Friday, May 30, 2014

The Holy Books: Satlow's Chapter 8

I think I've gotten to the provocative part.

In a previous post I mentioned some things about Michael Satlow's new book How the Bible Became Holy. I've just finished ch. 8, and it certainly has some interesting suggestions.

This might be a bit disorganized. There are a lot of interesting things here, and the Kindle version is of course great for some things, but not so much for going back and forth and trying to trace ideas and notice connections. But I continue to cite the Kindle locations rather than the page numbers. [By the way, the last book I read on a Kindle, from Cambridge, did include the book's page numbers. It was awesome. I hope more publishers start doing this.]

Also, I don't feel the need to critique everything here. I note these ideas here because I find them interesting and worth pondering, not because I'm convinced by them. This blog sometimes serves as a notebook of sorts for me, and that is certainly the function of this post.

The main idea, I think, is that the concept of "holy books" originated in Judaism during the late-second century BCE (time of Hyrcanus) among the Sadducees. These were priests who supported the Maccabean revolt and were associated with the authors of the apocalyptic Aramaic writings. The Sadducees "emerged from the group of learned priests (and those in their circles) who had begun to compose texts in the vernacular language, Aramaic" (ch. 8, loc. 2344). Some supported Hyrcanus, while others thought he didn't go far enough. "We can imagine--and here we must imagine, for we lack any direct evidence--a group of relatively young, well-educated, upwardly mobile priests who were attracted to a more ideologically pure and radical set of ideas than their elders" (ch. 8, loc. 2570). This latter, more radical group produced the Temple Scroll and maybe revised Jubilees, and their leader was the Teacher of Righteousness (loc. 2574). The Wicked Priest was "another Sadducee in the court of John Hyrcanus" (ch. 8, loc. 2593).

They were opposed by the Pharisees = old aristocracy before the Maccabean revolt. They were the losers when the Hasmoneans took over. They promoted the traditional way of doing things (the traditions of the elders), meaning the status quo, and they did not seek authority from books but from oral traditions.

[At n. 11 Satlow acknowledges that often the historical reconstruction of scholars is exactly opposite of this. These other scholars propose that the Sadducees were connected with the priesthood prior to the Hasmoneans, and so they are the old aristocracy, not the Pharisees.]

How does Satlow know that the Sadducees are associated with this apocalyptic brand of Judaism? He discusses the origins of the Sadducees beginning at loc. 2396. He focuses in on Josephus' statement (Ant. 13.297-98) that the Pharisees promoted oral tradition and the Sadducees rejected it.
If we use this as our starting point, then the following scenario begins to emerge. A position that gives authority to unwritten but continuing practices [= Pharisaic position] is essentially support of the status quo. It is a position that justifies traditional power structures and in this case would best be identified as the old aristocracy, which Hyrcanus both needs but is deeply suspicious of. [...] 
Against them, though, was another, more radical group that insisted that customs--and here the reference is almost certainly to proper practices in the temple--must follow the guidelines of written texts. [citing Jos., Ant. 13.296; m. Ma'aser Sheni 5:15; Sotah 9:10] This group challenged the status quo and sought to wrest power from established authorities. I propose that the members of this loose group, whom Josephus calls the "Sadducees," were linked (exactly how and to what degree is unclear) to those who had earlier produced the writings in 1 Enoch, the Aramaic Testament of Levi, and the Daniel oracles. These texts all elevate the authority of writing. More important, at least some of these authors had actively supported the Maccabees. John Hyrcanus would have trusted them more than the older families and given them some position of influence in his court. At some point, probably in a more deliberate and calculated fashion than described by Josephus [cf. Ant. 13.288-96, Hyrcanus allowed these Sadducees to abrogate the Pharisaic temple practices and institute their own. (ch. 8, loc. 2416-27)
So, the reasoning seems to be: Josephus says the Sadducees magnified written texts over oral authority. The apocalyptic writings also magnified written texts, so the Sadducees and apocalyptic writings seem to be connected.

I'm not quite clear on how we know which bits of Josephus are historical and which bits aren't. Satlow is pretty sure that Josephus is describing the second-century BCE Pharisees and Sadducees in terms more relevant to the first-century CE Pharisees and Sadducees, and so at the time of Hyrcanus they're not really religious sects but more political parties. Okay, but then how do we know that Josephus' description of the difference between the groups (oral tradition) isn't something that only developed later? I suppose at this point we're just taking guesses, and Satlow admits sometimes in this chapter that he is speculating. That's fine with me (especially when he admits it!) because these well-informed guesses can themselves be enlightening and stimulating toward further research.

By the way, I've thought about the canon of the Sadducees before (here), from a much different perspective. I'm looking forward to seeing how Satlow's book might deal with some of those issues.

