The Vermes Quest: The Significance of Geza Vermes for Jesus Research 9780567675743, 9780567675767, 9780567675750

Geza Vermes is a household name within the study of the historical Jesus, and his work is associated with a significant

150 45 3MB

English Pages [257] Year 2017

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

The Vermes Quest: The Significance of Geza Vermes for Jesus Research
 9780567675743, 9780567675767, 9780567675750

Table of contents :
Cover
Contents
Acknowledgements
List of Abbreviations
Part I Introduction
Chapter 1 The Significance of Geza Vermes for Jesus Research
The Purpose of the Study
The Problem
Main Questions, Material, and Method
Historiographical Considerations and Terminology
Previous Assessments of Vermes’s Jesus Research
Outline
Chapter 2 Vermes and Jesus Research
Biographical Notes on Vermes
Vermes and Jesus Research
Vermes’s Works on Jesus
Early Essays
First Trilogy: The Jewish Jesus
Second Trilogy: Nativity, Passion, Resurrection
Follow-ups
Anthologies
Vermes’s Works as Material for This Study
Chapter 3 The History of Jesus Research: Mapping the Quest(s)
The Three-Quest Scheme
Limitations of the Three-Quest Scheme
Alternative Mappings of Jesus Research
The Third Quest
Part II The Significance of Vermes's Jewish Jesus for Jesus Research
Chapter 4 Vermes’s Jewish Jesus (1973)
Method and the Jewish Jesus in Jesus the Jew
A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels – Jesus the Jew as Jesus Research?
Authenticity of Gospel Narratives in Jesus the Jew
The Historical Jesus of Jesus the Jew
Vermes’s Judaism in Jesus the Jew
Charismatic Judaism
Galilee and Galilean Judaism
Conclusion
Chapter 5 The Significance of Jesus the Jew: the 1970s and 1980s
Reviews of Jesus the Jew from the 1970s
Book Reviews as Sources
A Varied First Reception
Jesus the Jew in Histories of the Third Quest from the 1980s
Conclusion
Chapter 6 The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes
Anti-Semitic Tendencies in Jesus Research
De-Judaizing Methodology: The Dissimilar Jesus
Jewish Scholars and the Jewish Jesus
Christian Scholars and the Jewish Jesus
German Mission to the Jews and Institutum Judaicum
Franz Delitzsch and One Day in Capernaum
Hermann L. Strack and D. Paul Billerbeck’s Commentary
Gustav Dalman and Die Worte Jesu
Summary
Additional Reflections on the Jewishness of Jesus within Jesus Research
Chapter 7 The Significance of Vermes’s Work on the Son of Man
Vermes on the Son of Man in the 1960s and 1970s
The First Reception of Vermes’s Work
Vermes’s Significance for the Son of Man Debate
Vermes’s Significance Displayed in Accounts of the Son of Man Debate
Vermes’s Impact on Barnabas Lindars’s Work on the Son of Man
Vermes’s Impact on Maurice Casey’s Work on the Son of Man
Concluding Reflections on the Significance of Vermes’s Work on the Son of Man
Chapter 8 Final Considerations on the Jewishness of Jesus within Jesus Research
Part III The Significance of Vermes's Hasid Theory
Chapter 9 Vermes’s Hasid Theory and Its Precursors
The Hasid Theory before Vermes
The Hasid Theory in Jesus the Jew
The Hasidim
The Setting: Galilee
The Hasidim as Miracle Workers
God as Father, Hasid as Son
Summary and Reflections on Vermes’s Methodology
Chapter 10 The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973
The Debate on Vermes’s Hasid Theory
Approaches to Vermes’s Terminology and Categorization
Challenges to Vermes’s Categorization
Endorsements of Vermes’s Terminology
Vermes’s Work on the Hasid Category in the 1980s and 1990s
The History Approach to the Hasid Theory
Developments in Vermes’s View on the Hasid Theory
The Literary Approach to the Hasid Theory
Development in Vermes’s View on Parallels to the New Testament
The Significance of the Hasid Theory for Jesus Research
Chapter 11 Hanina Ben Dosa Heals from a Distance: A Case of Christian Influences upon Talmudic Judaism?
The Problem
Healing from a Distance
The Jesus Tradition
The Hanina Tradition
Date and Chronology of Traditions
The Possibility of Influence between Traditions
Examples of Rabbinic Appropriations
Concluding Reflections
Part IV Conclusions and Outlook
Chapter 12 Conclusion
Chapter 13 Outlook
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

THE VERMES QUEST

LIBRARY OF NEW TESTAMENT STUDIES

576 Formerly the Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series

Editor Chris Keith

Editorial Board Dale C. Allison, John M.G. Barclay, Lynn H. Cohick, R. Alan Culpepper, Craig A. Evans, Robert Fowler, Simon J. Gathercole, John S. Kloppenborg, Michael Labahn, Love L. Sechrest, Robert Wall, Steve Walton, Catrin H. Williams

THE VERMES QUEST

The Significance of Geza Vermes for Jesus Research

Hilde Brekke Moller

Bloomsbury T&T Clark An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

LON DON • OX F O R D • N E W YO R K • N E W D E L H I • SY DN EY

Bloomsbury T&T Clark An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc Imprint previously known as T&T Clark 50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP UK

1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA

www.bloomsbury.com BLOOMSBURY, T&T CLARK and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2017 © Hilde Brekke Moller, 2017 Hilde Brekke Moller has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN:

HB: 978-0-5676-7574-3 ePDF: 978-0-5676-7575-0

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. Series: Library of New Testament Studies, 1234567X, volume 576 Typeset by Integra Software Services Pvt. Ltd.

CONTENTS Acknowledgementsxi List of Abbreviations xii Part I INTRODUCTION Chapter 1 The Significance of Geza Vermes for Jesus Research 3 The Purpose of the Study 3 The Problem 4 Main Questions, Material, and Method 7 Historiographical Considerations and Terminology 9 Previous Assessments of Vermes’s Jesus Research 10 Outline14 Chapter 2 Vermes and Jesus Research 17 Biographical Notes on Vermes 17 Vermes and Jesus Research 20 Vermes’s Works on Jesus 22 Early Essays 22 First Trilogy: The Jewish Jesus 23 Second Trilogy: Nativity, Passion, Resurrection 25 Follow-ups27 Anthologies28 Vermes’s Works as Material for This Study 30 Chapter 3 The History of Jesus Research: Mapping the Quest(s) The Three-Quest Scheme Limitations of the Three-Quest Scheme Alternative Mappings of Jesus Research The Third Quest

31 31 32 35 37

viii

Contents

Part II THE SIGNIFICANCE OF VERMES’S JEWISH JESUS FOR JESUS RESEARCH Chapter 4 Vermes’s Jewish Jesus (1973) 43 Method and the Jewish Jesus in Jesus the Jew43 A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels – Jesus the Jew as Jesus Research? 43 Authenticity of Gospel Narratives in Jesus the Jew 45 The Historical Jesus of Jesus the Jew47 Vermes’s Judaism in Jesus the Jew51 Charismatic Judaism 52 Galilee and Galilean Judaism 55 Conclusion57 Chapter 559 The Significance of Jesus the Jew: the 1970s and 1980s 59 Reviews of Jesus the Jew from the 1970s 60 Book Reviews as Sources 61 A Varied First Reception 62 Jesus the Jew in Histories of the Third Quest from the 1980s 69 Conclusion72 Chapter 675 The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes 75 Anti-Semitic Tendencies in Jesus Research 78 De-Judaizing Methodology: The Dissimilar Jesus 81 Jewish Scholars and the Jewish Jesus 85 Christian Scholars and the Jewish Jesus 89 German Mission to the Jews and Institutum Judaicum 91 Franz Delitzsch and One Day in Capernaum 93 Hermann L. Strack and D. Paul Billerbeck’s Commentary 97 Gustav Dalman and Die Worte Jesu 101 Summary 104 Additional Reflections on the Jewishness of Jesus within Jesus Research 105 Chapter 7109 The Significance of Vermes’s Work on the Son of Man 109 Vermes on the Son of Man in the 1960s and 1970s 110 The First Reception of Vermes’s Work 114 Vermes’s Significance for the Son of Man Debate 115 Vermes’s Significance Displayed in Accounts of the Son of Man Debate 115

Contents

Vermes’s Impact on Barnabas Lindars’s Work on the Son of Man Vermes’s Impact on Maurice Casey’s Work on the Son of Man Concluding Reflections on the Significance of Vermes’s Work on the Son of Man

ix

116 117 120

Chapter 8123 Final Considerations on the Jewishness of Jesus within Jesus Research 123 Part III THE SIGNIFICANCE OF VERMES’S HASID THEORY Chapter 9133 Vermes’s Hasid Theory and Its Precursors 133 The Hasid Theory before Vermes 134 The Hasid Theory in Jesus the Jew136 The Hasidim 137 The Setting: Galilee 139 The Hasidim  as Miracle Workers 140 God as Father, Hasid as Son 144 Summary and Reflections on Vermes’s Methodology 148 Chapter 10153 The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973 153 The Debate on Vermes’s Hasid Theory 154 Approaches to Vermes’s Terminology and Categorization 159 Challenges to Vermes’s Categorization 159 Endorsements of Vermes’s Terminology 163 Vermes’s Work on the Hasid Category in the 1980s and 1990s 165 The History Approach to the Hasid Theory 167 Developments in Vermes’s View on the Hasid Theory 176 The Literary Approach to the Hasid Theory 181 Development in Vermes’s View on Parallels to the New Testament 190 The Significance of the Hasid Theory for Jesus Research 191 Chapter 11193 Hanina Ben Dosa Heals from a Distance: A Case of Christian Influences upon Talmudic Judaism? 193 The Problem 193 Healing from a Distance 195 The Jesus Tradition 195 The Hanina Tradition 197 Date and Chronology of Traditions 201

x

Contents

The Possibility of Influence between Traditions Examples of Rabbinic Appropriations Concluding Reflections

205 210 213

Part IV CONCLUSIONS AND OUTLOOK Chapter 12219 Conclusion 219 Chapter 13221 Outlook 221 Bibliography225 Index240

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Because of my interest for research history, I have enjoyed reading many pages of acknowledgements these last years. Such texts may be helpful tools when one wishes to place a book within a wider context, as they allow the scholar to present his or her formal position as well as personal interests, friendships, international connections, and so on. Still, I feel tempted to write quite a short one myself. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do my research in such a friendly and wellorganized place as the MF Norwegian School of Theology. I want to say many thanks to my supervisor, prof. Reidar Hvalvik, for introducing me to the works of Geza Vermes, for patiently commenting on my manuscript, and for laughing with me when I needed just that. Thanks to all of my New Testament colleagues at MF, and also to other colleagues in Norway and Sweden for valuable inputs. Especially, I want to thank Nils Aksel Røsæg, Torleif Elgvin, and Morten K. Beckmann for helpful comments and encouragement at the final stages of the writing process. Thanks to Fredrik Brekke Moller for reminding me to watch TV, and for reading through the entire manuscript (I’m sure he takes full responsibility for any error at this point). I’m grateful for the opportunity to publish this book in the LNTS series at Bloomsbury, and want to say a big thank you to Miriam Cantwell for those friendly emails along the way. Many others could have been named here; those of you who have contributed with smiles, discussions, support, coffee breaks, phone calls, visits, encouragement, and patience. So, dear reader, if you feel that you yourself should have had a place in these acknowledgements, I’m sure you are right. Thank you! Thank you very much. I could not have done this alone.

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ABRL

Anchor Bible Reference Library

ADPV

Abhandlungen des Deutschen Palastina-Vereins

AfO

Archiv für Orientforschung

AGJU

Arbeiten zur Geschichte des Antiken Judentums und des Urchristentums

Bib

Biblica

BibInt Biblical Interpretation BJRL Bulletin of the John Rydlands University Library of Manchester BJS

Brown Judaic Studies

BSOAS

Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

BTB Biblical Theology Bulletin BZNW

Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche

ExpTim

The Expository Times

FRLANT

Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und neuen Testaments

HTR

Harvard Theological Review

Int Interpretation JBL Journal of Biblical Literature JJS Journal of Jewish Studies JQR Jewish Quarterly Review JR Journal of Religion JSNT Journal for the Study of the New Testament JSPSup Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha Supplement JSS Journal of Semitic Studies JTS Journal of Theological Studies LNTS

Library of New Testament Studies

NDST

Notre Dame Studies in Theology

NETS

New English Translation of the Septuagint

NRSV New Revised Standard Version NTS New Testament Studies NTTS

New Testament Tools and Studies

ONTS

The Old and New Testament Student

OTS The Old Testament Student

List of Abbreviations

xiii

PIBA Proceedings of the Irish Biblical Association PSB Princeton Seminary Bulletin RelSRev Religious Studies Review RSV Revised Standard Version SBEC

Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity

SBET

Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology

SBLSP

Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers

SCJ

Studies in Christianity and Judaism

SCS

Septuagint and Cognate Studies

SFSHJ 

Studies in the History of Judaism

SIJB

Schriften des Institutum Judaicum in Berlin

SJ

Studia judaica

SJLA

Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity

SNTSMS

Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series

StPB

Studia post-biblica

Theol

Theology

TRE

Theologische Realenzyklopädie

TSAJ

Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum/ Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism

WUNT

Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament

ZLTK

Zeitschrift für die gesamte Lutherische Theologie und Kirche

ZNW

Z  eitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenshaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche

Part I INTRODUCTION

Chapter 1 T H E SIG N I F IC A N C E O F G E Z A V E R M E S F O R J E SU S R E SE A R C H The Purpose of the Study Attention to the history of the so-called quest for the historical Jesus is a salient feature of Jesus research.1 Jesus scholars often introduce their contributions with such historical accounts, which normally follow a fixed structure of chronological periodization.2 Arguably, such accounts of research history both reflect and have a bearing on the self-perception of contemporary scholars and are themselves an important field of inquiry. This study is motivated by the need to discuss the ways in which Jesus scholars represent research history and to see it in relation to the different manners in which Jesus research has been carried out. 1. By ‘Jesus research’, I mean all scholarly attempts at depicting the historical figure of Jesus and use the term synonymously with the quest. I do not follow J. H. Charlesworth here, who reserves the term for what most other scholars call the ‘third quest’. See for instance, James H. Charlesworth, ‘From Barren Mazes to Gentle Wrappings: The Emergence of Jesus Research’, PSB 7 (1986): 221–230; James H. Charlesworth, ‘The Foreground of Christian Origins and the Commencement of Jesus Research’, in Jesus’ Jewishness: Exploring the Place of Jesus within Early Judaism (ed. James H. Charlesworth; New York: Crossroad, 1991), 63–83. 2. Representations of the history of Jesus research have been published on a large scale in recent decades. See for instance, John P. Meier, Mentor, Message, and Miracles (vol. 2 of A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus; New York: Doubleday, 1994), 1, 2; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 16–124; Ben Witherington, The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1997), 9–13; Amy-Jill Levine, ‘Introduction’, in The Historical Jesus in Context (eds. Amy-Jill Levine, Dale C. Allison, and John Dominic Crossan; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 3–14; James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy, ‘The Quest for the Historical Jesus: An Introduction’, in The Historical Jesus: Five Views (eds. Paul Rhodes Eddy and James K. Beilby; Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 9–54, 10–30; James H. Charlesworth, ‘Introduction: The Second Princeton-Prague Symposium: Jesus Research and Methodologies’, in Jesus Research. New Methodologies and Perceptions. The Second Princeton-Prague Symposium (ed. James H. Charlesworth; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), 1–13, 3–8.

4

The Vermes Quest

Geza Vermes (1924–2013) took part in Jesus research during the so-called third quest for the historical Jesus.3 After many years of the professed third quest, it is time to look back and consider what it has brought. By discussing the significance of Geza Vermes’s contribution to Jesus research, this study challenges the ways that research history has been written and contributes to our knowledge and understanding of Jesus research from the last decades.

The Problem The question of Vermes’s significance is a good entry point into recent debates within Jesus research. In the 1970s, when Vermes entered the field of Jesus research, his focus on the Jewish Jesus was associated with Jewish scholarship in particular. Over the past decades, attention to the Jewishness of Jesus has been commonplace in Jesus research, and Jesus scholars have frequently discussed how to describe first-century Judaism (or Judaisms in plural).4 Many see Vermes’s first book on Jesus as an important element for the emergence of what has been called the third quest. According to James Crossley, attention to the Jewishness of Jesus is ‘arguably the most dominant rhetorical move in contemporary historical Jesus scholarship’.5 In Crossley’s conception, Vermes had a prominent role in this move. Crossley writes: ‘in 1973, Geza Vermes’ groundbreaking book, Jesus the Jew, would pave the way for a series of historical Jesus studies that would, with their own particular emphases, make claims about just how Jewish he was’.6 In his obituary of Vermes, Crossley passes a similar judgement on Vermes’s position in and significance for Jesus research: ‘there is a strong case for Vermes being the most influential historical Jesus scholar of his generation … Others wrote bigger books but none of them changed the rhetoric of the debate as Vermes’ Jesus the Jew did’.7 3. Fuller discussions on the term ‘the third quest’ follow later. In short, I use the term to refer to the various and diverging ways the concept employed in scholarly rhetoric on the quest. 4. James Crossley points out how this trend can be seen in titles of fairly recent books on Jesus, including: John P. Meier: A Marginal Jew, Amy-Jill Levine: The Misunderstood Jew; Ben Witherington: The Jesus Quest; John W. Pryor: The Enigmatic Jew. See James Crossley, ‘The Problems with “Jewishness” in Historical Jesus Scholarship: An Overview of Critiques’, n.p. [accessed 28  April  2014]. Online: http://sheffieldbiblicalstudies. wordpress.com/2011/10/05/the-problems-with-%E2%80%98jewishness%E2%80%99-inhistorical-jesus-scholarship-an-overview-of-critiques/; James Crossley, ‘A “Very Jewish” Jesus: Perpetuating the Myth of Superiority’, JSHJ 11 (2013): 111, 112. 5. Crossley, ‘“Very Jewish” Jesus’, 109–129, 109 (abstract). In Crossley’s view, the move has been ‘rhetorical’, and does not represent a genuine change within Jesus research. 6. Crossley, ‘“Very Jewish” Jesus’, 111. 7. James Crossley, ‘Geza Vermes as New Testament Scholar’, n.p. [accessed 10 May 2013]. Online: http://sheffieldbiblicalstudies.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/741/. Moreover, Crossley

The Significance of Geza Vermes for Jesus Research

5

Crossley is hardly alone in noting Vermes’s important impact for changing scholarship. Craig A. Evans writes: ‘perhaps the most influential Jewish scholar to turn his attention to the historical Jesus has been Geza Vermes (1924–). Vermes’s trilogy of works, beginning in 1973 with Jesus the Jew, has influenced a generation of scholars and has placed Jesus in a Jewish setting once and for all’.8 Anthony Le Donne notes further: ‘Vermes was far from the first with this program, but it was his voice that set the tone for this generation’.9 For James Dunn, Vermes has ‘been in effect John the Baptist of the third quest’,10 while Gerd Theissen and Dagmar Winter state that Vermes ‘belongs to the more notable forerunners of the Third Quest’.11 Vermes’s role in shaping scholarly attention towards the notably Jewish Jesus is widely acknowledged. A detailed examination of the statements above, however, makes clear that while some agree with Crossley, who regards Vermes’s work to be of great significance, others are more measured in their appraisals. Dunn, for example, does not build on his John the Baptist allusion in any detail. He describes Vermes’s influence as ‘subtle and significant’, and refers to other important factors that led to the third quest.12 Theissen and Winter do call Vermes a ‘forerunner’, but they do not propose that Vermes actually made an impact on other scholars. Instead, they point to the title and subtitle of Vermes’s book (Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels) and note that it ‘basically includes all the main characteristics of the Third Quest’. They explain that the book’s approach to the Jewish Jesus and to Jesus research as ‘an academic historical enterprise’ rather than a theological one is consistent with two salient features of third quest scholarship.13 Theissen and Winter describe Vermes’s approach in Jesus the Jew as corresponding to the suggests that Vermes’s Jesus the Jew ‘paved the way for the positive reception of E. P. Sanders’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism’, see James G. Crossley, Harnessing Chaos: The Bible in English Political Discourse since 1968 (LNTS 506; London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 149. 8. Craig A. Evans, ‘Assessing Progress in the Third Quest of the Historical Jesus’, JSHJ 4 (2006): 35–54, 38, 39. 9. Anthony Le Donne, ‘Introduction: Allowing Historical Study to Serve Interfaith Dialogue’, in Soundings in the Religion of Jesus: Perspectives and Methods in Jewish and Christian Scholarship (eds. Bruce Chilton, Anthony Le Donne, and Jacob Neusner; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), 1–10, 1. 10. James Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 88. 11. Theissen and Winter evidently do not see Vermes merely as a forerunner, mentioning Jesus and the World of Judaism from 1983 as an important contribution within the quest; cf. Gerd Theissen and Dagmar Winter, The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria (trans. M. Eugene Boring; Louisville: Westminister John Knox, 2002), 147. The forerunner metaphor appears to originate with Theissen. Already by 1996, Theissen and Annette Mertz presented David Flusser and Geza Vermes as forerunners to, and as participants in, the third quest. See Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz, The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide (trans. John Bowden; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998), 9. 12. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 86. 13. Theissen and Winter, Plausible Jesus, 147.

6

The Vermes Quest

approach of the third quest without suggesting any causal relationship between it and Vermes’s book. With Evans, Le Donne presents Vermes as a contributor who has influenced an entire generation of scholars. However, while Evans remarks that Vermes ‘perhaps’ has been the most influential ‘Jewish scholar’, Le Donne makes his statement without cavil or qualifications. Moreover, Maurice Casey writes that ‘[Vermes’s] contributions have been so extensive and wide-ranging that every scholar trying to contribute to our knowledge of the historical Jesus should benefit from Vermes’s work’.14 Casey’s words of praise are certainly unequivocal, and are not restricted to Vermes’s significance for the ‘Jewish Jesus’ paradigm. He continually praises Vermes’s Jesus research in 2010’s Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching.15 However, there does appear to be a discrepancy between his claims and Vermes’s actual impact upon Casey’s own research. Both the title and the approach of Casey’s book suggest similarities with Vermes’s work. Still, Casey only once engages with Vermes’s suggestions in any detail in this 500-page book.16 Despite Vermes’s purported significance for Jesus research, there has been little examination of what impact Vermes has had upon other scholars within the third quest and what significance he had for the turn in scholarship towards a widespread interest in the Jewishness of Jesus. By placing Vermes’s contribution into the wider context of the quest, this study interacts with various descriptions of the most recent quest. Moreover, by addressing the most influential parts of 14. Maurice Casey, Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching (London: T&T Clark, 2010), 14. 15. See the assessment of Vermes’s work in Casey, Jesus of Nazareth, 13–15. Casey praises ‘the strengths of his [Vermes’s] work and his complete knowledge and profound understanding of the Jewish primary source material and the sober and judicious manner in which he locates Jesus within the Judaism of first century Galilee’. Casey continues by highlighting Vermes’s ‘illuminating comparison’ between Jesus and other Galilean holy men and his ‘fruitful use’ of the term ‘charismatic’. Further, Casey claims: ‘in general Vermes always handles rabbinic literature in a careful and critical way, never taking it for granted that late material must represent Judaism at the time of Jesus’. It should be noted that Casey also has critical remarks about Vermes. Most importantly, he points out that Vermes never has been able to provide a ‘convincing explanation’ about why Jesus was crucified. Casey suggests that Vermes’s own religious beliefs block him from seeing that Jewish opposition against Jesus led to his death. In his conclusion, Casey describes Vermes’s work as ‘as free from bias as any scholars have so far become’. He also remarks that Vermes’s work ‘has been widely praised, but not universally followed’. It is noteworthy that Casey’s explanation of why Vermes is not universally followed does not point to the quality of Vermes’s work. The reason is found in ‘the entrenched nature of the beliefs of the majority of scholars, which itself is a product of their social function as scholarly representatives of (mostly Christian) social subgroups’ (499, 500). More references to Vermes’s significance for Jesus research are found in Casey’s book, 39; 45; 238. 16. See Casey, Jesus of Nazareth, 238, where he refers to Vermes’s work on Jesus’s exorcisms in Jesus the Jew, ch. 3.

The Significance of Geza Vermes for Jesus Research

7

Vermes’s work on Jesus and exploring how other scholars interact with them, this book engages directly and deeply with the ways that Jesus research has been performed the past four decades. The study thereby contributes to the understanding of this productive period of Jesus research with special focus on one particular scholar’s contribution.17

Main Questions, Material, and Method What has Vermes’s significance been for Jesus research? Answers to this main research question are sought through the following specific interrogations: (a)  What has Vermes’s role been in the coming of the third quest? (b) To what extent and in what ways are Vermes’s suggestions about Jesus reiterated and debated within the third quest? In order to answer the research questions, I examine Vermes’s own works on the historical Jesus and the reception of his work as it appears in the writings of other scholars. Scholarly interactions with Vermes’s work are found in discussions about the historical Jesus, book reviews, comments on research history, and larger accounts of the history of research. I focus on parts of Vermes’s Jesus research that have been widely noticed by other scholars. Because of this choice, I highlight his first book, 1973’s Jesus the Jew, though I draw upon all of his books on Jesus to some extent. In other words, this study explores Vermes’s significance for scholarship after 1973 as it is conveyed in the scholarly literature. Factors such as academic position, power structures, and personal encounters will not be considered. As we shall see, most previous assessments of Vermes’s work have focused on the strengths and weaknesses of his methodological approach, his representation of a thoroughly Jewish Jesus, and his suggestion that Jesus should be seen as one of the hasidim from Galilee (Hanina ben Dosa and Honi the Circle-Drawer in particular), figures primarily known to us from rabbinic literature. One smaller part of Vermes’s Jesus research has also received wide attention, namely his views on the ‘son of man’ problem. These topics provide the entry points into my fuller discussions of Vermes’s significance for Jesus research. The Jewishness of Jesus, along with what I term the ‘hasid theory’, is of primary importance.18 Moreover, I examine the methods Vermes employs to carry out these expositions. The main issues of interest here – the Jewishness of Jesus and the hasid theory – overlap to a large degree. Vermes’s depiction of Jesus as a Galilean hasid is a narrower determination of the Jewish Jesus, and his arguments and methods for 17. Of course, Vermes represents only one part of Jesus research. I do not propose that he is the prototypical scholar of this period, as in fact no such figure exists. 18. I write hasid, hasidim, and hasidic without capitals and in italics. Vermes argues that the historical Jesus was a hasid, and I refer to the propositions that relate to his depiction of Jesus as a hasid as the ‘hasid theory’. Vermes himself never uses this term.

8

The Vermes Quest

establishing the Jewish Jesus and for Jesus the hasid are often intertwined. From the perspective of research history, however, there is good reason to treat them individually. First, the topics have had different impacts on scholarship. While the Jewish Jesus has been utterly accepted, the hasid theory has for the most part been rejected. Additionally, while the Jewishness of Jesus has a long history within New Testament scholarship, the hasid theory is Vermes’s invention. It is therefore fruitful to address the first topic against scholarship prior to Vermes and in relation to the 1980s’ changes in scholarship, while the latter can only be discussed as part of the third quest. Other parts of Vermes’s Jesus research have also been noticed within the field of Jesus research, though only on a limited scale. Such references witness to Vermes’s books at least being read and signify some kind of approval, but they remain isolated examples of Vermes’s influence, whether large or small, on the specific scholar who addresses them.19 Therefore, these subjects and the references to them by other scholars are not in focus here. With the topics and questions noted above as my starting point, I analyse Vermes’s methods and his depictions of the historical Jesus. I inquire into book reviews and into comments on research history to see how scholars in the first fifteen years after Jesus the Jew engage with Vermes’s emphasis on the Jewishness of Jesus. The value and limitations of using such sources for the inquiry are discussed in due course. Furthermore, I see Vermes in relation to previous scholarly interaction with Jesus’s Jewishness, by bringing forth examples of Jesus research with which Vermes’s approach represents continuity and discontinuity. This enables a better view of Vermes’s role in the transition to the third quest. Moreover, I examine the ways that Vermes’s hasid theory and his proposed solution to the son of man problem are treated by other Jesus scholars. I look for assessments of Vermes’s contribution to Jesus research and for adoption or reworkings of his suggestions. In this respect, I consider quantity as well as quality. The sheer number of interactions with Vermes is relevant for the assessment of his significance, though the nature of the interactions is of greater interest. Negative evaluations of his specific suggestions are relevant here, though positive evaluations and criticism that lead to further developments of Vermes’s views carry more weight in my assessment of Vermes’s significance, as it reflects a higher level of acknowledgement of Vermes’s work than the dismissals do. I return to issues related to assessment later. In order to describe the reception of Vermes’s work on Jesus, I use the terms ‘impact’ and ‘influence’ interchangeably. Moreover, as I approach Vermes from the point of view of research history, I do not analyse Vermes’s suggestions in 19. One example of such short and isolated references can be taken from Barnabas Lindars, Jesus Son of Man: A Fresh Examination of the Son of Man Sayings in the Gospels in the Light of Recent Research (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 172. Here, Lindars writes about Jesus as an itinerant religious teacher, and remarks: ‘there seems to have been a number of such teachers in Galilee at his time’. This is Vermes’s view; it is presented in one single sentence, and Vermes’s name is only displayed in the notes, see Lindars, Son of Man, 222, n. 213.

The Significance of Geza Vermes for Jesus Research

9

light of new research on Jesus and Judaism in order to assess the validity of his individual suggestions about the historical Jesus, nor do I discuss whether issues from Vermes’s work could be of value for contemporary and future scholarship on Jesus. Still, my aim is not to merely revisit Vermes’s work, but rather to contribute to future accounts of the history of Jesus research.

Historiographical Considerations and Terminology This book focuses on Vermes’s place within the history of Jesus research and on the ways Vermes performs his task as a historian, especially his handling of ancient sources. I discuss the time of Jesus, the centuries following it, today’s Jesus research, and some of its previous history. One challenge, then, is choosing the best terminology. I follow J. P. Meier’s definition of the term ‘historical Jesus’, and his distinction between that constructed figure and what he calls the ‘real Jesus’: In contrast to the ‘real Jesus’, the ‘historical Jesus’ is that Jesus whom we can recover or reconstruct by using the scientific tools of modern historical research. The ‘historical Jesus’ is thus a scientific construct, a theoretical abstraction of modern scholars that coincides only partially with the real Jesus of Nazareth, the Jew who actually lived and worked in Palestine in the 1st century A.D.20

Whenever the timeline or context is evident, I use terms like ‘rabbinic Judaism’ and ‘first-century Judaism’ to make distinctions clear for the reader. Otherwise, I use terms the way Vermes uses them. For instance, I sometimes write about ‘Judaism’, ‘Jew’, and ‘Jewish’ as if they were clearly defined entities, abstracted from time and place. Vermes does not of course presuppose any such thing and neither do I, but he nonetheless uses these terms as if their meanings were clear. To describe scholarly constructions of the past (be it about Jesus or about Jesus research), I use the expressions ‘historical accounts’, ‘histories’, ‘representations of history’, and ‘constructions’. I use them synonymously and intend no value judgement when using them. Many of the sources for this study are historical accounts. They are descriptions of the historical Jesus or comments on research history. As such, they are attempts to make sense of sources and to create a larger image or narrative that can account for the data provided by those sources. They are more or less organized constructions of certain aspects of a chaotic past. Naturally, my own work is also such a construction, and (as many of my sources) my presentations are made from a limited number of factors. Other approaches, other sources, and other questions could have led to other results. An important premise for this book is that historians (and others) are driven by personal interests and larger subtexts and that these things contribute to constructions of history. I use ‘construction’ of history precisely because it 20. Meier, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 4.

10

The Vermes Quest

connotes elements of active building and shaping. Every individual historian involved here – the ancient writers, scholars of Jesus research, and I – have our own concerns, questions, and approaches, which we deem suitable for our respective constructions of history. For one, only some would use the word ‘construction’ to characterize the historical accounts. Vermes calls it ‘reconstruction’, while many of the sources are not concerned with such terminology at all. When I employ the term ‘construction of history’, some readers might think that I have a completely presentist view of history and that I am not at all concerned with the ‘real past’, as if any construction of history were as good as another. None of this is true. My choice reflects the fact that ‘reconstruction’ may well be taken today to signal a positivist understanding of accessibility to the past and the possibility of representing such reality today. When I use ‘constructions of history’ instead, I do so without any implicit evaluation of the validity or accuracy of those constructions. I do assume that historical constructions have a certain level of referentiality to some past reality. That being said, there are major gaps between the past as perceived by people present and historical constructions, partly because the constructions take available sources and possible explanations into account to varying extents. Based on this measured optimism on behalf of historical constructions, this study takes accounts of research history as its starting point and delivers premises for more valid accounts to be made in the future.

Previous Assessments of Vermes’s Jesus Research Broadly speaking, previous treatments of Vermes’s Jesus research have assessed the validity of some of his specific suggestions about the historical Jesus and concluded that his emphasis on the Jewishness of Jesus has been significant for at least the emergence of the third quest. The following survey reveals what features of his research have been notable and thus provides guidelines for what parts of Vermes’s contribution that are emphasized in this study. It does not engage with assessments of Vermes’s specific suggestions or minor remarks on the history of research, but it includes early and more recent assessments that deal with larger parts of Vermes’s scholarship. The first assessment of Vermes’s work on Jesus is found in The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus by Donald A. Hagner. Hagner evaluates the works of some Jewish Jesus scholars, whom he describes as ‘outstanding representatives of the Jewish perspective on Jesus’.21 Vermes is included there because he is Jewish, and apparently worth noticing. Hagner’s approach to assessing Jewish scholarship on Jesus is thematic; thus Vermes is treated alongside other contributions. Writing his book in 1984, it is only natural that Hagner’s analysis is restricted to Vermes’s first works; The Gospel of Jesus the Jew from 1981 is the latest on 21. Donald A. Hagner, The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus: An Analysis and Critique of Modern Jewish Study of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1984), 28.

The Significance of Geza Vermes for Jesus Research

11

his list.22 He discusses a wide variety of themes that are prominent in Vermes’s works, such as the hasid theory23 and the son of man title,24 but rarely goes into detail of Vermes’s presentations or evaluates his suggestions carefully. Hagner reports that Vermes is ‘the author of the most potent Jewish analysis of Jesus to be published in recent years’.25 Still, Hagner’s overall assessment of Vermes’s work is negative: ‘this is not the place to attempt to answer Vermes’ arguments one by one, although this needs to be done. The weakness of Vermes’ conclusions lies not simply in the improbability of single items, but in the implausibility of his hypothesis in toto’.26 As we see below, many Jesus scholars agree with Hagner on this point. In general, Hagner’s assessment of Jewish Jesus scholars leads to a notably negative conclusion regarding their methodology: ‘this consistency in the “Jewish” Jesus reconstructed by Jewish scholars is possible only by an inconsistent approach to the Synoptic Gospels. Material that supports this reconstruction is accepted; that which does not is rejected’.27 Here, Hagner opens perspectives, which are followed up in the present study. One is the fact that he sees Vermes as representative of a specifically Jewish trend, while another is that Vermes’s perspective on the Jewish Jesus is shared by many before him. Moreover, this book gathers responses to some of Vermes’s specific suggestions and to his method, as Hagner calls for. At the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in 1985, Benjamin J. Hubbard read an assessment of Vermes’s contributions to Jesus research.28 The paper focuses on four elements: Vermes’s methodology, Jesus’s observance of halakha, Jesus’s messianic consciousness, and Jesus’s place within Judaism. Although Hubbard includes some critical voices in his paper, his own assessment of Vermes is largely positive. He points out that Vermes has played a significant role in raising awareness of Jesus’s Jewishness and of providing a fuller background for Jesus studies.29 He writes that ‘students of the historical Jesus will need to take serious account of his [Vermes’s] insights before proceeding further’.30 Hubbard finds that Vermes’s method, along with his work on the ‘son of man’, on Jesus as a hasid, and on the Galilean heritage and religion of Jesus, has been important for Jesus studies.31 These topics are highlighted in this study. 22. Hagner, Jewish Reclamation, 318. 23. Hagner, Jewish Reclamation, 236, 237. 24. Hagner, Jewish Reclamation, 252–254. 25. Hagner, Jewish Reclamation, 236. 26. Hagner, Jewish Reclamation, 256. 27. Hagner, Jewish Reclamation, 282. 28. Benjamin J. Hubbard, ‘Geza Vermes’s Contribution to Historical Jesus Studies: An Assessment’, in SBL Seminar Papers: 121. Annual Meeting (ed. Kent Harold Richards; SBLSP; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985), 29–44. 29. Hubbard, ‘Vermes’s Contribution’, 42–44. 30. Hubbard, ‘Vermes’s Contribution’, 43. 31. Hubbard, ‘Vermes’s Contribution’, 42, 43. It is also worth remarking that unlike most of Vermes’s commentators, Hubbard addresses Vermes’s apparent admiration for Jesus (44).

12

The Vermes Quest

In his 1995 book The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth, Ben Witherington presents six different third quest views of Jesus. He devotes five pages to Vermes, who is placed under the heading ‘Jesus, man of the spirit’.32 Although Witherington writes approximately a decade later than Hagner and Hubbard, his account of Vermes’s views, and his evaluation of them, is drawn largely from the hasid theory as presented in Vermes’s first book.33 Witherington summarizes some of the critiques previously delivered against this theory by John Dominic Crossan, James Dunn, John P. Meier, and himself. We return to the hasid theory and to the reception of it by these and other scholars below. In 1997, Larry Hurtado constructed a ‘Taxonomy of Recent Historical-Jesus Work’, in which he presents the work of Vermes as one taxonomic category out of eight, calling it ‘Jesus Rescued from Christianity’.34 It is worth noting that Hurtado primarily pays attention to Vermes’s 1993 book The Religion of Jesus the Jew, which was his most recent work at the time.35 In fact, Hurtado offers one of the few scholarly interactions with this volume. He introduces critical questions about Vermes’s conclusions and methodology but does not include any discussions in the two pages dedicated to Vermes. Hurtado concludes that Vermes’s most valuable contribution to Jesus research is his emphasis on the Jewishness of Jesus. He writes that ‘one must grant that Vermes has provided us with distinctive and sometimes valuable material for the current quest. With Sanders, he is especially salutary in insisting on the need for any portrait of Jesus to be credible within an informed picture of first century Jewish religiosity’.36 This aspect is discussed thoroughly in the following. Hurtado ends his descriptions with a critical view of Vermes’s allegedly objective picture of Jesus. For Hurtado, Vermes’s own ‘hermeneutical aims and concerns’ are evident in the book,37 and I explore this further below. 32. Witherington, Jesus Quest, 93. Vermes is addressed on 108–112. 33. Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels (London: Collins, 1973). 34. Larry Hurtado, ‘A Taxonomy of Recent Historical-Jesus Work’, in Whose Historical Jesus? (eds. William E. Arnal and Michel R. Desjardins; SCJ 7; Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997), 272–295, 277–279. The other scholars described in this taxonomy are Sanders, Witherington, Meier, Horsley, Freyne, and Crossan. 35. Geza Vermes, The Religion of Jesus the Jew (London: SCM Press, 1993). Edith M. Humphrey provides another perspective on Vermes. She discusses the role of apocalypticism in recent Jesus research and, like Hurtado, concentrates on The Religion of Jesus the Jew. Humphrey couples Vermes with Burton Mack and John Dominic Crossan. Although these scholars have diverging images of Jesus, Humphrey convincingly shows that their views on apocalyptics are similar. However, because her aim is neither to assess nor describe Vermes’s general contribution to Jesus research, her assessments are not relevant for my overview. See Edith M. Humphrey, ‘Will the Reader Understand? Apocalypse as Veil or Vision in Recent Historical-Jesus Research’, in Whose Historical Jesus? (eds. Michel R. Desjardins and William E. Arnal; SCJ 7; Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997), 215–237. 36. Hurtado, ‘Taxonomy’, 279. 37. Hurtado, ‘Taxonomy’, 279.

The Significance of Geza Vermes for Jesus Research

13

In 1998’s Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee, Mark Allan Powell presents what he calls ‘snapshots’ of contemporary Jesus research.38 Under the heading ‘Jesus, the charismatic Jew’, approximately two pages are devoted to the Jesus image drawn by Vermes.39 Like Witherington, Powell focuses on Jesus the Jew. His descriptions, though, are less one-sidedly negative than Witherington’s. Powell summarizes some of the criticism of the hasid theory but also characterizes how Vermes links Jesus with other charismatics as a valuable contribution: ‘there are many aspects to Vermes’ work, but the most enduring contribution has been the connections he draws between Jesus and other charismatics’.40 Powell also points at other aspects of Vermes’s significance: his role in the shift towards emphasizing Jesus’s Jewishness and his influence on other scholars like John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, and E. P. Sanders.41 These perspectives are taken further in this book, which discusses the influence that Vermes has had upon other scholars, especially with regard to the hasid theory. Vermes is one of only thirty-two scholars in the Encyclopaedia of the Historical Jesus from 2008.42 This book treats among other things ‘major contributors and their works, ranging from H. S. Reimarus … to N. T. Wright of today’.43 In itself, the inclusion of Vermes among these major contributors reveals the perceived significance of his work. The entry about Vermes, written by Reidar Hvalvik, describes briefly his biography and aspects of his work: Hvalvik presents Vermes’s view on Jesus as a Galilean holy man, the son of man problem, his methodology, and how Vermes describes the development of Christology.44 In equal measures, Hvalvik also points out objections to Vermes’s suggestions, many of which are dealt with in detail in this study. He ends the entry as follows: ‘Vermes is a profiled scholar whose views will continue to be debated in future research. His most lasting influence in New Testament scholarship is undoubtedly his contribution to today’s common opinion that Jesus was a Jew and has to be interpreted within the frames of first century Judaism.’45 The present study explores further Vermes’s contribution to the scholarly focus on Jesus’s Jewishness, as well as the hasid theory, the son of man problem, and Vermes’s methods. 38. Mark Allan Powell, Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee (Louisville: Westminister John Knox, 1998). The ‘snapshots’ are of Horsley, Vermes, Smith, Witherington, and Downing. Powell also offers more detailed descriptions of The Jesus Seminar, Crossan, Borg, Sanders, Meier, and Wright. 39. Powell, Jesus as a Figure in History, 54–56. 40. Powell, Jesus as a Figure in History, 55. 41. Powell, Jesus as a Figure in History, 55, 56. 42. Reidar Hvalvik, ‘Vermes, Geza’, in Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus (ed. Craig A. Evans; New York: Routledge, 2008), 669–671, 670. 43. Craig A. Evans, Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus (New York: Routledge, 2008), vii. 44. The last book on the chronological list of Vermes’s bibliography is The Passion from 2005; see Hvalvik, ‘Vermes, Geza’, 670. 45. Hvalvik, ‘Vermes, Geza’, 670.

14

The Vermes Quest

Craig S. Keener introduces Vermes as one of three third quest scholars in 2009’s The Historical Jesus of the Gospels,46 referring to views from Jesus the Jew, The Religion of Jesus the Jew, and Jesus and the World of Judaism. He focuses on Vermes’s description of differences between Jesus and the rabbis, the similarities between Jesus and Honi and Hanina, especially their connection to the figure of Elijah in the Hebrew Bible. Keener refers to Vermes as ‘influential’, and praises Vermes as one who ‘helpfully sets Jesus’ healing ministry in a Jewish context’.47 Furthermore, his portrayal includes some critical remarks, especially about the hasid theory, which Keener also discusses briefly.48 The very presence of Vermes’s name in the abovementioned publications reveals his basic significance to the field. Still, these representations and evaluations of Vermes are few and short, and emphasize mainly his earliest publications. Until now, it has not been possible to study his production in its entirety and no one has thus far looked at developments within Vermes’s work. As the career of this Jesus scholar has come to an end, it is time to evaluate his complete contribution, emphasizing some details of his work, tracing developments within it, and gathering criticisms that have been raised. The current study thus adds to previous assessments of Vermes’s contributions to Jesus research. Besides, my approach differs from most previous assessments of Vermes’s work. Little has so far been done to explore his significance for the change within Jesus research shortly after the publication of Jesus the Jew, a gap that demands serious consideration.

Outline By depicting Vermes’s role within Jesus research and displaying the impact of Vermes’s contribution upon the wider group of Jesus scholars, this book aims to modify depictions of the history of the quest. It is organized into four parts. Part 1 introduces the main fields of investigation (Chapter  1), Vermes himself (Chapter  2), and the history of Jesus research (Chapter  3). The main body is found in Parts 2 and 3. Part 2 deals with the concept of the Jewish Jesus within Jesus research. It explores the role that Jesus the Jew has had in the heightened scholarly attention to this issue, and focuses mainly on the time prior to and contemporary with that 1973 book (Chapters 4–8). One of the chapters looks back into how the Jewishness of Jesus has been treated in earlier Jesus research in order to gain a clearer view of the purported differences between Jesus research before and after Vermes (Chapter 6). Vermes’s work on the son of man problem is treated in this part, because it represents Vermes’s first step into New Testament 46. Craig S. Keener, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 34–46. The other scholars are Marcus Borg and E. P. Sanders. 47. Keener, Historical Jesus, 35. 48. Keener, Historical Jesus, 241–243.

The Significance of Geza Vermes for Jesus Research

15

scholarship and is thus one step towards Vermes’s Jewish Jesus (Chapter 7). I also offer some considerations on benefits and limitations of the Jewishness of Jesus approach (Chapter 8). Part 3 discusses the role of Vermes within the third quest, focusing on his construction of Jesus as a hasid and its impact upon the field. It starts with Vermes’s launching of the hasid theory in 1973 (Chapter 9) and treats his development of the theory over succeeding years, along with its scholarly reception (Chapter 10). Rabbinic traditions of Hanina ben Dosa play an important role in Vermes’s theory, and Part 3 ends with a chapter that suggests a way of seeing the relation between the Jesus tradition and one of the Hanina ben Dosa traditions that is quite different to Vermes’s approach (Chapter 11). Parts 2 and 3 contribute each in their own way to understanding significant aspects of Vermes’s work and of recent Jesus research. Part 2, which deals with the Jewish Jesus, focuses on the research context into which Vermes’s work was delivered. Part 3, which deals with the hasid theory, focuses in much greater detail on his overall presentation, his specific arguments and how they change, and the scholarly reception of particular postulations. Taken together, these two parts of the book place Vermes’s contribution into the wider context of Jesus research and pay appropriate respect to the specifics of his arguments and methods. Part 4 presents the conclusions.

Chapter 2 V E R M E S A N D J E SU S R E SE A R C H Biographical Notes on Vermes Geza Vermes was born on 22  June  1924 in Máko, Hungary.1 When he was seven, he and his assimilated Jewish family converted to Roman Catholicism. Unlike most of his relatives, and due to what he himself calls ‘providential accidents’, he escaped the horrors of Holocaust.2 His fascinating personal history is unfortunately not relevant to this book. Details about growing up as a Jew in an increasingly anti-Semitic Europe, the love of books and languages, the fortunate escape to Western Europe, not to mention love stories, and academic intrigues within Qumran scholarship are all found in his autobiography, which the Jerusalem Post described as reading ‘like a far-fetched tale of redemptive selfdiscovery penned by Hollywood screenwriters with overactive imaginations’.3 During the Second World War, Vermes studied theology in Hungary. His career as a student started in 1942 with philosophical studies in Szatmár, and two years later, he completed his theological curriculum in Nagyvárad.4 According to Vermes’s autobiography, he spent a few weeks at the faculty of theology in Budapest before leaving Eastern Europe.5 After the war, Vermes attended a study house of the Jewish-friendly Fathers of the Notre Dame de Sion in Louvain, and by 1950, he was ordained a priest in their Order. 6 Hence, Vermes’s theological education comes entirely from his days as a Roman Catholic. 1. Geza Vermes, Providential Accidents: An Autobiography (London: SCM Press, 1998), 4. 2. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 29, 36, 40. 3. Tibor Krausz, ‘Captivated by the Scrolls: A Testimonial to a Great Scholar’s Enduring Love Affair with the Ancient Documents’, n.p. [accessed 10 November 2014]. Online: http:// www.jpost.com/Jerusalem-Report/Captivated-by-the-Scrolls 4. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 26, 41, 45. During the years of 1940–1945, Szatmár and Nagyvárad were parts of Hungary. Today the cities are in Romania and known as Satu Mare and Oradea, respectively. 5. It is a common misassumption that Vermes studied theology in Budapest. See for instance, the biographical overview at the beginning of Geza Vermes, The Changing Faces of Jesus (London: Allan Lane, 2000), n.p.; Hvalvik, ‘Vermes, Geza’, 669; see also Penguin Publisher’s presentation of Vermes at [Penguin], ‘Geza Vermes’, n.p. [accessed 10  November  2014]. Online: http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,1000017029,00.html 6. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 47, 50, 77.

18

The Vermes Quest

Despite his Catholic upbringing, his years as a student of theology, and his ordination as a Catholic priest, Vermes is widely known as a Jewish scholar. At the time he started working on the manuscript of what later became Jesus the Jew, he returned to Judaism.7 On 19 October 1970, Vermes became a member of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue of London. He describes his journey from Catholicism to Judaism as an undramatic change: There was no question of ‘conversion’. I did not deliberately move from A to B, from Christianity to Judaism … Organized religion of any description with set rites and customs no longer suited me at all. My religion had become that of the still, small voice (1 Kings 19.12) … the voice of an existential God, acting in and through people, who stood behind all the providential accidents of my life.8

Twenty years prior to this decision, Vermes started his career as a specialist in Jewish studies at Louvain’s Institut Orientaliste. He studied Hebrew, Aramaic, and Akkadian, and wrote his doctoral thesis Les manuscrits du désert de Juda on the Dead Sea Scrolls.9 He defended the thesis in 1952 and published a reworked version of it the following year.10 A few years later, the book was translated and published as Discovery in the Judean Desert.11 Vermes stayed with his ‘first academic love affair’, the Dead Sea Scrolls, for the rest of his life, and was a wellknown Qumran scholar.12 His most widespread and famous publications within the field of Qumran studies are his English translations of the Scrolls.13 After his retirement in 1991, Vermes became the director of the Oxford Forum for Qumran Research at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. In 1954, still an ordained priest now working in Paris, Vermes met his future wife while attending a conference in England. Within four years he left the priesthood, obtained an academic position in Newcastle upon Tyne and married Pamela Hobson Curle.14 Vermes became a British citizen in 1962, and apart from brief stays at American universities, he lived in England for the rest of his life. 7. The contract for the book was first concluded in 1968 and some chapters were finished in 1971 (Vermes, Providential Accidents, 211). 8. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 170. 9. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 73, 74. 10. Geza Vermes, Les manuscrits du désert de Juda (Paris: Desclée, 1953); Vermes, Providential Accidents, 106. 11. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 82; cf. Geza Vermes, Discovery in the Judean Desert (New York: Desclée, 1956). 12. Geza Vermes, Searching for the Real Jesus. Jesus, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Religious Themes (London: SCM Press, 2009), x. 13. Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1962), published in several editions. 14. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 111–133. Vermes held the position in Newcastle during 1957–1965.

Vermes and Jesus Research

19

Pamela Vermes contributed much to her husband’s scholarly work until she died in 1993.15 In 1996, Vermes married Margaret Unarska and adopted her son, Ian.16 Vermes had an active career within and outside the university. In 1965, he obtained a Readership in Jewish Studies at the Iffley College (later known as Wolfson College) at the University of Oxford.17 From 1971 until his death in 2013, he edited the Journal of Jewish Studies.18 He initiated the founding of the British Association for Jewish Studies and became its first president in 1975.19 During the years 1981–1984, he was the president of its European counterpart, European Association for Jewish Studies.20 Vermes has received any number of recognitions and honours. In 1985, he was among the appointed fellows of the British Academy21 and in 1990, in commemoration of his 65th birthday, A Tribute to Geza Vermes was published, focusing on studies of Qumran, the rabbinica, and the New Testament.22 In 1997, Vermes himself presented the first of the annual ‘Geza Vermes Lectures in the History of Religions’ at the Centre for the History of Religious and Political Pluralism, University of Leicester.23 Vermes held two honorary doctorates of divinity (University of Edinburgh, 1989, and Durham University, 1990),24 and an honourary doctorate of letters (University of Sheffield, 1994).25 Two years before his retirement in 1991, Vermes was Oxford’s first professor of Jewish studies. The year before, he had been appointed DLitt, the higher doctorate of letters.26 Vermes remained an active figure at Oxford; teaching, tutoring, and publishing for the rest of his life. On 8 May 2013, he passed away from cancer.27 15. Pamela Vermes did most of the work for the translation of A. Dupont-Sommer’s Les écrits esséniens découverts près de la Mer Morte = The Essene Writings from Qumran. She was also involved in the work with the new Schürer and contributed to the Journal for Jewish Studies. See Vermes, Providential Accidents, 165, 175, 111, 112. 16. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 232. 17. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 159. 18. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 169. 19. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 185. Vermes was president in 1975 and 1988. See [Anonymus], ‘British Association for Jewish Studies: BAJS Precidents’, n.p. [accessed 10 November 2014]. Online: http://britishjewishstudies.org/about/bajs-presidents/ 20. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 185. See [Anonymus], ‘European Association for Jewish Studies: Past Presidents & Secretaries of the EAJS’, n.p. [accessed 10 November 2014]. Online: http://eurojewishstudies.org/about-us/past-presidents-and-secretaries/ 21. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 227. The British Academy consists of ‘outstanding UK-based scholars’ who have achieved distinction within humanities and social sciences. See [Anonymus], ‘The Fellowship of the British Academy’, n.p. [accessed 10 November 2014]. Online: http://www.britac.ac.uk/fellowship/index.cfm 22. Philip R. Davies and Richard T. White, eds., A Tribute to Geza Vermes: Essays on Jewish and Christian Literature and History (JSOTSup 100; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990). 23. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 232. 24. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 229. 25. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 231. 26. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 227, 228. 27. Geza Vermes, The True Herod (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), x.

20

The Vermes Quest

Vermes’s close  relationships with both Judaism and  Christianity had a final expression at his funeral, a ceremony that was conducted by representatives of both religions.28

Vermes and Jesus Research According to Vermes’s autobiography, his very first contribution dealing with the New Testament was written from a Qumran studies perspective in 1951. It was published in the journal of the Notre-Dame de Sion as a short essay called ‘Le “Commentaire d’Habacuc” et le Nouveau Testament.’29 Vermes’s profound interest in the New Testament – and Jesus research in particular – was triggered later. In 1965, Vermes joined Matthew Black and Fergus Millar on the project to update and revise Emil Schürer’s multivolume work The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ.30 The volumes of the ‘old Schürer’ were originally published in four German editions between 1874 and 1909 and its English translation from 1885.31 The English translation of the old Schürer had been a popular one. Before Black, Vermes, and Millar started the revision; it had been reissued twelve times and had been out of print for decades. The first volume of the new Schürer was published in 1973, followed by three more volumes.32 The new edition was well received, and for Vermes, the Schürer revision was the gateway into the world of New Testament 28. Joan Taylor wrote about Vermes’s funeral on a Facebook update, which was later published on a blog. Taylor writes: On Thursday, 23 May Geza Vermes was buried in the cemetery of St. Leonard’s church in Sunningwell, close to his home in Oxfordshire, on a fresh spring day. An exceptionally lovely service combined Jewish and Christian traditions, and was led by Rector Revd Pam McKellan, with a homily from Father Nicholas King SJ and with [Rabbi] Nicholas de Lange’s beautiful reading of Psalm 23 in Hebrew and the Mourner’s Kaddish in Aramaic. This rich blending created a truly appropriate farewell to Geza and his special vision. I hope it lives on. See Joan Taylor and Jim Davila, ‘Vermes Funeral’, n.p. [accessed 19 November 2014]. Online: http://paleojudaica.blogspot.no/2013_05_19_archive.html 29. Geza Vermes, ‘Le ‘Commentaire d’Habacuc’ et le Nouveau Testament’, Cahiers Sioniens 5 (1951): 337–349. 30. Martin Goodman, Philip Alexander, and others later joined the project. See Vermes, Providential Accidents, 160, 164, 165, 176–179. Vermes describes the Schürer project as the starting point for his interest in Jesus. See Vermes, Providential Accidents, 210, 211. 31. The first volume was originally published in 1874 under the title Lehrbuch der neutestamentlichen Zeitgeschichte. See Martin Hengel, ‘Der alte und der Neue ‘Schürer’, JSS 35 (1990): 19–72, 25. 32. Emil Schürer, Geza Vermes and Fergus Millar, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.–A.D. 135) (Edinburgh: Clark, 1973), followed by Volume 2 (1979) and Volume 3.1 (1986). An electronic PDF version of the book became available in 2014.

Vermes and Jesus Research

21

scholarship. First, it introduced his name to the world of New Testament scholars. Second, the project led to more New Testament contributions on Vermes’s part. His connections with the organizing editor, Matthew Black, led to the publishing of Vermes’s work on the son of man problem in 1967.33 This was his first publication on an exegetical topic from the New Testament, and it had implications for the image of the historical Jesus. Moreover, the Schürer project itself foretells Vermes’s perspective on Jesus research. Throughout his career as a Jesus scholar, Vermes situated the person of Jesus within ‘the history of the Jewish people’. Vermes’s work on the historical Jesus began, however, within non-academic circles, and he continued to address general readers throughout his life. Vermes himself describes an interview in the Observer on Christmas Eve of 1967 as the starting point for his first book on Jesus.34 After the interview, Vermes was contacted by a representative of a publishing house who wanted him to write more on the subject.35 This was the start of what would become Jesus the Jew. This book and the rest of Vermes’s work on Jesus have all been aimed at a wide audience.36 His wide appeal is signalled by his active role in the British media. Vermes functioned as an advisor for TV productions and contributed to radio programmes.37 One example is Channel 4’s three-part documentary, called Jesus the Evidence, from 1984, in which Vermes and his theories play an important role.38 Moreover, Vermes wrote for many newspapers.39 In a newspaper article from 1966, he offered a piece that in retrospect reads like a prophecy that he himself fulfilled: But the day of a renewed interest in the Jesus of history may not be far off, and once the Jewish mind, with its special insight, begins to show curiosity concerning the neglected son of Israel, a fresh understanding of these ancient 33. See Matthew Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts: With an Appendix on The Son of Man by Geza Vermes (Third ed.; Oxford: Clarendon, 1967). 34. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 166. 35. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 211. 36. The books on Jesus are written for New Testament scholars, other scholarly trained readers, and readers outside the academic world. This is evident from how he presents his discussions in his books, and it is also stated directly. See for example, Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981), 7; Vermes, The Religion of Jesus, ix. His translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls into English also serve as examples of Vermes’s effort to bring his central themes to a wide group of people. 37. See for example, Vermes, Real Jesus, 63 and BBC Radio 3 ‘Night Waves’, see [Anonymus], ‘Night Waves 16 January, 2006’, n.p. [accessed 10 November 2014]. Online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/nightwaves/pip/sx767/.Vermes also participated in the 1992 television documentary Jesus before Christ; cf. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 216. 38. Many of the statements in this documentary can be traced to Vermes, especially his assertions about Jesus and the rabbinic hasidim. 39. For example, The Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, etc. Vermes, Real Jesus, 184, 185, lists some of Vermes’s contributions, including those outside of Great Britain.

The Vermes Quest

22

matters will inevitably ensue, and with it a synthesis perhaps undreamed of at the present time.40

In popular circles, Vermes is often referred to as ‘the greatest Jesus scholar of his generation’.41 The current study specifies and nuances this eulogy.

Vermes’s Works on Jesus Vermes has contributed to three major fields of study: Jesus research, Qumran studies, and Jewish studies more broadly. The scope here is limited to Vermes’s work on the historical Jesus.42 All of his books aim at a broad audience, and this occasionally affects their formal traits: Some include notes, references, and indexes, while others do not. The following survey informs about the themes and character of each publication. Early Essays Vermes’s first substantial contribution to New Testament research was delivered with the 1967 article ‘The Use of Bar Nasha/Bar Nash in Jewish Aramaic.’43 Here, Vermes argues that the son of man title of the Gospels has its roots in an Aramaic idiom, bar(e)nash(a), and that it was a common term in Jesus’s time. It is found in various forms and Vermes quotes and comments on many occurrences from ancient Aramaic literature. He asserts, however, that there is no son of man title found in Jewish sources from the time of Jesus and that Jesus did not use it with reference to Daniel 7:13. According to his interpretation of the Aramaic attestations, bar(e)nash(a) could be used generically to denote ‘people’ or ‘men’ but could also refer specifically to the speaker himself, as a circumlocution. Vermes suggests that this use of the term occurs when the speaker is reluctant to draw attention to himself, such as in situations of humiliation or exaltation. 40. Geza Vermes, ‘Neglected Facts in the Dead Sea Scrolls’, Daily Telegraph (1966). 41. The slogan is promoted on a large scale by Vermes’s publishers. It is a quotation from the Sunday Telegraph, and is used for instance in The Guardian, Tuesday 18 March 2008, in an interview with Vermes in connection with the release of his latest book The Resurrection. See also [Bloomsbury], ‘Geza Vermes’, n.p. [accessed 10 November 2014]. Online: http:// www.bloomsbury.com/author/geza-vermes/. Here, Vermes is called ‘one of the world’s greatest experts on the historical Jesus’. 42. Vermes’s autobiography Providential Accidents may well be relevant for a proper understanding of his motivations for working on the historical Jesus. I therefore employed it in the section on Vermes’s biography. However, the book does not contain information about his image of Jesus, and is therefore not presented here. 43. Geza Vermes, ‘The Use of Bar Nasha/Bar Nash in Jewish Aramaic’, in An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts: With an Appendix on the Son of Man by Geza Vermes (ed. Matthew Black; Oxford: Clarendon, 1967), 310–328.

Vermes and Jesus Research

23

Besides being a philological contribution to exegesis, Vermes’s article rests on and promotes an image of the historical Jesus, which he would flesh out in following publications. The two-part article ‘Hanina ben Dosa: A Controversial Galilean Saint from the First Century of the Christian Era’ from 1972–1973 discusses the rabbinic traditions concerning Hanina ben Dosa.44 The comparison between Hanina and Jesus, which is developed further in Jesus the Jew is provisionally announced here.45 Such a comparison is, however, far from Vermes’s primary aim in the article. He approaches the Hanina tradition both as literature that has undergone several stages of development and as historical sources about a particular rabbinic figure. His aim is ‘determining and assessing the various stages of literary development’ in the rabbinic texts about Hanina ben Dosa and seeks to ‘discover historically reliable references to Hanina’s life’.46 First Trilogy: The Jewish Jesus Vermes himself presents his first books on Jesus as a trilogy.47 The focus of each book is different, though the themes overlap: Vermes presents Jesus the Jew, a Galilean miracle worker and a teacher, a hasid. He builds largely upon the image of Jesus presented in the Synoptic Gospels and discusses them in light of other Jewish literature from the centuries surrounding the time of Jesus. Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels from 1973 is divided into two parts. The first part presents first-century Judaism as a framework for Jesus’s ministry and places Jesus within it, while the second part discusses the titles used for Jesus in the Gospels: prophet, rabbi, teacher, lord, son of David, the Messiah, son of God, and son of man. The second is the larger of the two parts and serves to place the titles of Jesus within a Jewish context. The subtitle of the book points out that it presents a historian’s reading. Vermes is ‘concerned with the primitive, genuine and historical significance of words and events recorded in the Gospels’.48 The reference to the historian in the subtitle appears therefore to relate to the understanding of the text, that is, reading it as would have been intended in first-century Palestine. Vermes writes: ‘since it is always an arduous, and often almost hopeless, task to try to establish the historical value of the Synoptic story, the plan here is not to attempt to reconstruct the 44. Geza Vermes, ‘Hanina ben Dosa: A Controversial Galilean Saint from the First Century of the Christian Era’, JJS 23 (1972): 28–50; (1973): 51–64. In 1975, the articles were republished as one piece in Geza Vermes, Post-Biblical Jewish Studies (SJLA 8; Leiden: Brill, 1975). 45. See for example, Vermes, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 41 and 47, n. 60. Some footnotes in part two refer to the forthcoming Jesus the Jew; see for example, Vermes, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 53, n. 80; 54, n. 89; 56, n. 101. 46. Vermes, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 28. 47. See for example, Vermes, The Religion of Jesus, ix. 48. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 16; italics in the original.

24

The Vermes Quest

authentic portrait of Jesus, but, more modestly, to find out how the writers of the Gospels, echoing primitive tradition, wished him to be known’.49 It appears clear that Vermes does not seek to reconstruct the historical Jesus, but rather to answer the question ‘Who was the Jesus of the evangelists?’50 However, Vermes does depict the historical Jesus. He rejects some parts of the gospels due to their being inauthentic and relies heavily on others that are judged as authentic.51 He also claims to search for ‘the real Jesus’.52 In the introduction to part two of Jesus the Jew, he writes: ‘the conclusion arrived at so far is that once the Gospel report concerning his person and work is analysed, the secondary traits removed, and the essential features inserted into the context of contemporary political and religious history, Jesus of Nazareth takes on the eminently credible personality of a Galilean Hasid’.53 Moreover, in the preface of the first paperback edition, Vermes expresses that his aim in Jesus the Jew is ‘to obtain a fuller understanding of the historical Jesus’,54 which suggests that Vermes aims for more than a historically viable reading of gospel texts. He appears to operate with two different understandings of what the historical task is. The second volume of the trilogy focuses on Jesus’s teaching, more precisely on its content and Jesus’s modes of presenting it. This book has been published in various shapes and forms. The first and shortest publication is called The Gospel of Jesus the Jew (1981). It was originally delivered as the Riddell Memorial Lectures at the University of Newcastle in March  1981.55 The lectures were republished two years later as chapters 2–4 in Jesus and the World of Judaism (1983). The first chapter of this volume was originally delivered as the 1974 Claude Goldsmid Montefiore lecture in the Liberal Jewish Synagogue of London and summarizes the book Jesus the Jew.56 In later chapters, Vermes expands his image of Jesus as a Jewish preacher and teacher and discusses themes like abba and the son of man. Twenty years later, many chapters of Jesus and the World of Judaism were published under the title Jesus in His Jewish Context (2003). Most of the new chapters of this publication are only loosely connected to Jesus research and are thus of little interest to this study,57 though one exception is the preface, which 49. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 19. 50. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 20. Vermes also claims that he does not want to separate the authentic from the inauthentic, but simply show what the evangelists propose; cf. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 26. 51. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 26, where Vermes renders some miracle stories as ‘secondary accretions’. 52. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 69. 53. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 83. 54. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 9. See also Geza Vermes, Jesus in His Jewish Context (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 127, where he writes that ‘the purpose of Jesus the Jew was to rebuild the picture of the historical Jesus’. 55. Vermes, Jesus in His Jewish Context, 143. The lectures were aimed at the general public. 56. Geza Vermes, Jesus and the World of Judaism (London: SCM Press, 1983), vii. 57. The omitted chapters dealt with Qumran and the Essenes. The new chapters deal with Josephus (two chapters), the Dead Sea Scrolls, and some of Vermes’s autobiographical reflections.

Vermes and Jesus Research

25

provides important insights into the developments in Vermes’s view of Jesus as a hasid.58 Vermes describes the final book in the trilogy, 1993’s The Religion of Jesus the Jew as his favourite among them, because it is ‘more mature, mellow, constructive, and “spiritual”’.59 The book focuses on various aspects of Jesus’s religion: his relation to the law, his authority, and his mode of teaching. Themes like the Kingdom of God, abba, Judaism in the time of Jesus, and eschatological urgency are also discussed. Second Trilogy: Nativity, Passion, Resurrection Vermes’s work on the nativity, passion, and resurrection stories of the gospels were first published separately, and later as one book.60 The book is aimed at the general reader, and it contains few if any of the characteristics of academic texts. There are limited footnotes or endnotes and hardly any references to other scholars.61 The books focus on Jesus’s Jewish environment and the historical value of the Gospels. As the subtitle suggests, The Nativity: History & Legend (2006) discusses both historical and legendary components of the nativity narratives. Vermes discusses the genealogies of Jesus, miraculous births, virgin birth, the date and place of the birth of Jesus, Herod’s infanticide in Matthew, and the Lukan reports about visits to the temple. He states that the nativity stories are different from most gospel texts and must be treated accordingly.62 In order to discover ‘the meaning of the New Testament story of the Nativity’, Vermes reveals the legendary traits and mythological elements in the material and searches for the literary function of the legendary traits by comparing elements from the gospel stories to other ancient texts.63 Moreover, Vermes wants to search for historical facts about Jesus in the legends of the nativity to ‘sift the evidence and separate morsels of fact from legendary accretions’.64 He claims that ‘some elements of history may be buried beneath legendary wrappings’.65 In other words, he will ‘squeeze the truth out of ’ the infancy gospels of Matthew and Luke.66 58. Vermes, Jesus in His Jewish Context, vii–x. 59. See Vermes, Jesus in His Jewish Context, 131, for a description of the book. 60. Geza Vermes, Jesus: Nativity, Passion, Resurrection (London: Penguin Books, 2010). 61. The Nativity has sixteen endnotes that refer to other sources. The Resurrection has footnotes, references, and an index. Nonetheless, many assertions stand unsupported. The Passion has a short bibliography and a longer index of keywords, but no footnotes, and has few references to other scholars’ works. The references are sometimes general; for instance, ‘According to mainstream scholarship’ (Geza Vermes, The Passion: The True Story of an Event That Changed Human History [London: Penguin, 2005], 9). 62. Geza Vermes, The Nativity: History & Legend (New York: Doubleday, 2006), 7. They are products of ‘man’s hopeful and creative religious imagination’ (xv). 63. Vermes, Nativity, 17. 64. Vermes, Nativity, 16. 65. Vermes, Nativity, 155. 66. Vermes, Nativity, xv.

26

The Vermes Quest

Vermes was motivated to write The Passion: The True Story of an Event that Changed Human History (2005) by Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ.67 He asserts that Gibson’s presentations agree with the teachings of the church and that both are ‘biased and twisted’.68 He opposes two suggestions from this film, namely that the passion story is straightforward and that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. In Vermes’s view, none of this is correct. He describes the Gospels as ‘neither simple nor coherent’, but rather ‘filled with discrepancies’ and states that there are ‘historical and legal improbabilities’ in the accounts of the passion. 69 Hence, the aim of this book is to find ‘what really happened’ with Jesus on his last day.70 Vermes’s main focus is events and details recorded in the gospel narratives and his method is ‘to define, evaluate and interpret … differences [of the Gospel texts about the passion] with the help of expert knowledge peppered with common sense’.71 In response to Gibson’s film, Vermes describes the events of the passion of Jesus in eleven points.72 The discussions and conclusions concern the Lord’s supper, the arrest, the interrogation and trial of Jesus, the Passover amnesty and Barabbas, the death sentence, and the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus.73 In 2008’s Resurrection: History & Myth, Vermes wants to give the reader the tools to judge whether the story about Jesus’s resurrection is true.74 He presents both the bigger picture of how death and afterlife was understood in Palestinian Judaism in the time of Jesus and a more detailed survey of the New Testament texts on death, eternal life, and resurrection.75 Unlike ‘what interpretive Church tradition’ attributes to the New Testament texts, Vermes wants to present what the authors of the New Testament ‘actually say’ about the resurrection and ‘the true meaning’ of it, ‘illuminating it with what we know’ from texts and archaeological sources.76 Topics related to the real Jesus and authenticity of gospel texts start in chapter seven. These discussions focus on Jesus’s teachings about resurrection and eternal life, the resurrections stories of the New Testament, and resurrection as a topic in the Gospels and in Acts. Eventually, Vermes presents what he calls six explanatory theories for the resurrection of Jesus.77 More precisely, these theories seek to explain the empty tomb, as bodily resurrection is not presented among the alternatives. 67. Vermes, Passion, 1–3. 68. Vermes, Passion, 2. 69. Vermes, Passion, 2, 48, 49, cf. ‘momentous divergences’ (3). 70. Vermes, Passion, 8. 71. Vermes, Passion, 3. 72. Vermes, Passion, 115, 116. 73. Note that Vermes had edited Paul Winter’s book, which holds some of the same viewpoints; cf. Paul Winter, On the Trial of Jesus (2. ed: SJ 1; Berlin: De Gruyter, 1974). Winter and Vermes were also personal friends (Vermes, Providential Accidents, 140, 141). Jesus the Jew was dedicated to Winter’s memory (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 5). 74. Geza Vermes, The Resurrection: History and Myth (London: Penguin, 2008), x. 75. Vermes, Resurrection, 134. 76. Vermes, Resurrection, x. 77. Vermes, Resurrection, 141.

Vermes and Jesus Research

27

Follow-ups Vermes himself describes The Changing Faces of Jesus (2000) as a ‘natural continuity’ of the first Jesus trilogy. It builds upon it while broadening its scope to include the whole of the New Testament.78 By working from what Vermes regards as the most theologically developed texts to the less, that is, John, then Paul and Acts, and finally the Synoptics, he aims at ‘catching a glimpse of the real Jesus concealed beneath the accounts of Mark, Matthew, and Luke’.79 The first chapters of The Changing Faces of Jesus deal with theological developments in the New Testament texts while subsequent chapters reconstruct the historical Jesus through assertions known from the trilogy (with some elaborations). The Changing Faces of Jesus comes across largely as a non-scholarly work. There is a bibliography at the end, but virtually no references to other scholars. Vermes explains that he has learned a lot from others, but since the knowledge is now his own, he writes without attribution.80 The Authentic Gospel of Jesus from 2003 focuses on Jesus’s words, and the words attributed to him in the Gospels. Here, Vermes wants to rediscover ‘the genuine religious message preached and practised’ by Jesus rather than the message of the church or the evangelists.81 This does not mean that Vermes searches for what Jesus said word for word; rather he looks for expressions that portray his message as he intended it.82 Vermes sets out to ‘collect, thematically classify, and succinctly comment on every word attributed to Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke’.83 He deals with the sayings of Jesus in nine chapters, organized by literary categories. Vermes comments on what each saying would represent in its historical, Jewish context and draws a line between the sayings and the personality and religious outlook of Jesus. The epilogue contains a detailed description of Jesus and his teaching.84 Finally, in an appendix, Vermes lists the sayings of Jesus. An asterisk indicates those sayings that he regards to be genuine and there are brief comments on authenticity and why each saying is categorized as authentic or nonauthentic.85 The Authentic Gospel of Jesus contains more extant methodological reflections and argumentation than Vermes’s other works. In its last section, he discusses historicity and uses the traditional criteria of authenticity. This work has, however, had little impact on Vermes’s other works or on other Jesus scholars. Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea, AD 30–325 from 2012 is Vermes’s only attempt to portray Christianity’s first centuries.86 The book lacks the important 78. Vermes, Changing Faces, 1, 2. 79. Vermes, Changing Faces, 5. 80. Vermes, Changing Faces, 4. 81. Geza Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus (London: Allan Lane, 2003), viii, ix. 82. Vermes, Authentic Gospel, 375, 376, not the ipsissima verba but the ipsissima sensus. 83. Vermes, Authentic Gospel, viii. 84. Vermes, Authentic Gospel, 398–417. 85. Vermes, Authentic Gospel, 419–436. 86. Geza Vermes, Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea (AD 30–325) (London: Allen Lane, 2012).

28

The Vermes Quest

markers of a scholarly publication; there is an index of subjects and names at the end87 and a bibliography of relevant works,88 but the text itself is devoid of references to other scholarly works and there are no notes. The first two chapters discuss Jesus and are therefore relevant here, while the rest of the book presents Vermes’s view on how Christianity developed as a religion after the time of Jesus. In the chapters that are relevant, Vermes emphasizes charismatic Judaism, because he regards it the key for understanding the historical Jesus, the Jesus of the Gospels, and the rise of Christianity.89 He discusses Jesus as a charismatic miracle worker and teacher, and portrays Jesus’s religion. As in Jesus the Jew, it is sometimes difficult to judge whether Vermes describes the historical Jesus or if he is portraying the charismatic Jesus of the Gospels. He writes: ‘At the end … the reader will be able to grasp how the evangelists intended to see the historical Jesus, the great prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’90 This description indicates a representation of the Gospels’ Jesus as opposed to the historical Jesus. However, there are also indications that Vermes searches for the historical Jesus. He focuses on what he regards to be the most dependable sources. As in Jesus the Jew, Vermes prefers the Synoptics over the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Thomas.91 Occasionally he evaluates the historical value of the texts. For the most part, the evaluations are revealed in association with traditions he regards as not authentic. For example, he describes the story about Jesus raising Lazarus (John 11) as ‘evidence for the developing faith of early Christianity’.92 He labels Jesus’s nature miracles ‘legendary folk tales’, while Jesus’s healings receive no evaluation of the kind.93 The search for the historical Jesus is especially evident when it comes to displaying Jesus as a teacher. Here, Vermes builds upon his own work in Authentic Gospel and presents Jesus’s teaching under three headings: The Kingdom of God, God the father, and the Son or sons of God.94 It is thus only Jesus’s authentic teaching that receives attention here. An interest in the historical Jesus therefore clearly drives this publication as well. Anthologies Some of Vermes’s books are collections of essays, lectures, and interviews, where each chapter focuses on a single topic. Most contributions are short and in 87. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 257–272. 88. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 245–256. 89. See for example, Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 27, 32. 90. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 32. Note how similar this is to his intentions in Jesus the Jew, almost forty years earlier. 91. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 28. 92. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 34. 93. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 37. 94. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 39, the themes are treated on 39–50. Although Vermes regards these themes as authentic, he finds inauthentic gospel passages related to the themes. For example, the eschatological discourse of Mark 13 and Matt 24 is described as ‘a literary composition that is more likely attributable to the primitive church than to Jesus’ (43).

