Thursday, March 29, 2012

Maccabean Chronology in the Pentateuch?

One idea that occasionally pops up in discussions of the stabilization of Hebrew scripture is that pro-Hasmonean scribes in the second century BCE redacted the chronology of the Pentateuch so that the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple by the Maccabees would fall in year 4000 anno mundi (in world history, from creation). The alleged motivation for this redactional move is that the Hasmonean government would somehow receive legitimation by being able to show that its rededication of the Temple occurred in such a propitious year.

According to some presentations of this view, the 'original chronology' of the Pentateuch aimed at validating the Solomonic temple. This was revised in the Samaritan Pentateuch with the goal of validating the temple on Mt. Gerizim. The Septuagint chronology perhaps aimed at validating the second (post-exilic) Jerusalem temple, and the MT aimed at validating the Hasmonean rededication of the temple. 

This is the way the argument runs, for instance, in Siegried Kreuzer, "From 'Old Greek' to the Recensions: Who and What Caused the Change of the Hebrew Reference Text of the Septuagint?" in Septuagint Research: Issues and Challenges in the Study of the Greek Jewish Scriptures, ed. Wolfgang Kraus and R. Glenn Wooden, SCS 53 (Atlanta: SBL, 2006), 232-33.The end of this post gives a list of some (not at all complete) other works that assume or argue for this idea of a Maccabean chronology in the Pentateuch.

In his 2005 book Writing on the Tablet of the Heart (Oxford), David Carr accepted this line of thinking.
Finally [i.e., the last point in a discussion of how the Hasmoneans gave the Hebrew Bible its final shape], the entire chronological system of the proto-Massoretic textual tradition of the historical books is structured so that the Hasmoneans' rededication of the temple falls exactly four thousand years after Creation, with the Exodus occurring in year 2666 after Creation--two-thirds of the way to the temple rededication. (p. 264)
[In my copy of Carr's book, in the margin beside this sentence, I find that I once wrote: "this would be awfully subtle, complicated, & pointless." I think that evaluation still holds, and perhaps Carr would now agree (see below)] 
In the footnote, Carr cites Jeremy Hughes, Secrets of the Times: Myth and History in Biblical Chronology, JSOTSup (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990), 233-37, which, Carr says, "provides a discussion of how the MT tradition deviates from other systems and possible problems with reading it as linked to the Hasmonean rededication."

But, in his more recent book The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction (Oxford, 2011), Carr reduces the argument to a footnote and signals a change in his view.
The most evocative proposal of Hasmonean-period revision of the Pentateuch (and Deuteronomistic history) is the observation that the sum of the dates of the proto-Massoretic biblical history, when combined with known dates for Persian- and Hellenistic-period rulers, gives exactly 4000 years from creation to the rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabeus (with the exodus placed at 2666 years after creation, two-thirds of the way to temple rededication). The problem with this proposal is that it depends on the authors of the proto-MT chronology having an accurate knowledge of the historical chronology extending from Cyrus to Judas, whereas our documented examples of Jewish historiography of the period (e.g., Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, Josephus) display apparent ignorance of that chronology. Cf. my Writing on the Tablet of the Heart [Oxford, 2005], 264 where I advocated this idea (building on earlier discussions by many others). I thank John Collins for bringing the problems with this proposal to my attention. (p. 171 n. 28, italics original)
This note is most interesting, mostly because it agrees exactly with my own thinking before reading Carr's book. My biggest problem with the idea that the MT chronology was redacted so that Judas' rededication of the Temple would fall in year 4000 anno mundi was that Second Temple Jewish authors seem not have had a good grasp of Second Temple chronology, and it was precisely John Collins, in his Commentary on Daniel (Hermeneia), that helped me realize this.

One proponent of the view does at least acknowledge this problem, though he does not give it its full weight. Marshall D. Johnson, The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies (2d ed.; Cambridge, 1988), prefixes to his calculation the caveat: "Assuming that the post-exilic Jerusalem community in all probability kept historical records of some accuracy [...]" (p. 32).

One should note that the calculation of the exodus falling in year 2666 anno mundi is found already in Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 308, and he cites previous scholarship.

A Few Proponents of Maccabean Chronology in the Pentateuch 

A. Murtonen, "On the Chronology of the Old Testament," Studia Theologica 8 (1954): 133-37.

Philip R. Davies, In Search of "Ancient Israel", JSOTSup 148 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992), 154.

Thomas L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham, BZAW 133 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1974), 14-16.

Jeremy Hughes, The Secrets of the Times: Myth and History in Biblical Chronology, JSOTSup 66 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990), 234-35.

Klaus Koch, "Sabbatstruktur der Geschichte: Die Zehn-Wochen-Apokalypse (1 Hen 93:1-10; 91:11-17) und das Ringen um die alttestamentlichen Chronologien im späten Israelitentum," ZAW 95 (1983): 423-24; repr. in Vor der Wende Zeiten: Beiträge zur apokalyptischen Literatur, Gesammelte Aufsätze 3 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1996), 68-69. 

Martin Rösel, Übersetzung als Vollendung der Auslegung: Studien zur Genesis-Septuaginta, BZAW 223 (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1994), 129-44.

SBL 2012 Greek Bible Paper Accepted

Last night I received the acceptance notice for the paper I submitted to the Greek Bible section for the SBL meeting this Nov. in Chicago. Here's the abstract.

The Patristic Reception of Zechariah ben Jehoiada
The Old Greek of 2 Chronicles 24:20 speaks of a character named Azariah son of Jodae, whereas the Masoretic Text calls this person Zechariah son of Jehoiada. This alteration of names had a significant impact on the patristic interpretation of Matt. 23:35 // Lk. 11:51, a dominical statement referencing the blood of Abel and Zechariah. While most modern scholars locate Jesus’ Zechariah in 2 Chron. 24:20, this interpretation was not obvious to the Fathers who did not find the name Zechariah in this passage, bur rather Azariah. For instance, Origen knows the character of 2 Chron. 24:20 by his traditional LXX name (Azariah), so that this passage from Chronicles never appears in Origen’s multiple discussions of Matt. 23:35. Instead, Origen relates this Zechariah to the canonical prophet, or alternatively to the father of John the Baptist. However, Josephus does attest the name Zechariah in his retelling of 2 Chron. 24 (A.J. 9.168–71), and this may have been the source for a confused statement by John Chrysostom regarding the Zechariah mentioned by Jesus. Nevertheless, it does not seem that the Fathers were able to confidently link the Zechariah of Matt. 23:35 to the character in 2 Chron. 24, in the manner of modern scholars, until Jerome argued forcefully for this identification, partly at least, it seems, so that it would allow him to display his knowledge of Hebrew, demonstrate its great usefulness for biblical exegesis, and highlight the insufficiency of relying on a Greek translation of scripture.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Sequence of the Hagiographa in Recent Hebrew Bibles

In a previous post, I surveyed the order of the Hagiographa in early printed Hebrew Bibles, from the editio princeps of the Hagiographa (1486-87) to the Second Rabbinic Bible (1524-25), edited by Jacob ben Chayim. We saw that while the editio princeps of the Hagiographa was a bit of an oddball--because of the strange order of the Five Megilloth: Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Ruth, Esther--the editio princeps of the entire Bible (Soncino, 1488) established a standard order for the Hagiorapha which was carried through almost all printed Bibles (excluding the Complutensian Polyglot, which intentionally followed the Christian [LXX or Vulgate] order) until quite recent times. 

Thus, the first four editions of the Bible (Soncino, 1488; Naples, 1491-93; Brescia, 1494; Pesaro, 1511-17) all printed the Hagiographa in this order, as did the first two Rabbinic Bibles (Venice, 1516-17; Venice, 1524-25). 


Song of Songs
Qoheleth [Ecclesiastes]


There are three issues with regard to this order that we will explore in this post: (a) the order of the first three books, (b) the order of the Five Megilloth, and (c) the placement of Chronicles. 

Now, the sequence of the Hagiographa I have just listed has become more-or-less standard, just as the Ben Chayim text itself (Second Rabbinic Bible) became standard for a long time. That is, the Ben Chayim text was reprinted many times and became the basis for further editions, including the first two editions of Rudolf Kittel's Biblia Hebraica (1906; 1912). Not only did Kittel adopt the Ben Chayim text as his base text, but he also adopted the order of books from Ben Chayim. This same order of books is still represented in the Jewish Study Bible and Marvin Sweeney's recent critical introduction and theology, Tanak. Thus, this order has become somewhat normative. 