Here are some further quotations and notations:
  • "It would be the Sadducees who, in their attempt to argue against the established customs of the old aristocracy [= pharisees in Satlow's thinking; same paragraph] and priests, developed the notion that authoritative texts, or scripture, had normative authority that should guide religious practice" (ch. 8, loc. 2333). This is related to the idea that the Sadducees were linked somehow to the authors of apocalyptic works like 1Enoch and the Daniel oracles, which glorify writing and talk about a heavenly book or heavenly tablets (cf. 1Enoch 81:1-3; 103:2 [ch. 6, loc. 2056-63]; 1Enoch 89:62 [Animal Apocalypse; ch. 7, loc. 2213]; Dan. 7:10; 10:21; 12:4 [ch. 7, loc. 2231]; cf. Jub. 3:10, 31; 4:5, 32; 5:13; etc.). Once Hyrcanus cast his favor on the Sadducees: "Secure in their position, the Sadducees began to bring their particular commitment to the authority of written, divinely revealed texts to the Hasmonean court" (ch. 8 loc. 2432). Representative Sadducean texts: 1 Maccabees, Temple Scroll, Jubilees (ch. 8, loc. 2436-39), which he goes on to discuss. 
  • "Indeed, in Jerusalem prior to the Hasmonean rule, the older important written texts were largely library texts, written in Hebrew (the language of the intelligentsia) and accessible only to a small and rarefied group of priestly and scribal elite that granted academic and prophetic importance to these texts. They were studied, copied, and engaged as part of a proper education (or paideia), or consulted for ancient oracles. No one would have thought to appeal to them for proper temple practice or to justify one's authority or political position" (ch. 8, loc. 2336-43).   
  • "In 150 BCE, Judeans ascribed to a variety of ancient texts with differing levels of mainly prophetic (oracular) and scribal, or literary, authority. What they by and large lacked was normative authority" (ch. 8, loc. 2559). He talks about the description of books as "holy" (loc. 2457-65). He says that when Judah consulted the book of the law before going into battle (1 Mac 3:48), this book exercised oracular authority rather than normative authority (loc. 2465). 
So, it was among Sadducees at this time (late second century BCE) that texts gained normative authority, and other aristocratic groups (like the Pharisees) needed to respond by "develop[ing] and mobiliz[ing] their own understandings of scripture" (ch. 8, loc. 2600).
Did this growing prominence of the written text spill outside of these circles, though? The answer, surprisingly, is no. Ordinary, nonaristocratic (and nonsectarian) Judeans at this time left behind nothing that testifies to any relationship at all with these texts. Moreover, there is no evidence that Judeans at this time regularly read the Torah in public, as they would later come to do. There is, in fact, not even evidence for the existence of synagogues in Judea from this time. Most Judeans would have known many traditional stories about the patriarchs, the Exodus, King David, and the like, but their knowledge would have come from oral recitations. The scrolls that contained written versions of these stories had limited circulation among the elite. When the author of 1 Maccabees created the detail of Antiochus's decree against owning a scroll of Torah [1 Mac 1:56-57], he wrote as a member of the elite and for those of his own class. (ch. 8, loc. 2600-7)
If you're thinking, didn't this happen more gradually? Don't we see at least some reliance on authoritative texts before the late-second century BCE? What about Ben Sira? Didn't he ascribe authority to the Bible? Satlow deals with Ben Sira back in ch. 6: "Ben Sira knew well many of the texts that would become part of the Bible. As a relatively wealthy man (or even boy) well connected to the temple establishment, his familiarity with them is not surprising. What is surprising is that he almost never mentions the physical existence of such texts, nor does he explicitly cite from them" (ch. 6, loc. 1986). "The praise of 'famous men' directly parallels what is found in the Bible. In other passages too he seems to be drawing on stories that he may have read" (ch. 6, loc. 1989, citing Wright). "The only place where he mentions the existence of a specific written text occurs in praise of wisdom [... at 24:23]. In this passage he equates a personified wisdom with this law. [...] Ben Sira is ultimately not interested in arguing for the authority of this book" (ch. 6, loc. 1993-97). Some of the texts that make up the Bible "appear to have been part of Ben Sira's training" as a scribe. "They had earned by that time a certain literary authority. Hence, Ben Sira drew upon them not as definitive and normative sources but as literary resources to deploy in order to raise the literary standing of his work in the eyes of the other literate elite. Although this was a common practice of Hellenistic writers at the time, it was also not an uncommon practice among earlier scribes. By the early second century Ben Sira and his establishment circle had a sense of the books that they should master. This was a fluid and very specific kind of authority" (ch. 6, loc 2008-16).

Or, 1Enoch: "Like Ben Sira, the author(s) of 1 Enoch knows and draws from several of the texts that would become biblical, but gives them little explicit authority" (ch. 6, loc. 2052).

As for Daniel 9: "This author, then, cited both a written copy of the 'law of Moses' and Jeremiah as authoritative texts. The kind of authority, though like that of the other heavenly books, is specifically oracular. Much as the author of Jeremiah had read Deutero-Isaiah, the author of 2 Chronicles had read Jeremiah, and Tobit had read Amos, the author of this vision understands the real authoritative value of divinely inspired texts as containing true predictions of the future" (ch. 7, loc. 2247).

A final note on a probable correction. Satlow writes about Hyrcanus: 
His first campaign was in the north, conquering Samaria and destroying its temple at Mt. Gerizim in the city of Shechem. (ch. 8, loc. 2358)
The date of 128, early in Hyrcanu's rule, is commonly given for the destruction of the Samaritan Temple (as by R. T. Anderson in ABD 5.942), but numismatic evidence suggests that it probably actually happened near the end of Hyrcanus' reign, after 111 BCE (see Knoppers, p. 212; Hjelm in this volume, p. 35).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Did Aristobulus Use the LXX?