Vermes and Jesus Research

29

summary form. The arguments are scarce, the chapters give little to a discussion about Vermes’s method, and they mostly repeat what Vermes has argued elsewhere. Who’s Who in the Age of Jesus from 2005 is at variance with Vermes’s other work. It resembles an encyclopaedia, with images, maps, lists, and short articles that present persons from the Roman Empire in general and specifically Jews in the centuries around Jesus. First, there is a chapter on power and politics from 164 B.C.E. to 135 C.E., after which each topic is presented alphabetically.95 The article about Jesus of Nazareth is of interest for this study.96 Here, though, Vermes does not present his historical Jesus but largely takes gospel texts at face value.97 On some occasions, he renders the different versions of the Gospels without offering judgements of authenticity between or among them.98 Vermes also describes the time, place, and duration of Jesus’s ministry, along with his message of the Kingdom of heaven and his healing activity. He pays particular attention to the passion story99 and to Jesus’s theology.100 Vermes ends his short article by pointing out that the religious message of Jesus is not what the church preaches today.101 Vermes’s interest in the historical Jesus thus does shine through. Searching for the Real Jesus: Jesus, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Religious Themes from 2009 contains essays based on lectures, books, interviews, and articles originally published over a quarter of a century.102 It is presented in four parts. Thematically, most centre on the person of Jesus. Part one, with the heading ‘Jesus’, consists of ten chapters that present summaries of Vermes’s view of Jesus and his political environment. Part two consists of seven chapters under the heading ‘Christmas – Passion – Easter’ and sums up the books in which Vermes deals with the same themes. Part three consists of four chapters under the heading ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls’. Part four consists of eight chapters under the heading ‘Miscellanea’, with essays ranging from the Dead Sea Scrolls, taxation in Palestine, dogma, and Jesus research to women and homosexuals in the church. In Jesus in the Jewish World from 2010, Vermes gathers previously published articles from Jesus research, Jewish studies, and Qumran studies, and adds three new essays. One of the new essays describes the history of research in the aftermath

95. The chapter is reprinted in Vermes, Real Jesus, 3–18. 96. Geza Vermes, Who’s Who in the Age of Jesus (London: Penguin, 2005), 130–141. 97. The date and place of Jesus’s mission: Vermes, Who’s Who, 130; the activity of John the Baptist (131); and the election of disciples (132). 98. On the duration of Jesus’s mission and the supernatural experience connected with Jesus’s baptism, see Vermes, Who’s Who, 131. 99. Vermes, Who’s Who, 134–137. Note that it was published the same year as The Passion. 100. Vermes, Who’s Who, 138–140. 101. Vermes, Who’s Who, 140. 102. Most of them originally published in newspapers from 1986 to 2009, particularly between 2001 and 2009; cf. Vermes, Real Jesus, 184, 185.

30

The Vermes Quest

of Vermes’s suggestions about the son of man problem and is thus relevant to this study. The final two newcomers summarize views from the first Jesus trilogy.103 Vermes’s Works as Material for This Study The books summarized above allow to search for developments in Vermes’s work and, most importantly, to discuss the significance of his contribution to Jesus research. In the following chapters, Vermes’s first book will be more central than his other works. Jesus the Jew is unquestionably the most significant of his books on Jesus in terms of influence upon Jesus research and has a high standing in histories of the quest. Moreover, it contains many of Vermes’s most influential suggestions and his most innovative approaches. Conversely, many of his other books have hardly been noticed at all, possibly because they do not contribute to Jesus research with significantly new insights or methods. Given my focus on Vermes’s significance, these works are consulted to a limited extent.

103. Geza Vermes, Jesus in the Jewish World (London: SCM Press, 2010).

Chapter 3 T H E H I ST O RY O F J E SU S R E SE A R C H : M A P P I N G T H E QU E ST ( S ) This book interacts with the ways that the history of Jesus research has been described. Most significantly, it deals with the time of the third quest and with some of its most notable features. The following paragraphs present the most commonly used taxonomy for representing the history of Jesus research and spell out some of its weaknesses. Because this study relates primarily to the third quest, this chapter also examines this category, along with the rhetoric that surrounds it.

The Three-Quest Scheme Ever since the 1910 English translation of Schweitzer’s chronicle The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede, Jesus research has been known as a ‘quest’.1 After yet another century of Jesus research, it has become standard to delineate four different epochs: the first/old quest (1774–1906), new/second quest (1953–1980), and third quest (1980–), paused by a ‘moratorium’ or ‘no-quest period’ in the first part of the twentieth century (1906–1953).2 Each period is typically defined by features that are perceived as characteristic and common to Jesus research from the time. Certain Jesus scholars are used in the description of the history of Jesus research as examples of the typical traits and the scholarly ideals of each quest. Shifts between the quests are marked by discontinuity or contrast, while continuity is addressed rarely. Each shift is delimited by the publication of specific works that have been seen as starting points for the succeeding quest and that represent its most salient features. Although the periods are defined by way of content and by features that manifest contrasts to the proceeding period(s), the three-quest scheme is a chronological system. It aims at giving a general, overall representation of a highly diverse history of research. 1. The original 1906 title was Von Reimarus zu Wrede: Eine Geschichte der Leben-JesuForschung. 2. See for example, N. T. Wright, ‘Jesus, Quest for the Historical’, in The Anchor Bible Dictionary (ed. David Noel Freedman; New York: Doubleday, 1992), 3: 796–802; Witherington, Jesus Quest, 9–13.

32

The Vermes Quest

The mapping and periodization of history are useful for the historian, particularly as a means of depicting complex historical data within larger frameworks. Moreover, mappings provide groups and labels that are handy for communicating common traits seen in the sources. However, there are significant downsides to such mapping efforts. When one looks more closely into the particularities of each quest, it becomes clear that the generalizations overshadow significant diversity. For one, marking shifts in history by specific dates, years, or events is bound to oversimplify. Every perceived turn in history will have many components, all which will be evaluated differently in the course of time and depending on the perspective.3 Second, even overarching, generalized mappings of history are constructed from a particular point of view. Consequently, other perspectives would generate other mappings and likely highlight other contributions. Third, generalizing mappings may function, hermeneutically, as filters, which allow only certain sources – and certain aspects of these sources – to serve as legitimate representatives of history. The three-quest scheme may guide the way one reads Jesus research from the past and which contributions receive one’s deepest attention, with the effect that contradictory traits are downplayed or even ignored. As a consequence, early periods of the quest appear more homogenous today than they did at the time. Moreover, when a period is associated with a fairly consistent set of features, the preconceived pattern might deceptively stand in the way of seeing the links between single contributions and streams outside its temporal paradigm, because certain traits are associated only with specific periods. The shortcomings of periodization, therefore, call for caution.

Limitations of the Three-Quest Scheme In recent years, many scholars have questioned the system of the quests and the specific labels that are employed to mark the quest’s various phases.4 Fernando Bermejo Rubio has voiced the problems compellingly and with force.5 Much of the 3. See, for example, the list of books in Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 89, n. 118, which each in their own way signals a break with the second quest. 4. Stanley E. Porter, The Criteria for Authenticity in Historical-Jesus Research: Previous Discussion and New Proposals (LNTS 191; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 28– 59; Dale C. Allison, Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters (JSPSup; New York: T&T Clark, 2005), 1–19; Fernando Bermejo Rubio, ‘The Fiction of the “Three Quests”: An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Historiographical Paradigm’, JSHJ 7 (2009): 211–253. Walter Weaver, The Historical Jesus in the Twentieth Century: 1900– 1950 (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1999) is a critique of the no-quest category. As early as 1985, Charlesworth made a similar assertion: ‘only by looking at one group of influential scholars can one really state that a moratorium on the quest was declared’. See James H. Charlesworth, ‘Research on the Historical Jesus’, PIBA 9 (1985): 19–37, 26. 5. Bermejo Rubio’s article builds on Allison, Resurrecting Jesus, 1–19.

The History of Jesus Research: Mapping the Quest(s)

33

reasoning in the following is based upon his work. Bermejo Rubio discusses the labels and division of the epochs of Jesus research. He points out that the naming of each quest may contribute to a faulty evaluation of its content. Naming the first quest ‘the old quest’ may lead to an implicit judgement of its conclusions  as inherently out of date. According to Bermejo Rubio, this simply is not true, as some of the  claims about Jesus from this first period have a genuinely fresh feel to them and may indeed provide valuable insights.6 Moreover, Bermejo Rubio remarks that grouping  the various ‘romantic’, ‘rationalistic’,  ‘artistic’, and  ‘diagnostic’ constructions of Jesus – good and bad – from the first century of Jesus research under the same label of first or old quest is unhelpful.7 It conceals the diversity of  approaches, of images of Jesus, and of the quality of the  research performed over  an extended period of time. Bermejo Rubio’s critique  of the concept of the first quest  might be extended by asking, as Anthony Le Donne does, whether  Herrmann  Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768)  should be described as the starting point for Jesus research.8 The interest in Jesus as a historical figure is much older. Talking about a first or old quest is thus more misleading than clarifying. As to the concept of the ‘no-quest period’, Bermejo Rubio dismisses it as ‘nonsense’.9 He argues that many scholars in many countries produced books and articles on the historical Jesus during the first half of the twentieth century and that the quest was thus ongoing even in this period. One may argue that Schweitzer’s book must have come across as a persuasive argument for the termination of the quest in the early 1900s. Moreover, the influence of dialectic theology, alongside financial difficulties after the First World War, created poor conditions for Jesus research, at least in the Germany that was still hegemonic in the field. Still, there is no reason to see the first fifty years of the twentieth century as a total standstill for Jesus research. The substantial number of Jesus studies in the no-quest period definitively calls for reconsidering both the label and that very notion.10 Vermes’s significance must therefore also be seen in relation to research from this period, and I will return to this shortly. When it comes to the second or new quest, which is typically associated with Bultmann students, the criterion of dissimilarity, and an interest in the authentic 6. Bermejo Rubio, ‘Fiction’, 221. Bermejo Rubio refers to aspects of Reimarus’s work (218), Strauss’s work (219), and Weiss’s work (219) as examples of this. 7. Bermejo Rubio, ‘Fiction’, 217, 218, 222. 8. Anthony Le Donne questions Schweitzer’s delimitation of the quest. He notes – from the perspective of Jewish–Christian relations – that the quest for the historical Jesus goes back nearly as far as to the man from Nazareth himself; see Le Donne, ‘Remapping Schweitzer’s Quest’. 9. Bermejo Rubio, ‘Fiction’, 228. 10. Weaver, Historical Jesus, xi–xxi. See also Bermejo Rubio, ‘Fiction’, 224–227, and Weaver’s shorter summary: ‘In Quest of the Quest: Finding Jesus’, in Jesus Research: New Methodologies and Perceptions: The Second Princeton-Prague Symposium on Jesus Research, Prague 2007 (eds. James H. Charlesworth, Petr Pokorný, and Brian Rhea; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), 28–57, 55, 56.

34

The Vermes Quest

message of Jesus, Bermejo Rubio remarks that such contributions are not the only ones from the period and are not even the most important.11 He asserts that the whole concept is a ‘fiction’, because it refers to such a limited number of Jesus scholars.12 The concept of the third quest, upon serious examination, appears to be equally unwarranted. According to Bermejo Rubio, all markers of the scholarly rhetoric of the third quest are baseless.13 Typically, the third quest is seen as an Anglophone phenomenon, at least initially, before others joined in.14 Bermejo Rubio counter this by pointing out that Jesus research of recent decades has no geographic unity. Furthermore, the third quest is typically described as an enterprise that includes more denominations than the earlier versions: Jews, Christians from most denominations, and agnostics are all part of the phenomenon.15 This appears true mainly because the first and second quests by definition excluded certain groups of scholars. There are other reasons for questioning the third quest as a helpful category: It is commonly asserted that the third quest is a diverse enterprise: the sources and methods that are used and consequently the conclusions drawn are disparate. Understanding Judaism is of utmost importance for most contemporary Jesus scholars, and the place of Jesus within his religion is essential, but there is no common understanding of Judaism, especially as regards the level of Hellenization within society and religion.16 Further, there is no agreement on the role that eschatology played in Jesus’s ministry or agreement on how any alleged eschatology should be understood.17 Jesus as exorcist and miracle worker is acknowledged by most contemporary contributors,18 but the constructions of Jesus differ in emphasizing particular traits. This lack of consensus has led to the view that the third quest is a diverse enterprise.19 According to Bermejo Rubio, the 11. Bermejo Rubio, ‘Fiction’, 230. 12. Bermejo Rubio, ‘Fiction’, 231. 13. Bermejo Rubio, ‘Fiction’, 232–238. 14. Theissen and Winter, Plausible Jesus, 141. However, Jesus research remains largely a ‘Western’ phenomenon. 15. See Stephen Neill and Tom Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861– 1986 (2. ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 397, 398. Additionally, John P. Meier, ‘The Present State of the “Third Quest” for the Historical Jesus: Loss and Gain’, Bib 80 (1999): 459–487, 61, 62, gives examples of the various confessional backgrounds for some important questers. A growing number of ‘questers’ are not part of any religious community. For instance, ‘The Jesus Project’ gathered many non-believers. See Cheryl Cantania, ‘The Jesus Project’, n.p. [accessed 10  November  2014]. Online: http://www.centerforinquiry. net/jesusproject and the subchapter on the Project in James G. Crossley, Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism: Quests, Scholarship and Ideology (Sheffield: Equinox, 2012), 134–143. 16. Beilby and Eddy, ‘Introduction’, 42. 17. Theissen and Merz, The Historical Jesus, 11. 18. Beilby and Eddy, ‘Introduction’, 38. Meier, ‘Third Quest’, 477–483. 19. See for instance, Wright, Jesus, 91–124; David S. du Toit, ‘Redefining Jesus: Current Trends in Jesus Research’, in Jesus, Mark and Q: The Teaching of Jesus and Its Earliest Records (eds. Michael Labahn and Andreas Schmidt; JSNTSup 214; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 82–124, 109; Charlesworth, ‘Introduction’, 3.

The History of Jesus Research: Mapping the Quest(s)

35

plurality of approaches, of Jesus images, and of ideologies among the contributors is in fact nothing new. Finally, one trademark of the third quest is said to be the historical as opposed to theological interest of the contributors. Bermejo Rubio asserts that some scholars of previous times were also clearly historical in their approaches, while some Jesus scholars today have clear theological agendas. Accordingly, there simply is no clear division between recent scholarship as historically oriented and theologically uninterested and previous scholarship as the converse. For Bermejo Rubio, therefore, there is neither any reason to portray recent scholarship as one wave of Jesus research nor any virtue in perpetuating the rhetoric that buttresses it.

Alternative Mappings of Jesus Research With Bermejo Rubio’s cautions in mind, are there other options for mapping Jesus research? In the 1990s, Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz suggested a minor change to the system above, coining new terms for the history of Jesus research. They divided Jesus research into five phases instead of three quests by splitting the first quest into two, dubbing its first phase ‘the critical impulse’ and its second ‘the optimism of the liberal quest’.20 By dividing the first part of research history into shorter chronological epochs, Theissen and Mertz underscore some differences that are hidden by the construction of the first quest. Still, their system of phases is actually no less simplified and thus escapes only some of the difficulties pointed out above. A more radical scheme comes from Halvor Moxnes, who divides Jesus research into two major phases. Moxnes asserts that the similarities between earlier quests are greater than their differences and posits that the real shift in Jesus research has come with the influence of social sciences in the 1970s and 1980s.21 This recent and major shift led to an emphasis of what Moxnes describes as a ‘relational approach to Jesus as leader of a group or a movement’ rather than a focus on him as a unique personality.22 Moxnes is correct to point out that this shift has been fundamental for Jesus research. However, his suggestion, accurate as it may be in its description of one significant change within Jesus research at large,23 does 20. Theissen and Merz, The Historical Jesus, 2–12. 21. Halvor Moxnes, ‘From Unique Personality to Charismatic Movement: 100 Years of Shifting Paradigms in Historical Jesus Research’, in Religion in Late Modernity: Essays in Honor of Pål Repstad (eds. Inger Furseth and Paul Leer-Salvesen; Trondheim: Tapir, 2007), 187–200, 191. 22. Moxnes, ‘From Unique Personality to Charismatic Movement’, 193. 23. Bermejo Rubio, ‘Fiction’, 236, remarks that John P. Meier, E. P. Sanders, Anthony E. Harvey, and Geza Vermes do not adhere to particular sociological approaches in their Jesus research. While this is a valid objection to Moxnes’s system, it is fair to postulate, as Moxnes does, that earlier scholarship portrayed Jesus as a unique personality, while most recent contributions depict him as part of, rather than in contrast to, larger streams of political, religious, and relational characteristics.

36

The Vermes Quest

not aim at providing tools for constructing a new taxonomy. His determination to point at the great change within Jesus research is clearly not conducted from a concern to point out diversity. Moreover, Moxnes does not suggest any new labels for the major periods of Jesus research. Clive Marsh offers another proposal.24 He maps Jesus research as eight quests defined by content and methodology and names them ‘The Positivist Quest’, ‘The Romantic Quest’, ‘The Form-Critical Quest’, ‘The Quest of the Non-Jewish Jesus’” ‘The Traditio-Historical Quest’, ‘The Existentialist Quest’, ‘The JewishChristian Quest’, and ‘The Postmodern Quest’.25 Marsh explains that these quests are ‘not mutually exclusive, do not fit easily into specific time periods, and are ideologically and methodologically aware to varying degrees’.26 Marsh’s system has many benefits. He avoids numbering the quests and hence the implicit possibility of signalling a hierarchy or sequence among them. Additionally, the labels chosen signal helpfully the substance of quests in a way that numbers simply cannot achieve. Marsh’s division into a larger number of quests certainly gives a more nuanced picture. Furthermore, he helpfully avoids the illusory notion of a no-quest period. As opposed to the traditional scheme, Marsh’s quests are not successive epochs in history, though the line-up of his quests does certainly mirror chronological development. The emphasis on content instead of chronology is beneficial, because it enables the historian to describe trends and interdependency across timelines. However, if one is interested in a certain period of time or a particular scholar who by definition had a particular period of flourishing, as I am here, Marsh’s system does not offer all the necessary tools. The present study does not operate exclusively within any of the frameworks above for describing the history of Jesus research. It interacts thematically with Marsh’s non-Jewish and Jewish-Christian quests and chronologically with the no-quest and third quest periods of the three-quest scheme. Like Moxnes, I do not systematize or label Jesus research prior to Vermes and I follow his division of Jesus research in practice as the methodological shift described by him coincides with the time of Vermes’s contributions to Jesus research. Because of the continued supremacy of the three-quest scheme within Jesus research today, I do refer explicitly to that classification. However, through the question of Vermes’s significance for Jesus research, this study adds to some of the objections that have been raised against the three-quest scheme and sheds light upon some of its categories, especially the third quest itself and the rhetoric surrounding it. While I see this as the best way to approach the classification issues within a study such as this, there is little reason for Jesus scholars to continue using the three-quest scheme. The way Jesus scholars have repeated this pattern illustrates a lack of truly critical approach to research history. The desire to provide readers 24. Clive Marsh, ‘Quests of the Historical Jesus in New Historicist Perspective’, BibInt 5 (1997): 403–437. 25. Marsh, ‘Quests’, 415. 26. Marsh, ‘Quests’, 416.

The History of Jesus Research: Mapping the Quest(s)

37

with an overview of the entire quest has led to generalized statements and has allowed the system to be repeated despite its many flaws. The best way for Jesus scholars to counter the difficulties mentioned above is however not to stop portraying the history of research. In order to be a genuinely historical enterprise, Jesus research should definitively have a critical interaction with its own history. This can be done by limiting the historical accounts to certain perspectives instead of attempting to give an overview of the entire enterprise. When referring to certain trends within earlier scholarship, one should carefully describe where and when they occur. In my opinion, the three-quest scheme can still be used pedagogically to present prominent features of the scholarly past (as in this book), especially if it is done with awareness of its generalizing nature, but it is otherwise of little value for serious scholarship on the historical Jesus.

The Third Quest The third quest is a construct based upon some perceived changes of Jesus research in the 1980s, and it has been used as a temporal designation that includes certain scholarly features and ideals. It denotes a certain period of time, though the exact starting and ending points are debatable. This study interacts with two of the highlighted features of the third quest: the genuinely historical approach (that purports to have replaced theological approaches) and the explicit attention to the Jewishness of Jesus. These issues were addressed by scholars who recorded the change in the 1980s and have been repeated in third quest rhetoric ever since. These notable features were allegedly not as significant in previous periods. In 1985, E. P. Sanders wrote about contemporary Jesus research and noted several new trends in the field.27 Rather than discussions about the authenticity of single periscopes, some scholars had provided general accounts of Jesus’s teaching and activity based upon an overall image from the Gospels. Sanders observes that the works of Vermes and others ‘are especially addressed to the question of Jesus and Judaism’.28 He notes that more genuine historical questions had replaced the search for a link between the historical Jesus and the Christian faith. Sanders points out these changes, though he does not describe them as the start of a new quest. In the same year as Sanders, James H. Charlesworth noted similar traits in contemporary research. In a lecture at the Annual General Meeting of the Irish Biblical Association, he announced a shift within historical Jesus research, marked by an emphasis on Judaism and Jesus’s Palestinian world.29 Charlesworth 27. E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (London: SCM Press, 1985), 1–3. 28. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 1. Sanders mentions John Bowker, who presented the book Jesus and the Pharisees in 1973. 29. Charlesworth, ‘Research’, 31. In the lecture, Charlesworth gives brief summaries of what he regards important books on Jesus from 1980 to 1984. For our purposes, it is

38

The Vermes Quest

writes: ‘a major theme running through these studies [from the early 1980s] is the attempt to see Jesus in terms of our improved understanding of pre-seventy Judaism’.30 Moreover, he repeatedly points to ‘the need to study the Jewish world in which Jesus actually lived’.31 Besides, Charlesworth observes a new, somewhat more optimistic attitude among Jesus scholars: ‘a major new trend in recent study is the intensive investigation of what can be known reliably about Jesus and his world’.32 Charlesworth shares this optimism to the extent that he wants to abandon the traditional language of ‘quest’: ‘the new climate surrounding Jesus research, obviously the term I prefer to the quest for Jesus, has enabled a new sensitivity to the perennial questions. The major impediments to this task have eroded. The theological one has crumbled.’33 Charlesworth describes a new time, when the attention to Jesus’s Jewishness and historical approaches prevail. The following year, Charlesworth repeated that he sees the change in the 1980s as a turn from the theologically motivated quest to the historically motivated Jesus research of contemporary scholarship.34 It is evident that Charlesworth, like Sanders, saw a new trend emerging. The term ‘third quest’ was first introduced in the 1980s by N. T. Wright35 to denote the trend that Sanders and Charlesworth identify: working as historians, equipped with Jewish material, contemporary scholars were optimistic about the possibility of gaining reliable information about the historical Jesus. Wright uses third quest as a designation for a specific kind of Jesus research that was emerging at the time, and like Sanders, Wright sees Vermes as one of the scholars who represent that third quest.36 Like Charlesworth, Wright posits that the third quest is distinguishable from its predecessors because of its genuinely historical interest: important to note that Charlesworth, ‘Research,’ (30–31) refers to Vermes’s The Gospel of Jesus the Jew as one out of five significant books from 1981. At the end of his lecture, Charlesworth mentions that E. P. Sanders had sent him his book Jesus and Judaism before it was in print. Charlesworth is thus one of the first to comment on it: ‘it is obvious that many New Testament scholars are taking seriously and putting in central focus the study of preseventy Judaism and Jesus’ place within it’ (36, 37). 30. Charlesworth, ‘Research’, 34. 31. Charlesworth, ‘Research’, 34. 32. Charlesworth, ‘Research’, 36. 33. Charlesworth, ‘Research’, 37. See also, Charlesworth, ‘The Foreground of Christian Origins and the Commencement of Jesus Research’, in Jesus’ Jewishness for his use of the term ‘Jesus research.’ 34. Charlesworth, ‘Emergence of Jesus Research’, 221, 224. 35. Neill and Wright, Interpretation, 379, is often cited as the term’s first appearance; the last chapter of this book – where the term is used – was written by Wright. However, as Beilby and Eddy (‘Introduction’, in Jesus: Five Views, 28) correctly point out, Wright used the term some years earlier in the title of an article in which Wright suggests new approaches in Jesus research; see N. T. Wright, ‘Towards a Third Quest? Jesus Then and Now’, ARC 10 (1982): 20–27. 36. Neill and Wright, Interpretation, 381.

The History of Jesus Research: Mapping the Quest(s)

39

While the so-called ‘New Quest’ was still cautiously arguing about presuppositions and methods, producing lengthy histories of tradition out of which could be squeezed one or two more drops of authentic Jesus material, a quite different movement was beginning in a variety of places and with no unified background or programme. Fortified by the Jewish materials now more readily available, these scholars worked as historians, under no doubt that it is possible to know quite a lot about Jesus of Nazareth and that it is worth while to do so … This movement of scholarship has become so pronounced that it is not fanciful to talk in terms of a ‘Third Quest.’37

Presenting a contrast between previous research and the third quest is not merely part of an old rhetoric. In 1995, arguably the heyday of the third quest, Craig A. Evans notes: ‘I think most will agree that the Third Quest represents a major break from the assumptions and methods that characterize the first two centuries of Jesus research (ca. 1770s–1970s).’38 He writes further: ‘unlike earlier quests, the Third Quest is not driven by theological-philosophical concerns. There has been a shift away from a philosophical orientation to a historical orientation’.39 More recently, Charlesworth has written that ‘in contrast to the Old Quest and the New Quest, Jesus research was not tied to a theologically motivated “search” for Jesus’.40 He continues: ‘more concern for “disinterested” research in Jesus and more scientific probes into his world are evident today than before 1980. By “disinterested”, I mean a study of Jesus that is objective, inductive, and does not explore questions by imposing on them desired answers’.41 The rhetoric of the historically interested quest goes hand in hand with the emphasis on Jesus’s Jewishness; it is the placing of Jesus within that context that vouches for the historicity of the work. Besides, these are portrayed as important markers of the third quest over its predecessor. Let me include one example where these connections are made. David S. du Toit writes that scholars within the third quest emphasize Jesus’s continuity with his contemporaries rather than his singularity, and remarks that: ‘the first and foremost feature of the so-called Third Quest is the generally shared presupposition of its participants that a proper historical understanding of Jesus demands understanding him within (not: against the background of!) the social, cultural, economic, political and religious context of first-century Palestine’.42

37. Neill and Wright, Interpretation, 379. Wright adds: ‘actual historical enquiry after Jesus has not reached an impasse: it could not have, since until a few years ago it had hardly started’. 38. Craig A. Evans, Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies (AGJU 25; Leiden: Brill, 1995), 2. 39. Evans, Contemporaries, 10, 11. 40. Charlesworth, ‘Introduction’, 7. 41. Charlesworth, ‘Introduction’, 7. 42. Toit, ‘Current Trends’, 100. The comment within the parenthesis is original.

40

The Vermes Quest

Some scholars today signal that the end of the third quest has come. Recently, Craig A. Evans announced that ‘the Third Quest, as defined in the 1980s, is over’.43 In addition, Paul N. Anderson and Ernst Baasland have each for different reasons welcomed a ‘fourth quest’.44 Moreover, the increasing attention to memory theory within Jesus research has led some scholars to question the future of historical Jesus research as such.45 Besides, meta-reflections upon mapping of the quests (such as this) may signal a change within contemporary scholarship, which a future generation of scholars may judge to be the start of a new era. When I use the term ‘the third quest’ in this book, I do it with reference to the scholarly understanding of such a period of Jesus research. I use it without adopting the framework of the three-quest scheme and without assuming that it is in fact third in sequence (or fourth, if one includes the no-quest period). I use it with a certain distance to represent the scholarly rhetoric that is both challenged and supported by this study. 43. Craig A. Evans, ‘The Future of Historical Jesus Studies’, n.p. [accessed 10  November  2014]. Online: http://nearemmaus.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/the-futureof-historical-jesus-studies/ 44. Baasland argues that a new approach to Jesus should seek the purpose and motive of Jesus’s ministry (Ernst Baasland, ‘Fourth Quest? What Did Jesus Really Want?’, in Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus [eds. Tom Holmén and Stanley E. Porter; Leiden: Brill, 2011], 31–56). Anderson asks whether employing the Gospel of John in Jesus research might lead to a fourth quest (Paul N. Anderson, The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus: Modern Foundations Reconsidered [LNTS; London: T&T Clark, 2006], 192). Similarly, Charlesworth asks whether the use of John’s Gospel in Jesus research should be seen as a ‘paradigm shift’; see James H. Charlesworth, ‘The Historical Jesus in the Fourth Gospel: A Paradigm Shift?’, JSHJ 8 (2010): 3–46. For instance, John W. Pryor, The Enigmatic Jew: In Quest of the Historical Jesus (printed by CreateSpace, 2011), uses the Gospel of John alongside the Synoptics in his portrayal of Jesus. Time will tell whether the terminology of a ‘fourth quest’ will be employed by the wider group of Jesus scholars. 45. For instance, Zeba Crook proclaimed the end of Jesus research as such; Crook made this claim at the Historical Jesus session at the Annual SBL 2013 in Baltimore (‘Memory Distortion and the Historical Jesus’). The session was discussed on various biblioblogs afterwards. See for instance, Tyler Stewart, ‘The Blow Up in Baltimore (Part 1 – Summary)’, n.p. [cited 10 Nov 2014]. Online: http://ahabhuman.blogspot.no/2013/11/the-blow-up-in-baltimore-part1-summary.html and Tyler Stewart, ‘The Blow Up in Baltimore (Part 2 – The Sparks)’, n.p. [accessed 10 November 2014]. Online: http://ahabhuman.blogspot.no/2013/11/the-blow-upin-baltimore-part-2-sparks.html, where Zeba Crook himself comments on the case: just to clarify: I didn’t say that Historical Jesus research is impossible. I argued that ‘the Quest’ characterized by the search for things we can know with certainty about Jesus, is rendered impossible by work on memory distortion, and by our inability to differentiate between accurate and inaccurate (and sometimes wholly manufactured) memories. I did admit that other projects are possible (how Jesus was remembered). At SBL 2015, Paul Foster questioned whether scholars who employ memory theory as means of discussing the gospels are aiming at the historical Jesus or not.

Part II THE SIGNIFICANCE OF VERMES’S JEWISH JESUS FOR JESUS RESEARCH We have seen that some scholars refer to Geza Vermes’s Jesus research as an example of the change in the field; others see him as the main contributor to the change. This leads to the main question of part two: What was Vermes’s role, through the book Jesus the Jew, in turning Jesus research into an overwhelming interest in the Jewishness of Jesus? In the following, I look into the details of Vermes’s construction of Jesus and Judaism in Jesus the Jew from 1973 (Chapter  4), and at early interactions with this work (Chapter 5). What are the details of Vermes’s image of Jesus and what is his methodological approach? How was this book received by Jesus scholars at the time of the perceived change in scholarship? After the exploration of the reception of the Jewishness of Jesus approach in Jesus the Jew, I look to the wider context of Jesus research. The ways that the Jewishness of Jesus had been approached before Vermes helps explain the reception of the book (Chapter  6). Further, I explore the ways that Vermes’s work on the son of man issue has proved significant for Jesus research (Chapter 7). Finally, I offer some considerations on the Jewishness of Jesus within Jesus research (Chapter 8).

Chapter 4 V E R M E S’ S J EW I SH J E SU S ( 1 9 7 3 ) Jesus the Jew is Vermes’s first book on Jesus, where he introduces his concept of the Jewish Jesus. His overall assertion of Jesus has proven to be a strong case and variations of his slogan ‘Jesus the Jew’ have been widely used by scholars after him. From the perspective of research history, and as witness to Vermes’s early career as a Jesus scholar, this is indeed an important book. In the present chapter, I examine Vermes’s approach to the figure of Jesus and his depiction of Judaism. I take the title of the book as starting point, asking who is ‘Jesus the Jew’ and what does the subtitle ‘a historian’s reading of the Gospels’ mean? These aspects from Jesus the Jew are essential for understanding the benefits and limitations of Vermes’s contribution to Jesus research and they prepare for the hasid theory, in which Vermes defines the figure of Jesus more precisely. First, some remarks on terminology. When Vermes describes the Jewish Jesus, he refers both to a figure of the Synoptic Gospels and to Jesus as a historical person from first-century Palestine. It is not easy to separate the two in Vermes’s book, and when in doubt, I do not attempt to do so. In my analysis, though, I need to distinguish between ‘exegetical’ and ‘historical’ aspects of Vermes’s image of Jesus, and I use the following terminology: I employ the term ‘historical Jesus’ for Vermes’s construction of Jesus as a historical person. Further, I denote the Jesus image that Vermes constructs from a reading of the Synoptic Gospels as firstcentury literature ‘the Jesus of the Gospels’ or ‘the Synoptic Jesus’. Finally, I use the term ‘the Jewish Jesus’ to denote aspects of Vermes’s construction that focuses on Jesus’s Jewishness, without trying to discern whether Vermes has the Synoptic Jesus or the historical Jesus (or both) in mind.

Method and the Jewish Jesus in Jesus the Jew A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels – Jesus the Jew as Jesus Research? Although Jesus the Jew was treated immediately as a book about the historical Jesus,1 we should note how Vermes describes his primary aim with the book. The main intention of Jesus the Jew was to give a non-prejudiced view of Jesus and thus 1. See for example, A. R. C. Leaney, ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’, JTS 25 (1973): 489–492, 490 and Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 1.

44

The Vermes Quest

challenge contemporary Christian and Jewish images of him.2 The Jewish Jesus in the book is a substitute for the divine Jesus of the Creeds and for the ‘apostate and bogey-man of Jewish popular tradition’.3 In order to achieve this aim, Vermes focuses first on Jesus of the Gospels and not on the historical Jesus: ‘the plan here is not to attempt to reconstruct the authentic portrait of Jesus, but more modestly, to find out how the writers of the Gospels, echoing primitive tradition, wished him to be known’.4 Further, Vermes claims to be looking for the ‘primitive, genuine, historical, significance of words and events recorded in the Gospels’ in order to ‘discover the original meaning of their message’.5 The historical Jesus is nowhere in sight. Vermes’s choice to stay with the message of the Gospels in Jesus the Jew rather than aiming at extracting an authentic portrait of Jesus from them is motivated by an expression of the Gospels’ shortcomings: ‘it is always an arduous, and often almost hopeless, task to try to establish the historical value of the Synoptic story’.6 Such a pessimistic view of the Gospels as sources for the historical Jesus is also evident elsewhere in the volume.7 Consequently, Vermes often accentuates the Jesus of the Gospels in Jesus the Jew. Vermes’s emphasis on the Gospels is reflected recurrently in how he operates in practice. He typically summarizes gospel material and focuses on particular stories, words, and phrases without discussing their relevance as sources for the historical Jesus. For instance, he briefly summarizes how Jesus’s miracles are described in the Gospels and uses some episodes to illustrate different aspects of Jesus’s healing and exorcist ministries as they are presented there.8 However, only at one point in his account of the miracle stories does he provide an evaluation of their historicity. He writes that some miracle stories ‘appear to be secondary accretions’.9 Vermes clearly does not see the stories about Jesus walking on water, about the large catch of fish, and about Peter catching a fish with a coin in its mouth as historical. The succeeding paragraph, in which Vermes describes Jesus as a teacher, also focuses on the literary level of the Gospels. After discussing the content of selected sayings and parables, he ends a larger discussion on the saying from Mark 7:14–23 (on defilement and unclean food), with the assertion that it is ‘a deliberate twist given to a probably genuine saying of Jesus’.10 The comment on authenticity is the exception; Vermes’s attention is largely on how the Synoptic Gospels portray Jesus. Especially in the first chapters, Jesus the Jew reads largely as a book on the Synoptic Jesus with an emphasis on its Jewish potential. Vermes highlights aspects 2. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 19. 3. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 17. 4. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 19. 5. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 16 (emphasis in the original). 6. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 19. 7. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 78. 8. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 22–26. 9. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 26. Vermes refers to Mark 6:45–52 par.; Luke 5:11, and Matt. 17:24–26 10. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 26.

Vermes’s Jewish Jesus (1973)

45

of the Gospels that fairly obviously point to Jesus’s Jewishness, for instance that Jesus says that he was sent to Israel, not to the Gentiles (Matt. 15:24).11 Jesus’s mode of teaching with parables was ‘commonly used by rabbinic preachers’.12 The opposition against Jesus lay primarily with the representatives of the political establishment, and not with ‘Jews’ or ‘Judaism’ as such.13 These and other paraphrases of the gospel portrait of Jesus are not accompanied by comments that suggest to the reader whether Vermes depicts the historical Jesus or the Jesus of the Gospels. In light of his introduction, however, they read as summaries of the Synoptic Jesus image, and the subtitle of the book – A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels – suggests an exploration of the gospel message as part of its own historical context, and not as a search for the historical Jesus. Nevertheless, Vermes does in fact discuss the Jewishness of the historical Jesus, as we shall see shortly. First, we need to look into how Vermes approaches the historical figure of Jesus. Authenticity of Gospel Narratives in Jesus the Jew Vermes never discusses the authenticity of gospel passages in much detail or presents any criteria for establishing authenticity. Still, he sometimes informs his readers that parts of the Gospels are more historically reliable than others. Comments on authenticity are always brief, and while they sometimes simply state that a story or a feature is probably authentic, the logic behind such conclusions is occasionally revealed. Although criteria of authenticity are never discussed, Vermes does employ some. For instance, he regards the ‘scandalous incongruity’ of the statement from Jesus’s family in Mark 3:21 (‘he is out of his mind’) as ‘the best guarantee of its historicity’.14 He also sees the absence of any parallel to this story in Matthew or Luke as an example of ‘an early “censorship” tendency in the evolving Christian tradition’.15 The criterion of embarrassment is in play here. Vermes also uses something similar to the criterion of multiple attestation. He refers to ‘the unanimous Synoptic tradition’ and ‘the whole Synoptic tradition’, thereby implying that such traditions are trustworthy, at least to some degree.16 Similar arguments for authenticity are rare though not entirely absent from Jesus the Jew.17 11. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 26. 12. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 27. 13. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 36. Vermes lists numerous gospel references in the footnote (234, n.158). 14. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 33. 15. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 34. 16. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 24, 58. 17. For instance, Vermes’s comment on ‘Jesus’ apparent antipathy towards Gentiles’ in Matt. 10:5–6, Mark 5:18–19, and Luke 8:38–39: ‘The authenticity of these sayings must be well-nigh impregnable, taking into account their shocking inappropriateness in an internationally open Church’ (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 49).

46

The Vermes Quest

When Vermes evaluates stories of the New Testament in terms of authenticity, the reasoning behind such evaluations is sometimes explicit, though mostly Vermes only provides the conclusions. He then judges passages or words to be probably authentic or non-authentic without further explanation for his evaluation. For instance, after the discussion about the possible Aramaic original of Mark 7:18–23 (on defilement and unclean food), Vermes claims that the saying is ‘probably genuine’, without revealing why he sees it as such.18 Furthermore, when discussing Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem and his reception there, he remarks that Luke is ‘this time presumably correct’ in portraying the disciples rather than the people in general as the hailing audience.19 Vermes does not spell out what causes his positive judgement on this particular occurrence. However, his wording here suggests a general scepticism towards the Gospel of Luke as a provider of authentic material that can be overruled when Luke presents the more moderate version among the Synoptics. The fact that Vermes reports some stories as ‘secondary accretions’ or ‘genuine’ appears not to imply that he sees other stories as the opposite. In the paragraph on Jesus as a teacher, Vermes gives an explicit guide for the reader: ‘it is not proposed at this moment even to try to extricate the authentic from the inauthentic, but simply to determine what kind of teacher Jesus was according to the evangelists’.20 It is the Synoptic Jesus who is in focus here, and the comments on non-authentic stories do not signal that Vermes regards the remainder as authentic. So why does he make such comments at all? The fact that Vermes makes assertions about authenticity while describing the Synoptic Jesus may be taken as methodological carelessness, but another way of seeing it is that they are brought into the text to make it more readable and appealing. Jesus the Jew is written for the general audience as well as for scholars, and Vermes claims to have made an effort to make his text attractive for general readers.21 Furthermore, Vermes presupposes that the most primitive Jesus traditions are the best choice for an unprejudiced Jesus image. Perhaps, then, the comments on authenticity are best seen as assertions of whether the gospel writers are assumed to be ‘echoing primitive tradition’ on some specific points, or simply as a way to make Vermes’s account more compelling for the common reader.22 For my purposes, it is sufficient to conclude that Vermes does not aim primarily at a construction of the historical Jesus, at least in the 18. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 29. Further examples can be found, for instance, in Vermes’s discussion of the meaning of Jesus’s saying ‘the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he [John the Baptist]’. Vermes writes: ‘although it is by no means sure that the words are his own, their significance is: John was very great, but I am greater’. Vermes provides no reason for his scepticism (33). Furthermore, he deems Luke’s report on the Pharisees’ attempt to lynch Jesus (Luke 4:28–30) as ‘probably an exaggeration’ (34). Again, he offers no argument for or against the probability. 19. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 30. 20. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 26. 21. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 9 (preface to the first paperback edition). 22. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 19.

Vermes’s Jewish Jesus (1973)

47

first chapters of Jesus the Jew. The listing and paraphrasing of stories from the Synoptics carry out his intention ‘to sit down and with a mind empty of prejudice read the accounts of Mark, Matthew and Luke as though for the first time’.23 Some evaluations of authenticity accompany Vermes’s fresh and allegedly unbiased reading of these texts. So far, then, Jesus the Jew appears not to be a book on the historical Jesus at all. Vermes reveals pessimism regarding the Gospels as historical sources and especially on the possibility of discerning what is historically reliable from what is not. However, he also writes more optimistically about the Gospels as sources for the historical Jesus. Besides several comments on authenticity and occasional use of criteria, the book also contains comprehensive assertions about the historical Jesus, especially in some of its later chapters, that support categorizing the book as Jesus research. The following assertions display such an optimism and make clear that Vermes is indeed interested in the historical Jesus. The Historical Jesus of Jesus the Jew Vermes’s ‘historian’s reading’ is indeed concerned with the historical Jesus. He claims that the Synoptics are sources for ‘a skeletal outline of Jesus of Nazareth as he really was’,24 sees them as better suited for historical inquiries than the Gospel of John: ‘not even they were conceived as an objective record of events, nor even as popular chronicles. Nonetheless they are generally less remote from the Jesus of history in time and style of presentation than the last of the four, the spiritual Gospel of John the Divine’.25 Although Vermes starts on a negative note here, he points out that the Synoptics are the right place to begin a search for the historical Jesus. Moreover, Vermes prefers Mark above the other Synoptics, because it ‘besides being the most ancient of the Synoptic Gospels is also doctrinally the least developed’.26 Vermes does not explain how it is possible to find the ‘skeletal outline of the historical Jesus’ in the Synoptic Gospels. However, he appears to search for the historical Jesus by reading the Gospels with special attention to the Jewishness of Jesus. In doing so, Vermes sometimes emphasizes a part of the story that does not appear to be central to the narrative as such. One example of this approach is found in the interpretation of the healing narrative in Mark 3:1–5 (par). Vermes comments that the healing of the man with a withered hand represents a breach with Jesus’s preferred method, namely to lay his hands upon the afflicted person. In this story, Jesus heals with words, and Vermes remarks: ‘the method of healing by command alone – “Stretch out your arm” – is noteworthy since this is the only cure placed by the unanimous Synoptic tradition on a Sabbath day. Speech could not be construed as “work” infringing the law governing the Jewish day 23. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 19. 24. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 42. 25. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 16. 26. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 39. Vermes is open to preferring other Gospels in specific cases.

48

The Vermes Quest

of rest’.27 This is Vermes’s only comment on the story at this point and we see here that Vermes emphasizes only one detail of the story. The comment suggests that Jesus’s method was carefully selected: Jesus healed by speech because it was permissible to speak rather than work with the hands on the Sabbath.28 Vermes hereby places this act of Jesus seamlessly within Jewish Sabbath observation, and healing by word alone on the Sabbath illustrates Jesus’s Jewishness. The Synoptics themselves, however, make no such point. On the contrary, the ‘unanimous Synoptic tradition’, in Vermes’s phrase, makes this healing story the starting point for a controversy on healing on the Sabbath, which ends with describing negative reactions towards Jesus.29 Moreover, Jesus’s mode of healing is never set in relation to the requirements of Jewish law; instead, the method of healing appears to be irrelevant.30 Vermes thus reads the gospel story against the grain. Vermes’s comment on Jesus’s healing method does not only build on an issue that is not recorded in the Gospels in order to construe Jesus as an observant Jew. Vermes also ignores those elements of the gospel story that make Jesus look as though he was in opposition to ‘the law governing the Jewish day of rest’. This does not mean that Vermes is not aware of such elements; he returns to this challenge some pages later and writes that ‘there is little doubt that the Pharisees disliked his non-conformity and would have preferred him to have abstained from healing on the Sabbath where life was not in danger. They obviously enjoyed embarrassing him with testing questions’.31 Vermes hence gives voice to the ‘dislike’ reported in the Synoptics: the Pharisees were not satisfied with Jesus’s healing on the Sabbath. The apparent ambiguity between this ‘dislike’ and the supposed observance of the Sabbath regulations as expressed by Jesus’s healing by word remains unsolved here. However, Vermes elsewhere minimizes the importance of Synoptic texts that present Jesus discussing or opposing Jewish habits, so that the Jewishness of Jesus stands out more clearly. For example: If he [Jesus] adopted a personal style of teaching, was his doctrine itself a novelty? Did he reject or contradict any of the basic beliefs of Judaism? Discounting passages which represent him as speaking lightly of certain non-scriptural 27. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 25. Vermes refers here to Mark 3:1–15; Matt. 12:9–13; Luke 6:6–10 28. Vermes has adopted this logic from David Flusser. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 231, 268; refer to David Flusser, Jesus. Mit Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1968), 49. 29. Luke 13:10–17 reports a healing (by word) on the Sabbath and although the act of healing on the Sabbath elsewhere leads to controversy, that story ends on a positive note. 30. Mark 2:11 illustrates this point. Here, the use of words alone is described as a healing method without reference to the Sabbath. Vermes has noticed this, and reports on Mark 2:1–11: ‘with the exception of the verbal healing of a paralytic, physical cures entail the performance of a rudimentary or occasionally complex rite’ (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 24). 31. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 36; in the footnote to this passage, Vermes refers to his comment quoted above about Jesus’s habit of avoiding ‘work’ when healing on the Sabbath.

Vermes’s Jewish Jesus (1973)

49

customs held to be highly important by other teachers, or as interpreting a biblical verse in a sense different from that habitually ascribed to it there still remains one crucial text apparently showing him ‘at variance with his inherited Judaism’ namely that concerned with unclean food.32

In the first part of the quotation, Vermes rapidly deals with stories that could disturb his notion of the Jewish Jesus. It is not entirely clear what stories he has in mind, nor why he ‘discounts’ them. In any case, his wording implies that such conflicts, as reported in the Gospels, are trivial. His rhetoric of ‘speaking lightly of certain non-scriptural customs’ and ‘interpreting a biblical verse in a sense different from that habitually ascribed to it’ contributes to the image of Jesus as a creative and independent teacher who is still loyal to scripture and scriptural customs. Jesus is kept squarely within Judaism, even when Vermes considers stories that are often held to portray the opposite. The quotation above ends with a reference to Jesus’s attitude towards unclean food in Mark 7:14–23 Vermes regards the Markan saying to be genuine, except for the final comment: ‘thus he declared all foods clean’ (Mark 7:19). It is exactly at this point, Vermes notes, that Jesus apparently is ‘at variance with his inherited Judaism’. The phrase used here is taken from Samuel Sandmel’s We Jews and Jesus (1965) and Vermes takes issue with Sandmel’s position.33 While Sandmel takes the conclusion of the Markan narrative to describe the historical Jesus, Vermes suggests that it is a comment by the author with roots in an original Aramaic saying by Jesus, wrongly rendered in the Gospel. Vermes argues that the word ‘food’ was a euphemism for ‘excrement’ and that ‘the place’ could be used to denote the latrine and suggests reading the sequence as follows: ‘do you not see that nothing that goes from outside into a man can defile him, because it does not enter into his heart but into his stomach, and so passes out into the place (= latrine) where all excrement is purged away’.34 Vermes claims to find support for such a reconstruction in the ‘oldest available Semitic version of Mark, the so-called Sinaitic recension of the Syriac Gospel’.35 In this way, Vermes rejects a potential problem for the portrayal of Jesus’s Jewishness. We have seen how Vermes interacts with stories from the Gospels, and how he shapes a Jewish Jesus from stories that at first sight do not display the Jewishness of Jesus. We must also take an initial look into Vermes’s use of the Jewish context as a highly significant source for the historical Jesus. This context is established through other Jewish sources:

32. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 28, Vermes refers here to Mark 7:14–23; Matt. 15:10–20 33. Samuel Sandmel, We Jews and Jesus (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), 137. The full sentence is ‘only at the vague statement about food laws is Jesus in variance with his inherited Judaism’. 34. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 28, 29. 35. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 29. Vermes does not refer to a specific manuscript here.

50

The Vermes Quest Instead of treating Jewish literature as an ancillary to the New Testament, the present approach will attempt the contrary, namely to fit Jesus and his movement into the greater context of first-century AD Palestine. If such an immersion in historical reality confers credibility on the Gospel picture, and the patchy portrait drawn by the evangelists begins suddenly to look, sound and feel true, this inquiry will have attained its primary objective.36

The world of Jesus is, in other words, the right place to start, and Vermes makes two separate moves on his way towards the historical Jesus. The first is to understand the Gospels in their historical context, as shown above. The second is to insert the interpreted image of the Synoptic Jesus into the context of first-century Judaism, in order to see what parts of that Jesus image ring true. Separating authentic from inauthentic material does not appear to be needed before the immersion into a Jewish context, but knowledge of first-century Judaism is essential. Such knowledge informs the interpretation of the Gospels and helps the scholar decide what parts of the Synoptic Jesus represent ‘the skeleton’ of the historical Jesus. Finally, knowledge of first-century Judaism makes it possible to present a fuller image of the historical Jesus than what is found in the Gospels. To use Vermes’s imagery, aspects from first-century Judaism ‘add a little flesh to these bare bones’ of what the Gospels preserve of the historical Jesus.37 The pessimism on behalf of the gospels as sources for the historical Jesus is outweighed by this optimism with regards to the Jewish context as the historian’s guide. Vermes formulates this method in the preface of the first paperback edition of Jesus the Jew, making clear how the gospel records may be relevant for historical Jesus research: Jesus the Jew is written for those who, like the author, are eager to explore the primitive and genuine significance of words and events recorded in the Gospels in order to obtain a fuller understanding of the historical Jesus … I insert the Jesus of the Gospels into the geographical and historical realities and into the charismatic religious framework of first-century Judaism.38

Vermes’s search for the Synoptic Jesus is a crucial but not the final gesture in Jesus the Jew. It is a book about the historical Jesus with much emphasis on how the Gospels depict him. Vermes ends Jesus the Jew with a summary that embodies both of the book’s approaches. I include a long quotation here to show both how quickly Vermes shifts from a pessimistic to a positive view of the enterprise of Jesus research and how he describes his route from Jesus of the Gospels to the historical Jesus:

36. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 42. 37. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 42. 38. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 9; italics added.

Vermes’s Jewish Jesus (1973)

51

Certainly, unless by some fortunate chance new evidence is unfolded in the future, not a great deal can be said of him at this distance of time that can be historically authenticated. Nevertheless, this much at least can be asserted with some fair measure of conviction. The positive and constant testimony of the earliest Gospel tradition, considered against its natural background of firstcentury Galilean charismatic religion, leads not to a Jesus as unrecognizable within the framework of Judaism as by the standard of his own verifiable words and intentions, but to another figure: the just man, the zaddik, Jesus the helper and healer, Jesus the teacher and leader, venerated by his intimates and less committed admirers alike as prophet, lord and son of God.39

The final result of Vermes’s procedure in Jesus the Jew is the assertion that Jesus was a hasid, which will be explored fully below. For now, it is important to note that the hasid theory, as I dub it, represents the final stage of Vermes’s method: it is the image of Jesus the hasid that emerges after Vermes has added ‘a little flesh’ to the ‘bare bones’ of the Synoptic Jesus.

Vermes’s Judaism in Jesus the Jew For Vermes, as for other scholars of the third quest, context is the key to the historical Jesus, and first-century Judaism is one important field of inquiry. Some scholars employ the plural term ‘Judaisms’ to denote the variety of expressions within first-century ‘Judaism.’40 I can find no occasion where Vermes uses that term in the plural but he certainly presupposes that Judaism expressed itself in a highly diverse fashion. When Vermes sets out to understand Jesus as part of his context in Jesus the Jew, it is not with the presupposition that Judaism is a monolithic system practiced identically by everyone, with a firm and unchanging set of beliefs. Vermes’s Judaism refers to a multifaceted religion and society, with abundant room for diversity and disagreement. It entails differing practices and beliefs, geographical differences, and varying ‘essentials’ for various groups. Although Vermes presupposes a diverse Judaism, he does not focus on the diversity or define how differences appeared. Vermes pays little attention to Judaism writ large; he neither defines the term nor discusses what Judaism looked like at the time of Jesus. He makes no effort to distinguish ‘true’ expressions of Judaism from other forms. His presentation of Judaism as the setting for Jesus is thus not a general outline of first-century Judaism, but rather selected aspects of it. Vermes focuses on the narrower context of Judaism as Jesus would have lived it, a Judaism that people similar to him and geographically near him would have recognized instantly. 39. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 225. 40. One early example is Jacob Neusner, William Scott Green, and Ernest Frerichs, Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

52

The Vermes Quest

In the following, I focus on what Vermes labels ‘charismatic Judaism’, and on how Vermes uses the Galilean context of Jesus to explain his attitude and ministry. For Vermes, charismatic Judaism provides the proper context for the historical Jesus because it resonates well with the descriptions in the Gospels and because it enjoyed a strong position in Galilee. As opposed to some earlier scholars who used the Galilean heritage of Jesus as a starting point for their non-Jewish/Aryan Jesus (cf. Chapter 6), Vermes uses it to explain certain aspects of Jesus’s inherently Jewish religiosity and mindset. His construction of charismatic Judaism, Galilee, and Galileans contributes to the descriptions of Jesus’s religious-political context and Jesus’s sociological role within it. These features are therefore crucial for the full Vermes portrait of Jesus and help legitimate his notion of the Jewish Jesus. Charismatic Judaism Vermes first used the term ‘charismatic Judaism’ in Jesus the Jew and employed it throughout his career,41 though he never defines with any precision what he means by either of the two words. The key to charismatic Judaism is the word ‘charismatic’, and before we consider Vermes’s concept, it is helpful to look into the term ‘charismatic’ and how it is used by Vermes. In modern English, it might be used in secular and religious discourses to emphasize different aspects of the same complex; while one aspect of ‘charismatic’ presupposes a dualistic worldview where the spiritual realm impacts on the worldly, it may also be used in a fully this-worldly manner. In a religious setting, ‘charismatic’ can designate certain spirit-filled practices, emphasizing the believer’s experience of closeness to God and expressions of spiritual power rather than formal religious calendar and organization. This closeness to God and divine intervention are observable through healings, exorcisms, and prophetic speech and are often shared within a community.42 Believers understand such charismatic features as expressions of divine intervention. Within Christianity today, charismatics find theological motivation in Rom. 12 and 1 Cor. 12–14,43 where the Greek χάρισμα denotes expressions of faith that are perceived as divinely granted abilities and tasks: utterance of wisdom, utterance of knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, various kinds of tongues, and interpretations of tongues (1 Cor. 12:8–10). Such a spiritual aspect of charismatic is fundamental to Vermes’s use of the word. Max Weber is known to have introduced the term ‘charismatic’ into the secular realm of sociology. Weber describes the charismatic person as one who gains authority through one’s inherent features rather than through traditional 41. See for instance, Vermes’s Christian Beginnings, where ‘Charismatic Judaism’ is the theme of the opening chapters (1–86). 42. Karla O. Poewe, Charismatic Christianity as a Global Culture (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994), 185, 186. 43. Allan Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 19.

Vermes’s Jewish Jesus (1973)

53

or institutional channels. On several occasions, Weber uses Jesus as example. He depicts him as a person of charismatic domination (charismatische Herrschaft), and uses the saying ‘it is written … but I say unto you’ as an example of how the charismatic figure replaces traditional laws with his own personal authority.44 The point of the Weberian usage of the term is not where the charismatic features or abilities originate; one might equally see them as supernatural or natural. Neither does Weber emphasize the appearance of charisma’s features, whether through speech, expressions of supernatural power in healing, exorcism, and the like. The Weberian discussions on the concept of charismatic highlight that individual qualities can bear heavily on what authority a person may gain over others. Weber takes, in his own words, ‘the concept of charisma (“gift of grace”) from Early Christianity’, and uses it to explain the logic of power structures.45 His concept is thus overlapping with the sprit-filled aspect, and there is therefore a link between what I have denoted above as a spiritual aspect and what I describe here as the Weberian aspect.46 Still, distinctions can be made between them. The first aspect emphasizes extraordinary, divine practices, while the second accentuates the social role and the authority that may derive from personal abilities. The Weberian aspect of authority can also be found in Jesus the Jew, but it is not Vermes’s primary focus. When he describes charismatic Judaism, it is mainly the first use of the word that is in play: charismatic Judaism denotes that there was an interest in and expectation of expressions of supernatural power within first-century Judaism.47 This aspect has, however, been frequently discussed by Jesus scholars in recent decades.48 Vermes’s charismatic Judaism is primarily a 44. And further: ‘It must not be forgotten for an instant that the entire basis of Jesus’ own legitimation, as well as his claim that he and only he knew the Father and that the way to God led through faith in him alone, was the magical charisma he felt within himself ’ (Max Weber, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology [New York: Bedminster Press, 1968], 440). 45. Weber, Economy and Society, 216, n. 1. According to Weber, the magician ‘exerts his power simply by virtue of his personal gifts’ (440). The spirit-filled practices are the basis of the magician’s domination. 46. The Weberian aspect can also be found in religious settings, as charismatic congregations might well have charismatic leadership. Charismatic leadership is based on the leader’s abilities and expressions of spiritual power rather than on education, established hierarchies, or dynasties. Again, the theological motivation for this stretches back to Rom. 12 and 1 Cor. 12–14, and the way ministries are described elsewhere in the New Testament. For further discussions of the distinctions of the modern concept of charismatic, see Pierluigi Piovanelli, ‘Jesus’ Charismatic Authority: On the Historical Applicability of a Sociological Model’, JAAR 73 (2005): 395–427. 47. Later, Vermes defines charisma as a ‘display of divinely granted power’ (Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 3). 48. One of the earliest examples of this is Martin Hengel, The Charismatic Leader and His Followers (trans. James C. G. Greig; Edinburgh: Clark, 1981), first published in German in 1968. See also Bruce J. Malina, ‘Jesus as Charismatic Leader?’, BTB 14 (1984): 55–62;

54

The Vermes Quest

label for religiosity that includes certain charismatic expressions, which in turn has sociological implications in terms of power structures and authority. Vermes finds evidence for his concept of charismatic Judaism within Jewish texts from different times and places, which he labels the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran manuscripts, New Testament, and rabbinic writings.49 He uses these texts as witnesses to charismatic features in two different ways. First, he uses the texts as witnesses to historical figures, more or less contemporary with Jesus, who were believed to have a special calling and allegedly possessed abilities to interfere with the spiritual realm. They are healers, exorcists, and rainmakers.50 Stories about these figures are preserved in rabbinic literature and Josephus. Vermes’s work with these stories belongs to the hasid theory and are addressed below, but his second use is the focus here: Vermes gives many examples of how healing, exorcisms, and spirits are at play in ancient Jewish texts. He understands the frequency and prominence of such charismatic traits as evidence of interest for such in Second Temple Judaism. He paraphrases and quotes from Tobit 6:13–17; 8:1–3, 1 Enoch 7:1; 8:3ff; 10:4–8, and Jubilees 10:10– 14, to make clear how the belief in spirits and angels infiltrated Judaism. Vermes remarks that Tobit narrates of an evil spirit, that the spirit was exorcized by the means of smoke from a burning heart and liver of a fish, and that Tobias, the main character, received advice from the angel Raphael.51 Further, from 1 Enoch, Vermes notes that the same Raphael is in play, depicted as a healing angel and the opponent of the fallen angels. From Jubilees, Vermes emphasizes that Noah, informed by angels, had the knowledge of how to heal by using herbs. Vermes also points out that Josephus describes Solomon as a healer and exorcist. The report in Ant. 8:44–48 displays him as a professional exorcist and he figures in a story about the exorcist Eleazar.52 Moreover, Vermes notes that newer texts assign biblical figures like Abraham, Moses, David, and Daniel with miracleworking abilities. According to Vermes, the Genesis Apocryphon (1QGenAp) reports that Abraham expelled an evil spirit by prayer and delivered the Pharaoh from illness by laying his hands on him.53 Artapanus recounts that Pharaoh was

Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 237–240; E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (London: Allen Lane, 1993), 238. Charismatic in Vermes’s sense of the word has been discussed by some scholars (e.g. Sean Freyne and John D. Crossan) in connection with the hasid theory; cf. Chapter 10. Bruce Malina strongly objects to the suggestion that Jesus was a charismatic leader in the Weberian sense (Bruce J. Malina, The Social World of Jesus and the Gospels [London: Routledge, 1996], 140). 49. I use the terms Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha as Vermes does, to denote a miscellaneous of Jewish texts from the centuries surrounding the start of Common Era. The first group of texts is found in the Vulgate (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 16). 50. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 199, 203, 211. 51. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 61. 52. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 61–65. 53. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 65, 66.

Vermes’s Jewish Jesus (1973)

55

raised from the dead by Moses.54 Further, Pseudo-Philo ‘reproduces in his Book of Biblical Antiquities [Liber antiquitatum biblicarum 60:1–3] a poem allegedly composed by David to keep the devil under control’, which Vermes indicates was achieved by commands.55 Finally, he presents Daniel as the exorcist in the Prayer of Nabonidus (4Q242/4QPrNab ar). The manuscript is fragmented, Vermes remarks, but he argues that the story portrays Daniel of the Hebrew Bible as a dispenser of forgiveness, as exorcist, and as healer of Nebuchadnezzar’s disease. Vermes associates the prayer with the scene from Dan 4 in which Daniel interacts with the king.56 In the logic of Vermes’s presentation, the texts above attest to the worldview of Jesus’s contemporaries. As part of charismatic Judaism, Vermes depicts Jesus as healer, exorcist, and forgiver of sins. He is particularly interested in the methods of healing and exorcism and points out that Jesus’s methods of laying on of hands, using saliva, and issuing commands were not unheard of at the time. Still, Jesus was, according to Vermes, no professional exorcist using complicated rites.57 He and his disciples were nevertheless representatives of the mainstream of charismatic Judaism.58 Vermes concludes that it is ‘undeniable’ that ‘a distinctive trend of charismatic Judaism existed during the last couple of centuries of the Second Temple’.59 Although Vermes’s charismatic Judaism first and foremost refers to the interest in and expression of supernatural features, he also describes Jesus as a charismatic in the Weberian sense: ‘[Jesus and other holy men] were venerated as a link between heaven and earth independent of any institutional mediation’,60 and: ‘the charismatics’ informal familiarity with God and confidence in the efficacy of their words was also deeply disliked by those whose authority derived from established channels’.61 Charismatic Judaism allows for alternative access to and expression of power. In sum, Vermes addresses both the aspect of Jesus’s charismatic features and the aspect of Jesus’s charismatic authority independent of established power structures. As a charismatic, Jesus performed miracles and challenged the establishment. According to Vermes, this charismatic Judaism was strong in Galilee. Galilee and Galilean Judaism In the Gospels, Jesus is presented as a Jew in opposition to at least certain elements of Judaism of his own time, which is presented as one reason for why some wanted 54. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 66, 67. The apologetic history of the Jews by Artapanus is known primarily through the works of Clement of Alexandria (Stromata i) and Eusebius (Praeparatio Evangelica ix). 55. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 67. 56. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 67, 68. 57. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 64, 65. 58. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 79. 59. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 79. 60. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 79. 61. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 81.

56

The Vermes Quest

to do away with him (e.g. Mark 3:6). For Vermes, Jesus did certainly not oppose Judaism, so why did he become unpopular among the religious and political elite? Why was he sentenced to death? Vermes’s answer to these questions relates to the fact that Jesus was a Galilean Jew: ‘Jesus became a political suspect in the eyes of the rulers of Jerusalem because he was a Galilean.’62 The implicit difference between Galilee and Jerusalem of this statement is part of a conceptual dichotomy between Galilee and Jerusalem in Vermes’s book. Vermes depicts the Galilee as utterly Jewish, a ‘little island in the midst of unfriendly seas’, as the surrounding areas was inhabited mainly by Gentiles.63 He explains that the ‘overwhelming Jewishness’ of Galilee was fairly recent, as the area was inhabited partly by Jews who had returned from Judea after the Maccabean revolt, and partly by nonJews who had been forced to live as Jews.64 However, Galilean Judaism differed from that in Jerusalem because it was heavily influenced by charismatic Judaism. Vermes further describes Galilee as a ‘populous and relatively wealthy’ area.65 Galilee was self-sufficient and even exported produce to Jews in the Diaspora. Moreover, Vermes points out that there were significant political differences between Galilee and Judea by the time of Jesus. Roman rule affected Galilee differently than Judea; while Galilee was administered by the local kings, Judeans felt the Roman presence more directly. According to Vermes, this ‘cannot have failed to reinforce Galilean self-awareness’.66 Vermes concludes that the history of Galilee and the everyday life of Galileans are ‘likely to have nourished the pride and independence of its inhabitants’.67 This comment is one out of many that places Galilee on the map as a troublesome district, as a home of rebels.68 Vermes mentions a few of these rebels and thereby creates in the reader the notion of ‘rebel Galileans’, which in turn explains how the Roman government in Jerusalem must have conceived Jesus. Jesus was murdered because the Roman leadership feared that the Galilean Jesus would make disturbances during the Passover festival in Jerusalem. Everything seems to suggest that failing to discover a non-political cause to condemn him, but panicking at the prospect of a popular upheaval in the overcrowded Jerusalem which this dangerous Galilean, whom many acclaimed as the son of David, might easily have brought about, those responsible for the maintenance of law and order saw in the capital charge of rebellion the simplest means of eliminating him.69

62. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 57. 63. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 44. 64. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 44. 65. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 45. 66. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 44, 45. 67. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 46. 68. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 45–47, 49. 69. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 144.

Vermes’s Jewish Jesus (1973)

57

The description of Galilee and the Galileans is thus important to Vermes’s historical construction of Jesus. In this regard, Jesus the Jew foretells what became commonplace within subsequent Jesus research.70 He grants that the political and geographical situation and context are important for understanding historical persons such as Jesus, and points out differences within Judaism that are not primarily related to a party or sect but to social and geographical realities.

Conclusion It is not easy to capture Vermes’s method for constructing his historical Jesus in Jesus the Jew. The rules he claims to follow are not clear-cut and he operates in various ways. It is often unclear how his exegetical work relates to the historical interest and historical conclusions of the book. Vermes mixes scepticism towards ancient sources with heavy reliance on them and employs traditional methods for historical Jesus research in combination with what seems to be pure exegesis. Throughout, Vermes slips easily between describing the Jesus of the Gospels and the historical Jesus and it is often unclear whether ‘Jesus’ refers to the historical Jesus or the Synoptic Jesus, or to both. There is good reason to be critical of Vermes’s lack of methodological clarity and rigour. However, he has managed to display difficult aspects of research in a readable and appealing way. Vermes’s wish to serve a wider audience – and here he certainly has succeeded – may explain why he did not focus especially on methodological reflections. Vermes appears to work in a series of steps to retrieve the Jewish Jesus in Jesus the Jew. The first step entails a search for the Jewishness of Jesus in the Gospels. Vermes regards some parts of the Synoptics to be more adequate than John, but he rarely reveals why he chooses to emphasize some texts and leave out others, or to emphasize some parts of a story but leave others unremarked. His selection of passages is not guided by an assessment of authenticity but rather by what Vermes considers to be genuinely Jewish aspects. The second step towards the historical Jesus places the Judaized Synoptic Jesus into the setting of first-century Judaism. What Vermes calls ‘Jewish parallel material’71 assists his search for Jesus by establishing the setting in which any reliable portrait of the historical Jesus must fit. In addition, Vermes uses Jewishness to shed light upon the Gospels, as guides for interpreting them, and to check their historical credibility. Vermes constructs Judaism on the basis of texts from different times and places and takes them to envisage first-century Palestinian Judaism. As healer and preacher, Vermes’s Jesus represents ‘charismatic Judaism’. Within this strand of Judaism, divine intervention was a significant feature and accommodated power structures, in which Jesus carried out a prophetic ministry, outside the official line of authority. 70. Cf. Chapter 8. 71. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 42.

58

The Vermes Quest

In general, Vermes presents sympathetic images of both Jesus and Judaism. To Vermes, the Jewishness of Jesus refers much less to a biological heritage than to the important sociological and religious components of Jesus’s role in Jewish society and his religious practice. The reason for the arrest and death sentence reported in the Gospels was not any conflict with Judaism or Jews, as is sometimes suggested in the New Testament. Vermes’s Jesus remained completely within Judaism throughout his life and hardly challenged established Jewish code. Rather, Jesus was crucified because the rulers of the day saw him as a ‘Galilean rebel’, and feared the commotion he might cause in Jerusalem at Passover.

Chapter 5 T H E SIG N I F IC A N C E O F J E SU S T H E J EW : THE 1970S AND 1980S As we have seen in previous chapters, Vermes’s Jesus the Jew is frequently cited as a marker for the beginning of the third quest. One of the most recent examples of this trend is found in a book on Jewish and Christian scholarship. Anthony Le Donne introduces the volume by quoting Jesus the Jew and then criticizes it, though ‘with the greatest respect’, because these words are ‘among the very first of the so-called “Third Quest” of the historical Jesus’. Moreover, for Le Donne ‘it was his [Vermes’s] voice that set the tone for this generation’.1 In one of the subsequent chapters of the same book, Le Donne follows up by referring to what he wrote about ‘Vermes’s important contribution’ in the introduction. He continues: ‘the topic of “Jesus the Jew” has won the day. The nuance and sophistication of this discussion have proved enormously beneficial for historical Jesus research’.2 Any functional mapping of history needs markers to represent significant shifts, and Le Donne is unquestionably right that the Jewish Jesus has been widely debated in recent decades and that the debates have had beneficial results. Vermes’s role and the importance of the book Jesus the Jew, however, are not as straightforward as Le Donne presupposes. The present chapter examines the reception of Jesus the Jew in the 1970s and 1980s in order to get a clearer view of its role in the formative years of the third quest. I look into book reviews of Jesus the Jew from biblical journals in the 1970s and on comments on research history from the 1980s by Jesus scholars who were to become among the leading third questers. The inquiry is limited to publications in the English language because the third quest was first identified as an Anglophone phenomenon. These publications bear witness to how Vermes’s contribution was evaluated at the time and offer illuminating examples of attitudes among Jesus scholars in the first decades after the publication of Jesus the Jew.

1. Le Donne, ‘Introduction’, in Soundings, 1. Le Donne’s concern, against Vermes’s opinion, is that nobody can read the Gospels free of presupposition. Vermes’s exact words and Le Donne’s brief criticism of them are not the issue here. 2. Le Donne, ‘Remapping Schweitzer’s Quest’, 126.

60

The Vermes Quest

Reviews of Jesus the Jew from the 1970s Before we look into some methodological challenges connected with the use of book reviews as sources and the specific content of these reviews, the very fact that Jesus the Jew was reviewed in various theological and especially biblical journals in the 1970s deserves a note. A book like this, by a non-specialist in New Testament studies and which is aimed primarily at general readers, could easily have been ignored by established biblical scholars. This was not the case for Jesus the Jew. The first review is found in the Oxford-based Journal of Theological Studies in 1973. It was followed by reviews in multiple biblical journals throughout the 1970s, as well as in journals covering other areas.3 Jesus the Jew was issued in the United States in 1974, and reprinted many times in Britain and in the United States in the following years, clearly appealing to a wide audience.4 It is entirely possible that its standing among general readers 3. Various book reviews were published in the 1970s, here presented chronologically: Leaney, review of Vermes in JTS; [Anonymus], ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’, ExpTim 85 (1974): 161, 162; Edward Ullendorf, ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’, BSOAS 37 (1974): 521, 522; William Horbury, ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’, Theol 77 (1974): 227–232; Anthony E. Harvey, ‘Letters to the Editor: Jesus the Jew, Theol 77 (1974): 376, 377; Sean Freyne, ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels, The Furrow 25 (1974): 517–520; Leopold Sabourin, ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’, BTB 89 (1975): 89, 90; Willam G. Rich, ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’, JAAR 43 (1975): 608; [Anonymus], ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’, JR 56 (1976): 134; Leander E. Keck, ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’, JBL 95 (1976): 508, 509; Jack Dean Kingsbury, ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’, Int 30 (1976): 206, 210, and Leo Landman, ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’, JQR 70 (1979): 125, 126. I limit my inquiry to reviews from biblical journals, and I include an article from Explor that focuses on Galilee (W. Richard Stegner, ‘Galilee and Christology’, Explor 3 [1977]: 57–69) with approximately six and a half pages of text. The article presents itself as a book review of Jesus the Jew, with two irregularities: It includes photos from archaeological sites in Galilee and starts with a page-long discussion of Galilee as a theological topos. 4. According to the library database WorldCat, there are imprints of Jesus the Jew from 1974 (printed by the Liberal Jewish Synagogue), 1976 (Fontana/Collins), 1977 (Fontana/ Collins), 1980 (Collins), 1981 (Fortress), 1983 (SCM Press), 1985 (Fortress), 1986 (SCM Press), 1988 (Fortress), 1989 (SCM Press), 1994 (SCM Press), and 2001 (SCM Classics). Jesus the Jew was also translated and published worldwide: France (1978, published by Desclée, which previously published Vermes’s dissertation on the Dead Sea Scrolls), Japan (1979), Italy (1983), Germany (1993, published by Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft, a publisher that specializes in theological and devotional literature), Spain (1994, 1997), Hungary (1995), and Poland (2003).