However, the Biblia Hebraica editions no longer follow this exact order for the Hagiographa. When Paul Kahle determined to make the Leningrad Codex B19A--the earliest complete Hebrew Bible now in existence, dating to 1008 or 1009 CE--the basis for the third edition of Biblia Hebraica (1937), he also determined to follow the order of books in this codex, at least, to a point. That is, even though Chronicles is at the beginning of the Ketuvim in the Leningrad Codex, Kahle left it at its by-now traditional place at the end of the Ketuvim, but he altered the order of the first three books and the Five Megilloth to agree with the Leningrad Codex. Thus, the order for BHK-3, as also for the fourth edition, known as BHS (1977), is: 


Song of Songs


Again, this exactly reproduces the order for the Leningrad Codex, except for the placement of Chronicles. By the way, this is also the order in which Brevard Childs discussed the books in his Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Fortress, 1979), though he made nothing of it, as far as I can tell. (He did consider it correct to follow the tripartite arrangement of the Hebrew Bible--see his last chapter--but I do not see any place where he says that this particular order for the Hagiographa should be followed.)

The order of the first three books is thus altered in BHK-3/BHS as opposed to the traditional order represented in the first two editions of BHK. I am not sure about the significance of this, or why one order might be preferred to another. It looks to me like the order of BHS would be based on the length of the three books, from longest to shortest. And, this allows for Prov. 31--with its acrostic about the virtuous woman--to sort of introduce Ruth, as long as Ruth is also printed as the first of the Five Megilloth, as it is in BHS. The traditional order of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, I learned once-upon-a-time formed the reverse acronym in Hebrew Emet ('truth')--Iyov (Job), Mishlei (Proverbs), and Tehillim (Psalms). But it's doubtful to me that that is a reason they were put in this order; probably it just developed as a mneumonic after the fact.

As for the order of the Megilloth, the two possibilities do reflect some logic. The traditionally printed order reflects the liturgical order, that is, the order of the festivals to which each of the Megilloth is tied (see here).

Song of Songs--Passover
Lamentations--Ninth of Av

The order in the Leningrad Codex and BHS (and the Aleppo Codex) reflects a chronological order according to the events related or the presumed author. 

Ruth--period of the Judges, leading to a genealogy of David
Song of Songs--traditionally attributed to Solomon, in his youth
Qoheleth--traditionally attributed to Solomon, late in his life
Lamentations--traditionally attributed to Jeremiah
Esther--post-exilic period

The last issue concerns the placement of Chronicles. As I mentioned, Kahle apparently decided to leave Chronicles at the end of the Ketuvim, as it had been in all printed Hebrew Bibles since the days of the editio princeps of the Hagiographa, even though in all other respects he followed the order of the Leningrad Codex, which itself placed Chronicles at the head of the Ketuvim. [I have not found anything actually attributing this decision to Kahle, so possibly it was not he who decided this. But, the fact is BHK-3, edited by Kahle, left Chronicles at the end of the Ketuvim, and BHS has followed BHK-3 in this sequence.] 

But, apparently Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ), being published now in fascicles, will completely follow the Leningrad Codex in terms of order, including placing Chronicles (being edited by Zipora Talshir) at the head of the Ketuvim. Now, I'm almost positive I read this somewhere some years ago, but many Google searches and a perusal of the General Introduction to BHQ published along with the Five Megilloth in the first fascicle (numbered fasc. 18, published in 2004) has failed to reveal where I might have come across this. Maybe somebody said it at a conference, I don't know. At any rate, the fact that Chronicles will be at the head of the Ketuvim is shown by the fascicle numbers. You can see at the Wikipedia entry that the Twelve Minor Prophets--which concludes the order of the Prophets--is fasc. 13, and Proverbs is fasc. 17, so Chronicles, Psalms, and Job must come in between these two. Moreover, Ezra-Nehemiah is fasc. 20, and according to the BHS Wikipedia entry, BHQ will be published in 20 installments. So, Ezra-Nehemiah must be at the end of the Ketuvim, not Chronicles.

In a later post, I'll try to do some evaluation of these orders, bringing in some of the arguments by Roger Beckwith in favor of the Talmudic order, which is not represented here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Will OHB Become Scripture?

It's been a year-and-a-half since I made note of Ron Hendel's response to H.G.M. Williamson's published critique of the Oxford Hebrew Bible project, which Hendel is directing. At the time that Williamson's article came out in Biblica (simultaneously published in print and on-line), it was widely noted on the blogs. I haven't seen similar references to Hendel's response, but that could be because Hendel has still not published it in a journal, apparently. At least, on the website it is still listed as 'forthcoming'. Moreover, the version available on the web seems to be not the final draft, as there are some typos and other errors that I expect would be eliminated in a published form. (One example is 'periscope' for 'pericope' on p. 7, a problem with Word's spell check to which Mark Goodacre has drawn attention before.)

Anyway, I just now read Hendel's response. (Why did it take me so long? I don't know.) I found it to be a pretty well-reasoned answer to Williamson's objections, and pretty persuasive as to the feasibility and desirability of producing such an eclectic edition of the Hebrew Bible. According to Hendel, the disagreement essentially boils down to the alternative that whereas Williamson would prefer the type of information to be contained in OHB to be presented in a scholarly commentary instead, Hendel and his associates regard an eclectic edition to be an appropriate format.

However, what do you think about this statement from Hendel, near the end of his article (p. 15)?
The OHB, as a critical edition of the Hebrew Bible, will present critical texts that never previously existed precisely in this form. It will depart from the textus receptus of synagogue and church, and it will not become scriptural for any religious community.
I wonder if Hendel's belief that the OHB "will not become scriptural for any religious community" is correct. How do texts become scriptural for religious communities?

Is the NRSV scriptural for any religious communities? I would imagine that some Christians, anyway, if not perhaps some entire congregations, or even entire religious communities, regard the NRSV as scripture. I bring it up because the NRSV adds a paragraph from 4QSam(a) before 1Sam 11, and a verse from 11QPs(a) to Psalm 145 to fill out the acrostic. This is the most obvious example of an eclectic translation that uses the Dead Sea Scrolls--that is, the NRSV is not based solely on the MT (i.e., BHS), but takes readings that it judges to be correct from any ancient text, especially the MT, LXX, and DSS. Of course, just about all English translations do this. Our English translations have actually been based on an implicit critical text, just as Hendel (pp. 15-16) cites Tov as saying with regard to critical commentaries.

So, eclectic texts have become scriptural for just about every religious community in the English-speaking world, and this is no doubt true for communities relying on non-English translations, as well. I can well imagine whenever the OHB is published, that some translations will be based on its text, and will become scriptural. The nature of OHB--presenting variant literary editions side-by-side--will complicate the process of producing translations based on it, but I would imagine that such translations would also present the variant literary editions. I don't know that this would prevent such translations from becoming scriptural.

Might such a process of 'scripturalization' for a variant edition (OHB) be comparable to the ancient variant editions that will be published in OHB. That is, Hendel recognizes the ancient variant editions (e.g., of Samuel, or Jeremiah) as texts of the Bible (pp. 14-15), so why wouldn't the OHB also become a text of the Bible?

It'll be interesting to see what kind of effect this has on people's view of the Bible. If we as teachers of the Word to God's people are diligent in understanding the issues and explaining them well, it might result in increased understanding of what the Bible is and where it came from. That would be a welcome development.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Sequence of the Hagiographa in Printed Hebrew Bibles

This post continues a prominent theme on this blog of late (see here, here, here, here, and here). The information below comes from the following book.

Christian D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (London: Trinitarian Bible Society, 1897), reprinted with a prolegomenon by Harry M. Orlinsky (New York: Ktav, 1966).

Editio Princeps of the Hagiographa (Naples 1486-87)

The first edition of the Hagiographa (Ginsburg 807-14) followed editions of the Psalter (Bologna?, 1477; Ginsburg 780-94), the Pentateuch (Bologna, 1482; Ginsburg 794-802), and the Prophets (Soncino, 1485-86; Ginsburg 803-7). 

The Hagiographa were printed in three volumes. The sequence of books is as follows (Ginsburg 811). 

vol. 1: Psalms
vol. 2: Proverbs
vol. 3: Job, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles. 

Editio Princeps of the Entire Hebrew Bible (Soncino, 1488)

See Ginsburg 820-31

The sequence of the hagiographa is different in two respects from the editio princeps of the hagiographa (Ginsburg 822). First, the Five Megilloth are extracted from the Hagiographa and placed as a unit immediately after the Pentateuch (cf. Ginsburg 847). Second, three of the Megilloth are rearranged into the order Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes.