Aristobulus was an Alexandrian Jewish author writing in Greek in the second century BCE. His work does not survive, but some of his comments on the Pentateuch and its Greek translation were transmitted in Christian sources, esp. Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius of Caesarea (see the new Schürer, 3.1.579-87; Holladay). Wasserstein and Wasserstein classify Aristobulus as a Christian invention, a fabrication (p. 32), but I don't think this view has received much traction.

Artisobulus quoted the Pentateuch in Greek a few times, and so scholars have researched how closely these citations conform to the LXX. Usually, from what I've seen, his citations are considered to be pretty close to the LXX, but not necessarily exact. A new article by Sean Adams takes up the question and does a pretty good job of laying out the evidence.

The citations include the following:

  1. Exodus 13:9
  2. Exodus 3:20
  3. Exodus 9:3
  4. Exodus 20:11
  5. Deuteronomy 4:11
  6. Genesis 1
This is the order in which Adams discusses the citations. He concludes that "there is strong agreement with the LXX text in the citations of Gen 1, Deut 4:11, and Exod 9:3," but the citations of Exod 13:9, 3:20, and 20:11 are less close to the LXX.

  • Exod 13:9: the LXX has ἐξήγαγέν σε κύριος while Aristobulus has ἐξήγαγέν ὁ θεός σε.
  • Exod 3:20: the LXX has καἰ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα πατάξω τοὺς Αἰγυπτίους while Aristobulus has ἀποστελῶ τὴν χεῖρά μου καὶ πατάξω τοὺς Αἰγυπτίους. 
  • Exod 20:11: the LXX has the subject κύριος while Aristobulus does not express a subject, along with a few other differences (p. 7 of the article). 
Adams concludes from this that scholars ought to be more careful about saying that Aristobulus quotes the LXX. "In particular, the closeness of the citation of Exod 3:20 to the Hebrew text, as opposed to the LXX, suggests that Aristobulus either had access to an alternate translation of Exodus or that he made his own translation." In Adams' mind, we shouldn't rule out the possibility that Aristobulus knew Hebrew.

The examination of the evidence here is helpful, but I doubt that the solutions offered are really to the point. Aristobulus possibly knew Hebrew, but I think scholars are correct to say that there is very little evidence for this position. His quotations do not provide such evidence if a more likely explanation can be found for their closeness to the MT as opposed to the LXX. And the other suggestion, that Aristobulus had access to a non-Septuagintal Greek text seems to be an unacknowledged revival of the theory argued vigorously by Paul Kahle such that there was no single original Greek translation but a variety of translations that coalesced later on. For the past several decades, LXX specialists have regarded Kahle's view as not the best way to understand the origins of the LXX. (See, e.g., Fernández Marcos, 53-57.)

Probably the best explanation for these citations by Aristobulus is that he has access to a Greek text of Exodus that has been revised toward the proto-MT text form. The reason this seems to be the best explanation is that such Greek texts are so common in the manuscript tradition. (See, e.g., T.M. Law, ch. 7, which Adams has recently reviewed.) This is the explanation offered by Barthélemy (332 n. 24). The evidence seems to be so minor and sporadic in this case that it is possible to argue that such a revision would have been unintentional, accomplished by someone so familiar with the Hebrew text that he (or she) unconsciously revised the Greek text to accord with it. This is the explanation I proposed in my book (pp. 158-59), echoing an idea from J. W. Wevers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Satlow's How the Bible Became Holy: Initial Reactions

I mentioned before how I was looking forward to reading Michael Satlow's How the Bible Became Holy. I now have it on Kindle, and I've gotten through the first 6 chapters (of 15), so I can now offer some initial reactions. So far, it's okay.

My very first reaction was actually pretty negative and had everything to do with my expectations for the book. I assumed it was going to be a work of scholarship, a scholar writing for other scholars, like Schniedewind's How the Bible Became a Book or van der Toorn's Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible or Carr's Formation of the Hebrew Bible. I think this expectation was nourished by the fact that the book is published by Yale, not to mention the book description:
Synthesizing an enormous body of scholarly work, Satlow’s groundbreaking study offers provocative new assertions about commonly accepted interpretations of biblical history as well as a unique window into how two of the world’s great faiths came into being.
It turns out, though, that this is a popularization, something along the lines of Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible? At one point Satlow asks the reader to "[p]ut yourself, for a moment, in the place of King Hezekiah of Judah at the end of the eighth century" (ch. 2, loc. 528). [That's the location number in the Kindle version; I don't know the page number for the print version.] Also there's a general lack of citation that indicates we've entered the world of popularization rather than scholarship.

Now that I've gotten used to that fact, I am enjoying the book more. I don't think I've gotten to the "provocative new assertions." So far it's a nice, well-written account of a scholar's perspective on the formation of the Bible. Some of it is helpful, some of it is interesting, some of it is just standard stuff, but it's all easy to read, so that's nice.

When I move along in the book, or get to the stuff that is provocative and new, I might check back in and offer some other reflections. Now here are a few points of interest.