The Significance of Jesus the Jew: 1970s and 1980s

61

in the English-speaking world had an impact on the desire to review the book. Furthermore, the virtually concurrent publication of the first volume of the new Schürer, with Vermes as one of its editors, may have sparked additional scholarly interest in Jesus the Jew. Vermes notes that ‘[t]he two together made something of a splash’.5 In any case, reviews of the book in biblical journals signal that Jesus the Jew was considered a relevant contribution to Jesus research proper and was not just a book for the general public. At the outset, it therefore had similar opportunities as any scholarly book to impact widely upon contemporary Jesus research. Book Reviews as Sources Typically, a book review starts with a general evaluation of the book and provides basic information about the author. It often gives an overview of the book, assesses its content by the book’s own standards, and assesses its value by the reviewer’s standards. Such assessments are often illustrated with examples, which may or may not be crucial for the main argument of the book under review. Because book reviews typically contain brief and pointed assessments of a book and its value for scholarship, they may provide insights into the norms of the people who write them as much as of the reviewed books’ value for scholarship. The choice and outlook of reviewers will affect their texts deeply, often more for reviews than for other scholarly texts. Theological convictions, gender, and personal and professional relationships and ambitions may affect the way a book is read and reviewed (positively or negatively). Moreover, people have legitimately different norms for how book reviews should be conducted due to factors like personality and cultural and academic backgrounds: whether criticism should be merely suggested rather than spelled out, whether one should have a basically sympathetic approach, or, conversely, whether one should deliver a thoroughly critical or even negative review. These aspects will affect the reviewer’s choice of words and must be taken into consideration when book reviews are used as tools to depict the scholarly reception of any book. Therefore, the following analysis provides key pieces of information about the authors, their positions, and the context whenever I deem it to be of assistance for understanding the reviews in the fullest way possible. The amount of information that might be gained from book reviews is certainly lessened by the difficulties that this material invites. They cannot, for instance, answer the question of how important Vermes’s book was in the 1970s. Still, reviews do inform and provide nuance to today’s picture, as represented by Le Donne above, of how Jesus the Jew was first received. By necessity, the reviews show what themes and aspects of Jesus the Jew the reviewers found relevant to address. Furthermore, the genre allows reviewers to signal whether they regard the book as epoch-making.6 For 5. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 212. 6. This can be seen in reviews of E. P. Sanders’s book on Paul. One review states that ‘the scholarly standards of the book deserve high praise. The polemical edge makes it a

The Vermes Quest

62

our purposes, it is particularly relevant to search for signals of how the reviewers reacted to Vermes’s significantly Jewish Jesus. Was the book perceived as an original contribution with the potential to create a sea change in Jesus research? A Varied First Reception Book reviews of Jesus the Jew provide glimpses into a varied reception of the book within biblical scholarship and show prominent differences between what the reviewers regard as the book’s positive contributions and negative aspects. The best example to illustrate the diverse reception is the fact that William Horbury’s review in the journal Theology from 1974 was met promptly by a dissenting comment from Anthony E. Harvey in a later issue that same year.7 The first review was critical of Vermes’s book for many reasons. In general, Horbury is sceptical of Vermes’s entire project, though it is not the focus on the Jewish Jesus that bothers him. Rather, the problem expressed is Vermes’s lack of attention to the continuity between the life of Jesus and the church. In Horbury’s view, a historian’s book on Jesus should focus on gospel passages where Jesus’s claim to authority is evident, something that in his opinion excludes work on the titles of Jesus. He employs the words of Joachim Jeremias to express the importance of his critique: it is strange, to begin with, that a historian should devote the greater part of a book to Jesus on the Christological titles. To quote a scholar whom Dr. Vermes cites surprisingly little, ‘it would be a mistake to assume that Jesus’ awareness and his claim to authority were expressed most clearly in the passages where the Messianic titles are used.’8

Furthermore, the book lacks aspects which for Horbury are highly significant: ‘its cheerful elimination of mysterium Christi again and again raises the question whether the author is not neglecting evidence that cries out for historical interpretation’.9 It is not quite clear what Horbury has in mind here, but it is evident that he would expect a Jesus scholar to address issues that Vermes has not dealt with. Moreover, Horbury accuses Vermes of not following the scholarly ethos by holding back scholarly views and textual evidence that opposes his arguments. For instance, Horbury points out that Vermes’s discussion on abba does not make the readers aware of Jeremias’s work on the subject.10 Moreover, Vermes is criticized milestone in the history of Pauline scholarship’ (Nils A. Dahl, ‘Review of E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion’, RelSRev 4 [1978]: 153– 158, 154). 7. Horbury, review of Vermes, and Harvey, ‘Letters to the Editor’. 8. Horbury, review of Vermes, 227. The quote is from the English translation; Joachim Jeremias’s New Testament Theology I from 1971 (250). 9. Horbury, review of Vermes, 227. 10. Horbury, review of Vermes, 231.

The Significance of Jesus the Jew: 1970s and 1980s

63

for not including stories from the New Testament that present Jesus in line with the church’s image of him: the ‘I’ sayings,11 the ‘Amen’ sayings,12 the feeding of the multitude,13 and the cleansing of the temple.14 Horbury writes: ‘this evidence, whatever is made of it, must be taken into account by the historian but here it is in large part simply ignored’.15 Horbury does not pay particular attention to Vermes’s emphasis on the Jewish Jesus and he nowhere comments on the book’s title. He gives Vermes credit, though, for his work on the hasidim. Horbury writes: ‘the argument is presented lucidly, persuasively, and with humour; it includes helpful insights into the setting of the healing ministry and the linguistic background of the titles of Jesus’. Still, Horbury is reluctant to give Vermes full credit, remarking that the material on Hanina ben Dosa and other miracle-working rabbis is not in fact new to New Testament scholars.16Although Horbury finds some valuable aspects in Vermes’s work on Jewish miracle workers, and some stimulating linguistic discussions on the titles, his overall evaluation of the book is negative.17 He concludes harshly: Dr. Vermes’ book is thus an extraordinary mixture. The New Testament Student will be able to pick out his pearls from the comparison with the Hasidim, however loosely drawn, and from the linguistic study of Christ’s titles. The general reader, however, faced with an impressive array of learning in text and notes, will scarcely suspect that an author of this standing can at times seem so lacking in self-criticism, and can supress so much pertinent evidence from the Gospels and New Testament scholarship.18

Anthony E. Harvey’s one-page response to Horbury’s review is, however, entirely positive. Harvey evidently knows Vermes’s earlier work and appreciates the appearance of Jesus the Jew: ‘I have always regarded Geza Vermes as one of the most sympathetic and original of those who, as non-Christians, give serious study to the New Testament; and his latest book, Jesus the Jew, seems fully in character.’19 Harvey points out that Vermes treats Jesus with ‘very great respect’,20 asks the right questions for a historian, and provides helpful answers.21 Harvey also argues that it is worth attending to Vermes, because he has previously come up with highly important suggestions: ‘C. H. Dodd himself confessed that he felt the need to revise all he had written on the Son of Man after reading Geza Vermes’s first essay 11. Horbury, review of Vermes, 227. 12. Horbury, review of Vermes, 228. 13. Horbury, review of Vermes, 228. 14. Horbury, review of Vermes, 228. 15. Horbury, review of Vermes, 231. 16. Horbury, review of Vermes, 228, 229. 17. Horbury, review of Vermes, 229, 231, 232. 18. Horbury, review of Vermes, 232. 19. Harvey, ‘Letters to the Editor’, 376. 20. Harvey, ‘Letters to the Editor’, 376. 21. Harvey, ‘Letters to the Editor’, 376.

64

The Vermes Quest

on the subject.’22 Harvey ends his short response with the pointed question ‘should any of us be less ready to learn from this devout admirer of Jesus?’23 Horbury’s and Harvey’s evaluations of Vermes’s book represent both ends of the scale and both have ample analogues. The most negative review of Jesus the Jew is from Biblical Theology Bulletin in 1975, written by its first editor Leopold Sabourin from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. Sabourin criticizes Vermes’s entire project and his use of non-biblical Jewish sources, because ‘these sources, it is true, are sometimes helpful for the interpretation of the Christian sources and their message, but it should not be naively believed that they can bring rediscovery of what generations of Christian reflection and scholarship of not achieve [sic].’24 Sabourin refutes Vermes’s claim that church doctrine is based on a deficient reading of the Gospels: ‘this claim is a very serious one, but should not be taken too seriously, since the author himself shows in his work he also can manipulate the evidence for his own purpose’.25 It is clear that Sabourin is neither impressed nor convinced by Vermes’s approach and does not applaud Vermes’s image of Jesus. He writes that Vermes ‘tends to reduce [the historical Jesus] to that of an exceptional rabbi’.26 It is clear that Sabourin does not approve of Vermes’s ‘reduced’ Jesus. On the positive side, Sabourin focuses on the (brief) treatment of the resurrection, one part of Christian doctrine that Vermes does not explicitly contradict. Furthermore, the reviewer finds some value in Vermes’s philological discussions on the Jewish background of Jesus’s titles, though the recommendation is moderate at best: ‘for beginners in Christology this represents a useful introduction to present-day debates around these titles’.27 The valuable aspects of the book, according to Sabourin, are those that are at service to the exegetic effort ‘to understand better some of the Gospel texts’. As a whole, this review gives witness to an antagonistic reaction of Vermes’s approach to the historical Jesus in Jesus the Jew. More appreciative of Vermes’s basic approach, but still firmly on the negative side, is the review by Leander E. Keck in the Journal of Biblical Literature in 1976. Keck taught at Vanderbilt University at the time and had published the book A Future for the Historical Jesus: The Place of Jesus in Preaching and Theology, aimed at the general public, a few years earlier.28 In the review, Keck takes note 22. Harvey, ‘Letters to the Editor’, 377. 23. Harvey, ‘Letters to the Editor’, 377. Harvey continued to review Vermes’s subsequent books, always on a positive note, for instance A. E. Harvey, ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus and the World of Judaism’, Times Literary Supplement (1984): 199 and A. E. Harvey, ‘Review of Geza Vermes, The Changing Faces of Jesus’, Theol 103 (2001): 444, 445. 24. Sabourin, review of Vermes, 89. Sabourin’s sentence lacks coherence. 25. Sabourin, review of Vermes, 89. 26. Sabourin, review of Vermes, 89. 27. Sabourin, review of Vermes, 90. 28. Leander E. Keck, A Future for the Historical Jesus: The Place of Jesus in Preaching and Theology (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1971). As the title reveals, Keck and Vermes have notably different aims.

The Significance of Jesus the Jew: 1970s and 1980s

65

of Vermes’s project of presenting the Jewish Jesus and does not state any essential difficulty with it. However, he disapproves of Vermes’s use of both the Jewish sources and the Gospels: ‘clearly, putting Jesus into his Jewish context requires the sort of familiarity with Jewish sources which Vermes exhibits, however one may assess the way he uses them’.29 On Vermes’s view of the Gospels and of the criteria to discern historically reliable information from them, Keck notes: ‘Vermes lets us down on both.’30 After some examples of how Vermes ‘lets us down’, Keck comments: ‘by now we know what to expect of the treatment of the Christological titles … It is here that a high price must be paid for his use of the gospels’.31 Keck ends his review by presenting Vermes’s view of the virgin birth. Vermes argues that a girl who has not yet menstruated can be called a virgin, as could a woman who has ceased to do so, like Elizabeth in Luke 1.32 Keck comments that ‘thus we appear to have two “virgin births”, but actually we have none’. He evidently finds this suggestion useless, adding that ‘it is not clear whether one should laugh or cry’.33 In sum, Keck seems not impressed by Vermes’s research and gives no reason to expect that this book would be one that changed the debate about Jesus. He ends his evaluations with ‘despite the varying value of the philological detail adduced, one must conclude that Jesus the Jew deserves better than this’.34 This final remark is important here, because it signals that Keck in no way questions Vermes’s search for a Jewish Jesus. It indicates that such a search is considered worthwhile and that the problem is the way Vermes performs the task. Keck’s conclusion is similar to the bottom line of Sean Freyne’s assessment in a 1974 review in The Furrow, a journal aimed at Roman Catholic general readers. Freyne acknowledges Vermes’s approach to the Jewishness of Jesus, though he does not approve of the way he performs his task. Freyne notes that Vermes’s method is not always stringent,35 and that his focus on Jesus’s deeds rather than his teachings leads to an incomplete image of Jesus.36 Freyne’s argument is noteworthy because it reveals that his view of Jesus differs significantly from Vermes’s: ‘the uniqueness of Jesus within Judaism can only be properly evaluated when the whole of the evidence about him is examined’. While this ‘uniqueness’ of Jesus is exactly what Vermes’s book rejects, Freyne unreservedly judges Vermes’s focus on the Jewish Jesus and his attention to the Jewish sources as fruitful. He remarks that this material ‘is often not sufficiently known or taken into account in considering the ministry of Jesus’, and continues: ‘there is no doubt that Dr. Vermes’ book is a very real challenge to New Testament scholars to take much more seriously the Jewish background … and Dr. Vermes’ studies in this book and elsewhere will help the less initiated to cope with the often very difficult task 29. Keck, review of Vermes, 508. 30. Keck, review of Vermes, 508. 31. Keck, review of Vermes, 509. 32. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 213–222. 33. Keck, review of Vermes, 509. 34. Keck, review of Vermes, 509. 35. Freyne, review of Vermes, 518. 36. Freyne, review of Vermes, 519, 520.

66

The Vermes Quest

of evaluating and interpreting those Jewish sources’.37 Even more important for our purposes is Freyne’s prediction for future Jesus research: ‘it is doubtful if the last word has been said on the Jewish Jesus’.38 He concludes: ‘A Jewish Jesus? Yes! But with a wider perspective than that adopted in this book.’39 Like Keck, Freyne obviously appreciates Vermes’s ambition more than the book itself. A generally positive approach to Vermes’s book is found in the 1973 review in The Journal of Theological Studies by Alfred R. C. Leaney, Professor and Head of the Department of Theology at the University of Nottingham. He credits Vermes for presenting substantial background information on Jesus and notes that Vermes offers some ‘unusual interpretation of more familiar material’.40 He writes that Vermes ‘has exercised his known profound scholarship, urbanity and originality. The result demands and deserves careful reading’.41 However, the overall appraisal is measured: ‘the result is a valuable contribution to scholarship, but it is hard to assess exactly how successful it is’.42 Leaney’s reluctance is based on what he sees as weaknesses in Vermes’s method and conclusions. On two occasions, he describes Vermes as not being sufficiently critical.43 Moreover, Vermes fails to take in, according to the reviewer, important issues like the Kingdom of God and Jesus’s eschatological urgency. Leaney explicitly approves of Vermes’s description of Jesus as the greatest Galilean in history, underscoring the term ‘Galilean’, though he does not elaborate any further.44 He also sees the comparison between Jesus and his contemporaries, especially Hanina, as useful. These acknowledgements suggest that Leaney appreciates Vermes’s emphasis on Jesus’s context. Nevertheless, Leaney points out several weaknesses with Vermes’s placement of Jesus into charismatic Judaism and his claim that Jesus is the ‘paramount example’ of charismatics. The reviewer comments: ‘Jesus may belong to charismatic Judaism, but certainly transcends this or any other category.’45 He also lists some contrasts between Jesus and the other charismatics: that Hanina did not expect the impending coming of the Kingdom of God, and that Jesus is ‘dynamic’ while his contemporaries are ‘conservative’.46 It is noteworthy in this connection that nothing is said against Vermes’s claim for Jesus’s Jewishness as such. Leaney’s fondness for the description of Jesus as ‘the greatest Galilean of history’, and that ‘Jesus transcends … any category’ hints at a Jesus image that is at odds with Vermes’s basic notion.47 But it is not the Jewishness of Jesus that Leaney opposes. 37. Freyne, review of Vermes, 519. 38. Freyne, review of Vermes, 518. 39. Freyne, review of Vermes, 520. 40. Leaney, review of Vermes, 489. 41. Leaney, review of Vermes, 492. 42. Leaney, review of Vermes, 489. 43. Leaney, review of Vermes, 490, 491. 44. Leaney, review of Vermes, 490. 45. Leaney, review of Vermes, 490. 46. Leaney, review of Vermes, 491. 47. Leaney, review of Vermes, 490; italics added.

The Significance of Jesus the Jew: 1970s and 1980s

67

Apparently, it is the thoroughly human Jesus that provokes him. The problem for Leaney is the aspects of Vermes’s work that indicate that Jesus is on the same level as other people and that Vermes understands Jesus as a man among other men. The main point of critics like Leaney is thus not that Jesus is different from Judaism as such, but rather that he is different from other men. Another largely positive review of Jesus the Jew notes, with words recalling Leaney, that Vermes’s Jesus is ‘superior to, but not unlike, such figures of Jewish tradition as Honi the Circle-Drawer and Hanina ben Dosa’.48 This one-page review by Jack Dean Kingsbury, from the Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, published in the American journal Interpretation in 1976, deals with several provocative assertions in the book. Without going into detail, Kingsbury states that Vermes’s suggestions about the titles ‘son of God’ and ‘son of man’ ‘will occasion considerable discussion’, while others on Jesus and charismatic Judaism ‘will also provoke comment’.49 Still, the reviewer describes Jesus the Jew in favourable terms: ‘this book on the historical Jesus ranks as one of the most important in its field in the last decade’.50 Despite the brevity of the review and its summarizing assessments, Kingsbury reveals that it is Vermes’s focus on the context of Jesus that makes the book important: ‘the strength of Vermes’ study lies in his reconstruction of the social milieu in which Jesus lived and in his discussion of the meaning selected titles given Jesus would have had for Palestinian Jews of the first century’.51 He continues: ‘no matter how much one may disagree with particular conclusions Vermes draws, his erudition and knowledge of the Jewish sources pertinent to an understanding of Jesus still make his investigation required reading for anyone interested in pursuing the quest of the man from Nazareth’.52 Hereby, Kingsbury repeats the reluctance to accept some of Vermes’s suggestions in addition to affirming the importance of the book, but he does not reveal whether this view is shared by many or by whom. Nonetheless, this 1976 review is a relatively early witness that Vermes’s book was understood as highly important for Jesus research largely because of its focus on Jesus’s context. The review by W. Richard Stegner from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary contains praise similar to that of Kingsbury. The review is presented in a 1977 volume of the journal Explor that focuses on archaeology in Galilee. Although Stegner regrets that Vermes has not paid attention to newer archaeological finds from Galilee and that his portrait of Jesus as a hasid builds on young sources, he concludes his assessment by describing the book as groundbreaking: ‘still, the book Jesus the Jew has great value. It is an end-of-the-epoch kind of book that signals a basic change in directions. The emphasis on Jewish background

48. Kingsbury, review of Vermes, 206. 49. Kingsbury, review of Vermes, 210. 50. Kingsbury, review of Vermes, 210. 51. Kingsbury, review of Vermes, 210. 52. Kingsbury, review of Vermes, 210.

68

The Vermes Quest

materials is occurring in New Testament studies’.53 Furthermore, Stegner reports that Jesus the Jew has ‘caused great excitement in New Testament circles’.54 Clearly, the reception of the book has been more sympathetic than some of the above reviews suggest, at least in some American circles. To summarize, these book reviews testify to a substantially varied reception of Jesus the Jew. As shown in the previous chapter, Vermes describes his aims for the book ambiguously and he brings a large number of Gospel themes into play. Therefore, Jesus the Jew has the potential to produce even greater variation in reviews, thematically, than the average scholarly book, and the published results bear that out. They reveal first that the book has been understood in different ways: some focus on the comparison of Jesus with other charismatics, while others focus on the linguistic work with Jesus’s titles. It is hard to see any pattern in the examples that the reviewers use to display the book’s significance and deficiencies. Second, objections to Vermes’s work are common to all of them, though the reviewers point out different weaknesses with Vermes’s method(s). We will revisit these objections in relation to the treatment of the hasid theory in Part III. None of the objections, though, relate directly to Vermes’s decision to depict Jesus as a first-century Jew as such. There are thus two important general observations about the initial reception of Jesus the Jew. First, the book reviews evaluate the significance of Vermes’s book in markedly contradictory ways. Some of the reviews reveal a considerable hesitation towards Vermes and some are flatly disapproving, while others describe it as a book that is highly important for Jesus research. Second, it is noteworthy that Vermes’s legacy within the third quest – the focus on the Jewish Jesus – receives very scant mention. There are, however, exceptions: some are highly positive about Vermes’s approach and regard it to be a model for the future. Moreover, whenever this aspect of Vermes’s book comes up, the reviewers reveal no hesitation or surprise. There is therefore little in the reviews that suggest that the Jewishness of Jesus came across as a complete novelty. The majority of them do not signal that Vermes’s attention to the Jewishness of Jesus would change the overall situation of Jesus research. Book reviews are usually written relatively close to a book’s first appearance, when a reviewer may not be able to perceive or champion its potential impact. Significance and impact may be evaluated more accurately when some time has passed. Besides, one might expect that scholars who are happily placed within the previous paradigm would not fully appreciate the potentially paradigm-changing aspects of Jesus the Jew. The value of book reviews is therefore limited for our purposes. A look at comments about the book from scholars who cite the coming of the third quest in the 1980s will enhance the accuracy of our estimation of Vermes’s significance for that phenomenon.

53. Stegner, ‘Galilee and Christology’, 67, 69. 54. Stegner, ‘Galilee and Christology’, 58.

The Significance of Jesus the Jew: 1970s and 1980s

69

Jesus the Jew in Histories of the Third Quest from the 1980s We have seen that reviews of Jesus the Jew from the 1970s display a varied reception and that surprisingly few discuss the ‘Jewishness of Jesus’ approach for which Jesus the Jew is renowned today. In the following, we turn to comments on research history made a decade or so after these reviews appeared. In the 1980s, E. P. Sanders, James H. Charlesworth, and N. T. Wright described a major change in Jesus research, and all three agree that interest in the Jewishness of Jesus is one important aspect of the new trend. What role do these scholars assign to Jesus the Jew for this turn? In Jesus and Judaism (1985), E. P. Sanders suggests a new approach to future Jesus research.55 He describes the inefficiency of earlier works that approached the historical figure of Jesus through Gospel sayings. Sanders argues that the attention to the sayings has proved unfit for accommodating scholarly consensus and that it has not provided answers to what he sees as the real historical questions.56 According to Sanders, Jesus research should explain what happened to Jesus and why it occurred. Moreover, the explanations must, for Sanders, ‘situate Jesus believably within Judaism’ and take into account that the church came into being as a result of his ministry.57 This means that Jesus research must take on new questions and search for answers beyond the sayings. In light of Vermes’s reputation today, one might have expected that Sanders would refer to Jesus the Jew on this point as an example of just such an approach, but this is not the case. Sanders instead refers to the work of another Jewish scholar, Joseph Klausner.58 This does not mean, however, that Vermes’s contribution is absent from Sanders’s book. He certainly brings in Vermes elsewhere, even in some depth.59 Sanders’s most extensive treatment of Vermes is used to illustrate that Jewish scholars, with their knowledge of Judaism and Jewish law, tend to place Jesus firmly within Judaism, while Christian scholars depict Jesus in opposition to Judaism.60 Sanders spends approximately two pages on paraphrasing and quoting assertions from Jesus the Jew,61 and for our purposes, three significant observations can be made from this. First, there is nothing to suggest that Vermes’s book was 55. The book is largely a product of earlier work, and it is impossible to ascertain which parts reflect the situation of 1975–1976, when Sanders started working with the book, and what are products of later reworking. In any case, the book as a whole is written after 1973, and the specific modes of formulation can arguably be seen as a product of the early 1980s (given that wordings are more easily updated than the basic structures and line of argument); Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, xi. 56. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 4, 5. 57. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 18, 19. 58. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 18, 19. 59. Apart from references in the footnotes, Sanders mentions Vermes’s work on Jesus three times (Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 1, 2, 53–55, and 170). 60. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 55. 61. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 53–55.

70

The Vermes Quest

well known at the time. The extensive summary of Vermes’s book signals that Sanders certainly does not expect his readers to be aware of it; there is nothing in Sanders’s wording that suggests that Jesus the Jew is part of a scholarly ‘must read’. Second, Sanders does not depict Vermes’s book as the start of a new trend within Jesus research. He merely uses it as an example to illustrate one of his points. Third, unlike some of the book reviews above, it is precisely Vermes’s Jewish Jesus approach that makes Jesus the Jew useful for Sanders. In sum, today’s immediate association between Jesus the Jew and the interest in the Jewishness of Jesus (and only that) is far from self-evident for Sanders, though he himself makes the connection. About the time of publication for Sanders’s book, James H. Charlesworth gave a lecture at the Annual General Meeting of the Irish Biblical Association. By and large, the lecture leaves the impression that it has been written without especial interest in the Jewishness of Jesus. In the introduction, Charlesworth presents issues that are discussed within contemporary Jesus research; Jewishness is not a topic. Nor is the Jewishness of Jesus in focus in Charlesworth’s presentation of recent, significant books within Jesus research (1980–1985). His comment on Jesus the Jew illustrates this point. I include his comment on Vermes in its entirety: Geza Vermes in 1973 in his Jesus the Jew had argued that Jesus should be placed among Galilean miracle workers. In 1981 in The Gospel of Jesus the Jew Vermes presented his first attempt to discuss the content of the message of Jesus the teacher. Significantly, many of the ideas customarily attributed with great confidence to the church by New Testament specialists are placed by Vermes firmly within the life and thought of Jesus.62

Here, Charlesworth highlights Vermes’s evaluation of the sayings material and puts no stress on the Jewishness of Jesus approach. Vermes is not being read as part of some newfound attention to Jesus and Judaism. On the contrary, attention to the sayings fits neatly into the interest of Jesus research prior to the third quest and Vermes is thus read as part of that stream. If Charlesworth sees something new in Vermes, it has to do with his optimistic judgements of authenticity.63 There is little in Charlesworth’s comment to suggest that Jesus the Jew had gained any status as a contribution to a scholarly turn towards an interest in the Jewishness of Jesus. In this respect, Charlesworth’s remarks at the end of the lecture are illuminating. Here, he does pay attention to the change towards a greater focus on the Jewishness of Jesus within Jesus research: ‘a major trend in recent study is the intensive investigation of what can be known reliably about 62. Charlesworth, ‘Research’, 30. Charlesworth focuses on Vermes’s second book, in line with his attention to publications from the early 1980s. 63. Charlesworth asserts that Jesus research of the 1980s display greater optimism towards what might be said about Jesus and greater reliance on the sources (Charlesworth, ‘Research’, 28). The fact that Vermes places many of the gospel sayings in the mouth of the historical Jesus goes hand in hand with this claim.

The Significance of Jesus the Jew: 1970s and 1980s

71

Jesus and his world’. Charlesworth explains that he has just received a copy of Sanders’s book and notes that ‘the extent of this trend hit home when I had finished writing this lecture’.64 It appears that Charlesworth began writing his lecture without any special concern for this new trend; it was Sanders’s book that made him see it. Charlesworth continues: ‘it is obvious that many New Testament scholars are taking seriously and putting in central focus the study of pre-seventy Judaism and Jesus’ place within it’.65 In Charlesworth’s opinion, this is the right way to move forward: ‘the only means to discern the truly human Jesus and his own Jewishness is to study historically and reflectively the early Jesus traditions and the world of pre-seventy Palestinian Judaism’.66 Charlesworth’s swift change of attention from the beginning of the lecture to the end, generated by Sanders’s book on Jesus, adds to the impression that Charlesworth did not regard Vermes as an initiator of a new trend. A few years later, in 1988, N. T. Wright discusses the novelties of Jesus research in The Interpretation of the New Testament: 1861–1986.67 He describes a change towards sympathetic descriptions of Judaism and points to E. P. Sanders’s book Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977) as the point at which ‘the storm broke’.68 In Wright’s view the significance of this book is nothing less than epochal: We cannot here consider further, let alone discuss in detail, this exceptionally important contribution to modern New Testament scholarship. The impact of the book is still being felt in a multitude of ways ten years later. Criticisms have been made and will continue to be made; but no one can deny that, in this bright post-Sanders epoch, we are all Rabbinic sympathizers, though at second hand.69

Jesus the Jew is not even mentioned in this connection.70 Nor did Wright note Vermes’s earlier work in the article where he announced the coming of the third quest. In this 1982 article, Wright points to the new-found importance of the Jewish context for understanding Jesus, referring to it as ‘one fact about Jesus which, though almost laughably obvious, is scarcely ever given any prominence at all … while being, I believe, of great significance. It is this: the total ministry of Jesus takes place in the context of the hope for Israel’.71 Wright continues: ‘it is at this point (I believe) that a good deal of Christian reading has gone wrong, jumping 64. Charlesworth, ‘Research’, 36. Alongside the work of Sanders, Charlesworth includes G. Lohfink’s book Jesus and Community: The Social Dimension of Christian Faith, then recently translated into English (1984). 65. Charlesworth, ‘Research’, 37. 66. Charlesworth, ‘Research’, 36. 67. Neill and Wright, Interpretation, 379–403. 68. Neill and Wright, Interpretation, 372. 69. Neill and Wright, Interpretation, 373. 70. Wright does note Vermes’s work with the new Schürer (Neill and Wright, Interpretation, 374). 71. Wright, ‘Towards a Third Quest?’, 22.

72

The Vermes Quest

too quickly, in the interest of contemporary relevance, away from the specifically Jewish context of the ministry and teaching of Jesus’.72 In 1982, Vermes’s Jesus the Jew appears not to have influenced Wright’s thoughts on the matter at all. However, by 1988, Wright presents Vermes as one out of seven contributors to the third quest.73 This suggests that Wright has come to know and acknowledge Vermes as a representative of the new approach on a later stage. Moreover, Wright does not list Vermes among ‘the four major treatments of Jesus that have formed the climax, thus far, of the Third Quest’, and does not dedicate even a full page to Vermes’s contribution. By comparison, Sanders’s work on Jesus receives five pages in Wright’s account.74 He refers to some of Vermes’s suggestions from Jesus the Jew without critical comment: Jesus as a Galilean holy man, as son of man, and as son of God.75 Wright’s conclusion reveals some evaluation of Vermes’s book and how Wright sees its status among Jesus scholars: ‘stimulating though Vermes’s writing always is, his book has not commanded wide assent, perhaps because it concentrates too narrowly on the Christological titles and never really sketches the larger portrait necessary if Jesus is to emerge from the historical shadows’.76 By this comment, Wright sums up what the brief survey above suggests: Jesus the Jew had been noticed by the 1980s, partly because it concentrates on the Jewishness of Jesus and partly for other reasons, but it had not on that point made an indelible impression on scholarship.

Conclusion The inquiry into the reception of Jesus the Jew within Jesus research of the 1970s and 1980s shows that the book was certainly noticed by New Testament scholars from its initial appearance. The evaluations of its validity and value differed, but little suggests that it had any significant impact on the way Jesus research was undertaken during its first fifteen years in print. Its approach to Jesus through an emphasis on his Jewishness and the placing of Jesus within a Jewish setting are sometimes overlooked by the reviewers, while others see these aspects as Vermes’s most important contribution to scholarship. Scholars who mention Vermes and the change within scholarship write about Jesus the Jew in ways that suggest that the book was seen as but one example of a change rather than as a groundbreaker 72. Wright, ‘Towards a Third Quest?’, 23. 73. Wright defines the third quest by way of method and content. When he depicts Vermes as a representative of the third quest, he also implicitly depicts him as part of the new approaches to much of 1980s Jesus research. 74. Neill and Wright, Interpretation, 381. Wright treats the works of S. G. F. Brandon, Vermes, Gerd Theissen, Ben F. Meyer, Anthony E. Harvey, Marcus Borg, and E. P. Sanders, with the final four being the most significant. 75. Wright also mentions Jesus and the World of Judaism from 1983 in a footnote (381, n. 3) without describing any of its content. 76. Neill and Wright, Interpretation, 381.

The Significance of Jesus the Jew: 1970s and 1980s

73

or catalyst. In sum, Jesus the Jew was not as significant to the coming of a new perspective within Jesus research as later voices, retrospectively, have proposed. Moreover, Vermes’s Jewishness of Jesus approach appears not to astound or disturb anyone. As Vermes’s emphasis on the Jewishness of Jesus caused little commotion in scholarship forty years ago, while scholars at the same time signal that the focus on Jesus’s Jewishness introduced a new era, it is necessary to ask how Jesus scholars prior to Vermes related to the Jewishness of Jesus. How was the Jewishness of Jesus treated as Vermes entered the stage?

Chapter 6 T H E J EW I SH N E S S O F J E SU S B E F O R E V E R M E S Over the past forty years, Jesus scholars have made Jewishness a prominent feature of their Jesus images, often proclaiming it in the titles of books and articles. The Jewishness of Jesus has become a multifaceted feature of Jesus research, stretching beyond a mere recognition of the ultimately bland fact that Jesus was born and raised a Jew. The interest in Jewish sources and discussions about their relevance for describing first-century Judaism have been nothing short of remarkable. As previous chapters have made clear, Vermes’s Jesus the Jew is one early example of what has become commonplace in Jesus research in the years since. Moreover, Vermes’s book is often seen as an important factor for the emergence of the third quest. However, reviews and historical research comments on research history from the years following the publication of Jesus the Jew show that the book was received with highly varying enthusiasm and approbation. The role of Jesus the Jew may well thus have been overstated. Furthermore, and more importantly for the present chapter, is the fact that Vermes’s focus on the Jewishness of Jesus was not perceived as alien to Jesus research at the time. With this in mind, we now turn to earlier scholarship and ask: how did Jesus scholars prior to Vermes and any notion of a ‘third quest’ relate to the Jewishness of Jesus? In order to answer this question, the following survey explores scholarly works from the full century before Vermes, which illustrate how he is in both continuity and discontinuity with his antecedents. Some clarifications must be made about the selection of contributions to be examined and on the structure of the survey itself. For this account of the history of Jesus’s Jewishness within scholarship, the traditional three-quest scheme for Jesus research certainly does not prove helpful.1 This way of mapping Jesus research emphasizes discontinuity between the different quests, and downplays or even ignores aspects of continuity. My interest is exactly in exploring the continuity between previous research and Vermes’s emphasis on the Jewishness of Jesus. A heightened awareness of such continuity contributes to soften the artificial boundaries that are often drawn between preceding Jesus research and the third quest. Three groups of scholars from the century prior to the third quest have often been left out from quest-focused histories of Jesus research: Jewish scholars who promoted the Jewishness of Jesus, Christian scholars who did the same, and 1. Cf. Chapter 3.

76

The Vermes Quest

advocates for the Aryan Jesus. For instance, N. T. Wright gives a detailed history of the quests in Jesus and the Victory of God from 1996. He hardly mentions deJudaized portraits provided by anti-Semitic scholars or the opposite: works by Christians that prior to the third quest emphasize Jesus’s Jewishness.2 Jewish scholars are nowhere to be found in Wright’s survey. Instead, Wright exemplifies post-Schweitzer Jesus research, when all three categories of scholarship were carried out, by Bultmann’s work and dubs it the ‘no quest’ period. More recently, however, attention to anti-Jewish scholarship has increased, and works by Jewish scholars have also been included in histories of the quest. Still, until now, little has been done to highlight the voices of Christian and arguably philo-Semitic scholars who promote the Jewish Jesus.3 In 1999, Walter P. Weaver portrayed historical Jesus research during the years 1900–1950 and persuasively challenged the very notion of the no-quest period. Still, works that portray an explicitly non-Jewish Jesus, typically produced by scholars with strong Nazi sympathies, are nowhere to be found. However, Weaver devotes a fair amount of attention to the Jewish scholars Claude G. Montefiore and Joseph Klausner compared with other contributors in the account.4 It is remarkable, then, that the approximately 400-page book sets aside but one page for the ‘Christian Side’ within the chapter called ‘The Jewish Quest for Jesus.’5 Still, this is more than what is found in most 2. Wright, Jesus, 2–25. I choose this particular ‘freeze’ of Wright’s conception of the history of the quests, because it is written safely within the period of what so many call the third quest (published 1996). At this time, Wright might have gained a clearer view of the characteristics of the third quest, and thereby of its history, than what we saw in his work from 1988; cf. Chapter 5. Wright’s account includes Reimarus and Schweitzer (16–28), who both pay attention to Jesus’s Jewish context. He leaves one sentence to ‘the various Nazi-theologies’ which constructed ‘a largely unJewish Jesus’ (23) and one for the work of Joachim Jeremias, who along with C. H. Dodd he claims do not ‘fit too easily into any of the ‘movements’ so beloved of scholars’ (23). Wright’s account follows the trail of J. M. Robinson, who wrote the history of Jesus research from the perspective of what he named the ‘New Quest.’ Both Wright and Robinson are aware that other perspectives would have enabled other scholars to become part of their histories (James M. Robinson, A New Quest of the Historical Jesus [London: SCM Press, 1959], 9–10; Wright, Jesus, 23). 3. I refer here to scholars like Franz Delitzsch, Hermann Strack, and Gustaf Dalman (see below). Having read thoroughly a representative amount of these three men’s work, I am not convinced by Alan Levenson and Steven Thompson, who separately argue that these scholars were driven by Allo-Semitism or Anti-Semitism (Alan Levenson, ‘Missionary Protestants as Defenders and Detractors of Judaism: Franz Delitzsch and Hermann Strack’, JQR 92 [2002]: 383–420; Steven Thompson, ‘Gustaf Dalman, Anti-Semitism, and the Language of Jesus Debate’, JRH 34 [2010]: 36–54). I include D. Paul Billerbeck along with these scholars in the following, as one out of a number of Christian scholars who positively promoted the Jewishness of Jesus, though I am agnostic about his position on ‘the Jewish question.’ 4. Weaver, Historical Jesus, 230–253. 5. Weaver, Historical Jesus, 251, 252.

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

77

histories of research, even after Weaver. In 2010, Maurice Casey dedicates two paragraphs to the first half of the 1900s. Casey avoids the no-quest label and terms his paragraphs ‘Radical Form Criticism’, presented by Rudolf Bultmann, and ‘The Nazi Period’, featuring Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Walter Grundmann, and Paul Fiebig.6 Casey emphasizes the period’s preference for a non-Jewish Jesus.7 Nothing is said about works from this period that promote Jesus’s Jewishness. It is understandable that scholars after the horrors of Holocaust did not wish to place themselves in line with scholars who construed Jesus in accordance to Nazi ideology. There might also be explanations for the neglect of the pro-Jewish groups of scholars. Still, whatever reason one might have for excluding these groups of scholars, the result is that the histories become less complex, and thus have importantly weakened explanatory power. After these introductory remarks, it is time to say something about this chapter. Writing history is always a case of writing people in and writing people out of the story, as must also be the case for the following survey. The following inquiry highlights continuity represented by Jewish scholars and also by Christians. Such a survey must surely include some examples of Jewish scholars who have reclaimed Jesus for Judaism and particularly the question of Vermes’s relation to this tradition. More emphatically, though, I focus in the following on Franz Delitzsch and his students Hermann L. Strack (along with Paul Billerbeck) and Gustav Dalman, who, before Vermes and the third quest, each in his own way contributed to the understanding of the Jewishness of Jesus.8 Delitzsch, Strack, Billerbeck, and Dalman represent the conservative (pietistic) German Judenmission in the century leading up to the Second World War, a time when anti-Semitism was thriving in Germany and elsewhere. Just like the self-styled ‘third questers’, these scholars knew Jewish sources first-hand in the form of ancient and modern writings, geography, and artefacts and saw knowledge of Judaism as crucial for understanding Jesus and the New Testament more generally.9 They were read widely in their lifetimes and some of their books remain in print today. Hence, these scholars illustrate that the attention to Jesus’s Jewishness was alive in anti-Semitic Germany and beyond and that it remained so for decades. Although they represent a neglected strand in histories of the quest, their influence has been significant, as they have reached generations of scholars, clerics, and laypeople. Below we see examples of how they taken together represent influences upon conservative Christians, academic 6. Casey, Jesus, 4–9, 9–12. 7. For instance Casey, Jesus, 11: ‘The work of Fiebig and Grundmann … enables us to home in on the social function of the work of Bultmann and others. The effect of their radical criticism was to ensure that out from under the synoptic Gospels there could never crawl a Jewish man’ (emphasis in original). 8. As we shall see, the genre of Delitzsch’s contribution on Jesus is not strictly academic, and Strack’s and Billerbeck’s work is in the field of exegesis. I include them here because is helpful to look outside strict definitions of Jesus research, and into biblical studies at large in order to explain the reception of Jesus the Jew. 9. Likewise, they saw knowledge of Judaism as beneficial for the evangelical mission.

78

The Vermes Quest

exegetes, and Jesus scholars proper. The work of these scholars and the attention that it has gained help explain why the reviewers of Jesus the Jew did not take especial note of Vermes’s presupposition of Jesus’s Jewishness, but rather treated it as a truism, just as they do today. Additionally, I also present some examples that illustrate how scholars before Vermes have downplayed the Jewishness of Jesus. As examples of how Vermes’s work represents discontinuity with earlier Jesus research and especially his immediate predecessors, they contribute to explain why Sanders and Wright, as noted above, signalled a change in mainstream Jesus research in the 1980s. Moreover, these examples also represent the context for the pro-Jewish works, and awareness of such works is therefore invaluable as a backdrop for the contributions that are highlighted here. Examples of the non-Jewish Jesus, the Jesus dissimilar of Judaism, and the Jesus promoted by Jewish scholars prior to Vermes are surveyed briefly first. The review is neither exhaustive nor a minutely detailed examination of each work. Moreover, I do not attempt to trace – let alone to create – trajectories or patterns of these approaches to Jesus’s Jewishness or its lack, although the examples may represent larger streams. The examples contribute to shape an image of the scholarly world in which the pro-Jewish contributions of Delitzsch, Strack, Billerbeck, and Dalman appeared. Finally, we see how these scholars dealt with the Jewishness of Jesus in their works and thereby open a small window into New Testament scholarship’s interaction with Jesus’s Jewishness across geographical and theological boundaries.

Anti-Semitic Tendencies in Jesus Research One scholarly ideal for third questers is to treat Jewishness with great respect and to strive to represent Judaism on its own terms. Post-Enlightenment Jesus research before Vermes, however, displays numerous examples of denigrating depictions of things Jewish. A substantial number of these works contain varying degrees of indisputable anti-Semitism. This reflects general tendencies in European history and had particularly bizarre effects upon Jesus research in the time around the Second World War. In Germany, some scholars wanted to cut off every link between Christianity and Judaism and place Jesus theologically and biologically apart from Judaism. An institute for the ‘Study and Eradication of Jewish influence on German Church Life’ led by Walter Grundmann existed in Jena during the war.10 His suggestion 10. Grundmann’s work as the head of the Institut zur Erforschung und Beseitigung des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben in Jena is discussed thoroughly in Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), especially 88, 93, 152–161, 175–200. Grundmann served on the Eastern Front from 1943 and therefore left the institute that year (161).

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

79

that Jesus probably was part of the non-Jewish population of Galilee is the ultimate example of the separation of Jesus from his Jewish context.11 Grundmann was not alone; various defences of the Aryan race were made at the expense of the Jewish origins of Christianity. For instance, Friedrich Döllinger published the book Baldur und Bibel in 1920. Published in the aftermath of the First World War, the shortened Volksausgabe of the book was dedicated to the beaten German people, ‘[d]en deutschen Volke in seiner tiefsten Erniedrigung gewidmet’,12 and the cover of the book displays a sauwastika.13 Döllinger argues that the Israelites were not Jewish but German. Likewise, Jesus, the Christian faith, and its practices are asserted to have roots in German culture and religion. The title of Döllinger’s book alludes to the figure of Baldur, whom Döllinger describes as the German prototype for Jesus.14 He is the son of God who dies and is resurrected. One chapter of Döllinger’s book is dedicated to the question of Jesus from a historicoracial perspective.15 Here Döllinger argues that all parts of Jesus’s life and teachings have German origins. He even includes a drawing of Jesus’s head that allegedly shows his German-Aryan characteristics. Döllinger remarks that the image is trustworthy because it was drawn at the time of Jesus: ‘ein Bild von ihm, aus seiner Lebenszeit stammend, das wir als echt annehmen können, zeigt im Profil einen charakteristischen germanisch-arischen Hoch-Langschädel-Typus mit all den hervorragenden Kennzeichen eines arischen Edelmenschen’.16 Today we intuitively judge this as unscholarly mumbo-jumbo, but Döllinger’s book and other representations of the non-Jewish Jesus clearly made a significant impact at the time. For instance, Hermann Strack finds it worthwhile to reject Döllinger’s work, among others, in a footnote of the Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrash (hereafter Kommentar).17 Outside German territory and far earlier than Döllinger and Grundmann, other biblical scholars reveal anti-Jewish tendencies, though not with the same ideological underpinnings. In nineteenth-century France, Ernst Renan claims to 11. Walter Grundmann, Jesus der Galiläer und das Judentum (Leipzig: Wigand, 1940), 166–200. 12. Friedrich Döllinger, Baldur und Bibel (Nürnberg: Lorenz Spindler, 1920), 4. 13. The sauwastika has left-facing arms and is thus the mirror image of the swastika that had become symbolic of the German Nazi Party that same year. 14. Döllinger, Baldur und Bibel, 157. It is possible that the title also alludes to Friedrich Delitzsch’s Bibel und Babel from 1902, which inspired several de-Judaizing contributions in the years that followed. 15. Döllinger, Baldur und Bibel, 132–159. 16. Döllinger, Baldur und Bibel, 139. 17. Strack notes that Fritsch (1913), Haupt-Baltimore (1908), Friedrich Delitzsch (1920), Döllinger (1920), and many others ‘wollen zwar glauben machen, Jesus sei ein Arier gewesen; ihre Behauptungen sind aber völlig haltlos’ (Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck, Das Evangelium von Matthäus erläutert aus Talmud und Midrasch [vol. 1 of Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, eds. Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck, 1922–1928; München: C. H. Beck, 1922], v, n. 1).

80

The Vermes Quest

hold ‘a high place’ for the Jewish people.18 There is little in Renan’s Life of Jesus, however, to confirm this. Even words of praise contain harsh ambiguity. For instance, Renan writes: ‘notwithstanding all their immense faults of character, hard, egoistical, scoffing, cruel, narrow, subtle, and sophistical as they were, the Jewish people were the authors of the finest movement of disinterested enthusiasm recorded in history’.19 According to Renan, many aspects of Jesus’s life and ministry in fact set him apart from Judaism. He leaves open whether Jesus was Jewish by race because many inhabitants of Galilee represented different races that had converted to Judaism: ‘it is therefore impossible to discuss here any question of race, and endeavour to ascertain what blood flowed in the veins of him’.20 Nonetheless, Renan treats Jesus as a representative of the Jewish race and repeatedly discusses the Jewishness of Jesus. Renan suggests that Jesus was inspired by the Old Testament and contemporary apocalyptic literature (the Book of Daniel, the books of Enoch) and that many of his ideas were similar to those of Hillel.21 However, Jesus did not identify with the perceived roots of rabbinic Judaism. ‘Happily for him’, Renan writes, ‘he was also ignorant of the grotesque scholasticism – which was taught at Jerusalem, and was soon to constitute the Talmud’.22 Renan’s Jesus represents difference from and opposition to Judaism. For instance, Jesus ‘was free from almost all the failings of his race’;23 he ‘represents the rupture with the Jewish spirit’.24 Jesus rejected the Jewish Law or, as Renan calls it, the ‘narrow, harsh, uncharitable Law’.25 Jesus became ‘a destroyer of Judaism … In other words, Jesus is no longer a Jew’.26 Another, and equally anti-Semitic, example can be found among one of Renan’s British opponents, John Young. He aims at an image of Jesus that is in line with church dogma and criticizes Renan for not taking the divinity of Jesus into account.27 However, he shares Renan’s negative appraisal of Judaism. Young emphasizes that Jesus was both God and man, and like every human being, Jesus was influenced by his environment. According to Young, the Jewish environment of Jesus represents a potential problem for the human Jesus: 18. Ernest Renan, Life of Jesus (trans. Willian G. Hutchison; London: Walter Scott, 1897), 286; cf. Ernest Renan, ‘The Essential Nature of the Work of Jesus’, in The Historical Jesus (ed. Craig A. Evans; London: Routledge, 2004), 72–79, 77. First published as La Vie de Jésus (Paris: Michel Lévy Frères, 1863). 19. Renan, Jesus, 23. Due to my focus on Vermes and the Anglophone world, I quote English translations whenever available. 20. Renan, Jesus, 15. 21. Renan, Jesus, 23–25. 22. Renan, Jesus, 23. 23. Renan, Jesus, 206. 24. Renan, Jesus, 286; Renan, ‘The Essential Nature of the Work of Jesus’, in Historical Jesus, 77. 25. Renan, Jesus, 141. 26. Renan, Jesus, 141. 27. John Young, The Christ of History: An Argument Grounded in the Facts of His Life on Earth (London: Strahan and Co, 1868), 266, first published in 1855.

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

81

The age in which Jesus appeared, the nation to which he belonged, and the place where he dwelt while among men, formed an obvious limitation around his earthly life . … it must be remembered that he was born a Jew, one of a people who had been long accustomed to overvalue themselves and to undervalue all the rest of the world, – a people who had become notoriously proud, narrow, and intolerant.28

More subtle denigration of Judaism is found easily in some twentieth-century contributions. In the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule, the presupposition that Christianity is the highest of all religions and its corollary that Jesus was a unique personality lead to a methodology that both compared Jesus to Judaism and contrasted him with his context on significant issues. For instance, Wilhelm Bousset claims that the cultural and religious conditions in Palestine are important to understanding Jesus29 and he compares Jesus to the rabbis of his days. Bousset notes that Jesus resembled them in many ways, as he taught in the synagogue, discussed Scripture, and had students.30 Despite such similarities, though, Bousset also portrays the representatives of Judaism as negative foils for Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees represent the opposite force of Jesus, which in turn makes Jesus stand out as better than them: ‘so erscheint Jesus in seinem Kampf gegen Schriftlehrtentum und Pharisäismus als der grosse Kämpfer für Wahrheit und Wirklichkeit’.31 In contrast to the rabbis, Jesus brought the living God.32 The purported contrast between Jesus and Judaism is striking. The examples above illustrate that anti-Semitism impacted upon Jesus research in various ways. The representatives of the Aryan-Jesus contributions devoted considerable energy to the Jewishness of Jesus, though with the aim of dismissing any biological or theological relationship between Jesus and Judaism. Other scholars, liberals and conservatives alike, presupposed that Jesus was Jewish. They note the biological and cultural connection between Jesus and Judaism but nonetheless place him outside Jewish religiosity.33 Their descriptions of Jews and Judaism, though few and far between, are routinely denigrating.

De-Judaizing Methodology: The Dissimilar Jesus Approaching Jesus and his Jewish contemporaries by comparison and contrast, as seen above, also features in Rudolf Bultmann’s work on the historical Jesus. 28. Young, Christ of History, 33. 29. Wilhelm Bousset, Jesus (Halle: Gebauer-Schwetschke, 1904). 30. Bousset, Jesus, 15. 31. Bousset, Jesus, 68. 32. Bousset, Jesus, 19, 20, cf. Bousset’s comment: ‘Er [Jesus] redete, sie stammelten’ (22). 33. Many such Jesus scholars aim at a description of a fully human Jesus but show little interest in his actual context. It is beyond the scope of this study to examine what historiographical ideals are at work among Jesus scholars, but it is reasonable to suggest that Jesus scholars of previous centuries have been less attentive to context and more interested in the cultural and spiritual ideas of the individual.

82

The Vermes Quest

German-based dialectic theology that emphasized the potential kerygma in the Gospels paid little attention to historical questions about Jesus. Most emphatically, Bultmann explored the historical development of New Testament texts with the help of formal criticism. Hellenistic and Jewish parallels to the Synoptic stories and the formation of tradition were discussed, leaving the Jesus of history out of focus but still maintaining an interest in Christianity’s Jewish origin.34 One of Bultmann’s sources for the Jewish material is Paul Fiebig’s book on Jewish miracle stories and Bultmann comments on many of the texts that Vermes used later.35 Unlike Vermes, he never draws any link between these texts and the historical Jesus.36 Still, Bultmann’s and Fiebig’s volumes reveal interest in Jewish sources and do contribute to the familiarization of New Testament scholars with Jewish texts. In spite of a general reluctance of historical questions about Jesus, Bultmann does partake in Jesus research in one short volume: Jesus from 1926.37 Bultmann’s Jesus is in most aspects completely in line with contemporary Judaism and the rabbis of his time.38 Jesus, like other rabbis, interprets the law39 and regards the ‘Old Testament Scripture’ as an absolute authority.40 Moreover, the Jewishness of Jesus is described more positively by Bultmann than by Renan and Young (see above). Still, Bultmann’s Jesus differs from Judaism in matters of real importance to Bultmann’s theology. For instance, an existential encounter with God was obstructed by the ‘Jewish’ emphasis on the remoteness or futuristic aspect of God.41 In contrast, ‘Jesus apprehends the Jewish conception of God in its purity and consistency’42 and unifies the ideas of the remote and near God, emphasizing 34. Rudolf Karl Bultmann, Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1921). 35. For example, b. Ber. 34b, see Rudolf Karl Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition (Oxford: Blackwell, 1963), 232; Paul Fiebig, Jüdische Wundergeschichten des neutestamentlichen Zeitalters (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1911). This Talmudic passage is of great importance for Vermes’s hasid theory and will be discussed in Chapters 9–11. 36. Bultmann, judging by the linguistic forms and the Jewish parallels, holds that some of the miracle stories entered the tradition in the Palestinian church, while other miracle stories have Hellenistic origin (Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition, 239, 240). Bultmann does use the parallels in the interpretation of the miracle stories in the Gospels, but claims that the material ‘illustrates the atmosphere, shows motifs and forms, and so helps us to understand how miracle stories came into the Synoptic tradition’ (238, 239). 37. Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus (Berlin: Deutsche Bibliothek, 1926); the first edition in English was published by Schribner’s in 1934. Here we find Bultmann’s famous quote: ‘I do indeed think that we can know almost nothing about the life and personality of Jesus, since the early Christian sources show no interest in neither; and other sources about Jesus do not exist’ (Jesus and the Word [trans. L. P. Smith and E. H. Lantero; London: Collins, 1958], 14). 38. Bultmann, Jesus and the Word, 48–53. 39. Bultmann, Jesus and the Word, 34. 40. Bultmann, Jesus and the Word, 59. 41. Bultmann, Jesus and the Word, 103. 42. Bultmann, Jesus and the Word, 112.

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

83

that God is near.43 Moreover, there are differences between Jesus and the rabbis for Bultmann: ‘in contrast to the scribal assumption that all passages of Scripture are equally binding and that all apparent contradictions are to be reconciled, Jesus sets one passage against another … Jesus distinguishes critically between the essential and the non-essential in Scripture’.44 In short, the differences between Bultmann’s Jesus and his Jewish contemporaries are subtle but significant. Bultmann’s Jesus is Jewish and at the same time better than Judaism with its alleged strictures and shortcomings. Comparisons by contrast continued to guide post-Bultmannian German scholarship. Ernst Käsemann’s lecture ‘Das Problem des historischen Jesus’ is famously taken to mark the beginning of a new era of Jesus research.45 In the case of Jesus’s relation to Judaism, though, Käsemann’s basic assumption has a familiar ring to it: his Jesus is Jewish but still significantly different from Judaism. Käsemann writes that Jesus ‘cannot be integrated into the background of the Jewish piety of his time. Certainly he was a Jew and made assumptions of Jewish piety, but at the same time he shatters this framework’.46 In order to identify the authentic pieces within the Synoptics, Käsemann uses the criterion of double dissimilarity.47 This criterion aims at distinguishing between genuine and attributed words of Jesus, favouring traditions that do not have any link to either Judaism or the early church. Searching for a unique Jesus, this criterion was effective and consequently wards off the Jewish aspects of the historical Jesus. The criterion of double dissimilarity had been used by Bultmann48 and was widely accepted until Morna D. Hooker dismantled it in the early 1970s.49 The most significant difference between Vermes’s work and most Jesus research immediately preceding his relates to the use of this criterion. Still, it would be a mistake to assume that the Jesus scholars before Vermes used the criterion incautiously or exclusively. Käsemann himself is well aware of the limitations of the criterion of double dissimilarity: ‘we must realize beforehand that we shall not, from this angle of vision, gain any clear view of the link between Jesus, his Palestinian environment and his later community’.50 Käsemann clearly presupposes a connection between 43. Bultmann, Jesus and the Word, 110. 44. Bultmann, Jesus and the Word, 59, 60. 45. Ernst Käsemann, ‘The Problem of the Historical Jesus’, in The Historical Jesus (ed. Craig A. Evans; London: Routledge, 2004), 133–158. The lecture was published as an article in ZTK 51 (1954): 125–153. The day Käsemann gave his lecture, 20 October 1953, marks in many mappings of Jesus research the end of the no-quest period and the start of the of the new quest. It was James M. Robinson who coined the term ‘new quest’ in 1959 (Robinson, New Quest). Later, this part of the quest is also called ‘the second quest.’ 46. Käsemann, ‘Jesus’, 151. 47. Käsemann, ‘Jesus’, 150, 156. 48. Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition, 205. 49. Morna Hooker, ‘Christology and Methodology’, NTS 17 (1970–1971): 480–487. Pinning this down to Hooker’s article is of course an oversimplification. 50. Käsemann, ‘Jesus’, 150.

84

The Vermes Quest

Jesus and his context, yet knowingly employs a method that excludes this aspect from his research. From the perspective of the third quest, this approach to Jesus research looks like a way to downplay Jesus’s Jewishness and it certainly had this effect. However, the major difference between the third quest and Jesus research that employed the criterion of double dissimilarity is historiographical: Käsemann and others coming from Bultmannian scholarship did not search for ways to describe Jesus as part of his own context and did not seek primarily to understand what happened to the historical Jesus and why. Hence, the criterion serves a desire to find a historical basis for the message of the church. Others also employed the criterion of double dissimilarity, if with a certain amount of caution. In Norway, at about the same time as Käsemann, Nils Alstrup Dahl defends the criterion of double dissimilarity but notes that it should be only part of any method.51 He also argues that Jesus should be viewed within the context of Palestinian Judaism. Dahl asserts that ‘everything that enlarges our knowledge of this environment of Jesus indirectly extends our knowledge of the historical Jesus himself ’.52 Dahl’s work illustrates that the criterion of double dissimilarity was challenged even by scholars who saw and exploited its benefits. He clearly sees the importance of the Jewish context. In Jesus von Nazareth from 1956, Günther Bornkamm is reluctant to restrict his Jesus image to what could be produced by historical methods.53 He never states his view on the criterion of double dissimilarity, but Bornkamm’s work nonetheless results in a unique Jesus. For instance, he writes about the ‘unmistakable otherness’ of Jesus54 claiming that ‘there is nothing in contemporary Judaism which corresponds to the immediacy with which he [Jesus] teaches’.55 Bornkamm also notes a difference between Jesus and his contemporaries when it comes to authority; Jesus was superior to others because he made ‘the reality of God present’.56 We see here similarities with Bultmann’s notions: Jesus’s place within Judaism is as self-evident as the notion that he is dissimilar from it. The examples above make clear that attention to Jesus’s Jewishness and awareness of the limitations of historical methods of the day existed alongside the scholarly approval of the criterion of double dissimilarity. Approached from more recent Jesus research it is remarkable how rarely the words ‘Jewish’, ‘Jew’, and ‘Jewishness’ appear in Jesus research prior to Vermes. Jewish concepts that unquestionably link Jesus with Judaism, such as the Messiah, 51. Nils Alstrup Dahl, ‘The Problem of the Historical Jesus’, in The Crucified Messiah and Other Essays (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1974), 70, 71. This was a lecture, originally given in 1952, and printed in Norwegian a year later (Rett lære og kjetterske meninger [Oslo: Land og Kirke, 1953], 156–202). 52. Dahl, ‘Crucified Messiah’, in Crucified Messiah, 68, 69. 53. Günther Bornkamm, Jesus of Nazareth (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), 15. Original: Günther Bornkamm, Jesus von Nazareth (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1956). 54. Bornkamm, Jesus, 56. 55. Bornkamm, Jesus, 57. 56. Bornkamm, Jesus, 62.

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

85

are widely discussed but the interest in Jewish concepts seldom leads to any further reflection about Jesus’s connection to Judaism.57 Considerations of Jesus’s Jewishness are often found in isolated sentences and attention to Jesus’s Jewishness is seldom the primary aim of entire contributions. The Aryan-Jesus contributions represent the exception to this rule: they make Jewishness their major concern, but only to deny or distort the Jewishness of Jesus. The majority of scholars affirm Jesus’s Jewishness, but do not make it the centre of attention. They emphasize the contrasts between Jesus and contemporary Judaism and downplay possible areas of agreement. Furthermore, their images of Judaism are to a large extent negative, and the historical Jesus they present is thus a unique personality, representing all kinds of positive features. In 1982, E. P. Sanders summed up this tendency of New Testament scholarship: Hypotheses about the relationship of Jesus to his contemporaries in Judaism have been almost as numerous as the scholars who have written on Jesus; for while it has been much debated whether Paul is better understood within Hellenism or of Judaism, there is no such debate with regard to Jesus. The only conceivable way to understand his life and teaching in context is by comparison and contrast with Judaism.58

As opposed to the general tone of the examples above, Vermes’s Jesus the Jew proposes a Jesus placed squarely with Judaism and portrays Judaism on a thoroughly positive note. His approach is not however unprecedented, even among German Lutherans from the early twentieth century. It is time to highlight Vermes’s true predecessors, scholars who worked from similar assumptions about Jesus’s Jewishness as scholars do today.

Jewish Scholars and the Jewish Jesus Although Vermes does not present his work on Jesus as part of a longer line of Jewish scholars writing on Jesus, Jesus the Jew is often regarded as just that, as several reviews of the book make clear. Sean Freyne writes that Vermes’s book ‘is in line with several others written by Jews, who are highly sympathetic to Jesus’.

57. For example, David Friedrich Strauss and Peter C. Hodgson, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined (Ramsey: Sigler Press, 1994), 284, 291. For more on Strauss’s view of Judaism and of Jesus’s Jewishness, see Anders Gerdmar, Roots of Theological Anti-Semitism: German Biblical Interpretation and the Jews, from Herder and Semler to Kittel and Bultmann (SJHC 20; Leiden: Brill, 2009), 122–124. 58. E. P. Sanders, ‘Jesus, Paul and Judaism’, in Religion (Vorkonstantinischies Christentum: Leben und Umwelt Jesu; Neues Testament [kanonische Schriften und Apokryphen]) (ed. Wolfgang Haase; ANRW II 25. 1; Berlin: De Gruyter, 1982), 390–450, 402.

86

The Vermes Quest

Vermes himself is characterized as ‘a Hungarian Jewish Scholar from Oxford’.59 Similarly, W. Richard Stegner sees Vermes as a continuation of Jesus research within Jewish circles, noting that such a search for the historical background for Jesus has been going on ‘for decades’. Initially, Stegner does not specify any examples of the trend, but in the subsequent paragraph, he explicitly refers to ‘Jewish scholarship’ and remarks that one common feature of this kind of scholarship is to highlight parallels between Jesus and the Pharisees: ‘most Jewish scholars … associate Jesus with the Pharisees’.60 As Vermes does, Jewish scholarship ‘place[s] Jesus wholly within Judaism’. Stegner evidently conceives Jewish scholars as a group of scholars that approaches the historical Jesus in a certain way and he sees Vermes’s work as part of this tradition. The term Heimholung, introduced by Schalom Ben-Chorin (1913–1999), is often used in connection with Jesus research performed by Jewish scholars. The term signifies scholarly attempts to bring the figure of Jesus back into the history and tradition of the Jewish people. Claude G. Montefiore (1858–1938), Joseph Klausner (1874–1958), Samuel Sandmel (1911–1979), and David Flusser (1917– 2000) are prominent names in this line of research, beyond Ben-Chorin himself. Paul Winter (1904–1969) could also be numbered among them, although his work on Jesus was restricted to one book with a limited topic: On the Trial of Jesus.61 Despite the fact that Vermes emphasizes the fact that he is Jewish (apparently equipped with a particularly Jewish ability to understand Jesus) 62 and in effect reclaims Jesus for Judaism, he does not portray himself in the tradition of the 59. Freyne, review of Vermes, 517. He starts his review by explaining that the book ‘corresponds with the direction that much Christian scholarship (both dogmatic and exegetical) has been taking in recent years – namely, a concentration on the humanity of Jesus’. He thereby places Vermes’s work in the line of Christian as much as Jewish scholarship. Freyne’s mapping of the trajectories is significant: Vermes’s predecessors on the Christian side are working in the fields of dogmatics and exegesis and are attentive to the humanity of Jesus, while their Jewish colleagues are doing Jesus research and portray Jesus as Jewish. 60. Stegner, ‘Galilee and Christology’, 58. 61. Paul Winter, On the Trial of Jesus (SJ; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1961). Vermes contributed to the second edition of the book. Winter is probably the Jewish Jesus scholar who most influenced Vermes; they were close friends and Jesus the Jew is dedicated to Winter’s memory (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 4). 62. Vermes quotes Martin Buber’s claim that Jews ‘know [Jesus] in a way... inaccessible to the Gentiles subject to him’, and comments that ‘I trust that those who accompany me on this voyage of exploration will recognize the truth of Buber’s words’ (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 10). Similarly, Vermes later describes his own approach to Jesus as ‘the voice of a fellowJew, a lifelong student of first-century Palestine, [that] would have the worthwhile effect of illuminating a face of Jesus perceptible only from outside the fold of the Church’ (Geza Vermes, ‘The Gospels without Christology’, in God Incarnate: Story and Belief [ed. A. E. Harvey; London: SPCK, 1981], 55).

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

87

Heimholung.63 Rather, he distances himself from other Jewish attempts, due to their alleged bias. In a 1974 lecture at the Liberal Synagogue in London, he describes the Heimholung as ‘the more trendy effort of yesterday’ – a path he does not follow because it would hinder an objective analysis.64 Vermes suggests rather that his non-prejudicial approach to the Jewish Jesus is unique. In the introduction to Jesus the Jew, Vermes denotes the book as ‘some small beginning’ to seeing Jesus as he really was rather than ‘distorted by Christian and Jewish myth alike’. Vermes thus creates the impression that his non-religious approach has no predecessors, Christian or Jewish.65 Although there certainly are similarities between the works of the Jewish Jesus scholars, which makes it convenient to treat them as a group, such categorization might conceal their differences. Jewish Jesus scholars represent various strands of Judaism and their works are written in English, German, or Hebrew in varying contexts. For instance, Claude G. Montefiore was born in London into a wealthy family and studied at Oxford. He became an important advocate for liberal Judaism in Britain.66 Joseph Klausner, on the other hand, was born in Lithuania, worked in Germany and Palestine, and was a dedicated Zionist.67 While Klausner’s book, originally written in modern Hebrew, was aimed at fellow Jews,68 Montefiore’s work on Jesus is primarily addressed to the Christian academy. Arguably, the political and inner religious bents of Montefiore and Klausner are equally important to their images of Jesus, as is the simple fact that they were Jewish. In the following, when I let Montefiore and Klausner represent 63. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 9; Vermes, Jesus in His Jewish Context, 1. However, Vermes appears to be influenced by, for example, Klausner (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 224), citing and agreeing with Klausner regarding the ‘sublimity, distinctiveness and originality’ in Jesus’s ethical code (Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth: His Life, Times, and Teaching [London: George Allen & Unwin, 1925], 414). 64. Vermes, Jesus in His Jewish Context, 1. 65. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 17. 66. William Baird, History of New Testament Research: From Jonathan Edwards to Rudolf Bultmann (vol. 2 of History of New Testament Research; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 254. Montefiore promoted his viewpoint in British society at large and among Jews specifically. One example of Montefiore’s campaign for liberal Judaism among British Jewry can be seen in Claude G. Montefiore, ‘Abbé Loisy’s “Etudes Bibliques”’, JQR 14 (1901): 147– 158. Here Montefiore presents the Catholic theologian Loisy as an ideal example of how a scholar who comes from a highly dogmatic system works critically with his own traditions. Montefiore argues that rabbis should engage in similarly scrutinizing questions about their traditions. Ironically, Loisy was excommunicated from the Catholic Church a few years later (1908) because of his theological work. A short overview of Loisy’s life is found in Baird, History of New Testament Research, 2:163–165. 67. Baird, History of New Testament Research, 2:257; Reidar Hvalvik, ‘Joseph Klausner’, in Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus (ed. Craig A. Evans; New York: Routledge, 2008), 358–360, 358. 68. Klausner, Jesus, 5–7 (translator’s preface).

88

The Vermes Quest

Jewish scholars, it is done with awareness of the diversity among these scholars and with respect for their individuality.69 Klausner’s Jesus of Nazareth was published in English in 1925, three years after the Hebrew original, and depicts Jesus as a devoted Jew, truly in line with Judaism:70 ‘Jesus remained steadfast to the old Torah: till his dying day he continued to observe the ceremonial laws like a true Pharisaic Jew.’71 Klausner navigates the field of liberal theology well, sharing its distaste for miracles and embracing its fondness for ethics: ‘if ever the day should come and this ethical code be stripped of its wrappings of miracles and mysticism, the Book of the Ethics of Jesus will be one of the choicest treasures in the literature of Israel for all time’.72 These words end Klausner’s book. Klausner is one of the Jewish scholars who figure most frequently in Jesus the Jew,73 which Vermes ends with a quotation from Klausner that lead up to the quotation above: ‘in his [Jesus’s] ethical code there is a sublimity, distinctiveness and originality in form unparalleled in any other Hebrew ethical code; neither is there any parallel to the remarkable art of his parables’.74 Klausner – and Vermes – holds Jesus in high esteem. It should be noted, however, that Klausner is ambiguous in regard to Jesus’s specifically Jewish ethics, which might be destructive: ‘in all this Jesus is the most Jewish of Jews, more Jewish than Simeon ben Shetah, more Jewish even than Hillel. Yet nothing is more dangerous to national Judaism than this exaggerated Judaism; it is the ruin of national culture, the national state, and national life’.75 Here the political aspects of Klausner’s work are clear, and it is also evident that Klausner’s work with the Jewish Jesus is originally part of a specifically Jewish debate. 69. One of the first, if not the first, work that dealt with Jesus research by specifically Jewish scholars is the dissertation by Gösta Lindeskog from 1938, called ‘Die Jesusfrage im neuzeitlichen Judentum.’ A short version was published in Sweden in 1940, while the German version returned to print in the same year, coincidentally, as the publication of Jesus the Jew in England (Gösta Lindeskog, Die Jesusfrage im neuzeitlichen Judentum: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung [Leipzig: A. Lorentz, 1938]; Jesus och judarna [Stockholm: Svenska Kyrkans diakonistyrelses bokförlag, 1940], and Die Jesusfrage im neuzeitlichen Judentum: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung [Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1973]). A more recent treatment, though still thirty years old, is D. A. Hagner’s work on the Heimholung with a foreword by Lindeskog (Hagner, Jewish Reclamation, 9–11). 70. For example, Klausner, Jesus, 363–368, under the heading ‘The Jewishness of Jesus.’ 71. Klausner, Jesus, 275. This view is repeated (371). On the other hand, Klausner also believes that the rejection of ceremonial laws in the early church had roots in Jesus’s teachings (275, 276, 369–371). 72. Klausner, Jesus, 414. 73. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 224, 232, 252, 283 (Klausner), and 4, 36, 160, 186, 235, 237, 261, 286 (Winter). 74. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 224. Vermes does not cite the source of the quotation. 75. Klausner, Jesus, 374.

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

89

Claude Montefiore, however, enters into discussions about the historical Jesus with a Christian audience in mind. In 1910, Montefiore gave the Jowett lectures at Oxford: six lectures presenting Jesus from Montefiore’s Jewish perspective.76 Montefiore’s Jesus is a Jewish prophet like the prophets of the Hebrew Bible before him. Jesus speaks against ‘oppression and hypocrisy’ like Isaiah and Amos77 and is a ‘seeker of the souls’ like Ezekiel.78 Although Montefiore depicts Jesus as a prophet, he repeatedly compares him to the rabbis of the time and points out parallels between Jesus’s teachings and rabbinic literature. Jesus is a healer and teacher, adherent to the divine Law, but also occasionally inspired by the ‘Divine Spirit’ to proclaim universal truths that stood against the literal reading of the Law.79 Montefiore thus emphasizes Jesus’s Jewishness and endorses the gospel’s conception of Jesus’s special relation to the divine. In addition to his portrayal of Jesus, Montefiore’s lectures address contemporary caricatures of things Jewish. Montefiore tries to correct what he regards as Christian ‘misconceptions’ of the law80 and ‘prejudices’ about the Jewish concept of God81 and of the Messiah.82 In effect, Montefiore’s lectures present an admiring image of the Jewish Jesus while also defending Montefiore’s Judaism. Klausner and Montefiore have promoted the Jewishness of Jesus with ultimately complementary aims; Klausner writes Jesus back into Jewish history, while Montefiore first and foremost speaks up for Judaism in a Christian context. In Jesus the Jew, Vermes seeks to do both.83 However, in order to understand why Vermes’s approach became mainstream from the 1980s onwards, it is necessary to look beyond the works of Jewish scholars and into the larger world of biblical scholars, to some examples of Christian scholars prior to the third quest who promoted the Jewishness of Jesus.

Christian Scholars and the Jewish Jesus Ironically, works that promoted Jesus’s Jewishness in the Bultmann era are more easily found by moving beyond strict definitions of Jesus research and Jesus scholars and looking at works of biblical scholars that are closely linked with the German Judenmission. In the following, I highlight selected works: Delitzsch’s 76. According to the preface, the lectures were held in November and December of 1909, ‘to suit the convenience of the Lecturer’, and were ‘by request’ repeated in the spring (Claude G. Montefiore, Some Elements of the Religious Teachings of Jesus according to the Synoptic Gospels [London: Macmillan, 1910], vii). 77. Montefiore, Religious Teachings, 40, 47. 78. Montefiore, Religious Teachings, 55. 79. Montefiore, Religious Teachings, 56; 46, 47. 80. Montefiore, Religious Teachings, 27–29. 81. Montefiore, Religious Teachings, 90–93. 82. Montefiore, Religious Teachings, 129. 83. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 7.

90

The Vermes Quest

book Ein Tag in Kapernaum, Strack’s and Billerbeck’s Kommentar, and Dalman’s Die Worte Jesu. These works illustrate scholarly attention to the Jewishness of Jesus and first-hand knowledge of Jewish sources and have contributed to research on Judaism, New Testament exegesis, and Jesus research. While this is not the venue to discuss the overall impact of these scholars or these particular works, some significant remarks must be made. Strack’s work with Billerbeck on the Kommentar should be well known to most New Testament scholars even today. One token of its importance is found in James Dunn’s list of works that are written in German and (in 1989) ‘remained inaccessible to Englishonly students, despite their significance’.84 The Kommentar is the first on Dunn’s list: ‘The most obvious is the set of volumes known to several generations of New Testament students simply as Strack-Billerbeck.’85 Likewise, the wide-reaching significance of Delitzsch and Dalman cannot be doubted. Delitzsch’s Ein Tag in Kapernaum, a portrait of Galilee at the time of Jesus, was first published in 1871, followed quickly by two German reprints (1873 and 1886). A few years after the final German reprint, in 1892, the book appeared in English translation.86 In 2010, it was reprinted by Nabu Press, which aims at reproducing old books considered to be ‘culturally important’.87 Thus, there is reason to believe that the book remains useful. Likewise, Delitzsch’s translation of the New Testament into Hebrew was widely used from the first publication in 1877 and remains so today.88 These and other parts of Delitzsch’s scholarship were highly appreciated, likely in part because of his conservative orientation. For whatever reason, Delitzsch’s work had a large and even foreign audience.89 The same is true of Dalman’s work, as the obituary in Archiv für Orientforschung reveals the extensive ambitions and widereaching significance of his work on Palestine. It is clear that this work attracted Christians from many countries:

84. James D. G. Dunn, ‘They Set Us in New Paths: VI. New Testament: The Great Untranslated’, ExpTim 100 (1989): 203–207, 204. 85. Dunn, ‘The Great Untranslated’, 204. Dunn also lists Wellhausen’s four-volume work on the Synoptics, Weiss’s commentary on 1 Corinthians, and Schlatter’s commentary on Matthew. 86. It was then published by Funk and Wagnalls Company, New York, which published The Jewish Encyclopedia about a decade later. 87. This publisher prints works from before 1923, probably due to copyright laws (www. nabupress.com). 88. Delitzsch reworked the first translation continually, and Dalman continued after his death. The Hebrew New Testament sold 49,230 copies over eleven editions in the years 1877–1892 (Gustaf Dalman, ‘The Hebrew New Testament of Franz Delitzsch’, ONTS 15 [1892]: 145–150). 89. For example, the American journal The Old Testament Student published (translated) words by Delitzsch based upon notes from a meeting with American students in Leipzig (Franz Delitzsch, ‘Must We Follow the New Testament Interpretation of Old Testament Texts?’, OTS 6 [1886]: 77, 78).

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

91

Von 1903 bis 1914 hat er [Dalman] das Institut nicht nur geleitet, sondern erst recht ausgebaut und damit, wie er selbst sagt, eine riesenhafte Aufgabe bewältigt, für die ‘man Naturwissenschaftler, Geograph, Ethnologe, Archäologe und Theologe zugleich sein sollte.’ Tatsächlich hat er es verstanden, die jährlich wechselnden Stipendiaten des Instituts, die aus allen Gegenden Deutschlands kamen, wie auch die als Gäste teilnehmenden Dänen, Holländer und Schweden nachdrücklich anzuhalten, sich nicht in Einzelheiten zu verlieren, sondern sich möglichst ein Gesamtbild des Landes, seiner Bewohner und seiner Geschichte zu erwerben und erst dann an die Lösung einer besonderen Aufgabe heranzugehen.90

Furthermore, Dalman’s strictly academic work on the Aramaic basis of the New Testament and his suggestion that Jesus spoke Aramaic should be well known to New Testament scholars also because his perspectives have been championed and advocated by his student Joachim Jeremias. Dalman’s view of Aramaic as the language of Jesus remains the standard opinion even today. Despite the absence of the names of Delitzsch, Strack, Billerbeck, and Dalman in the history of Jesus research so far, it is a fair conclusion that these scholars have influenced generations of scholars.91 Before we see how they came to terms with Jesus’s Jewishness, and in order to define their own contexts a little further, some words on the German mission to the Jews are in order. German Mission to the Jews and Institutum Judaicum Franz Delitzsch, Hermann L. Strack, Paul Billerbeck, and Gustav Dalman were prominent figures of the German mission to the Jews and their engagement with the Jewishness of Jesus undoubtedly went hand in hand with their enthusiasm for the mission. Die Judenmission aimed at the conversion of Jews to Christianity but also sought to lessen Jewish antipathy towards Christianity – and vice versa – by 90. Peter Thompsen, ‘Obituary: Gustaf Dalman’, AfO 14 (1941–1945): 233, 234. Thompsen does not provide any reference for the Dalman quotation. See also archival footage from Lehrkursen in Julia Männchen, Das Herz zieht nach Jerusalem: Gustaf Dalman zum 150. Geburtstag (Greifswald: Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald, 2005), 12, 14. 91. I have restricted my scope to these scholars, but they are hardly the only ‘forgotten’ scholars who have approached the historical figure of Jesus by working directly with Jewish sources. For instance, Alfred Edersheim (1825–1889), a Jewish convert ordained in the Church of England, missionary to the Jews, and a biblical scholar at Oxford and elsewhere represents similar interests and approaches. His collection of Christian and Jewish literature is found in the Oriental institute at Exeter College, Oxford. See [Anonymus], ‘Inventory of Judaica and Hebraica’, n.p. [accessed 21  November  2014]. Online: http:// www.oxfordjewishheritage.co.uk/projects/judaica-and-relevant-hebraica-in-oxford/89inventory-of-judaica-and-hebraica. I briefly address other representatives and some differences between them in Section ‘Additional Reflections on the Jewishness of Jesus within Jesus Research’.