Second Edition of the Entire Hebrew Bible (Naples, 1491-93) 

See Ginsburg 847-55

The sequence of the Hagiographa is exactly the same as in the editio princeps of the Bible (Ginsburg 847-48).

Third Edition of the Entire Hebrew Bible (Brescia, 1494) 

See Ginsburg 871-80

The sequence of the Hagiographa is exactly the same as in the first two editions of the Bible (Ginsburg 872; cf. p. 868). 

Fourth Edition of the Entire Hebrew Bible (Pesaro, 1511-17) 

See Ginsburg 895-906

The sequence of the Hagiographa is exactly the same as in the first two editions of the Bible (Ginsburg 897).

Complutensian Polyglot (Alcalá, 1514-17)

See Ginsburg 906-25

This Christian edition of the Old Testament and New Testament, undertaken by Cardinal Ximenes, Archbishop of Toledo, consists of six volumes and is responsible for several significant innovations in the text of the Hebrew Bible. Volumes 5 (New Testament) and 6 (Grammatical and Critical Apparatus) are beyond the purview of this post, as also of Ginsburg's treatment. 

The sequence of the Hebrew Bible is as follows (Ginsburg 908-10). Each volume prints the books in Hebrew, Greek (LXX), and Latin (Vulgate). The first volume also contains Aramaic (Targum Onkelos). The LXX column is supplied with a Latin interlinear translation.

Vol. 1: Pentateuch. 
Vol. 2: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Prayer of Manasseh.
Vol. 3: Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther with deuterocanonical additions, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus.
Vol. 4: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel with deuterocanonical additions, Minor Prophets, 1-3 Maccabees. 

The books absent from the Hebrew Bible are given only in the Vulgate and LXX, while 3 Maccabees (absent from the Vulgate) is given only in the LXX version. 

Ginsburg (912) remarks on some of the features of the Hebrew text in this edition. 
This unbounded veneration for the Vulgate naturally influenced the redactors of the Hebrew text. Hence they assimilated it in form to the central Latin Version. They made the folios of the Hebrew text go from left to right; they divided Samuel, Kings, Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles respectively into two books, and named the first two books thus divided into four, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 3 Kings and 4 Kings; they inserted the deutero-canoncial Additions into the text; they discarded the Massoretic division of the text into sections and adopted the Christian chapters; they re-arranged the Hebrew order of the books and made them follow the sequence of the Vulgate; they discarded the accents and though they retained the vowel-points, they in many instances altered them into forms which are rightly rejected by grammarians as inadmissible.
First Edition of the Rabbinic Bible (Venice, 1516-17)

See Ginsburg 925-48

This edition, printed by Daniel Bomberg and edited by Felix Pratensis, contains several rabbinic commentaries alongside the Hebrew text and targum. It was issued in four volumes.

Vol. 1: Pentateuch.
Vol. 2: Former Prophets.
Vol. 3: Latter Prophets.
Vol. 4: Hagiographa, according to the order of the first four editions of the Hebrew Bible, with the Megilloth in their proper place among the Hagiographa. Thus, the order is: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles.

First Edition of the Bible in Quarto (Venice, 1516-17)

See Ginsburg 948-52

This is a cheaper version of the above, reprinting the same text in the same sequence. 

Second Edition of the Bible in Quarto (Venice, 1521) 

See Ginsburg 952-56

This follow-up to the above was apparently designed to make an inexpensive Bible palatable to Jews. The Jewish-Christian editor Felix Pratensis is replaced by Jewish editors, and instead of dedicating the work to the Pope, as the First Rabbinic Bible is (Ginsburg 927), this edition is explicitly for the synagogue (Ginsburg 953). 

The sequence of the Hagiographa is exactly the same as in the first four editions of the Hebrew Bible, complete with the removal of the Five Megilloth from the Hagiographa to a position immediately following the Pentateuch (Ginsburg 953).

Second Edition of the Rabbinic Bible (Venice, 1524-25)
a.k.a the editio princeps of the Ben Chayim text

See Ginsburg 956-74

Ginsburg (956) on the significance of this edition: 
[...] the enthusiastic Massorite [Jacob ben Chayim] persuaded Bomberg in the course of a few years to undertake the publication of the justly celebrated Bible with the Massorah which finally settled the Massoretic text as it is now exhibited in the present recension of the Hebrew Scriptures.
This edition was printed by Daniel Bomberg in four volumes (Ginsburg 958-63).

Vol. 1: Pentateuch.
Vol. 2: Former Prophets.
Vol. 3: Latter Prophets.
Vol. 4: Hagiographa, in the same order as the First Rabbinic Bible.

This is more-or-less where Ginsburg concludes his survey of printed Hebrew Bibles; he does briefly report on one more quarto edition by Bomberg, which he says contains, in his personal copy, marginal notes in the handwriting of Luther (Ginsburg 974-76).

Perhaps in a later post I can bring this discussion up to the time of BHS.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

John's View of Heaven

Tonight in my Revelation class at a local church (noted earlier here), we concentrated on the beautiful passage in chapter 4, where John sees the scene of God on his throne in heaven, with 24 elders surrounding the throne, and an emerald rainbow and a sea of glass, and four living creatures--one that looks like a lion, another a calf, another a man, another an eagle--ceaselessly flying around the throne praising the one who sits on it, and the 24 elders falling down before the throne in praise of its occupant.

Two thoughts about this:

1. The plot of the book.

I realized for the first time just as I was reading the passage aloud during the class that the very first verse says that these things I have just described "must take place" (Rev. 4:1). I take that to mean that what we see in ch. 4, and then on into ch. 5, must come true.

What do we see? First, all creatures worshiping the one who sits on the throne. That seems to me to be part of the point of describing the four living creatures as a lion, calf, man, and eagle. Certainly John is drawing on the imagery of Ezek. 1:10, but he does so because it fits his theology so well--God must be praised, and all creatures (not just man) must participate in this praise. This is not an option. It "must take place" (4:1).

The second thing we see--and this takes us into ch. 5--is that when the Lamb is counted worthy to open the book that is in the right hand of him who sits on the throne, "every created thing which is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them" praised the Lamb (5:13). So, again, all created things praise the Lamb, just as they had praised the one who sits on the throne.

Now, the fact is, all created things currently do not praise the Lamb or the one who sits on the throne, but Rev. 4:1 tells us that this "must take place." I think that is a significant clue to the plot of the book. The mystery of Revelation is not whether all things will praise God--this must take place--but rather the mystery is how God will bring this about. That apparently has something to do with the book in his hand (5:1), but that takes us to another topic, perhaps for another post.

2. Worship

The second thing Rev. 4 brings home to me is the nature of worship. One of Walter Brueggemann's  essays on the Psalms (the reference appears below) gives a list of about 11 descriptions of proper worship as illustrated by the praise psalms. Over the years in my teaching I have especially emphasized two items from Brueggemann's list that I have found especially helpful, and they are both wonderfully illustrated in Rev. 4.

Praise is an act of doxological self-abandonment. When we enter into worship, what we seek, what we desire, what we want to "get out of it" is precisely the abandonment of ourselves, the refusal to focus on our own wants and desires and what we can get out of it, and to focus completely, solely, without reservation, on God. It is a reorientation away from that selfishness that characterizes so much of our lives. We need to imitate those 24 elders.

Praise is a polemical act. When we declare that God is worthy of our worship, we are at the same time making war on all those others that would claim to be worthy of worship. In the context of ancient Israel in which the Psalms were written, the Israelites would mean--Yahweh is worthy of worship, and Baal is not! In the context of Revelation, the Christians would be saying--The one who sits on the throne in heaven is worthy of worship, and Caesar is not! We moderns also (should) think of worship as a polemical act, in which we say--God is worthy of our worship, and _____ is not! It's a good exercise to have the class fill in the blank. Tonight they filled it in with money, power, possessions, career, and maybe some other things. No one said Alabama football.

Walter Brueggemann, “Praise and the Psalms: A Politics of Glad Abandonement,” The Hymn (October 1992); reprinted in The Psalms and the Life of Faith, ed. Patrick D. Miller (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 112–32.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Beckwith on the Order of the Hagiographa

Roger Beckwith's book on the Old Testament canon has held a prominent place in the discussion since it was published in 1985 (The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, Eerdmans). Nevertheless, one of its odd theses--that Judas Maccabeus is responsible for the canon list found now in b. Baba Bathra 14b--can be difficult to evaluate (other than simply declaring it 'odd') because the arguments supporting it are scattered about on many pages. (Beckwith was rather wordy in this book, resulting in a 500-page tome.)