Some interesting suggestions:

  • "As with the bards in ancient Greece who recited the poems of Homer, the stories of Israel were performed by professionals, undoubtedly with local variations" (ch. 1, loc. 323). In the footnote, he says: "There is, admittedly, no firm evidence for the existence of bards in ancient Israel. Nevertheless, the practice of reciting oral stories was widespread throughout antiquity and this seems to be the most plausible social context for such legends" (ch. 1 n. 7). 
  • "Jeremiah here [at Jer 8:8] might be condemning not the core of Deuteronomy itself--whose basic message and language he echoes--but the Deuteronomistic history that appropriates it" (ch. 2, loc. 781). This is an interesting contrast with, inter alios, van der Toorn, who says that Jeremiah is condemning Deuteronomy (Scribal Culture, p. 35; van der Toorn cites already Karl Marti from 1889). 
  • As for Ezra's "book of the Torah of Moses," Satlow says this was not our Pentateuch: "it seems likely that Ezra's scroll contains passages from both P and D (and H) sources, although not necessarily in the order or way that they survive in the modern Pentateuch" (ch. 4, loc 1330). "Ezra shows no familiarity at all with J or E materials. This does not mean that he did not know them or that they did not exist, but that it is likely they were not part of his scroll" (loc. 1334). He then goes on to mention the problem of scroll size in relation to containing the entire Pentateuch on a single scroll, though he acknowledges that later Jewish practice does this very thing. 
Again, this is not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but it's, perhaps, noteworthy, or at least sort of helpful to have this easy discussion from Satlow's perspective. 

A couple of weird things: 
  • "[...] the Catholic Apocrypha, a collection of originally Jewish books that have been given limited canonical authority by the Roman Catholic Church" (ch. 6, loc. 1945). Okay, first of all the "Catholic Apocrypha" encompass books that are considered canonical for more than just the Roman Catholics. At least the Orthodox also, sort of, ascribe canonical authority to them, but other groups as well. Second, what is this business of "limited canonical authority"? There might be Catholic thinkers out there who would subscribe to this position (Satlow cites none), but that is not the official position. Their description as "deuterocanonical" has nothing to do with their authority and everything to do with the chronology by which they were understood to be authoritative. Actually, Trent did not even make any distinction among the protocanonical books and deuterocanonical books, and pronounced an anathema on anyone who did not accept any of them. (At least, that's how their decision has been received, even if it was not thus originally intended; see here, pp. 91-92.) The distinction we owe to Sixtus of Siena, who explicitly says that the term 'deuterocanonical' should not be read as diminishing the status or authority of these books. 
  • "Today the book [of 1 Enoch] can be most easily found in a scholarly collection known as the Pseudepigrapha [with a reference to the Charlesworth volumes]. First composed and named in the early twentieth century, the Pseudepigrapha collects 'falsely attributed' works that date to antiquity and are not part of the contemporary standard canons" (ch. 6, loc. 2025). I simply don't know what this means. I'll give him that last part, that 1 Enoch and Jubilees and such "are not part of the contemporary standard canons," but that is quite a slight on those like the Ethiopian Christians (and perhaps others?) who accept these books as canonical. But what does Satlow mean that the Pseudepigrapha [with the capital] was first composed and named in the early twentieth century? Is this a reference to the old volumes edited by R. H. Charles? But the pseudepigrapha--the writings in the collection--certainly weren't composed at this time, and neither were they collected and named for the first time then. On the modern history of this collection and its name, which goes back to the very early eighteenth century, see this JTS article by Annette Yoshiko Reed.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Markschies on God's Body

As I was sitting, waiting for the beginning of the first plenary lecture at this year's NAPS meeting a couple days ago in Chicago, the title of Christoph Markschies' lecture "God's Body: A Neglected Dimension of Ancient Christian Religion and Theology" reminded me of something that I couldn't put my finger on. I had recently heard about this very topic. Of course, I've read Benjamin Sommer's book The Bodies of God, and I've read Matthew Thiessen's recent article on the wandering rock as Christ's body (1 Cor 10), but recently I had heard about a patristics scholar who was going to be publishing a book on God's body. Who was it? Oh, yes, it was Christoph Markschies, in this MRB interview with T.M. Law. So, in this lecture, we NAPS-ters got a preview of the book that he says will be published next year in German, and perhaps the year after that in English.

In the first part of the lecture he talked about the Hebrew Bible and offered some summary of Sommer's book and Hartenstein's Das Angesicht JHWHs. Then he spoke about pagan philosophy, and emphasized that Plato and his followers were somewhat unique in imagining that God (or the gods) were incorporeal. The Stoics, for example, thought that anything incorporeal was necessarily non-existent, so any true gods must have bodies. (Caveat lector: I'd advise you not to trust completely my hazy remembrance of Markschies' summary of pagan philosophy.)

Then to Christianity. He pointed to the very beginning of book 1 of Origen's On First Principles where he is arguing against Christians who think that God has a body because he is spirit and fire. Apparently Tertullian says quite explicitly that God is corporeal (though I can't remember where). According to Origen, Melito of Sardis wrote a treatise called περὶ τοῦ ἐνσώματον εἶναι τὸν θεόν (see the notes here on pp. 203-4).