92

The Vermes Quest

engaging in scholarly and public debates. An important part of this work was the production of writings aimed at making Jesus and Christianity appealing to Jews and sought to explain Jewish history and practices to Christian audiences. This, in turn, demanded that the missionaries had knowledge of both modern and ancient Judaism and led to friendships and cooperation with prominent Jews.92 One visible result of the interest in Judaism was the multiple institutes, called Institutum Judaicum, that were founded in many places in the German area.93 The Instituta Judaica were teaching and research centres that focused on the study of Judaism94 and were important for the German Judenmission by training future missionaries. Strack started and led the Institutum Judaicum in Berlin, while Delitzsch revitalized an already-existing institute in Leipzig; he was later succeeded by Dalman as its leader. In and of themselves, the institutes signal a positive interest in Judaism. Moreover, the Judenmission was known and even defamed for its pro-Jewish stance. The institutes enabled research and the production of writings on Judaism that stand as a remarkable contrast to the overly historically dismissive and partly anti-Semitic German theology of the early 1900s.95 Revealingly, the Instituta Judaica were shut down by the Nazi Party promptly in 1933, and some were revitalized after the Second World War. 92. In 1922, the Jewish journal Jeschurun published Strack’s obituary, in which the author goes as far as to suggest that ‘there probably was no Jewish scholar of significance with whom he did not have a relationship’ (Joseph Wohlgemuth, ‘Obituary: Hermann L. Strack’, Jeschurun 9 [1922]: 382–384, 383). In the 1980s, Paul Gerhard Aring writes that Delitzsch ‘bis zum heutigen Tage im Judetum Ansehen und bleibenden Respekt genießt’ (Paul Gerhard Aring, Christen und Juden heute – und die ‘Judenmission’? Geschichte und Theologie protestantischer Judenmission in Deutschland, dargestellt und untersucht am Beispiel des Protestantismus im mittleren Deutschland [Frankfurt a.M.: Haag und Herchen, 1987], 220). 93. Anders Gerdmar lists a bibliography of previous works on the Instituta (Gerdmar, Theological Anti-Semitism, 214). 94. In a letter from 1918, Strack asks the principal (Rektor Dr. Penck) of the FriedrichWilhelms University in Berlin for a room to keep the institute’s collection of books and journals. In this letter, Strack writes about his aim for the Institute in Berlin: Mein Zweck war und ist, christlichen Theologen (Predigern und Lehrern) Gelegenheit zu geben, von Christlichen Lehrern Geschichte, Literatur, Religion und Wesen des Judentums wissenschaftlich kennenzulernen, und zwar soll das Gelernte verwertet werden können auch für die Ausbreitung der christlichen Religion unter den Juden und für die wichtige gerechte Beurteilung der Judentums der Gegenwart. The letter appears in Ralf Golling and Peter von der Osten-Sacken, Hermann L. Strack und das Institutum Judaicum in Berlin: mit einem Anhang über das Institut Kirche und Judentum (Berlin: Institut Kirche und Judentum, 1996), 150, 151. 95. Although the institutes were centres of interest and research on things Jewish, they were no safeguards against anti-Semitism. Paul Fiebig, for instance, worked at the institute in Leipzig (1902), and later sympathized with Nazi ideology (Golling and OstenSacken, Strack und das Institutum Judaicum, 154; Casey, Jesus, 5–7). Nonetheless, with

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

93

Franz Delitzsch and One Day in Capernaum The life and work of Franz Delitzsch (1813–1890) has been thoroughly discussed and documented elsewhere,96 but a brief sketch of his life is needed as context for his book on Jesus. Delitzsch was born in Leipzig and spent most of his life there. He studied philosophy and philology and had a strong conviction of faith. Like many pietists, he could point out the actual place where he had his awakening in 1832. From that time, Delitzsch states, he became a theologian97 and began studying Hebrew, rabbinica, and the Hebrew Bible. His interest in Judaism was evoked and nurtured by missionaries to the Jews whom Delitzsch had met in Leipzig.98 Throughout his life, Delitzsch also had a close relation with the Jew Levy Hirsch, whom Delitzsch himself calls his ‘Wohltäter von Jugend auf.’99 Delitzsch wrote his dissertation in Leipzig on Hebrew poetry (Zur Geschichte der jüdischen Poësie vom Abschluss der heiligen Schriften Alten Bundes bis auf die neuste Zeit, 1836). He later became a professor in Rostock (from 1846), Erlangen (from 1850), and Leipzig (from 1867).100 For much of his adult life, Delitzsch was involved in the German mission to the Jews, for instance as the editor of journal Saat auf Hoffnung.101 In the 1870s, Delitzsch engaged in the project, which by 1886 would be known as the Institutum Judaicum in Leipzig, which is now named in his memory (Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum). Delitzsch was a prolific writer and although primarily an Old Testament scholar, he also taught the New Testament. In addition to various semi-academic works Delitzsch published some academic works in the field: an introduction to the New Testament and commentaries on Matthew and Hebrews. In these works, their approach to Judaism, they represent a remarkable contrast to the anti-Semitic and non-historical strands of German theology that have received most attention in histories of Jesus research so far. 96. Anders Gerdmar lists relevant bibliography (Gerdmar, Theological Anti-Semitism, 213, 214). The most important source for the life of Delitzsch comes from Delitzsch’s ‘Autobiographie’, a few pages that Delitzsch wrote of himself in 1883 and that were first published in the journal of the Norwegian mission to the Jews. See Franz Delitzsch, ‘Af mit Liv’, Missions-Blad for Israel 57 (1883): 51–54 and the 1890 German translation from the journal Saat auf Hoffnung, republished in Martin Wittenberg, Franz Delitzsch (1813– 1890): vier Aufsätze über ihn und Auszüge aus seinem Werken (Burgsinn am Lindenberg: Evangeliumsdienst, 1963), 9–11. There are minor, insignificant differences between the Norwegian and the German versions. 97. Delitzsch writes: ‘Die Stelle... wo ein Strahl von oben mich in den Zustand versetzte, in dem Thomas sich befand, als er rief: “Mein Herr und mein Gott!” Von nun an wurde ich Theologe’ (Wittenberg, Delitzsch, 9). 98. Wittenberg, Delitzsch, 9. 99. Wittenberg, Delitzsch, 9. Also quoted in Siegfried Wagner, Franz Delitzsch: Leben und Werk (München: Kaiser, 1978), 16, 17. 100. Wittenberg, Delitzsch, 10; Wagner, Delitzsch, 309. 101. Aring, Judenmission, 219–231.

94

The Vermes Quest

Delitzsch emphasized philological inquiries into Old Testament, the Mishnah, and Talmuds.102 His devotional writings and his academic writings alike were strongly motivated by a pietistic Christian faith. In response to what Delitzsch perceived as an excessive scepticism in the work of his colleagues about what can be known from the Gospels, he states that: ‘Mein Archiv ist Jesus Christus, das unverletztbare Archiv ist sein Kreuz und Tod und seine Auferstehung und der durch ihn gewirkte Glaube.’103 In this respect, Delitzsch’s work differed from much contemporary scholarly literature. Moreover, Delitzsch’s interest in Jewish writings was not widely shared. That is not to say that he was alone; others had paid attention to non-biblical Jewish writings because of their relevance for Christianity. One attestation of the extension of this interest can be found in Delitzsch’s short comment on the Nativity stories, ‘Ein talmudisches Seitenstück des Weihnachtsevangeliums’ (1855).104 Here, Delitzsch draws attention to a story from the Yerushalmi that has resemblances with the birth narratives of the Gospels. Delitzsch provides his own translation of the story and comments on parallels between it and the gospel accounts. One comment makes clear that Yerushalmi’s story has been noticed by various scholars before him: ‘Sie ist zwar schon von Raymundus Marini in seinem pugio fidei, von Lightfoot in seinen Horae, von Edzard in seiner Ausgabe von Avoda Sara, von Schöttgen in seinen Horae, so wie auch in seinem deutschen Werke “Jesus der wahre Messias” und erst neuerdings von Biesenthal in dem von Hartmann herausgegebenen Judenmissionsblatte Dibre Emeth.’ 105 Some of these are mere editions of the text, while others interact more with the rabbinic source because of its relevance for Christian faith, as Delitzsch’s short commentary does. The list reveals that working with rabbinic literature was not unheard of, let alone unique, among Christian scholars. In addition, in Delitzsch’s days, the Jewish scholar and rabbi Abraham Geiger wrote about Jesus from the perspective of his Jewishness and Delitzsch engaged partly with his work.106 On a broad scale, though, Delitzsch’s interest in rabbinic sources and his respectful work with them were not common among biblical scholars of his days. It is time to turn to Delitzsch’s descriptions of Jesus’s Jewishness. The book that offers the most comprehensive insights into Delitzsch’s view on the matter and that became widely known is Ein Tag in Kapernaum. In this book, Delitzsch gives 102. Wagner, Delitzsch, 315. So also D. Kaufman: ‘Alle seine Arbeiten über das Neue Testament tragen... das Geprägte gleichsam rabbinischer Kommentare und erwiesen den unschatzbaren Nutzen, den er aus der talmudischen Literatur für sein Erklärungswerk geschöpft hat’ (D. Kaufman, quoted in Wagner, Delitzsch, 400). 103. Franz Delitzsch, quoted in Wagner, Delitzsch, 310. 104. Wagner lists seventeen of such Talmudic studies from the hand of Delitzsch (Wagner, Delitzsch, 474–486). 105. Franz Delitzsch, ‘Ein talmudisches Seitenstück des Weihnachtsevangeliums’, ZLTK 16 (1855): 401–404, 401. 106. Susannah Heschel, Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 194–197.

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

95

vivid descriptions of the surroundings of Jesus and of his everyday life. In the first chapter, called ‘The Place’, the scene is from Palestine in the days of Delitzsch, while the remaining three chapters portray Capernaum at the time of Jesus. The structure of the book follows the rhythms of a day, starting with ‘The Morning’ and ending with ‘The Evening.’ The storyline follows episodes of Jesus’s healing and preaching ministries from the Gospels. Delitzsch paraphrases and quotes the Gospels, and adds colourful descriptions of nature and people. In Delitzsch’s story, Jesus is the centre of everyone’s attention, though Delitzsch spends less space on Jesus’s sayings and actions than on the scenery and on philological matters. While books on the historical Jesus today typically build upon the canonical Gospels, but yet peel off certain aspects from them, Delitzsch builds upon the Gospels and inventively extends their stories. He describes Jesus’s clothing in detail107 and suggests how Jesus addressed the audience (for instance as ‘Sons of Israel, Men of Galilee’).108 He engages with a wide variety of sources and his uncritical use of them is striking. For instance, he includes a small passage where King Abgar of Edessa is said to have asked about Jesus.109 The book, therefore, is perhaps best described as a historic novel, motivated by devotion though based upon scholarly work with ancient sources.110 Historians then and now may be critical of Delitzsch’s maximalist approach, but his work is unquestionably an effort to depict the historical figure of Jesus.111 Because of its narrative structure and its occasional flights towards fiction, Delitzsch’s book stands out from today’s Jesus research, but it should nevertheless be characterized as such. In combination with knowledge drawn from the New Testament, Delitzsch’s story builds on careful study of other historical sources. He draws largely on Josephus and rabbinic sources in his depictions of Galilee and explains this approach in the preface: ‘Die Illustration der Zeitverhältnisse und des Volkslebens enthält sich der Dichtung, sie ist durchweg aus der ältesten jüdischen Quellenliteratur geschöpft.’112 Delitzsch works from the presupposition that Jesus is a historical figure, a firstcentury Jew whom one might describe credibly within the context of first-century 107. Franz Delitzsch, A Day in Capernaum (trans. George H. Schodde; New York: Funk&Wagnalls, 1887), 157–160. 108. Delitzsch, Capernaum, 153. 109. Delitzsch, Capernaum, 53. 110. A more recent example of the genre is Gerd Theissen’s In the Shadow of the Galilean, which is also a combination of serious research and imagination. 111. It is remarkable that minimalist representations of Jesus are more easily thought of as Jesus research than maximalist versions. For instance, Schweitzer’s apocalyptic and unapproachable Jesus is generally thought of as proper Jesus research, although his image of Jesus may be just as unsatisfactory as Delitzsch’s maximalist version. 112. Franz Delitzsch, Ein Tag in Kapernaum (Leipzig: Justus Naumann, 1886), iii, from the preface to the first edition (dated ‘Sommer 1870’). In the following, I quote the English translation from 1887, which is based on the third German edition. According to the preface, the third edition is an extended version in which the image of Galilee and

96

The Vermes Quest

Galilee. The style of Delitzsch’s book has many similarities with Renan’s Life of Jesus, published a few years earlier,113 and Delitzsch’s book is something of a conservative contribution to contemporary Jesus research. Whether one calls it Jesus research or not, Delitzsch’s book does represent the view that Jesus can be best perceived only by striving to know the world he lived in. More important than the question of genre is the fact that it is an example of a portrayal of Judaism by a Christian professor in an increasingly anti-Semitic Germany. It displays an overwhelmingly positive approach to Judaism. This can be seen in the way Delitzsch represents the Jewish Jesus and how he portrays Judaism in general. In the first chapter of the book, Delitzsch recounts a meeting with a Polish Jew who stood praying at the Sea of Galilee. The first-person narrator approaches the Jew with words that no doubt signal a positive attitude. The following sequence illustrates the fondness of Israel and Judaism conveyed in the book: [The Jew’s] eyes … look at us so confidence-inspiring and so full of intense contemplation, that I feel tempted to embrace him, and cry out enthusiastically: ‘… We are friends of Israel, and those who look and long for the consolation of Jerusalem … and [we] consider every inch of the Holy Land of great importance.’114

Similarly positive affirmations of Jesus’s Jewishness in particular are found on various occasions in Delitzsch’s book. For instance, Delitzsch associates Jesus’s mode of teaching with what was typically Jewish: ‘he who is acquainted with the Talmud or Midrash knows also that illustration through parables is a characteristic and fundamental feature of the Jewish method of teaching’.115 The most telling example of how Delitzsch describes Jesus’s Jewishness is found in a scene from the synagogue. Here, Jesus enters the synagogue with everyone watching him and finds a place to sit ‘opposite the sanctuary, which behind a rich purple and gold-embroidered curtain concealed the book of the law’.116 Everybody in the synagogue wondered whether Jesus would join in the prayer, Delitzsch explains, and so he did: ‘Steady, with His eyes directed toward the Place where the law was, and in deep contemplation, He sat there; but his lips were moving, and the feelings of the congregation were much heightened by the consciousness of this communion of prayer with him.’117 Delitzsch continues: ‘when the Tachanun Capernaum has been advanced. The image of Jesus, though, has not changed: ‘An dem Bilde der Persönlichkeit des Herrn und seines Verkehrs mit dem Volke und mit den ihn beherbergenden Freunden und mit seiner Mutter ist nichts geändert; denn dieses Bild, einmal erschaut, liess keine Umformung zu und erschien mir als unantastbar’ (vii). 113. Renan (1863), Delitzsch (1870). 114. Delitzsch, Capernaum, 28. 115. Delitzsch, Capernaum, 154. 116. Delitzsch, Capernaum, 96. 117. Delitzsch, Capernaum, 97.

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

97

(prayer of penitence) was to be spoken, and the leader was bowing his head before the sanctuary, He, too, bowed His head, and, like the whole congregation, hid His face in His left arm’.118 Delitzsch’s Jesus behaves as an observant Jew, engaging in religious practice in the same way as his contemporaries. Moreover, this practice is strikingly similar to a pietistic ideal of devotion: participation in heartfelt prayer. The manner in which Delitzsch presents Judaism and Jewish religiosity here is noteworthy. The sentiments that are voiced differ strikingly from what Delitzsch’s contemporaries (e.g. Renan and Young above) expressed about Jews and Judaism. Delitzsch depicts Jews and Jewish religiosity with admiration, even as examples of true piety.119 Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck’s Commentary Hermann L. Strack (1848–1922) was Delitzsch’s student, and became founder and leader of the Institutum Judaicum in Berlin. He had studied in Berlin and Leipzig and worked on Hebrew manuscripts with Jewish scholars in Russia before returning to Berlin, where he stayed for the rest of his life as professor of theology.120 Strack was dedicated to the Judenmission and was the editor of the journal Nathanael: Zeitschrift Fur Die Arbeit Der Evangelischen Kirche an Israel. In Germany, Strack was a well-known anti-anti-Semite, a defender of Judaism against anti-Semitic propaganda.121 Paul Billerbeck  (1853–1932) worked as a minister (Landespharrer) when he started exploring how rabbinic sources could shed light upon New Testament exegesis. Between 1899 and 1918, he published the results of this work in Nathanael, which he co-edited with Strack from 1907.122 According to Joachim Jeremias, it was Strack’s idea to present Billerbeck’s studies more systematically.123 Among New Testament scholars, Strack’s and Billerbeck’s names are probably best known for their multivolume commentary on the New Testament.124 Although the

118. Delitzsch, Capernaum, 98, parenthesis original. 119. Levenson, ‘Delitzsch and Strack’, 393 makes a similar point. 120. Golling and Osten-Sacken, Strack und das Institutum Judaicum, 12, 13. To my knowledge, Strack’s biography has never been written. Gerdmar, Theological Anti-Semitism, 239, presents a short list of available literature. 121. Wohlgemuth, ‘Obituary: Hermann L. Strack’, 384. 122. Golling and Osten-Sacken, Strack und das Institutum Judaicum, 186. 123. Joachim Jeremias, ‘Billerbeck, Paul’, in Bibel – Böhmen und Mähren (ed. Gerhard Krause; TRE; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1980), 640–642, 641. 124. Strack’s Einleitung is also well known. It was first published in 1887, later revised by Strack himself and by others, and has been in print ever since. See Hermann L. Strack, Einleitung in den Thalmud (SIJB 2; Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1894) and the recent, updated version; Günter Stemberger and Markus Bockmuehl, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996).

98

The Vermes Quest

final product is known as Strack-Billerbeck, it was largely Billerbeck’s labour.125 Only the first volume was published in Strack’s lifetime, and although the next three volumes were written before Strack’s death, Billerbeck alone was responsible for the text and for extensive editorial work before publication. Billerbeck explains the role of Strack as a financial door opener and as a promoter for publication and distribution in Germany and abroad.126 At Billerbeck’s request, Joachim Jeremias took responsibility for the publication of the final volumes after Billerbeck’s death.127 In other words, the commentary was originally published on Strack’s initiative, contains mainly Billerbeck’s work, and was completed by Jeremias. The Kommentar can thus be seen as the embodiment of the conviction – shared by Strack, Billerbeck, and Jeremias – that knowledge of ancient Judaism is essential for the interpretation of the New Testament. The Kommentar has been widely used among biblical scholars and is still promoted as a ‘must-have’ by some commissioners.128 Stephen Neill recalled that he was first introduced to the work, as early as 1922, by a rabbinic scholar and missionary to the Jews:129 ‘in the dark days before Strack-Billerbeck we referred to Rabbinic matters cautiously, if at all; in this bright post-Strack-Billerbeck epoch, we are all Rabbinic experts, though at second hand’.130 This quotation, first 125. Jeremias calls him ‘der Alleinige Verfasser des Kommentars’, more precisely of vols. I–IV (Joachim Jeremias and Kurt Adolph, Rabbinischer Index [vol. 5 of Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, eds. Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck; München: Beck, 1956], v). 126. Paul Billerbeck, Die Briefe des Neuen Testaments und die Offenbarung Johannis: erläutert aus Talmud und Midrasch (vol. 3 of Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, eds. Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck, 1922–1928; München: C. H. Beck, 1926), v. Jeremias interprets Billerbeck’s comment as follows: Im Klartext heißt das: So unbestreitbar die Verdienste sind, die sich Hermann L. Strack durch Anregung und Planung sowie durch Literaturbeschaffung und Sicherstellung der Finanzierung mitten in der damaligen Inflation und endlich durch die (im wesentlichen allerdings auf einige Formalia beschränkte) Durchsicht des Manuskriptes zum I. Band erworben hat – an der Abfassung des Werkes war er föllig unbeteiligt (Jeremias, ‘Billerbeck, Paul’, 641). 127. Jeremias and Adolph, Rabbinischer Index (vol. 5) and Joachim Jeremias, Verzeichnis der Schriftgelehrten: Geographisches Register (vol. 6 of Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch; München: Beck, 1961). 128. See for example [Anonymus], ‘Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Midrash: English and German (6 vols)’, n.p. [cited 10 November 2014]. Online: https://www.logos.com/product/30793/commentary-on-the-new-testament-from-thetalmud-and-midrash-english-and-german: ‘It is the seminal and standard reference work in this area of research. If you want to learn about the Jewish worldview at the time of Christ, you must have Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrash in your library.’ 129. Neill and Wright, Interpretation, 313. 130. Neill and Wright, Interpretation, 313. E. P. Sanders comments on the quotation: ‘unfortunately, the statement is not meant sarcastically’ (E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

99

presented in 1964,131 illustrates the impact and significance of the commentary. However, Neill’s euphoric appraisal does not resonate in more recent attitudes to the Kommentar. Today, the Strack-Billerbeck commentary has a low standing among scholars, though in my view, contemporary devaluations of the Kommentar fail to take into consideration its historical significance as representative of a respectful approach to Judaism within New Testament scholarship. In the preface to the first edition of Jesus the Jew, Vermes makes the point that his work is different from other contributions that borrow knowledge from ‘the notorious guides’, like Strack-Billerbeck. Vermes’s work is built instead on the basis of ‘personal exploration of the ancient Palestinian sources themselves’.132 It is clear that Vermes does not think highly of the Kommentar itself or of scholars who rely on Billerbeck’s work. Even more confrontational language is used more recently by Susannah Heschel. She writes that ‘when the study of rabbinic Judaism was taken up by some Christian academics, the results were troubling. For instance, the Strack-Billerbeck compilation of rabbinic parallels to the New Testament became a notorious example of anti-Semitism corrupting scholarship’.133 Heschel does not elaborate on her judgement; neither does she refer to any examples of the Kommentar’s ‘anti-Semitism’. Still, she unquestionably signals strong antipathy towards it. Her judgement is a crude representation of today’s widely felt uneasiness towards the Strack-Billerbeck. More thorough criticisms of the Strack-Billerbeck have been presented both before and after Jesus the Jew, notably in Samuel Sandmel’s Presidential Address at the Society of Biblical Literature in 1961 and in E. P. Sanders’s influential 1977 book Paul and Palestinian Judaism. In his lecture ‘Parallelomania’, Sandmel identifies errors that are promoted by the Strack-Billerbeck commentary.134 Sandmel observes a mismatch between the concerns for parallels on the one hand and the results of exegetical work with the commentary on the other and posits that ‘nowhere else in scholarly literature is quantity so confused for quality as in

Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion [London: SCM Press, 1977], 42, n. 27). Neill’s quote is followed by a comment in the footnotes, stating that the ‘remark has been sternly criticized’, and points out that the author is well aware that being an expert and knowing something at second hand is not the same. Notice Wright’s play on Neill’s statement: ‘no one can deny that, in this bright post-Sanders epoch, we are all Rabbinic sympathizers, though at second hand’ (Wright, 373). Cf. Chapter 5, Section “Jesus the Jew in Histories of the Third Quest from the 1980s’’. 131. Stephen Neill, The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861–1961 (London: Oxford University Press, 1964). 132. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 7. 133. Heschel, Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus, 227. A few pages later, Heschel repeats the verdict: ‘the Strack-Billerbeck compilation of rabbinic parallels to the New Testament and Gerhard Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament are just two examples of major scholarly projects that were also major anti-Jewish tractates’ (231). 134. Samuel Sandmel, ‘Parallelomania’, JBL 81 (1962): 1–13, 8–11.

100

The Vermes Quest

Strack-Billerbeck’.135 According to Sandmel, New Testament research based on the commentary’s parallels tends to reach the conclusion that Christianity preserves the qualitatively better tradition than the rabbinic sources. Fifteen years later, E. P. Sanders notes that Sandmel’s critique did not appear to affect the use of the commentary among New Testament scholars.136 He takes Sandmel’s critique further, accusing the commentary of promoting a disparaging view of Judaism that flourished among Christian biblical scholars, a view of rabbinic Judaism as the ‘antithesis of Christianity’.137 For Sanders, the problem with Billerbeck’s work is twofold. It had become very popular among scholars who did not have the skills or interest to use it critically. Second, the Kommentar does not present rabbinic Judaism on its own terms; the rabbinic texts are at service for New Testament exegesis.138 Behind both problems is the large number of alleged parallels gathered in the Kommentar that creates the false impression that one knows rabbinic Judaism simply by having consulted it.139 In my view, scholars must of course critically examine works that may have reinforced or exacerbated Jewish stereotypes. It surely is important to evaluate the Strack-Billerbeck based on the readings of the New Testament – and of the rabbinic sources – that it has produced. This has been highly important in the postHolocaust epoch. Moreover, first-hand knowledge of the sources and engagement in how rabbinic scholarship has developed, which are necessary for reading rabbinic sources on their own terms, will always be preferable to the use of handbooks such as the Kommentar. Therefore, Sandmel’s and Sanders’s criticisms  are legitimate. However, a one-sided devaluation of the Kommentar fails to see the importance and value of the work in its own historical context.140 Published in 1922, the StrackBillerbeck is a remarkable contrast to its context. It was published just a decade before Nazi takeover in Germany and only two years after Döllinger’s book on the Aryan Jesus. Döllinger’s book is just one of many contemporary rejections of Jesus’s  Jewishness driven by anti-Semitism, and which accommodated antiSemitism in and of itself. Quite the opposite attitude towards Judaism drove the creators of Strack-Billerbeck.

135. Sandmel, ‘Parallelomania’, 10. 136. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 42, n. 28. Sanders consistently refers to the author as ‘Billerbeck.’ 137. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 33. Sanders associates this view with Ferdinand Weber (1836–1879) in particular. 138. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 42, 58. 139. Sanders writes ‘parallels’ with scare quotes, indicating that he distances himself from Strack’s and Billerbeck’s project. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 42. 140. Sandmel addresses the issue that his critique is based upon the (mis-)use of the commentary, and holds that the author is nonetheless to blame: a ‘manufacturer who shapes a hammer to resemble a saw bears some responsibility for the misuse of the tool. I would charge therefore that Strack-Billerbeck is shaped as though its compilers were out of touch with NT scholarship’ (Sandmel, ‘Parallelomania’, 9).

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

101

In the preface of the first volume, Strack explains that the Kommentar is motivated by an awareness of Christianity’s Jewish beginnings, and the fact that the New Testament is the work of and about Jews. Strack’s motivation for the work is far from anti-Semitic: der Herr hat nach seiner leiblichen Herkunft dem jüdischen Volke angehört … Auch Markus und Matthäus, Johannes, Paulus und Petrus und die anderen Verfasser der neutestamentlichen Schriften (außer Lukas) sind Juden gewesen. Zum rechten Verständnis ihrer Äußerungen muß man also das Judentum jener Zeit nach Leben und Denken kennen.141

Coming from a respected defender of Judaism, this certainly does not signal an anti-Semitic work. Besides, the purported parallelomania of the Kommentar is intentional. Strack explains that the editors have gathered ‘den gesamten der Erläuterung des Neuen Testaments dienlichen Stoff aus der altjüdischen Literatur’142 and refer to them repeatedly: ‘Parallele Stellen, die nicht wörtlich übereinstimmen, sind meist nach beiden (bezw. auch nach mehr) Überlieferungen mitgeteilt, damit jeder derjenigen folgen kann, die er für die älteste oder sonst beste hält. – Manche Wiederholungen ließen sich nicht gut vermeiden.’143 The editors have included as many parallels as possible in order to allow the reader to make judgements of their relevance. The Kommentar is not really a commentary, Strack continues, but instead a presentation of what is considered ‘gewinnende Material’ for understanding the New Testament.144 Although it is not the repetition of texts per se that fuels Sandmel’s criticism, Strack’s comment makes clear that the quantity of parallels is presented with good intentions and that the effort to transform quantity into quality is left for the capable hands of the exegete. With hindsight, we might conclude that Strack overestimated his reader’s competence or interest in sifting through the material presented. Nevertheless, the commentary itself and its widespread influence bear witness to an attention to the Jewishness of Jesus and of the Jewish roots of Christianity. For our purposes, this means that Vermes’s Jewish Jesus – constructed largely by the use of rabbinic material – was presented to a world of New Testament scholars who were used to reading the New Testament in light of rabbinic sources. Gustav Dalman and Die Worte Jesu Delitzsch’s and Strack’s approach to the Bible was shared by Gustav Dalman (1855–1941). Dalman was raised in a Moravian family and studied theology at

141. Strack and Billerbeck, Kommentar Matthäus, 1:v. 142. Strack and Billerbeck, Kommentar Matthäus, 1:v. 143. Strack and Billerbeck, Kommentar Matthäus, 1:vi. 144. Strack and Billerbeck, Kommentar Matthäus, 1:vi.

102

The Vermes Quest

the Moravian seminary in Gnadenfeldt.145 After his studies, he taught at the same seminary for some years before he was called by Delitzsch to work at the Institutum Judaicum in Leipzig.146 Dalman remained at the institute for fifteen years (1887– 1902), serving from 1890 as its leader. From 1902, he worked as a missionary in Jerusalem and established an institute there called the Deutsches Evangelisches Institut für Altertumswissenschaft des Heiligen Landes.147 He returned to Germany by the outbreak of the First World War, and from 1917, he held the position as professor of Old Testament in Greifswald, where the Gustaf-Dalman-Institut is located today.148 It was during the Leipzig years that Dalman wrote Die Worte Jesu (1898), which argues that Jesus spoke Aramaic.149 This is the mainstream position today, but in Dalman’s context, it represented a break with his predecessor Delitzsch among others who held that Hebrew was the language of Jesus. In the book, Dalman makes philological comparisons between terms that are significant to Jesus’s teaching according to gospel accounts and ancient Jewish sources, mainly those in Aramaic.150 Dalman’s work in this book thus resembles Jesus the Jew, especially what can be found in the second part of Vermes’s volume. Although Dalman and Vermes represent different times, places, and religious backgrounds, their conclusions are often strikingly similar. Dalman’s approach to the Jewishness of Jesus in Die Worte Jesu is best illustrated with an issue that Vermes also treated: Jesus’s description of God as father, especially his use of the word abba.151 Dalman presents a wide variety of Jewish sources that describe God as father, spending more than four pages on this issue. From there, he goes on to discuss Jesus’s Sprachgebrauch, where even more Jewish sources are employed.152 With 145. Julia Männchen, Gustaf Dalmans Leben und Wirken in der Brüdergemeine, für die Judenmission und an der Universität Leipzig, 1855–1902 (ADPV  9; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1987), 14. The biography of Dalman continues in Julia Männchen, Gustaf Dalman als Palästinawissenschaftler in Jerusalem und Greifswald, 1902–1941 (ADPV 9.2; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1993). 146. Männchen, Dalman 1855–1902, 38, 41. Männchen, Herz provides an overview of Dalman’s years at the institute. 147. Männchen, Dalman 1920–1941, 1. 148. Männchen, Dalman 1920–1941, 63. 149. Dalman was awarded a scholarship for this book, spending the funds on a journey to Palestine. He also visited stations of the Scottish and English missions to the Jews in Constantinople, Smyrna, Aleppo, and Safed (Männchen, Herz, 9). This says something about the book’s perceived importance, and also of Dalman’s significance. 150. Dalman writes that he prefers the Targum Onqelos, the Palestinian Talmud, and Midrash, but also to some extent the Hebrew Mishnah, due to its proximity to the time of Jesus (Gustaf Dalman, Die Worte Jesu: mit Berücksichtigung des nachkanonischen jüdischen Schrifttums und der aramäischen Sprache [Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1930], 72). In the book, Dalman employs Jewish sources in Aramaic, Greek, Syriac, and Hebrew, ranging from the Hebrew Bible itself to the Babylonian Talmud. 151. Vermes’s arguments on this issue are explored in Chapter nine of this book. 152. Dalman, Worte Jesu, 150–159.

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

103

one exception (see below), Dalman sees Jesus’s father speech as similar to what could be found in Judaism of his time: ‘Jesus hat diese Bezeichnung Gottes dem Volksgebrauche seiner Zeit genommen.’153 As proof, Dalman quotes sources that display God as the father of Israel and demonstrates that this fatherhood has to do with power, respect, love, and obedience. He asserts that the use of such paternal language had increased within Judaism by the time of Jesus. Although many of the sources suggest that such terminology was used mainly to denote the relationship between God and Israel as a collective, Dalman also suggests that God could be perceived as a father to the individual. He argues that the Hebrew Bible depicts God’s care for the individual and concludes that: ‘Es ist somit nichts Neues gewesen, wenn das Vaterverhältnis Gottes innerhalb des Judentums auch auf den Einzelnen bezogen wurde.’154 Jesus’s choice of words is thus nothing new. Dalman sees, however, a qualitative difference between how Jesus speaks of God’s fatherhood in relation to himself and to the disciples, respectively, ‘wenn er das übliche jüdische ‘unser Vater im Himmel’ selbst gefliessentlich vermeidet, es aber nach Mt. 6,9 seinen Jüngern vorschreibt’.155 However, Dalman cannot argue convincingly for this sharp distinction between Jesus’s and the disciples’ relation to God. He appears to let the Gospels’ Christology be superimposed into the reading of the specific texts that use father terminology for God. Whatever the reason, Dalman clearly depicts Jesus’s abba speech as in line with first-century Judaism, but also allows Jesus’s use of this common language to convey his special status as the son of God. In sum, Dalman’s Jesus is different from humans in general, but not from Jews in particular. When Vermes enters into this discussion almost a century later, Dalman’s views had been reworked by his student Joachim Jeremias. Jeremias continued Dalman’s work with Jewish sources, and was professor at and leader of the Institutum Judaicum in Berlin.156 While Vermes’s work on abba is similar to Dalman’s, Jeremias’s work represents a contrast.157 Jeremias sees Jesus’s use of abba as a sign of his exclusiveness, which is uphold by creating a gap between Jesus

153. Dalman, Worte Jesu, 154. 154. Dalman, Worte Jesu, 155. 155. Dalman, Worte Jesu, 156. In his discussion of Jesus’s habit of addressing God as his father, Dalman remarks that it is unusual (‘nicht üblich’) within Judaism to denote God simply as father; ‘father’ would normally be followed by ‘in heaven’. He asserts, however, that while it is so in speech, it is different in prayers. In early Jewish prayer language, such as the Amidah (which Dalman dates to 110 C.E.), ‘our father, our king’ is found. 156. According to Matthew Black, the topic for Jeremias’s dissertation, Jerusalem zur Zeit Jesu. Eine kulturgeschichtliche Untersuchung zur neutestamentlichen Zeitgeschichte (reworked and published in 1923), was suggested by Dalman (Matthew Black, ‘Joachim Jeremias’, in Judentum, Urchristentum, Kirche: Festschrift für Joachim Jeremias [ed. Walther Eltester; BZNW 26; Berlin: Töpelmann, 1964], ix–xviii, xi). 157. The contrast between the views of Vermes and Jeremias is recognized in recent books, e.g. Evans, Contemporaries, 288, 289; Keener, Historical Jesus, 272.

104

The Vermes Quest

and Judaism.158 On a general note, Jeremias holds that descriptive statements of God as abba are ‘deliberately avoided’ in rabbinic literature, with few exceptions. He also holds that a turn of terminology led to a more frequent use of ‘heavenly father’ in Judaism set in after the time of the Gospels. Most importantly, Jeremias reaches his conclusion on the basis of a strict limitation of his range of sources: he acknowledges only Aramaic texts (not Hebrew or Greek) that attest the use of abba159 and only regards the use of abba as an address in individual prayer as relevant to his discussions.160 Neither Dalman nor Vermes works within such a confined space, and the sources they use allow a different conclusion than that of Jeremias. Despite Jeremias’s strong interest in Jesus’s Jewish context and the philoSemitic legacy of Dalman, Jeremias insisted strongly on Jesus’s dissimilarity from Judaism: ‘Es zeigte sich, daß Jesus nicht der jüdische Rabbi, Weisheitslehrer oder Prophet war, sondern daß seine Botschaft … aller Religiosität seiner Zeit Wiedersprach, ja, das Ende des Judentums war.’161 This is far from Dalman’s views of Jesus as fully part of first-century Judaism. Jeremias’s Jesus has ‘einen einzigartigen Hoheitsanspruch’, which ‘[zerbricht] die Schranken des Alten Testaments und des Judentums’.162 Jeremias can therefore be seen as a transition figure between Dalman and Vermes, and his work helps explain why Vermes’s claim of Jesus’s Jewishness was perceived as something new. The unique Jesus, vitally different from his contemporaries as proposed by Jeremias, is precisely what Vermes opposes in Jesus the Jew. Summary Dalman’s work with Jesus’s paternal language is only one example that illustrates that Dalman presupposes and displays a thoroughly Jewish Jesus. As we have seen in Delitzsch’s devotional book and in Strack’s and Billerbeck’s commentary, at least according to its intentions, attention and appreciation of Jesus’s Jewishness and the Jewish origins of the Gospels were surely nothing new when Vermes published Jesus the Jew. However, while much previous research displays some awareness of the Jewishness of Jesus and of the New Testament, Judaism was often depicted in negative terms. Much Jesus research performed by Christian scholars, at least prior to Vermes, is marked to various degrees by the view that Christianity is superior to all other religious, including Judaism. Once merged with Nazi ideology, the results were extreme. The Jewishness of Jesus was then clearly on the agenda, though with the aim of de-Judaizing Jesus.

158. Joachim Jeremias, Abba: Studien zur neutestamentlichen Theologie und Zeitgeschichte mit 4 Bildtafeln (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1966), 19, 20. 159. Joachim Jeremias, The Prayers of Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978), 60, 61. 160. Jeremias, Prayers, 60. 161. Joachim Jeremias, Das Problem des historischen Jesus (Stuttgart: Calwer, 1960), 19. 162. Jeremias, Jesus, 20.

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

105

Post-war Jesus research influenced by German scholarship maintained a general awareness of Jesus’s Jewishness, but stressed the dissimilarity of Jesus from Judaism. Many contributions from the past forty years are marked by explicit references to the Jewishness of Jesus and are thus distinguishable as a whole from most previous Jesus research. The difference between Vermes and many of his immediate antecedents is therefore undisputable, and the title Jesus the Jew can be seen as one early example of a new trend.

Additional Reflections on the Jewishness of Jesus within Jesus Research The history of Jesus research stretches back centuries and across continents. This surely makes it impossible to produce anything like a complete survey of how Jesus scholars prior to Vermes treated the Jewishness of Jesus. I have presented selected examples to illustrate that the Jewishness of Jesus has been the centre of attention for some scholars and largely ignored by others. While histories of the quest typically emphasize the discontinuity between the third quest and previous research, I have paid particular attention to scholars who illustrate that the study of Judaism has long been part of New Testament research. There are in fact other examples. In the early 1900s, many Jewish sources were translated and made available to a wider audience. These works reveal that scholars from different faculties and different countries worked directly with the Jewish sources. One example is Robert Henry Charles’s The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, from 1913.163 Some years earlier, the German Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testaments, edited by Emil Kautzsch, had been published.164 Moreover, Herbert Danby, missionary in Palestine, Zionist, and Hebrew scholar, translated the Mishnah (1933).165 He was a Christian writer with strong sympathies towards Judaism and translated Joseph Klausner’s Jesus of Nazareth: His Life, Times and Teaching (1925).166 On the German side, and as a representative for the theologically conservative, there is

163. R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English (2 vols.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913). 164. Emil Kautzsch, ed., Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testaments (2 vols.; Tübingen: Mohr, 1900). 165. Herbert Danby, The Mishnah. Translated from the Hebrew with Introduction and Brief Explanatory Notes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933). 166. While Dalman represents the German mission to the Jews, Danby was a British missionary in Palestine, where he met Klausner (Shalom Goldman, Zeal for Zion: Christians, Jews, & the Idea of the Promised Land [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009]). The history of the London mission (London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews) is portrayed in Yaron Perry, British Mission to the Jews in NineteenthCentury Palestine (London: Frank Cass, 2003); Kelvin Crombie, For the Love of Zion:

106

The Vermes Quest

Adolf Schlatter, whose philo-Semitism is less straightforward than what we saw in, for example, Delitzsch and Strack.167 He produced a wide range of books driven by the presupposition that knowledge of Judaism is crucial for the understanding of Jesus and the New Testament. A review of his titles illustrates how much Schlatter’s interest resembles today’s scholarly interest: Zur Topographie und Geschichte Palästinas (1883); Das neu gefundene hebräische Stück des Sirach: der Glossator des griechischen Sirach und seine Stellung in der Geschichte der jüdischen Theologie (1897); Jochanan Ben Zakkai, der Zeitgenosse der Apostel (1899); Wie sprach Josephus von Gott? (1910); Die hebräischen Namen bei Josephus (1913); Geschichte Israels von Alexander dem Grossen bis Hadrian (1925). These writings reveal a deep interest in Jewish sources and in the Jewish context of Jesus and the New Testament. Further, in a book on Vermes, one self-evident example of interest in Judaism is Emil Schürer’s monumental work from 1886 to 1890: Geschichte des judischen Volks im Zeitalter Jesu Christi. Unlike Schlatter and the missionaries noted above, Schürer is among the liberal theologians.168 This indicates that the positive interest in Judaism did not necessarily follow theological dividing lines.169 Schürer’s motivation for working on Jewish history was based on the conviction that such work is vital for a proper understanding of the Gospels and thus important for Christian theology. He writes that ‘keine Thatsache der evangelischen Geschichte,

Christian Witness and the Restoration of Israel (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1991), the latter with more emphasis on Zionism and Christian efforts at and obstacles to establishing a specifically Jewish national state. 167. There are many pro-Jewish and, conversely, anti-Nazi sentiments in Schlatter’s works, but some of his statements and arguments are also fairly anti-Jewish. Anders Gerdmar concludes that it displays anti-Semitic inclinations (Gerdmar, Theological AntiSemitism, 253–326). Susannah Heschel describes how Walter Grundmann builds upon ideas from Schlatter’s work and suggests that Schlatter himself produced anti-Semitic theology (Heschel, The Aryan Jesus, 180–183). On the other hand, though surely not as an excuse for possible anti-Semitic attitudes on Schlatter’s part, Roland Deines asserts that Delitzsch, Dalman, and Schlatter have contributed to New Testament exegesis’s attentiveness to rabbinic texts (Roland Deines, Die Pharisäer: ihr Verständnis im Spiegel der christlichen und jüdischen Forschung seit Wellhausen und Graetz [WUNT 101; Tübingen: Mohr, 1997], 405). 168. Schürer was ‘sympathetic to Ritschlian liberalism’ (Baird, History of New Testament Research, 2:200), and a harsh critic of Schlatter’s historical work (Gerdmar, Theological AntiSemitism, 256). Martin Hengel asserts that Schürer was influenced by the works of Friedrich Schleiermacher and F. Chr. Baur and points out that he dedicated the second reprint of his Jewish history to Albrecht Ritschl. According to Hengel, A. Harnack was Schürer’s colleague in Leipzig and Giessen and a lifelong friend (Hengel, ‘Schürer’, 20, 21). 169. Due to the limited number of works addressed here, nothing more conclusive may be said. Alan Levenson suggests, however, that liberal theologians were more inclined than their conservative counterparts to set Jesus apart from his Jewish context (Levenson, ‘Delitzsch and Strack’, 388).

The Jewishness of Jesus before Vermes

107

kein Wort in der Verkündigung Jesu Christi ist denkbar ohne die Voraussetzung der jüdischen Geschichte und der ganzen Vorstellungswelt des jüdischen Volkes’.170 The work thus represents interests similar to Delitzsch, Strack, Billerbeck, and Dalman. Nonetheless, his crude image of Judaism at the time of Jesus as an outward, legalistic religion devoid of ‘true’ piety makes clear that Schürer does not adhere to any ideal of representing Judaism on its own terms. Schürer writes of various Mishnaic regulations: ‘von wahrer Frömmigkeit ist, wie man sieht, dieser äusserliche Formalismus weit entfernt’.171 He continues to state that even Jewish prayers, which one might expect to display true piety, are drowned in rules: ‘was half es, daß die Gebete selbst schön und gehaltreich waren (wie man dies doch namentlich vom Schmone-Esre wird zugeben müssen), wenn sie doch nur darum gebetet wurden, damit man‚ der Pflicht Genüge?’172 The contrast to Delitzsch’s image of devoted Jewish prayer in One Day in Capernaum is striking. Schürer’s work, therefore, represents a different strand of scholarly work on Judaism than Delitzsch, Strack, Billerbeck, and Dalman. He is more in line with his colleague and younger contemporary, Wilhelm Bousset. Like Schürer’s Geschichte, Bousset’s Die Religion des Judentums im neutestamentlichen Zeitalter reflects the presupposition that awareness of Judaism is crucial for understanding the New Testament and that Judaism is inferior to Christianity.173 Both works have been widely used by students of theology in Germany and elsewhere. Although they have been criticized rightly for their portraits, they remain representatives of Christian scholarly interest in Judaism. Perhaps the first to point the problematic image of Judaism that these works spelled out was George Foot Moore (1921). With reference to Schürer’s heading of ‘Life under the Law’, Moore argues that Schürer is not proper historical work but rather chooses its themes and structures according to Christian interests.174 Bousset’s work suffers from a different though related problem, according to Moore: it describes Judaism mainly on the basis of sources that are not authoritative in Judaism and presents it in contrast to what can be found in the teachings of Jesus.175 In his book Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era

170. Emil Schürer, Einleitung und politische Geschichte (vol. 1; Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1901), 1. 171. Emil Schürer, Die inneren Zustände (vol. 2; Leipzig: Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1907), 569. 172. Schürer, Zustände, 2:572. 173. Wilhelm Bousset, Die Religion des Judentums im neutestamentlichen Zeitalter (Berlin: Reuther & Reichard, 1903). Schürer and Bousset worked together in Göttingen from 1895 (Baird, History of New Testament Research, 2:199; 243). 174. George Foot Moore, ‘Christian Writers on Judaism’, HTR 14 (1921): 197–254; 237– 241 (238 and 240 in particular). 175. Moore, ‘Christian Writers on Judaism’, 241–248.

108

The Vermes Quest

(1927), Moore strives to represent ancient Judaism on its own terms, ‘not within a framework produced by Christian interest’.176 To sum up, there has been a continuing interest in Judaism in both ecclesiastical and academic traditions in the West, alongside a lack of interest in Jesus’s Jewishness among Jesus scholars in the decades after the Second World War and the explicit de-Judaization performed by some scholars under Nazi influence. I have not discussed every specific factor in interacting with the Jewishness of Jesus, such as the differences between German and British scholarship, and especially how two world wars and the Nazi years have impacted universities and churches in Europe. Further, the survey has only to a limited degree displayed sensitivity towards factors that surely have impacted upon the individual scholar: geographical context, milieu, personal history, and the like. Nonetheless, the examples above suggest that the interest in Judaism as such and attitude towards Jewishness do not follow any obvious geographical or theological lines. Likewise, anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism are not confined to specific theological or geographical groups of scholars. While Danby and Moore are both Anglophones, Schürer and Bousset were in the German tradition. Schlatter represents conservative theology, while Schürer and Bousset are more representative of liberal theology. The three of them do convey some anti-Jewish notions, as was common in their era. In Englishspeaking and German-speaking contexts alike, Jewish scholars typically and unsurprisingly have a more positive approach to Judaism. Their images of Jesus and their definition of his Jewishness differ all the same. None of the contributions above, however, ever led to the kind of turn in Jesus research with which Vermes is credited. Why did the interest in the Jewishness of Jesus flourish after Vermes? And why is he often seen as a significant contributor to this? In order to answer these and other important questions, we must look at some other aspects of his scholarly work, as well as the time in which he presented the Jewish Jesus.

176. Moore’s work receives praise from his Jewish reviewer in the Jewish Quarterly, who points out that Christian scholars tend to present Judaism as a ‘foil by means of which the glories of the daughter faith could be made all the more resplendent’. This is not the case in Moore’s work, the reviewer continues: ‘I have studied this work carefully, and I think only once does the author make a lapse, perhaps unconscious, but which is so completely overshadowed by the whole tenor of his treatment of the subject matter, that it hardly counts’ (Samuel Schulman, ‘Professor Moore’s “Judaism”’, JQR 18 [1928]: 339–355, 340, 341).

Chapter 7 T H E SIG N I F IC A N C E O F V E R M E S’ S WO R K ON THE SON OF MAN In exploring Vermes’s significance for the change within Jesus research towards a particular interest in the Jewish Jesus, the foregoing chapters have demonstrated that the attention to the Jewishness of Jesus within recent decades of Jesus research in fact has deep roots. The Jewishness of Jesus has been treated in many ways during past centuries. While the issue has been avoided or downplayed in many contributions, Vermes’s emphasis in Jesus the Jew does not stand out as something radically new; much New Testament scholarship had connected with the Jewish roots of Christianity for centuries. Furthermore, the chapters above have shown that Vermes’s first book on Jesus, with its emphasis on the Jewishness of Jesus, had little immediate impact upon Jesus scholars. The conclusion reached so far is that Vermes’s book seems not to have set scholarship in motion, which suggests a contrast between Vermes’s actual impact upon Jesus research and the position he has gained in some recollections of the quest. This raises the question of why Vermes is remembered as the one who announced, or even set in action, a new phase of the quest with high awareness of the Jewishness of Jesus. To answer this question, this chapter explores another topic – and searches for traces of Vermes’s direct impacts upon other scholars’ works on Jesus – in support of the claim that Vermes’s work in fact has been more significant than what has been shown earlier.1 Any study of Vermes’s significance for Jesus research would be incomplete without attention to the ‘son of man’ problem. As early as the 1960s, Vermes approached this New Testament subject thorough a philological investigation of its Aramaic counterpart, bar(e)nash(a).2 This topic must be examined because it is an issue where Vermes’s significance is felt. Chronologically, Vermes’s discussions on the Aramaic bar(e)nash(a) mark the beginning of his career as a Jesus scholar. The topic is nonetheless treated here towards the end of this part,

1. Looking for other reasons why Vermes has gained the reputation as a significant scholar would open an array of different possibilities, many of which are difficult to ascertain with the exactitude demanded by scholarship, though some of them will of necessity be touched upon. 2. Ancient Aramaic sources contain variants: barnash, barenash, barenasha.

110

The Vermes Quest

with good reason: His work on the son of man only had limited significance for historical Jesus research as such and does not merit being highlighted before other elements. In the following, I explore how Vermes approached the son of man problem and how his conclusions impacted upon his overall description of the historical Jesus. Further, I display what position Vermes has gained within the son of man debate and how his suggestions have impacted upon Jesus research in particular.

Vermes on the Son of Man in the 1960s and 1970s Vermes’s first article on the son of man issue was published in 1967 as an appendix in Matthew Black’s An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts.3 Two years earlier, in 1965, Vermes had presented the same material at a New Testament conference at Oxford, and offprints of the essay had been available before Black’s book came out.4 In the article, Vermes documents various uses of the term bar(e)nash(a) in ancient Aramaic sources to shed light on the New Testament term. Vermes gives two reasons for his assumption that Jesus used the term in accordance with customary practice: First, that the son of man is not a Greek idiom but an Aramaic one, and second, with reference to a point made by Wellhausen, Vermes remarks people intuitively understood Jesus’s use of the word (according to the Gospels); they neither ask what it means nor object to the way Jesus uses it.5 Vermes supposes, therefore, that Jesus spoke of bar(e)nash(a) in a way similar to what is found in the available Aramaic sources. Vermes’s study of the son of man problem includes texts that had not been part of previous work: the Palestinian Talmud (only some of its tractates had been used in previous research), the Genesis Rabba (with Aramaic material in 3. The original essay was reissued in 1975 (Vermes, Post-Biblical Jewish Studies, 147– 165). Reworked and extended versions are found in Jesus the Jew and in Geza Vermes, ‘The Present State of the “Son of Man” Debate’, JJS 29 (1978): 123–134 (reprinted in Geza Vermes, ‘The “Son of Man” Debate’, JSNT 1 [1978]: 19–32). Vermes also discusses the son of man sayings of the Gospels in Authentic Gospel, 234–265. Here, Vermes builds upon the conclusions of the first essay and shows no indication of having altered his judgement on how the historical Jesus used the term. 4. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 188, 189; Geza Vermes, ‘The Son of Man Debate Revisited (1960– 2010)’, in Jesus in the Jewish World (London: SCM Press, 2010), 236–255; 237 and 251, n. 3. 5. Vermes, ‘Son of Man’, in Aramaic Approach, 310. Vermes quotes Wellhausen, Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, vi (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1899), 197: ‘Er [Jesus] braucht ihn [the term “son of man”] durchaus nicht esoterisch, nicht bloss den Jüngern gegenüber, aber niemand wird dadurch befremdet und verlangt Aufklärung, alle lassen ihn unverwundert passieren, auch die streitsüchtigen Pharisäer … die doch nicht geneigt waren unverständliches zu acceptieren.’ Wellhausen remarks that John 12:34: ‘How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ (NRSV) does not speak against this way of seeing things. Vermes never discusses the questions of the crowds in John 12:34.

The Significance of Vermes’s Work on the Son of Man

111

part), the Genesis Apocryphon (1QGenAp, first published by Avigad and Yadin in 1956), and Targumic material like fragments from the Cairo Geniza, along with the then-unpublished Targum Neofiti 1.6 His article therefore represents a genuine development in the field from the philological perspective. Vermes’s inquiry into the Aramaic material led to three main points. First, Vermes finds that the term son of man is nowhere used as a title in these Aramaic texts and is never used to designate messianic features. At the time of Jesus, it is not used with reference to Dan. 7:13 as the name or title of an apocalyptic or messianic figure.7 Second, Vermes suggests that in Aramaic, the term is used in a generic sense as a reference to people in general, like ‘one’ or ‘someone’ or their negatives ‘no one’ or ‘nobody’. He points out that the Gospels corroborate this non-titular understanding of the term, as they never report that Jesus was called son of man as a title by others.8 Third, Vermes asserts that the term could be used as a circumlocution, that is, as a reference to the speaker himself, especially in circumstances that involve taboos, modesty, or humiliation such as death, praise, and embarrassment.9 Examples of the circumlocutional use are rare in surviving Aramaic sources, Vermes notes, but he suggests that this does not necessarily mean that it was that uncommon. Rather, the low frequency has to do with the fact that it may only be used in contexts rarely found in the available Aramaic sources.10 In Vermes’s 1967 publication on the son of man, there are no discussions about the authenticity of the New Testament son of man sayings or how they are to be understood on the basis of the newfound Aramaic evidence, although Vermes’s presupposition that attestations of bar(e)nash(a) in various Aramaic sources correspond to Jesus’s own employment of the word does have implications for constructions of the historical Jesus. The relevance of Vermes’s findings for Jesus research was expressed more clearly by the time of 1973’s Jesus the Jew. Vermes devotes one chapter of the book to the son of man question and adds a short excursus on the debate.11 In Jesus the Jew, Vermes reiterates his assertions about the Aramaic use of the term, though in a more accessible tone. It is clearly written for non-specialists.12 Much space is devoted to the interpretation of Dan. 7:13 and to the relevant New Testament material.13 For our purposes, only the latter is of 6. Vermes, ‘Son of Man’, in Aramaic Approach, 315. Vermes reports that Paul Kahle gave him a photocopy of a Vatican manuscript (Vermes, ‘Son of Man’, in Jesus in the Jewish World, 237). 7. Vermes, ‘Son of Man’, in Aramaic Approach, 328. 8. Vermes, ‘Son of Man’, in Aramaic Approach, 310. 9. Vermes, ‘Son of Man’, in Aramaic Approach, 321, 327, cf. Vermes, ‘Son of Man’, in Jesus in the Jewish World, 238. 10. Vermes, ‘Son of Man’, in Aramaic Approach, 327. 11. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 160–186, 188–191. 12. Vermes translates and occasionally transcribes Greek and Aramaic quotes and largely avoids a grammatical vocabulary, cf. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 168: ‘with apologies to the non-linguist for these unavoidable, but it is hoped not incomprehensible technicalities’. 13. See Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 160–186.

112

The Vermes Quest

interest, as it is where Vermes’s philological efforts intersect with Jesus research. Vermes devotes ten pages to the issue and covers all gospel references to the ‘son of man’, some more superficially than others. It is noteworthy that Vermes makes little use of his philological study when commenting on the relevant logia. The relevance of Vermes’s suggestions on the son of man issue for Jesus research is therefore not fully displayed in Jesus the Jew. Vermes organizes the gospel material in three parts, based on their dependence upon Dan. 7:13. He starts with texts that are unconnected with Dan. 7:13,14 continues with those that are ‘directly connected with’ Dan. 7:13,15 and ends by discussing sayings that are ‘indirectly connected to’ Dan. 7:13.16 This manner of dividing the material reflects his conclusion from 1967 that there was no Danielic son of man concept at the time of Jesus. Because of this, he is convinced that sayings unconnected with Dan. 7:13 stand the best chance of containing authentic material. In addition, Vermes comments that the sayings unconnected with Dan. 7:13 are frequently found in the oldest source, the Gospel of Mark. Allusions to Dan. 7:13 are more freely found in later sources: eleven of them are found in the Matthean and Lukan supplements against one in Mark, while four are presented in stories that are common to Matthew and Luke. ‘These figures must mean something’, Vermes remarks.17 The non-Danielic son of man sayings are of interest for Vermes’s portrayal of the historical Jesus, and his treatments of them will therefore be in focus in the following. Vermes focuses on three logia that have no connection with Dan. 7:13, namely Mark 2:10 (par), Mark 2:28 (par), and Matt. 16:13 (par). These texts recount that the son of man ‘has the right on earth to forgive sins’, is ‘lord even of the Sabbath’, and portray Jesus asking ‘who do men say that the son of man is?’.18 Vermes’s comments here imply that he does not consider such utterances to be remarkable. On the first saying, he notes that ‘the son of man’ could either refer to ‘man’ in general or to the speaker, and ‘an equivocal circumlocution of this sort is perfectly in place in Aramaic’, because ‘a direct claim (I have the right …) would have sounded immodest’.19 He ends his comment like this and does not spell out how the saying impacts upon his portrayal of Jesus. Next, Vermes remarks that later rabbinic sayings convey statements on the Sabbath where the message is generic: man is lord of the Sabbath.20 If the gospel quote refers to an already existing proverb, Vermes posits, the meaning would probably be generic. He does, however, not follow up on this possibility and concludes that in the context of the gospel narrative, it has a circumlocutional sense. Vermes moves on without commenting on the authenticity of the saying, nor does he spell out what Jesus 14. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 180–182. 15. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 182–184. 16. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 184–186. 17. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 178. 18. Vermes quotes the Revised Standard Version (RSV). 19. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 180. 20. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 180, 181.

The Significance of Vermes’s Work on the Son of Man

113

might have meant by claiming to be lord of the Sabbath. Further, Vermes remarks that the Matthean narrative presents Jesus’s question on what ‘men’ say about ‘the son of man’ as a clear circumlocution and notes that the saying ‘has a good chance of being primitive’.21 This positive evaluation does however not come from the philological work on the son of man issue in particular but rather from the possible Aramaic origin of the recorded saying as a whole. Vermes explains that ‘the contrast between ‘men’ (bene nash) and ‘the son of man’ (bar nasha) sounds convincingly idiomatic’.22 Therefore, while Vermes does in fact comment upon the authenticity of the saying, this is not actually an example of how his work on the son of man issue affects his understanding of authentic Jesus material. Besides, the purported authenticity of the saying does not add much substance to Vermes’s image of Jesus; Matt. 16:13 simply involves a question that Jesus might have posed. As in the two preceding expositions, this third one sheds little light upon the historical Jesus. Finally, Vermes treats collectively the eight remaining sayings unconnected to Dan. 7:13. All of these sayings fit into Vermes’s understanding of the circumlocutional use of son of man in Aramaic, since they are ‘spoken by Jesus in connection with his betrayal, suffering, death, and resurrection’.23 According to Vermes’s analysis of the Aramaic material, bar(e)nash(a) may in such contexts refer to the speaker alone and not to people in general. This final group of sayings are thus at home in the Aramaic world of Jesus, refer to Jesus himself, and fit the context of the Gospels. In Vermes’s view, therefore, there is ‘no reasonable doubt why Jesus should not have uttered them’.24 Still, without any further explanation, he suggests that in their original form, the logia express anticipation of Jesus’s death but not of his resurrection.25 The appearance of the authentic use of ‘son of man’ within these saying does therefore not affect Vermes’s evaluation of the sayings in their entirety. Vermes simply lops off parts of the sayings that do not correspond to his already established image of Jesus. In conclusion, the son of man sayings unconnected with Dan. 7:13, which seemed at the outset of Vermes’s discussions to have the prospect of yielding insights into the sayings of the historical Jesus, actually contribute precious little to this. Vermes has shown that Jesus used bar(e)nash(a) as a circumlocution and that Jesus foresaw certain obstacles in his immediate future (even his death), but he does not expand upon these pieces of information. They are by-products of his reading the Gospels in search of the circumlocutional use of son of man and are never integrated into the broader Jesus image. Even in Jesus the Jew, Vermes’s work on the son of man has little consequence for his portrait of the historical Jesus.

21. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 181. 22. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 181, emphasis original. 23. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 181. 24. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 182. 25. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 181, 182.

114

The Vermes Quest

The First Reception of Vermes’s Work The first response to Vermes’s article on the son of man issue is found in Matthew Black’s book, as an extension to Vermes’s appendix, and is written by Black himself.26 He praises Vermes for presenting the evidence ‘so clearly and convincingly’27 and credits him for displaying evidence for the circumlocutional use of barnash as a substitute for the first-person singular pronoun. Black appears to agree with Vermes’s selection of Aramaic material and with his interpretation of the Aramaic sources. However, he disagrees with some of Vermes’s assertions. While Vermes suggests that bar(e)nash(a) has no messianic implications, Black asserts that there are ‘eschatological overtones’ in Jesus’s employment of the term that argue for seeing Jesus as a messianic figure: The Aramaic phrase is ‘ambiguous’ and might be understood as a messianic title or simply as a reference to ‘someone’, including the speaker. Black primarily approaches Jesus’s use of the term through exegesis of the Synoptic evidence. For him, the way the son of man is presented in the New Testament weighs against Vermes’s portrayal of Jesus’s use of the term based on the use of the Aramaic idiom documented outside the New Testament. Black proposes that ‘the Evangelists were right in interpreting it as Messianic: Jesus intended the veiled allusion to His own identity as Son of Man’.28 Clearly, the parts of Vermes’s arguments pertaining to the historical Jesus have had no impact upon Black’s evaluation. Black’s response foretells the most common response to Vermes’s conclusions: Many scholars did interact with Vermes’s study but most of them only dedicated a brief comment or a footnote to it, typically opposing a specific aspect of it and not taking other parts into account.29 There are, however, some exceptions to this rule, even within the context of Jesus research. 26. Vermes recounts that he had not been informed that Black would comment directly on the article and repeatedly expresses his dissatisfaction with that fact (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 189 and Vermes, Providential Accidents, 243). 27. Black, An Aramaic Approach, 328. 28. Black, An Aramaic Approach, 329. 29. See for instance, Joachim Jeremias, ‘Die älteste Schicht der Menschensohn-Logien’, ZNW 58 (1967): 159–172, 165, n. 9 and Joachim Jeremias, Neutestamentliche Theologie 1: Die Verkündigung Jesu (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1971), 248, 249, n. 21. Vermes lists other examples (Vermes, ‘Son of Man’, in Jesus in the Jewish World, 252, n. 24). David Flusser accepts Vermes’s generic and circumlocutional understanding of son of man, but this has little impact upon Flusser’s work, as he asserts that Jesus may have used the term in many ways, and devotes more energy on the implications of Jesus’s sayings on the coming son of man. Moreover, Flusser does not share Vermes’s conviction that Jesus spoke Aramaic and suggests instead that Jesus used the Hebrew ben adam. See David Flusser and R. Steven Notley, The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 109–116.

The Significance of Vermes’s Work on the Son of Man

115

Vermes’s Significance for the Son of Man Debate Vermes’s Significance Displayed in Accounts of the Son of Man Debate The son of man question has engaged New Testament scholars for centuries, with many approaches taken to it. Entering into the discussion through the Aramaic material, as Vermes does, is only one plausible option. Although the history of the debate comes in many shapes and forms, they often credit a notable position to Vermes’s 1967 contribution: many use it to mark a new phase of the debate.30 It is referred to as a ‘seminal excursus’31 and a ‘seminal paper’.32 In the Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus, Vermes is described as ‘one of the most vigorous proponents’ for understanding the son of man as an Aramaic idiom.33 However, many commentators make negative remarks. One of them notes that ‘reactions to Vermes’ argument were swift and critical’.34 Another notes that most scholars rejected the circumlocutional theory.35 Others write that ‘Vermes’ thesis met with more criticism than approval’36 and that ‘[the circumlocutional theory] did not convince most scholars’.37 A recent and extensive account of the debate proposes that Vermes’s suggestions struck many as provocative, particularly because he rejected any messianic intention on Jesus’s part, and that scholars have disagreed with Vermes’s interpretation of the Aramaic texts and with his presupposition that newer texts might represent the first-century usage of the term.38

30. Mogens Müller, The Expression ‘Son of Man’ and the Development of Christology: A History of Interpretation (London: Equinox, 2008), 308; Maurice Casey, The Solution to the ‘Son of Man’ Problem (LNTS 343; London: T&T Clark, 2007), 20, 35; Delbert Burkett, The Son of Man Debate: A History and Evaluation (SNTSMS 107; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 86, 90. Chrys C. Caragounis, The Son of Man: Vision and Interpretation (WUNT 38; Tübingen: Mohr, 1986), 21 writes that the essay ‘awoke a new interest in the philological debate on the Son of Man – a debate that is still going strong’. 31. Müller, Expression and Development, 308. 32. Casey, Solution, 33, 35. 33. Russell Morton, ‘Son of Man’, in Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus (ed. Craig A. Evans; New York: Routledge, 2008), 596. Morton refers here to Vermes’s 1973 work. 34. Albert L. Lukaszewski, ‘Issues Concerning the Aramaic behind ὁ ὑιὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου: A Critical Review of Scholarship’, in ‘Who Is This Son of Man?’ The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus (eds. Larry W. Hurtado and Paul L. Owen; LNTS 390; London: T&T Clark, 2011), 1–27, 8. 35. Burkett, Son of Man, 86. 36. Caragounis, Son of Man, 23. 37. Casey, Solution, 33. 38. Müller, Expression and Development, 312; cf. the debate between Vermes and Joseph Fitzmyer: Vermes, ‘Present State’; Joseph A. Fitzmyer, ‘Another View on the “Son of Man” Debate’, JSNT 4 (1979): 58–68.

116

The Vermes Quest

In histories of the son of man debate, Vermes’s significance is often linked with his impact on the scholars Maurice Casey and Barnabas Lindars.39 This is also Vermes’s own estimation. In his 2010 article ‘The Son of Man Debate Revisited’, he names Casey and Lindars most prominently as scholars who were inspired by his work on the issue: They agree with him that the Aramaic term refers to the speaker but are not convinced by his suggestion that it might refer to the speaker alone. As Vermes puts it, Lindars and Casey were ‘among the scholars who were inspired by my paper, but believed they could refine and improve it’.40 As for other responses, Vermes writes: ‘my essay was a minor linguistic revolution as well as a theological bombshell that threatened to blow sky high the then widely held view that in Second Temple Judaism “the son of man” was the commonly employed title of an eschatological or messianic personality. It created quite a stir in the second half of the 1960s’.41 Vermes lists a number of other scholars who allegedly voiced approval of his suggestions,42 and refers to a brief remark by C. H. Dodd in his 1970 booklet The Founder of Christianity.43 Dodd changed his view on the son of man term due to Vermes’s work.44 Still, in the context of Jesus research, Lindars and Casey are the only scholars who actively engaged with Vermes’s conclusions. Vermes’s Impact on Barnabas Lindars’s Work on the Son of Man Barnabas Lindars’s work on the son of man issue is presented most extensively in Jesus Son of Man: A Fresh Examination of the Son of Man Sayings in the Gospels 39. Caragounis, Son of Man, 22, 23; Casey, Solution, 37; Müller, Expression and Development, 313; Lukaszewski, ‘Concerning the Aramaic’, 8, 9. Barnabas Lindars’s work on the son of man question is sometimes represented as a combination of Vermes’s and Casey’s views. Caragounis, Son of Man, 29; Müller, Expression and Development, 317. 40. Vermes, ‘Son of Man’, in Jesus in the Jewish World, 238. 41. Vermes, ‘Son of Man’, in Jesus in the Jewish World, 237. 42. Vermes lists a number of scholars who voiced approval of his conclusions: C. H. Dodd, O. Michel, H. Wansborough, M. Müller, R. Fuller, G. Schwartz, J. R. Donahue, and D. R. A. Hare. A look into these so-called approving voices shows that they are actually ambiguous at best. For instance, Hare recounts that his own approach to the son of man problem has led him to conclusions similar to Vermes’s, but he also repeatedly points out that there are weaknesses with Vermes’s work and writes for instance that ‘Vermes has argued [for the circumlocutional use of the idiom] without adequate evidence’ and that Vermes’s solution ‘suffers from circularity, beginning with the solution and arranging the evidence to fit’ (Douglas R. A. Hare, The Son of Man Tradition [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990], ix–x, 24, and 25). 43. Harvey drew attention to this issue in his review of Jesus the Jew, cf. Chapter  5, Section ‘Jesus the Jew in Histories of the Third Quest from the 1980s’. 44. C. H. Dodd, The Founder of Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1970), 110–113, 178, n. 25: ‘it should perhaps be said that the view here put forward requires some modification of what I have previously written elsewhere. On the question of Aramaic usage, I am greatly indebted to G. Vermes, in an appendix to M. Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts’.

The Significance of Vermes’s Work on the Son of Man

117

from 1984. Lindars is clearly motivated by Vermes. In the preface, he refers to Vermes’s 1965 lecture, calling it a ‘celebrated lecture’ and remarks that reactions have been ‘varied’.45 Lindars is convinced by Vermes’s non-titular understanding of bar(e)nash(a), but not by his assertion that bar(e)nash(a) could be used in a strict circumlocutional sense, that is, as referring solely to the speaker.46 According to Lindars, the Greek reference in the Gospels goes back to the Aramaic emphatic state, bar enasha with the final aleph, used by Jesus to refer to ‘a class of persons’ with whom the speaker identifies himself.47 Within the authentic sayings of the Gospels, the term has a rhetorical function, as it allows Jesus to make indirect claims about his position.48 Lindars notes that it is often used in contexts of conflict and that its ironic and obscure meaning enables Jesus to put an end to discussions with his opponents. Lindars’s attention to the context of the sayings and the particular circumstances where the Aramaic idiom refers to the speaker echo Vermes’s work. However, Lindars’s book had little influence upon Jesus research, perhaps because Lindars himself did not pursue Jesus research further.49 This distinguishes him from Casey, who has made recent contributions to Jesus research. Vermes’s Impact on Maurice Casey’s Work on the Son of Man Maurice Casey is not only an early, a recent, and the most productive adherent of Vermes’s position; he also clearly links his discussions on the son of man with the wider portrayal of the historical Jesus. In the following, we look into the ways that Casey deals with Vermes’s conclusions to see how they have impacted upon Jesus research. The first relevant book among Casey’s works is Son of Man: The Interpretation and Influence of Daniel 7.50 It was published in 1979 as a revised version of his doctoral thesis. As the title makes clear, Dan. 7 is the focal point of the study. The best part of the book focuses on the reference to a son of man within the book of Daniel and on its Wirkungsgeschichte. Casey also approaches the son of man passages from the New Testament exegetically.51 In this part of the book, Vermes figures in Casey’s footnotes, largely because Casey discusses and employs Vermes’s 45. Lindars, Son of Man, vii. As one example of the scholarly reactions to Vermes’s article, Lindars refers to Casey’s 1979 book (23, 24), and accuses Casey of falsely seeing Jesus’s son of man sayings as generic references in which the speaker includes himself. Casey responds that this is a misperception of his own view (Casey, Solution, 39). 46. Lindars, Son of Man, 19, 20. 47. Lindars, Son of Man, 23, 24. 48. Lindars, Son of Man, 173. 49. According to Lukaszewski, Lindars’s work suffered from methodological weaknesses that made his conclusions gain little traction (Lukaszewski, ‘Concerning the Aramaic’, 9). 50. Maurice Casey, Son of Man: The Interpretation and Influence of Daniel 7 (London: SPCK, 1979). 51. Casey, Son of Man, 157–223.

118

The Vermes Quest

characterization of the texts as ‘directly’ or ‘indirectly’ connected to Dan. 7:13.52 Like Vermes, Casey concludes that many son of man sayings from the Gospels do not originate with Dan 7.53 Casey’s final chapter, called ‘The Son of Man Problem’, discusses whether Jesus used the term and what he may have meant by it.54 Vermes’s voice is important where Casey discusses the son of man sayings in relation to the historical Jesus. Casey opens with a reference to Vermes’s work on the issue and writes that ‘our knowledge of its [the Aramaic term’s] use has been greatly increased by the important collection of evidence made by Vermes’.55 He then interacts with the Aramaic texts that Vermes put forward and shapes the discussion around Vermes’s arguments. Casey remarks that Jesus in the Gospels uses ‘the son of man’ in situations of ‘authority, exaltation, and humiliation’.56 Attention to such contexts is a legacy of Vermes. However, Casey insists that the idiomatic use of the term in such contexts always displays a generic meaning, thereby rejecting Vermes’s view that bar(e)nash(a) may be used in a strictly circumlocutional sense.57 Casey concludes that the historical Jesus used the term bar(e)nash(a) when he spoke of himself in certain situations,58 and, like Vermes, he sees no divine or messianic implications in this use. Casey writes that ‘most authentic sayings deal with Jesus’ life on earth, including his death. His Resurrection and the last judgment also appear, but as part of a picture of the last times generally accepted in the Judaism of this period; his own role is hardly the subject of any emphasis’.59 However, this quote from Casey illustrates that, unlike Vermes, he does not label imagery of Jesus’s resurrection as secondary, but instead includes it as part of the authentic saying. While Vermes cuts off parts of sayings even though a saying displays the authentic use of bar(e)nash(a), Casey assumes that sayings that display the idiomatic use of the term are authentic in their entirety. In general, Vermes’s work proves significant for Casey’s understanding of bar(e)nash(a), though with the decisive differences shown above. As for the image of Jesus, Casey has developed his own way of discerning authentic material in the Gospels and has not adopted Vermes’s depiction of the historical Jesus. Vermes’s influence is therefore only indirect through his Aramaic approach to the son of man issue. The Solution to the ‘Son of Man’ Problem from 2007 is a more recent book by Casey that focuses on the son of man issue and the historical Jesus.60 In this book, 52. Casey, Son of Man, 219–223, notes 10, 56, 64, 77, 99, and 125. 53. Casey, Son of Man, 213. 54. Casey, Son of Man, 224–240. 55. Casey, Son of Man, 224. 56. Casey, Son of Man, 233. 57. Casey, Son of Man, 225, 226. 58. Casey, Son of Man, 239. 59. Casey, Son of Man, 237, 238. 60. Casey also discusses the son of man problem in P. M. Casey, From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God: The Origins and Development of New Testament Christology (Cambridge: Clarke, 1991), 46–54, though without presenting issues of interest that are not covered in more recent publications.

