canonical books, and their dignity and authority is addressed in art. 5; art. 6 names the Apocrypha and describes their lesser dignity (see above, note 41), and art. 7 finally confesses “the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures:” Because everything necessary for salvation “is sufficiently taught therein,” other writings, customs, councils, degrees etc. “though ever so holy” cannot add anything to it (with reference to Deut 12:32; Prov 30:6; John 4:25; Rev 22:18). For similar statements by Luther, cf. Ohst, “Schrift,” 418–19; David W. Lotz, “Sola Scriptura: Luther on Biblical Authority,” Interpretation 35 (1981), 258–73; Armin Buchholz, Schrift Gottes im Lehrstreit: Luthers Schriftverständnis und Schriftauslegung in seinen drei grossen Lehrstreitigkeiten der Jahre 1521–1528 (Europäische Hochschulschriften XXIII.487; Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1993).

The Term and Concept of Scripture


At the beginning of Scripture stands a God who speaks and writes. This is why Scripture and Word of God are so closely linked in the language of the churches. In the next section it will be shown that this understanding of Scripture takes up that of Jewish authors like Philo and Josephus, but also of the New Testament. This necessarily short and incomplete digression into Church and doctrinal history demonstrates that the concept of Holy Scriptures as authoritative and normative is — as part of the common Jewish heritage of all the churches — an undisputed given within the Christian world. Ecclesial developments and doctrinal conflicts are based on the interpretation of these Scriptures. In short, Scripture is a foundational category of the Church from its beginnings in the first century and throughout its history to the present day. The development between the second and the fourth century as well as the development in the Reformation period illustrates further, that clarifications and lists of books regarded as Scripture first became necessary in a time of conflict between rival claims within the same tradition. It has been the transitional periods or paradigm shifts that result in debates about the legitimate foundation of a tradition. In the case of Judaism and Christianity, this includes the question about those texts that are regarded as the true word of God, which implies the quest for a canon (in the original sense of a rule of faith, rather than a list of books).51 This is due to the simple fact that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures are a multifaceted collection of very different literary genres, whose individual books expose a differentiated claim to be based on divine revelation. ‘Canon debates,’ used in a wider sense to describe the discussion about which authority should be attributed to a specific document within a faith community, are therefore not the exception but rather the rule for times of changes. Even an allegedly closed canon does not prevent further canon discussions, and what was once regarded as Scripture need not be held as such invariably forever.52 For the Christian tradition, it might be possible to name the second century as the formative period for what becomes Christian orthodoxy against other movements, like the Gnostics, that traced their origins back to Jesus. Most of the books that to this day form the canon of the New Testament were used, together with the Jewish Scriptures, as uniquely authoritative within orthodox circles against the new revelatory literature that was brought forward by the 51 Frey, “Qumran und der biblische Kanon,” 22–4; Le