Then to Jewish literature, where he discussed mostly Shi'ur Qomah. I had not encountered this text before so it was pretty fun. Can't remember everything he said about it, but there was one bit he read about measuring all of God's body parts (nose, ears, feet, cranium, etc.) by the measurement of a parasang. But the literature defines the parasang not as the normal parasang, but says (something like) a parasang = 3 miles, and each mile = 1000 cubits, and each cubit = 2 spans, and each span is measured in accordance with God's span, which is the distance across the universe.

There was a fifth section, but I can't remember what it covered.

It was an excellent presentation. Not just fascinating material, though certainly that, but also Markschies did a great job of presenting it. I look forward to the book.

UPDATE (29 May 2014): For a recent article on the Shiur Qomah by Marvin Sweeney, see here (HT Nathan Daily).

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Medieval Bible

I've mentioned Frans van Liere's Introduction to the Medieval Bible (Cambridge, 2014) several times before. As I finish reading this excellent book, I wanted to gather together some of the odd interesting bits.

I will say that ch. 5 on biblical interpretation is excellent, really excellent. But I didn't take good notes on it, so I'll have to read it again. That explains why none of the following is from ch. 5. Also ch. 7 on the vernacular Bible is fantastic, and some of the things points below are from that chapter.

(1) "An inventory of all parish churches within the archdeanery of Norwich in 1368 shows that only 6 of all 358 churches inventoried possessed complete bibles, whereas 12 more owned a glossed Bible book or Gospel book; however, all but 30 owned a lectionary" (p. 45).

(2) Nicholas of Lyra (ca. 1279-1349) on whether 1Sam 17 (David and Goliath) validates the practice of dueling. Nicholas' instincts are against dueling, because it involves killing, but, according to van Liere (p. 168):
he has to admit that even saintly kings such as Charlemagne and Louis IX at times permitted dueling. He concludes that under certain circumstances, rulers are permitted to allow such duels, to avoid a greater evil, just as "prostitution is allowed in cities, so that not all are disturbed by lust."
(3) Van Liere (p. 179) points to this great and fascinating paragraph by Einhard on Charlemagne's study habits:
Charles had the gift of ready and fluent speech, and could express whatever he had to say with the utmost clearness. He was not satisfied with command of his native language merely, but gave attention to the study of foreign ones, and in particular was such a master of Latin that he could speak it as well as his native tongue; but he could understand Greek better than he could speak it. He was so eloquent, indeed, that he might have passed for a teacher of eloquence. He most zealously cultivated the liberal arts, held those who taught them in great esteem, and conferred great honors upon them. He took lessons in grammar of the deacon Peter of Pisa, at that time an aged man. Another deacon, Albin of Britain, surnamed Alcuin, a man of Saxon extraction, who was the greatest scholar of the day, was his teacher in other branches of learning. The King spent much time and labour with him studying rhetoric, dialectics, and especially astronomy; he learned to reckon, and used to investigate the motions of the heavenly bodies most curiously, with an intelligent scrutiny. He also tried to write, and used to keep tablets and blanks in bed under his pillow, that at leisure hours he might accustom his hand to form the letters; however, as he did not begin his efforts in due season, but late in life, they met with ill success.
Van Liere's point is that even those who can read Latin with ease and who even might "compose" works do not necessarily have the skill of actually, physically writing.
(4) "[In 1313], the Council of Vienne also condemned certain antinomian doctrines held by Beguines and Beghards, among them the tantalizing idea that, although kissing among unmarried people constituted an act of unchastity, sexual intercourse did not, because it was an act of nature, not of the will" (p. 196).
(5) I was familiar with the ban on English translation issued in 1407/8 by the Oxford council presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Arundel. But I had only read snippets of this ban. Van Liere cites the entire paragraph in English (p. 201), and I see now that as part of the justification for banning vernacular translation, Jerome is cited as admitting that translation is really hard and that he often makes mistakes, even though, Arundel says, he was inspired. An odd sentiment. You can read the Latin here; you want p. 317, paragraph 7: prout idem beatus Jeronymus, etsi inspiratus fuisset, se in hoc saepius fatetur errasse

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Pedagogical Significance of the Sequence of Canonical Books

I have usually found unpersuasive attempts to derive hermeneutical significance from the order of books in the biblical canon. I have blogged on this before (e.g. here). It is one of the themes underlying my recent NTS article on Matt. 23:35. One of the reasons that such ideas have not found favor with me is that the ancients seem to have known nothing about it. They do not interpret books according to a particular sequence (the Minor Prophets, for example, or the books comprising the Ketuvim in the Jewish canon).

But, Frans van Liere's Introduction to the Medieval Bible (Cambridge, 2014) has reminded me that the ancients did in fact find pedagogical significance to the sequence of Solomonic books: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. One should begin with Proverbs, continue with Ecclesiastes, and approach Song of Songs--which speaks of the love of Christ and the Church in the sensual language of human erotic love--only when one has attained substantial spiritual maturity.

This idea already finds expression in Origen's Commentary on the Song of Songs, and it is echoed by Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome, and no doubt others. (For exact references, see pp. 40-41 of my book.) Van Liere's Introduction (p. 161) shows that the idea still found adherents in the twelfth century with Richard of Saint Victor, Explicatio in Canticum Canticorum (PL 196.409) and Gilbert Foliot, Expositio in Canticum Canticorum (PL 202.1150a-b).