The Significance of Vermes’s Work on the Son of Man

119

Casey reiterates and expands the discussion from the first publication. There is a striking similarity with Vermes’s reasoning here, as Casey argues that Jesus uses the Aramaic idiom to indirectly refer to himself.61 However, Casey insists that bar(e) nash(a) preserves this generic sense even when the context reveals that the term is used idiomatically to refer to the speaker. Casey thus clearly separates himself from Vermes’s view. This, of course, has relevance for what parts of the Gospels might be used in the construction of the historical Jesus and it leads to an image of Jesus that differs from Vermes’s depicting. Both scholars reject the authenticity of sayings that allude to the Danielic son of man, but Casey includes other parts of the Gospels that Vermes had dismissed. As a result, Casey’s Jesuology comes out ‘higher’ than that of Vermes. Casey’s Jesus predicts his death and interprets it as an atoning death.62 He expects bodily resurrection, though ‘in the general resurrection’.63 Vermes dismisses that such sayings might be uttered by Jesus. Casey’s starting point with Vermes’s son of man concept has evidently not led to similar images of Jesus. The final book in which Casey deals with the son of man issue is Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching from 2010. Here, Casey discusses the son of man question in relation to a fuller image of the historical Jesus. Vermes’s view on the son of man may therefore potentially reach recent and succeeding scholarship on the historical Jesus through it and for this reason, the book is of particular interest here. That being said, Casey never refers to Vermes’s view on the son of man in this volume, not in the main text, nor in the footnotes.64 Most readers will therefore associate the points that Casey have learned from Vermes’s work with Casey himself, and not with Vermes. Those familiar with Vermes’s work or with Casey’s prior contributions will notice that Casey is dependent on Vermes for his understanding of bar(e)nash(a) as a generic term.65 Regardless of the lack of references to Vermes, Casey’s book is an example of Vermes’s significance for Jesus research. 61. Casey, Solution, 137, 139. 62. Casey, Solution, 200. 63. Casey, Solution, 208. The point here is not that Vermes assumes that Jesus did not expect a ‘general resurrection’. However, Vermes’s work on the son of man issue does not result in an affirmation of this part of Jesus’s message. 64. Casey does refer to Vermes as a contributor to the son of man problem once (Casey, Jesus, 51). There is nothing here, though, to reveal the content of Vermes’s work or Casey’s dependence upon it. 65. Casey, Jesus, 361: ‘we must go back to the term “son of man” being bar(e)nash(a), an ordinary Aramaic term for “man, used in an idiomatic way in a general statement which refers particularly to the speaker with or without other people” and in response to criticism of himself, Jesus avoided both a direct claim to prophetic authority and the direct humiliation of saying how he had been criticized by using the general expression “a/the son of man”’ (364, 365), and: ‘since the idiom is a way of speaking about oneself, with or without others, in circumstances where one might be humiliated, it was a useful idiom for Jesus to employ when talking about his forthcoming death’. Casey’s summary of his view has much in common with Vermes (387).

120

The Vermes Quest

However, as we have seen in previous books by Casey, Vermes’s work on the son of man has little impact on the content of Casey’s Jesus image in this final book. The reason for this is that Casey uses his understanding of bar(e)nash(a) as a criterion of authenticity, as he has done before, deeming secondary those sayings that are meaningless as generic statements, whereas Vermes never employs such a criterion.66 As a natural consequence of Casey’s criterion, he rejects the authenticity of passages that Vermes is liable to include in his portrait of the historical Jesus and includes aspects that Vermes would leave out, so that Casey’s image of Jesus differs from that of Vermes. Vermes’s significance, therefore, can be seen in the way Casey pictures Jesus’s use of the term, but this does not lead Casey towards Vermes’s depiction of Jesus. Concluding Reflections on the Significance of Vermes’s Work on the Son of Man Vermes’s discussions on the son of man sayings call for two remarks: one methodological and one that pertains to his Jesus image. By way of method, we have seen that Vermes’s work on the Aramaic son of man texts is reflected in the way he categorizes the gospel records. He divides the New Testament material into Danielic and non-Danielic sayings, and because the Aramaic sources do not display any use of bar(e)nash(a) as a Danielic title, he favours the latter category in search of authentic gospel material. However, Vermes does not simply assume that all parts of the non-Danielic logia are authentic. Even when they display a credible circumlocutional use of the Aramaic idiom, each saying is evaluated by way of content. Sayings that presuppose a messianic consciousness on behalf of Jesus and sayings that suggest that Jesus expected vindication after his trials are rendered secondary. It is not Vermes’s work with the son of man passages of the Synoptics, but rather his already established construction of Jesus that guides his evaluation. Thus the non-messianic Jesus is both input to and output of Vermes’s discussions. The result of his work on the son of man is restricted to a depiction of Jesus who asks his disciples about other people’s opinions of him and who expects opposition. We have seen that Vermes’s work on the son of man issue has been widely noticed and that it is judged to mark a significant shift within research on the subject. The fact that very few have actually followed Vermes’s lead seems not to have affected the perception of his significance for the debate. Within the field of Jesus research, only Casey and Lindars show signs of influence by Vermes, and Casey’s work is the foremost example of Vermes’s impact upon scholarship. It should be added here, though, that the son of man question has not been at the centre of scholarly attention in recent decades. This might account for the lack of interest in Vermes’s position among Jesus scholars. 66. As we have seen, Vermes evaluates the son of man sayings by way of the criterion of coherence. Sayings, or parts of sayings, that go against already established features are ignored or at best rendered secondary, even when ‘son of man’ is used in a way that would have made sense in Aramaic.

The Significance of Vermes’s Work on the Son of Man

121

Casey develops some of Vermes’s suggestions further and promotes them in various publications, also within recent Jesus research. He adopts Vermes’s nontitular approach and sees ‘son of man’ as a generic statement, which in certain situations might be used to refer to the speaker. However, while Casey has engaged in Vermes’s work on the Aramaic sources, Vermes’s impact on Casey’s depiction of Jesus is subtle. The significance of Vermes’s work on the son of man issue for Jesus research must therefore be assessed, ultimately, as miniscule. That being said, I suggest that Vermes’s work on the son of man has indeed been significant for Jesus research. Vermes’s paper at the 1965 New Testament Congress at Oxford and the excursus following it made his name known among New Testament scholars. This might in part account for why Jesus the Jew, being a book published for a popular audience by a non-specialist in the New Testament, was taken seriously by this group, as illustrated above. Although Vermes’s work on the son of man problem appears not to have influenced Jesus research to a large extent at the level of specific insights, it still is significant for the understanding of Vermes’s position within that stream of research.

Chapter 8 F I NA L C O N SI D E R AT IO N S O N T H E J EW I SH N E S S O F J E SU S W I T H I N J E SU S R E SE A R C H Before we turn to Vermes’s hasid theory and its reception, some final reflections must be made on the Jewishness of Jesus within Jesus research. No doubt, Vermes’s emphasis on Jesus’s Jewishness was very much called for in the 1970s and 1980s. However, speaking of the Jewishness of Jesus is of limited value today. It is uncontroversial to state that the wide-ranging category of a Jewish Jesus is of limited value for current Jesus research. Even in 1994, Helmut Koester noted that ‘Jesus the Jew’ has become a more problematic concept because it forces scholars to say what is meant by the term. As long as it is as opaque and multifaceted as it appears in the debate, it is possible to describe the life and message of Jesus the Jew as a precursor of the rabbis, as a Hellenized Galilean Cynic, as an apocalyptic Essene, or as a messianic zealot.1

A few years later, in 1999, John P. Meier stated that ‘the phrase “Jesus the Jew” has become an academic cliché. The real challenge is to unpack that phrase and specify what sort of first-century Jew he was.’2 More recently, in 2005, William Arnal wrote that ‘the simple assertion that Jesus was a Jew is categorically not sufficient to tell us what kind of Jew he was’.3 According to Koester, Meier, and Arnal, Jesus research needs more specific categories than a simple acknowledgement of the Jewishness of Jesus. In order to be useful, Judaism must be defined more carefully and the Jewish context of Jesus must be narrowed down to shed light upon his specific Jewishness. 1. Helmut Koester, ‘The Historical Jesus and the Historical Situation of the Quest: An Epilogue’, in Studying the Historical Jesus. Evaluations of the State of Current Research (eds. Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans; NTTS 19; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 535–545, 541. Koester suggests that scholars exchange the term ‘Judaism’ for ‘Israel’, a term that Koester would define as ‘the sum total of the highly diversified phenomenon of various groups, who were committed to the interpretation of the religious and cultural heritage of Israel’ (541, 542). More recently, John H. Elliott follows up on Koester’s suggestion and argues that Jesus should be labelled an ‘Israelite’; see John H. Elliot, ‘Jesus the Israelite Was neither a “Jew” nor a “Christian”: On Correcting Misleading Nomenclature’, JSHJ 5 (2007): 119–154. 2. Meier, ‘Third Quest’, 467. 3. Arnal, Symbolic Jesus, 29.

124

The Vermes Quest

These scholars are unquestionably right that we need to specify what the Jewishness of Jesus means before it can function as a tool for Jesus research. Still, this requirement is nothing new. From the very start, the Jewish Jesus paradigm has demanded attention to narrower contexts for understanding Jesus. Vermes and scholars after him did define the category of ‘Jew’, labelling Jesus with more specific tags: the hasid of Vermes, the peasant Cynic of Crossan, and so on. These Jesus images fit into more narrowly defined constructions of Judaism, like Galilean charismatic Judaism (Vermes) and Galilean Hellenized Judaism (Crossan). As signalled by Vermes and Crossan, attention to Galilee has accommodated many recent specifications of Judaism, and the interest for Galilee goes back before their time. As Halvor Moxnes has shown, the area has actually drawn scholarly attention for centuries. Sometimes this attention has been directly connected to the question of whether Jesus was Jewish or not, while at other times the interest in Galilee has served to furnish a background for the historical Jesus, by studies for instance on the nature and geography of the area and the religiosity, personality, and ethnicity of its inhabitants.4 Finally, the history of Galilee represented an opportunity for scholars in the 1930s who flatly rejected Jesus’s Jewishness. As we have seen, attention to Galilee fills Vermes’s need to portray a Jewishness that could embody some of the peculiarities attached to the Synoptic Jesus. For Crossan and others, the history of Galilee has been nothing less than essential for constructing a non-apocalyptic or ‘Cynic’ Jesus. Jesus’s relation to the large cities of Sepphoris and Tiberias has been of great importance here. The Cynic Jesus constructions are animated by archaeological work in Galilee that reveals that Hellenization made a significant mark, especially in such large cities. The Cynic Jesus is at home in these overtly Hellenized places. Scholars who portray an apocalyptic Jesus, on the other hand, tend to emphasize that these larger cities are not mentioned in the Gospels and focus rather on Galilean village life.5 Maurice Casey cautiously remarks: ‘Sepphoris and Tiberias are just the sort of places where Joseph, Jesus and his brothers might or might not have worked.’6 Placing the Jewish Jesus within a Galilean context appears reasonable, but has certainly not resulted in scholarly consensus. Furthermore, archaeology continues to accommodate our knowledge about Galilee, and Vermes’s 1973 portrayal of Galilee is challenged by new insights. As we have seen, Vermes’s charismatic Judaism builds on a stark Galilee– Judea dichotomy. In his view, Galileans were different than their neighbours and 4. Halvor Moxnes, ‘The Construction of Galilee as a Place for the Historical Jesus’, BTB 31 (2001): 26–37; 31 (2001): 64–77. 5. The focus on villages rather than larger cities does not mean that village life is seen representing some kind of ‘un-Hellenized’ Judaism, though it often means that one searches for Judaism in sources that represent Palestinian Judaism as opposed to texts from outside Israel that are thought to represent a Judaism that has been influenced more heavily by other cultures and religions. See for instance, Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the new Millennium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 191, 192; Wright, Jesus, 47; and Casey, Jesus, 19. 6. Casey, Jesus, 166.

Final Considerations on the Jewishness of Jesus

125

Galilean Judaism was different from Judaism in Jerusalem. While Vermes used Galilean Judaism to narrow down what the Jewishness of Jesus implied, some new archaeological surveys suggest the wisdom of widening the scope. Morten H. Jensen argues that stone vessels and stepped pools (possibly miqva’ot) found in Galilee and Judea – but typically not in ‘Samaria, at the coastal plains in general and the Greek cities’ – speak for similarity between Galilean and Judean Judaism at the time of Jesus.7 Moreover, the features of coinage, oil lamps, frescoes, and mosaic floors from Galilee are mostly consistent with the ban on graven images. Finally, oil lamps found in Galilee are made of Jerusalem clay, which indicates some connection between Galilee and Judea. Jensen writes: I call for an end to the search of something particular in Galilee providing the explanation of the emergence of the Jesus movement … We have been expecting too much of Galilee, which has led us to focus too narrowly on Galilee at the expense of understanding Galilee as a part of the larger Land of Israel … There is a remarkable overlap in the chronology and the distribution of certain artefacts during the period under discussion. In this regard, the area of Galilee does not differ from other areas but closely resembles the region of Judea. 8

Defining the narrower context for Jesus in terms of Galilee is thus more complicated than ever. The attempts to narrow down what the Jewishness of Jesus means have led to myriad images of Jesus. Ben Witherington groups different third quest versions of the historical Jesus in his book The Jesus Quest and labels them ‘the itinerant cynic philosopher’ (John Dominic Crossan, Burton Mack, and F. Gerald Downing), ‘the man of the spirit’ (Marcus Borg, Geza Vermes, and Graham H. Twelftree), ‘the prophet of social change’ (Gerd Theissen, Richard A. Horsley, and R. David Kaylor), ‘the sage: the wisdom of God’ (Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Witherington himself), and ‘the marginal Jew or Jewish Messiah’ (John P. Meier, Peter Stuhlmacher, James D. G. Dunn, Marinus de Jonge, Markus N. A. Bockmuehl, and N. T. Wright).9 The staggering variety of Jesus images and the blatant lack of scholarly consensus indicated by Witherington’s taxonomy reveal the difficulties with employing Jewishness as a tool for Jesus research. If consensus is considered a sign of validity, the different Jesus images produced within the Jewish Jesus paradigm would signal that there is something wrong with the

7. Morten Hørning Jensen, ‘Purity and Politics in Herod Antipas’s Galilee: The Case for Religious Motivation’, JSHJ 11 (2013): 3–34, 13. 8. Jensen, ‘Purity and Politics’, 7, 8. 9. In addition to the categories above, ‘Jesus the talking head’ of the Jesus Seminar belongs to Witherington’s scheme. I leave it out here because that effort is less devoted to the question of context. Witherington approaches the quest chronologically and thus rightly includes the Jesus Seminar.

126

The Vermes Quest

Jewishness of Jesus approach. It has surely not contributed to agreement among Jesus scholars. However, in my opinion, variety in itself is not a signal that the Jewishness of Jesus can no longer be a valid course of study. On the contrary, I see the various images of Jesus within the Jewish Jesus paradigm as results of healthy conditions within Jesus research: The manifold and fragmented sources for Jesus and Judaism have been employed, and scholars’ personal interests and various approaches to the sources have been in play. In my view, testing out and debating different approaches, fuelled by a variety of personal and scholarly agendas, are highly welcome, as long as academic standards are maintained. Consensus would be a sign that there is something wrong, indicating that some sources had been left out or that the sources were only viewed from a limited number of perspectives. By the standards that I endorse here, the 1990s was a promising era of research. Mark Allan Powell describes it like this: [I]t was a time when Bible scholars could blackball Jesus by dropping little marbles into bowls; when headlines could scream, ‘Scholars Decide: Jesus Did Not Teach the Lord's Prayer’; when John Dominic Crossan could announce that the post-crucifixion body of Jesus was devoured by wild dogs. Jane Schaberg called Jesus a (literal) bastard; Meier called him ‘a marginal Jew’; Leif Vaage said he was ‘a party animal’; Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza characterized him as a feminist prophet of the goddess Sophia; Crossan described him as ‘a Galilean hippie in a world of Augustan yuppies.’ At one meeting I attended, a journalist named Russell Shorto – who was covering the event for (get this!) GQ magazine – turned to me and said, ‘You can’t make this stuff up!’10

Powell’s description of the many Jesus images of the 1990s is a testimony to the energy that was released into Jesus research within the third quest, even if there were certainly excesses. The Jewish Jesus approach was important because it, alongside other approaches, revitalized the search for the historical Jesus by the end of the twentieth century. Furthermore, Powell’s passage shows some of the more spectacular results of the enterprise and that an individual scholar’s agenda may sometimes be quite easy to detach, as in the feminist Jesus constructed by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. Such a wide variety of Jesus images, evident agendas, and spectacular

10. Mark Allan Powell, ‘“Things That Matter”: Historical Jesus Studies in the New Millennium’, Word & World 29 (2009): 121. GQ magazine profiles itself on the website as ‘the definitive men’s magazine, with style advice and tips, sexy women, entertainment and culture news, interviews, and more’ (www.gq.com). After working on his article, Shorto published a book about Jesus research called Gospel Truth: The New Image of Jesus Emerging from Science and History and why It Matters. It was first published in 1997 and has since been reprinted.

Final Considerations on the Jewishness of Jesus

127

Jesus images may be judged as undesirable parts of Jesus research.11 I would argue, rather, that disagreement, agendas, and pointed (and even provocative) statements are essential for dynamic scholarship.12 Vermes’s contribution serves to illustrate this: Jesus the Jew is clearly driven by his own interests and his personal journey. Its title was provocative to some in 1973 and Vermes’s image of Jesus was certainly at odds with most analogues of his time.13 Still, it seems that agendas, experimental Jesus constructions, and arresting slogans set scholarship in motion. As we have seen, these factors may also be decisive when the history of research is written. Contributions that stand out and are pointed and easy to remember are more likely to form a part of scholarly memory. Vermes’s standing in the history of Jesus research has arguably much to do with his choice of the memorable alliteration ‘Jesus the Jew’. If it is not the need for specification of the Jewishness of Jesus that is different today than in the 1980s, and if it is not the multiple Jesus images of the third quest that make the Jewish Jesus paradigm less valuable than it was forty years ago, then what is it? As I see it, the usefulness of the Jewish Jesus approach relates to its perceived novelty. Vermes’s wider category of a Jewish Jesus was important when he introduced it, because it emphasized an aspect that had been severely downplayed in the leading research of the previous decades. As we have seen, the book Jesus the Jew was published at a time when the large majority of scholars did not question the image of Judaism that they had inherited from their Christian tradition and one way of discerning the authentic historical Jesus sayings from the inauthentic stories of the early church was to peel off stories that featured Jewishness. As Dagmar Winter has pointed out, a Jesus that was dissimilar to Judaism served numerous scholarly and non-scholarly needs. She argues that just as Christianity was considered a higher religion than Judaism, the dissimilar Jesus represented the final stage of the development of religions. The dissimilar Jesus was preferred in a more or less anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic Europe. For scholars influenced by dialectic theology, the dissimilar Jesus was meaningful because he could, just like God, be encountered existentially as the complete 11. John D. Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (Edinburgh: Clark, 1991), xxvii presents the variety of Jesus images as a signal that something is wrong with contemporary Jesus research and calls for greater attention to methodology. The reference to ‘the danger of … bias’ in Beilby and Eddy, ‘Introduction’, in Jesus: Five Views, 34, implies that scholarly bias is considered a disadvantage for Jesus research. 12. Beilby and Eddy refer to a similar point: ‘for many, however, this plurality of Jesus portraits seems to represent an exciting opportunity for more rigorous methodological reflection, more careful historical study and more engagement in interdisciplinary dialogue’ (Beilby and Eddy, ‘Introduction’, in Jesus: Five Views, 47). 13. Sean Freyne takes note of ‘the arresting title’ of Jesus the Jew (Freyne, review of Vermes, 517). Two decades later, Mark Allan Powell writes that ‘the very title [Jesus the Jew] seemed to foretell a new day in historical Jesus research’ (Powell, Jesus as a Figure in History, 54).

128

The Vermes Quest

Other. For Protestants, the Jesus dissimilar of Judaism also functioned as a shield against Catholicism, because such an image of Jesus warranted salvation by grace as opposed to both Judaism and Catholicism, systems that allegedly promoted salvation by works.14 Into such an environment, the Jewish Jesus becomes a useful and needed correction.15 Moreover, in Vermes’s work, the Jewishness of Jesus becomes a tool for safeguarding authenticity: Jewishness functions as a criterion of authenticity, virtually replacing the criterion of dissimilarity. When scholars today agree upon the basic fact of the Jewishness of Jesus but disagree upon what it means in practice, the Jewishness of Jesus does not function as a tool for discerning good Jesus constructions from poor ones. Here lies the great difference between the state of affairs in the 1970s and 1980s and today. The size and flexibility of the category ‘Jew’, which allows for Jesus scholars today to agree upon Jesus’s Jewishness although they disagree about practically everything else, make it unfit to assist in the evaluation of specific Jesus images. The Jewishness of Jesus approach may well have reached its full potential. Although Jesus’s Jewishness is presupposed in contemporary research, it is less prominent in vocabulary and method than it has been in recent decades. Scholars today pursue other approaches, such as memory, literacy, and orality, hoping that they may provide valuable insights.16 One final remark must be made in this connection. As every contemporary Jesus scholar is acutely aware of the fact of Jesus’s Jewishness, no one can rightly be accused of completely ignoring it.17 Nonetheless, accusations that scholars do not pay attention to Jesus’s Jewishness, or that they do not pay sufficient attention to it, do occur in the scholarly discourse today. William Arnal, Halvor Moxnes, and James Crossley have shown that temperatures in such debates run high and can involve accusations of racism, specifically anti-Semitism, along with allusions

14. Dagmar Winter, ‘The Dissimilar Jesus: Anti-Semitism, Protestantism, HeroWorship, and Dialectal Theology’, in Soundings in the Religion of Jesus: Perspectives and Methods in Jewish and Christian Scholarship (eds. Bruce Chilton, Anthony Le Donne, and Jacob Neusner; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), 129–142, 135–142. 15. Today, most scholarly constructions of Judaism (or Judaisms) emphasize diversity as opposed to a monolithic Judaism, and when variance is a significant feature of contemporary constructions of Judaism, difference or dissimilarity can no longer function as a way of defining Jesus. A similar point is made by Tom Holmén, ‘The Jewishness of Jesus in the “Third Quest”’, in Jesus, Mark and Q: The Teaching of Jesus and Its Earliest Records (eds. Michael Labahn and Andreas Schmidt; JSNTSup 214; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 143–162, 152, 153. 16. See for instance, Anthony Le Donne, The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2009); Chris Keith, Jesus’ Literacy: Education and the Teacher from Galilee (LNTS 242; London: Bloomsbury, 2011), and Rafael Rodriguez, Structuring Early Christian Memory: Jesus in Tradition, Performance and Text (LNTS 304; London: Bloomsbury, 2015). 17. This position is more thoroughly discussed in Arnal, Symbolic Jesus, 20–37.

Final Considerations on the Jewishness of Jesus

129

to the horrors of the Holocaust.18 Some scholars evidently still use the Jewishness of Jesus as a criterion for judging the works of other scholars, or even the scholars themselves. Such accusations are in particular levelled against representatives of the Cynic Jesus approach like John Dominic Crossan, Burton Mack, and Leif Vaage. Arnal demonstrates how such accusations ultimately fail and that these scholars do insist upon the Jewishness of Jesus in their books: ‘the accusation that some scholars are giving us a non-Jewish Jesus is actually a complaint that he is being cast as the wrong kind of Jew; that his being a Jew is not presented in the right way’.19 Similarly, Moxnes writes: ‘it appears that when the Jewishness of Jesus is used as an argument to criticize other scholars, the implicit presupposition is that Jewishness can only have one meaning; it is presented as a unified concept that does not need to be discussed’.20 Crossley demonstrates how some scholars more or less directly compare the works of contemporary Jesus scholars with those produced by scholars under the Nazi regime. He illustrates his claim with a number of quotations, such as these words of N. T. Wright: ‘Have the New Questers, and the advocates of the Cynic Jesus, come to terms with the problematic analogy between themselves and those German scholars who, in the 1920s and 1930s, reduced almost to nil the specific Jewishness of Jesus and his message?’21 The allusion to scholars like Grundmann and Döllinger is clear enough. As we have seen, these scholars in the 1920s–1940s actively attempted to de-Judaize Christianity and to wipe out the influence of Jews and Judaism. The comparison, however, that makes the connection between contemporary scholars and Nazi scholarship, is clearly unfairly harsh. Döllinger’s and Grundmann’s explicit rejections of the Jewishness of Jesus are quite different from the alleged disregard or purported flaws of later generations. While histories of Jesus research some decades ago did not include Nazi-influenced scholarship, it is now a very active part of scholarly memory, and it appears to be activated primarily to dismiss Jesus research of which one does not approve. As a side effect, awareness of the explicitly non-Jewish Jesus images produced by a limited number of scholars during a relatively short period in one specific political context enhances the perceived contrast between what some insist on calling third quest scholarship and previous research. It fuels the boast of the third questers as the generation of scholars that finally has found the right tool for describing the historical Jesus. The explorations carried out in this part of this book, however, suggest that the differences between third quest scholarship and previous research are not as sharp 18. Arnal, Symbolic Jesus, 37–38; Halvor Moxnes, ‘Jesus in Discourses of Dichotomies: Alternative Paradigms for the Historical Jesus’, JSHJ 11 (2013): 130–152, 144, 145, and Crossley, ‘Very Jewish Jesus’, 113–115. 19. Arnal, Symbolic Jesus, 29. 20. Moxnes, ‘Jesus in Discourses’, 145. 21. Crossley, ‘Very Jewish Jesus’, 114, who quotes Wright, Jesus, 79, n. 233. Crossley has omitted one word from the quote. Wright writes about the ‘politically’ problematic analogy between contemporary scholars and the German scholars. I cannot see, however, that this omission affects Crossley’s point.

130

The Vermes Quest

as often assumed. The issue did indeed receive little attention among leading Jesus scholars immediately before Vermes, and his perspective is a stark contrast to Nazi scholarship. However, the rhetoric of the third quest has overstated grossly its uniqueness. As Bermejo Rubio puts it: If Jesus’ Jewishness was marginalized by some disciples of Bultmann and their present followers, this fact shows only the obvious limitations of these writers (and perhaps of many other Christian scholars), but not a general limitation of previous scholarship. At least from Reimarus on, the most serious scholars have always held this basic notion, which for them is a truism.22

Today, the Jewishness of Jesus is considered a truism once more. More importantly, its creative and innovative potential has been explored. It has therefore lost its power, and scholarship moves on in search of new perspectives.

22. Bermejo Rubio, ‘Fiction’, 236.

Part III THE SIGNIFICANCE OF VERMES’S HASID THEORY Part II of this book focuses on how Vermes, in Jesus the Jew, describes the Jewishness of Jesus and places him within charismatic Judaism. It also explores the significance of Vermes’s Jewishness of Jesus approach from the point of view of research history. The present part focuses on how Vermes draws the connections between Jesus and other charismatics, in what I refer to as his hasid theory. This term covers arguments and conclusions related to Vermes’s depiction of Jesus as a hasid.1 Vermes’s basis for seeing Jesus as a hasid is in short that there are several common features between the Synoptic Jesus and certain figures from rabbinic literature, figures occasionally labelled as hasidim.2 Examples of the rabbinic hasidim significant in Vermes’s books are Honi the Circle-Drawer and Hanina ben Dosa. According to Vermes, the hasidim are known for their close relation to God; one significant feature of the hasidim is the ability to perform miracles. The aim here is to assess the significance of the hasid theory within Jesus research. Besides being the most important building block of his original reconstruction of a thoroughly Jewish Jesus, this theory is an entryway to many aspects of Vermes’s work: his sources, methods and arguments; his talent for fresh thinking; and his own scholarly developments. Focusing on the hasid theory permits a detailed look at explicit formulations and implicit assumptions. Moreover, the hasid theory offers a good point of departure for looking into Vermes’s overall significance within Jesus research. The theory is an example of how Vermes introduces new topics to Jesus research and familiarizes Jesus scholars with sources that previously were not seen as relevant for the quest. At the same time, the hasid theory is also controversial, rejected by many, for a number of, sometimes contradictory, reasons. The reception of Vermes’s theory offers a window into various approaches to Jesus from the third quest, as 1. See for example, Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 79, where he states that Jesus ‘is to be seen as part of first-century charismatic Judaism and as the paramount example of the early Hasidim’. 2. Note that Vermes’s sources for the hasidim are not restricted to the rabbinic corpus. He sees Ant. 14:22–24, where Josephus writes about Onias, as a parallel to the rabbinic report about Honi in m. Ta’an. 3:8 (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 69, 204). Neither does Vermes claim that his image of Jesus is drawn exclusively from the Synoptic Gospels. In practice, though, he focuses on the Synoptics.

132

The Vermes Quest

it illustrates what methods and sources are deemed suitable and unsuitable by the guild. It reveals the ways that scholars have interacted with a theory that shares the basic ideals of contemporary scholarship, namely the Jewishness of Jesus, approached from a self-appointed historian, and that also challenges the Jesus image of Christian creedal statements. Below, Vermes’s own descriptions of the hasid theory and responses from other scholars over the past forty years are surveyed in Chapters 9 and 10. The survey illustrates how differently scholars of the third quest address Vermes’s depiction of Jesus and specifically how they approach rabbinic sources as means of shedding light upon the historical figure of Jesus. Most importantly, the survey displays the material for assessing the significance of Vermes’s contribution. Finally, I suggest a different approach to one of the parallels that Vermes sees between the Jesus tradition and rabbinic tradition (Chapter 11).

Chapter 9 V E R M E S’ S HAS I D T H E O RY A N D I T S P R E C U R S O R S Vermes launched the hasid theory in 1973’s Jesus the Jew. According to Vermes himself, his awareness of similarities between the Synoptic Jesus and the rabbinic hasidim came from working with the new Schürer (1965–1987).1 The first time Vermes publicly referred to these similarities between Jesus traditions and Hanina traditions, he did so in a non-scholarly context. The relevant passage from the Daily Telegraph on 9 April 1966, reads: Miraculous healing, it is true, was not usual in ancient Judaism; but neither was it unique to Essenism and Christianity. Rabbinical writings inform us that a Galilean Pharisee, Hanina ben Dosa, who also lived in the first century AD, was famous for his healing powers. By means of prayer, he was even able to cure a sick boy living in distant Judaea – the son, as it happens, of Gamaliel the Elder, the teacher of St. Paul.2

In 1972–1973, Vermes’s work with rabbinic texts resulted in the two-part article ‘Hanina ben Dosa: A Controversial Galilean Saint from the First Century of the Christian Era.’ Here he draws some parallels between Hanina and Jesus, but does not yet suggest that Jesus is a hasid.3 Although the hasid theory originates with Vermes, some of its components had already been proposed. New Testament scholars had pointed out literary similarities between rabbinic stories and the Gospels, though without making 1. Schürer, Vermes, and Millar, History of the Jewish People; cf. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 210. 2. Vermes, ‘Neglected Facts in the Dead Sea Scrolls’, cf. Vermes, Providential Accidents, 210. Vermes alludes to b. Ber. 34b here. 3. Vermes’s two-part article refers to Hanina’s encounter with a demon in b. Pes. 112b, and he remarks: ‘it would be a mistake not to draw a parallel here with the Gospel portrait of Jesus’ (Vermes, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 56). Later, Vermes writes that the hasidim were unpopular with the establishment (63). He refers to sources that suggest this in regard to Honi (m. Ta’an. 3:8, Ant. 14, 24), Jesus (Vermes mentions the Pharisees, Herod Antipas, the Sadducean hierarchy, and Pontius Pilate as Jesus’s critics, without giving references), and Hanina (b. Ber. 33a; b. Pes. 112b; b. Ta’an. 25a; b. Ber. 34b; y. Ber. 9d; b. BK 50a; b. Yeb. 121b). Some of these parallels are elaborated in Jesus the Jew.

134

The Vermes Quest

historical claims. Rabbinic scholars had suggested that the historical Jesus should be understood in light of Hanina ben Dosa and other rabbinic figures. A few scholars had even called Jesus a hasid. Before approaching our main task, a short outline of these positions is necessary.4

The Hasid Theory before Vermes New Testament scholarship before Vermes has been well aware of similarities between miracle stories of the Gospels and miracle stories in the rabbinical corpus. As noted in Chapter  8, Paul Fiebig’s Jüdische Wundergeschichten des neutestamentlichen Zeitalters (1911) is one early example. His work gathers Jewish miracle stories from Josephus, Philo, and rabbinic texts, which in his opinion are similar to stories from the Gospels. Bultmann uses Fiebig’s book among others as sources for the Jewish material in Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition from 1921 and comments on some of the texts that Vermes later used.5 Awareness of the rabbinic parallels can also be found in exegetical commentaries. The StrackBillerbeck commentary (1922–1928) includes multiple references to the rabbinic material later used by Vermes.6 One example closer to Vermes’s time is C. K. Barrett’s The Gospel according to St. John from 1955. Barrett refers to similarities in the narratives from John 4:43–54 (Jesus heals an officer’s son at a distance) and b. Ber. 34b (Hanina ben Dosa heals a rabbi’s son at a distance).7 Unlike these scholars, Vermes does not point only at literary similarities between traditions but also gives the similarities historical relevance and makes them the basis for seeing the historical Jesus as a hasid. 4. None of these early contributions are relevant for the discussions about the hasid theory. 5. Bultmann uses, for example, b. Ber. 34b, a text that is of great importance for Vermes (Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition, 232). Bultmann holds that the extra-biblical material ‘illustrates the atmosphere, shows motifs and forms, and so helps us to understand how miracle stories came into the Synoptic tradition’. Judging by the linguistic forms and the Jewish parallels, he suggests that some miracle stories entered the tradition in the Palestinian church, while others have Hellenistic origins. Bultmann does not discuss whether or not the traditions originated with Jesus (238–240). 6. For instance is b. Ber. 34b listed as a parallel to John 4:47ff (Paul Billerbeck, Das Evangelium nach Markus, Lukas und Johannes und die Apostelgeschichte erläutert aus Talmud und Midrasch [vol. 2 of Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, eds. Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck, 1922–1928; München: C. H. Beck, 1924], 441). 7. C. K. Barrett, The Gospel according to St. John: An Introduction with the Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text (London: SPCK, 1955), 208. Similarly, from a Jewish perspective, Ephraim E. Urbach compares the two stories, concluding that they are ‘similar in detail, but differ in their basic claim’ (Efraim E. Urbach, The Sages, Their Concepts and Beliefs [trans. Israel Abrahams; Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1975], 117). The first Hebrew edition of this book was published in 1969 and predates Jesus the Jew.

Vermes’s Hasid Theory and Its Precursors

135

Similarities between Jesus and figures portrayed in rabbinic literature had also been noticed by Jewish scholars prior to Vermes. In Jewish Encyclopedia (1901–1906), Kaufmann Kohler holds that traditions about Hanina ben Dosa and Honi the Circle-Drawer are important for understanding the historical Jesus. In contrast to Vermes, Kohler does not reveal how a comparison between these traditions and the Gospels contributes to our understanding of Jesus and he does not suggest that Jesus should be called a hasid. Like Vermes, Kohler emphasizes Jesus’s miracle-working activity: It was not as the teacher of new religious principles nor as a new lawgiver, but as a wonder-worker, that Jesus won fame and influence among the simple inhabitants of Galilee in his lifetime; and it was due only to his frequent apparitions after his death to these Galilean followers that the belief in his resurrection and in his Messianic and divine character was accepted and spread. The thaumaturgic and eschatological views of the times must be fully considered, and the legendary lives of saints such as Onias, Hanina ben Dosa, Phinehas ben Jair, and Simeon ben Yohai in the Talmud, as well as the apocalyptic and other writings of the Essenes, must be compared before a true estimate of Jesus can be formed.8

Some years later, in 1929, the Jewish theologian Samuel S. Cohon places Jesus among the hasidim in his JBL article ‘The Place of Jesus in the Religious Life of His Day.’9 He names some rabbinic figures who also appear in Vermes, referring to them as the hasidim: Honi the Circle-Drawer, Abba Hilkiah, Hanan, Hanina ben Dosa, and Pinhas ben Yair. Moreover, Cohon brings up two texts that are central to Vermes’s arguments for the hasid theory: b. Ber. 34b and b. Ta’an. 23b (a healing narrative and a reference to God as abba).10 In spite of these similarities between Cohon and Vermes, there are also important differences, especially their reasons for placing Jesus among the hasidim. Cohon writes: ‘[Jesus’s] emphasis on faith, prayer and forgiveness, on love even for the enemy, and on returning good for evil, places Jesus in the company of the Hasidim.’11 As we shall see, these supposed similarities between Jesus and the rabbinic figures differ markedly from the similarities that are prominent in Vermes’s books. David Flusser makes use of the Hanina and Honi traditions in the first edition of his book on Jesus (1968) to illustrate similarities among Jesus, Hanina, and Honi.12 He remarks that they are wonderworkers from Galilee in the time prior to 8. Kaufmann Kohler, ‘Jesus of Nazareth – In Theology’, n.p. [accessed 10 November 2014]. Online: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8616-jesus-of-nazareth 9. Samuel S. Cohon, ‘The Place of Jesus in the Religious Life of His Day’, JBL 48 (1929): 82–108. 10. Cohon, ‘The Place of Jesus’, 108. These texts will be cited later, in relation to Vermes’s use of them. 11. Cohon, ‘The Place of Jesus’, 108. 12. Flusser names him Hanina bar Dossa.

136

The Vermes Quest

Jesus (Honi) and after Jesus (Hanina).13 Furthermore, he calls them charismatics and makes note of the tension between charismatics and scribes.14 Flusser does not, however, suggest that Jesus belongs to their ‘type’ nor does he refer to them as hasidim. He rather emphasizes one difference between them: While all are charismatics with a close relation to God, depicted as sons of God, there is a difference: Jesus’s ‘Selbstbewußtsein’ was greater than theirs.15 Flusser’s remarks are similar to many of Vermes’s assertions, except for this final point. Before we turn to Vermes’s book, we must review one example from the Christian side. In 1954, Frederick C. Grant wrote that Jesus can be understood as a ‘chasid’ or ‘holy man of God’.16 Grant does not explain why he uses these terms and does not refer to rabbinic writings. It is therefore hard to establish what Grant’s suggestion implies. I have not succeeded in identifying other Christian theologians who describe Jesus as a hasid before 1973.

The Hasid Theory in Jesus the Jew What are Vermes’s arguments for presenting Jesus as a hasid? What sources does he use to build his case and how does he describe the hasidim? Jesus the Jew displays the first and the most detailed version of Vermes’s hasid theory. Moreover, it is the single book by Vermes to which scholars refer the most. Knowing the viewpoints from Jesus the Jew is therefore the correct point of departure for understanding scholarly reactions to Vermes’s theory and for analysing developments in Vermes’s later work. However, Jesus the Jew does not provide a comprehensive outline of the hasid theory, nor does any other of Vermes’s publications. What Vermes presents is certain isolated suggestions upon which he later draws the conclusion that Jesus is a hasid.17 Some suggestions relevant for the hasid theory are implied in the footnotes, while others are developed more thoroughly in the main text. The suggestions related to the hasid theory are intertwined with discussions about Jesus’s Jewishness, which are not connected to the understanding of Jesus as a hasid. Therefore, I have myself compiled the arguments that are offered in Jesus the Jew. I have identified the miracle-working activity of the hasidim,18 their common geographical 13. Flusser, Jesus, 89. 14. Flusser, Jesus, 91. Flusser uses the German phrase ‘wundertätige Charismatiker’. 15. Flusser, Jesus, 89, 91. 16. Frederick C. Grant, ‘The Authenticity of Jesus’ Sayings’, in Neutestamentliche Studien für Rudolf Bultmann (ed. W. Eltester; BZNW 21; Berlin: Alfred Töpelmann, 1954), 137–143, 137. Grant does not build this suggestion upon any of the texts that Vermes later used. 17. See for example, Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 83: ‘Jesus of Nazareth takes on the eminently credible personality of a Galilean Hasid’. This sentence functions as a summary of Vermes’s preceding chapter. 18. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 69, 79. In Vermes’s understanding, the miracles are substantiations of the special relationship the hasidim have to God.

Vermes’s Hasid Theory and Its Precursors

137

base in Galilee,19 and the father–son relation between God and the hasid20 as constitutive elements of Vermes’s theory. Vermes also points out certain common traits among the hasidim that plays lesser roles in his argument. These traits concern the hasidim’s preference of a life in poverty, their unpopularity among representatives of the establishment, and the inclusion of powerful prayers in their piety.21 As Vermes does not follow them up in any depth, they are not considered here. My presentation reflects that Vermes’s emphasis on the constitutive elements of the hasid theory differs in volume. Besides, I try as far as possible to let Vermes’s voice be heard and restrict my own remarks to cases where it appears absolutely necessary to clarify matters to make Vermes’s arguments more comprehensible. The Hasidim Vermes draws the concept of the hasidim from rabbinic literature. Rabbinic sources recount anecdotes and sayings by named and anonymous figures that on occasion are denoted by the singular term hasid or the plural hasidim. The hasidim has been a hotly debated topic within rabbinic scholarship, and the works of Adolph Büchler and Shmuel Safrai are relevant for Vermes’s use of the term.22 In 1922, Büchler refutes the suggestion of earlier scholarship that the hasidim were Essenes.23 He describes the hasidim as a group of Pharisees who lived in Jerusalem between 70 B.C.E. and 70 C.E. and describes them as ‘strict Pharisees attached to God with all their heart, and serving their fellow-men with all their soul’.24 In 1965, Safrai builds on Büchler’s work and moderates parts of it. Most importantly, Safrai notes that there are no halakhic teachings in the names of any of the hasidim, although there are teachings that are said to come from the hasidim as a group.25 According to Safrai, this hasidic teaching differs from the halakha of other rabbis and he concludes that the term hasidim signifies a smaller group within Pharisaism.26 Vermes asserts that the hasidim were ‘ignorant in the field of ritual purity’, though he also notes that the hasidim were sometimes even more observant than 19. Vermes regards charismatic Judaism as a Galilean phenomenon, or at least one with Galilean roots (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 79, 80). 20. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 70, 73–75, 210, 211. For Vermes, the title ‘son of God’ and Jesus’s address to God as abba attest to this relationship: ‘the earliest use of “son of God” in relation to Jesus derives from … his own consciousness of an immediate and intimate contact with the heavenly Father’ (211). 21. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 69, 77, 80–82. 22. It is clear that Vermes knew their works (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 79, 80). 23. Adolph Büchler, Types of Jewish-Palestinian Piety from 70 B.C.E. to 70 C.E.: The Ancient Pious Men (New York: KTAV, 1968), 8, n. 2; 19, 33, 34, 61, 77, 100–107, and 128. 24. Büchler, Types of Jewish-Palestinian Piety, 264. 25. Shmuel Safrai, ‘The Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature’, JJS 16 (1965): 15–33, 19–26. 26. Safrai, ‘Teaching of Pietists’, 33.

138

The Vermes Quest

the Torah required.27 He lists examples of their unseeming conduct and ignorance of biblical law. Hanina walked alone at night (b. Pes. 112b), owned goats (b. Ta’an. 25a), and once carried a dead snake (b. Ber. 33a).28 Other hasidim, unnamed in Vermes’s recounting, were also reluctant to live by the law.29 He explains this apparent contradiction between ‘ignorant’ and ‘more observant’ by claiming that such regulations were ‘peripheral’30 to the religiosity of the hasidim: ‘Hanina and Jesus, and no doubt the Hasidim in general, showed a complete lack of interest in legal and ritual affairs.’31 According to Vermes, the hasidim more than other people had a close, intimate, and direct relation to God.32 A hasid trusted in God, and as an affirmation of the holy man, God granted miracles through him.33 Before outlining the details of Vermes’s theory, some remarks must be made about the term hasid and how Vermes uses it. The adjective hasid derives from the Hebrew ‫ חסד‬and can be translated in many ways (‘faithful’, ‘pious’, etc.). The adjective can also have quite different functions. The term can be used to describe the quality or character of individuals/ collectives and can also function as a label or title. Apparently, Vermes regards all occurrences of the word hasid or hasidim in rabbinical literature as references to a specific group of men. He makes no attempt to differentiate those rabbinic sayings that use the term hasid; he interprets and uses hasid as a title. In order to understand his use of the term and the criticisms raised against his strategy, some examples of how the term is used in Jewish texts outside the rabbinic corpora are helpful. Examples of different denotations and functions of hasid/hasidim can be found in the Hebrew Bible and in the Books of Maccabees. According to Jer. 3:20, God is hasid: ‘I will not look on you in anger, for I [am] hasid says the Lord’ (rendered in the NRSV as ‘for I am merciful’). In Ps. 86:2, the psalmist describes himself as hasid: ‘Preserve my life, for I [am] hasid; save your servant who trusts in you’ (NRSV: ‘for I am devoted to you’). Psalm 37:28–29 describes God’s people as a collective of hasidim. ‘For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his hasidim (NRSV: “his faithful ones”). The righteous shall be kept safe for ever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The zaddikim (NRSV: “righteous”) shall inherit the land, and live in it for ever.’ People are here referred to as hasidim and zaddikim. Both terms could theoretically have functioned as 27. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 54. Vermes refers to y. AZ 11a and ARNa, 27. 28. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 54, 81. 29. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 81 (ARNa 28, m. Ter. 45c; y. Ter. 45c, and y. AZ. 41a). 30. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 81. 31. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 77. 32. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 81. 33. Hanina is known for not being attacked by a snake that came near him. In this connection, this saying is attributed to him: ‘it is not the snake that kills, but sin’ (b. Ber. 33a). Vermes sees this as example of the holy man’s trust in God and connects it with Jesus’s words about remaining unharmed from snakes (Mark 16:18; Luke 10:19; Acts 28:3–5). See Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 74, 206–211.

Vermes’s Hasid Theory and Its Precursors

139

titles for a group, but the parallelism suggests that it is the quality of the people that is referred to here. In the Books of the Maccabees, the Hebrew ‫ חסד‬shines through the Greek text. The Hebrew term is transcribed into Greek and rendered in plural (Ασιδαίοι), suggesting that it refers to the name of a group rather than a quality of someone’s actions and attitudes. This titular function remains in the English translation: ‘at that time a gathering of Hasideans joined together with them, strong in power, from Israel, every one of them volunteering for the law’ (1 Macc. 2:42, NETS) and ‘… he replied to this: “those of the Judeans who are called Hasideans, whose leader is Ioudas Makkabaios, are keeping up war and stirring up sedition and will not let the kingdom attain stability”’ (2 Macc. 14:5b–6, NETS). The transcriptions of the Hebrew in the Greek text (Ασιδαίοι), which has led to the English rendering Hasideans, makes it probable that the term refers to a specific group of people, known as the hasidim. While the name may originally have been chosen to denote the character of the people in the group, the function within the context of the Maccabees is titular. Vermes’s reading of the rabbinic texts follows most closely the usage in the Maccabees. In Jesus the Jew, Vermes writes ‘Hasidim’ with a capital ‘H’ and his wording reveals that he sees the hasidim as a group with certain common features: ‘one of the prime characteristics of the ancient Hasidim or Devout is that their prayer was believed to be all-powerful’.34 He goes on: ‘again, both Jesus and Hanina, and no doubt the Hasidim in general showed a complete lack of interest in legal and ritual affairs’.35 In addition to Jesus, Honi the Circle-Drawer, and Hanina ben Dosa, Vermes mentions other hasidim sporadically: Yose the Galilean, Abba Ha-Nebah, and Hilkiah,36 and Vermes does not restrict his range of sources to those that actually employ the terms hasid and hasidim. In fact, most of the texts do not contain the adjective at all.37 Still, he bases his hasid theory on stories about the men mentioned above. The Setting: Galilee As shown above, Vermes places Jesus within charismatic Judaism, a stream that thrived in Galilee. Galilee also has deep significance for the hasid theory. According to Vermes, stories about many of his hasidim reveal connections to 34. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 69. 35. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 77. 36. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 54, 57 (Yose); 72, 211 (Abba Ha-Nebah); 72, 79, 118, 121, 211, and 249, n. 78 (Hilkiah). Vermes apparently envisages a longer list of names. In later books, he brings up other hasidim (e.g. Jesus and the World of Judaism, 41). 37. For instance, Hanina is called hasid only twice: y. Sotah 23b and ARNa, chapter 8 (besides being represented as an example of hasidic behaviour in y. Ber. 9a). He is not called a hasid in b. Ber. 34b or b. Pes. 112b, which are both important for Vermes’s portrayals of the hasidim.

140

The Vermes Quest

the area. Jesus’s ministry was mainly focused on Galilean villages, especially Capernaum (Matt. 9:1).38 Hanina ben Dosa comes from ’Arav near Sepphoris (y. Ber. 7c).39 One story about Honi the Circle-Drawer locates him in Jerusalem (Ant. 14:22–24), but Vermes suggests that he came from Galilee. Vermes finds support for this in a text that places Honi’s family in a Galilean village: his grandson, Abba Hilkiah, is called ‘the hasid from Kefar Imi’ (y. Ta’an. 64b).40 Since the story about Honi is set during the Passover festival, Vermes suggests that he was a pilgrim to Jerusalem.41 The name of Yose the Galilean reveals a Galilean heritage (b. Erub. 53b).42 Because so many hasidim are linked to Galilee, Vermes insists that the root of their movement is Galilean.43 Vermes has yet another reason for claiming connections between the hasidim and Galilee. He contends that the charismatic movement is connected to Elijah of the Hebrew Bible.44 Essentially, Elijah himself fits into Vermes’s definition of the hasidim. He is regarded a holy man by his contemporaries and intercedes with God on behalf of the people, functioning as a miracle worker (1 Kings 17:1).45 Further, Vermes points out that some of the hasidim are linked with Elijah in tradition: Honi (Gen. Rab. 13:7), Hanina (b. Ber. 61b), and Jesus (Mark 8:28; Matt. 16:14; Luke 9:8, 19).46 He suggests that the memory of Elijah’s miraculous works was especially vivid in Galilee,47 commenting that ‘it appears to be almost beyond argument that the miracle-working Hasid either modelled himself on Elijah, or was at least seen as another Elijah by the men of his generation’.48 The Hasidim as Miracle Workers According to Vermes, one significant feature of the hasidim was their ability to perform miracles. However, there is no clear consensus on this issue within 38. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 48, 49. 39. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 72. The passage reads: ‘the donkey drivers came from Araba to Sepphoris and said: “R. Hanina ben Dosa already began the Sabbath [while it was still daytime] in his village”’ (Tzvee Zahavy, Yerushalmi Berakhot [trans. Tzvee Zahavy; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989], 163). 40. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 72. Vermes asserts that Kefar Imi is in Galilee due to the geographical context of the passage in the Yerushalmi. 41. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 72. Vermes regards Ant. 14:22–24 a parallel to m. Ta’an. 3:8. The location of Honi (Onias) is explicit in the Josephus version of the story, where he is depicted in Jerusalem. 42. See for example, Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 54. 43. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 72, 79. On this point, it is hard to tell whether Vermes distinguishes between charismatic Jewish religion in general and the hasidim in particular. 44. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 65, 76, 80, 90, 102. 45. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 69. 46. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 72, 76 (Honi; Vermes remarks that some manuscripts do not mention Elijah [241, n. 261]); 76, 77 (Hanina); 77 (Jesus). 47. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 68, 80. 48. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 90.

Vermes’s Hasid Theory and Its Precursors

141

rabbinic scholarship. In Jesus the Jew, therefore, Vermes discusses the hasidim as miracle workers from two angles. He engages in an ongoing rabbinic debate on the one hand and contends that Jesus fits into the hasidim on account of his reputation as a healer on the other. The works of Adolph Büchler and Shmuel Safrai, who disagree with Vermes’s assertion, furnish the background of Vermes’s arguments for representing the hasidim as miracle workers. Vermes presents various arguments against their conclusions, though purely on a need-to-know basis. In addition to exploring Vermes’s suggestions here, a glance at Büchler’s and Safrai’s works on the matter is helpful to understand Vermes better. Büchler, Safrai, and Vermes agree that the question of the hasidût of the hasidim should be seen in relation to another rabbinic term, namely ‘men of deed’.49 Although Vermes does not state it explicitly, he operates as if men of deed is synonymous with hasidim. Hanina ben Dosa is the figure that links the hasidim and the men of deed, as one tradition goes: ‘When Hanina ben Dosa died, the men of deed ceased’ (m. Sotah 9:15).50 The question is, then, what ‘deeds’ these men were known for. Büchler and Safrai understand them as charity51 and Vermes does not dismiss this suggestion. However, he highlights miracle working as a central feature of the hasidim: ‘it may have been their charity and loving-kindness that inspired the affection felt for these men, but it was through their “miracles” that they made their strongest impact’.52 In Jesus the Jew, Vermes argues for this position by pointing to ancient sources that employ the term ‘deeds’ for the act of miracle working. In doing so, Vermes takes issue with a comment from Büchler decades before: ‘as far as my memory serves me, the word [ma’aseh = deeds] standing by itself … never denotes a miracle’.53 Vermes shows that the Greek ergon may convey such a meaning. For one, Vermes finds support in the Gospels, where Jesus is known for his deeds (ἕργα). Here the word ‘deed’ evidently designates miracles.54 Outside the Gospels, Vermes finds the same connection: Antiquitates Judaicae 18:63 describes Jesus as a ‘doer of marvellous deeds’.55 Vermes thus does not provide proof that ma’aseh denotes 49. Büchler, Types of Jewish-Palestinian Piety, 79–83. Safrai builds on Büchler’s work (Safrai, ‘Teaching of Pietists’, 16). Safrai translates anshe ma’aseh as ‘men of action’ (16, n. 11). 50. Quoted like this in Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 79. See also t. Sotah 15:5; y. Sotah 24c, and b. Sotah 49b, which display similar traditions. 51. Büchler, Types of Jewish-Palestinian Piety, 83, 87; Safrai, ‘Teaching of Pietists’, 16, 17, especially n. 11. Safrai writes that the men of deed were ‘active in human society’. 52. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 79, the inverted commas are original. Vermes remarks in a footnote that reading deeds as miracles is the traditional view, dating back to the interpretations of Rashi (242, n. 103). 53. Büchler, Types of Jewish-Palestinian Piety, 83. 54. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 242, n. 104 refers to Matt. 11:2; cf. John 7:21/ John 5:1–9 as a basis. 55. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 79. The quote from Josephus is taken from Vermes and may be his own translation.

142

The Vermes Quest

miracle working, but he does show that Jewish compositions in Greek display a link between doings and miracles. However, the understanding of men of deeds as miracle workers is not the only reason for Vermes to portray the hasidim as miracle workers. Rabbinic tradition has many miraculous stories attributed to figures whom Vermes sees as hasidim. Mishnah Ta’anit 3:8 asserts that Honi the Circle-Drawer could pray and rain would fall.56 Babylonian Talmud Ta’anit 23ab reports of similar abilities among Honi’s grandsons Abba Hilkiah and Hanan.57 Many kinds of miracles are attributed to Hanina ben Dosa. He is not hurt when bitten by a reptile (t. Ber. 3:20; y. Ber. 9a; b. Ber. 33a), he heals (b. Ber. 34b), and he makes rain fall and stop (b. Ta’an. 24b; y. Yoma 53b).58 Vermes proceeds to argue that miracle working is a feature shared by the rabbinic hasidim and the historical Jesus.59 And he goes further than this general observation, paying close attention to how their miracles are reported. He compares the Synoptic story about the healing of a son/servant (Matt. 8:5–13; Luke 7:1–10; John 4:46–53) with the Talmudic story about Hanina. The story from the Babylonian Talmud is as follows: Our Rabbis taught: Once the son of R. Gamaliel fell ill. He sent two scholars to R. Hanina b. Dosa to ask him to pray for him. When he saw them he went up to an upper chamber and prayed for him. When he came down he said to them: Go, the fever has left him; They said to him: Are you a prophet? He replied: I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I learnt this from experience. If my prayer is fluent in my mouth, I know that he is accepted: but if not, I know that he is rejected. They sat down and made a note of the exact moment. When they came to R. Gamaliel, he said to them: By the temple service! You have not been a moment too soon or too late, but so it happened: at that very moment the fever left him and he asked for water to drink. (b. Ber. 34b, Soncino edition)

While there are many similarities between the stories from the Gospels and the Talmud (cf. Chapter  11), Vermes’s comment is certainly vague and he draws attention to only one particular detail of the stories: They belong ‘to the same category and illustrates what seems to have been a recognized charismatic pattern’.60 56. A story about Honi is also preserved in Ant. 14:22–24 Vermes believes uncontroversially that Onias and Honi refer to the same person. Josephus calls the man Onias and gives slightly different information about him, but states that Onias was known for his ability to pray for rain. 57. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 72. 58. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 73–76. Vermes refers to t. Ber. 2:20, but the correct reference is 3:20 (cf. 242, n. 43). He calls Hanina ben Dosa a ‘man of extraordinary devotion and miraculous healing talents’ (73). 59. Vermes describes the gospel material that presents Jesus as a miracle worker (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 22–26). 60. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 75. Cf. Vermes, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 3, n. 7, where he recommends that the reader compares b. Ber. 34b and the New Testament story.

Vermes’s Hasid Theory and Its Precursors

143

Vermes does not qualify what the charismatic pattern consists of; he simply comments that Hanina and Jesus are able to sense ‘the efficacy of their cures’.61 It is therefore difficult to ascertain whether the ‘charismatic pattern’ refers to other traits than this over-natural sensitivity. Furthermore, Vermes states that ‘[i]n addition to being a healer of the sick, Hanina was venerated as a deliverer of persons in physical peril … caused by evil spirits’.62 The text referred to is b. Pes. 112b. This passage recounts a discussion between Hanina ben Dosa and an evil spirit. Because of the demon’s plea, Hanina allows her to be active two nights a week: In former times [the demon Agrath, daughter of Mahlath] was seen daily. Once, she met Rabbi Hanina b. Dosa and said to him, ‘Had there been no commendation from heaven, “Take heed of Hanina and his teaching!” I would have harmed you.’ He said to her: ‘If I am so highly esteemed in heaven, I decree that you shall never again pass through an inhabited place.’ She said to him: ‘Please allow me for a limited time.’ He then left to her Sabbath nights and Wednesday nights. (b. Pes. 112b)63

In his articles on Hanina ben Dosa, first published in 1972–1973, Vermes draws a parallel from this story to Mark 5:1–20, where Jesus is portrayed as an exorcist who grants the demon his plea.64 The exorcism narrative from Mark is however not recalled in Jesus the Jew, nor is any other story from the Gospels. Actually, it is remarkable that Vermes mentions b. Pes. 112b at all in this volume, since he appears not to regard it as an authentic Hanina story; Vermes explicitly refers to the story in b. Pes. 112b as ‘this legend’.65 A close reading of Vermes’s introduction to the rabbinic passage suggests that he sees the historical Hanina as a healer, while it is only within rabbinic tradition that Hanina is perceived as an exorcist: ‘[i]n addition to being a healer of the sick, Hanina was venerated as a deliverer of persons in physical peril … caused by evil spirits’.66 Consequently, because b. Pes. 112b is the only reference to Hanina and an evil spirit in rabbinic tradition, there is no reason for Vermes to suggest that the historical Hanina was an exorcist and Vermes is careful not to treat him as such. 61. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 75 and 242, n. 80. Vermes demonstrates this further by referring to Mark 5:30 and Luke 8:46. 62. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 76. 63. Parts of this text are quoted in relation to Vermes’s introductory presentation of Hanina ben Dosa (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 76). The entire passage is cited like this in relation to Vermes’s discussions about Hanina as son of God. In that context, b. Pes. 112b illustrates Hanina’s close relation to God (208, 209). The rendering differs somewhat from the English Soncino edition and may be Vermes’s own translation. 64. Vermes comments: ‘It would be a mistake not to draw a parallel here with the Gospel portrait of Jesus’ (Vermes, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 56). 65. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 208. 66. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 76.

144

The Vermes Quest

This means that Vermes chooses to present stories from rabbinic tradition that have striking similarities with traditions in the Gospels – though there are of course certain differences – without spelling out every potential parallel. His comments on the rabbinic passages are vague and careful; Vermes quotes rabbinic passages and lets the sources speak for themselves. The general reader, therefore, is left with the impression that there are great similarities between Jesus and the hasidim, when in reality Vermes has actually only pointed out very few. His main point, however, comes across clearly: Jesus resembles the rabbinic hasidim because they are all miracle workers. God as Father, Hasid as Son The intimate relation between the hasidim and God was not expressed merely through the performance of miracles. According to Vermes, they could also pray to God as their father. Moreover, Vermes sees the hasidic father prayer and the intimate relation to God as explanations to why some texts denote the hasidim – Jesus included – as sons of God. For Vermes, Jesus’s address to God as father or abba reveals yet another similarity between Jesus and the rabbinic hasidim.67 Vermes calls it ‘the [hasidic] habit of alluding to God precisely as “Father.”’68 The first of Vermes’s proofs for the hasidic habit reads: ‘The ancient Hasidim spent an hour (in recollection before praying) in order to direct their hearts towards their Father in heaven’ (m. Ber. 5:1).69 Vermes presents this example without further comments. It is followed by a second and final example of the hasidic habit of alluding to God as 67. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 200–213, 211, in particular. 68. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 211. 69. Cited like this by Vermes (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 211). Vermes recommends that his English readers use Danby’s translation of the Mishnah (13), but appears not to use it himself: Danby simply writes ‘to God’ in m. Ber 5:1, where Vermes has ‘their father’. The word translated by Danby is lammaqom (= the place), and he translates it idiomatically (Danby, Mishnah, 5). Joseph Fitzmyer suggests that Vermes uses the Giessen edition of the Mishnah here, since it is the only edition that renders ‘their Father’ (in Hebrew, not Aramaic, as abihem; ab+suffix) in m. Ber. 5:1. Other editions render lammaqom as a term for God and hence do not refer to God as ‘father’ at all. Fitzmyer suggests a late origin of the wording of the Giessen edition and doubts that the abihem-wording is more original than lammaqom (Joseph A. Fitzmyer, According to Paul: Studies in the Theology of the Apostle [New York: Paulist Press, 1993], 56). Mishnah Berakhot 5:1 does therefore not attest to the use of the Aramaic abba, which is the word Jesus uses in Mark 14. These issues are never addressed in Vermes’s books, despite his repeated reference to this text. While it is true that Vermes never claims that m. Ber 5:1 is an example of the use of abba, from the context of his discussion on Jesus’s use of the Aramaic abba, his readers very well might suppose that m. Ber. 5:1 uses precisely this word. If Fitzmyer’s logic is correct, the reference to the hasidim as praying to their father in heaven does not go back to the time of the Tannaim, as Vermes indicates by his use of the Mishnah. It is instead much newer tradition that found its way into one edition of the Mishnah.

Vermes’s Hasid Theory and Its Precursors

145

father. It is found in a prayer by Hanan ha Nehba, whom Vermes counts among the hasidim, apparently because he is the grandson of Honi.70 The prayer is rendered as part of a little story in the Babylonian Talmud. In this prayer, Hanan refers to both God and himself as abba: When the world was in need of rain, the rabbis used to send school-children to [Hanan ha Nehba], who seized the train of his cloak and said to him: ‘Abba, Abba, give us rain!’ He said to God: ‘Lord of the universe, render a service to those who cannot distinguish between the Abba who gives rain and the Abba who does not.’ (b. Ta’an. 23b)71

Vermes does not comment on the details of the story, but remarks: ‘for the charismatic, as for Jesus, God is Abba’.72 Vermes’s presentation of Jesus’s father prayer as common to contemporary Jewish piety is significantly different from what leading New Testament scholars proposed at the time. Within New Testament scholarship, the leading view had been that Jesus’s use of abba in prayer was exclusive to him. While all of Vermes’s arguments for the hasid theory seek to break down the common presupposition of Jesus’s uniqueness, his work with Jesus’s abba prayer in particular strikes a nerve of the previous paradigm. In Jesus the Jew, Vermes mentions the work of Ferdinand Hahn as one recent representative of this view.73 Hahn writes that abba ‘ist innerhalb der Gebetssprache des Zeitgenössischen Judentums schlecterdings undenkbar’. We see here that Hahn limits his assertion to the context of Jewish prayer language and Vermes displays examples that belong to that category. The view of Jesus’s uniqueness expressed by Hahn here is perhaps better known from Joachim Jeremias (cf. Chapter 6, Section ‘Gustav Dalman and Die Worte Jesu’).74 Hahn explicitly builds upon Jeremias’s statement: ‘nicht nur abba, sondern die Gebetsanrede “mein Vater” überhapt ist dem Judentum bis ins Mittelalter fremd’.75 In 1966, after Hahn’s book and before Jesus the Jew, Jeremias gave a slightly more nuanced view on abba than Hahn’s. Here, Jeremias seems aware of ancient Jewish texts that attest the address to God as father but judges them to be scarce and irrelevant.76 Vermes makes the opposite determination. He does not claim that the rabbinic texts attest to the use of the Aramaic abba in prayer, which is the word 70. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 211. 71. Cited like this in Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 211. 72. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 211. 73. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 210, 264, n. 87; Ferdinand Hahn, Christologische Hoheitstitel: Ihre Geschichte im frühen Christentum (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963), 320 (English translation, 1969). 74. The contrast between Vermes’s and Jeremias’s views is recognized for example by Craig Evans and Craig Keener; see Evans, Contemporaries, 288, 289 (n. 30 in particular) and Keener, Historical Jesus, 272. 75. Hahn refers to Jeremias here, namely Joachim Jeremias, ‘Abba’, TLZ 79 (1954), 213. 76. Jeremias, Abba Studien, 19, 20.

146

The Vermes Quest

employed by Jesus in Mark 14:36, but argues that both rabbinic examples attest to calling God ‘father’ in prayer language.77 He also admits that Jesus’s wording stands out from the standard post-biblical address to God as ‘Lord of the Universe.’78 Nonetheless, Vermes does not see Jesus’s father address as unique: instead, it marks him as a hasid. Furthermore, Jesus’s address to God as father entails the notion of sonship: ‘a special filial consciousness is manifest in the frequent and emphatic mention of God as his [Jesus’s] Father’.79 This awareness of sonship is, according to Vermes, also expressed through the title ‘son of God’, commonly used for Jesus and for the other hasidim. By discussing the title ‘son of God’, Vermes enters into a notably different research situation than recorded above in relation to Jesus’s abba prayer. Interpreted within a Jewish context, son of God was seen as a reference to Jesus as the Messiah. Son of God had also been understood against a Hellenistic background, and therefore seen as a later development by the early church. Vermes deals with both possibilities80 before arguing that son of God should be seen as an authentic trait of Jesus’s life: the title ‘son of God’ should be understood against Jewish rather than Hellenistic traditions, and when employed within the context of miracles in the Gospels, it goes back to the historical Jesus. Vermes takes a number of steps in order to connect the Gospels’ son of God title first with the historical as opposed to the Hellenized Jesus and second to the miracle-working Jesus as opposed to Jesus as the Messiah. He presents two examples that each in their own way illustrate that ‘son of God’ is used as a reference to miracle workers in genuinely Jewish settings. First, Vermes draws attention to the proclamation of the centurion by the cross of Jesus (Mark 15:39; Matt. 27:54; Luke 23:47).81 In Matthew and Mark, the centurion uses the title son of God in his confession: ‘truly, this man was a son of God’. Luke, whom Vermes calls ‘the Gentile evangelist’, renders this as ‘certainly, this man was innocent’.82 Vermes’s point seems to be that while the more Jewish Matthew and Mark render it as a title, the Hellenistic Luke chooses an adjectival wording. Hence, son of God 77. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 210. 78. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 210. 79. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 210. 80. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 205, 206. Vermes is familiar with the Jewish background for this term when related to kings, the people of Israel, and the Messiah (194–199). He does however not see these as relevant for understanding the historical Jesus. Vermes judges the Jewish flavoured son of God texts that refer to the son of God as Messiah (e.g. Matt. 16:16) as not going back to the historical Jesus. He argues that according to the Gospels, Jesus himself rejected being seen as the Messiah (202), cf. 145–149, where the issue of the Messiah is discussed more thoroughly. Vermes mentions Bultmann as a representative of ‘many commentators’ who see ‘a New Testament adaption of the Greek ‘divine man’ concept of the sonship of Jesus’. Vermes refers here to Bultmann’s Theologie des Neuen Testaments, 132, 133. 81. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 204. 82. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 204.

Vermes’s Hasid Theory and Its Precursors

147

must have been comprehensible to the Jewish audience of Matthew and Mark and may thus have Jewish origins. Vermes’s second example is taken from the story about Honi in m. Ta’an. 3:8, which he treats (uncontroversially) as a parallel to the story about Onias in Ant. 14: 22–2483 The Mishnaic story about Honi depicts him praying for rain, saying: ‘thy sons have turned to me because I am as a son of the house before thee’.84 Vermes uses this text as corroboration of the title ‘son of God’ in a Jewish, non-messianic context. Then he turns to Josephus, who, writing in Greek, describes Honi as a ‘just man and dear to God’.85 Vermes does not explicitly reveal the importance of the Josephus text for his argument. However, it appears that the cross-reading of the Mishnah passage with the Josephus text is intended to show that different terms are used in the Greek and the Hebrew versions. It is the Hebrew text that uses the title ‘son of God’ – or rather son of the house – to describe the miracle worker,  while the Greek version does not. On the basis of these comparisons, Vermes concludes that ‘son of God has definitely Semitic associations’.86 After arguing that ‘son of God’ could be used to describe miracle workers in a Jewish context, Vermes suggests that the title connects Jesus to the hasidim. He writes that texts about miracle workers in rabbinic literature are ‘not merely pertinent, but essential, to the correct approach to the issue [son of God]’.87 Vermes illustrates the link between Jesus and Hanina by pointing to similarities between Hanina traditions and Jesus traditions in a somewhat complex train of thought. First, he shows that Jesus is presented in the Gospels as son of God in connection with the heavenly voice and with exorcisms.88 The same points are connected within Hanina traditions: the title son of God, the heavenly voice, and the association with evil spirits.89 In Vermes’s first-proof text, Hanina is called ‘my son’ by the heavenly voice (though not in the context of exorcism): ‘the whole universe is sustained on account of my son Hanina; but my son Hanina is satisfied with one kab of carob from one Sabbath eve to another’ (b. Ta’an. 24b, cf. b. Ber 17b; b. Hul. 86a).90 Vermes’s second proof text, b. Pes. 112b, is quoted above in relation to Hanina’s reputation as an exorcist. Agrath, the queen of the demons, advises that she has 83. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 204. See also, Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 69–71. 84. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 209, italics original. It is unclear whether Vermes sees ‘the house’ as a reference to the house of God or God per se: ‘the Hebrew sources refer to him [Honi] as “son of the house (of God)”’ (210). Further, Vermes rejects Büchler interpretation of ‘son of the house’ as a slave. He argues that Simeon b. Shetah compares Honi’s relation to God to that of a son to his father, a few sentences further down in the Mishnaic passage. 85. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 204. Vermes’s citation from Josephus is rendered here. Vermes makes the same kind of argument with the Honi and Onias stories, comparing ‘the rather sinister Hebrew epithet, “Circle-Drawer”, with the Greek, “righteous man and dear to God”’ (71). 86. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 204. 87. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 206. 88. Vermes discusses many of the instances in Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 200–206. 89. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 209. 90. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 206; cited by Vermes, with his italics.

148

The Vermes Quest

heard the heavenly voice telling her about Hanina.91 The heavenly voice, Hanina ben Dosa, and an evil spirit figure in the story, but there is no reference to the son of God. Still, it functions for Vermes as the connection in the triangle: son of God, heavenly voice, and evil spirit. The first-proof text provides the points one and two while the latter story provides points two and three. Vermes has thereby presented his argument for the connection between Jesus and the hasidim as related to the son of God title, concluding that ‘if the Hanina parallel is given the attention it deserves, it may be argued that the greatest, and no doubt earliest, part of the Synoptic evidence concerning the divine sonship of Jesus corresponds exactly to the image of the Galilean miracle-working Hasid’.92 Moreover, Vermes asserts that Jesus was probably called ‘son of God’ in his lifetime and that he also thought of himself as one: ‘there is … no reason to contest the possibility, and even the great probability, that already during his life Jesus was spoken of and addressed by admiring believers as son of God’.93 His only argument for this is that ‘it was not unthinkable’ among the ancient hasidim to express their relation to God in father–son terminology.94 Vermes refers here to Honi calling himself ‘son of the house’ in m. Ta’an. 3:8.95 Honi’s selfreference in the Mishnah thus becomes an example of how the hasidim thought of themselves, which in turn is used to argue that Jesus thought of himself as son of God. In addition, Jesus’s belief in God as a father speaks for the possibility that he thought of himself as a son of God. Vermes concludes: ‘if the reasoning followed in these pages is correct, the earliest use of “son of God” in relation to Jesus derives from his activities as a miracle worker and exorcist, and from his own consciousness of an immediate and intimate contact with the heavenly Father’.96 In other words, it is the hasid theory that vouches for authenticity on this issue. Summary and Reflections on Vermes’s Methodology We have seen that Vermes describes the hasidim as charismatic miracle workers who addressed God as their father (or abba) and who saw themselves and were perceived by other people as sons of God. Most of them lived in Galilee or had connections there. Vermes remarks that the historical Jesus shares these features and proposes that he is best understood as one of the hasidim. In effect, Vermes not only presents Jesus as a miracle worker with a particular theology and a specific title but also a Jesus who is not unique. Other Jews, like Jesus, thought of God as their father and called him abba, and they were famous for their miraculous abilities. When Jesus is called ‘the son of God’, it marks him off as one of these 91. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 208, 209. 92. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 209. 93. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 209. 94. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 209, 210. 95. Cited like this in Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 209. 96. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 211.

Vermes’s Hasid Theory and Its Precursors

149

Jewish miracle workers. Hence, for Vermes, the New Testament title does not indicate that Jesus’s contemporaries saw him as the Messiah, as claimed in the Gospels, or as the second person of the Trinity, as in the Christian Creeds.97 They saw him as a hasid. So, while Vermes’s Jesus is thoroughly Jewish, he is not just any regular Jew: he operated within a particular kind of Jewish piety. His theology, deeds, and titles were not common to everyone, but set him off as a representative of a particular strand of Jewish men, the hasidim. The uniqueness of Jesus, commonly presumed by Vermes’s contemporaries, is certainly not part of his approach. So what method does Vermes use to establish the hasid theory? Fundamentally, the hasid theory builds upon similarities between historical figures presented in written stories about them. This opens two large methodological questions. First, what is authentic in the Gospels and what is authentic in rabbinic literature? Second, what is the relevance of the similarities that are found? Vermes does not describe the method of the hasid theory and he rarely discusses whether stories are authentic or inauthentic.98 He makes the leap from text to history without informing the reader precisely when and how this is done. In general, Vermes does not discuss the historical value of the stories, either the ones from rabbinic traditions or those from the Synoptics. Comments such as ‘this legend’ above 99 and ‘appear to be secondary accretions’100 still provide clues to his negative evaluation of some of them. The affirmative counterparts, such as ‘authentic’ or ‘historical’ rarely found (cf. Chapter 4, Section ‘Vermes’s Judaism in Jesus the Jew’). Nonetheless, Vermes uses the stories as if they reflect traits of the historical persons behind the traditions, for example, by making miracle working a point of comparison between the historical Jesus and the hasidim. So what is the logic behind Vermes’s work on this matter? Having looked at what texts Vermes uses, how he employs them in argument, and what he concludes from them, it is possible to say something more about his method, and the methodological reflections of Gerd Theissen and Dagmar Winter are helpful here. Parts of their criterion of historical plausibility, presented in 2002, cover many aspects of Vermes’s method. Theissen and Winter set out to do away with the criterion of double dissimilarity and focus on other criteria like the criterion of multiple attestation and the criterion of coherence. Their criterion of historical plausibility prioritizes material that ‘does fit into our (so far reconstructed) picture of Jesus 97. Vermes opens his book with a quotation from the Nicene Creed and remarks that his work will differ from its statements about Jesus; Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 15–17. 98. To be precise, Vermes defines his procedure for Jesus the Jew, where his aim is to ‘discover the original meaning’ of the Gospels, and ‘not to attempt to reconstruct the authentic portrait of Jesus’ (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 16, 19). Vermes goes against this aim by presenting the historical Jesus as a hasid. 99. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 208, where Hanina encounters a demon (b. Pes. 112b). 100. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 26, where Vermes’s examples are Jesus’s walking on water (Mark 6:45–52 par), the catch of fish (Luke 5:11) and the tax coin in the mouth of the fish (Matt. 17:24–26).

150

The Vermes Quest

and his Jewish context but is in tension with the tendencies of early Christianity, or is repeatedly found despite the variety of tendencies in the different streams of early Christianity’.101 This could just as well have been said about Vermes’s work. The criterion of historical plausibility entails different sub-criteria, one of which, called ‘contextual appropriateness’, puts into words Vermes’s logic for establishing authentic gospel material.102 The authors formulate the criterion as follows: ‘the better a tradition fits into the concrete context of Palestine and Galilee, the more claim it has to authenticity’.103 For Vermes, the rabbinic traditions are essential because they, in his reading, represent a genuine image of what could be expected within a first-century Galilean environment. The parts of the Jesus tradition that fit plausibly within this context are accepted as historical. My use of Theissen’s and Winter’s criterion may leave the impression that Vermes regards the existence of parallels between the Gospels and rabbinic literature a criterion of authenticity, and this observation needs a qualification. Vermes himself addresses the issue: ‘in particular, they [New Testament scholars] criticize a lack in my study of sufficient attention to a theory (any theory) of relationships between the Synoptic Gospels. I recognize a saying as authentic, they claim, if it has Jewish parallels. Although there is a grain of truth in this statement, it does not describe my stand correctly.’104 In my view, Vermes here presents a fair judgement of his own work. The parallels are indeed important to his constructions of Jesus, but parallels are not taken a priori as authentic. There are parallels between Hanina tradition and Jesus tradition that were known to Vermes and that he does not use for his hasid theory, likely because he does not regard those stories, such as miracles of transformation, as authentic.105 It is not perfectly clear why he disregards their authenticity, but it appears to be because of the stories’ legendary traits and their miraculous natures. Vermes does not exclude miracle stories per se from his portrait of the hasidim. One problem when dealing with the miracles of the Gospels, of course, is that most scholarship within the post-Enlightenment Western world does not countenance the possibility of miracles. When Vermes entered the debate, Jesus research was not much concerned with the question of Jesus’s actions and therefore paid little attention to the miracles. Scholars like Bultmann who did discuss his miracles tended to focus on the form of the miracle stories and whether they may have 101. Theissen and Winter, Plausible Jesus, 209. 102. Theissen and Winter, Plausible Jesus, 180–184. Vermes develops the hasid theory further and emphasizes the dissimilar traits of Jesus and the rabbinic figures. Vermes’s method thus corresponds to another of Theissen’s and Winter’s sub-criteria, namely ‘contextual distinctiveness’ (184–188). 103. Theissen and Winter, Plausible Jesus, 180. 104. Vermes, Jesus and the World of Judaism, ix. Vermes continues to explain that he will come back to this in a later book, which he does in Authentic Gospel. 105. Vermes, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 41, 42. Here Vermes refers to the parallel between the transformation of vinegar to oil in b. Ta’an. 25a and the transformation of water to wine in John 2:1–10.