This post is my attempt to make Beckwith's argument more straightforward, and thus to see whether it has merit. I wont be able to offer much evaluation here; that would make the post even longer than it is. But I don't think I hide what I think about the idea.

Most of the main argumentation appears in Beckwith's ch.4, "The Structure of the Canon," pp. 110-66, with notes on pp. 166-80. It goes more-or-less like this:

1. The tripartite canon (Law, 5 books; Prophets, 8 books; Writings, 11 books = 24 books) was established by the second century BCE (pp. 111-18). Evidence:

(a) Sirach prologue (pp. 110-11), which mentions three times "Law, Prophets, Other Books," or some similar formula.

(b) Luke 24:44 (pp. 111-15), which mentions "Law, Prophets, Psalms." Beckwith spends some time arguing that "Psalms" = Writings, that is, that "Psalms" in Luke 24:44 refers not just to the Psalter but to the 11 books of the Writings as a unit. His argument for this is necessarily based on the idea that when Luke 24:44 refers to the "Prophets", it must mean the 8 books of the Prophets according to the current divisions of the Hebrew Bible. He does not even question this (on which, see Barton), and the same goes for his treatment of Sirach's prologue. His argument that "Psalms" can mean "Writings" goes as follows: (1) it would be odd for Jesus to omit the books of the Writings from his canon in Luke 24:44 since he quotes from Daniel and the like so frequently; (2) the prologue to Sirach does not have a set title for the third section of the canon; (3) Philo uses hymnoi as the title for some books beside the Law and Prophets, and this is probably also the third section of the canon; (4) the tenth-century Arabic writer al-Masudi spoke of the "Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, which are the 24 books"; (5) some passages in rabbinic literature (t. Kelim 5.8; y. Meg. 2.3; Sepher Torah 2.3-4; Sop. 2.4) mention the "Fifths," which might mean the Psalter (divided into five books), which might stand for the entire collection of Writings.

(c) Matthew 23:35 // Luke 11:51 (p. 115), which implies, on Beckwith's interpretation, that Chronicles constituted the last book of the canon, which again might imply that the canon was tripartite.

(d) Philo, De vita contemplativa 25 (pp. 115-18), which mentions the Law, Prophets, and Hymnoi (and other books), and hymnoi means again the entire third section of the canon.

"It is thus a well-attested fact that, by the first century AD, the division of the canon into three groups of books was widespread in the Jewish world, and that it was familiar to Jesus" (p. 118).

2. The distribution of books between the Prophets and Writings was the same as in the modern Jewish canon and in the Talmudic baraita found in b. Baba Bathra 14b (pp. 118-27).

The sources discussed so far do not list the books in the different divisions of the canon, so for that we must rely on Josephus, Jerome, and the Talmudic baraita. Josephus (Against Apion 1.37-43) has a canon of 22 books, divided into 5 books of Law, 13 books of Prophecy, and 4 books of "hymns to God and precepts for the conduct of human life." On the other hand, Jerome (Prologus Galeatus) and the Talmud both distribute the books more-or-less the same (Jerome attests two ways of distributing books, both very similar to each other, one exactly equivalent to that in the Talmud). Beckwith favors Jerome & the Talmud over Josephus in terms of representing the earliest and best distribution because:

(a) Jesus (Matt. 23:35 // Lk. 11:51) implies that Chronicles concludes the canon, as it does in the Talmud, to which arrangement Jerome nearly attests, while Josephus is way off.

(b) The Sirach Prologue implies that late historical works (e.g., Daniel, Esther, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles) are included in the third section of the canon, which is impossible in Josephus' arrangement. You'll have to read Beckwith's discussion for how he draws this inference from Sirach's prologue (p. 123).

(c) Josephus' arrangement can be explained as a modification of the Talmudic arrangement, but not vice versa.

3. Judas Maccabeus divided the canon into its three sections and distributed the books according to the manner of the baraita in Baba Bathra 14b (pp. 152-53).

Beckwith claims that the division of the non-Torah books into two distinct sections--Prophets and Writings--took place exactly in the mid-second century BCE, because while the Sirach prologue attests to its existence, the lack of an exact title for the third section--the prologue simply calls it 'the other books'--means that this third section cannot have long existed (p. 142, 152).
"The exact date of the division into Prophets and other Books was probably about 164 BC" (p. 152)
 For this surprisingly precise dating of the arrangement of the canon, Beckwith cites 2 Maccabees 2:13-15.
(13) The same things are reported in the records and in the memoirs of Nehemiah, and also that he founded a library and collected the books about the kings and prophets, and the writings of David, and letters of kings about votive offerings. (14) In the same way Judas [the Maccabee] also collected all the books that had been lost on account of the war that had come upon us, and they are in our possession. (15) So if you have need of them, send people to get them for you.
 How can Beckwith possibly see in this report the arrangement of the tripartite canon of scripture?
Judas knew that the prophetic gift had ceased a long time before (1 Macc. 9.27; cp. also 4.46; 14.41), so what is more likely than that, in gathering together the scattered Scriptures, he and his companions the Hasidim classified the now complete collection in the way which from that time became traditional, dividing the miscellaneous non-Mosaic writings into the Prophets and the other Books? (p. 152)
And that is his argument. [Maybe you think I've left out part of it? No, I have not.] Beckwith further speculates that since Judas could not have collected all the scriptural books into a single volume, thus resulting in a fixed arrangement, he "must have done it primarily by compiling a list" (p. 153).

One last stage in the argument: though we now know that Judas Maccabeus divided the canon into three sections and assigned the books to the three sections precisely in accordance with the baraita of Baba Bathra 14b, we have not yet established that the exact sequence of books reported in the baraita derives from the action of Judas. But Beckwith can also prove this. 

4. The internal order of the Prophets and Writings as reported in b. Baba Bathra 14b goes back to Judas Maccabeus (pp. 156-62).

(a)  Beckwith asserts that "Judas's division of the miscellaneous non-Mosaic books"--which has in a few pages gone from a bizarre proposal to a fact of history, apparently--"was a deliberate and rational act," and so the order thus created should show signs of this, as the baraita does, Beckwith thinks (p. 156).

(b) The concluding position of Chronicles, to which Jesus attests (Beckwith thinks; see esp. pp. 211-22), corresponds to the order transmitted by the baraita (p. 156).

Beckwith attempts to illuminate the rationale for the division and sequence of books. He says that each section--Law, Prophets, and Writings--contains two types of books: history and another type. The Torah contains history and law; the Prophets, contain history and prophecy; and the Writings contain history and wisdom. The history books for each section narrate progressively later history. Beckwith then discusses what he perceives to be the problems to this account of things (pp. 158-62), which I do not feel like surveying right now.

But let me just note one of his points. The reason Ruth is in the Writings and not after Judges in the Prophets (as in other arrangements of the books, reflected now in the Christian arrangement of the OT) is because it serves as an introduction to the Psalter, since it ends with a genealogy of David. Also, the reason Chronicles is in the Writings rather than with the other history books in the Prophets (as in the Christian arrangement of the OT) is because it stands "at the end of the canon as a recapitulation of the whole biblical story, from the Creation [Adam] to the return" (p. 158). He goes on to say:
It follows that the presence of Ruth and Chronicles in the Hagiographa cannot be isolated from the order in which they stand in the Hagiographa, and that the same hand which divided the Hagiographa from the Prophets must also have determined the internal order of the two sections. It further follows that the hand responsible must have been later in date than the Chronicler, who apparently intended his work to precede Ezra-Nehemiah, not to follow it, while of course being earlier than the grandson of Ben Sira, who refers to the existence of the three sections of the canon in his prologue to Ecclesiasticus. (pp. 158-59)
Strangely, some scholars would disagree with Beckwith by saying that he dates all of this too late, and instead it was the Chronicler himself, in the Persian era, who put the finishing touches on the canon (Julius Steinberg, his teacher Hendrik Koorevaar). Others (e.g. Georg Steins) would also attribute this action to the Chronicler, but would date him to the Maccabean date in line with Beckwith's timetable. More on them some other time.