I don't think this overthrows my previously expressed doubts about ancient attestation of hermeneutical significance of the sequence of the canon, but it does provide an interesting footnote to that discussion.

Medieval Latin Admonition of the Day

Omnia disce, videbis postea nihil esse superfluum. Coartata scientia jucunda non est.
--Hugh of Saint Victor, Didascalion 6.3

Translated by Harkins: "Learn everything, and later you will see that nothing is superfluous. A meager knowledge is not a pleasant thing."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Author of Ecclesiasticus

I was reading a little Hugh of St. Victor recently, the twelfth-century Parisian theologian. (Actually, it's Frans van Liere's new Introduction to the Medieval Bible that directed me to Hugh.) Hugh has an interesting little tract called On Sacred Scripture and Its Authors, available in Migne's edition here.

He says a lot of interesting things, and a lot of what I find interesting is when he is most obviously dependent on Jerome. For instance, he excludes the deuterocanonical books from the canon and labels them 'apocrypha', just as Jerome had. But then he also discusses the authorship of some of these 'apocrypha', and here's what he says about Ecclesiasticus:
Librum Ecclesiasticum certissime filius Sirach Hierosolymita nepos Jesu sacerdotis magni, cujus meminit Zacharias, composuit.  
The book Ecclesiasticus was definitely written by the son of Sirach of Jerusalem, grandson of Jesus, the high priest whom Zechariah mentions. 
I've never heard that one before. Hugh thinks that Joshua [Jesus] the high priest from the early Second Temple period, mentioned by Zechariah (e.g. at 3:1; but also appearing in Haggai and Ezra) wrote the book of Ecclesiasticus, or at least was the grandfather of the author of Ecclesiasticus. 

It's a little hard to follow what Hugh is thinking here. According to the Greek prologue to the book of Sirach, the author of the Hebrew edition of the book was a fellow named Jesus son of Sirach, and it was this guy's grandson (whose name we don't know) who translated the book into Greek. But Hugh seems to think that the son of Sirach is the grandson of Jesus, somehow combining the author and the translator into one person. I wonder if he has a Latin text of Ecclesiasticus without the prologue (I believe such did circulate), and he's just getting his information about the authorship second-hand and jumbling it all up. 

But how he linked "Jesus" of Ecclesiasticus with Joshua the high priest...well, that's wonderful. I wonder if that's his own thought or if he got it from someone else. And even though the text has such an illustrious pedigree, it's still 'apocrypha' for Hugh. 

UPDATE: I should have included the exact reference for Hugh's comment: On Sacred Scripture 7; PL 175.16d–17a. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Books that Timothy Wrote

All my kids have enjoyed the Berenstain Bears books, as I did myself when I was young. Currently my 5-year-old son is really into them. Of late I've noticed that the books have been tapping into the Christian market by writing stories with broadly religious themes, like being nice to others and basing this on a Bible verse, or the need to pray, or go to church. They're usually fairly bland on the theological content; I don't believe they ever mention the name "Jesus," at least not in the ones I've read. (More info here)

Tonight I was reading The Berenstain Bears Hurry To Help (Zonderkidz, 1992, 2010), when I came across an amusing speech from Mama Bear that calls into question not only the proof-readers at Zondervan but even the motivation behind these "Christian-themed" bear stories.

When the bear cubs attempt to earn a merit badge by helping someone and return disappointed because they think they've failed, Mama Bear reassures them:
"Well, it seems to me," said Mama, "that you have done a good deed. You got Papa home. Just like one of those special letters that Timothy wrote, '...good works are easy to see. But even good works that are hard to see can't stay hidden.'" 
Ah, yes, one of those special letters that Timothy wrote.

What Mama Bear quotes from Timothy is actually the New International Reader's Version of 1 Timothy 5:25. (Yes, there is a Berenstain Bears Bible in the NIRV.)

So, Timothy wrote 1 Timothy? Makes sense. After all, the traditional view is that Peter wrote the letters named for him, and so did John, and the Gospels are named after their authors. But any study of the Bible at all clues one into the fact that this is not the reason that the letters named Timothy have that title, or Titus, or Philemon. Really, how little of the Bible do you need to know to write the sentence "like one of those special letters that Timothy wrote..."?

Is this just a silly mistake, or do the people behind these Christianized Berenstain Bears books really not know anything about the Bible? And if the latter, what can be motivating them to write books aimed at a Christian audience?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Chapter Divisions in the Bible

Quick--who developed the modern chapter divisions for the Bible?

If you said Stephen Langton, you're not alone, but you're apparently wrong.

The view that Langton invented the chapter divisions goes back a long way as it appears already in the early-14th-century work of Nicholas TrevetAnnales regum Angliae (p. 216).

Paul Saenger (curator at the Newberry Library; featured in a video here) has written on this a number of times recently, initially in an article in a hard-to-find (for me, anyway) collection of papers published in Salamanca (2008, front matter here). He also published a paper on this topic in the recent festschrift for Norman Golb (2012, available full-text here), and in a paper in a collection published by Brill (2013, here).