Vermes’s Hasid Theory and Its Precursors

151

been influenced by Jewish or Hellenistic traditions. Vermes shares the outlook of his scholarly predecessors but still includes miracles into the genuine portrait of Jesus and the hasidim. The reason for this is that Vermes generally takes the outsider’s perspective, asking how Jesus and the hasidim were conceived by others, rather than seeking the ‘true’ nature of their actions. He is not concerned with what divine powers the hasidim may or may not have actually been in contact with. Rather, he reads the Gospels as witness to how Jesus was conceived by his contemporaries and likewise mutatis mutandis what the rabbinic sources demonstrate. He supposes that people at the time of Jesus expected miracles to happen and experienced their occurrence through the hasidim.106 Hence, Vermes finds a place for miracles in the ministry of Jesus without discussing what ‘really’ happened or why. In sum, the hasid theory opens a new way of depicting Jesus and with this portrait Vermes discusses aspects that became important features of the third quest: a positive description of Judaism and Jesus’s position firmly within it, attention to the diversity within Jewish practices and beliefs, the significance of Jesus’s geographical roots in Galilee, and not least debates about Jesus’s roles within Jewish-Palestinian society. Vermes’s outsider perspective and discussions about Jesus’s miracles have become conventional within the third quest. Many contemporary scholars share the conviction that miracle working was part of Jesus’s ministry. Although aspects embedded in Vermes’s work with the hasid theory became conventional in third quest Jesus research, the majority of scholars rejected that theory itself. In the following chapter, we look into the details of the scholarly reception of Vermes’s theory.

106. Vermes is certainly not alone in this perspective; it has for instance similarities with Bultmann’s recommendations; see Rudolf Bultmann, ‘Is Exegesis without Presuppositions Possible?’, in The Hermeneutics Reader (ed. K. Mueller-Vollmer; Oxford: Basil Maxwell, 1985 [1957]), 242–248, 244. Moreover, Max Weber has a similar sociological approach to the charismatics. Weber writes: ‘those “heros” and “magicians” proved their charisma in the eyes of their adherents. They practiced their arts, and they exercised their authority, by virtue of this “gift” (“charisma”) and, where the idea of God had already been clearly established, by virtue of the Divine mission inherent in their ability’ (Weber, Economy and Society, 1112).

Chapter 10 T H E HAS I D   T H E O RY W I T H I N J E SU S R E SE A R C H AFTER 1973 In order to assess Vermes’s significance within the third quest, the present chapter analyses how his hasid theory made an impact upon other Jesus scholars and how Vermes himself wrote about it after 1973. The limits of this study preclude an exhaustive catalogue of the reception history of all aspects of the hasid theory (cf. Chapter 9). I have therefore chosen to focus on its basic question: the relevance of the rabbinic hasidim for Jesus research. One aspect of this assessment is quantitative and pertains to the number of responses, their length, and the longevity of the discussions on the hasid theory. There have been extensive treatments of the theory alongside briefer remarks from renowned scholars and from less well-known participants in the quest. More important for the question of significance, however, is the qualitative aspect. This chapter presents evaluations of Vermes’s conclusions, their alleged weaknesses, suggested benefits, and potential for improvements. I look for the arguments that have been posed against Vermes and the ways that scholars have made active use of them in their own work.1 By looking into the ways that scholars of the third quest argue and the methods they approve of, this chapter sheds light upon how one part of third quest debate has been carried out. To a great extent, the opinions that are examined in this chapter have to do with typical third quest markers. They deal with the historian’s approach to Jesus, first-century Judaism, the Jewishness of Jesus, the relevance of rabbinic sources for identifying Jesus’s contemporaries, and similarities between Jesus and other attested figures. Scholars who discuss the hasid theory take different approaches to it. Some focus on the historical level and discuss whether or how the rabbinic sources that are used by Vermes represent Judaism at the time of Jesus. They discuss his employment of the category of the hasidim and his depiction of the historical Hanina and Honi on the basis of these sources. Others focus on the literary level 1. This survey does not include scholars who merely refer to Vermes’s points without taking considered positions. Although these works potentially bring the hasid theory to new readers and hence may both reveal and add to the significance of the theory, it is difficult to draw any conclusions about its significance based on brief allusions. However, the absence of such terse references in this survey likely means that Vermes’s theory has actually reached farther than what is examined here.

154

The Vermes Quest

and discuss how traditions about Jesus, Honi, and Hanina display similarity and difference among them. Some scholars combine the two approaches. In the following, I begin with an overview of the quantitative aspects of the reception and continue with the qualitative aspect, structured according to these historical and literary approaches. Moreover, I add perspectives from Vermes’s books after 1973, focusing on how he clarifies his opinions and responds to scholarly critique. I aim to depict the mixed reception of the theory within scholarship and Vermes’s interaction with the responses.

The Debate on Vermes’s Hasid Theory Before approaching the hasid theory within Jesus research, it is worth noting that waves created from the theory rolled into other fields as well, first and foremost into non-scholarly circles. One example of this is a number of lectures that Vermes held, aimed at a non-scholarly audience. For instance, he gave the Claude Goldsmid Montefiore lecture at the Liberal Synagogue in London in 1974 and the Riddell Memorial lectures in 1981.2 In 1984, the Channel 4 documentary Jesus, the Evidence presented Jesus as a hasid.3 This TV production gained much attention in Great Britain even before it was aired.4 The documentary is based on Ian Wilson’s Jesus, the Evidence, which is a book that also advocates a hasid theory.5 Other books do the same thing. In Jesus: A Life, A. N. Wilson credits his Jesus image mainly to Vermes’s earlier representation and even names his first chapter ‘Jesus the Jew’. Wilson describes the historical Jesus as a hasid.6 The fact that the hasid 2. The first lecture was held in the synagogue where Vermes was a member and the other lectures were held at the University of Newcastle where he was employed from 1957 to 1965. 3. All three parts of the TV documentary are still available online. See for example, MuslimbyChoice, ‘Jesus the Evidence (Episode One – 1 of 3)’, n.p. [accessed 10 November 2014]. Online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSLjVCcZ4Jk; Emananjo Nwadiei, ‘Jesus the Evidence Episode 2 of 3’, n.p. [accessed 10 November 2014]. Online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YxoeBzC4CE; Emananjo Nwadiei, ‘Jesus the Evidence Episode 3 of 3’, n.p. [accessed 10  November  2014]. Online: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=iUywIdr9ems. The hasidim are described in Episode Two, and Vermes himself explains parts of the theory (time: 16:13–20:00 in the clip cited above). 4. Vermes describes his work with the documentary and the travails it caused (Vermes, Real Jesus, 63–69), originally published in Lycidas (Wolfson College, Oxford, 1986). James D. G. Dunn wrote a book in response to the documentary, but did not address the hasid theory there (James D. G. Dunn, The Evidence for Jesus: The Impact of Scholarship on our Understanding of How Christianity Began [London: SCM Press, 1985]). 5. Ian Wilson, Jesus: The Evidence (New York: Harper & Row, 1984). 6. A. N. Wilson, Jesus: A Life (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1992). Later, Wilson denounced his views in a newspaper article: ‘I was seduced by his book Jesus the Jew (1973) and by the charm of Vermes himself, but now I am ashamed of the book about Jesus which I wrote when under the influence’, cf. A. N. Wilson, ‘Jesus Is Ill-Served by This

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

155

theory spread beyond the ranks of New Testament scholars might have impacted on the scholarly interest in discussing Vermes’s theory. Such significance is either very difficult or impossible to ascertain, however, and I make no effort to establish or disprove it. To a lesser though not insignificant extent, Vermes’s theory is reflected in rabbinic studies within research on the rabbinic hasidim and in studies concerned with the traditions of Hanina ben Dosa and Honi the Circle-Drawer. One example is Shmuel Safrai’s article about the rabbinic hasidim, ‘The Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature’. This article was first published in 1965, years before Vermes’s Jesus the Jew, though Safrai revised and republished it about thirty years later. In the new version, Jesus of Nazareth is included among the hasidim.7 It is however not clear whether it is primarily Vermes’s theory that has left its mark here, since David Flusser also drew on the Hanina traditions in his book Jesus from 1968. Other examples of rabbinic scholars who have discussed Vermes’s suggestions are Dennis Berman, William Scott Green, and Baruch M. Bokser. It is not within the aims of this study to trace Vermes’s influence on rabbinic scholarship or popular works. Nonetheless, contributions by these three rabbinic scholars must be addressed in the following, because they influenced the reception of Vermes’s theory within Jesus research.8 Though Jesus the Jew was quickly noticed by a popular audience in Britain, it took some time before the book and the hasid theory left their marks on Jesus research. At first, it was mainly rabbinic experts who addressed Vermes’s proposals. In the 1970s, Berman and Green questioned Vermes’s categorization

Literary Detective’, n.p. [accessed 10 November 2014]. Online: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ comment/columnists/anwilson/3556252/Jesus-is-ill-served-by-this-literary-detective.html 7. Safrai, ‘Teaching of Pietists’; Shmuel Safrai, ‘Jesus and the Hasidim’, Jerusalem Perspective Online (2004, revised 2008): 1–27. Vermes notes this change, without taking credit for it (Vermes, Providential Accidents, 222 = Vermes, Jesus in His Jewish Context, 137). Another example is Alan J. Avery-Peck’s work with the Talmudic Hanina and Honi traditions. Avery-Peck briefly describes the hasid theory without critical remarks (Alan J. Avery-Peck, ‘The Galilean Charismatic and Rabbinic Piety: The Holy Man in the Talmudic Literature’, in The Historical Jesus in Context [eds. Amy-Jill Levine, Dale C. AllisonJr., and John D. Crossan; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006], 149–165, 152). Nils Martola, ‘Vermes’ Jesus the Jew after Twenty-Five Years’, in Approaches to Ancient Judaism (ed. Jacob Neusner; SFSHJ 110; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995), 189–201 presents aspects of the hasid theory in the context of Judaic studies. 8. Green’s and Bokser’s doctorates are from Brown University, where Vermes lectured for one semester (1971) and visited several times in the 1970s (Vermes, Providential Accidents, 172). Vermes was invited by Jacob Neusner, the mentor of Green and Bokser. However, Jacob Neusner’s 1975 book that discusses similarities between rabbinic and New Testament miracle stories including Hanina and Honi traditions does not mention Vermes’s suggestions from 1973 (Jacob Neusner, Early Rabbinic Judaism: Historical Studies in Religion, Literature and Art [SJLA 13; Leiden: Brill, 1975], 122, 123).

156

The Vermes Quest

of the hasidim and his use of some relatively late texts to depict first-century Judaism. The hasid theory gained little attention among New Testament scholars during this period.9 Things changed in the 1980s, along with a general increase of interest in the question of the historical Jesus, more New Testament scholars began to interact with the hasid theory. The critique of Vermes’s use of the rabbinic material seems to have fuelled further debate. Quite a few voices, some quite significant, consider Vermes’s hasid theory worth discussing, and the theory is found within assessments/overviews of research history and within Jesus research proper. In the following, I list the different contributors and indicate the contributions to research history by including titles: Sean Freyne (1980),10 Jean-Marie Van Cangh (1984),11 Donald A. Hagner (in The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus, 1984),12 Marcus Borg (1984 and 1987),13 E. P. Sanders (1985),14 Benjamin Hubbard (in the SBL-paper ‘Geza Vermes’s Contribution to Historical Jesus Studies: An Assessment’, 1985),15 Howard Clark Kee (1986),16 and Paula Fredriksen (1988).17 Vermes himself contributes with two new books on Jesus in the early 1980s: The Gospel of Jesus the Jew (1981) and Jesus and the World of Judaism (1983).

9. Apart from a few comments on the theory in book reviews (cf. Chapter 5, Section ‘Reviews of Jesus the Jew from the 1970s’), there is hardly any mention of Vermes’s theory within New Testament scholarship of the 1970s. For instance, James D. G. Dunn’s 1975 volume Jesus and the Spirit touches upon elements from the hasid theory, but Vermes’s suggestions are never dealt with in the main text of the book. Most remarkably, Dunn does not discuss Vermes’s theory under the paragraph called ‘Was Jesus a Charismatic?’ even when he addresses the issue of ‘Jesus as a charismatic miracle worker’ (James Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit: A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament [London: SCM Press, 1975], 68–76). 10. Sean Freyne, Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian 323 B.C.E to 135 C.E: A Study of Second Temple Judaism (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1980), 330–333; Sean Freyne, ‘The Charismatic’, in Ideal Figures in Ancient Judaism: Profiles and Paradigms (eds. John J. Collins and George W. E. Nickelsburg; SCS; Chico: Scholars Press, 1980), 223–253. 11. Jean-Marie Van Cangh, ‘Miracles de rabbins et les miracles de Jésus’, Revue théologique de Louvain 15 (1984): 28–53. Jesus the Jew had been published in French some years earlier (Geza Vermes, Jésus le Juif [Paris: Desclée, 1978]). 12. Hagner, Jewish Reclamation, 236, 237. 13. Marcus J. Borg, Conflict, Holiness, and Politics in the Teachings of Jesus (SBEC 5; Leviston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1984), 73; Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: A New Vision (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1987). 14. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 53, 54, 170. 15. Hubbard, ‘Vermes’s Contribution’, 42, 43. 16. Howard Clark Kee, Medicine, Miracle and Magic in New Testament Times (SNTSMS 55; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 76, 80–83. 17. Paula Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 91, 92.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

157

In the 1990s, the hasid theory gained even more attention among Jesus scholars; there are works by Ben Witherington (1990, 1997),18 John Dominic Crossan (1991),19 Bruce Chilton (1992),20 E. P. Sanders (1993),21 Graham H. Twelftree (1993, 1999),22 John P. Meier (1994),23 Barry L. Blackburn (in Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research, 1994),24 Craig A. Evans (1995),25 Gerd Theissen and Annette Mertz (in The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, 1996 [ET 1998]),26 and Larry Hurtado (in ‘A Taxonomy of Recent Historical-Jesus Work’, 1997).27 These responses largely take exception to Vermes’s theory, but some scholars make note of valuable aspects in the arguments. A few of them build further on Vermes’s work and add new perspectives. Vermes himself published one new book on Jesus during this decade, The Religion of Jesus the Jew (1993), in which he upholds the hasid theory as a framework for his constructions, but puts more effort into other aspects of the figure of Jesus. Since the turn of the millennium, few scholars have addressed the hasid theory. Most of the contributions to the hasid theory at this stage come from Vermes himself; he makes brief remarks on the hasid theory in The Changing Faces of Jesus (2000), Jesus in His Jewish Context (2003), Searching for the Real Jesus: Jesus, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Religious Themes (2009), and Jesus 18. Ben Witherington III, The Christology of Jesus (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 182, 183; Witherington, Jesus Quest, 108–112. 19. Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 137–167. 20. Bruce Chilton, The Temple of Jesus: His Sacrificial Program within a Cultural History of Sacrifice (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992), 92, n. 5. Chilton’s arguments are minor, though relevant, because they are expanded by Craig A. Evans some years later. Chilton challenges Vermes’s assertion of the hasidim as a group, known for their miracles and distinguishable from other rabbis, pointing out that the epithet hasid is used in rabbinic literature to designate Hillel the Elder. In addition, he remarks that rabbinic sources describe Hanina ben Dosa as a teacher. 21. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus. 22. Graham H. Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist: A Contribution to the Study of the Historical Jesus (WUNT 2/54; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1993); Graham H. Twelftree, Jesus the Miracle Worker: A Historical and Theological Study (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999). 23. Meier, A Marginal Jew, vol. 2. 24. Barry L. Blackburn, ‘The Miracles of Jesus’, in Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research (eds. Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans; New Testament Tools and Studies; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 375–379. 25. Evans, Contemporaries, 227–243. A shortened version of this text is included in Craig A. Evans, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005), 424–430. In the original version, Evans quotes and translates relevant rabbinic texts and texts from Josephus. 26. Theissen and Merz, The Historical Jesus, 307, 308. Short summaries of Vermes’s hasid theory are also found elsewhere in the volume (190 and 289). 27. Hurtado, ‘Taxonomy’, 278, 279.

158

The Vermes Quest

and the Jewish World (2010).28 The exception here is his final book on Jesus, Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea, AD 30–325 (2012), where the first two chapters, called ‘Charismatic Judaism from Moses to Jesus’ and ‘The Charismatic Religion of Jesus’ delineate features of the hasid theory.29 However, Vermes shapes his arguments quite differently at the end of his career than he did at the beginning. Aside from Vermes, only a few scholars comment on the hasid theory after 2000. Shorter comments are made by Reidar Hvalvik (in Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus, 2008)30 and Craig Keener (2009 and 2011),31 while two extensive evaluations of the hasid theory did appear: One chapter of Eric Eve’s doctoral thesis (2002) on the Jewish context of Jesus’s miracles32 and one article by Dan Jaffé in NTS, where he ‘revisits’ Vermes’s and Safrai’s linking of Jesus and the hasidim (2009).33 The simple fact that a scholar returns an old issue does not in itself say much about the significance of the topic, but when the article is published in a prominent New Testament journal, it does signal that the hasid theory is still considered to be worth discussing. Moreover, such an article may add to its significance. To my knowledge, though, Jaffé’s revisiting of the hasid theory has not inspired any renewed interest in it. Eric Eve’s treatment of Vermes’s hasid theory is among the most extensive. He dedicates one chapter, called ‘Charismatic Holy Men’, to the discussion of the parallels between Jesus and rabbinic miracle workers. It shows that Vermes’s theory was considered relevant to a certain degree, nearly thirty years after its first appearance. Still, Eve’s chapter can be seen as an exception: the low frequency of contemporary references suggests that the hasid theory is past its heyday. In the 1990s, the hasid theory has become one of the viewpoints that are expected

28. The lessened interest in the hasid theory is also suggested by Vermes’s Who’s Who in the Age of Jesus from 2005. Here, Jesus is presented as a Jew but not specifically as a hasid. Vermes draws no line between Jesus and the hasidim in this publication. The same can be said for the trilogy from 2005, 2006, and 2008: The Passion, The Resurrection, and the Nativity. The hasid theory is not reflected at all in these publications. 29. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 1–60. 30. Hvalvik, ‘Vermes, Geza’, 669. 31. Keener, Historical Jesus, 40, 41, 242, 243; Craig S. Keener, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), 59–60, 63, 75, 76. The references are minor, though a lot more substantial than for instances Maurice Casey, whose 2010 book on the historical Jesus is comparable to Keener’s book by way of theme and size. Casey, Jesus, 14, spends three sentences on the theory. Keener appears to be influenced by Eve’s work on and critique of Vermes. 32. Eric Eve, The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles (JSNTSupp  231; London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002). 33. Dan Jaffé, ‘L’Identification de Jésus au Modèle du Hasid Charismatique Galiléen: Les Thèses de Geza Vermes et de Shmuel Safrai Revisitées’, NTS 55 (2009): 218–246.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

159

to be mentioned whenever Vermes or Jesus’s miracles are debated. Several of the treatments noted above suggest the same.34 There is one noteworthy aspect of the debate that needs to be commented before we move on: very few responses to the hasid theory address Vermes’s interpretation of the Gospels or his representation of the historical Jesus. In general, Vermes’s critics share many of his suggestions about Jesus. The Galilean miracle-working, abba-praying Jew has proved a strong argument. Ben Witherington notes this explicitly: ‘we would not dispute either that Jesus was a miracle worker, or that he addressed God as abba and had an intimate relationship with the Father, or that his authority was charismatic and immediate, not being derived from his education or training in Torah and Jewish costumes’.35 In fact, I have not been able to trace any dissenting voices that address these parts of the hasid theory. The reception of Vermes’s theory pertains to his use of the hasid category, his depiction of the historical Hanina and the historical Honi, and discussions of the relevance of comparing rabbinic traditions and the Gospels and the accuracy of suggested parallel traits between Hanina, Honi, and Jesus.

Approaches to Vermes’s Terminology and Categorization Challenges to Vermes’s Categorization Vermes’s labelling of Jesus as a hasid has been met largely with opposition, and scholars respond to two aspects of the labelling: the way the hasidim are described in the rabbinic sources and the challenges for using these sources to portray a group of miracle-working Galileans in the first century.36 Both issues were first introduced into the debate by rabbinic scholar Dennis Berman. Berman’s primary concern is how the term hasid is employed in the rabbinica and to a lesser extent the historical relevance of the hasid texts. Berman’s critique was delivered in the 1979 SBL paper ‘Hasidim in Rabbinic Traditions’.37 The paper builds on Berman’s doctoral thesis on the rabbinic 34. See for instance, Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, 304, n. 4. Sanders refers to Vermes like this: ‘On Hanina and Honi, and their significance for understanding Jesus, see Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 1973, 69–82.’ Moreover, the inclusion of Vermes’s theory in the overview of research on Jesus’s miracles suggests the same. See Blackburn, ‘Miracles’, 375–379; Theissen and Merz, The Historical Jesus, 307, 308. 35. Witherington, Jesus Quest, 112. 36. Ben Witherington and Graham H. Twelftree are among those scholars who have taken issue with Vermes’s categorization of Jesus as a hasid. However, they have a different understanding than Vermes of what the hasid concept entails and their negative judgement is therefore of less relevance to Vermes’s work. Witherington’s understanding of the rabbinic hasidim is informed by S. Safrai’s work (Witherington III, The Christology of Jesus, 182); Twelftree uses rabbi synonymously with hasid (Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist, 211). 37. Dennis Berman, ‘Hasidim in Rabbinic Traditions’, in SBL Seminar Papers (ed. Paul J. Achtemeier; Missoula: Scholars Press, 1979), 15–33.

160

The Vermes Quest

hasidim and interacts with Vermes’s view from Jesus the Jew along with the outlooks of several rabbinic scholars.38 He challenges Vermes’s understanding of the rabbinic hasidim as miracle workers. As we have seen, Vermes uses the terms ‘pious’ (hasidim) and ‘men of deed’ (anshe ma’aseh) synonymously as references to a group of miracle workers. Berman agrees with Vermes that the term ‘men of deed’ denotes miracle workers,39 but notes that some sources distinguish between the hasid and the man of deed. 40 Consequently, according to Berman, the question of whether miracle working is characteristic of the hasidim cannot be solved with the help of the term ‘man of deed’.41 Where does this leave Vermes’s assertion that the hasidim were miracle workers? Berman remarks that some rabbinic sources label certain miracle workers as hasidim. For instance, Hanina ben Dosa is known for his miracles and is called hasid (y. Sotah 23b). Moreover, there is one ‘certain pious’ (hasid ehad) who is known for having performed a rain miracle (t. Ta’an. 2:13).42 However, unlike Vermes, Berman asserts that the rabbinic connection between the label hasid and the performance of miracles is incidental. Rabbinic figures have different roles, he argues, and these roles are not connected by necessity. The same is true for the hasidim: ‘in dealing with the sources it is necessary to carefully distinguish those qualities and activities which characterize the hasid qua hasid from those which probably reflect other … roles’.43 This leads us to a related insight from Berman’s paper, namely his understanding of the hasidût of the hasidim. If the hasidim were not miracle workers, what were their ‘deeds’? Berman answers: ‘in various contexts it has the sense of kindness, mercifulness, total honesty and scrupulous regard for the Law’.44 He presents the latter quality as the one with the greatest importance; strict adherence to Torah is the main characteristic of the hasid.45 Berman continues: ‘The hasid is zealous in ritual observance and scrupulous in his conduct; he is intensely devout and perfectly righteous.’46 This definition is not merely different from Vermes’s view of the hasidim as miracle workers. It is quite the opposite of his description of the hasidim’s relation to halakhic matters. As we have seen, Vermes asserts that ‘the Hasidim in general showed a complete lack of interest in legal and ritual 38. Berman is critical of various aspects of earlier work, notably contributions by Büchler, Safrai, and Vermes. 39. Berman, ‘Hasidim’, 24, n. 38. 40. Berman, ‘Hasidim’, 17, 24, n. 38 argues briefly from m. Suk. 5:4 (par), b. San. 97a; m. Sotah 9:15. 41. Berman, ‘Hasidim’, 17. 42. Berman, ‘Hasidim’, 17. 43. Berman, ‘Hasidim’, 17. Berman explicitly refers to what he sees as a flaw in Vermes’s work among others in this respect. 44. Berman, ‘Hasidim’, 16. 45. Berman, ‘Hasidim’, 16. 46. Berman, ‘Hasidim’, 17.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

161

affairs’.47 In truth, Vermes points out that the rabbinic material testifies to Hanina’s strict observance of ritual affairs and writes that ‘the primary rabbinic tradition represents Hanina as a man of extraordinary devotion’.48 Nonetheless, in contrast to Berman, Vermes asserts that halakhah was not the centre of the hasid’s religious approach.49 Furthermore, Berman does not see the rabbinic phrase ‘the ancient hasidim’ (hasidim harishonim) as a reference to any specific group of pious men. This has direct relevance for Vermes’s work on Jesus’s prayer to God as father. Vermes uses the story from m. Ber. 5.1 to illustrate that the ancient hasidim prayed to their father in heaven. It is the term hasidim harishonim that is used here. In Berman’s view, the rabbis distinguished between the ancient hasidim and the pious of their own day and glorified those from the past.50 What connects the ancient hasidim is simply the time in which they flourished. Vermes, on the other hand, sees the term ancient hasidim as a title for a group within Jewish piety. He treats the hasidim as part of a charismatic stream within Judaism, a Northern phenomenon with roots back to Elijah. If Berman is right, the saying in m. Ber. 5.1 cannot be used to say something about specific people like Hanina and Honi, but is rather a generalizing reference to devout people in the past. Finally, Berman touches upon the historical value of the hasid tales, that is, rabbinic tales that are introduced as ‘deeds of a certain hasid’ (ma’aseh behasid ehad). These stories, Berman claims, mirror primarily the time of the text’s redaction. They aim not to represent the time in which the pious man lived or even to report on the pious man himself. In contrast, Berman writes that ‘the hasid tales usually function as exempla, that is anecdotes which point to a moral, illustrate Scriptural verse or sustain an argument … the historical relevance of these tales lies primarily in their accurate portrayal of the image of the hasid held by the Jews who created them’.51 These stories are thus of limited value for those interested in first-century Palestine. They are primarily didactic rather than historical narratives. Vermes himself is actually familiar with this way of thinking; in Jesus the Jew, he writes that ‘the entire rabbinic tradition has passed through the channel of “orthodoxy”’52 He also describes some traditions about Hanina as a wonder worker as ‘secondary accretions’.53 However, Vermes does not make clear what he sees as historical traits within the traditions that he employs in Jesus the Jew, but uses stories about the hasidim without attention to Berman’s point. Besides, Vermes never details any methodological considerations about how to deal with historical aspects of the rabbinic texts. In sum, Vermes’s construction 47. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 77. 48. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 73. 49. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 80, 81. 50. Berman, ‘Hasidim’, 18; cf. 26, n. 49, 50. Berman argues that biblical figures were called hasidim: for example, Adam (b. Erub. 18b) and Abraham (ARNa 8). Hanina ben Dosa is also mentioned in the context of the latter text. 51. Berman, ‘Hasidim’, 18, 19. 52. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 80. 53. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 73.

162

The Vermes Quest

of a group of hasidim from rabbinic sources, in which Jesus would fit perfectly, is seriously challenged by Berman’s paper. Berman’s observations have been repeated and supplemented within Jesus research. In The Temple of Jesus from 1992, Bruce Chilton includes a brief note on Vermes’s descriptions of the hasidim.54 Here, he challenges Vermes’s assertion of the hasidim as a group known for their miracles and distinguishable from other rabbis. Chilton points out that the epithet hasid is used in rabbinic literature to designate Hillel the Elder. In addition, Chilton remarks that rabbinic sources describe Hanina ben Dosa as a teacher. These brief remarks are made in a footnote and hence bring little to the assessment of Vermes’s significance. Still, they are worth mentioning here, because Craig A. Evans (1995) includes and extends Chilton’s critique. According to Evans, Vermes’s distinction between the holy men as miracle workers and other rabbis as teachers is tenuous. He points out that miracles are attributed to rabbis that are not part of Vermes’s list: R. Simeon ben Yohai performs an exorcism (b. Meil. 17b) and ‘several rabbis’, like Eliezer, Aqiba, Judah the Prince, and Joshua ben Levi brought rain through their prayer (b. Ta’an. 24a–25b). Furthermore, Evans writes that rabbis who are not miracle workers are presented as hasidim. He notes the point, from Chilton, that there are no miracles attributed to Rabbi Hillel the Elder, who is nonetheless denoted hasid (e.g. t. Sotah 13:3). Finally, Evans argues that Hanina ben Dosa and Honi are known as teachers. Hanina is the student of Johanan ben Zakkai (b. Ber. 34b) and has teachings attributed to him (e.g. b. Ber. 33a). Honi is remembered for what Evans calls ‘his academic skills’ (b. Ta’an. 23a).55 The line between the hasidim and the rabbis is not as clear-cut as indicated by Vermes. In a similar vein, Dan Jaffé (2009) gives examples of texts where the ability to perform exorcism, to heal, and to control natural phenomena are attributed to people outside the ranks of Vermes’s hasidim (b. Meil. 17b, b. Ta’an. 24a, and b. Ta’an. 25ab). Jaffé suggests that Pharisaism at large included miracle workers like Jesus and Hanina.56 Eric Eve (2002) takes a notably different approach to Vermes’s categorization, questioning his reference to the men of deeds as miracle workers. For one, Eve holds that ‘the phrase “men of deed” might then include “miracle workers”, but is by no means restricted to them’.57 He argues along the lines of Berman that one specific feature in the portrayal of a rabbinic figure is not necessarily inherent in that figure’s category. Berman makes this argument in relation to the understanding of the hasidim, but as Eve rightly notices, it is equally legitimate in the discussion of the men of deed. Second, Eve criticizes Vermes’s interpretation of man of deed (m. Sotah 9:15) as ‘miracle worker’ on linguistic grounds.58 As we have seen, Vermes argues from the reference to deeds (ἔργα) in the Gospels that 54. Chilton, The Temple of Jesus, 92, n. 5. 55. Evans, Contemporaries, 241–243. 56. Jaffé, ‘Jésus au Modèle du Hasid’, 23, 24. 57. Eve, Context of Jesus’ Miracles, 293. 58. Eve, Context of Jesus’ Miracles, 292–294.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

163

the deeds (ma’aseh) within the rabbinic text should be understood as miracles. Eve posits that one simply cannot make such broad transferences between languages, at least not when the Hebrew combines men of deed (anshe ma’aseh), whereas the New Testament does not document any similar term, like ‘άνθρώπος ἔργων’ or ‘άνήρ ἔργων’. Besides, Eve argues that when Josephus refers to Jesus’s deeds, he qualifies the deeds (ἔργων) of Jesus as miraculous by the word παραδόξων. These arguments against Vermes’s use of the hasid category are substantial, and as far as I am aware, no Jesus scholar has adopted Vermes’s description of Jesus as a hasid.59 However, Sean Freyne, Marcus Borg, and Paula Fredriksen have, in different ways, employed his idea of a larger category of charismatics in the first century, though they do not use the label hasidim. Endorsements of Vermes’s Terminology Sean Freyne conducts the first substantial treatment of Vermes’s suggestions within New Testament scholarship in two 1980 publications. Remarkably, the two efforts differ in attitude towards Vermes’s suggestions. In the book Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian (1980), Freyne is fairly sympathetic to the hasid theory and incorporates some of Vermes’s suggestions from Jesus the Jew. Here, Freyne discusses the social role of Hanina ben Dosa as a Jewish charismatic in the mid first century, describing him as a miracle worker and a hasid. Freyne adopts Vermes’s link between Hanina and Elijah and writes that there might have been a special interest in the Elijah traditions in Galilee.60 He also describes the holy men of Galilee as persons with power over spirits, illness, and nature, thereby representing a certain opposition to the religious establishment and the temple in Jerusalem.61 Although Freyne criticizes Vermes for reducing Jesus ‘to simply being a hasid’, Freyne agrees with Vermes that the Galilean hasidim, represented by rabbinic traditions about Hanina ben Dosa, might shed light on why Jesus was popular in Galilee.62 He thus does not adhere to Vermes’s suggestions about Jesus, but still incorporates many of Vermes’s assertions into his own work. Freyne’s article ‘The Charismatic’ takes a much more critical approach to Vermes’s hasid theory than his book.63 In the article, Freyne takes issue with Vermes’s suggestion that the historical figures of Hanina and Jesus were known as hasidim and denounces the historicity of some of the stories that Vermes uses 59. Ben Witherington does come close, stating that ‘there are enough parallels to prove that Jesus would have been seen by many as a hasid’ (Witherington III, The Christology of Jesus, 183). Ultimately, however, he does not find the categorization adequate. 60. Freyne, Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian, 331, 332. 61. Freyne, Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian, 333. 62. Freyne, Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian, 330. 63. Freyne, ‘The Charismatic’, in Ideal Figures. This article is republished in Sean Freyne, Galilee and Gospel: Collected Essays (WUNT 125; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000). Here Freyne has added one footnote to report on Vermes’s newer publications; otherwise the texts are identical.

164

The Vermes Quest

as corroboration of the parallels between the men. With reference to William S. Green’s work on the Honi traditions (see below), Freyne argues that the rabbis transformed this Galilean hero into a literary figure in their own cast, preserving the miraculous feats and adding their own traits of piety. Freyne notes that the older sources portray Hanina as a man of deed, and thus ascribes the hasid label to a later stage of development.64 Freyne points out that the presentation of Hanina in relation to the famous rabbis Gamaliel and Johanan ben Zakkai, as well as the allusion to the prayer posture of Elijah in b. Ber. 34b, is found on the late stage of the rabbinization process,65 so they are not likely to represent parallels between the historical Hanina and the historical Jesus. In line with Vermes, Freyne places the historical Hanina within a pre-70 C.E. context.66 He also agrees with Vermes that Hanina’s role as an Elijah-style charismatic healer and rain maker ‘is likely to be the earliest stratum of tradition’.67 However, Freyne does not see Hanina as hasid, but as a representative of the men of deed, which he apparently sees as a social role within first-century Judaism. He suggests that the men of deed played a particular role in Galilean society: ‘even though as transmitted the stories are demonstratively addressed to later concerns, there can be little doubt that behind them lies a Galilean figure of some stature among his contemporaries because he fulfilled a real need in their lives’.68 The men of deed were links between the people there and the religious centre in Jerusalem. They provided the people with ‘the power and presence of the temple’.69 Freyne does not specify exactly how the men of deed performed this role. Moreover, Freyne finds it plausible that Hanina’s deeds were interpreted eschatologically, as ‘signs of a new age that all eagerly awaited’.70 Hence, Freyne’s image of Hanina as a man of deed has significant similarities with the Gospels’ image of a miracle-working Jesus. Freyne also comes close to Vermes’s image of Jesus, though without the label hasid. He remarks, however, that there is no proper evidence to suggest that Hanina created a community, as Jesus did.71 There is therefore no evidence to suggest that Hanina was a wandering charismatic like Jesus, Freyne argues. According to Freyne, there is not enough evidence to suggest that there is in fact such a type as the ‘charismatic’ in first-century Judaism. In sum, Freyne sees Hanina ben Dosa as one of the men of deed, quite similar to Vermes’s descriptions of the hasidim. However, he does not see Hanina as the representative of a type that could shed light upon the historical Jesus.

64. Freyne, ‘The Charismatic’, in Ideal Figures, 236, 238–241. 65. Freyne, ‘The Charismatic’, in Ideal Figures, 232, 241, 242. 66. Freyne, ‘The Charismatic’, in Ideal Figures, 242. This is done with reference to the works of Neusner and Vermes. 67. Freyne, ‘The Charismatic’, in Ideal Figures, 244. 68. Freyne, ‘The Charismatic’, in Ideal Figures, 244. 69. Freyne, ‘The Charismatic’, in Ideal Figures, 243, 244. 70. Freyne, ‘The Charismatic’, in Ideal Figures, 243. 71. Freyne, ‘The Charismatic’, in Ideal Figures, 243.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

165

Marcus Borg’s 1984 book Conflict, Holiness, and Politics in the Teachings of Jesus represents a slightly more positive approach to Vermes’s theory than what we have seen so far.72 Borg describes Jesus in terms that are clearly influenced by Vermes: ‘Jesus appeared in history as a holy man, one of a number of Jewish holy men roughly contemporary with him.’73 Borg’s footnote confirms his reliance on Vermes’s work for this statement. This is thus a relatively rare example of Vermes’s direct impact upon another scholar, though the hasid category is not employed. Paula Fredriksen follows a similar lead when she describes Jesus, Hanina, and Honi as ‘charismatics’ though not as hasidim.74 John D. Crossan gives credit to Vermes for his suggestions in Jesus the Jew: ‘Geza Vermes has made a strong case for a “holy man” or hasid tradition within “charismatic Judaism”, a specifically northern or Galilean tradition, stemming from Elijah and Elisha, and including not only Honi and Hanina, but Jesus of Nazareth as well.’75 These words of praise do not however imply Crossan’s affirmation of the theory as a whole. Crossan uses the term ‘holy men’ but actually prefers the label ‘magicians’ (see below).76 Borg, Fredriksen, and Crossan are important distributors of Vermes’s hasid theory, although they certainly do not endorse every aspect of it.

Vermes’s Work on the Hasid Category in the 1980s and 1990s In light of the works examined so far, it is remarkable that Vermes’s books from the 1980s reveal no traces of the critique that had been levelled against the hasid theory. Apparently undisturbed by Berman’s considerations, Vermes still works from the assumption that there was such a group as the hasidim by the time of Jesus and that stories about Hanina, Honi, and others might well illustrate hasidic features. Berman’s article is not referred to at all. Vermes continues to describe Jesus as a hasid but does not argue in depth for that position. The first chapter of Jesus and the World of Judaism (1983) is called ‘Jesus the Jew’, and sums up the content of the book by the same name.77 The hasid theory

72. The book is a re-writing of Borg’s doctoral thesis, which he wrote under the supervision of George Caird at Oxford. 73. Borg, Conflict, Holiness, and Politics, 5, 73. In the revised edition from 1998, the statement is extended: ‘Jesus appeared in history as a “holy man”, or “Spirit person”, to use the term I prefer. He was one of a number of Jewish “holy men” or “Spirit persons” roughly contemporary with him.’ The fact that Borg’s preferred term is not connected to Vermes’s books does not alter the indebtedness of such a statement to the hasid theory. 74. Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ, 91, 92. 75. Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 156. 76. Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 305. 77. Vermes, Jesus and the World of Judaism, 1–14. Jesus and the World of Judaism (1983) includes a reissuing of the book The Gospel of Jesus the Jew (1981) in its entirety. In the following, I refer to the 1983 publication.

166

The Vermes Quest

is clearly reflected here. Vermes describes Jesus as a ‘Galilean Hasid’,78 but as in Jesus the Jew, his arguments are hazy. For example, he presents the healing story from b. Ber. 34b (Hanina heals the son of Gamaliel) as a comparison to Matt. 8 (Jesus heals the officer’s son). The passages are quoted in full, so that it can be seen ‘how closely the two tales coincide’, but Vermes does not disclose what he regards to be the relevance of the comparison. Vermes also points out that the story in b. Pes. 112b (Hanina meets the queen of demons and makes restrictions for her) has parallels with Mark 5 (Jesus commands the evil spirit), but again, no explanation of the implications of the parallel is given.79 The quotations function, therefore, as corroboration of the hasid theory although Vermes has not made any claims regarding the relevance of the story. It is impossible to ascertain whether this is a carefully chosen strategy for avoiding methodological difficulties. Further, the hasid theory is insignificant in Vermes’s succeeding book, The Religion of Jesus the Jew (1993). There is no evidence to suggest that Vermes has abandoned his previous assertions, and although Vermes nowhere argues that Jesus should be understood as a hasid, there are few instances where Vermes explicitly refers to Jesus as a hasid. He makes one reference in connection with a description of his ‘chief findings’ in Jesus the Jew: ‘[Jesus] represents the charismatic Judaism of wonder-working holy men such as the first century B.C. Honi and Jesus’s younger contemporary, Hanina ben Dosa, modelled on the biblical prophets such as Elijah and Elisha. They feed the hungry, cure disease, physical and mental, both often attributed to demonic possession.’80 Although Vermes does not employ the term hasid here, this passage effectively summarizes the hasid theory. One page later, he describes Jesus as a ‘Galilean Hasid’.81 The other references to the hasid theory are made in passing. First, Vermes compares Jesus to the hasidim without explicitly concluding that Jesus is one of them: ‘the piety practiced and preached by Jesus, like that of the Hasidim of old, is characterized by a simple trust and expectation’.82 Second, Vermes refers to the place of Jesus within Jewish scholarship and writes that ‘hesitant steps are being made to re-instate him [Jesus] among the ancient hasidim’83 Vermes does not elaborate any further. In sum, the framework lives on in these presentations, but the issue is seldom addressed directly. Moreover, Vermes’s presentation shows no effects or even evidence of the various criticisms that have been presented against the hasid theory over the decades intervening since Jesus the Jew.

78. Vermes, Jesus and the World of Judaism, 11, 13. Vermes also describes Jesus as a ‘Galilean holy man’ (9). 79. Vermes, Jesus and the World of Judaism, 7–9. 80. Vermes, The Religion of Jesus, 4. 81. Vermes, The Religion of Jesus, 5. 82. Vermes, The Religion of Jesus, 180. 83. Vermes, The Religion of Jesus, 215.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

167

The History Approach to the Hasid Theory Many scholars have approached the hasid theory by discussing whether the rabbinic stories about Hanina and Honi can tell us about first-century Judaism and thus shed light upon the historical Jesus. This approach was introduced into by rabbinic scholars William Scott Green (1979) and Baruch M. Bokser (1985). They examine the historical value of the rabbinic traditions on Honi and Hanina, respectively. According to Green, rabbinic redactors have shaped and formed traditions in line with their own aims: ‘the evidence suggests that this literature underwent a process of selection, revision, deletion, and accretion. The historical situation of redacted literature, therefore, is the situation of the redactor(s), not necessarily the situation of the figures who appear in it’.84 Like Green, Bokser presupposes that the Mishnah, Tosefta, and the Talmuds reflect the historical contexts of the redactors and argues that the reworking of traditions during years of transmission and redaction is substantial.85 He points out that ‘since rabbinic literature uses stories for didactic functions, recasting them to fit into a larger context, the original point of a story may differ from the purposes for which it is later cited and shaped’.86 Bokser’s work confirms Green’s descriptions of developments within rabbinic tradition and speaks for caution about drawing historical information from newer rabbinic sources.87 It therefore presents several challenges to Vermes’s use of the rabbinic sources. Green attempts to reconstruct the core of the Honi tradition and argues that parts of it do not in fact go back to the historical Honi. His approach makes way for Jesus scholars who later discuss Vermes’s theory.88 Green takes on a form-

84. William Scott Green, ‘Palestinian Holy Men: Charismatic Leadership and Rabbinic Tradition’, in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt: Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung Part 2, Principat, 19.2 [ed. Wolfgang Haase; ANRW 19.2.; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1979] 627, 628. 85. Baruch M. Bokser, ‘Wonder Working and the Rabbinic Tradition: The Case of Hanina ben Dosa’, JSJ 16 (1985): 42–92, 43, 51, 60, 79. 86. Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 43. 87. Bokser uses the works of both scholars; see for example, Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 42, n. 1; 45, n. 10; 80, 81, 83, 84. 88. Green writes that Vermes’s discussion of healings, exorcisms, and Jewish charismatics in Jesus the Jew are basic to his analysis but does not address Vermes’s assertions about Honi or the hasidim directly (Green, ‘Palestinian Holy Men’, 619–647, 622, n. 15; 625, n. 37, 41; 638, n. 74; 639, n. 77). Fifteen years later, Green revisits Vermes’s conclusions about Honi and Hanina. This time, Green argues against Vermes’s assertion of charismatic Judaism, concluding that ‘the rabbinic traditions about them in no way constitute evidence of a distinctive Galilean “charismatic Judaism”, and the category safely can be abandoned’ (William Scott Green, ‘Ancient Judaism: Contours and Complexity’, in Language, Theology, and the Bible: Essays in Honour of James Barr [eds. Samuel E. Balentine and John Barton; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994], 293–310, 300–305.

168

The Vermes Quest

critical approach to discern the oldest and historical layers of the traditions about Honi the Circle-Drawer. He reads the sources in light of what he regards to be the aims of redactors for the particular composition and expects that what contradicts the aims represent older material, while parts that correspond to the aims of the redactors go back to the redactors themselves.89 Elements of a story that disturb a smooth narrative deserve special attention because they reveal the redactors’ shaping of older material. Especially when the unbalanced passage itself contains aspects that run counter to the aims of the redactors, one may isolate material older than the composition itself.90 Applied to the Honi tradition, the Mishnah is the earliest source of relevance within the rabbinic corpus but includes few miracle stories. Green describes the strategy of the rabbi-redactors of the Mishnah as portraying themselves as successors of the priests and the temple. In order to settle their status, the rabbis downplayed any elements in the traditions that might lead people to believe that God worked through persons outside their ranks.91 Green assumes that the rabbis also transformed an original core of this tradition in line with their aims when they included a miraculous story about Honi. In answering why the rabbis included Honi in the Mishnah at all, Green suggests that it was impossible for the rabbis to overlook him because stories about him were well known at the time. One reference in Judean Antiquities testifies to the existence of a Honi (Greek: Onias) tradition by the time of Josephus (early 1990s C.E.). Green argues that the Onias story reveals the popularity of Honi: Now there was a certain Onias, who, being a righteous man and dear to God, had once in a rainless period prayed to God to end the drought, and God had heard his prayer and sent rain; this man hid himself when he saw the civil war continued to rage, but he was taken to the camp of the Jews and was asked to place a curse on Aristobulus and his fellow rebels, just as he had, by his prayers, put an end to the rainless period. But when in spite of his refusals and excuses he was forced to speak by the mob, he stood in their midst and said, ‘O God, King of the Universe, since these men standing beside me are thy people, and those who are besieged are thy priests, I beseech thee not to hearken to these men against them, not to bring to pass what these men ask thee to do to others’. And when he had prayed in this manner the villains among the Jews who stood round him stoned him to death. (Ant. 14:2)92

Josephus writes this about a century before the redaction of the Mishnah. Chronologically, his passage thus could well be the base of the story in the Mishnah. Green, however, does not simply suggest that elements from Josephus’s 89. Green extracts the aims of the redactors from the collection itself and from other sources that shed light upon the time of redaction. 90. Green, ‘Palestinian Holy Men’, 628, 629. 91. Green, ‘Palestinian Holy Men’, 624–626. 92. Green follows the translation by Thackeray (Green, ‘Palestinian Holy Men’, 639).

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

169

story represent the most original parts of the Mishnaic account but detects a core of the story that does not resemble Josephus’s version. He suggests that the core of the Honi narrative is ‘an account of an ancient Jewish magical rite’, where Honi is portrayed as a magician who draws a circle and makes an oath in his dealings with God.93 I have included the Mishnaic account here and marked (bold) what Green regards to be the core: They sound [the shofar] on account of any calamity which may befall the community, except for too much rain. Once they said to Honi the CircleMaker, ‘Pray so that rains will fall.’ He said to them, ‘Go out and bring in the Passover ovens so that they will not melt.’ And he prayed, but rains did not fall. He made a circle and stood inside it. And he said: ‘Master [of the Universe], your children have turned their faces to me because I am as a son of the house before you. I swear by your Great Name that I am not moving from here until you have mercy on your children.’ The rains began to drip. He said, ‘I did not ask for this, but for rains of [sufficient amount to fill] cisterns, ditches, and caves.’ They fell with vehemence. He said, ‘I did not ask for this, but for rains of benevolence, blessing, and graciousness.’ They fell as he ordered them, until Israel went up from Jerusalem to the Temple Mount because of the rains. They said to him, ‘Just as you prayed for them to fall, so pray for them to cease.’ He said to them, ‘Go out and see if the Stone of Strayers has been washed away.’ Simeon b. Shetah sent [a message] to him. He said to him, ‘You deserve to be excommunicated, but what shall I do to you? For you act petulantly before the Omnipresent like a son who acts petulantly before his father, yet he does his will. And concerning you, Scripture says: “Let your father and mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice”’. (Mishnah Ta’anit 3:8)

Green argues that the core renders a smooth narrative on its own, while he sees contradictions between the frame and the core. The core has a folkloric, magical content unlike the rabbinic traits that Green sees as belonging to the editorial frame: prayer and the biblical interpretation from Simeon b. Shetah. The Honi traditions are significant for Vermes’s representation of Jesus as a miracle-working hasid and crucial to Vermes’s depiction of the hasidim as sons of God. Green’s detected core of the Mishnaic story lends support for Vermes’s descriptions of Honi: Honi’s miracle is in the core as is the reference to sonship. Green and Vermes both see these as signals of Honi’s special relationship to God.94 Green’s methodological approach therefore has not led to any difficulties for Vermes’s use of this story. However, Green’s treatment of a tradition from the Tosefta is a greater challenge to Vermes’s hasid theory. The story goes as follows: Once they said to one hasid, ‘Pray that rains may fall.’ He prayed, and rains fell. They said to him, ‘Just as you prayed and rain fell, so pray that they should 93. Green, ‘Palestinian Holy Men’, 635. 94. Green, ‘Palestinian Holy Men’, 633, 634.

170

The Vermes Quest

cease.’ He said to them, ‘Go out and see if a man [can] stand on the Qeren Ofel and shake his feet in the Qidron River.’ ‘We pray that rains will not fall, but we are certain that the Omnipresent will not bring a flood on the earth, as it [Scripture] says, “Never again shall the waters be brought as a flood.”’ (Tosefta Ta’anit 2:13)95

Vermes counts Honi among the hasidim exactly because of a cross-reading of this Tosefta story about ‘a certain hasid’ and the story referred to above (m. Ta’an. 3:8). He sees the Tosefta story as a version of the Mishnaic account. In Green’s view, the Mishnah and the Tosefta present two different stories that share a common literary structure. Green holds that the Honi and hasid stories in question ‘differ in detail’ and ‘reflect conflicting points of view’.96 Therefore, Green holds that the hasid in Tosefta does not refer to Honi. In effect, Green’s view dismisses the earliest potential reference to Honi as a hasid. Baruch M. Bokser discusses developments of the Hanina tradition through the stories about Hanina and a reptile, which can be traced through several rabbinic sources. By comparing them on the basis chronology, Bokser searches for a trajectory of development: he points out differences between the versions of the story and seeks to explain what purpose the Hanina tale may have served for the rabbis who included them in their compilations. Bokser sees the Mishnaic reference to the prayer of the early pious as the starting point for the traditions about Hanina ben Dosa and the reptile. The story goes as follows: ‘The early pious (hasidim harishonim) used to tarry for a time, and then pray, so that they might direct their hearts to the place. Even [if] a king greets him, he should not respond. Even [if] a snake is coiled around his heel, he should not interrupt’ (m. Ber. 5:1).97 On this stage, the story appears to have nothing to do with Hanina ben Dosa. Instead there are ancient pious men, uninterrupted prayer, a king, and a snake. The saying serves, according to Berman, as a model for pious people in prayer.98 In the Tosefta, Hanina is included in a story that shares many traits with the Mishnaic account. This is the shortest version of the Hanina and the reptile tradition: [If] one was standing and praying in a street or broad way – Lo, he passes [= steps aside] before an ass, an ass driver, or a wagon driver and does not interrupt. They said concerning R. Hanina that [once] he prayed, and an arvad

95. Green, ‘Palestinian Holy Men’, 630, 631. Green quotes a longer passage, but the excerpt quoted above is sufficient for our purposes. 96. Green, ‘Palestinian Holy Men’, 632. 97. Rendered like this in Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 45. 98. Like Berman, Bokser sees the hasid narratives as examples of pious behaviour and does not make any effort to connect this passage to historical persons (Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 45, 67).

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

171

[= a deadly lizard or snake] bit him and he did not interrupt. His students went and found it dead on the mouth of the hole. They said, ‘Woe to the person whom an arvad has bitten. Woe to the arvad that has bitten ben Dosa’ (t. Ber. 3:20).99

Bokser explains that the Mishnah and Tosefta were created in times when the rabbis reshaped Judaism after the fall of the temple. In the absence of a central cult with priests as mediators between people and God, the redactors portrayed pious persons as models for everyone to follow. Further, they moderated traditions that emphasized God’s actions through particular persons and displayed miracle workers and others with rabbinic features. This was done to enhance the significance of rabbinic theology and authority.100 According to Bokser, ‘the Mishnah and Tosefta thus rework popular stories about Hanina, placing them in a context of fixed rabbinic prayer’.101 Further, t. Ber. 3:20 makes Hanina, known as a man of deed in the Mishnah (m. Sotah 9:15), ‘a model of proper concentration’.102 The development goes further into the Palestinian Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud. The Palestinian Talmud records this story together with other stories that exemplify the uninterrupted pious behaviour of several named rabbis. The story about Hanina ben Dosa has many similarities with the record in Tosefta but it also adds new elements. The Palestinian version goes: The[y]103 said concerning R. Hanina ben Dosa that [once] he stood and prayed, and a havarbar came and bit him, and he did not interrupt his tefillah. And they went and found that havarbar dead lying upon the mouth of its hole. They said, ‘Woe to the person whom the havarbar has bitten, woe to the havarbar that has bitten R. Hanina ben Dosa.’ When it injures a human, if the human reaches water first, the havarbar dies. And if the havarbar reaches water first, the human dies. His students said to him, ‘Master, did you not feel [anything]?’ He said to them, ‘Let [evil] befall me – as my heart was concentrating on the tefillah – if I felt [anything].’ Said R. Ishaq b. Eleazar, ‘The Holy One Praised Be He created a spring under the soles of the feet to fulfil that which has been written, ‘He fulfils the wishes of those who fear Him; He bears their cries and saves them’. (y. Ber. 9a)104 99. Bokser quotes this text, and has added the explanations marked with [=] (Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 46). Because Bokser is concerned with the literary developments of the Hanina traditions, he pays attention to the fact that each rabbinic composition employs different words for the creature that Hanina encounters. This is of lesser importance for our study of the hasid theory. 100. Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 79, 81. 101. Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 51. 102. Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 51. 103. Bokser’s quote has ‘the’ here, instead of ‘they’. 104. Quoted from Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 55, 56. The quotation from Scripture is from Ps. 145:19.

172

The Vermes Quest

Bokser points out that the Palestinian Talmud does not merely represent Hanina as a scrupulously pious man. By introducing the comment from R. Ishaq b. Eleazar, Hanina’s rescue is defined as God’s act towards the pious.105 In the Palestinian Talmud, the Hanina narrative is thus an example of how God protects pious people. A somewhat different story is recounted in the Babylonian Talmud. Bokser claims that it transforms Hanina into a master, teacher, or leader who saves the community from danger and teaches an ethical lesson.106 That version goes: Our rabbis taught a case concerning a place there was an arvad and it injured the people. They came and informed R. Hanina ben Dosa. He said to them, ‘Show me its hole.’ They showed him its hole. He placed his heel over the mouth of its hole. That arvad came out, bit him, and died. He took it on his shoulder and brought it to the house of study. He said to them, ‘See, my children, it is not the arvad that kills, rather sin kills.’ At that moment they said, ‘Woe to the person who met an arvad, and woe to the arvad that met R. Hanina ben Dosa. (b. Ber. 33a)107

Bokser comments that at this stage of the trajectory of development, Hanina does not represent an ideal for others to follow, as he is beyond the piety that most people can adopt. He is the perfect leader and teacher, working on behalf of others. Bokser’s survey of the Hanina traditions illustrates challenges that the historian meets when working with rabbinic sources. Although Vermes is clearly aware of the developments within rabbinic literature, he uses texts from all strands of development without discussing the limitations of that method.108 In effect, Bokser’s article serves as a critique of the way Vermes uses rabbinic sources to portray first-century Palestine and for this reason it has been used by other critics. Green’s and Bokser’s positions are taken into Jesus research by John Dominic Crossan and John P. Meier. Despite the fact that both make Vermes’s hasid theory their starting point and are both influenced by the same rabbinic scholars, Crossan and Meier treat the rabbinic sources differently and reach contradictory conclusions. While Crossan finds valuable parallels between the historical figures of Jesus, Hanina, and Honi, Meier demurs. Crossan sets aside the better part of one chapter of The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (1991) to discuss the Hanina and Honi traditions.109 To a large extent, he shares Vermes’s conviction that Jesus, Hanina, and Honi are to be placed within the same category. For Crossan, however, the

105. Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 59. 106. Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 60, 71; the quotation is from 69. 107. Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 69. 108. See for example, Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 74, 75. 109. Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 137–167, chapter 8 called ‘Magician and Prophet’.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

173

proper category is not ‘hasid’, but ‘magician’.110 Building on Green’s analysis of the Honi traditions and on Freyne’s and Bokser’s work on the Hanina traditions, Crossan argues that the Hanina and Honi traditions have been rabbinized.111 Crossan sees signs of this process to some extent in the Mishnah, where Hanina is called rabbi, and asserts that the rabbinization is more fully developed in the Babylonian Talmud. Consequently, Crossan’s search for historical traits in these traditions cannot simply take the oldest tradition as a starting point, because even the oldest sources are rabbinized. Moreover, Crossan finds authentic traits even at the late stage, as in b. Ber 33a, where Hanina is depicted carrying the carcass of a snake. In Crossan’s reading, this depicts Hanina as the magician who carries a snake as proof of his magic.112 Crossan thus assumes that every tradition may contain historically relevant material, but one must know how to discern the original from the rabbinized traits of the traditions. In Crossan’s conception, prayer is an important part of the rabbinization process, so he holds that Hanina’s healings as result of prayer in b. Ber. 34b reflect a later stage of development; an authentic story about Hanina helping a child at a distance by magic lies behind the traditions.113 Crossan also sees the part of Honi’s rain miracle that does not mention prayer as the core of the story (m. Ta’an. 3:8), just as Green did.114 It is noteworthy that Green and Crossan come to similar conclusions although they start with traditions from importantly different stages of rabbinic redaction. Furthermore, Crossan questions Vermes’s description of charismatic Judaism as a Galilean phenomenon.115 Instead, he describes magic as a sociological phenomenon typical of the lower classes.116 It is not geography but rather sociology that draws the lines between the holy men and other religious expressions. Still, Crossan appears to agree with Vermes that many representatives of this form of lower-class Judaism flourished in the northern parts of Palestine, far from the temple in Jerusalem.117 Crossan’s depiction of the holy men, or magicians, is thus similar to what Vermes suggested. Vermes has unquestionably been significant for Crossan’s conception here. Although their

110. Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 305. Crossan defines magic as ‘a neutral description for an authentic religious phenomenon’ and ‘personal and individual rather than communal and institutional access to, monopoly of, or control over divine power’ (138). 111. Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 143–156. 112. Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 154. 113. Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 151. Crossan sees the story about Nehunia’s daughter trapped in a well as the starting point for this tradition (b. B. Qam. 50a = b. Yeb. 121b). 114. Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 145. 115. Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 157. 116. Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 157. In fact, Vermes also touches upon this way of thinking, describing the opposition against Jesus as a sign of the response from the intellectual elite towards an unsophisticated provincial (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 57). 117. Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 138–142.

174

The Vermes Quest

methods differ and they use different terminology, Vermes’s work is the starting point and his suggestions live on in Crossan’s account. Meier discusses the hasid theory in the second volume of A Marginal Jew, entitled Mentor, Message, and Miracles (1994).118 He examines the Honi and Hanina traditions and takes a chronological approach to evaluate their historical value. The oldest source that reports on Honi (Onias) is Josephus in 93–94 C.E., almost 150 years after the events.119 Meier remarks that Josephus’s narrative does not call to mind the image of a miracle worker: It is a rain ‘miracle’ that is explicitly attributed to God answering a prayer and it happened only once.120 In Meier’s definition, a miracle worker operates more than once and the act must be attributed more directly to the person himself, rather than to God’s intercession through prayer. In addition, Meier notes that this narrative is set in Jerusalem and that nothing here connects Onias to Galilee. Later versions of the story (m. Ta’an. 3:8 and b. Ta’an. 23a) pay less attention to Honi’s prayer and portray him more as a performer of magic or miracles. In the older Mishnah version, Honi is described as a person who can get what he wants from God through his prayer and other means of persuasion like saying an oath or drawing a circle. Like Green and Crossan, Meier assumes that even the Mishnaic account has passed through multiple stages of development.121 Although Honi is portrayed as a person who prays, as in Josephus’s account, Meier sees the figure of Honi as transformed here into something closer to a proper miracle worker. However, as such, Honi threatens the authority of the rabbis and stories about him need further rabbinization in order to be acceptable to the rabbinic mindset. In line with Green’s descriptions, Meier holds that the Bavli reflect this continued development.122 Meier concludes that little can be said about the historical Honi. He probably lived in the first half of the first century B.C.E., perhaps in Jerusalem, and he once prayed for rain and rain fell. There is thus precious little to connect him to Jesus. According to Meier, Hanina ben Dosa probably flourished about 70 C.E.123 The oldest source for his life is the Mishnah, written more than 100 years later; Josephus does not mention him. In one of the three Mishnaic passages that report on Hanina, he is called rabbi and has three wisdom maxims attributed to him (m. Abot. 3:10–11). In another passage, Hanina is listed as one of the men of deed (m. Sotah 9:15). Meier asserts that m. Sotah 9:15 praises Hanina for deeds of kindness or for Torah observance rather than for miracles, and notes that the other rabbis recorded here are praised for virtues of learning and morals. The final Mishnah 118. Meier, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 581–588. 119. Meier holds that Onias died around 65 B.C.E. (Meier, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 581, 582). 120. Meier, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 582. 121. Meier refers to Green’s work on this Honi tradition (Meier, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 583; cf. 605, n. 28). 122. Meier, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 584. 123. Meier, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 584.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

175

passage reports that Hanina prayed for the sick and could sense when his prayer was heard. Meier quotes it in full: It is told concerning Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa that when he prayed for the sick, he used to say: This one shall live, and this one will die. They said to him: How do you know? He replied: If my prayer is fluent in my mouth, I know that he [the sick person] is favoured; if not, I know that [his illness] is fatal. (m. Ber. 5:5)124

According to Meier, none of these passages from the Mishnah gives any cause to call Hanina a miracle worker.125 Meier notes, however, that many miracles are attributed to Hanina in later texts and comments: ‘Hanina apparently became a magnet for miracle stories in the later Talmudic tradition.’126 Some of these stories are used by Vermes to portray the historical Hanina. Based on the chronological reading of the sources, Meier presents his critique of the hasid theory in three points. He emphasizes the time interval between the historical persons (Hanina ben Dosa and Honi) and the oldest available testimonies about them. Meier compares this to the time that passed between Jesus and the Gospels, which is undoubtedly shorter; Jesus tradition had already developed during that relatively short period of time, and consequently, one must be cautious using even the oldest sources.127 Moreover, in contrast to the oldest traditions about Hanina and Honi, Jesus is portrayed as a miracle worker in the oldest written sources about him. Jesus performs miracles, while the rabbinic holy men, even in some of the oldest texts, pray and are heard.128 Lastly, the oldest sources do not connect Honi and Hanina to Galilee. Meier is clearly not convinced by Vermes’s conclusions but the fact that he gives Vermes’s work such a thorough assessment signals that the hasid theory had a certain position within Jesus research at the time. That being said, such thoroughness is typical of Meier’s voluminous work, and should therefore not be given too much weight in the assessment of Vermes’s significance. Eric Eve repeats many of the objections above to Vermes’s theory and brings fresh concepts into the debate. His book The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles (2002) contains one of the most extensive treatments of Vermes’s hasid theory. One part of his discussion is central here. Eve rejects Vermes’s suggestion that Hanina, Honi, and the others are portrayed in rabbinic sources as charismatic 124. Meier, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 585. This translation is rendered by Meier, who draws it from Vermes, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 29. 125. Meier, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 586. 126. Meier, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 586. The later miracle stories that Meier mentions are: Hanina heals a rabbi’s son: y. Ber. 9d; and two stories in b. Ber. 34b; Hanina and the reptile: t. Ber. 3:20; y. Ber. 9a; b. Ber. 33a; Hanina saves a child: b. B. Qam. 50a; b. Yeb. 121b; a variety of miracles: b. Ta’an. 24b–25a. 127. Meier, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 587. 128. Meier, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 587, 588.

176

The Vermes Quest

miracle workers similar to Jesus. Their miracles are the results of prayer, Eve asserts, while Jesus’s miracles are not. Here, Eve uses labels from Werner Kahl, who describes miracle workers as petitioners of numinous power (PNP), bearers of numinous power (BNP), and mediators of numinous power.129 Eve argues that the rabbinic miracle workers in question are PNPs, as opposed to Jesus, who is portrayed as a BNP.130 The rabbinic PNPs pray to God for assistance, while Jesus of the Gospels holds the power himself and works his wonders by words, chiefly in the form of commands.

Developments in Vermes’s View on the Hasid Theory As we have seen (Chapter 10), the hasid theory does not have an important place in Vermes’s 1993 publication The Religion of Jesus the Jew. He barely touches upon the theme and nowhere argues for the position that Jesus should be seen as a hasid. One could be forgiven for expecting him to do so in the first chapter. Here, he comments on some scholars who have worked with the conclusions of his first books, of whom Green, Bokser, Freyne, and Crossan are relevant for our purposes.131 Given the substantial challenges that these scholars represent for Vermes’s hasid theory, it is remarkable that he compliments their work without defending or rejecting his own earlier scholarship. Vermes credits Freyne with ‘furnishing a more refined framework for the historical understanding of Jesus and the Gospels’, without remarks on Freyne’s critical points.132 Regarding Crossan’s work, Vermes records that he finds it ‘historically insensitive since the title “magician” applied to Jesus … is quite unsuitable, as is the epithet, “peasant” in the subtitle of the volume’.133 Moreover, he comments on Green’s and Bokser’s work on a positive note: ‘in their detailed examination of the traditions relating to Honi the Circle-Drawer and Hanina ben Dosa, W. S. Green and the late B. M. Bokser have clarified and supplemented my presentation of the rabbinic evidence’.134 No doubt these works have been much more critical of the hasid theory than what Vermes signals here. A significant change in the way Vermes writes about the hasid theory comes later. In The Changing Faces of Jesus from 2000, under the subtitle ‘Models of 129. Werner Kahl, New Testament Miracle Stories in Their Religious-Historical Stetting [sic]: A Religionsgeschichtliche Comparison from a Structural Perspective (FRLANT 163; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994). Kahl’s definitions are found on 76, 77. 130. Eve, Context of Jesus’ Miracles, 16, refers to Kahl’s denotation of Jesus as a BNP. Eve describes Hanina as a PNP (289), along with Honi and his grandsons (277, 279). 131. Vermes, The Religion of Jesus, 6.Vermes also mentions other scholars, who have not commented on his own work, but who still have contributed to more knowledge within his fields of study: J. B. Segal and Martin Goodman. 132. Vermes, The Religion of Jesus, 6. 133. Vermes, The Religion of Jesus, 6. 134. Vermes, The Religion of Jesus, 6.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

177

Charismatic Holy Men in the Age of Jesus’, Vermes discusses themes that are elsewhere closely connected to the claim that Jesus was a hasid.135 He does not discuss the responses from the scholars noted above, but certainly changes the way he writes about some parts of the theory.136 Most importantly, Vermes effectively redefines the hasid theory and describes the importance of the Honi and Hanina traditions in a new way: ‘[due to the time factor between history and text] I will not argue on the basis of details, but from typology.’137 This is unquestionably different from what Vermes has previously done; the word ‘typology’ indicates a heuristic rather than a historical connection between Jesus and the hasidim. Besides, Vermes claims in the quote that he will not argue ‘on the basis of details’. However, despite his pledge, he continues to do so in this publication. Still, Vermes’s way of presenting Honi and Hanina reveals a greater degree of care than he had used earlier and does reflect to some extent the objections of other scholars. For example, he notes the ‘magical overtones of the title “the Circle Drawer”’, as Green and Crossan pointed out.138 Further, Vermes does not claim that Honi comes from Galilee; rather he states with Meier that the rainproducing miracle is located in Jerusalem.139 As a general rule, Vermes is indeed ‘perfectly aware of the time factor’, that is, the centuries that have passed between the persons and the sources, when describing Honi and Hanina.140 He therefore focuses on the literary level and does not suggest how Honi and Hanina acted as historical persons. Vermes continues to describe Honi as a ‘Hasid’, but he indicates a possible gap between the historical figure and the rabbinic Honi tradition by carefully referring to him as being ‘venerated as a holy Hasid’.141 Moreover, Vermes concedes that there is ‘no actual exorcism’ attributed to Hanina and remarks that the story where Hanina is ‘hailed as a master over the forces of evil’ is certainly not early but found 135. The chapter is called ‘Beneath the Gospels: The Real Jesus’. See especially, Vermes, Changing Faces, 252–276. 136. It is not possible, however, to establish whether Vermes was in fact influenced by these scholars, since his text rarely provides scholarly references. The bibliography does signal that he is familiar with many of the aforementioned works; for example, Freyne (1980), Crossan (1991), and Meier (1994); (Vermes, Changing Faces, 4, 301, 302). 137. Vermes, Changing Faces, 254. 138. Vermes, Changing Faces, 254. 139. Vermes, Changing Faces, 255, 256. 140. Vermes, Changing Faces, 254. 141. Vermes, Changing Faces, 254; italics added. It is obvious to detail-oriented readers that Vermes operates on the literary rather than the historical level when he describes Honi. The example above, as well as the following statements, make this clear: ‘first we shall review the stories relating to Honi the Circle-Drawer’ (254) and ‘returning to Honi, the principal anecdote preserved about him in the Mishnah depicts him’ (255). Nonetheless, Vermes holds that the stories reflect actual events: ‘we can deduce that the event relate above [m. Ta’an. 3:8] took place around Passover’ (255).

178

The Vermes Quest

in the Babylonian Talmud (b. Pes. 112b).142 The logic of Berman’s arguments, and others following him, about the use of hasidim in rabbinic literature appears to have found resonance in Vermes’s way of engaging with the sources, though he nowhere refers to Berman’s article. The capital H in ‘Hasidim’, however, may indicate that Vermes uses the term to name a group rather than pointing to a particular quality of the figures to which it is attached. Evidently, Vermes does not follow Berman’s lead completely. Notwithstanding this new approach to the rabbinic traditions and to Jesus, Vermes maintains that there was such a phenomenon as the hasidim and he continues to see Jesus in line with them. While it is true that Vermes does not call the historical Jesus a hasid in this volume, he points out parallels between Jesus and the ‘hasidic style of existence’ that do not reflect any change of mind about the hasid theory.143 He lists Jesus’s life in poverty, the trust in God that made him certain that people of faith could be unharmed from snakes (cf. Mark 16 and Luke 10), and his ‘responsiveness to pleas voiced by submissive demons’ (the ‘Gergesine’ demon, Mark 5). Further, Vermes writes: ‘needless to say, as healer and exorcist Jesus is perfectly at home in Hasidic company’. He adds that although Hanina and Jesus healed by prayer and command, respectively, ‘their method of healing from a distance coincided’.144 It is hard to see these descriptions as something new and even more difficult to see how they are ‘not on the basis of details’. Moreover, Vermes occasionally gives the impression that he writes about history rather than text. He does not agree with scholars like Meier who have argued that Hanina’s healing by prayer does not make him a proper miracle worker, and posits that a miracle performed by prayer is no less a miracle: The texts depict healing by prayer as something extraordinary, something that is not for everyone. The miracle, although it is from God, is associated with the person who prayed: ‘the Jewish texts again and again explicitly attribute the “miracle” to the Hasid’.145 Vermes does not see the differences between Jesus and Hanina’s modi operandi as significant. Furthermore, he describes Hanina as ‘a famous healer and a master over the demonic powers’ and refers to ‘the earliest layer of the rabbinic tradition’.146 It is unclear how this is to be understood. That being said, Vermes’s reference to the ‘earliest layer of tradition’ shows that he pays more attention to the age of his sources than earlier and that he refrains from making claims about the historical Hanina on the basis of late compositions. Vermes’s responses to the scholarly interaction with his work are also found elsewhere. In the preface of Jesus in His Jewish Context (2003) Vermes defends himself against Meier’s criticisms.147 Vermes clarifies, like he did three years earlier, that his ‘approach to the figure of the charismatic Hasid was 142. Vermes, Changing Faces, 262, 263. 143. Vermes, Changing Faces, 269. 144. Vermes, Changing Faces, 269. 145. Vermes, Changing Faces, 254, 255. 146. Vermes, Changing Faces, 258. 147. Vermes, Jesus in His Jewish Context, vii–x.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

179

typological’.148 He does not give any examples of earlier statements where the typological approach was enunciated, nor does he explain how he evaluates the significance of the typology. Moreover, it is hard to see how the early work – also represented in the reprinted chapters of the book – supports his claim. In the first chapter (originally a 1974 lecture, first published in 1983), Vermes writes: ‘Jesus was a Galilean Hasid: there, as I see it, lie his greatness, and also the germ of his tragedy’.149 Furthermore, in the second chapter (first published in 1981), Vermes writes: ‘Jesus was a charismatic holy man, a Hasid, not only as an exorcist but also as a teacher.’150 Although Vermes tries to convince his readers of the opposite, his approach to Jesus and the hasidim was not typological from the outset. In sum, the 2003 publication is ambiguous when it comes to the hasid theory. On the one hand, its introductory reflections reveals Vermes’s new interpretation of the relevance of the rabbinic figures, while on the other, many of the chapters remain firmly within the earlier paradigm. In Vermes’s next publication, the hasid theory is hardly reflected at all, though it does lurk in the background. Searching for Jesus’s authentic message and commenting mostly on gospel passages, Vermes occasionally refers to Hanina, Honi, and other rabbinic charismatics in The Authentic Gospel of Jesus (2003). While discussing these passages, Vermes never suggests that Jesus is a hasid, nor does he signal that Jesus should be compared with them.151 In the epilogue of this book, where Vermes presents a reasonably detailed image of the historical Jesus, he uses the word hasid to describe Jesus: ‘as a representative of God, a latterday prophet, a Hasid, Jesus devoted himself totally to the cause with which, he believed, God had entrusted him’.152 Although Jesus is indeed denoted a hasid here, there is little that reflects the original theory. Furthermore, the hasid theory remains of no consequence in Vermes’s next book Searching for the Real Jesus (2009). Here, Jesus is called a hasid only once and the chapter that contains that reference is an article originally published in 2001: ‘Jesus the Jew, the charismatic Hasid, meets today with growing recognition.’153 Vermes does not develop further what he means by the term hasid. Elsewhere in this book, he labels Jesus differently. For example, he writes that Jesus was an ‘itinerant Galilean charismatic healer and teacher’, being ‘not the first, nor the last of this line of holy men’.154 Jesus and the Jewish World (2010) is a collection consisting largely of previously published articles concerning Jesus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Jewish studies. The essay ‘Jesus the Jew: Christian and Jewish Reactions’, originally from 1991, shows 148. Vermes, Jesus in His Jewish Context, viii. 149. Vermes, Jesus in His Jewish Context, 10. 150. Vermes, Jesus in His Jewish Context, 28. 151. See for example, Vermes, Authentic Gospel, 7, 9, 10, and 95. 152. Vermes, Authentic Gospel, 401. 153. Vermes, Real Jesus, 33; cf. the list of where and when the articles are previously published (184). 154. Vermes, Real Jesus, 45. See also Vermes, Real Jesus, 22, 35, 42, 54.