Those are the fundamental points of Beckwith's argument that the baraita of b. Baba Bathra actually goes back to the second century BCE, nay, even to 164 BCE and the action by Judas Maccabeus. His next chapter--ch. 5, "The Order of the Canonical Books"--is mostly taken up with arguing against other ancient orders, such as reported in patristic lists and alternative Jewish orders. I might have more to say about this chapter some other time.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Qoheleth and Sukkot

The Book of Qoheleth (a.k.a. Ecclesiastes) forms one of the Five Megilloth in the third section (Ketuvim = Writings = Hagiographa) of the modern Jewish biblical canon. Since Medieval times (twelfth century, or so), it has been customary in many Jewish communities to assign each of the Five Megilloth to a particular holiday, so that it is read in the synagogue on that day.

Song of Songs during Passover
Ruth during Shavuot (Pentecost)
Lamentations at the Ninth of Av
Esther at Purim
Qoheleth during Sukkot (Booths)

There is a fairly clear relationship between each book and its holiday. Esther, of course, describes the origins of Purim. Lamentations works well on a day commemorating the two destructions of the Jerusalem Temple (by the Babylonians and by the Romans). The story of Ruth takes place during the Barley harvest (Ruth 1:22), which would correspond to the time of Shavuot. Song of Songs traditionally receives an allegorical interpretation according to which it recounts God's love for Israel, especially as displayed in the exodus from Egypt, thus befitting Passover.

However, there is not an obvious relationship between Qoheleth and Sukkot, and I don't believe there's any traditional interpretation for the relationship. It's been a few years since I tried to gather opinions on this issue, and now I can't find my notes on it. So, I thought I'd start collecting some opinions here.

First, Wikipedia's article on Ecclesiastes says this (under "Traditional Judaism"):
It is read on Sukkot as a reminder to not get too caught up in the festivities of the holiday, as well as to carry over the happiness of sukkot to the rest of the year by telling the listeners that without God, life is meaningless.
Marvin Sweeney's new book Tanak: A Theological and Critical Introduction to the Jewish Bible (Fortress, 2012) contains these thoughts:
Qoheleth is read on Sukkot to explore the transitory nature of human life while affirming commitment to G-d. (p. 24)
Because the book of Qoheleth reflects on the transitory nature of life, it is associated with the festival named after the transitory life that Israel led at the concluding harvest during the wilderness wanderings. (p. 438)
Neither Sweeney nor the Wikipedia article cites any ancient or medieval Jewish authority for these opinions. That corresponds to what I recall from the last time I looked at this issue.

I'm not going to look further right now, but at some point I might add to this post with further opinions. 

One more thing: there's also the issue of when the Five Megilloth became connected to the festivals, and when they were grouped together as a subsection within the Ketuvim in our manuscripts. As I recall, there are different answers to this as well. I think some scholars believe that the liturgical connection to the holidays came first, and they were subsequently grouped together in the manuscripts to reflect their use at festivals. Other scholars argue or assume the opposite, that they were grouped together in the manuscripts first, and this became a reason to associate all five of the Megilloth with particular holidays, especially once 2 or 3 of the Megilloth became associated with their own holiday. This would offer a particularly nice explanation for how Qoheleth became associated with Sukkot (not a suggestion original with me).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Does Matthew 1 Narrate a Virginal Conception?

Yesterday, I received the alert that in the new issue of JSNT appears an article by Andrew T. Lincoln, "Contested Paternity and Contested Readings: Jesus' Conception in Matthew 1.18-25," 34.3 (2012): 211-31.

The article evaluates two ways of reading Matthew 1:18-25 with regard to the issue of the virginal conception. The traditional view sees in Matt. 1 a virginal conception because Matthew calls Mary a παρθένος, emphasizes that the product of her womb is begotten of the Holy Spirit, and informs his readers that Joseph did not have sexual relations with Mary until after the birth of the child.

The revised view (represented by Jane Schaberg, David Catchpole, and Robert J. Miller) does not see a virginal conception here, and charges the traditional reading with being unduly influenced by data outside Matthew's text, such as Christian tradition and the Lucan infancy narrative, which definitely (I think) contains a virginal conception (Luke 1:34; of course, yesterday I would have said that Matthew definitely contains a virginal conception). According to the revised view, the word παρθένος does not always mean virgin (more on this below), the Holy Spirit's involvement in the conception does not eliminate the possibility that a human father was also involved (see, e.g., Gen. 4:1-2; Judg. 13), and the reason for stressing that Joseph did not have sex with Mary until after Jesus was born was not to ensure a virginal conception, but to highlight once again (cf. Matt. 1:19) that Joseph was a righteous man, who therefore avoided the impurity of sexual relations with his pregnant wife (cf. Josephus, Against Apion, 2.199, 202).

At the end of the article, Lincoln offers this conclusion:
The provisional conclusion of this article, then, is that the revised reading needs to be taken seriously as a minority report that raises significant questions about the traditional reading, questions that should cause the latter's adherents to re-think its justification, but that, on balance, it is not compelling enough to make them abandon it. Matthew, though obliquely, probably remains a witness to a virginal conception. But, with apologies for the puns, the article will have succeeded in its aim if it has raised suspicions about the legitimacy of both the revised and the traditional readings of Jesus' conception in Matthew and planted the seed for further reflection and discussion. (p. 229)
Lincoln thus seems to lean toward the traditional view, which apparently represents something of a revision of his own position (see the conclusion here). 

But what about the word παρθένος? Does it really not mean virgin? Let me first note that Lincoln's article re-affirms my own interpretation that Matthew's main reason for citing Isa. 7:14 was not the word παρθένος--that is, not as a prediction of the virginal conception--but because of the child's name, Immanuel, for this child of Joseph and Mary would truly be "God with us".

Lincoln can cite some evidence that παρθένος does not mean 'virgin' but simply 'young woman' (p. 215 n. 10). This includes some Classical Greek references, but also a couple of instances in the LXX (Gen. 34:3; Joel 1:8). The idea is not that παρθένος never means 'virgin', but that this is a specialized meaning of the word that usually has not implications regarding sexual experience. It turns out, then, that the Greek translators of Isaiah got their translation correct, and, on the revised reading of Matthew, the Evangelist cited the verse without meaning to stress the virginity of the παρθένος.
[Note, however, that Lincoln gives two contradictory explanations for παρθένος in LXX Isa. 7:14. On p. 215, he says: "The LXX translators do not, then, change the force of the Hebrew. [...] [I]t makes perfectly good sense to read παρθένος [in Matt. 1:23], in line with the Hebrew and the LXX, as having its more general meaning of 'young woman' [...]."

But on p. 221, Lincoln writes: "There is, then, still no decisive reason against thinking that Matthew understood Isa. 7:14 in the way the LXX does: as referring to one who was at the time a virgin but who would conceive naturally."
I think this latter view--LXX Isa. 7:14 means that a woman who is now a virgin would conceive naturally (thus being a virgin no longer) and bear a son--was the one supported in R. Brown, Birth of the Messiah. But it is different from saying that παρθένος is actually the correct translation of almah, as Lincoln seems to say on p. 215.] 

Lincoln purposefully omits Luke from discussion, because he wants to focus on how we read Matthew apart from Luke. But Luke might give some support to the revised reading of Matthew, at least in regard to the meaning of παρθένος. About Mary's virginity, Luke is much more explicit than Matthew. In the crucial verse that establishes beyond doubt that Mary is a virgin (Luke 1:34), Luke does not rely on the word παρθένος (which he had already used about Mary; 1:27), perhaps because he knew it to be ambiguous. Instead, he has Mary say, ἄνδρα οὐ γινώσκω. I think this might support the idea that παρθένος cannot carry the meaning 'virgin' without the help of context.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day I still agree with the traditional interpretation of Matt. 1. Certainly, Lincoln's article has helped me to be a more critical reader by identifying some presuppositions that I bring to the text. Yet, if I were presented with Matthew's Gospel with no prior knowledge of Christianity, I think I would understand it to be asserting that Jesus was conceived without any male human agency, before Mary had sexual relations with any man, thus a virginal conception.

Monday, March 12, 2012

'Footprints' Is Not in the Bible

Just a thought, based on a comment from a chapel presentation last week by Nathan Daily.

Too often contemporary Christian spirituality relies on extra-biblical writings such as devotional books or 'poems' (is it a poem?) like 'Footprints'. One of the major problems with this is that Footprints is so theologically bland. Certainly it is comforting to think that God carries you through the hard times of your life. But is it even correct to say this? Does scripture support such an assertion. I think, rather, that the Psalms might accuse God of exactly the opposite (cf. Psa. 44; 88; etc.).