In that last and most recent article, Saenger argues that Langton's works demonstrate only sporadic use of the chapter divisions, while evidence confirms their use in some manuscripts prior to Langton. Saenger also shows that the chapter divisions were somewhat slow to catch on in thirteenth-century Paris.

Saenger says (p. 51) that he discovered in 2002 at Corpus Christi (Cambridge) some manuscripts dating to the late twelfth century (as early as 1180) containing the chapter divisions. These manuscripts originated in the royal abbey of Saint Albans, northwest of London. An image of the earliest of these mss appears on p. 53. Saenger makes a point of saying that the chapter numbers date from the same time as the inscribing of the text (p. 52, with confirmation from Christopher de Hamel at n. 80). The numbering is in the margin, in red ink, using Roman numerals. But the use of Arabic numerals soon followed (p. 60), especially in England (p. 63), though Roman numerals were still inserted to mark an older system of text division (p. 64).

The article is very detailed and helpful, with excellent documentation and images. Highly recommended.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Term "Deuterocanonical"

Long ago I heard that the term "deuterocanonical" had been coined in 1566 by Sixtus of Siena in his Bibliotheca Sancta, a defense and explanation of the decrees pertaining to scripture made by the Council of Trent twenty years prior. I had heard it and read it, but I had never seen it for myself. Recently I became interested in actually seeing Sixtus coin this term, so I did some poking around. Google hardly helped at all, only giving me the information I already had without a specific page reference. That's a problem because the Bibliotheca Sancta is in 8 books and about a thousand pages. I did not want to hunt through so much Latin (has a translation been done?) just to find this one little detail. Google did help, though, in locating the Latin text, which is available on Google Books here.

I finally found a specific page reference in the relevant article in Magne Saebø (ed.), Hebrew Bible / Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation, vol. 2: From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008). The article is by Jared Wicks (see here, or here at bottom), "Catholic Old Testament Interpretation in the Reformation and Early Confessional Eras," and there is a brief (2-page) description of Sixtus and his magnum opus. The reference turns out, I think, to be to a reprint edition, from Inter Documentation Co. (Leiden, 1988), which must not have the same page numbers as the 1566-edition available on Google Books. But the reference did give me the general place to look--at the beginning.

In the edition available at Google Books, see pp. 9-10, esp. p. 10a. This section is titled:
On the scriptures and divine authors of the first class [ordo]; section one. Canonical and apocryphal writings, and who their authors are. 
There are a lot of interesting little details in these pages (not just pp. 9-10, but this entire discussion on the canon), like where Sixtus lists the 24 books of the OT (p. 13), right after he had already listed the same books, but numbering them as 22 (p. 12), with Ruth joined to Judges (and presumably Lamentations joined to Jeremiah, though this is not made explicit: Lamentations is in fact not mentioned at all in the 22-book list). Amazingly, after saying that the 22-book list is "according to the number of the 22 letters (literae) of the Hebrew alphabet," he says about the 24-book list that it is "according to the 24 Hebrew letters [elementa], which result from 21 Jewish characters and from the letter yod, repeated three times because of the reverence for the divine name." He then lists the 24 books with their corresponding Hebrew letter, and the letter yod is listed three times in a row, corresponding to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. He also notes the similarity to the Greek alphabet (24 letters) and lists the Greek alphabet alongside the Hebrew. Ruth and Lamentations then move locations to take up their position within the five Megilloth (that term is not used) at the very end of the OT.

If you know anything about ancient OT canon lists, you wont be surprised that a listing of 27 books (same books, different enumeration) comes next (p. 14), with the five Hebrew letters with final forms accounting for the increase and allowing Samuel (Regum 1-2), Kings (Regum 3-4), and Chronicles (Paralipomenon 1-2) to count as 2 books a piece. But, now Lamentations (Threnis) is back with Jeremiah, counted as one book, and Nehemiah has been separated from Ezra. Furthermore, Ruth is back in position after Judges, not with the Megilloth, as before (perhaps because the inclusion of Lamentations with Jeremiah already destroyed the Megilloth?), and in general the sequence here is exactly the same as in modern Protestant Bibles.