180

The Vermes Quest

that Vermes continued to publish articles that represent elements of the hasid theory. He refers to Jesus as ‘Hasid’, but he does not include the term ‘typology’, which became a preferred term in the early 2000s.155 Furthermore, in the essay ‘Methodology in the Study of the Historical Jesus’, originally from 2007, Vermes defends himself from the accusation that his hasid theory builds upon late sources.156 Vermes explains that his characterization of Jesus as a charismatic hasid builds upon traditions from the Hebrew Bible, through Josephus and further to later compositions like the Mishnah and the Talmuds, concluding that ‘the outcome, if taken typologically, commends itself as a term of comparison for the understanding of the Jesus of the Gospels’.157 Vermes does not call Jesus a hasid but compares Jesus more generally to Jewish charismatics. However, this gambit is not supported by what Vermes himself writes in one of the new essays in the volume, ‘Jesus the Jew and His Religion’ (2010). There, Vermes sums up his conclusions from Jesus the Jew: ‘hence, it would seem, Jesus can best be defined as an outstanding Galilean charismatic Hasid’.158 It is hard to see this as typology and it is best understood as a remnant of Vermes’s original view. Apart from this, the hasid theory is not reflected in the book. The first two chapters of Vermes’s final volume on Jesus, Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea, AD 30–325 (2012), focus on Jesus and charismatic Judaism.159 Vermes spends several pages on similarities between rabbinic tradition and the Gospels; he does not describe Hanina, Honi, or Jesus with the term hasid, but takes the traditions about them as testimony to charismatic Judaism more generally. As for Jesus, he writes: ‘the [Gospels’] basic depiction of Jesus as a charismatic prophet presents a perfectly credible typological image, that of the “man of God” of charismatic Judaism’.160 When Vermes describes Honi and Hanina, he focuses strictly on the texts without making historical claims. For example, he writes that Hanina ben Dosa was: ‘portrayed as a versatile charismatic’,161 ‘admired as the protector of the community from poisonous snakes’,162 and further ‘celebrated as a miraculous healer and miracle worker’.163 He refers to gospel texts without making clear whether he sees them as representing historical traits, which makes it difficult to ascertain whether Vermes regards the similarities between the Jesus tradition and rabbinic traditions as relevant to understanding the historical Jesus. 155. Vermes, Jesus in the Jewish World, 4. 156. Vermes, Jesus in the Jewish World, 224–235. 157. Vermes, Jesus in the Jewish World, 227, 228. This article was originally a keynote address from the 2007 Princeton-Prague Conference on the Historical Jesus. 158. Vermes, Jesus in the Jewish World, 19. 159. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 1–60. The chapters are called ‘Charismatic Judaism from Moses to Jesus’ and ‘The Charismatic Religion of Jesus’. 160. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 32. 161. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 21; italics added. 162. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 23; italics added. 163. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 19; italics added.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

181

Still, Vermes gives several examples of how rabbinic traditions and gospel traditions style Honi, Hanan, Hanina, and Jesus in similar ways.164 He mentions offensiveness over against establishment (exemplified by the Honi tradition in m. Ta’an. 3:8 and Hanina in b. Ber. 34b, no example of Jesus’s behaviour is given), modesty (exemplified by the stories about Hanan and Abba Hilkiah in b. Ta’an. 23ab, with a reference to Jesus’s habit of attributing healing to the faith of the person who came to him), the address abba to God (again, Hanan in b. Ta’an. 23b), and healing (Vermes refers to the stories that describe Hanina’s prayer for Gamaliel’s sick son in y. Ber. 9d and b. Ber. 34b, as parallel to Jesus’s healing in Matt. 8:5–13 and Luke 7:1–10). The latter is emblematic of the ambiguity of Vermes’s evaluation of any similarities. He does not describe in what sense the Hanina story is significant for understanding Jesus, but criticizes New Testament commentators who ‘diminish their [the rabbinic anecdotes’s] significance’ by calling attention to the fact that Hanina is described as a person in prayer, while Jesus does not pray in order to perform miracles.165 Vermes clearly sees the story as significant but does not explain why or how it is significant. However, he does not appear to see it merely as a literary parallel. Had he searched only for such analogues, the passage in John 4 would be the obvious choice, since it is in fact the Jesus story most similar to the Hanina tradition. Instead, Vermes refers to Matt. 8:5–13 and Luke 7:1–10, which he tends to see as more reliable sources than John for the historical Jesus. Furthermore, Vermes mentions the traditions about Hanina and the reptile, commenting that ‘the anecdote has New Testament resonance and brings to mind Jesus’ saying, “Behold I have given authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you”’.166 Vermes interprets men of deed in m. Sotah 9:15 by referring to the New Testament’s use of the word ‘deeds’ in Matt. 11:2 and Luke 24:19, noting that both Hanina and Jesus are called ‘my son’ by a heavenly voice (b. Ta’an. 24b and Matt. 3:17 par, respectively).167 Vermes also insists that charismatics pay little attention to legal affairs: ‘the issue of legal observance … hardly ever arose in the charismatic context’, he claims, although he is aware of certain exceptions to this rule.168 A strikingly high number of the viewpoints from Jesus the Jew are repeated here. Still, there simply is no hasid theory in this final book. Vermes maintains many of his original findings, but presents them in a slightly more refined way than in his first publications.

The Literary Approach to the Hasid Theory Many New Testament scholars have discussed Vermes’s hasid theory by comparing the rabbinic traditions about Hanina ben Dosa and Honi the Circle-Drawer with 164. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 19, 20–26. 165. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 22. 166. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 23. 167. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 25. 168. Vermes, Christian Beginnings, 25.

182

The Vermes Quest

gospel stories about Jesus. None of them reach the conclusion that Vermes was right to include Jesus among the hasidim, though some find the parallels valuable for their own representations of the historical Jesus. In 1984, Jean-Marie Van Cangh responds to the hasid theory in the Belgian Revue théologique de Louvain, and he is the first scholar to make a substantial contribution that focuses on similarities and differences among stories about Honi, Hanina, and Jesus. Unlike Berman, Green, and Freyne, who focus on the historical value of the rabbinic tradition, he addresses Vermes hasid theory mainly from the literary perspective. On the basis of the differences, he concludes that Vermes’s hasid theory is unsupported.169 Van Cangh agrees with Vermes that the stories about Jesus and Honi mirror those of Elijah/Elisha of the Hebrew Bible,170 that these figures are unpopular with representatives of official religion,171 and that they are close to God and call him abba.172 He also sees similarities between Jesus and Hanina ben Dosa: both are called the son of God173 and are compared with Elijah.174 Moreover, Hanina is unharmed from a snake bite, just like Jesus had assured his disciples that they would not be harmed by snakes or scorpions.175 The similarities are many. Nonetheless, Van Cangh asserts that the differences between the Synoptic Jesus and the rabbinic Honi and Hanina outweigh the similarities: Jesus performs miracles in a different manner than they do.176 He does acknowledge that the rabbinic miracle stories can inform us about Jesus’s environment, but finds them so different in both form and purpose that they are of no value for defining Jesus himself. He states that Jesus is a ‘phénomène unique dans l’histoire des religions’177 and it is unclear whether this is Van Cangh’s conclusion or his presupposition. Van Cangh’s treatment of Vermes’s theory shows that is has been noticed and discussed outside the English-speaking world, though his interest in commenting on Vermes’s theory might come from the fact that Van Cangh worked at the Catholic University of Louvain, where Vermes was when he finished his doctoral dissertation on the Dead Sea Scrolls.178 Van Cangh’s way of dealing with Vermes’s proposed parallels is repeated by several scholars in the English-speaking world: 169. Van Cangh does not spell out Vermes’s position, but it is evident that he addresses the hasid theory. He introduces his position with the words: ‘Contrairement à la thèse de G. Vermes …’ (Van Cangh, ‘Miracles de rabbins’, 48). 170. Van Cangh, ‘Miracles de rabbins’, 35. 171. Van Cangh, ‘Miracles de rabbins’, 35. 172. Van Cangh, ‘Miracles de rabbins’, 36. 173. Van Cangh, ‘Miracles de rabbins’, 37. 174. Van Cangh, ‘Miracles de rabbins’, 38. 175. Van Cangh, ‘Miracles de rabbins’, 40, 41. Van Cangh also finds parallels between other Hanina stories and the Gospels, but does not regard these stories as relevant for the historical Jesus (41–45). 176. Van Cangh, ‘Miracles de rabbins’, 37, 47. 177. Van Cangh, ‘Miracles de rabbins’, 48. 178. See, Vermes, Providential Accidents, 69, 70; cf. Chapter  2, Section ‘Biographical Notes on Vermes’.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

183

most of them emphasize the differences between how the sources portray Jesus, Hanina, and Honi. As we shall see, these scholars insist upon placing Jesus within his Jewish context, and share the assumption that one cannot a priori assume that Jesus was unique. However, they argue for seeing Jesus as different from other known figures within ancient Judaism. Ben Witherington devotes two pages for discussing the hasid theory in The Christology of Jesus from 1990.179 Remarkably, he notices quite a few similarities between Jesus and the hasidim. They perform miracles and pious deeds like comforting the mourning. The hasidim differ in outlook from the representatives of established religion, just as Jesus did (Jesus vs. Pharisees, hasidim vs. rabbis) and are therefore occasionally criticized by them. They are lax about certain purity regulations, though rigorous about other aspects of Jewish customs such as the wearing of fringes.180 Witherington certainly sees benefits from the comparison between Jesus and the hasidim: ‘there are enough parallels to prove that Jesus would have been seen by many as a hasid’. This comes very close to an acceptance of the hasid theory, but Witherington does have objections that outweigh this near-endorsement: ‘although Jesus may have appeared to be like a hasid, this category is insufficient to explain all of the arguably authentic material in the Synoptics’.181 For Witherington, there ‘are difficulties in seeing Jesus as simply being a hasid’.182 He points out five differences between Jesus and the hasidim in support. First, the hasidim performed miracles through prayer, while Jesus did not pray to perform miracles. Second, synoptic traditions discuss whether or not Jesus was the Messiah, while the rabbinic texts never make any messianic claims on behalf of the hasidim. Third, Witherington suggests that Jesus rejected what he calls ‘traditions of the elders’ to a greater extent than the hasidim did.183 Fourth, he notes that the traditions about Hanina ben Dosa, Honi, and Phineas ben Yair focus on their actions rather than their sayings. Finally, and for Witherington most important, the Gospels’ descriptions of Jesus as son of God do not have any parallel among the traditions about the hasidim. Vermes uses m. Ta’an. 3:8 about Honi as ‘son of the house’ in his argument that the hasidim were seen as sons of God. Witherington employs Shmuel Safrai’s reading of the text, arguing that ‘son of the house’ should be  understood as a reference to slavery, not to sonship.184 The matter of Jesus’s sonship to God is further addressed indirectly in Witherington’s treatment of Jesus’s use of abba. Here it becomes evident that he regards b. Ta’an. 23b (about Hanan ha Nehba) as not referring to the prayer to God as abba, but as ‘a play on words, so typical of Jewish teachers and hasids

179. Witherington III, The Christology of Jesus, 182, 183. 180. Witherington III, The Christology of Jesus, 182, 183. 181. Witherington III, The Christology of Jesus, 183. 182. Witherington III, The Christology of Jesus, 182. 183. Witherington III, The Christology of Jesus, 183. 184. Witherington III, The Christology of Jesus, 183.

184

The Vermes Quest

of that era’. As a consequence, Witherington rejects Vermes’s argument about the hasidic abba prayer based on b. Ta’an. 23b.185 All in all, Witherington’s discussions show that Vermes’s theory is viewed as a suggestion that deserves scrutiny. Moreover, it is considered of some value, as Witherington notes that there are many parallels between Jesus and the hasidim. Still, the differences tip the scale, and Withington concludes that Jesus should not be interpreted as a hasid. Graham H. Twelftree reaches a similar conclusion in his 1993 book Jesus the Exorcist, though he makes his case differently. He discusses ancient exorcism stories in order to describe the historical Jesus as exorcist186 and devotes several pages to discussing whether Jesus the exorcist would have been regarded as a hasid by his contemporaries; his conclusion is negative.187 He points out that there were several kinds of exorcists by the time of Jesus and that only some of them were rabbis/hasidim.188 While Twelftree sees Jesus as more similar to the rabbis than to other exorcists, he also argues that Jesus was not one of them.189 He asserts that the rabbis performed exorcisms by ‘professional’ techniques, while Jesus only used simple commands. They also used prayer as means for exorcism, while Jesus did not.190 Further, Jesus stands out from the rabbis because his exorcisms are part of his message about the Kingdom of God.191 The significance of Jesus’s exorcisms is therefore different from the exorcisms of the rabbis.192 As a general observation, Twelftree also argues that Jesus’s eschatological outlook and his prophetic speech differs from those of the rabbis,193 concluding: ‘while Jesus’ overall ministry may have caused him to be seen as a hasid, as an exorcist it is doubtful if those who witnessed him at work would have considered him just another of their charismatic rabbis’.194 Twelftree briefly returns to the discussion in 1999’s Jesus: The Miracle Worker, where he also refers to the similarities and differences between how Jesus and his 185. Witherington III, The Christology of Jesus, 216. Witherington’s wording here resembles Jeremias’s description of Ta’an. 3.8: ‘in scherzhafter Weise’ (Jeremias, Neutestamentliche Theologie, 71). Jeremias’s wording is perhaps a little more degrading than Witherington’s ‘play on words’. Later, Vermes in fact uses Witherington’s words as his own (Vermes, Jesus in the Jewish World, 6). 186. Twelftree uses material that in his view represents first-century Palestine, Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist, 13. However, he has a broad understanding of what material may be relevant. For instance, he includes Philo, Philostratus’s The Life of Apollonius, and rabbinic literature (including the Babylonian Talmud). 187. Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist, 209–212. Twelftree discusses other conceptions like messiah, magician, and necromancer. 188. Twelftree uses rabbi synonymously with hasid. 189. Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist, 210. 190. Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist, 211. 191. Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist, 210. 192. Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist, 211. 193. Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist, 209. 194. Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist, 212.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

185

so-called exact or near contemporaries performed miracles.195 Twelftree remarks that Jesus and Hanina ben Dosa are similar; they both heal from a distance and both have a way of sensing if a miracle had been successful (b. Ber. 34b). Still, Twelftree finds the difference between Jesus and Hanina as weightier than the similarity. He argues that whereas the holy men by the time of Jesus performed miracle by prayer, Jesus did not, and concludes that Jesus ‘would not have seen himself as simply one of the holy men’.196 In Twelftree’s logic, Jesus did not see himself as a hasid and his contemporaries would not have drawn the conclusion that Jesus was one of them because they would have noticed differences in the performance of Jesus and the rabbishasidim. This is the opposite of Ben Witherington’s judgement, that people might have thought of Jesus as a hasid, though he was not.197 In 1986, Howard Clark Kee’s Medicine, Miracles and Magic in New Testament Times portrayed Vermes’s views of Jesus as miracle worker and exorcist. Although Kee appreciates Vermes’s emphasis on Jesus’s miracles, he is critical of his use of rabbinic sources.198 Kee points out that the rabbinic material is too young to be of historical value for the issue in question. Moreover, he asserts that the rabbinic material does not really represent a parallel to Jesus, remarking that the rabbinic miracle stories ‘are of service to the student of the New Testament by way of contrast rather than analogy’, because many of them allegedly describe the performance of magic rather than miracles.199 This means that Kee dismisses Vermes’s comparisons between Jesus and the hasidim because the stories are not actually relevant for understanding Jesus, and if they were, the sources would have been too young to be of any value. Nonetheless, Kee concludes on a positive note, stating that ‘Vermes’ insistence on the centrality of miracle and exorcism in the gospel tradition is a welcome counterbalance to the dismissal of these features to the periphery that is still to be found in scholarly analyses that uses form critical  method uncritically.’200 One aspect of Vermes’s contribution is clearly  regarded as valuable, despite his unacceptable comparison between Jesus and Hanina and Honi. Marcus Borg’s first discussion of the hasid theory in Conflict, Holiness, and Politics in the Teachings of Jesus (1984) makes many of the same points as described above. Despite the apparent impact of Vermes’s theory upon Borg’s description of Jesus as a ‘holy man’, and of his placing of Jesus with a context of Jewish contemporaries, Borg unmistakably distances himself from Vermes’s perspective.201 In this first book, 195. In fact, Twelftree later makes Marcus Borg the representative of the view that Jesus resembled Hanina ben Dosa and Honi the Circle-Drawer (Twelftree, Jesus the Miracle Worker, 354). 196. Twelftree, Jesus the Miracle Worker, 265. 197. Witherington III, The Christology of Jesus, 183. 198. Kee, Medicine, Miracle and Magic, 76, 80–83. 199. Kee, Medicine, Miracle and Magic, 82. 200. Kee, Medicine, Miracle and Magic, 82. 201. Borg, Conflict, Holiness, and Politics, 5, 73.

186

The Vermes Quest

Borg emphasizes the differences between Jesus and the other Jewish holy men, not the similarities. According to Borg, the significant differences between Jesus and the holy men come from the fact that Jesus ‘founded a renewal movement’.202 Borg lists five differences between Jesus and other Jewish holy men that follow from this single fact, without examples or further comment. First, Jesus’s teaching has been preserved in greater amounts than the teachings of the holy men. Second, Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God and saw himself as its mediator. Third, he was associated with the social outcast of his time. Fourth, he challenged his own society. Fifth and finally, he was crucified and later became the founder of a new religion.203 The benefits of displaying Jesus as one out of many Jewish holy men remain unclear. Evidently, Borg does not adopt the hasid theory, though he appears to be inspired by it. Vermes’s significance for Borg’s work seems to be limited to the framework of the image of Jesus rather than the Jesus image itself. In Borg’s 1987 book Jesus: A New Vision, however, more aspects of Vermes’s work are taken in. While the first book emphasized differences between Jesus and other holy men, Borg now points out the similarities among Jesus, Hanina ben Dosa, and Honi the Circle-Drawer. Borg mentions Hanina’s power over demons204 and his ability to heal from a distance as relevant for discussions about the historical Jesus.205 He also points to texts that describe Hanina and Honi as sons of God.206 Like Vermes, he holds that the holy men had connections to Galilee207 and notes the detachment from possessions and ignorance of halakha, which is reported of the holy men in rabbinic literature.208 Furthermore, Borg calls the holy men ‘men of deed’ and places Jesus within charismatic Judaism.209 He remarks that some traditions about Paul are similar to some of the accounts of Jesus and Hanina. In Borg’s language, the spirit works through all these holy men and they should therefore all be regarded as charismatics. He points to texts that illustrate this, involving immunity to snake bites and healing. Borg calls attention to the similarity between the stories of Hanina and the snake (t. Ber. 3:20; y. Ber. 9a; b. Ber 33a), and Jesus’s words to his disciples about snakes (Luke 10:19) and the story about Paul and the snake (Acts 28:1–6). In addition, Borg describes Paul’s conversion as a charismatic experience, noting that Paul functions as a healer (e.g. Acts 28). In sum, Borg adopts some of Vermes’s terminology and some components of the hasid theory, but he holds to a wider category of ‘charismatics’ within which Jesus is placed. Although he does not

202. Borg, Conflict, Holiness, and Politics, 5, 74. 203. Borg, Conflict, Holiness, and Politics, 5, 73, 74. 204. Borg, Jesus, 31. 205. Borg, Jesus, 31, 66. 206. Borg, Jesus, 31. 207. Borg, Jesus, 31, 37, n. 27. 208. Borg, Jesus, 37, n. 27; 189, n. 37. 209. Borg, Jesus, 60.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

187

suggest that Jesus was a hasid, Vermes’s hasid theory is clearly reflected in Borg’s analysis.210 A few other scholars display similar adoption of Vermes’s parallels. In From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus (1988), Paula Fredriksen discusses the historical Jesus and the development of different Jesus images within Christianity. Under the heading ‘Palestinian Judaism in the Time of Jesus’, Fredriksen integrates parts of Vermes’s work on the hasidim.211 Fredriksen notes Hanina ben Dosa’s ability to heal from a distance, Hanina’s pious rejection of worldly possessions, and Hanan’s and Honi the CircleDrawer’s efforts as rainmakers. Further, like Vermes, Fredriksen emphasizes the intimate relationship between the charismatic and God, which she exemplifies by a reference to b. Ta’an. 23b, where Hanan speak of God as abba in a prayer. Fredriksen places Jesus of Nazareth in the company of these charismatics and a footnote makes clear that she is influenced by Vermes on this point.212 She describes Jesus as a charismatic with an eschatological message, along with John the Baptist. Similar to what we have seen in Marcus Borg’s work, the hasid theory fuels Fredriksen’s descriptions of certain aspects of Palestinian Judaism and the description of the historical Jesus’s socio-religious context.213 However, Fredriksen does not emphasize parallels between the traditions about these charismatics, apart from pointing out that they are described as having a special relation to God. Vermes’s hasid theory has therefore impacted upon Fredriksen’s work, though it has not affected her image of Jesus to any significant degree. Craig A. Evans displays ambiguity towards the hasid theory in Jesus and His Contemporaries from 1995.214 At the outset, the way Evans describes Vermes’s work and his ‘efforts to interpret Jesus as a Jewish holy man’ signals that Evans is sceptical about the hasid theory.215 He notes that Jesus’s style as a miracle worker 210. Ten years later, Borg repeats some of the suggestions from Jesus: A New Vision. He mentions Hanina ben Dosa and Honi the Circle-Drawer as examples of ‘holy persons’ in Jewish tradition, and claims that ‘Jesus clearly belongs to them’ (Marcus J. Borg, Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship [Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1994], 27): ‘Geza Vermes is primarily responsible for introducing this element into the current discussion’ (40, n. 56). 211. Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ, 91, 92. 212. ‘My discussion of the charismatics is greatly indebted to Vermes, Jesus the Jew, esp. pp. 52–82’ (Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ, 91, n. 26). 213. Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), 114, repeats some of these parallels: Hanina’s ability to heal from a distance; Hanan and Honi as rainmakers. Here, Fredriksen even notes that rabbinic sources connect these persons to Galilee. There is however no reference to Vermes here. 214. Evans, Contemporaries, 227–243. In this version, Evans quotes and translates relevant rabbinic texts and texts from Josephus. A shortened version of this text is included in Evans, Ancient Texts, 424–430, in which the comments seem to be unaltered apart from the fact that the lengthy quotations are left out. 215. Evans, Contemporaries, 215.

188

The Vermes Quest

is dissimilar to Hanina and Honi, and posits that ‘the miracles of Jesus resists such simple categorization’ as Vermes suggests.216 According to Evans, the differences are that Jesus used short commands, while prayers are important in the Hanina and Honi traditions; besides, Jesus acted in his own name.217 For Evans, the most important difference between Jesus and the rabbinic miracle workers is that only Jesus is known for leading a renewal movement. In short, Evans judges the hasid theory as unwarranted ‘to identify Jesus with one particular class of Jewish figures to the exclusion of other’, 218 and he remarks that ‘most scholars, therefore, hesitate to follow Geza Vermes fully’.219 Against this background, it is remarkable to notice the number of parallels Evans sees between rabbinic traditions and the life of Jesus and how much space he devotes to them. Evans spends the better part of his chapter ‘Jesus and Jewish Miracle Stories’ on rabbinic parallels to the Gospels and effectively confirms many of Vermes’s suggestions. This apparent ambiguity is clarified in a footnote to Evans’s introduction: The potential relevance of these [Jewish miracle] stories has been recently and very helpfully explored by G. Vermes … Vermes has concluded that Jesus’ miracles place him within the context of charismatic Judaism … Although some have criticized Vermes’ inference that Jesus was essentially a Jewish hasid, or holy man, most agree that Jesus’ ministry parallels more closely the lives of Jewish personalities such as Honi, Hanina ben Dosa, or Theudas, than it does the lives of various Hellenistic magicians and wonder-workers, who have been put forward.

Evans does find Vermes’s parallels valuable, even for historical work, because they are better than the ‘Hellenistic’ alternatives well known in previous New Testament scholarship. The rabbinic parallels serve, in Evans’s volume, as evidence of Jesus’ Jewishness, but they are not used to define Jesus more sharply. Evans quotes a number of stories about such Jewish miracle workers, and he even includes more stories and sayings than Vermes does. Although it is 216. Evans, Contemporaries, 215. A similar point is made later (242, n. 57). 217. Evans, Contemporaries, 215. Evans quotes Mark 1:41 and 2:11, where Jesus says ‘I will it’ as support for this. 218. Evans, Contemporaries, 243. 219. Evans, Contemporaries, 215. In Evans, the differences between Jesus and Hanina function as corroboration of the authenticity of Jesus’s healings. Evans puts forward the criterion of dissimilarity as valid for Jesus research (calling it ‘dissimilarity’): ‘Tradition that cannot easily be explained as having originated in the early Church or having been taken over from Jewish traditions, is said to be dissimilar.’ However, he uses the criterion with a twist and does not look for traits that could not be understood within a Jewish context. In fact, Evans rejects such a method in his introduction, stating that ‘dissimilarity to early Judaism has been dropped, as it should be’ (21). Rather, his point is that a Jesus tradition must look sufficiently different from Jewish material to not be considered a ‘copy’ of that Jewish tradition. In Evans’s logic, the listed differences between Hanina’s and Jesus’s miracles show that Jesus’s healings are distinctive, and healing, therefore, is an authentic trait of Jesus.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

189

sometimes hard to establish whether Evans sees rabbinic-gospel parallels as reflections of historical similarities or merely as literary constructions, there are many parallels that Evans clearly sees as depending on historical facts. Thus, his work comes very close to how Vermes argues in favour of the hasid theory. Evans presupposes that the traditions about miracle-working holy men reflect the presence of such men in the time of Jesus and that certain parts of their lives were similar to Jesus’s: ‘there were several Jewish holy men in the time of Jesus … The lives and activities of five of them [Honi, Hanina, Hanan, Abba Hilkiah, and Eleazar the Exorcist] compare in various ways to the life and ministry of Jesus’.220 It is hard to see this as anything but affirmation of Vermes’s proposal that rabbinic literature testifies to a number of miracle workers by the time of Jesus, though it lacks the explicit characterization of these men as hasidim. Evans sees Honi’s persistence when asking God for rain (m. Ta’an. 3:8) as similar to Jesus’s teaching in Luke 11:5–8 and 18:1–8, a point also made by Vermes.221 Further, Evans describes Honi’s filial relationship to God as ‘interesting’ in light of Matt. 6:9 and Mark 14:36, where God is called father, and Mark 1:11, where Jesus is called son of God. Again, these are points made previously by Vermes.222 Apart from Evans’s greater interest in discerning authentic from inauthentic material, most of Evans’s points could have been made by Vermes himself. Evans sees the Bavli’s description of Abba Hilkiah’s poverty as a trait of rabbinic holy men that parallels Jesus (Matt. 8:20, Luke 9:58).223 He also notes that Hanina ben Dosa is called man of deed in m. Sotah 9:15, explaining that ‘the description “men of deeds” refers to the miracles that were effected through his prayers’.224 He even draws a connection between Jesus as a ‘doer of amazing deeds’, as described by Josephus (Ant. 18.3.3) and Hanina as ‘man of deeds’ in the Mishnah.225 Vermes’s influence upon Evans’s choice of texts is clear. As examples of Hanina’s miracles, Evans cites m. Ber. 5:5 (Hanina’s effective prayer for the sick), b. Ber. 34b (Hanina heals the sons of Gamaliel and Johannan ben Zakkai), and the Tosefta story about Hanina and the reptile (t. Ber. 3:20). In contrast to other Hanina stories, Evans regards these ones as possibly authentic.226 220. Evans, Contemporaries, 227. 221. Evans, Contemporaries, 230; cf. Vermes, Jesus and the World of Judaism, 49. 222. Evans, Contemporaries, 230; cf. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 209–211. 223. Evans, Contemporaries, 230; cf. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 77. 224. Evans, Contemporaries, 231; cf. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 79. 225. Evans, Contemporaries, 235; cf. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 79. 226. Evans, Contemporaries, 231, 233; cf. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 72–77. Although it is not explicitly stated, Evans appears to regard these stories as authentic. After displaying the traditions in full original and translated texts, he writes that ‘there are other stories whereby healing or rescue was effected through Hanina’s intersession, though these are of legendary character’. He continues: ‘there is another tradition concerning Hanina ben Dosa that may be historical’. Here, Evans refers to t. Ber. 3:20, continuing ‘in my judgment it is equally possible that the halakhic ruling [m. Ber. 5:1] owes its inspiration to something that actually happened to Hanina’.

190

The Vermes Quest

He notices two similarities between b. Ber. 34b and Matt. 8: First, the reference to the hour when the healing occurred and, second, that Jesus and Hanina know that the cure was effective. Only the latter point had been remarked by Vermes.227 Furthermore, Evans recognizes parallels within traditions that he does not regard as authentic. Hanina’s encounter with the queen of demons (b. Pes. 112b) is ‘somewhat analogous’ to Jesus’s encounter with the demoniac in Mark 5 and to other encounters between Jesus and Satan.228 Both men were compared with Elijah229 and were declared son of God by a heavenly voice.230 Evans concludes: ‘what becomes clear is that Jesus’ ministry of healing and exorcising blends in well against his Jewish environment’.231 Although Evans is not convinced by the hasid theory, many of his observations resemble what Vermes establishes as the theory’s main constituents. Vermes has certainly impacted on Evans’s work in his descriptions of Jesus and of his contemporaries.

Development in Vermes’s View on Parallels to the New Testament As we have seen, Vermes unveils a new understanding of the hasid theory in The Changing Faces of Jesus (2000) by introducing ‘typology’ as the key to understanding the relevance of the rabbinic texts. In reality, Vermes still describes the Honi and Hanina traditions in order to ‘furnish the charismatic activity of Jesus with a context from outside the New Testament’,232 which is similar to Vermes’s reason for introducing these traditions in previous books. However, he also describes the function of the Honi and Hanina traditions differently than he had before. These traditions are said to enhance individual traits in the figure of Jesus. Vermes writes: ‘studying them [Honi and Hanina ben Dosa] will enable us to see the traits common to charismatics and the distinguishing marks which give Jesus his characteristic individuality’.233 In Jesus the Jew, Vermes emphasized the similarities between Jesus and the hasidim, and treated the hasidic context as Jesus’s own. Now, Vermes focuses on the differences, and the rabbinic stories about the hasidim help Jesus’s characteristics stand out and even point to Jesus’s supremacy. Vermes remarks that unlike the hasidim, Jesus was probably unmarried234 and that he was a great teacher with an eschatological vision: ‘the gospel preached by 227. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 75. 228. Evans, Contemporaries, 235. 229. Evans, Contemporaries, 236. 230. Evans, Contemporaries, 236. 231. Evans, Contemporaries, 243. Placing the Jesus traditions within a Jewish environment is the overall aim of Evans’s book (vii, viii). 232. Vermes, Changing Faces, 260. 233. Vermes, Changing Faces, 254. 234. Vermes, Changing Faces, 272. Vermes considers it possible that Jesus was married, but finds it more probable that he was not.

The Hasid Theory within Jesus Research after 1973

191

him is fire, power, and poetry, one of the high peaks in the religious creativity of the people of Israel’.235 Vermes also describes Jesus as superior to the hasidim: ‘to use modern jargon, if Jesus is the star, they are mere supporting actors’, and further ‘Jesus stood head and shoulders above them.’236 He goes on to describe Jesus’s personality and his strengths and weaknesses, summing up with the words ‘Jesus was a man of steel and warmth at the same time, and a total devotee of God whose perfection and mercy he set out to imitate.’237 Vermes’s admiration for Jesus is obvious here, and it is striking how different Jesus is from other hasidim. Not least, it is remarkable how much Vermes’s historical Jesus resembles Jesus of the Gospels.238 Vermes concedes that his emphasis on the differences between Jesus and the hasidim in this book is a result of scholarly responses to the hasid theory. He explains that ‘in the past I have more than once been accused by Christian theologians of detracting from the stature of Jesus by reducing him to that of a pale Galilean charismatic, and nothing more’. Vermes defends himself against this charge by quoting some sentences from the postscript of Jesus the Jew, where Jesus is portrayed ‘as second to none in profundity of insight and grandeur of character’ and as an ‘unsurpassed master of the art of laying bare the inmost core of spiritual truth and of bringing every issue back to the essence of religion, the existential relationship of man and man, and man and God’.239 References to Jesus’s superiority are also found in following publications. In the essay ‘Jesus the Jew: Christian and Jewish Reactions’, originally from 1991, Vermes sums up his approach and conclusions from Jesus the Jew, writing that Jesus ‘was a representative of the miracle working prophet figure, a latter-day manifestation of the type represented by Elijah and Elisha, characterized by me as a charismatic Hasid’.240 Vermes points out that the designation of ‘Galilean Hasid’ was never intended to present Jesus ‘as one out of many equals’, since Jesus was superior to the other hasidim.241 Similarly, in the article ‘Jesus the Jew and His Religion’, Vermes assures his readers that Jesus should be described as incomparably superior to the other hasidim.242 These examples show that Vermes clearly answers his critics and that he goes a long way in portraying Jesus as unique.

The Significance of the Hasid Theory for Jesus Research We have seen that the past forty years have brought many responses to Vermes’s hasid theory. The theory has certainly made a difference within Jesus research, 235. Vermes, Changing Faces, 273–275. 236. Vermes, Changing Faces, 271. 237. Vermes, Changing Faces, 272. 238. Vermes, Changing Faces, 271, 272. 239. Vermes, Changing Faces, 270, 271; cf. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 224. 240. Vermes, Jesus in the Jewish World, 4. 241. Vermes, Jesus in the Jewish World, 4. 242. Vermes, Jesus in the Jewish World, 20.

192

The Vermes Quest

but its significance should not be overstated. Rabbinic specialists have proposed that rabbinic literature using the hasid category is a literary construction that refers either to pious people in general or to certain pious people specifically. They have also pointed out challenges with using rabbinic literature as sources for the historical figures of Hanina and Honi. These contributions from rabbinic scholars have set the agenda and largely been used as a resource in discussions about the hasid theory within Jesus research. Jesus scholars who interact with Vermes’s theory describe the potential and limitations of his suggestions quite differently. Most of them point out difficulties or weaknesses in his work pertaining to method, particularly his choice and use of sources, and to the validity of the comparisons between Jesus and the hasidim, chiefly that there are differences that Vermes has not given sufficient weight. Some scholars have taken aspects of the theory into their works. A minority has built further on Vermes’s terminology and his descriptions of Jesus and his world, but none has accepted Vermes’s suggestion that the historical Jesus was a hasid. In particular, Vermes’s categories of ‘charismatic’ and the placing of Jesus among ‘Jewish holy men’ have been taken further by some scholars. In sum, Vermes’s hasid theory has become one significant feature of Jesus research, not because it has gained many supporters, but rather because of the many discussions that have focused on its weaknesses. Throughout his books, Vermes himself has described Jesus as a hasid. At first, he did so seemingly unaffected by criticisms. Later, Vermes responded to some of the objections, and by the turn of the millennium, he changed the way he wrote about the relevance of the rabbinic stories about Hanina ben Dosa and other figures for understanding Jesus. He then described similarities between Jesus and Hanina ben Dosa as ‘typological’, and paid more attention to differences between these characters than he had earlier. Despite this change, Vermes continued to refer to Jesus as a hasid, though such references are few and far between. The hasid theory has gained a notable position in histories of Jesus research and is included in depictions of the diverging Jesus images of the third quest. Apart from its quantitative value, its significance lies in the debates it has inspired. By introducing the theory, Vermes has drawn attention to stories from non-biblical sources that were not previously consulted widely by Jesus scholars. Vermes has thus inaugurated a long and fruitful debate about the use of rabbinic sources in New Testament scholarship. The hasid theory has also led scholarly attention into the question of Jesus’s miracles, and activated discussions about miracles in first-century Judaism. Most profoundly, the significance of the hasid theory lies in its role within Vermes’s scholarly work; it led way for the Jewish Jesus in Vermes’s shaping. It was the similarities between Jesus traditions and Hanina traditions that inspired Vermes to work further with the concept of the Jewish, miracle working Jesus in the 1960s and 1970s.

Chapter 11 HA N I NA B E N D O S A H E A L S F R OM A D I STA N C E : A C A SE O F C H R I ST IA N I N F LU E N C E S U P O N TA L M U D IC J U DA I SM ? As we have seen, there are multiple reasons to reject Vermes’s hasid theory. Most significantly, there does not appear to have been any group of Jewish healers known as the hasidim in the first century C.E. Moreover, most points of comparison between Hanina ben Dosa and Jesus do not stretch beyond the narrative level. Still, there is one parallel that demands further attention: The stories about Hanina and Jesus healing from a distance. These stories have such distinctive similarities that there might be a connection between them, though not the way Vermes has argued.

The Problem The Gospels and the Talmuds present many stories that depict Jesus and Hanina as healers from a distance. The Bavli version of the Hanina story (b. Ber. 34b) is most often quoted by Jesus scholars when they write about Jesus’s healings. The reader familiar with the New Testament will immediately recognize various aspects from the Jesus tradition here and surely also the differences in the portrayals of Jesus and Hanina. Vermes interpreted the similarities as reflections of historical resemblance between Jesus and Hanina. In the following, I explore instead the possibility of a connection on the literary level: could the Hanina tradition have been influenced by Jesus tradition? Inspired by recent works that argue that Christianity has influenced rabbinic texts in some cases, the following pages explore the possibility that similar traits between b. Ber. 34b and some gospel traditions could be explained by Christian influence upon rabbinic Judaism.1 Until recently, scholars have been accustomed

1. The influence of Christianity on rabbinic texts has gained attention from a few scholars in recent decades, perhaps most emphatically by Jacob Neusner, Peter Schäfer, and Israel Jacob Yuval. Oskar Skarsaune calls this a paradigm shift. A brief overview of the history of what he calls the ‘new paradigm’ can be found in Oskar Skarsaune, ‘Who Influenced Whom: Contours of a New Paradigme for Early Jewish-Christian Relations’, in Chosen to

194

The Vermes Quest

to assume that whenever Christian traditions resemble Jewish tradition, it should be explained either by the Jewish roots of Christianity or by influences from Judaism upon the early church.2 There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this, as much of Christian tradition is indeed rooted in or influenced by contemporary Judaism. Still, when the source on the Jewish side is a rabbinic text of relatively late date, that is, more recent than the Christian text in question, it should be asked if the influence has gone in the other direction. The chronology of the specific passages will therefore be of interest in the following. Unfortunately, we do not have any information about the provenance of the Hanina tale, and only few clues about it before it entered into the Talmud. So, in addition to concentrating on this specific Hanina tradition, I approach rabbinic literature more generally: is it possible, or even probable, that rabbinic texts have been influenced by Christian traditions? Is it possible from a practical point of view – could the Jesus tradition have been known within Jewish circles? Could the Talmuds include a story that was not originally about Hanina ben Dosa and present it in his name? The following pages exhibit perspectives that make a positive answer probable. I seek not to suggest precisely where, when, or how the stories about Jesus entered into the hands of the rabbis, but simply to show that such exchange is possible to assume. Before addressing the possibility of influences, we must take a closer look at the traditions in question.

Follow: Jewish Believers through History and Today (eds. Knut Helge Høyland and Jakob W. Nielsen; Jerusalem: Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish studies, 2012), 35–52, 35–44. 2. This presupposition guides most New Testament research of the past century. Michael Becker opens for the possibility that Christian traditions have had an impact on the development of rabbinic literature, but does not follow up on this track. He writes with regard to the Honi tradition: ‘Im Hintergrund eine Auseinandersetzung mit christlichen Charismatikertum zu vermuten, ist zwar denkbar, doch gab es auch innenrabbinisch genug Konfliktpotential, das für eine Entstehung des Einwands [von Shimon ben Shetah, m. Ta’an. 3:8] ab der Mitte des Zweiten nachchristlichen Jahrhunderts namhaft gemacht werden kann’ (Michael Becker, Wunder und Wundertäter im frührabbinischen Judentum: Studien zum Phänomen und seiner Überlieferung im Horizont von Magie und Dämonismus [WUNT 2/144; Tübingen: Mohr, 2002], 321). As far as I am aware, only one of Vermes’s critics has proposed any alternative explanation as to why b. Ber. 34b and certain healing stories from the Jesus tradition are so similar. Jean-Marie Van Cangh proposed that the Hanina tradition in b. Ber. 34b is dependent on John 4:46–53 (Van Cangh, ‘Miracles de rabbins’, 39, 40), but his view has not been taken any further by other scholars. This is not to say that the assumption that rabbinic tradition incorporates words by Jesus is new. Franz Delitzsch writes that ‘not a few of the utterances of Jesus are found brought into circulation by the Jewish converts, as anonymous words, or ascribed to some other person in the Talmud and Midrashin’ (Delitzsch, One Day in Capernaum, 162).

Christian Influences upon Talmudic Judaism?

195

Healing from a Distance The Jesus Tradition There are several stories in the New Testament about Jesus healing from a distance. They are found in all four Gospels and display an array of differences among them, but they all follow the same narrative pattern as b. Ber. 34b: A. Introduction that presents the sick person; B. Encounter between healer and the representative(s) of the sick person; C. Dialogue between the healer and the representative(s); D. Confirmation that the healing has been effective. In Mark 7:24–30, a Syrophoenician woman comes to Jesus and begs him to cast out an unclean spirit from her daughter. Jesus is unwilling at first and the mother argues with him. As a response to her arguments, Jesus declares the daughter free from the spirit. When the woman gets home, she finds her daughter freed. The parallel to this story is found in Matt. 15:21–28 and follows a similar scheme. This version does not present itself clearly as a healing from a distance, since there is no reference to the whereabouts of the possessed daughter. The Markan version places the child at home, in bed. In Matt. 8:5–13, it is the son or servant (παῖς) of a centurion (ἑκατόνταρχος) who needs healing; he is immobilized and in pain. The centurion approaches Jesus, and declares his faith in Jesus’s healing abilities. On the grounds of the faith expressed by the centurion, Jesus assures him that the servant is healed. The story ends with a comment from the narrator, which explains that the servant was healed at that very moment. Luke 7:2–10 also recounts a story about a centurion (ἑκατόνταρχος) and his sick slave (δοῦλος). In Luke’s version, the slave’s condition is described in more dramatic terms than in Matthew. There is no mentioning of paralysis, but his illness is terminal. The centurion sends some Jewish elders and later his friends to talk with Jesus. Jesus praises the centurion’s faith, as in Matthew, but makes no promise to heal the servant. Still, the story ends with a statement by the narrator testifying that the friends of the centurion found the slave in good condition when they came back to his house. In John 4:46–53, Jesus heals the son (υἱὸς) of a royal official (βασιλικὸς) who was dying. Jesus declares the son healed. On his way home, the slaves of the official meet him and tell him that his son is alive and that the fever left him at the same hour that Jesus had declared him well. These New Testament stories about healing from a distance comprise differences as well as similarities. The story in Mark (and par.) stands out for its female main characters. The Matthean, Lukan, and Johannean stories report of a sick male and a man identified through his vocation. The vocation of the man, his relation to the sick person, and the illness are different in the three narratives. The approach to Jesus and what is discussed also vary. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that the Matthean, Lukan, and Johannean stories are gospel parallels; stories that have developed from one single Jesus story.

The Vermes Quest

196

It is beyond my interest here to discuss whether these stories refer to events in the life of Jesus, and whether they are versions of the same story. It is significant however, that one might consider the similarities in the abovementioned stories to outweigh the differences. One can treat them as parallels with some sort of common provenance, despite the number and type of differences between them. Similarly, differences are only to be expected if a story about Jesus has entered into the rabbinic corpus in the shape of a Hanina story; and there are differences, some quite remarkable, between the stories about Jesus and the stories about Hanina. My examination, however, reveals striking similarities between the traditions that speak in favour of discussing a connection between them. To visualize the similarities and differences between the Jesus traditions and the Hanina tradition, I have placed the Lukan and Johannean stories in a ‘synopsis’ alongside b. Ber. 34b. The Markan and Matthean versions are left out here, because they do not represent any further points of comparison to b. Ber. 34b: Luke 7:2–10 (NRSV)

John 4:46b–56a (NRSV)

b. Ber. 34b (Soncino

A centurion there [Capernaum] had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death.

Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum.

Our Rabbis taught: Once the son of R. Gamaliel fell ill.

When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave … And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him …

When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.

He sent two scholars to R. Hanina b. Dosa to ask him to pray for him. When he saw them he went up to an upper chamber and prayed for him. When he came down he said to them: ‘Go, the fever has left him’

(dialogue: friends)

(dialogue: official)

and

(dialogue: Hanina and scholars)

Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked

‘I [Hanina] learnt this from experience. If my prayer is fluent in my mouth, I know that he is accepted: but if not, I know that he is rejected.’ They sat down and made a note of the exact moment. When they

Jesus

and

When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Jesus

Christian Influences upon Talmudic Judaism? them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.’ The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’

197

came to R. Gamaliel, he said to them: ‘By the temple service! You have not been a moment too soon or too late, but so it happened: at that very moment the fever left him and he asked for water to drink.’

As this synopsis reveals, the characters of the Hanina story resembles the Lukan version in that the father of the child sends someone else to the healer, while in the Johannean version, the father talks to Jesus himself. However, the end of the Hanina story resembles the Johannean version in that it focuses on the time of the healing. Is it possible that the gospel stories have influenced this specific Hanina story? In order to say something about the direction of influences (i.e. from whom upon whom), chronology is of the essence, and it is also necessary to know more about the rabbinic Hanina ben Dosa. What do we know about the Hanina tradition in written form? How old are the rabbinic compositions that encompass these traditions? The Hanina Tradition There are many stories about Hanina ben Dosa within rabbinic sources and the majority contain miraculous elements. In the following, I present stories relevant for the question of influences between Jesus traditions and Hanina traditions. The Mishnah, from ca. 200 C.E.,3 reports that Hanina used to pray for the sick and that he knew from the fluency of his prayer whether or not the sick person would live. The preceding mishnayot (m. Ber. 5:1–4) address the proper postures and attitudes for prayer, such as not letting oneself be interrupted by a snake, as well as the significance of saying the prayer correctly. The Hanina dialogue presents itself as relevant to these guidelines for prayer practice: ‘It was related of Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa that he used to pray for the sick and say, “This one will live, that one will die.” They said to him: “How do you know?” He replied: “If my prayer emerges fluently, I know that it is accepted, but if not, then I know that it is rejected”’ (m. Ber. 5:5). 3. Because the earliest manuscripts of these rabbinic texts are from the early European Renaissance, it is hard to establish the time of redaction for the original compositions. I rely on the suggestions made by Jacob Neusner: the formative age of Judaism is the period marked at the outset by the Mishnah, taking shape from sometime before the Common Era and reaching closure at ca. 200 C.E., and at the end by Talmud of Babylonia, ca. 600 C.E. In between these dates, two streams of writing developed, one legal, … the other theological and exegetical … The high points of the former come with tractate Abot which is the Mishnah’s first apologetic, then Tosefta, a collection of supplements ca. 300 C.E., the Talmud of the Land of Israel [i.e. Yerushalmi], followed by the Babylonian Talmud. (Jacob Neusner, Judaism in the Matrix of Christianity [Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991], 67)

198

The Vermes Quest

About a century later, the Tosefta (t. Ber. 3:20) narrates a story that apparently merges aspects that are separate in the Mishnah. Here, we find a story about a reptile that bit Hanina as he was praying.4 Hanina continued his prayer according to Mishnaic standards (m. Ber. 5:1) unharmed, while the reptile died. The Tosefta has no reference to Hanina’s prayer for the sick. The story about the reptile is also recorded in the Palestinian Talmud, dating to the early fifth century. As in the Tosefta story, Hanina exemplifies proper prayer. Moreover, the story in the Palestinian Talmud (y. Ber. 9a) provides explanations to questions that appear to have been provoked by the Tosefta version. There is a new dialogue between Hanina and his students, in which Hanina claims to have been so concentrated on his prayer that he did not feel the bite. This version also adds two comments that explain why Hanina was saved from the reptile’s poison. First, there is a general saying about the effect of such bites: ‘if the person drinks water first, the lizard dies. But if the lizard drinks water first, the person dies’.5 Here, the potentially miraculous incident is given a natural, if folksy, explanation. Then, though, the Hanina story ends by a comment that credits God with saving Hanina. Rabbi Yitzhak bar Eleazar explains that God created a spring of water beneath Hanina’s feet, implicitly so that Hanina might drink water before the lizard and thus be spared. The Palestinian version downplays Hanina’s role as a miracle worker and credits the miracle to God. The earliest report about the healing of R. Gamaliel’s son is found in the same tractate as the story about Hanina and the lizard. The Palestinian version of the story is gemara to m. Ber. 5:5 (about Hanina’s fluent prayer for the sick; the same story that apparently inspired the story about Hanina and the lizard). The story about Hanina’s healing of Gamaliel’s son functions as an example of the saying from the Mishnah. It follows a pattern similar to the stories above from the Jesus tradition: Once Rabban Gamaliel’s son fell ill and he sent two students to R. Haninah ben Dosa in his town [to find out from him what his son’s fate would be]. He [Haninah] said to them [the students], ‘wait for me while I go up to the attic [to pray].’ He went up to the attic, came down, and said to them, ‘I am certain that Rabban Gamaliel’s son has recovered from his illness.’ [The students] made note [of the time of day that this happened]. [Later they confirmed that] at that very moment [back in Gamaliel’s town, his son recovered] and asked for food. (y. Ber. 9d)6

The Babylonian Talmud, which dates to 500–600 C.E., encompasses many miracle stories about Hanina ben Dosa and of his family and livestock. Some of 4. This tradition is also found in later compositions. The words used to describe the reptile differ in the texts: arvad is used in the Tosefta and havarbar in the Talmuds. The change in words here illustrates how details of the rabbinic stories differ, just as we have seen with the gospel stories (Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 46–49 for a discussion of the terms). 5. Translation: Zahavy, Yerushalmi Berakhot, 212. 6. Translation: Zahavy, Yerushalmi Berakhot, 218.

Christian Influences upon Talmudic Judaism?

199

them build upon motives that are known from earlier compositions,7 while others have no earlier counterparts that survive. For example, it is said that Hanina made the beams of a poorly built house stretch out so they reached the roof, that the lamp of Hanina’s daughter burned, even though she had poured vinegar into it instead of oil, and that Hanina’s wife miraculously found their oven filled with bread before Sabbath, even though they were too poor to bake (b. Ta’an. 24a–25b). The Babylonian version of the healing from a distance (b. Ber. 34b) differs from the Palestinian version first and foremost by the representation of a dialogue between Hanina and Gamaliel’s students. The dialogue links the healing story to the saying about Hanina’s prayer in the Mishnah: ‘they said to him: “Are you a prophet?” He replied: “I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I learnt this from experience. If my prayer is fluent in my mouth, I know that he is accepted: but if not, I know that he is rejected.”’ The wording of Hanina’s answer (‘I am neither a prophet, nor the son of a prophet’) is identical to Amos 7:14, and thus connects Hanina not only to the saying in the Mishnah, but also to the prophet of the Hebrew Bible. Similarly, the healing story that follows immediately also displays a connection between Hanina and a story from the Hebrew Bible: On another occasion it happened that R. Hanina b. Dosa went to study Torah with R. Johanan ben Zakkai. The son of R. Johanan ben Zakkai fell ill. He said to him: Hanina my son, pray for him that he may live. He put his head between his knees and prayed for him and he lived. Said R. Johanan ben Zakkai: If Ben Zakkai had stuck his head between his knees for the whole day, no notice would have been taken of him. Said his wife to him: Is Hanina greater than you are? He replied to her: No; but he is like a servant before the king, and I am like a nobleman before a king. (b. Ber. 34b, Soncino edition)

Whereas the first healing story makes one think of Amos, the prayer position of Hanina in the latter recalls Elijah, one of the greatest healers of the Hebrew Bible (cf. 1 Kings 18:42).8 The story about Johanan ben Zakkai’s son is not presented as a story of healing from a distance. Furthermore, it differs from the Gamaliel story in the Bavli, as it does not employ the Mishnaic saying about Hanina’s prayer. I include the story here because it exemplifies the growth of the written Hanina 7. In addition to b. Ber. 34b, which focuses on prayer and healing, the story about the reptile is also found here, but in a notable different version than in the Yerushalmi, which does not emphasize Hanina’s prayer; cf. b. Ber. 33a. 8. The link between the Hanina tradition and the prophets of the Hebrew Bible has been noticed by many, such as Joseph Blenkinsopp, ‘Miracles: Elisha and Hanina ben Dosa’, in Miracles in Jewish and Christian Antiquity (ed. John C. Cavadini; NDST 3; Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 1999), 57–81, 76, 77. More recently, Erkki Koskenniemi has shown how traditions about Elijah and other ancient figures were revitalized in early Judaism; see Erkki Koskenniemi, The Old Testament Miracle-Workers in Early Judaism (WUNT 2/206; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005).

200

The Vermes Quest

tradition. The Bavli represents Hanina as a healer per se, as favoured by God, and as a very pious man. This image is further supported by the next stage of the development of the story about Hanina and the reptile: Our Rabbis taught: ‘In a certain place there was once a lizard  which used to injure people.’ They came and told R. Hanina b. Dosa. He said to them: ‘Show me its hole.’ They showed him its hole, and he put his heel over the hole, and the lizard came out and bit him, and it died. He put it on his shoulder and brought it to the Beth ha-Midrash and said to them: ‘See, my sons, it is not the lizard that kills, it is sin that kills!’ On that occasion they said: ‘Woe to the man whom a lizard meets, but woe to the lizard which R. Hanina b. Dosa meets!’ (b. Ber. 33a)

Here, Hanina does not pray; he is immune to poisonous bites and it is the lizard that dies from the bite. The incident gives Hanina the opportunity to proclaim a wisdom saying; Hanina is thus presented as a teacher and a wonder worker.9 Although the representations of Hanina tradition in the Bavli partly build on ideas that are found in earlier rabbinic works, the Hanina of the Bavli is certainly quite different than earlier descriptions of him.10 The question here is whether this transformation is influenced by Jesus tradition. The question could be posed more broadly: is the interest in miracles within Babylonian Judaism a response to the Jesus movement? If limited to specific stories about Hanina ben Dosa, the question could be narrowed to: has rabbinic Judaism shaped the tradition(s) of Hanina ben Dosa as a response to miracle stories of the Jesus movement? Or one could ask even more narrowly: is the specific story in y. Ber. 9d and its parallel in b. Ber. 34b influenced by John 4 (par), and, if so, is the Hanina story deliberately shaped as a response to the corresponding Jesus tradition? If a positive answer to any of these questions should be given, it is not sufficient to consider the date of the compositions. We must ask about the date of traditions and thus move beyond the written texts into a world of oral transmission. The Jesus traditions of the New Testament were probably written within a century after his death, most of them earlier. The Jesus stories in question here can therefore be dated to the first century of the Common Era. Rabbinic traditions, however, 9. In Exod. R. 3:16, Hanina’s teaching about sin is repeated: ‘And Moses fled from before it (Exod. 4:3). Why did he flee? Because he had sinned through his words (Exod. 4:1). For, if he had not sinned, he would not have fled; for it is not the serpent but sin that kills, as it is written in the story of R. Hanina ben Dosa.’ 10. The Mishnah remembers Hanina as the last, or greatest, man of deed (m. Sotah 9:15). Since we know so little about Hanina and he is the only named man of deed in the Mishnah, it is hard to define what is meant by the term, though many scholars have tried (cf. Chapters 9 and 10). In any case, the references signify that Hanina ben Dosa was important already by the time of the Mishnah. His significance appears to have become even greater within Babylonian Jewry in later times, as the Babylonia Talmud portray him as a spectacular wonder worker.

Christian Influences upon Talmudic Judaism?

201

which first appear in the Talmuds, may have been transmitted orally or in writings now lost to us for centuries before being recorded. Can we get any closer to determining the age of the Hanina tradition in question? What, if anything, can be said about the date of the Hanina traditions?

Date and Chronology of Traditions One approach to dating rabbinic halakhic traditions has been employing attribution, which means that whenever a tradition is attributed to a named rabbi, the tradition is considered to originate from the time of that rabbi. Similarly, rabbinic aggadot may be dated in accordance with the lifetime of the characters within the narrative. In the case of Hanina ben Dosa, it is generally assumed that he lived in the first century C.E.11 It is difficult to ascertain, however, when characters such as Hanina actually flourished. The earliest source for the life of Hanina is the Mishnah; more specific assumptions must rely on stories in the Talmuds. One story from the Yerushalmi (y. Ber. 9d) and several stories from the Bavli (for instance b. Ber. 34b) place Hanina in settings that presuppose a time around 70 C.E. However, the fact that these stories are not found in earlier sources combined with their legendary character call for caution about drawing historical inferences from them. Furthermore, the rabbis who shaped the Talmuds in their final form were more concerned with didactic purposes and defining Judaism than with biographical matters.12 Given that the Mishnah was completed around 200 C.E. and that it contains records about Hanina ben Dosa, it is obvious that Hanina flourished some time prior to 200 C.E. Vermes assumes that Hanina must have flourished in the first century, due to the Talmudic stories that place him in company with R. Gamaliel and R. Johanan ben Zakkai.13 This does not mean, however, that Vermes presumes uncritically that the Talmuds must reflect historical events. He therefore discusses whether the healing story may originate from a later time than Hanina himself. Vermes asserts, though, that a healing story from the life of Hanina is indeed the base of both the Mishnah saying about Hanina’s prayer (m. Ber. 5:5) and of the versions

11. See Berman, ‘Hasidim’, 17; Freyne, ‘The Charismatic’, in Ideal Figures, 242; Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, 138; Koskenniemi, The Old Testament Miracle-Workers in Early Judaism, 174; Keener, Miracles, 59; Naomi Koltun-Fromm, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, The Encyclopedia of Ancient History 6 (2013): 1. Eric Eve, Context of Jesus’ Miracles, 281 points out how weak the evidence is for placing Hanina in the Second Temple period, but he does not discuss the consequences of it. 12. Jacob Neusner, Introduction to Rabbinic Literature (ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1994), 662, 663. 13. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 73. Vermes refers to the question of whether Hanina flourished before or after 70 C.E. and opts for the older alternative (Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 241, n. 70).

202

The Vermes Quest

preserved in the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds, but he does not argue only from attribution: ‘in fact, a dictum such as the one surviving in the Mishnah almost beyond question presupposes, rather than inspires, a healing narrative, in this case the effective cure of a distant patient by means of a miraculous prayer’.14 Moreover, Vermes describes the Palestinian version as a ‘remanipulated and abridged version of the baraita preserved in the Babylonian Talmud’. He thus sees the Bavli tradition as more original than the Yerushalmi version. If Vermes’s arguments are right, the Hanina story must be older than the Mishnah, that is, before ca. 200 C.E. The logical inference is that the story about Hanina healing from a distance goes back to the historical Hanina. The story, then, would be as old as or even older than the Jesus tradition in question. There are, however, some significant objections to Vermes’s line of reasoning that must be acknowledged here. Jacob Neusner and other rabbinic scholars who follow his methodology emphasize that the Talmuds are more than mere collections of old traditions. The collections promote and thus reflect the religious worldview of their framers.15 As William Scott Green puts it: ‘we know about early rabbinic figures what the various authorities behind the documents want us to know, and we know it in the way they want us to know it’.16 Accordingly, the Talmuds first of all give insight into the formation of rabbinic Judaism in early medieval times and are not to be treated directly as sources for earlier times. When it comes to the date of the traditions that are incorporated into written rabbinic documents, Neusner reminds us that ‘what we cannot show, we do not know’.17 His message is that while rabbinic traditions can be dated to the time of redaction, it is impossible to say anything certain about the age of any oral traditions before then. Although the traditions are almost certainly older than the compilations in which they appear, it is impossible to establish a precise date of 14. Vermes, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 30, 31. This does not mean that Vermes takes every Hanina story as genuine. He regards some of the stories as secondary (39). 15. See for example, Neusner, Judaism in the Matrix, xxi, and works that I have introduced in earlier chapters: Green, ‘Palestinian Holy Men’; Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’. Neusner addresses the Palestinian Talmud, but the same thing applies to the Babylonian Talmud. 16. William Scott Green, ‘What’s in a Name? The Problematic of Rabbinic “Biography”’, in Approaches to Ancient Judaism: Theory and Practice (ed. William Scott Green; BJS 1; Missoula: Scholars Press, 1978), 77–96, 80. A similar point is made by Neusner: ‘these facts will concern only what the compiler of the text wished to tell us’ (Jacob Neusner, Development of a Legend: Studies on the Traditions Concerning Yohanan ben Zakkai [StPB XVI; Leiden: Brill, 1970], 9). 17. The phrase is frequently repeated in Neusner’s works. See for example, Neusner, Judaism in the Matrix, xxi, the title of Jacob Neusner, Rabbinic Literature and the New Testament: What We Cannot Show, We Do Not Know (Valley Forge: Trinity, 1994) and Neusner, Introduction, 659. In his study of the rich material of traditions concerning Johanan ben Zakkai, Neusner writes: ‘I think it reasonable to suppose that the new material was not known earlier, but was in fact fabricated by the later tradents for the purposes of their improved accounts’ (Neusner, Yohanan ben Zakkai, 265).

Christian Influences upon Talmudic Judaism?

203

origin. We cannot demonstrate how old they are and thus cannot presuppose that a rabbinic tradition goes back to the time of a person portrayed in that tradition. While Neusner makes these claims about rabbinic tradition in general, Alan J. Avery-Peck makes similar statements about the Hanina tradition specifically: The problem is that … none of the specific actions assigned to Honi or Hanina, and certainly not the traits of their personalities, can be firmly assigned to the period of Jesus’ ministry. The Rabbinic accounts are centuries later than the period they claim to describe. We have no way of ascertaining what aspects of the Rabbinic accounts did or did not circulate centuries before the completion of the compilations in which they are now found.18

This calls for caution when discussing the age of traditions. The historical reliability of rabbinic attribution is also weakened by the fact that some passages reveal confusion about attributions. Examples of this are found within stories and sayings about Hanina ben Dosa. The Babylonian Talmud records a story about a Hanina ben Dosa who saves the daughter of Nehuniah (b. BK. 50a). In the Palestinian Talmud, a similar story is told with Pinhas ben Yair as the protagonist (y. Shek. 48d).19 Moreover, two maxims ascribed to Hanina ben Dosa in the Mishnah (m. Abot 3:10 and m. Ber. 5:5) are attributed to R. Akiba in the Tosefta (t. Ber. 3:3).20 Furthermore, Derek Eretz Rabbah 1:6, also called Arayot 6,21 renders a halakhic teaching, which is given in the name of Hanina ben Dosa. The Kaufmann A 50 manuscript reads: ‘the following exposition was given by R. Hanina ben Dosa before the Sages in the name of Rabbi Nathan …’ A different manuscript, Ms. Munich, reads ‘Hanina ben Uri’ where Ms. Kaufmann 50 A reads ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, and suggests the alternative reading ‘Nehunja ben Haqanah’ in place for ‘Hanina ben Uri.’22 Regardless of what has caused the confusion of names, it signals that attributions can be faulty.23 It also suggests that stories could be told about Hanina ben Dosa that originated with a different character. This is 18. Avery-Peck, ‘The Galilean Charismatic’, 164. 19. Vermes makes us aware of this discrepancy without seeing it as a problem for his image of Hanina ben Dosa (Vermes, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 183, n. 14). 20. See Vermes, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 49, where he comments that sayings by Hanina ben Dosa may have been ‘taken over by more famous rabbis’. 21. Arayot is the scribe’s title of the first chapter of Derek Eretz Rabbah. 22. Translations are from Abraham Cohen, The Minor Tractates of the Talmud (2 vols.; London: Soncino, 1965), 531; Marcus van Loopik, The Ways of the Sages and the Way of the World: The Minor Tractates of the Babylonian Talmud: Derekh ‘Eretz Rabbah, Derekh ‘Eretz Zuta, Pereq ha-Shalom (TSAJ 26; Tübingen: Mohr, 1991), 35. 23. In light of the rabbinic attitude known from a saying in the Mishnah, it is more likely that diverging attributions are a result of confusion rather than deliberate alteration of names. Mishnah Avot 6:6 encourages the practice of keeping attributions straight: ‘whosoever quotes a thing in the name of him who said it, brings deliverance into the world’ (Danby, Mishnah, 544). In his study of the rich material of traditions concerning Johanan

204

The Vermes Quest

a significant premise for our question about potential influences from the Jesus tradition. According to Neusner’s way of thinking one should date the Hanina tradition according to the composition that first attests to it. The Hanina story in question here would then be dated to the creation of the Palestinian Talmud. In my view, such a mechanical approach to the historical aspects of rabbinic sources does not take the nature of the sources into account sufficiently. The Talmuds, for instance, surely relate to earlier traditions in written and oral forms. One must assume that many stories recorded there are much older than the composition itself. Still, Neusner rightly warns against false assurance of the antiquity of the stories. The data in our case – a brief statement in the Mishnah and longer, much more detailed stories in the Talmuds – suggest that the story about healing from a distance originated not with Hanina ben Dosa himself, but developed between the time of the Mishnah and the time of the Palestinian Talmud (200–300 C.E.). Hence, if there has been influence between the Jesus tradition and the Hanina tradition, it is most reasonable to suggest that the influence has gone from the gospel story to the rabbinic, rather than the other way around. It is a simple matter of chronology: the stories above about Jesus were written down around 50–100 C.E.; the earliest documentation of the rabbinic counterparts is from 200–400 C.E. Let us, for the sake of argument, consider the possibility that the Hanina tradition goes back to Hanina himself, as Vermes assumes. The story about Hanina ben Dosa healing from a distance would then have existed at approximately the same time as the formation of the Gospels. Could influence from the Hanina story upon the Jesus story explain the similarities between y. Ber. 9d/b. Ber. 34b and the Jesus traditions in the New Testament? It would be possible that the Hanina story was known by someone, whether a follower of Jesus or not, who for some reason passed it on with Jesus as the main character. At some point not long thereafter, the story must have entered into streams of the Jesus tradition that were included in the Gospels. The similarities between the Hanina story and Matthew, Luke, and John could certainly have originated this way.24 However, such a hypothesis would be hard to defend. First of all, we do not know when Hanina lived; it may have been later than the formation of the Gospels. Second, this scenario presupposes that the Hanina tradition became part of the Jesus tradition very quickly, as it made its way into three of the Gospels. This could, however, explain why the story is absent from Mark. Furthermore, ben Zakkai, Neusner writes: ‘I think it reasonable to suppose that the new material was not known earlier, but was in fact fabricated by the later tradents for the purposes of their improved accounts’ (Neusner, Yohanan ben Zakkai, 265). 24. It is unlikely that the Markan story (and its Matthean parallel) originated in this way, since it differs substantially from the rabbinic story. Still, as this story comes across as dissimilar to the other stories, it could have an origin separate from the other healing from a distance stories.

Christian Influences upon Talmudic Judaism?

205

the Hanina story must have existed for centuries without being included in the Mishnah and the Tosefta, two compositions that actually report of Hanina and his abilities. This is possible, but a simpler hypothesis would be far preferable. Chronology and of course the similarity between the traditions speak for an inquiry into whether this rabbinic tradition may have been influenced by the corresponding Jesus tradition, and not the converse. To argue for influence from a Hanina story on the gospel stories would demand other sources or different dating of those sources available to us. The question now remains whether such influence could possibly or probably occur.

The Possibility of Influence between Traditions ‘Given the thoroughly Jewish character of Christianity’s beginnings, why did it become a separate religion?’25 James D. G. Dunn poses this question as his starting point for discussing the ‘parting of the ways’ between ‘Christianity’ and ‘Judaism’. Due to this question, Dunn is bound to pay attention to the negative sides of coexistence between Jesus-believers and other Jews, like diverging practices and beliefs. For our purposes, Dunn’s opening question must be turned on its head: during the first through fourth centuries, did Jesus believers and others interact, potentially sharing viewpoints and narratives? Given the thoroughly Jewish character of Christianity’s beginnings and a chronology that puts the Gospels centuries earlier than the Talmuds, could Jesus traditions have reached the rabbis who edited them? I am discussing a time when neither Christianity nor Judaism as we know it yet existed. When dealing with this time, it is difficult to choose appropriate terminology. What would later become orthodox Christianity and rabbinic Judaism was not fixed in the first centuries of our era, and different individuals and groups had differing emphases concerning both faith and practice. In the following, I largely eschew the terms ‘Christianity’ and ‘Christians’, speaking instead of ‘Jesus movement’ and ‘Jesus-believers’ or ‘believers in Jesus’. I see the Jesus movement as a sea of different traditions, alliances, battles, negotiations, and coincidences of the first centuries and beyond, which later coalesced into Christianity. In this situation, the written Gospels, along with the fixing of 25. James D. G. Dunn, The Partings of the Ways: Between Christianity and Judaism and Their Significance for the Character of Christianity (London: SCM Press, 1991), 1. For recent contributions that question Dunn’s model, see for example, Anders Runesson, ‘Who Parted from Whom? The Myth of the So-Called Parting of the Ways between Judaism and Christianity’, in Chosen to Follow: Jewish Believers through History and Today (eds. Knut Helge Høyland and Jakob W. Nielsen; Jerusalem: Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish studies, 2012), 53–72; Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed, eds., The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (TSAJ 95; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007).

206

The Vermes Quest

the canon and the Creeds mark the need for consolidation. Similar processes took place on the Jewish side. The formation of the Mishnah and later rabbinic scriptures reflect the need to consolidate proper faith and especially practices. I use the term ‘rabbinic Judaism’ to denote the form of Judaism that the rabbis have brought further through their compositions. It is multifaceted indeed.26 I use Dunn as my starting point here because his image of the ways dominates the manner in which many scholars have thought about Jewish–Christian relations. To picture the possible arenas for influence, one cannot maintain the image of one way that became two separate ways. The image may function for Dunn’s purposes, but it may lead to a number of probably unintentional misconceptions that must be cleared up here. First of all, Dunn’s way-motive portrays a situation where there was just one path of Judaism. According to the metaphor, the Jesus movement was fully part of this movement for some time. This image of the ‘one way’ is problematic, because it conceals both the diversity within first-century Judaism and the distinctiveness of those who believed in Jesus. It is surely reasonable to assume that the vast majority of the first Jesus believers were Jews and that they kept Jewish practices. Moreover, first-century Judaism was flexible enough to encompass different groups with different emphases, like the Pharisees and the Jesus believers, so that variety could be encompassed within ‘one way’. However, there are indications that believers in Jesus saw themselves, perhaps primarily, as part of a larger community of Jesus believers (cf. e.g. 1 Cor. 1:2). There appears to have been certain division between the Jesus movement and Jewish contemporaries from the start. A dichotomy between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – between Jesus believers and non-believers, whether Jew or Gentiles – can be found in very early sources (e.g. 1 Cor. 10:32). During the centuries in question here, the distinctiveness and the contact between the followers of each movement

26. Daniel Boyarin, ‘Semantic Differences; or “Judaism”/“Christianity”’, in The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (eds. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed; TSAJ 95; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 65–85 develops these difficulties more thoroughly. In order to portray how hard it is to define the border between Judaism and Christianity (even in limited historical and geographical contexts), Boyarin uses two analogies, one of language (languages develop, interact with other languages, and may be expressed through a variety of dialects, 77) and another of family (some family members share certain features, while other members share other features. There might not be one common feature shared by all, and if I may add to Boyarin’s examples; features from one family might also be found in other families, 78, 79). In my view, Boyarin’s analogies display in a helpful way how difficult it is for the outside observer to describe the border between religions, but also make clear how much simpler things may have appeared from the inside, among those who considered themselves firmly within their own movement.

Christian Influences upon Talmudic Judaism?

207

have been exercised in different ways.27 Coexistence and discussions between Jesus believers and other Jews may provide the arenas for exchange of traditions, which may have resulted in the similarities between the Jesus traditions and Hanina traditions in question here. Second, the way-motive promotes the illusion that Christians and Jews did not interact after the parting. Several texts and archaeological evidence suggest otherwise.28 In the following, I review the works of some scholars who argue that although the relations between Jews and Christians might have been hostile, their traditions did interact. Third, the image of the parted ways obscures the diversity within each practice after they parted and the variety of other ‘ways’ or religious systems and 27. Martin Goodman, Simon Price, and Peter Schäfer, ‘Foreword’, in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (eds. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed; TSAJ 95; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), xi emphasize the need for describing ‘where and when, by whom and for whom’ the parting of ways can be seen. This work, first published in 2003, includes contributions that discuss diverse matters in relation to the parting. A research history of scholarly works that employ the image of the parting of ways for Jewish–Christian relations can be found (8–16). Paula Fredriksen vividly describes the practical circumstances for coexistence between religious communities in Mediterranean cities (Paula Fredriksen, ‘What Parting of the Ways? Jews, Gentiles, and the Mediterranean City’, in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages [eds. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed; TSAJ 95; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007], 36–63). Although her focus is not on cities that were particularly important for the formation of the Talmuds – John Chrysostom in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire, is the closest she gets, 51 – it is probable that her finding apply for these places as well. This assumption is supported by Adam H. Becker’s chapter. He suggests that at least some Jesus believers in the late fourth century Mesopotamia were circumcised and possibly took refuge in the synagogue during persecution (Adam H. Becker, ‘Beyond the Spacial and Temporal Limes: Questioning the “Parting of the Ways” Outside the Roman Empire’, in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages [eds. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed; TSAJ 95; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007], 373–392, 379). This should however not be taken as proof that there were no boundaries between Christians and Jews. Naomi Koltun-Fromm shows how the church father Apharahat from early fourth-century Syria defines Christian virtues as opposed to Jewish practises (Naomi Koltun-Fromm, ‘Zipporah’s Complaint: Moses Is Not Conscientious in the Deed! Exegetical Traditions of Moses’ Celibacy’, in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages [eds. Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed; TSAJ 95; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007], 283–306, 284). Hence, sources available to us give glimpses into the complexity of Jewish–Christian relations in times and places where rabbinic Judaism came into being. 28. Multiple examples can be found in Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik, eds., Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2007); Becker and Reed, eds., The Ways That Never Parted.

208

The Vermes Quest

practices with which people interacted.29 Amulets and other religious objects may underscore the fluidity of traditions within the world of ordinary people. Some of them may not easily fit into our conceptions of Christianity or Judaism. However, they may provide valuable insight into religious traditions and their uses.30 With regard to Hanina tradition, there is one magic bowl (M156) from Babylonia that reflects the familiarity with the Hanina tradition in b. Pes. 112b.31 Hanina ben Dosa is the only person mentioned by name on the bowl apart from the sick person and what appear to be spirits or angels. Dan Levene, who has transcribed and translated the inscriptions, groups M156 together with bowls that are intended for ‘healing of particular medical complaints’.32 Line 7 reads: ‘I adjure and put an oath upon you, you evil spirit who happened upon R. Hanina ben Dosa. R. Hanina ben Dosa recited to the evil spirit that happened upon him at that time that biblical verse, as it is written: “You bring on darkness and it is night, when the beasts of the forests stir”’.33 Another bowl from the same collection has a Trinitarian formula at the end. Line 29 reads: ‘In the name of I am that I am 29. John Kaufman, ‘Diverging Trajectories or Emerging Mainstream? Unity and Diversity in Second Century Christianity’, in Among Jews, Gentiles and Christians in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Studies in Honour of Professor Oskar Skarsaune on His 65th Birthday (eds. Reidar Hvalvik and John Kaufman; Trondheim: Tapir Academic Press, 2011), 113–128 discusses different models for describing the development within the diverse Jesus movement of the first centuries of our era. 30. For more about the reciprocal relationship between ‘religion’ and ‘magic’, and of the syncretistic nature of ‘magic’, see Hans Dieter Betz, ‘Magic and Mystery in the Greek Magical Papyri’, in Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion (eds. Christopher A. Faraone and Dirk Obbink; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 244–259. 31. The text of this bowl (along with photographs, translations, and some comments) was first published in Dan Levene, A Corpus of Magic Bowls: Incantation Texts in Jewish Aramaic from Late Antiquity (London: Kegan Paul, 2003), and most recently in Shaul Shaked, James Nathan Ford, and Siam Bhayro, Aramaic Bowl Spells: Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Bowls (Magical and Religious Literature of Late Antiquity 1: Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection 20; Leiden: Brill, 2013). The language, content, and appearance of the magic bowl are consistent with other Babylonian bowls (Levene, A Corpus of Magic Bowls, 3). The label of the bowl, M156, is provisionally given by Levene. ‘M’ signifies that this is a bowl from the Moussaieff collection. The text of the bowl appears to display a similar situation as b. Pes. 112b. This rabbinic tradition renders a discussion between Hanina and an evil spirit, Agrath, daughter of Mahlath. Because of the demon’s plea, Hanina allows her to be active two nights a week. Although both the bowl and the rabbinic tradition describe Hanina’s encounter with a spirit, the texts reveal quite different portrayals of a similar situation. The relation between the texts, if any, cannot be established. Thanks to my colleague Nils Hallvard Korsvoll for making me aware of the Hanina reference here. 32. Levene, A Corpus of Magic Bowls, 4. 33. Translation: Levene, A Corpus of Magic Bowls, 116. There are many other Jewish religious elements in this text, such as quotations from the Hebrew Bible and the words sela, amen, and YHWH. The quote refers to Ps. 104:20.

Christian Influences upon Talmudic Judaism?