The attraction to something like 'Footprints' is that it is easy to understand and offers no challenge whatsoever. But it should give us pause when we consider that this description cannot in any way apply to the Bible. God has given us scripture which is profoundly difficult, both to understand and in the challenge that it presents. It does not seem that God is interested in giving us easy, bland theology. He is not interested in representing his relationship with us simply as one of his carrying us through the hard times. What would Job have made of such a theology?

So, once again, we must challenge the church actually to read scripture. If we want to understand God, and ourselves, 'Footprints' is not going to get it done. Rather, Ezekiel, or Isaiah, or the Chronicler, or Paul, all of these theologians have something to say about God, but one can benefit from them only through struggle. But, really, precisely for that reason they are of exceedingly great value.

Article on Jerome's Canon

I just received the proofs for my article entitled "The Old Testament 'Apocrypha' in Jerome's Canonical Theory," to be published in The Journal of Early Christian Studies 20.2 (2012): 213-33, forthcoming in June, I believe.

I don't think I've mentioned this article on this blog before. It is a greatly expanded form of a few pages from my dissertation that did not make it into the published form of my book. I presented the paper at the 2010 SBL, and then submitted it to JECS. Here's the abstract.
In his Preface to Samuel and Kings (the Prologus Galeatus), Jerome sets forth a theory of the Old Testament canon that allows for no room between the canonical books and the apocrypha. However, Jerome elsewhere maintained a more neutral or even positive view of some of the non-canonical books, even accepting their use within the ecclesiastical liturgy. Jerome’s seemingly inconsistent attitude toward some books he classifies as “apocrypha” has led scholars to posit a development in Jerome’s canonical theory, such that his earlier position was accepting of books that he later excluded, and to suppose that Jerome’s use of the word “apocrypha” in the Prologus Galeatus relied on a neutral definition of the term. This paper examines the evidence for these claims and finds them wanting. While Jerome consistently regarded the books labeled “apocrypha” in the Prologus Galeatus as outside the canon, he chose to propagate an especially harsh judgment against these books especially in this preface. The confusion arising from Jerome’s comments may be explained as a consequence of a multi-faceted plan to realign the church’s Old Testament with the Hebrew Bible, a plan that Jerome articulates only partially on any given occasion.
 I'll note the article again when it is finally published. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Messiah in the Old Testament

Several posts on this blog recently have assumed that some passages in the OT look forward to a Messiah, that is a future Davidic king. This idea of a Messiah in the OT has a long history in Christianity, and one may say it has a long history of abuse. Christians often like to see Jesus everywhere in the OT. I don't mind seeing Jesus everywhere, if in doing so I'm following the example of Paul (as articulated by someone like Richard Hays), but I do want to understand what meaning these same passages might have had for the ancient Israelites, who would not have wanted to look for Jesus in every verse.

I have just finished reading an essay by J.J.M. Roberts on this topic, and I thought it would be helpful to summarize here some of the things he says. The essay is titled, "The Old Testament's Contribution to Messianic Expectations," and it is reprinted in Roberts' collection, The Bible and the Ancient Near East (Eisenbrauns, 2002), 376-89.

First, the word messiah (מָשִׁיחַ) cannot serve as a guide to the messianic passages in the OT, because its 39 appearances in the HB never look forward to a future Davidic king. It mostly refers to a contemporary Israelite or Judaean king, sometimes to priests or prophets, and once to the Persian king Cyrus (Isa. 45:1). Note that Roberts agrees with the majority of scholars (but not the majority of Christian tradition) in interpreting the two appearances of 'messiah' in Dan. 9:25-26 in terms of Jewish figures before the first century.

Second, some passages that have usually been interpreted throughout Christian history as involving a messianic hope actually probably did not originally carry this meaning but were rather written as a reflection on the contemporary monarch. Into this class, Roberts places Psalm 2, Psalm 110, and Isa. 8:23b-9:6 (Hezekiah).

Third, Roberts does identify some texts that "do in fact envision a future ruler not yet on the scene" (p. 381). These texts begin to appear in 8th-cent. documents. Roberts imagines that "the political disasters of the late eighth century, including the destruction of the northern kingdom and the deportation of a significant portion of the population of the southern kingdom, produced widespread longing for the unity, strength, and justice of the idealized united monarchy of the past" (p. 381). And so we have the legitimately messianic texts (without the word 'messiah') in Isa. 11; 32:1-8; Hos. 3:5; Amos 9:11-12; Mic. 5:1-5; Zech 9:1-10. This hope is also found later in Jeremiah (23:5-8; 30:9; 33:14-26) and Ezekiel (17:22-24; 34:23-24; 37:15-28).

While Zech. 3-4 has contemporary figures in view (Zerubabbel and Joshua), the linking of royal and priestly figures here (reflecting the earlier Jer. 33:14-26) probably became an inspiration for later conceptions of a priestly Messiah either alongside the Davidic Messiah (Qumran) or identical to him (Christianity).

One more thing worth mentioning from this essay. There is nothing in the OT that indicates that the coming Davidic king would himself rule forever. Rather, what seems to be in view in these passages of hope for a Messiah is the re-establishment of the Davidic dynasty, which would function like any dynasty, with sons replacing fathers on the throne. Hardly any other meaning can be gotten out of Jer. 33:22, where God promises to "multiply the seed of David," that is, give him a long line of descent, which would be valuable only if death still comes even to the Davidic king. This assumes, of course, that the Israelites did not consider the coming king to be the Second Person of the Trinity. That seems like a reasonable assumption!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Curse of Death

A new(-ish) book by Rodrigo Morales, The Spirit and the Restoration of Israel: New Exodus and New Creation Motifs in Galatians (WUNT 2/282; Mohr Siebeck, 2010), has recently been reviewed in RBL by Sigurd Grindheim. It looks like an interesting book, and I especially took notice when Grindheim summarized Morales' argument such that it parallels an interpretation of a passage unmentioned by Grindheim in his review (and Morales in his book?) that I offered on this blog recently.

I was talking about Acts 13:39--which says that Jesus has rescued you from something the Torah could not rescue you from--and I suggested that even more than sin, the verse referred to death as that from which Jews needed a rescue. Now I see that Morales says something similar, though I'm not sure that he brings Acts 13:39 to bear on the issue. I quote from the second page of the review by Grindheim:
The most detailed discussion in the book is devoted to the notorious crux in Gal 3:10–14. Morales argues that Paul did not speak in hypotheticals when he quoted the curse from Deut 27:26. Rather, this curse was already a fact that affected all Israel due to their disobedient heart. Relying on an article by Joel Willitts, Morales shows that Ezekiel and Nehemiah also understood this curse to be in effect. In contrast to James Scott and N.T. Wright, Morales observes that Paul understood the curse not as exile but as death. Israel’s predicament, as it is reflected in Galatians, is not that they continue to be in a state of exile but that they cannot be free from death.
UPDATE: Morales' book is searchable on Google Books and I can confirm that Morales does not cite Acts 13:39 in his book.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why Was the Book of Revelation Written Symbolically?

A common view among Christians generally is that John wrote the Book of Revelation in symbols as a kind of code. The church was experiencing persecution and John wanted to write critically of Rome in such a way that the recipients of his book would not get in trouble for harboring such an inflammatory document. He wrote in symbols so that any non-initiated Roman would fail to understand what he was reading, and thus the church would be spared further persecution.

I taught a class on Revelation tonight in a church, and this idea came up. The idea itself is wrong, and I said so during class. But following class I reflected on the idea a little more and eventually determined five reasons against it. I thought I would list them here.
  1. There is no evidence that the Romans attempted to censor Christian literature in this way. 
  2. It would take a pretty ignorant Roman censor to fail to notice that the harlot riding the beast in ch. 17--the beast with seven heads which are seven mountains (17:9), and the harlot that is the great city (17:18)--represents Rome. 
  3. Christians did not shrink from directly challenging Roman authority, by doing exactly what John wanted them to do: refusing to participate in Roman religion. This often resulted in martyrdom for Christians, which they welcomed; they did not flee from it. Moreover, Christians knew how to directly insult the powers-that-be in their literature.
  4. Revelation is written in symbols because it is apocalyptic literature. That is how apocalyptic literature works, and there are plenty of other examples to bear out this point. If Revelation were the only example of this type of literature, then we might have to devise an explanation for all the symbols, but it is, in fact, not unique in this aspect. And it would be foolish to argue that all apocalypses were written as such in order to avoid punishment for their readers. 
  5. The symbols are essential to the message that Revelation wants to convey. It is not as if John wanted to communicate a message to the churches and then decided to do so symbolically. No; the symbols are integral to the message. John wants to reform our minds, to transform the way we see reality. He cannot accomplish this 'conversion of the imagination' (to borrow a phrase from Richard Hays) without the powerful and unrelenting symbols. 
Those are the arguments that popped into my head. Of course, none of these are original with me, but I thought it would be helpful--to me, more than anyone--to gather these thoughts in one place. Let me know if you have more to add to the list.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Explicit Quotations of Scripture in Matthew 1-2 (Part 4)

We have finally arrived at the verse that started all this off in our series on Matthew's use of scripture at the beginning of his Gospel. Through looking at the quotations in Matthew 2, we have learned that the evangelist does not always use scripture in a straightforward, prediction-fulfillment way as we would expect, even when he uses the word "fulfill". Matthew's use of this word is complex, but its appearances especially in chapter 2 of his Gospel would not lead us to think that it signals the fulfillment of a direct messianic prediction from the OT, and indeed its appearance might make us think the exact opposite, especially when compared with its non-appearance in Matt. 2:5-6.