You will have noticed that none of these lists includes the deuterocanonicals, sort of strange since Sixtus is writing for the purpose of explaining and defending the decisions at Trent, which included these books as fully canonical with all the others. This takes us back to his division of the canonical books into two groups. At the beginning of this whole section, he writes:
The divine or canonical writings (which Greeks call διαθηκό γραφα [? see comment below], that is, Testamentary writings) are those, which according to the tradition of the ancients through the Holy Spirit himself, are believed to be divinely inspired for our learning: whose authority is so great that it would be criminal to doubt their trustworthiness. But the divine and canonical authors are those who, with the Holy Spirit dictating, wrote the canonical writings with so great a firmness of trustworthiness that it would be impious not to believe them most strongly. Concerning their venerable authority, Augustine says these things while writing to Jerome: I have learned to reserve this fear and honor to those authors alone who are called canonical, that I hold most strongly none of them to have erred in writing. But if I ever stumble over anything in them that seems contrary to the truth, I assume nothing other than that the codex is faulty, or the translator did not achieve what was said, or I will not doubt that I have understood poorly. But as for other books I say that however influential in sanctity or doctrine they are, I do not therefore regard them as true because they seem so, but because through the canonical authors themselves, or probable reasons, they do not seem to me to depart from the truth, they can persuade. Thus Augustine. Furthermore the canonical books of the old and new testament are divided into two classes: one is prior and the other is posterior; prior, I say, and posterior not in authority, or certitude, or dignity (for each receives its value and majesty from the same Holy Spirit), but in recognition, or time: by which two things it is the case that one class precedes, the other follows. 
The canonical books of the first class, which can be called Protocanonical, are of undoubted trustworthiness; that is, concerning their authority there was no doubt or controversy ever in the catholic Church; but immediately from the beginning of the nascent Church they had been accepted by the common consensus of all orthodox Fathers, and they were adopted for the authoritative confirmation of our faith; of which sort in the old testament are the five books of Moses, and in the new testament the four gospels, but also others similar to these to be named in their own place. 
The canonical [books] of the second class (which once were labeled Ecclesiastical, and now are called by us Deuterocanonical) are those concerning which, because not immediately at the very times of the Apostles but long afterwards they came to the notice of the entire Church, there was at times among Catholics an undecided opinion [sententia anceps]; for example, in the old testament they are the books of Esther, Tobit, Judith, and Baruch, the epistle of Jeremiah, wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, the prayer of Azariah, the Hymn of the three boys, the story of Susanna, the story of Bel, the first book of Maccabees, and the second. Likewise also in the new Testament, the last chapter of Mark, the story of Luke concerning the blood-like sweat of Christ and the appearance of the angel, the story of John concerning the adulterous woman, the epistle to the Hebrews, the epistle of James, the second epistle of Peter, the second epistle of John and the third, the epistle of Jude, the Apocalypse of John, and other books of the same sort, which once the former fathers of the Church had as apocryphal and not canonical; and those they permitted to be read first among catechumens alone, being not yet competent of the canonical lection, as Athanasius testifies in the Synopsis. Then, after some time, as Rufinus writes in the Symbolum, among all the faithful they concede [them] to be read, not for the confirmation of doctrines, but merely for the instruction of the people; and because they are read publicly in the church, they call them Ecclesiastical. But finally they wished [them] to be taken up into the writings of irrefutable authority.
But the apocrypha, that is hidden, secret, or dubious writings, are mentioned in two ways: On the one hand, because their author is uncertain, in which way, of course, it can happen also that some of the canonical books are apocryphal, because it is not at all certain to the church or ascertained who of people was their author, though she believes most confidently that the holy spirit was their author. On the other hand, for a second reason they are called apocrypha, that is of hidden, unknown, uncertain, obscure authority, because the ecclesiastical fathers did not certainly know nor attempt to determine whether they were written by the very authors through the inspiration of the holy spirit; and therefore they did not wish them to be brought forward either for the confirmation of the doctrines of the christian faith or to be read for the edification of the common people, and to be proclaimed in temples, but privately, and they permitted [them] to be read only at home. Such are the third and fourth books of Ezra, the third and fourth book of Maccabees, also the Appendix of the book of Esther, the Appendix of the book of Job, the Appendix of the Psalter, the Appendix of Chronicles, and writings like these, which we have thrown into the third Section. It is also customary in decretals of Pontiffs for the name of an apocryphon occasionally to be placed among the forbidden and completely condemned writings of heretics. This signification we do not use in the present case, because in the common Bibles of catholics we believe no part to be what the apostolic Church pronounced heretical or forbade for christians. Since therefore the entire corpus of the Bible which exists now among catholics is distinguished by a threefold division of books, that is canonical of the first class, canonical of the second class, and apocryphal: we will begin from the enumeration and multiple partition of the canonical volumes of the first class, which are contained in the old testament among us and among the hebrews, then we will treat the books of the first call which the scripture of the new testament embraces. 
Wow. All of that is just absolutely fascinating. I'm especially surprised, nay, shocked, to see Sixtus talk about the deuterocanonical portions of the NT. I don't think I had ever heard of this. And even things like Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 and Luke 22:43-44 count as deuterocanonical! Wow, fascinating. In the following pages (pp. 11-68) Sixtus goes on to give descriptions of each book, and when he gets to the NT, he lists and discusses first the protocanonical portions and books, numbering 20 (pp. 36-41), and then, after discussing the deuterocanonical OT (pp. 42-48), he lists and discusses the deuterocanonical NT (pp. 48-53), numbering 10: the seven disputed books and the three passages from Mark, Luke, and John.

Out of all the things I'd like to discuss further, let me just mention one minor point. Sixtus says that the Greeks call the canonical books διαθηκό γραφα, or at least that's the way the old and slightly smudged lettering looks to me. This is close to the way Origen a couple times refers to books of scripture as ἐνδιάθηκοι γράφαι (On Prayer 14.4; and in Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 6.25.1). The term is actually not very common among the Greeks, though Eusebius himself does use it a few times in his Ecclesiastical History (3.3.1, 3; etc.). Sixtus cites a garbled form of the term, making it probable that he has simply heard about this, maybe not even seen it in writing, and it may be doubted whether Sixtus knew much Greek at all. If he knew very little he would not be unique among European biblical scholars in the sixteenth century.