209

YHWH Sebaoth and in the name of Jesus who conquered the height and the depth by his cross and in the name of his exalted father and in the name of the holy spirits forever’ (M163).34 These magic bowls remind us that religion is more than the authorized texts, and that stories cross over religious borders. Evidently, within a Jewish Babylonian context, the names of both Jesus and Hanina ben Dosa existed in the magician’s pool of power.35 Yet another part of religious life must be considered before we proceed. Even within the Jesus movement, Jesus tradition is not only passed on by the Gospels. Stories about followers of Jesus, holy men, and women copycat gospel material to some extent. They were popular and widespread in the centuries and areas of interest to this chapter; the same is true of non-canonical records of Jesus. Many of these stories have miraculous elements and contain similarities with rabbinic stories. This means that if miracle stories of the Talmuds reflect Christian influences, they may originate indirectly from the New Testament Jesus tradition, and more directly through stories about holy men or through what today is noncanonical Jesus tradition. Baruch M. Bokser quotes two stories that are analogous with parts of the Hanina and the reptile tradition. The first is History of the Monks of Syria (fifth century), in which a dragon/reptile dies after trying to attack the monk Marcianos at prayer. The second story is from The Life of Pachomius, which reports of a praying monk who was bitten by a scorpion and did not die.36 Furthermore, Craig A. Evans finds two parallels between The Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Hanina tradition. One of them is a story that resembles the Hanina and the reptile tradition. Jesus’s brother James was bit by a viper and he was dying. Jesus breathed on the bite, James recovered, and the viper burst (Greek Thomas A 6:1–2; cf. Latin Thomas 14:1). The other parallel that Evans points out is between the Hanina miracle where Hanina’s prayer made the beams of his neighbour Aiku’s house stretch unto the roof (b. Ta’an. 25a) and a story about Jesus and his father, Joseph. According to Greek Thomas A 13:1–2 (cf. Greek Thomas B 11:1–3; Latin Thomas 34. Translation from Levene, A Corpus of Magic Bowls, 127. Levene remarks that the spelling of ‘Jesus’ (‫ )ושיא‬is unattested in other sources and that the ‘holy spirits’ might be reconstructed as ‘holy spirit’ (137, 138). Shaul Shaked discusses the implications of this reference to the Trinity. He remarks that although the script and language of the bowl is consistent with what one finds in Jewish bowls, the Trinitarian ending of the text and the explicit reference to Jesus reveal some knowledge of Christian practice. Due to the names, spellings, language, and script of the bowl, Shaked suggests that it is written by a Jew and that it was ordered by Zoroastrian clients to harm a Christian opponent (Shaul Shaked, ‘Jesus in the Magic Bowls. Apropos Dan Levene’s “… and by the name of Jesus …”’, JSQ 6 [1999]: 309–319, 315 in particular). 35. There are few Babylonian magic bowls that mention Jesus. Markham J. Geller, ‘Jesus’ Theurgic Powers: Parallels in the Talmud and Incantation Bowls’, JJS 28 (1977): 141–155, 149–155 discusses potential exceptions to this rule. 36. Bokser, ‘Hanina ben Dosa’, 89, 90.

210

The Vermes Quest

11:1–2), Joseph cut two beams for a bed, but unfortunately cut them in different sizes. Jesus miraculously made the beams equally long.37 Such similarities between stories from the Jesus movement and rabbinic stories might be coincidental and merely reflect that people believed that miracles were possible; they told stories about religious heroes and their abilities to overcome challenges. However, if we take into account their coexistence among people of different religious convictions, these similarities may reflect influences between the traditions. When the fallacies of the parting ways motif are left behind, it seems probable that the first centuries of our era produced opportunities for influence between Jesus traditions and rabbinic traditions to have occurred. There is however one part of the initial question that remains: are rabbinic sources susceptible to encompassing stories from outside the ranks of the rabbis and representing them within their own paradigm? We will now turn to the works of some scholars who suggest that the rabbis deliberately shaped theology in response to Christian beliefs.

Examples of Rabbinic Appropriations Until recently, awareness of Christian traditions in the Talmuds has focused primarily on negative descriptions of Jesus and his followers. For instance, b. Sanh. 43b states that Jesus was hanged because nobody defended him of the accusations that he was a sorcerer and b. Sanh. 107b describes Jesus as a magician who led Israel astray.38 Such texts reveal that the rabbis were familiar with some stories about Jesus and that they rejected them. Lately, however, some scholars have suggested that the Jesus movement influenced rabbinic thinking to a much larger degree. Jacob Neusner, Israel Jacob Yuval, and Peter Schäfer argue that the rabbis responded to Christian traditions by deliberately shaping and including them within their own thinking. In order to obtain an indication of the extent of this apparent influence, I present examples from these scholars’ work on the Palestinian Talmud, the Babylonian Talmud, and the Haggadah. Neusner describes the impact from the Jesus movement on the formation of the Palestinian Talmud ca. 400–450 C.E.39 He shows that matters that previously 37. Evans, Contemporaries, 236. The latter similarity is also noted by Helen Bond, Historical Jesus: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: Continuum International Publishing, 2012), 105. 38. Another Jewish text that contains stories about Jesus, newer than the Talmuds and hostile in its outlook, is the Sefer Toledot Yeshu or Toledoth Jeschu. In 1902, Samuel Krauss systematically surveyed the five text versions and concluded that the sources for this Jewish text were Christian. Krauss’s motivation for doing this was to lessen the hate between the religions: ‘Also weit davon, das Feuer des Hasses aufschüren zu wollen, hoffe ich vielmehr eine mit Unrecht geschwungene Waffe unschädlich zu machen’ (Samuel Krauss, Das Leben Jesu nach jüdischen Quellen [Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1902], iii). Krauss’s work indicates that the Jewish authors were familiar with the Christian Jesus tradition. 39. Jacob Neusner, Judaism and Christianity in the Age of Constantine: History, Messiah, Israel, and the Initial Confrontation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987); cf. the preface to the second printing: Neusner, Judaism in the Matrix, x.

Christian Influences upon Talmudic Judaism?

211

had little focus in the texts of the rabbis, that is, in the Mishnah, now entered the debate and that they took shape of Jewish answers to claims by Jesus believers. These matters became essential to the rabbinic self-understanding from that time onwards: the Messiah, the people of God, and the understanding of history.40 Neusner explains the change in focus with political changes within the Roman Empire. He writes that ‘the history of Israel, properly analysed, responded in a deep and systematic way to the single most considerable challenge the Jewish people in the Land of Israel was to face for the next fifteen hundred years: the rise of the Christian West as brother and enemy to Israel, the Jewish people’.41 Neusner sees this as a Jewish response to the growing political power of Christianity. From being a minor, more or less Jewish sect, the Jesus movement became an accepted and privileged religion in 313, and in 380, it became the official religion of the Roman Empire. While rabbinic Judaism of the foregoing centuries did not need to consider the claims of the Jesus believers, the new political situation altered those conditions. Because the Jesus movement was similar to Judaism and because of Christianity’s success, the rabbis saw the need to define themselves in response to their claims.42 In short, Neusner shows that the Jesus movement, due to the political situation in the Roman Empire, set the agenda for Palestinian Jewry in the fourth and fifth centuries and contributed to shaping the way that the rabbis dealt with their topics. Israel Yuval shows many examples of similar mechanisms in texts from medieval times, and explains the occurrence of such influences like this: the language of symbols and ceremonies reveals the common means by which both religions were able to elucidate and refine their independent identities. This common language should not mislead us into thinking it constituted any sort of closeness between the religions. To the contrary: hostility and rivalry demand a common language for formulating diametrically opposed positions, because conflicting conceptual messages can only be conveyed through symbols understood by both sides.43

40. See, for example, how the rabbis of the Yerushalmi describe the Messiah in ways that were not usual in earlier texts; Neusner, Judaism and Christianity in the Age of Constantine: History, Messiah, Israel, and the Initial Confrontation, 65–67. 41. Neusner, Judaism in the Matrix, 67, first published 1986. 42. Neusner, Judaism and Christianity in the Age of Constantine: History, Messiah, Israel, and the Initial Confrontation, ix–x; cf. the preface to the second printing: Neusner, Judaism in the Matrix, xii. 43. Israel Jacob Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 33. These processes have long been seen at play in Christian texts, for example the Epistle of Barnabas. The novelty in Yuval’s suggestions is that Christian doctrine has challenged Jewish ways of thinking, rather than the influence running the other direction.

212

The Vermes Quest

Among other things, Yuval asserts that Christian practice inspired the development of Jewish practice. He demonstrates that accounts about the Exodus from Egypt on the Seder night (as described in the Passover Haggadah) is a reaction to messianic Jews who saw Christ as the Passover sacrifice.44 There appear to be two presuppositions for the influence to take place. One is that some elements of the ostensibly new tradition must already have been familiar within Jewish heritage, while the other is that any novel perspectives must have fit with reasonable ease into the existing system of beliefs. As an example of how ideas and stories from the Jesus movement has inspired Jewish thought, Peter Schäfer suggests that the rabbinic figure Metatron, an angel whose relation to YHWH is disputed in rabbinic literature, contrasts the Christian dogma of Jesus as a ‘Godlike figure … fully human, [who] was chosen by God to be transformed into a divine being and to assume his function as God’s servant and as judge over angels and humans alike.’45 Metatron, Schäfer argues, belongs to Babylonian Judaism around the sixth century, as a response to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.46 Schäfer explains that such appropriation of ideas was possible because elements within Jewish faith had already made way for discussions and explanations of a ‘binitarian’ theology; such elements are, in Schäfer’s opinion, Wisdom, angelic figures, and ‘exalted human figures’.47 It is worth noting here that Schäfer sees Babylonian Judaism as more susceptible to interacting with Christian material than Judaism elsewhere, because those Jews lived in Sassanian territories and did not fear Christian persecution. According to Schäfer, the Babylonian Jews were in fact a more privileged minority than Christians at the time of the framing of the Bavli.48 This is an importantly different political situation from that of Palestinian Judaism, on which Neusner concentrates. It is likely that influences between religious systems with many similar traits will appear regardless of the political circumstances. Power balances and other circumstances may however effect upon the manner in which such influences are expressed. Broadly speaking, Neusner, Yuval, and Schäfer have shown that the Jesus movement functioned as a catalyst for revitalizing older Jewish ideas within rabbinic Judaism and providing them with characteristics that are similar to Christian tradition. Something similar could have happened to the Hanina tradition in question. As far as I am aware, there is no other story available to us today that resembles the Hanina story to the same degree as the Jesus story from 44. Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb, 62–70, first published in Hebrew in 2000. See especially 69, 70, for Yuval’s understanding of the ‘mutual flow of ideas between Jews and Christians’. 45. Peter Schäfer, The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 147. Schäfer professes to have shaped his title in response to Vermes’s Jesus the Jew (19, 20). 46. Schäfer, The Jewish Jesus, 143. 47. Schäfer, The Jewish Jesus, 141. 48. Schäfer, The Jewish Jesus, 140.

Christian Influences upon Talmudic Judaism?

213

the Gospels. Therefore, if the Hanina story was shaped in response to traditions outside of rabbinic Judaism, it may indeed owe a debt to the Jesus traditions of the Gospels. The figure of Hanina, as it is known from the Mishnah, makes a credible starting point for developing further the tradition of him as a wonder-working rabbi. It is indeed possible that this developed, at least partly, in order to offer a rabbinic response to the Jesus tradition.

Concluding Reflections In a chapter of Jesus in His Jewish Context, called ‘Jewish literature and New Testament Exegesis’, Vermes briefly discusses our question of whether the New Testament may have influenced rabbinic sources, and writes: ‘chronologically, this is obviously possible but to render such a conjecture viable we must be able to demonstrate that the rabbis of the Tannaitic and Amoraic age were not only aware of the New Testament teachings but actually willing to learn from them: which is asking a lot’.49 As Vermes acknowledges, the chronology is not the issue. With regards to b. Ber. 34b, the story about Hanina as healer of R. Gamaliel’s son is not part of the Mishnah, nor of the Tosefta, although both collections recount stories about Hanina ben Dosa. It entered Jewish tradition before or during the final framing of the Palestinian Talmud. This means that the Jesus tradition (already fixated in written form) and stories about Hanina ben Dosa could have been told for centuries before the earliest documented version of the Hanina story found its way into the Talmud. Vermes’s arguments against influence from the New Testament upon rabbinic literature focus on the rabbis’ knowledge of the New Testament and their willingness to appropriate such material. Neusner, Schäfer, and Yuval have shown that in fact this is not ‘asking a lot’. Because Christianity and Judaism share common roots and because representatives of both strands coexisted for decades and even centuries, their religions were indeed shaped by each other, almost certainly both by direct encounters and more indirectly through reflection upon matters raised by the ostensible opponent. It seems that Vermes presupposes that influence only happens when two parties are amiable towards each other, and when at least one party recognizes that the other has valuable insights. One example from contemporary Nigeria might illustrate that these presuppositions are not necessarily legitimate.50 Nigeria is a country with large Christian and Muslim populations, and there 49. Vermes, Jesus in His Jewish Context, 77. Vermes reiterated this point at a conference held in 2007. See Geza Vermes, ‘Reflections on Improving Methodology in Jesus Research’, in Jesus Research. New Methodologies and Perceptions. The Second Princeton-Prague Symposium on Jesus Research (eds. James H. Charlesworth, Brian Rhea, and Petr Pokorný; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), 17–27, 20. 50. I am indebted to my colleague Gina Lende for the contemporary example.

214

The Vermes Quest

is massive opposition between the two religious groups. Despite the unfriendly climate between them, we see that the Muslim practice of going on pilgrimage has influenced upon Christian practices. Christians in Nigeria, unlike most African Christians, go on pilgrimage like their Muslim fellow citizens. When a Christian has returned from pilgrimage, he gets a new title, just like the Muslim does when he has returned from Hajj. Of course, there are differences between the Christian and the Islamic practice. The Christian pilgrim travels to Jerusalem, while the Muslim goes to Mecca. The Christian gets the title JP, which is short for ‘Jerusalem Pilgrim’, after his name, while the Muslim is called ‘Alhaji’ and the title is placed before his name. Finally, of course, the religious procedures and practices performed on pilgrimage differ between the religious groups. One could ask whether this is an example of influence between religions. Can we be certain that the Islam duty of Hajj is the trigger for the Christian practice? One could argue that Christians in Nigeria simply has revitalized older practices, as Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem are well documented from earlier times. Furthermore, the way that the Christian and the Islam pilgrimages are practiced by Nigerians differs on many significant points. Still, in this case we can be sure that it is indeed the Islamic practice that has caused a change in Nigeria. The practice is linked with economic policy in Nigeria; the Nigerian government funds those who travel on Hajj, and Christians, who until 1985 did not have such benefits, argued that this funding was unfair. As a response to the political arrangement, they started travelling on pilgrimage also, and Christian pilgrims now receive the same financial support as Muslims.51 The example from Nigeria makes clear that a friendly climate is not at all necessary for influence between religions to take place. We see also that it is reasonable to talk about influence or appropriation even when it results in traditions and practices that differ substantially. In the example from Nigeria, the Christians have revitalized an age-old practice from their own tradition, and today’s Nigerian pilgrims to Jerusalem have shaped their practice in accordance with their own specifically Christian traditions and beliefs. Differences between the Christian and Islamic practices are only to be expected and do not undermine the fact there is a connection between the Islamic practice and the practice of Nigerian Christians. Returning to the Hanina tradition, the Hanina story in b. Ber. 34b differs from the gospel stories, perhaps most strikingly by the reference to Hanina’s prayer as a means of healing, while the gospel stories contain no reference to Jesus’s modus operandi. The differences should however not make one reject the possibility of influence between the stories. Rather, the portrayal of Hanina is in accordance with what is known about him in the Mishnah and Tosefta and connects him with

51. See Toyin Falola, Violence in Nigeria: The Crises of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1998), 173, 174.

Christian Influences upon Talmudic Judaism?

215

even older parts of Jewish tradition, namely Amos and Elijah of the Hebrew Bible. The specific traits of the Hanina story can be seen as rabbinic adaptions made to conform to the rabbinic framework. Further, new stories are attributed to Hanina ben Dosa in the centuries after he flourished. This makes it entirely possible that b. Ber. 34b is shaped as a response to the corresponding Jesus tradition of the Gospels.

Part IV CONCLUSIONS AND OUTLOOK

Chapter 12 C O N C LU SIO N What has been Geza Vermes’s overall significance for Jesus research? Previous accounts on the history of Jesus research have often assigned an important position to Vermes, especially because of his attention to the Jewishness of Jesus that became such a salient feature of post-1970s scholarship. Besides, Vermes’s work on the son of man and his work on Jesus as miracle worker have been noted as areas where Vermes’s significance is felt. This study has explored how these issues have been treated in scholarship the past forty years, and what impact Vermes has had, in both quality and quantity. It demonstrates that Vermes’s significance has been less than what recent historical accounts have indicated, though his work has not been without real significance. This study is comprised of two main parts, structured by chronology and theme. Vermes’s significance for the growing scholarly attention to the Jewishness of Jesus was explored first. By focusing on the period around and prior to the first publication of Jesus the Jew in 1973, we have seen that Vermes’s book scarcely created new awareness of Jesus’s Jewishness. In fact, many of the book’s reviewers did not even mention his emphasis of the issue. Moreover, scholars who some years later did comment that scholarship was changing towards greater attention to the Jewishness of Jesus did not single out that book as particularly instrumental for the change. I take this to mean that Vermes’s contribution was less significant for the  change than previously assumed and that his awareness of Jesus’s Jewishness  was not as groundbreaking within Jesus research as some histories of the quest suggest. A further investigation into this issue has shown that the Jewishness of Jesus was a self-evident, if sometimes only implicit, premise for most New Testament research even before Vermes. We have seen some examples of Vermes’s predecessors on both the Christian and Jewish sides. While Jewish scholars writing on Jesus have been included in recent accounts of the quest, the Christian scholars Delitzsch, Strack, Billerbeck, and Dalman have until now not been considered contributors to Jesus research. This study argues that a re-evaluation of scholars such as these, who emphasize the Jewishness of Jesus, is needed to obtain a fuller and clearer view of the development of Jesus research. Their works, along with the general awareness of the Jewishness of Jesus within New Testament studies, are the roots of the third quest’s explicit attention to the Jewish Jesus. Vermes’s work on the son of man question is remembered as significant for research on this topic. His actual impact upon Jesus research on this has, however,

220

The Vermes Quest

been very modest. This does not mean that it has gone totally unnoticed. Vermes has impacted on some scholars who write about the historical Jesus and the son of man issue. I suggest, though, that his work on the son of man problem has been more important for drawing attention to Vermes as a New Testament scholar and less significant for Jesus research. The second main part has explored the reception of Vermes’s hasid theory within third quest scholarship. We have seen that many scholars have interacted with Vermes’s suggestions on this score. Some of these scholars have used perspectives from his work to develop their own understanding, but most Jesus scholars who engaged with Vermes’s hasid theory have responded negatively to his conclusions. The interest in the theory was fading markedly by the turn of the millennium. In fact, Vermes himself seems to have reformulated the theory so fundamentally that hasid no longer functions as a key heuristic category for the historical Jesus in his latest works. The hasid theory has thus played a part of third quest Jesus research, but it has largely been considered a dead end. This does not mean, however, that Vermes’s suggestions have been insignificant. Even though the theory has been attacked from multiple angles, scholars continued to address it for decades and some still do, albeit rarely. In terms of quality, Vermes’s most lasting contribution is terminological; the terms ‘charismatics’ and ‘holy men’ and references to Hanina ben Dosa (and occasionally Honi) have become part of Jesus research. Besides, Vermes’s suggested parallels between Jesus and rabbinic figures have led several scholars to include these and other literary parallels from the rabbinica and Gospels in their works. Apart from this, though, Vermes’s theory has certainly not won the day. The many responses to his suggestions have pointed to important methodological weaknesses in his approach, especially those involving the date and nature of his main sources, along with various difficulties with his comparisons between Jesus and the rabbinic hasidim. In terms of quantity, though, judged by the number of scholars who have interacted with it over such an extended period of time, Vermes’s theory must be seen as significant for Jesus research of the past decades. Some topics become compulsory within certain debates and the scholarly attention to the elements of the hasid theory illustrates that Vermes’s proposals have gained this status.

Chapter 13 OU T L O O K What are the implications of this study of Vermes’s significance for Jesus research? How could the findings of this study affect how histories of the quest are written in the future? What place does this study leave for Vermes in such historical accounts? This study is in line with others that challenge the traditional three-quest scheme for describing the overall exploration of the historical Jesus. There is good reason, as have been put forward here and elsewhere, to be very cautious when describing the history of the quest in its entirety: such accounts will always be simplifying and some contributions will be overshadowed by those that receive close inspection. The perspective taken for any particular overview must therefore be clarified before attempting to describe the full story. Further studies should continue to discuss ways to deal with this challenge. The current study has been more concerned with limited aspects of the quest, defined by chronology – the time after Vermes’s first book and scholarship before the Second World War – and by theme – attention to the Jewishness of Jesus. This study therefore contributes to history that takes up these perspectives. While many histories of Jesus research have emphasized the discontinuity between previous quests and contemporary Jesus research, this study has shown that there are similarities within Jesus research across centuries that should not be overlooked. In the case of the Jewishness of Jesus, we have seen that not only Jewish but also Christian scholars have focused on Jesus’s Jewishness well before Vermes flourished. In histories of Jesus research, the names of Delitzsch and Dalman and possibly Strack and Billerbeck (depending on the precise definition of Jesus research) should be considered as possible representatives of earlier scholarship. Along with a heightened awareness of earlier attention to the Jewishness of Jesus, descriptions of third quest Jesus research as exceptionally attentive to this perspective become problematic. It is true that the Jewishness of Jesus has been a marked feature of scholarship in recent decades and it has become part of the rhetoric of most Jesus scholars. Still, the centrality of the Jewishness of Jesus in current contributions should not be overstated, nor should its place in previous scholarship be downplayed. Another feature that has been put forward as a label for contemporary Jesus research is a strictly historical approach of Jesus scholars today, typically contrasted with the theological interest of previous research. This study has moderated this strict dichotomy in two ways. First of all, we have seen that some

222

The Vermes Quest

theologically motivated scholarship of previous times has been no less based on academically valid historical approaches; Dalman’s thorough investigation of the Aramaic language serves as an excellent example. Second, this study has shown that third quest Jesus research can be guided by biases and presuppositions no less than other approaches. We have seen examples of this in the responses to Vermes’s hasid theory. Some of the criticisms levelled against Vermes’s suggestion that Jesus was a hasid focuses on minor details in the stories about Jesus and the hasidim and points to often subtle differences between them. Such differences are then taken to conclude that Jesus did not belong to the larger category of hasidim. The logic appears to be that any difference will suffice for claiming that Jesus should not be seen as part of this or that group. These responses to the hasid theory contribute to conserve the image of the unique Jesus. The problem with this is that Jesus’s uniqueness cannot be apprehended historically. The unhistorical tenor of the unique Jesus was addressed by E. P. Sanders in 1985: In fact, we cannot say that a single one of the things known about Jesus is unique: neither his miracles, non-violence, eschatological hope, nor promise to the outcasts. He was not unique because he saw his own mission as of crucial importance, nor because he believed in the grace of God. The combination can doubtless be called ‘unique’, but that shows that he was an individual and not a two-dimensional representative of a type … The problem here [as whether Jesus’ teaching was unique] is that we do not have enough comparative material to allow an absolute judgement … We cannot even say that Jesus was a unique and great man … History, in fact, has grave difficulty with the category ‘unique’. … What is unquestionably unique about Jesus is the result of his life and work.1

As Sanders aptly points out, the uniqueness of Jesus is impossible to manage through historical methods. Moreover, the sources for the life of Jesus are not comparable to the sources of other persons with whom we could compare him. Jesus scholars must therefore be careful about drawing conclusions from differences between Jesus and his contemporaries, and such care is not always shown by Vermes’s third quest critics. Some of the responses to the hasid theory do not take the individuality of Jesus or the limitations drawn by the sources into account. Recently, Crossley dealt with similar issues, asking the following questions: What if it were the case, hypothetically, that the Gospel writers or the post-Jesus tradition were constructing Jesus as a ‘unique-ish’ figure? What would happen if some or all of the other healers and charismatics were slightly more complex individuals – maybe ‘unique-ish’ themselves – and were likewise not fully captured by these traditions either? What if the seemingly essentializing static 1. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 319–320.

Outlook

223

and fixed types for assessing Jesus might also be more complex than merely providing a background to make Jesus better? What if the ‘traditions’ were not quite as fixed as seemed to be assumed here? What if one set of Jewish traditions were creatively engaged with other Jewish traditions?2

Sanders’s and Crossley’s cautions serve as important reminders of the intrinsic difficulties of historical Jesus research. My main reason for including these extensive quotes here, however, is not merely the appropriateness of their message. Rather, from the point of view of research history, it is striking that a theme such as the uniqueness of Jesus was debated in 1985 just as it is today. It signals that contemporary Jesus scholarship still struggles with the ways it can perform history rather than theology. Jesus research within the third quest, exemplified by the responses to Vermes’s hasid theory along with the quotation from Crossley, illustrates that there is still a pressing need for thoughtful discussions of precisely how Jesus research is a historical enterprise. The selfgratulatory rhetoric of the third quest as the only truly historically oriented quest must in any case be abandoned. What are the implications of this study’s descriptions of Vermes’s role in future histories of the quest? Although this study has questioned the standing so often accorded to Vermes in recent accounts of the quest, there is still reason to consider him a significant contributor within Jesus research of recent decades. He participated actively in debates, and his numerous books and articles have been the subject of other scholars’ discussions. He has repeatedly insisted on the Jewishness of Jesus and his work has been a constant reminder of the relevance of Jewish sources available for the construction of Jesus’s context. In addition, Vermes serves as the perfect symbolic figure of third quest Jesus research: being an Oxford scholar at the Oriental Institute and himself a Jew, he was institutionally detached from theological interest. Further, he was an expert on Judaism, more specifically on Judaica and the Dead Sea Scrolls. These qualifications make him the ideal third quest scholar. Vermes’s most significant contribution to Jesus research is Jesus the Jew. The book itself and particularly its title illustrate the central features of the third quest. Also, Vermes was, like many Jesus scholars within the third quest camp, an active and cherished participant in public debate. His books are known worldwide and have sold in abundance, and he contributed to TV productions, on radio, and in newspapers. The shift in Jesus research in the 1970s and 1980s cannot be attributed to Vermes or his first book on Jesus. One has to look for other explanations than Vermes’s book for the optimism about the possibility of historical construction and for the attentiveness to Jewishness within the past forty years of Jesus research. Some have sought these explanations, though to a limited extent. Moxnes proposes that the shift within Jesus research had connections to larger changes linked with postcolonial perspectives on history that made its impact after the Second World 2. Crossley, ‘Very Jewish Jesus’, 121.

224

The Vermes Quest

War.3 Crossley suggests that the change has to do with political post-Holocaust attitudes towards Israel, which received a boost after the Six Day War in 1967 and resulted in a largely supportive attitude towards Jews and Judaism.4 Other explanations may contribute to a fuller picture: new material for describing Second Temple Judaism had been discovered, and this made way for more complex descriptions of Judaism. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls opened up new knowledge of Judaism around the time of Jesus, as did archaeological excavations of Palestine and Galilee. Such new sources resulted in increased interest in Second Temple Judaism as such and optimism about what could be known historically of the time of Jesus. Sanders’s work Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977) is but one example of the aim to understand Palestinian Judaism in its own terms; it made a significant impact upon subsequent scholarship. It is my conviction that this book has been much more important for changing mainstream Jesus research than Jesus the Jew. Besides, a new generation of scholars entered the field – scholars who had not been part of Second World War scholarship and had not been directly influenced by Rudolf Bultmann’s kerygmatic theology. Moreover, the criterion of double dissimilarity, with its minimalistic, de-Judaized Jesus as result, had been thoroughly criticized. Conversely, those scholars who had been part of earlier scholarship left an open space for new approaches. For instance, C. H. Dodd and Walter Grundmann passed away in 1974. Bultmann himself died in 1976, as did Norman Perrin, while Joachim Jeremias died in 1979. Others, such as Ernst Käsemann and Günther Bornkamm, remained active, but did not engage in historical Jesus studies during the period of the third quest. If we look to popular culture, the massive successes of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar (1970: album, 1971: stage, 1973: film) and of the Monty Python movie Life of Brian (1979) expressed and catalysed an interest in the truly human Jesus; a figure rooted in his historical context. The TV miniseries Holocaust (1978: USA, 1979: West Germany) raised awareness of the atrocities of the Second World War and the suffering of Jewish victims, and led to massive debates on how to deal with this legacy.5 Taken together, and surely along with an array of other factors, these mixed features illustrate that the ground was especially fertile in the 1970s for highlighting the Jewishness of Jesus. Jesus the Jew is a succinct and catchy title. Along with the subtitle A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels, it describes the majority of subsequent Jesus research and sums up the self-perception of many contemporary Jesus scholars: Attention to the Jewish Jesus and a historically focussed search are marked features of third quest rhetoric. When Vermes published Jesus the Jew in 1973, he could not have chosen a better title. 3. Moxnes, ‘From Unique Personality to Charismatic Movement’, 192. 4. James G. Crossley, Jesus in an Age of Terror: Scholarly Projects for a New American Century (London: Equinox, 2008), 145–172. 5. Judith E. Doneson, The Holocaust in American Film (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1987), 144. After the screening, the first Holocaust Memorial Centre was founded in the USA, and the President’s Commission on the Holocaust was established. In 1986, Elie Wiesel, its president, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Thanks to my colleague Claudia Lenz for making me aware of the impact of the TV series.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Because of the history of research approach of this book, most primary sources for the inquiry are scholarly works from recent centuries, as listed below. Beyond those, I have interacted with ancient sources whenever these scholars make it necessary to do so and I quote or refer to the translation employed by my primary sources in each particular case. Details about the ancient sources are provided in the footnotes whenever available. The ancient sources are therefore not listed here, with a few exceptions.

[Anonymous]. ‘British Association for Jewish Studies: BAJS Presidents’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://britishjewishstudies.org/about/bajs-presidents/ [Anonymous]. ‘Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Midrash: English and German (6 vols.)’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: https:// www.logos.com/product/30793/commentary-on-the-new-testament-from-thetalmud-and-midrash-english-and-german [Anonymous]. ‘European Association for Jewish Studies: Past Presidents & Secretaries of the EAJS’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://eurojewishstudies .org/about-us/past-presidents-and-secretaries/ [Anonymous]. ‘The Fellowship of the British Academy’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://www.britac.ac.uk/fellowship/index.cfm [Anonymous]. ‘Inventory of Judaica and Hebraica’. No pages. Accessed 21 November 2014. Online: http://www.oxfordjewishheritage.co.uk/projects/judaicaand-relevant-hebraica-in-oxford/89-inventory-of-judaica-and-hebraica [Anonymous]. ‘Night Waves 16 January, 2006’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/nightwaves/pip/sx767/ [Anonymous]. ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’. Journal of Religion 56 (1976): 134. [Anonymous]. ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’. The Expository Times 85 (1974): 161, 162. [Bloomsbury]. ‘Geza Vermes’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://www .bloomsbury.com/author/geza-vermes/ [Penguin]. ‘Geza Vermes’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://www .penguin.co.uk/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,1000017029,00.html Allison, Dale C. Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters, Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha Supplement. New York: T&T Clark, 2005. Anderson, Allan. An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Anderson, Paul N. The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus: Modern Foundations Reconsidered, Library of New Testament Studies. London: T&T Clark, 2006. Aring, Paul Gerhard. Christen und Juden heute – und die ‘Judenmission’? Geschichte und Theologie protestantischer Judenmission in Deutschland, dargestellt und untersucht

226

Bibliography

am Beispiel des Protestantismus im mittleren Deutschland. Frankfurt a.M.: Haag und Herchen, 1987. Arnal, William E. The Symbolic Jesus: Historical Scholarship, Judaism and the Construction of Contemporary Identity. London: Equinox, 2005. Avery-Peck, Alan J. ‘The Galilean Charismatic and Rabbinic Piety: The Holy Man in the Talmudic Literature’. Pages 149–165 in The Historical Jesus in Context. Edited by AmyJill Levine, Dale C. AllisonJr., and John D. Crossan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. Baasland, Ernst. ‘Fourth Quest? What Did Jesus Really Want?’ Pages 31–56 in Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus. Edited by Tom Holmén and Stanley E. Porter. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Baird, William. History of New Testament Research: From Jonathan Edwards to Rudolf Bultmann. Vol. 2 of History of New Testament Research, 3 vols. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003. Barrett, C. K. The Gospel According to St. John: An Introduction with the Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text. London: SPCK, 1955. Becker, Adam H. ‘Beyond the Spacial and Temporal Limes: Questioning the “Parting of the Ways” Outside the Roman Empire’. Pages 373–392 in The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Edited by Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 95. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. Becker, Adam H. and Annette Yoshiko Reed, eds. The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 95. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. Becker, Michael. Wunder und Wundertäter im frührabbinischen Judentum: Studien zum Phänomen und seiner Überlieferung im Horizont von Magie und Dämonismus, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament 2/144. Tübingen: Mohr, 2002. Beilby, James K. and Paul Rhodes Eddy. ‘The Quest for the Historical Jesus: An Introduction’. Pages 9–54 in The Historical Jesus: Five Views. Edited by Paul Rhodes Eddy and James K. Beilby. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009. Berman, Dennis. ‘Hasidim in Rabbinic Traditions’. Pages 15–33 in SBL Seminar Papers. Edited by Paul J. Achtemeier. Missoula: Scholars Press, 1979. Bermejo Rubio, Fernando. ‘The Fiction of the ‘Three Quests’: An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Historiographical Paradigm’. Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 7 (2009): 211–253. Betz, Hans Dieter. ‘Magic and Mystery in the Greek Magical Papyri’. Pages 244–259 in Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion. Edited by Christopher A. Faraone and Dirk Obbink. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Billerbeck, Paul. Das Evangelium nach Markus, Lukas und Johannes und die Apostelgeschichte erläutert aus Talmud und Midrasch. Vol. 2 of Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, eds. Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck. 1922–1928. 6 vols. München: C. H. Beck, 1924. Billerbeck, Paul. Die Briefe des Neuen Testaments und die Offenbarung Johannis: erläutert aus Talmud und Midrasch. Vol. 3 of Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, eds. Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck. 1922–1928. 6 vols. München: C. H. Beck, 1926. Black, Matthew. An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts: With an Appendix on the Son of Man by Geza Vermes. Third ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1967.

Bibliography

227

Black, Matthew. ‘Joachim Jeremias’. Pages ix–xviii in Judentum, Urchristentum, Kirche: Festschrift für Joachim Jeremias. Edited by Walther Eltester. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenshaft 26. Berlin: Töpelmann, 1964. Blackburn, Barry L. ‘The Miracles of Jesus’, in Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research. Edited by Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans. New Testament Tools and Studies. Leiden: Brill, 1994. Blenkinsopp, Joseph. ‘Miracles: Elisha and Hanina ben Dosa’. Pages 57–81 in Miracles in Jewish and Christian Antiquity. Edited by John C. Cavadini. Notre Dame Studies in Theology 3. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 1999. Bokser, Baruch M. ‘Wonder Working and the Rabbinic Tradition: The Case of Hanina ben Dosa’. Journal for the Study of Judaism 16 (1985): 42–92. Bond, Helen. Historical Jesus: A Guide for the Perplexed. London: Continuum International Publishing, 2012. Borg, Marcus J. Conflict, Holiness, and Politics in the Teachings of Jesus. Vol. 5, Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity. Leviston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1984. Borg, Marcus J. Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship. Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1994. Borg, Marcus J. Jesus: A New Vision. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1987. Bornkamm, Günther. Jesus of Nazareth. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995. Bornkamm, Günther. Jesus von Nazareth. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1956. Bousset, Wilhelm. Die Religion des Judentums im neutestamentlichen Zeitalter. Berlin: Reuther & Reichard, 1903. Bousset, Wilhelm. Jesus, Religionsgeschichtliche Volksbücher. Halle: GebauerSchwetschke, 1904. Boyarin, Daniel. ‘Semantic Differences; or “Judaism”/“Christianity”’. Pages 65–85 in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Edited by Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 95. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. Bultmann, Rudolf. ‘Is Exegesis without Presuppositions Possible?’ Pages 242–248 in The Hermeneutics Reader. Edited by K. Mueller-Vollmer. Oxford: Basil Maxwell, 1985 [1957]. Bultmann, Rudolf. Jesus. Berlin: Deutsche Bibliothek, 1926. Bultmann, Rudolf. Jesus and the Word. New York: Schribner’s, 1934. Bultmann, Rudolf. Jesus and the Word. Translated by L. P. Smith and E. H. Lantero. London: Collins, 1958. Bultmann, Rudolf Karl. Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1921. Bultmann, Rudolf Karl. The History of the Synoptic Tradition. Oxford: Blackwell, 1963. Burkett, Delbert. The Son of Man Debate: A History and Evaluation, Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 107. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Büchler, Adolph. Types of Jewish-Palestinian Piety from 70 B.C.E to 70 C.E.: The Ancient Pious Men. New York: KTAV, 1968. Cantania, Cheryl. ‘The Jesus Project’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/jesusproject. Caragounis, Chrys C. The Son of Man: Vision and Interpretation, Wissenshaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 38. Tübingen: Mohr, 1986. Casey, Maurice. Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching. London: T&T Clark, 2010.

228

Bibliography

Casey, Maurice. The Solution to the ‘Son of Man’ Problem, Library of New Testament Studies 343. London: T&T Clark, 2007. Casey, Maurice. Son of Man: The Interpretation and Influence of Daniel 7. London: SPCK, 1979. Casey, P. M. From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God: The Origins and Development of New Testament Christology. Cambridge: Clarke, 1991. Charles, R. H. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913. Charlesworth, James H. ‘The Foreground of Christian Origins and the Commencement of Jesus Research’. Pages 63–83 in Jesus’ Jewishness: Exploring the Place of Jesus within Early Judaism. Edited by James H. Charlesworth. New York: Crossroad, 1991. Charlesworth, James H. ‘From Barren Mazes to Gentle Wrappings: The Emergence of Jesus Research’. Princeton Seminary Bulletin 7 (1986): 221–230. Charlesworth, James H. ‘The Historical Jesus in the Fourth Gospel: A Paradigm Shift?’ Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 8 (2010): 3–46. Charlesworth, James H. ‘Introduction: The Second Princeton-Prague Symposium: Jesus Research and Methodologies’. Pages 1–13 in Jesus Research. New Methodologies and Perceptions. The Second Princeton-Prague Symposium. Edited by James H. Charlesworth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014. Charlesworth, James H. ‘Research on the Historical Jesus’. Proceedings of the Irish Biblical Association 9 (1985): 19–37. Chilton, Bruce. The Temple of Jesus: His Sacrificial Program within a Cultural History of Sacrifice. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992. Cohen, Abraham. The Minor Tractates of the Talmud. 2 vols. London: Soncino, 1965. Cohon, Samuel S. ‘The Place of Jesus in the Religious Life of His Day’. Journal of Biblical Literature 48 (1929): 82–108. Crombie, Kelvin. For the Love of Zion: Christian Witness and the Restoration of Israel. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1991. Crossan, John D. The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. Edinburgh: Clark, 1991. Crossley, James G. ‘Geza Vermes as New Testament Scholar’. No pages. Accessed 10 May 2013. Online: http://sheffieldbiblicalstudies.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/741/ Crossley, James G. Harnessing Chaos: The Bible in English Political Discourse since 1968, Library of New Testament Studies 506. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. Crossley, James G. Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism: Quests, Scholarship and Ideology. Sheffield: Equinox, 2012. Crossley, James G. Jesus in an Age of Terror: Scholarly Projects for a New American Century. London: Equinox, 2008. Crossley, James G. ‘The Problems with “Jewishness” in Historical Jesus Scholarship: An Overview of Critiques’. No pages. Accessed 28 April 2014. Online: http:// sheffieldbiblicalstudies.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/the-problems-with%E2%80%98jewishness%E2%80%99-in-historical-jesus-scholarship-an-overview-ofcritiques/ Crossley, James G. ‘A “Very Jewish” Jesus: Perpetuating the Myth of Superiority’. Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 11 (2013): 109–129. Dahl, Nils Alstrup. ‘The Problem of the Historical Jesus’, in The Crucified Messiah and Other Essays. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1974. Dahl, Nils Alstrup. ‘Review of E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion’. Religious Studies Review 4 (1978): 153–158.

Bibliography

229

Dalman, Gustaf. Die Worte Jesu: Mit Berücksichtigung des nachkanonischen jüdischen Schrifttums und der aramäischen Sprache. Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1930. Dalman, Gustaf. ‘The Hebrew New Testament of Franz Delitzsch’. The Old and New Testament Student 15 (1892): 145–150. Danby, Herbert. The Mishnah. Translated from the Hebrew with Introduction and Brief Explanatory Notes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933. Davies, Philip R. and Richard T. White, eds. A Tribute to Geza Vermes: Essays on Jewish and Christian Literature and History, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. Supplement series 100. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990. Deines, Roland. Die Pharisäer: Ihr Verständnis im Spiegel der christlichen und jüdischen Forschung seit Wellhausen und Graetz, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 101. Tübingen: Mohr, 1997. Delitzsch, Franz. ‘Af mit Liv’. Missions-Blad for Israel 57 (1883): 51–54. Delitzsch, Franz. A Day in Capernaum. Translated by George H. Schodde. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1887. Delitzsch, Franz. Ein Tag in Kapernaum. Leipzig: Justus Naumann, 1886. Delitzsch, Franz. ‘Ein talmudisches Seitenstück des Weihnachtsevangeliums’. Zeitschrift für die gesamte Lutherische Theologie und Kirche 16 (1855): 401–404. Delitzsch, Franz. ‘Must We Follow the New Testament Interpretation of Old Testament Texts?’ The Old Testament Student 6 (1886): 77–78. Dodd, C. H. The Founder of Christianity. New York: Macmillan, 1970. Doneson, Judith E. The Holocaust in American Film. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1987. Dunn, James D. G. The Evidence for Jesus: The Impact of Scholarship on Our Understanding of How Christianity Began. London: SCM Press, 1985. Dunn, James D. G. Jesus and the Spirit: A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament. London: SCM Press, 1975. Dunn, James D. G. Jesus Remembered, vol. 1 of Christianity in the Making. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. Dunn, James D. G. The Partings of the Ways: Between Christianity and Judaism and Their Significance for the Character of Christianity. London: SCM Press, 1991. Dunn, James D. G. ‘They Set Us in New Paths: VI. New Testament: The Great Untranslated’. The Expository Times 100 (1989): 203–207. Döllinger, Friedrich. Baldur und Bibel. Nürnberg: Lorenz Spindler, 1920. Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the new Millennium. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. Elliot, John H. ‘Jesus the Israelite Was Neither a “Jew” nor a “Christian”: On Correcting Misleading Nomenclature’. Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 5 (2007): 119–154. Evans, Craig A. Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005. Evans, Craig A. ‘Assessing Progress in the Third Quest of the Historical Jesus’. Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 4 (2006): 35–54. Evans, Craig A. Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus. New York: Routledge, 2008. Evans, Craig A. ‘The Future of Historical Jesus Studies’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://nearemmaus.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/thefuture-of-historical-jesus-studies/

230

Bibliography

Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies, Arbeiten zur Geschichte des Antiken Judentums und des Urchristentums 25. Leiden: Brill, 1995. Eve, Eric. The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 231. London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002. Falola, Toyin. Violence in Nigeria: The Crises of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1998. Fiebig, Paul. Jüdische Wundergeschichten des neutestamentlichen Zeitalters. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1911. Fitzmyer, Joseph A. According to Paul: Studies in the Theology of the Apostle. New York: Paulist Press, 1993. Fitzmyer, Joseph A. ‘Another View on the “Son of Man” Debate’. Journal for the Study of the New Testament 4 (1979): 58–68. Flusser, David. Jesus. Mit Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1968. Flusser, David and R. Steven Notley. The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007. Fredriksen, Paula. From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. Fredriksen, Paula. Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. Fredriksen, Paula. ‘What Parting of the Ways? Jews, Gentiles, and the Mediterranean City’. Pages 36–63 in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Edited by Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 95. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. Freyne, Sean. ‘The Charismatic’. Pages 223–253 in Ideal Figures in Ancient Judaism: Profiles and Paradigms. Edited by John J. Collins and George W. E. Nickelsburg. Septuagint and Cognate Studies. Chico: Scholars Press, 1980. Freyne, Sean. Galilee and Gospel: Collected Essays, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 125. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000. Freyne, Sean. Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian 323 B.C.E to 135 C.E: A Study of Second Temple Judaism. Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1980. Freyne, Sean. ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’. The Furrow 25 (1974): 517–520. Geller, Markham J. ‘Jesus’ Theurgic Powers: Parallels in the Talmud and Incantation Bowls’. Journal of Jewish Studies 28 (1977): 141–155. Gerdmar, Anders. Roots of Theological Anti-Semitism: German Biblical Interpretation and the Jews, from Herder and Semler to Kittel and Bultmann, Studies in Jewish History and Culture 20. Leiden: Brill, 2009. Goldman, Shalom. Zeal for Zion: Christians, Jews, & the Idea of the Promised Land. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009. Golling, Ralf and Peter von der Osten-Sacken. Hermann L. Strack und das Institutum Judaicum in Berlin: Mit einem Anhang über das Institut Kirche und Judentum. Berlin: Institut Kirche und Judentum, 1996. Goodman, Martin, Simon Price, and Peter Schäfer. ‘Foreword’, in The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Edited by Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 95. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. Grant, Frederick C. ‘The Authenticity of Jesus’ Sayings’. Pages 137–143 in Neutestamentliche Studien für Rudolf Bultmann. Edited by W. Eltester. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 21. Berlin: Alfred Töpelmann, 1954.

Bibliography

231

Green, William Scott. ‘Ancient Judaism: Contours and Complexity’. Pages 293–310 in Language, Theology, and the Bible: Essays in Honour of James Barr. Edited by Samuel E. Balentine and John Barton. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994. Green, William Scott. ‘Palestinian Holy Men: Charismatic Leadership and Rabbinic Tradition’. Pages 619–647 in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt: Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung Part 2, Principat, 19.2. Edited by Wolfgang Haase. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1979. Green, William Scott. ‘What’s in a Name? The Problematic of Rabbinic “Biography”’. Pages 77–96 in Approaches to Ancient Judaism: Theory and Practice Edited by William Scott Green. Brown Judaic Studies 1. Missoula: Scholars Press, 1978. Grundmann, Walter. Jesus der Galiläer und das Judentum. Leipzig: Wigand, 1940. Hagner, Donald A. The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus: An Analysis and Critique of Modern Jewish Study of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1984. Hahn, Ferdinand. Christologische Hoheitstitel: Ihre Geschichte im frühen Christentum. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963. Hare, Douglas R. A. The Son of Man Tradition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990. Harvey, A. E. ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus and the World of Judaism’. Times Literary Supplement (1984): 199. Harvey, A. E. ‘Review of Geza Vermes, The Changing Faces of Jesus’. Theology 103 (2001): 444, 445. Harvey, Anthony E. ‘Letters to the Editor: Jesus the Jew’. Theology 77 (1974): 376–377. Hengel, Martin. The Charismatic Leader and His Followers. Translated by James C. G. Greig. Edinburgh: Clark, 1981. Hengel, Martin. ‘Der alte und der Neue “Schürer’’ ’ Journal of Semittic Studies 35 (1990): 19–72. Heschel, Susannah. Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. Heschel, Susannah. The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008. Holmén, Tom. ‘The Jewishness of Jesus in the “Third Quest’’ ’. Pages 143–162 in Jesus, Mark and Q: The Teaching of Jesus and Its Earliest Records. Edited by Michael Labahn and Andreas Schmidt. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Supplement Series 214. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001. Hooker, Morna. ‘Christology and Methodology’. New Testament Studies 17 (1970–1971): 480–487. Horbury, William. ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’. Theology 77 (1974): 227–232. Hubbard, Benjamin J. ‘Geza Vermes’s Contribution to Historical Jesus Studies: An Assessment’. Pages 29–44 in SBL Seminar Papers: 121. Annual Meeting. Edited by Kent Harold Richards. Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers Series. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985. Humphrey, Edith M. ‘Will the Reader Understand? Apocalypse as Veil or Vision in Recent Historical-Jesus Research’. Pages 215–237 in Whose Historical Jesus? Edited by Michel R. Desjardins and William E. Arnal. Studies in Christianity and Judaism 7. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997. Hurtado, Larry. ‘A Taxonomy of Recent Historical-Jesus Work’. Pages 272–295 in Whose Historical Jesus? Edited by William E. Arnal and Michel R. Desjardins. Studies in Christianity and Judaism 7. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997. Hvalvik, Reidar. ‘Joseph Klausner’. Pages 358–360 in Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus. Edited by Craig A. Evans. New York: Routledge, 2008.

232

Bibliography

Hvalvik, Reidar. ‘Vermes, Geza’. Pages 669–671 in Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus. Edited by Craig A. Evans. New York: Routledge, 2008. Jaffé, Dan. ‘L’Identification de Jésus au Modèle du Hasid Charismatique Galiléen: Les Thèses de Geza Vermes et de Shmuel Safrai Revisitées’. New Testament Studies 55 (2009): 218–246. Jensen, Morten Hørning. ‘Purity and Politics in Herod Antipas’s Galilee: The Case for Religious Motivation’. Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 11 (2013): 3–34. Jeremias, Joachim. ‘Abba’. Theologische Literaturzeitung 79 (1954): 213–214. Jeremias, Joachim. Abba: Studien zur neutestamentlichen Theologie und Zeitgeschichte mit 4 Bildtafeln. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1966. Jeremias, Joachim. ‘Billerbeck, Paul’. Pages 640–642 in Bibel – Böhmen und Mähren. Edited by Gerhard Krause. Theologische Realenzyklopädie. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1980. Jeremias, Joachim. Das Problem des historischen Jesus. Stuttgart: Calwer, 1960. Jeremias, Joachim. ‘Die älteste Schicht der Menschensohn-Logien’. Zeitschrift für die neutestmentliche Wissenshaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 58 (1967): 159–172. Jeremias, Joachim. Neutestamentliche Theologie 1: Die Verkündigung Jesu. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1971. Jeremias, Joachim. The Prayers of Jesus. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978. Jeremias, Joachim and Kurt Adolph. Rabbinischer Index. Vol. 5 of Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, eds. Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck. 1922–1928. 6 vols. München: Beck, 1956. Jeremias, Joachim and Kurt Adolph. Verzeichnis der Schriftgelehrten: Geographisches Register. Vol. 6 of Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, eds. Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck. 1922–1928. 6 vols. München: Beck, 1961. Kahl, Werner. New Testament Miracle Stories in Their Religious-Historical Stetting [sic]: A Religionsgeschichtliche Comparison from a Structural Perspective, Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und neuen Testaments 163. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994. Kaufman, John. ‘Diverging Trajectories or Emerging Mainstream? Unity and Diversity in Second Century Christianity’. Pages 113–128 in Among Jews, Gentiles and Christians in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Studies in Honour of Professor Oskar Skarsaune on His 65th Birthday. Edited by Reidar Hvalvik and John Kaufman. Trondheim: Tapir Academic Press, 2011. Kautzsch, Emil, ed. Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testaments. 2 vols. Tübingen: Mohr, 1900. Keck, Leander E. A Future for the Historical Jesus: The Place of Jesus in Preaching and Theology. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1971. Keck, Leander E. ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’. Journal of Biblical Literature 95 (1976): 508–509. Kee, Howard Clark. Medicine, Miracle and Magic in New Testament Times, Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 55. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Keener, Craig S. The Historical Jesus of the Gospels. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009. Keener, Craig S. Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. 2 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011. Keith, Chris. Jesus’ Literacy: Education and the Teacher from Galilee, Library of New Testament Studies 242. London: Bloomsbury, 2011. Kingsbury, Jack Dean. ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’. Interpretation 30 (1976): 206, 210.

Bibliography

233

Klausner, Joseph. Jesus of Nazareth: His Life, Times, and Teaching. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1925. Koester, Helmut. ‘The Historical Jesus and the Historical Situation of the Quest: An Epilogue’. Pages 535–545 in Studying the Historical Jesus. Evaluations of the State of Current Research. Edited by Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans. New Testament Tools and Studies 19. Leiden: Brill, 1994. Kohler, Kaufmann. ‘Jesus of Nazareth – In Theology’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8616-jesusof-nazareth Koltun-Fromm, Naomi. ‘Hanina ben Dosa’. The Encyclopedia of Ancient History 6 (2013): 1. Koltun-Fromm, Naomi. ‘Zipporah’s Complaint: Moses Is Not Conscientious in the Deed! Exegetical Traditions of Moses’ Celibacy’. Pages 283–306 in The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Edited by Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 95. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. Koskenniemi, Erkki. The Old Testament Miracle-Workers in Early Judaism, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 206. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005. Krauss, Samuel. Das Leben Jesu nach jüdischen Quellen. Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1902. Krausz, Tibor. ‘Captivated by the Scrolls: A Testimonial to a Great Scholar’s Enduring Love Affair with the Ancient Documents’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://www.jpost.com/Jerusalem-Report/Captivated-by-the-Scrolls Käsemann, Ernst. ‘The Problem of the Historical Jesus’. Pages 133–158 in The Historical Jesus. Edited by Craig A. Evans. London: Routledge, 2004. Landman, Leo. ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’. Jewish Quarterly Review 70 (1979): 125–126. Le Donne, Anthony. The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2009. Le Donne, Anthony. ‘Introduction: Allowing Historical Study to Serve Interfaith Dialogue’. Pages 1–10 in Soundings in the Religion of Jesus: Perspectives and Methods in Jewish and Christian Scholarship. Edited by Bruce Chilton, Anthony Le Donne, and Jacob Neusner. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012. Le Donne, Anthony. ‘Remapping Schweitzer’s Quest through Jewish-Christian Polemic, Apology, and Dialogue’. Pages 111–128 in Soundings in the Religion of Jesus: Perspectives and Methods in Jewish and Christian Scholarship. Edited by Bruce Chilton, Anthony Le Donne, and Jacob Neusner. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012. Leaney, A. R. C. ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’. Journal of Theological Studies 25 (1973): 489–492. Levene, Dan. A Corpus of Magic Bowls: Incantation Texts in Jewish Aramaic from Late Antiquity. Edited by Gerrit Bos and Tzvi Langermann, The Kegan Paul Library of Jewish Studies. London: Kegan Paul, 2003. Levenson, Alan. ‘Missionary Protestants as Defenders and Detractors of Judaism: Franz Delitzsch and Hermann Strack’. Jewish Quarterly Review 92 (2002): 383–420. Levine, Amy-Jill. ‘Introduction’, in The Historical Jesus in Context. Edited by Amy-Jill Levine, Dale C. Allison, and John Dominic Crossan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. Lindars, Barnabas. Jesus Son of Man: A Fresh Examination of the Son of Man Sayings in the Gospels in the Light of Recent Research. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984.

234

Bibliography

Lindeskog, Gösta. Die Jesusfrage im neuzeitlichen Judentum: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1973. Lindeskog, Gösta. Die Jesusfrage im neuzeitlichen Judentum: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung. Leipzig: A. Lorentz, 1938. Lindeskog, Gösta. Jesus och judarna. Stockholm: Svenska Kyrkans diakonistyrelses bokförlag, 1940. Loopik, Marcus van. The Ways of the Sages and the Way of the World: The Minor Tractates of the Babylonian Talmud: Derekh ‘Eretz Rabbah, Derekh ‘Eretz Zuta, Pereq ha-Shalom, Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum 26. Tübingen: Mohr, 1991. Lukaszewski, Albert L. ‘Issues Concerning the Aramaic behind ὁ ὑιὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου: A Critical Review of Scholarship’. Pages 1–27 in ‘Who Is This Son of Man?’ The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus. Edited by Larry W. Hurtado and Paul L. Owen. Library of New Testament Studies 390. London: T&T Clark, 2011. Malina, Bruce J. ‘Jesus as Charismatic Leader?’ Biblical Theology Bulletin 14 (1984): 55–62. Malina, Bruce J. The Social World of Jesus and the Gospels. London: Routledge, 1996. Marsh, Clive. ‘Quests of the Historical Jesus in New Historicist Perspective’. Biblical Interpretation 5 (1997): 403–437. Martola, Nils. ‘Vermes’ Jesus the Jew after Twenty-Five Years’. Pages 189–201 in Approaches to Ancient Judaism. Edited by Jacob Neusner. South Florida Studies in the History of Judaism 110. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995. Meier, John P. Mentor, Message, and Miracles. Vol. 2 of A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. New York: Doubleday, 1994. Meier, John P. ‘The Present State of the “Third Quest” for the Historical Jesus: Loss and Gain’. Biblica 80 (1999): 459–487. Montefiore, Claude G. ‘Abbé Loisy’s “Etudes Bibliques”’. Jewish Quarterly Review 14 (1901): 147–158. Montefiore, Claude G. Some Elements of the Religious Teachings of Jesus according to the Synoptic Gospels, Jowett Lectures. London: Macmillan, 1910. Moore, George Foot. ‘Christian Writers on Judaism’. Harvard Theological Review 14 (1921): 197–254. Morton, Russell. ‘Son of Man’. Pages 593–598 in Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus. Edited by Craig A. Evans. New York: Routledge, 2008. Moxnes, Halvor. ‘The Construction of Galilee as a Place for the Historical Jesus’. Biblical Theology Bulletin 31 (2001): 26–37; 31 (2001): 64–77. Moxnes, Halvor. ‘From Unique Personality to Charismatic Movement: 100 Years of Shifting Paradigms in Historical Jesus Research’. Pages 187–200 in Religion in Late Modernity: Essays in Honor of Pål Repstad Edited by Inger Furseth and Paul LeerSalvesen. Trondheim: Tapir, 2007. Moxnes, Halvor. ‘Jesus in Discourses of Dichotomies: Alternative Paradigms for the Historical Jesus’. Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 11 (2013): 130–152. MuslimbyChoice. ‘Jesus the Evidence (Episode One – 1 of 3)’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSLjVCcZ4Jk Müller, Mogens. The Expression ‘Son of Man’ and the Development of Christology: A History of Interpretation. London: Equinox, 2008. Männchen, Julia. Das Herz zieht nach Jerusalem: Gustaf Dalman zum 150. Geburtstag. Greifswald: Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald, 2005. Männchen, Julia. Gustaf Dalman als Palästinawissenschaftler in Jerusalem und Greifswald, 1902–1941, Abhandlungen des Deutschen Palastina-Vereins 9.2. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1993.

Bibliography

235

Männchen, Julia. Gustaf Dalmans Leben und Wirken in der Brüdergemeine, für die Judenmission und an der Universität Leipzig, 1855–1902, Abhandlungen des Deutschen Palastina-Vereins 9. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1987. Neill, Stephen. The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861–1961. London: Oxford University Press, 1964. Neill, Stephen and Tom Wright. The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861–1986. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Neusner, Jacob. Development of a Legend: Studies on the Traditions Concerning Yohanan ben Zakkai, Studia post-biblica XVI. Leiden: Brill, 1970. Neusner, Jacob. Early Rabbinic Judaism: Historical Studies in Religion, Literature and Art, Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 13. Leiden: Brill, 1975. Neusner, Jacob. Introduction to Rabbinic Literature. New York: Doubleday, 1994. Neusner, Jacob. Judaism and Christianity in the Age of Constantine: History, Messiah, Israel, and the Initial Confrontation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. Neusner, Jacob. Judaism in the Matrix of Christianity, Studies in the History of Judaism. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991. Neusner, Jacob. Rabbinic Literature and the New Testament: What We Cannot Show, We Do Not Know. Valley Forge: Trinity, 1994. Neusner, Jacob, William Scott Green, and Ernest Frerichs. Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Nwadiei, Emananjo. ‘Jesus the Evidence Episode 2 of 3’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YxoeBzC4CE Nwadiei, Emananjo. ‘Jesus the Evidence Episode 3 of 3’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUywIdr9ems Perry, Yaron. British Mission to the Jews in Nineteenth-Century Palestine. London: Frank Cass, 2003. Piovanelli, Pierluigi. ‘Jesus’ Charismatic Authority: On the Historical Applicability of a Sociological Model’. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 73 (2005): 395–427. Poewe, Karla O. Charismatic Christianity as a Global Culture. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994. Porter, Stanley E. The Criteria for Authenticity in Historical-Jesus Research: Previous Discussion and New Proposals, Library of New Testament Studies 191. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000. Powell, Mark Allan. Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998. Powell, Mark Allan. ‘“Things That Matter”: Historical Jesus Studies in the New Millennium’. Word & World 29 (2009): 121–128. Pryor, John W. The Enigmatic Jew: In Quest of the Historical Jesus: printed by CreateSpace, 2011. Renan, Ernest. ‘The Essential Nature of the Work of Jesus’. Pages 72–79 in The Historical Jesus. Edited by Craig A. Evans. London: Routledge, 2004. Renan, Ernest. Life of Jesus. Translated by Willian G. Hutchison. London: Walter Scott, 1897. Rich, Willam G. ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 43 (1975): 608. Robinson, James M. A New Quest of the Historical Jesus. London: SCM Press, 1959. Rodriguez, Rafael. Structuring Early Christian Memory: Jesus in Tradition, Performance and Text, Library of New Testament Studies 304. London: Bloomsbury, 2015. Runesson, Anders. ‘Who Parted from Whom? The Myth of the So-Called Parting of the Ways between Judaism and Christianity’. Pages 53–72 in Chosen to Follow: Jewish

236

Bibliography

Believers through History and Today. Edited by Knut Helge Høyland and Jakob W. Nielsen. Jerusalem: Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish studies, 2012. Sabourin, Leopold. ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’. Biblical Theology Bulletin 89 (1975): 89–90. Safrai, Shmuel. ‘Jesus and the Hasidim’. Jerusalem Perspective Online: Exploring the Jewish Background to the Life and Words of Jesus (2004, revised 2008): 1–27. Safrai, Shmuel. ‘The Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature’. Journal of Jewish Studies 16 (1965): 15–33. Sanders, E. P. The Historical Figure of Jesus. London: Allen Lane, 1993. Sanders, E. P. Jesus and Judaism. London: SCM Press, 1985. Sanders, E. P. ‘Jesus, Paul and Judaism’. Pages 390–450 in Religion (Vorkonstantinischies Christentum: Leben und Umwelt Jesu; Neues Testament [kanonische Schriften und Apokryphen]). Edited by Wolfgang Haase. Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt: Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung II 25. 1. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1982. Sanders, E. P. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion. London: SCM Press, 1977. Sandmel, Samuel. ‘Parallelomania’. Journal of Biblical Literature 81 (1962): 1–13. Sandmel, Samuel. We Jews and Jesus. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965. Schulman, Samuel. ‘Professor Moore’s “Judaism’’ ’. Jewish Quarterly Review 18 (1928): 339–355. Schürer, Emil. Die inneren Zustände. Vol. 2, Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi. Leipzig: Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1907. Schürer, Emil. Einleitung und politische Geschichte. Vol. 1, Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1901. Schürer, Emil, Geza Vermes, and Fergus Millar. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.– A.D. 135). Edinburgh: Clark, 1973. Schäfer, Peter. The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012. Shaked, Shaul. ‘Jesus in the Magic Bowls. Apropos Dan Levene’s “and by the Name of Jesus” ’. Jewish Studies Quarterly 6 (1999): 309–319. Shaked, Shaul, James Nathan Ford, and Siam Bhayro. Aramaic Bowl Spells: Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Bowls. Magical and Religious Literature of Late Antiquity 1, Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection 20. Leiden: Brill, 2013. Skarsaune, Oskar. In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002. Skarsaune, Oskar. ‘Who Influenced Whom: Contours of a New Paradigme for Early Jewish-Christian Relations’. Pages 35–52 in Chosen to Follow: Jewish Believers through History and Today. Edited by Knut Helge Høyland and Jakob W. Nielsen. Jerusalem: Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish studies, 2012. Skarsaune, Oskar and Reidar Hvalvik, eds. Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2007. Stegner, W. Richard. ‘Galilee and Christology’. Explor 3 (1977): 57–69. Stemberger, Günter and Markus Bockmuehl. Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996. Stewart, Tyler. ‘The Blow Up in Baltimore (Part 1 – Summary)’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://ahabhuman.blogspot.no/2013/11/the-blow-up-inbaltimore-part-1-summary.html Stewart, Tyler. ‘The Blow Up in Baltimore (Part 2 – The Sparks)’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://ahabhuman.blogspot.no/2013/11/the-blow-up-inbaltimore-part-2-sparks.html

Bibliography

237

Strack, Hermann L. and Paul Billerbeck. Das Evangelium von Matthäus erläutert aus Talmud und Midrasch. Vol. 1 of Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, eds. Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck. 1922–1928. München: C. H. Beck, 1922. Strack, Hermann L. Einleitung in den Thalmud, Schriften des Institutum Judaicum in Berlin 2. Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1894. Strauss, David Friedrich and Peter C. Hodgson. The Life of Jesus Critically Examined. Ramsey: Sigler Press, 1994. Taylor, Joan and Jim Davila. ‘Vermes Funeral’. No pages. Accessed 19 November 2014. Online: http://paleojudaica.blogspot.no/2013_05_19_archive.html Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide. Translated by John Bowden. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998. Theissen, Gerd and Dagmar Winter. The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria. Translated by M. Eugene Boring. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002. Thompsen, Peter. ‘Obituary: Gustaf Dalman’. Archiv für Orientforschung 14 (1941–1945): 233, 234. Thompson, Steven. ‘Gustaf Dalman, Anti-Semitism, and the Language of Jesus Debate’. Journal of Religious History 34 (2010): 36–54. Toit, David S. du. ‘Redefining Jesus: Current Trends in Jesus Research’. Pages 82–124 in Jesus, Mark and Q: The Teaching of Jesus and Its Earliest Records. Edited by Michael Labahn and Andreas Schmidt. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Supplement Series 214. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001. Twelftree, Graham H. Jesus the Exorcist: A Contribution to the Study of the Historical Jesus Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2/54. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1993. Twelftree, Graham H. Jesus the Miracle Worker: A Historical and Theological Study. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999. Ullendorf, Edward. ‘Review of Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew. A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels’. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 37 (1974): 521, 522. Urbach, Efraim E. The Sages, Their Concepts and Beliefs. Translated by Israel Abrahams. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1975. Van Cangh, Jean-Marie. ‘Miracles de rabbins et les miracles de Jésus’. Revue théologique de Louvain 15 (1984): 28–53. Vermes, Geza. The Authentic Gospel of Jesus. London: Allan Lane, 2003. Vermes, Geza. The Changing Faces of Jesus. London: Allan Lane, 2000. Vermes, Geza. Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea (AD 30–325). London: Allen Lane, 2012. Vermes, Geza. The Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1962. Vermes, Geza. Discovery in the Judean Desert. New York: Desclée, 1956. Vermes, Geza. ‘The Gospels without Christology’, in God Incarnate: Story and Belief. Edited by A. E. Harvey. London: SPCK, 1981. Vermes, Geza. ‘Hanina ben Dosa: A Controversial Galilean Saint from the First Century of the Christian Era’. Journal of Jewish Studies 23 (1972): 28–50; (1973): 51–64. Vermes, Geza. Jesus and the World of Judaism. London: SCM Press, 1983. Vermes, Geza. Jesus in His Jewish Context. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003. Vermes, Geza. Jesus in the Jewish World. London: SCM Press, 2010. Vermes, Geza. Jésus le Juif. Paris: Desclée, 1978. Vermes, Geza. Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels. London: Collins, 1973. Vermes, Geza. Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981.

238

Bibliography

Vermes, Geza. Jesus: Nativity, Passion, Resurrection. London: Penguin Books, 2010. Vermes, Geza. ‘Le “Commentaire d’Habacuc” et le Nouveau Testament’. Cahiers Sioniens 5 (1951): 337–349. Vermes, Geza. Les manuscrits du désert de Juda Paris: Desclée, 1953. Vermes, Geza. The Nativity: History & Legend. New York: Doubleday, 2006. Vermes, Geza. ‘Neglected Facts in the Dead Sea Scrolls’. The Daily Telegraph (1966):. Vermes, Geza. The Passion: The True Story of an Event that Changed Human History. London: Penguin, 2005. Vermes, Geza. Post-Biblical Jewish Studies, Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 8. Leiden: Brill, 1975. Vermes, Geza. ‘The Present State of the ‘Son of Man’ Debate’. Journal of Jewish Studies 29 (1978): 123–134. Vermes, Geza. Providential Accidents: An Autobiography. London: SCM Press, 1998. Vermes, Geza. ‘Reflections on Improving Methodology in Jesus Research’. Pages 17–27 in Jesus Research. New Methodologies and Perceptions. The Second Princeton-Prague Symposium on Jesus Research. Edited by James H. Charlesworth, Brian Rhea, and Petr Pokorný. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014. Vermes, Geza. The Religion of Jesus the Jew. London: SCM Press, 1993. Vermes, Geza. The Resurrection: History and Myth. London: Penguin, 2008. Vermes, Geza. Searching for the Real Jesus. Jesus, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Religious Themes. London: SCM Press, 2009. Vermes, Geza. ‘The “Son of Man” Debate’. Journal for the Study of the New Testament 1 (1978): 19–32. Vermes, Geza. ‘The Son of Man Debate Revisited (1960–2010)’. Pages 236–255 in Jesus in the Jewish World. London: SCM Press, 2010. Vermes, Geza. The True Herod. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. Vermes, Geza. ‘The Use of Bar Nasha/Bar Nash in Jewish Aramaic’. Pages 310–328 in An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts: With an Appendix on the Son of Man by Geza Vermes. Edited by Matthew Black. Oxford: Clarendon, 1967. Vermes, Geza. Who’s Who in the Age of Jesus. London: Penguin, 2005. Wagner, Siegfried. Franz Delitzsch: Leben und Werk. München: Kaiser, 1978. Weaver, Walter P. The Historical Jesus in the Twentieth Century: 1900–1950. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1999. Weaver, Walter P. ‘In Quest of the Quest: Finding Jesus’. Pages 28–57 in Jesus Research: New Methodologies and Perceptions: The Second Princeton-Prague Symposium on Jesus Research, Prague 2007. Edited by James H. Charlesworth, Petr Pokorný, and Brian Rhea. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014. Weber, Max. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology. Edited by Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. New York: Bedminster Press, 1968. Wilson, A. N. ‘Jesus Is Ill-Served by This Literary Detective’. No pages. Accessed 10 November 2014. Online: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists /anwilson/3556252/Jesus-is-ill-served-by-this-literary-detective.html Wilson, A. N. Jesus: A Life. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1992. Wilson, Ian. Jesus: The Evidence. New York: Harper & Row, 1984. Winter, Dagmar. ‘The Dissimilar Jesus: Anti-Semitism, Protestantism, Hero-Worship, and Dialectal Theology’. Pages 129–142 in Soundings in the Religion of Jesus: Perspectives and Methods in Jewish and Christian Scholarship. Edited by Bruce Chilton, Anthony Le Donne, and Jacob Neusner. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012. Winter, Paul. On the Trial of Jesus. 2nd ed., Studia judaica 1. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1974.

Bibliography

239

Winter, Paul. On the Trial of Jesus, Studia judaica. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1961. Witherington, Ben. The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1997. Witherington III, Ben. The Christology of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990. Wittenberg, Martin. Franz Delitzsch (1813–1890): Vier Aufsätze über ihn und Auszüge aus seinem Werken. Burgsinn am Lindenberg: Evangeliumsdienst, 1963. Wohlgemuth, Joseph. ‘Obituary: Hermann L. Strack’. Jeschurun 9 (1922): 382–384. Wright, N. T. Jesus and the Victory of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996. Wright, N. T. ‘Jesus, Quest for the Historical’. Pages 3: 796–802 in The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by David Noel Freedman; 6 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1992. Wright, N. T. ‘Towards a Third Quest? Jesus Then and Now’. ARC 10 (1982): 20–27. Young, John. The Christ of History: An Argument Grounded in the Facts of His Life on Earth. London: Strahan and Co, 1868. Yuval, Israel Jacob. Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. Zahavy, Tzvee. Yerushalmi Berakhot. Translated by Tzvee Zahavy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

INDEX Note: The letter ‘n’ following locators refers to notes Berman, D. 155, 159, 160–2, 165, 170, 178, 182, 201 n.11 Bermejo Rubio, F. 32–5, 130 Billerbeck, P. 76 n.3, 77–8, 90–1, 97–100, 219, 221 Black, M. 20–2, 103 n.156, 110, 114 Blackburn, B. 157, 159 n.34 Bokser, B. M. 155, 167, 170–3, 176, 198 n.4, 202 n.15, 209 Borg, M. 13, 14 n.46, 72 n.74, 125, 156, 163, 165, 185–7 Bornkamm, G. 84, 224 Bousset, W. 81, 107–8 Büchler, A. 137, 141, 147 n.84, 160 n.38 Bultmann, R. 76–7, 81–4, 134, 146 n.80, 151, 224 era 89 students 33, 130

Freyne, S. 12 n.34, 54 n.48, 60 n.3, 65–6, 85–6, 127 n.13, 156, 163–4, 173, 176–7, 182, 201 n. 11

Casey, M. 6, 77, 116–21, 124, 158 n.31 Charlesworth, J. 3 n.1–2, 32 n.4, 37–9, 40 n.44, 69–71 Crossan, J. D. 12–13, 54, 124–9, 157, 165, 172–4, 176–7 Crossley J. 4–5, 128–9, 222–4

Institum Judaicum 91–3, 97, 102–3

Dahl, N.A. 62 n.6, 84 Dalman, G. 76–8, 90–2, 101–7, 145, 219, 221–2 Danby, H. 105, 108, 144 n.69 Delitzsch, F. 76–8, 89–97, 101–2, 104, 106–7, 119, 194 n.2, 212 Döllinger, F. 79, 100, 129 Dunn, J. 5, 12, 32 n.3, 90, 125, 154 n.4, 156 n.9, 205–6

Kahl, W. 176 Käsemann, E. 83–4, 224 Keck, L. E. 60 n.3, 64–6 Keener, C. S. 14, 103 n.157, 158, 201 n.11 Kingsbury, J. D. 60 n.3, 67 Klausner, J. 69, 76, 86–9, 105

Evans, C. A. 5–6, 39–40, 103 n.157, 145 n.74, 157, 162, 187–90, 209–10 Eve, E. 158, 162–3, 175–6, 201 n.11 Fiebig, P. 77, 82, 92 n.95, 134 Fitzmyer, J. A. 115 n.38, 144 n.69 Flusser, D. 5 n.11, 48 n.28, 86, 114 n.29, 135–6, 155 Fredriksen, P. 156, 163, 165, 187, 207 n.27

Green, W. S. 155, 164, 167–70, 172–4, 176–7, 182, 202 Grundmann, W. 77–9, 106 n.167, 129, 224 Hagner, D. A. 10–12, 88 n.69, 156 Hahn, F. 145 Harvey, Anthony 35 n.23, 60 n.3, 62–4, 72 n.74, 86 n.62 Heschel, S. 78 n.10, 94 n.106, 99, 106 n.167 Hooker, M. 83 Horbury, W. 60 n.3, 62–4 Hubbard, B. J. 11–12, 156 Hurtado, L. 12, 157 Hvalvik, R. 13, 17 n.5, 158, 207 n.28

Jaffé, D. 158, 162 Jensen, M. H. 125 Jeremias, J. 62, 76 n.2, 91, 97–8, 103–4, 114 n.29, 145, 184 n.185, 224

Leaney, A. R. C. 43 n.1, 60 n.3, 66–7 Le Donne, A. 5–6, 33, 59, 61 Lindars, B. 8 n.19, 116–17, 220 Meier, J. P. 9, 12–13, 123–6, 157, 172, 174–5, 177–8 Mertz, A. 5 n.11, 35, 157 Montefiore, C. G. 24, 76, 86–7, 89, 154 Moore, G. F. 107–8 Moxnes, H. 35–6, 124, 128–9, 223

Index Neusner, J. 197, 202–4, 210–13

241

Powel, M. A. 13, 126, 127 n.13

Theissen, G. 5, 35, 72 n.74, 95 n.110, 125, 149–50, 157 Twelftree, G. H. 125, 157, 159 n.36, 184–5

Renan, E. 79–80, 82, 96–7

Van Cangh, J. -M. 156, 182, 194 n.2

Sabourin, L. 60 n.3, 64 Safrai, S. 137, 141, 155, 158–60, 183 Sanders, E. P. 1, 3-4, 35 n.23, 37–8, 43, 54 n.48, 61 n.6, 69–72, 78, 85, 98–100, 156–7, 159, 201 n.11, 222–4 Sandmel, S. 49, 86, 99–101 Schäfer, P. 210, 212–13 Schürer, E. 20, 106–8 Book/project 20–1, 61, 71 n.70, 106, 133 Stegner, W. R. 60 n.3, 67–8, 86 Strack, H. L. 76–9, 91–2, 97–8, 101, 106–7, 219, 221 Kommentar 79, 90, 97–101, 104, 134

Weaver, W. 76–7 Winter, D. 5, 127, 149–50 Winter, P. 26 n.73, 86, 88 n.73 Witherington, B. 12–13, 125, 157, 159, 163 n.59, 183–5 Wright, N.T. 13, 38, 69, 71–2, 76, 78, 99 n.130, 125, 129 Yuval, I. J. 210–13