So, when we see that Matthew's first explicit quotation of scripture in his Gospel, the virginal conception of Jesus is said to "fulfill" Isa. 7:14, we know to be cautious before we conclude that Matthew viewed Isa. 7:14 as a direct messianic prediction. Here's the Isaiah passage with its context:
Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, "Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!" Then he said, "Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of my God as well? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey at the time he knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken." (Isa. 7:10-16; NASB)
There are two terrible aspects of the translation of the crucial v. 14--(a) virgin, and (b) will be with child. Both of these obscure the point that Isaiah is making to Ahaz. For the evidence and arguments, see the commentaries. The message that Isaiah wants to present to Ahaz is that the Syro-Ephraimite War (see also 1Kings 16) that has distressed Judah (over which Ahaz is king) will soon be over. How soon? It'll take as long as it takes a baby to be born and grow to the point of eating solid food. It's a message of comfort to Ahaz, and it would be "fulfilled" in the days of Ahaz. It does not look forward seven centuries to Jesus.

The translation of v. 14 should be something along the lines of: "Behold, the young woman is pregnant and she'll bear a son and call his name Immanuel." Why will she call his name Immanuel? Because his birth will signal that God is again caring for his people Judah by ridding them of this threat of war; his birth will signal that "God is with us."

Does Matthew know all of this? I think so. When Luke talks about the virginal conception of Jesus in Luke 1, he does not quote Isa. 7:14. Indeed, this is the only quotation of this verse in the NT. That means that it was not common to apply this verse to Jesus. Nor was it common to see this verse as awaiting fulfillment in the Messiah. Isa. 7:14 is never cited in Second Temple Jewish literature or rabbinic literature as applying to the Messiah. It was always viewed as a simple prophecy for the eighth century BCE. This is exactly like Hos. 11:1 and Jer. 31:15, which we have already seen Matthew knowingly apply to Jesus, in full awareness that their original contexts had nothing to do with a coming Messiah.

Just as in those other instances, so also here Matthew sees a typological fulfillment of the OT passage. What has happened in the life of Jesus is parallel in some significant ways with what happened earlier in the history of Israel. Just as in the eighth century BCE a child was born who signaled God's love for his people, who signaled God's presence with his people, so also now a child has been born that "fulfills" this as well. That is, I think it is this name "Immanuel", maybe even more than the word "virgin", that drew Matthew to this passage as possibly helpful in his presentation of Jesus' early years.

I wouldn't deny, though, that the word "virgin" itself played a part. Levine thought it was mainly this word: "When, 200 years later [200 years after the Greek translation of Isaiah], the author of Matthew’s gospel read Isaiah 7:14 in Greek, he saw a prediction of a virginal conception." I assume that Matthew saw this translation "virgin" in the Greek of Isaiah (parthenos, for the Hebrew word almah) as fortuitous for his own purposes.

But it should be noted that Matthew typically does not rely on a Greek translation in his Gospel. Richard Longenecker (Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period, 2d ed. [Eerdmans, 1999]) surveys the evidence, and it is rather striking. Whereas Jesus in the Gospels typically relies on a Septuagintal form (Longenecker 45), Matthew typically does not in his editorial comments, as here (Longenecker 48, 120-21). In fact, in looking at this exact quotation, Longenecker notes how difficult it is to classify even Isa. 7:14 in Matt. 1:23 as "Septuagintal" (pp. 127-28). Certainly, Matthew's quotation of Hos. 11:1 in Matt. 2:15 departs from the LXX and would make no sense if he had used that text. Longenecker (121) points out other passages in Matthew (4:15-16; 8:17; 27:9) where this also holds true. So, while I wouldn't doubt that Matthew saw a Greek translation of Isa. 7:14 and that that helps to explain why he uses the word parthenos in his quotation of that verse, I do doubt that Matthew came upon Isa. 7:14 for the first time as suggestive of Jesus through the Greek translation. It was, after all, not Matthew's habit to rely on a Greek translation.

Did Matthew misunderstand Isa. 7:14? It looks like that at first-blush, but a closer examination of Matthew's use of scripture at the beginning of his Gospel I think points to a more sophisticated, complex, nuanced use of scripture on his part. At the end of the day, I think Matthew did realize that he was applying a new meaning to Isa. 7:14, that it was not originally a prediction of a far-future Messiah. 

I hope that helps as a partial explanation for what Matthew is doing with scripture in his first couple of chapters. While I'll probably return to Matthew's use of scripture at some point, and probably also to Isa. 7:14, I'm going to go ahead and consider this series closed.

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Fulffillment" in Matthew

In my last post, I made a big deal about when Matthew uses this word "fulfill" (πληρόω). I now feel the need to be a little more systematic in my analysis, so here goes.

I'll just be focusing on the verb πληρόω here, and not any cognate nouns or verbs, though those surely should be taken into account to get a full picture.

The verb πληρόω appears 198x in the Greek Bible (LXX with apocrypha + NT). A typical use:
God blessed them saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill (πληρόω) the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." (Gen. 1:22; NASB) 
The verb appears 86x in the NT:
  • Matthew: 16x--1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 3:15; 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35, 48; 21:4; 23:32; 26:54, 56; 27:9
  • Mark: 2x--1:15; 14:49
  • Luke: 9x--1:20; 2:40; 3:5; 4:21; 7:1; 9:31; 21:24; 22:16; 24:44
  • John: 15x--3:29; 7:8; 12:3, 38; 13:18; 15:11, 25; 16:6, 24; 17:12, 13; 18:9, 32; 19:24, 36
  • Acts: 16x--1:16; 2:2, 28; 3:18; 5:3, 28; 7:23, 30; 9:23; 12:25; 13:25, 27, 52; 14:25; 19:21; 24:27
  • Romans: 6x--1:29; 8:4; 13:8; 15:13, 14, 19
  • 2Corinthians: 2x--7:4; 10:6
  • Galatians: 1x--5:14
  • Ephesians: 4x--1:23; 3:19; 4:10; 5:18
  • Philippians: 4x--1:11; 2:2; 4:18, 19
  • Colossians: 4x--1:9, 25; 2:10; 4:17
  • 2Thessalonians: 1x--1:11
  • 2Timothy: 1x--1:4
  • James: 1x--2:23
  • 1John: 1x--1:4
  • 2John: 1x--v. 12
  • Revelation: 2x--3:2; 6:11
The following list contains the occurrences of the word, outside Matthew, when it carries the meaning "fulfillment of scripture," a quite infrequent usage. Verse citations in parentheses indicate that the reference to fulfillment does not cite a particular verse that is fulfilled, but more generally speaks of fulfillment of prophetic oracles.

(Mark 14:49;) Luke 4:21; (24:44;) John 12:38; 13:18; 15:25; (17:12;) 19:24; 36; Acts 1:16; 13:27; (Romans 13:8;) Galatians 5:14; James 2:23

Aside from Matthew's usage of the term, that of John is the most demanding of attention, which perhaps we will give it at some later time. But clearly the most pronounced usage of the verb πληρόω with the meaning "fulfillment of scripture" is in Matthew. Of the 16 appearances of the verb in that Gospel, only three do not carry this meaning (3:15; 13:48; 23:32).

The passages where it does appear in Matthew with the meaning "fulfillment of scripture" include three general references (like those in parentheses in the list two paragraphs up).
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. (5:17)
How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way? (26:54)
But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets. Then all the disciples left him and fled. (26:56)
There are ten appearances of πληρόω in Matthew in the sense of "fulfillment of scripture" with an actual verse citation. Four of these (1:22; 2:15, 17, 23) we have already looked at, or will look at, in our series on the Explicit Quotations of Scripture in Matthew 1-2. The other six are these:
This [i.e., Jesus' settlement in Galilee, specifically Capernaum] was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond he Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned." (4:14-16; quoting Isa. 9:1-2)
This [i.e., Jesus' healing] was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "He himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases." (8:17; quoting Isa. 53:4)
This [i.e., Jesus' healing and warning to tell no one] was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: Behold my servant whom I have chosen; my beloved in whom my soul is well-pleased; I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the gentiles. He will not quarrel, nor cry out; nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A battered reed he will not break off, and a smoldering wick he will not put out, until he leads justice to victory. And in his name the gentiles will hope." (12:17-21; quoting Isa 42:1-3)
This [i.e., Jesus' parables] was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world." (13:35; quoting Psa. 78:2)
This [i.e., preparations for the Triumphal Entry] took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold your king is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden." (21:4-5; quoting Zech. 9:9)
Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; and they gave them for the Potter's Field, as the Lord directed me." (27:9-10; quoting Zech. 11:12-13)
This post has collected the data. Later I will offer some analysis.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Explicit Quotaitons of Scripture in Matthew 1-2 (Part 3)

Back from the SECSOR (see here, and follow the links back), I am ready to resume my discussion of Matthew's explicit use of scripture in his first two chapters. Our examination is taking a reverse course, starting at the end of chapter two and going backwards toward chapter one. We have dealt with Matt. 2:23 and 2:17-18 (here) and Matt. 2:15 (here).

We are now ready for Matt. 2:5-6. When the Magi arrive in Jerusalem and ask Herod where the new king was, Herod assembled the "chief priests and scribes" to ask what had been predicted about the birthplace of the Messiah.
They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel." (Matt. 2:5-6; NASB)
The quotation is from Micah 5:2. There are several interesting features of Matthew's use of this quotation:

First, this quotation does not appear as an editorial comment (i.e., Matthew himself didn't quote the passage) but as something said by one of the characters in the story being told by Matthew. This distinguishes this quotation from the others we have seen, all of which are interpretations of the story by the editor. In other words, for the other quotations we have examined, Matthew himself interprets Jesus' life--whether his descent into Egypt (2:15), or the slaughter of the innocents (2:17-18), or Jesus' move to Nazareth (2:23)--in terms of Israel's scripture, but in none of these cases does Matthew imply that Jews in the time of Jesus would have likewise interpreted Jesus' life, or that they were looking for some sort of fulfillment of Hos. 11:1 or Jer. 31:15. But, in this case, that is the point. Matthew represents the Jerusalem priests and scribes as themselves saying that Mic. 5:2 would be fulfilled in the life of the Messiah. That sets this quotation apart and suggests that we should see it as unique in this context.

Second, the quotation itself does not exactly match the text from which it is taken. Micah 5:2 actually says that Bethlehem is "too little to be among the clans of Judah." (This is not a LXX vs. MT issue; both texts of Mic. 5:2 highlight Bethlehem's small size.) The change from "too little" to "by no means least" seems to be a homiletical adaptation emphasizing that though Bethlehem is small, this particular promise of its generating Israel's ruler makes it "by no means least." Since Matthew places this small change in the mouth of the Jerusalem priests and scribes, he apparently thinks it is not an unusual interpretation.

Third, we notice that the word 'fulfill' (πληρόω) is not used in this instance. It was used in Matt. 2:15, 2:17, and 2:23, and each time we noticed that the passage cited by Matthew as being 'fulfilled' in the life of Jesus actually had nothing to do with the Messiah in its own historical context. Here, this verb is not used. Now, that may be because of the different way this quotation is presented--in the mouth of some of the characters of the story, characters who have not yet met Jesus, and so could not comment on whether this prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus. But the non-use of 'fulfillment' language here may also point to a more nuanced meaning for 'fulfill' than we are accustomed to thinking about (see below).

Fourth, the passage quoted--Micah 5:2--actually is a messianic passage in its own historical context. That partly explains why Matthew can have the Jerusalem priests and scribes quote the passage in reference to the Messiah: anyone reading Micah 5:2 would recognize that it concerned the future anointed ('messiah') king. Even if the word 'messiah' does not appear in Micah 5, nor 'David' nor 'king', the reference to a ruler from Bethlehem--the hometown of David (1Sam. 16)--clearly implies that this ruler would be from David's line, and therefore he would be a Davidic king, which is what the Messiah is (see 2 Sam. 7:12-16).

This post has begun to address some of the questions I raised at the end of the first post in this series. We'll need to assess at the end of the series whether Matthew typically uses the LXX or a Hebrew textual form. But, as for the word 'fulfill', we have seen a strange phenomenon. For those OT passages that are not originally concerned with messianic prediction, Matthew says that they are 'fulfilled' in the life of Jesus. For this one passage that is originally concerned with a future king (messiah), that term does not appear in Matthew's narrative. As we continue this series in the next post with the final (actually, first) quotation of scripture in these chapters, we will want to notice whether Matthew uses the word 'fulfill', and what implications that might have for what he thinks about the relationship between Isa. 7:14 and the life of Jesus.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

SECSOR 2012 Handout

Tomorrow I leave for Atlanta to attend the SECSOR conference. I've noted a couple of times the paper that I am presenting there this year (but mainly here, where you can read the abstract). One of the positive things that came out of yesterday's graduate seminar (not that there were any negative things!), where I previewed my paper, was my realization (based on a comment from Nathan Daily) that I needed a handout.

So, here it is:

The End of the Bible? The Position of Chronicles in the Canon
Edmon L. Gallagher
Heritage Christian University
SECSOR 2012, Atlanta
Is our Bible supposed to end with Chronicles?
Internal Arguments
Georg Steins, Die Chronik als kanonisches Abschlussphänomen: Studien zur Entstehung und Theologie von 1/2 Chronik, BBB 93 (Weinheim: Beltz, 1995).
Julius Steinberg, Die Ketuvim: Ihr Aufbau und ihre Botschaft, BBB 152 (Hamburg: Philo, 2006).
Stephen Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2004), chs. 1–2.
  1. Chronicles echoes Genesis and other parts of the Torah, making it an appropriate conclusion to the Bible, thus giving the Bible a symmetrical structure.
  2. Chronicles recapitulates the entire sweep of biblical history, making it an appropriate conclusion to the Bible.
  3. Chronicles is misread as simply a supplement and/or expansion of Samuel-Kings when it is placed immediately after them, in accordance with the Greek order.
External Arguments
For: Roger T. Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and Its Background in Early Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985).
Against: John Barton, Oracles of God: Perceptions of Ancient Prophecy in Israel after the Exile (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1986).
  1. Sirach Prologue: “Law, Prophets, Other Books”
  2. b. B. Bathra 14b: order of Ketuvim, concluding with Chronicles
  3. Matt. 23:35 // Luke 11:51: “blood of Abel [Gen. 4] to the blood of Zechariah [2 Chron. 24]”
Possible pre-rabbinic references to a tripartite canon: Prologue to Sirach, 4QMMT C 10, Philo, On the Contemplative Life 25; Luke 24:44; Josephus, C. Ap. 1.37–43.
References employing a bipartite formula (‘Law and Prophets’):
Qumran: 1QS 1.2–3; 8.12–16; CD 7.15–17; 4QDibHama 3.12–13
New Testament: Matt. 5:17; 7:12; 11:13 (// Luke 16:16); 22:40; Luke 16:29–31; 24:27; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 26:22; 28:23; Rom. 3:21.
Apocrypha: 2 Macc. 15:9; 4 Macc. 18:10.
Tannaitic literature: Sifre Deut. 21.18; m. R.H. 4.6; m. Meg. 4.1, 3, 4; t. B. Metzia 11.23; t. Terumoth 1.10. [Contrast t. R.H. 4.6, which has a tripartite formula.]
Current Hagiographa once among the Prophets?
            Daniel: 4Q174 1–3 II, 3–4; Matt. 24:15; Josephus, A.J. 9.267–69; b. Meg. 15a
            David: 11QPsa 27.3–11; Acts 2:25–31; Josephus, A.J. 8.109–10; b. Sotah 48b
            Solomon: Sifre Deut. 1.1; b. Sotah 48b
            Mordecai: b. Meg. 15a (cf. Barton, Oracles of God, 40–41)
Alternative orders:
            Melito of Sardis, end II CE (apud Eus., Hist. eccl. 4.26.12–14)
            Origen, early III CE (apud Eus., Hist. eccl. 6.25.1–2)