Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"Life is too short to learn German"

The latest issue of Books & Culture arrived in my mailbox today, and I immediately turned to p. 14 and started reading Timothy Larsen's "Academic Divisions" (requires subscription for full access), a very positive review of the new book by James Turner, Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities (Princeton). This book is sitting on my desk, though I haven't done more than study the table of contents.

I found this passage by Larsen especially entertaining:
Alas for the advance of scholarship in the English-speaking world, German was a fashion that was slow to be adopted. At one point in the early 19th century, there was not a single member of the faculty of the University of Cambridge who could read it. England's greatest philologist at the start of that century, Richard Porson--languages being his expertise notwithstanding--reputedly pronounced: "Life is too short to learn German."

Monday, June 23, 2014

Notes on Schwartz' Ancient Jews

I'm still reading through Seth Schwartz' new book Ancient Jews from Alexander to Muhammad (Cambridge), mentioned earlier. As I predicted, it's really good, and I'm learning a great deal. I just finished ch. 3, on Herod. Up next is the period of the revolts, so that'll be fun. I've been taking notes, and here are just a few of the things I think are interesting.

Again, I'm reading the Kindle version, which does not at this point include page numbers for this book, so I'm referencing the Kindle location numbers.
  • Schwartz thinks that the Hasmonean family were non-Aaronides. That is, rather than questioning whether the priestly family of the Hasmoneans were Zadokite or not (an issue I've discussed before on this blog), Schwartz thinks they weren't priests at all (loc. 1173, 1217).
  • "Herod is the best attested of all ancient Jews, of all Roman client kings, probably one of the best attested of all Romans, Josephus having devoted over four books of his œuvre to the king's life and career (Jewish War 1; Ant. 14-17)" (loc. 1547). 
  • "Herod was not necessarily worse than his famous violent predecessors and contemporaries, but suffered from worse press" (loc. 1574). 
  • Herod "tirelessly used his connections at Rome to defend the interests of vulnerable Jewish communities in Asia Minor and elsewhere (extrapolating from Ant. 16.27-65; Richardson 1996: 174-214)" (loc. 1635). Just later Schwartz says: "Among the Jews, Herod worked to bring about integration, within his kingdom, in the Jewish world as a whole, and between the Jews and the Roman Empire (Baltrusch 2009)." This helps to explain why the pilgrimage festivals became so massive in Herod's days and not before (loc. 1664-70). 
  • "Herod had a total of ten wives, many of them concurrently, making him the only Jew in the Hellenistic and Roman periods known to have practised polygamy (in itself odd, since both biblical and rabbinic texts take the legitimacy and diffusion of the practice for granted; Katzoff 1995)." (loc. 1581). 
  • I wasn't familiar with the Talmudic story about Herod's necrophilia with Mariamme's corpse. Schwartz cites this article
  • "The last known Hasmoneans are some early to mid-second century Roman senators from Asia Minor who served in the college of quindecimviri sacris faciundis; so the descendants of the men who had fought to purify Jerusalem of idolatry supervised the municipal temples and priesthoods of the city of Rome (Kokkinos 1998: 254-8)." (loc. 1605)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Schwartz on Ancient Jews

Cambridge is about to publish a new book by Seth Schwartz on ancient Judaism, Ancient Jews from Alexander to Muhammad. You have to wait another few weeks for the print book (scheduled for July), but Amazon will sell you the Kindle version now. That's the one I'm reading, and so far I've gotten through the introduction. Though the book is designed to be an introduction "for students and scholars" (from the book's description), I can tell I'm going to learn a lot. Schwartz says in the preface that this is designed to be "an abbreviation, rethinking, updating and re-orientation of Schwartz 2001" (Kindle loc. 59). Since I haven't gotten all the way through that earlier book, I'm glad to have this abbreviation and updating of it.

By the way, once again this book on Kindle does not include page numbers, at least not at this point. (Maybe they will magically appear at some point?) So, I'll be citing Kindle location numbers. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Here are some notes Schwartz' Introduction:

Schwartz sets himself the task of describing ancient Jews "from the Battle of Issus, 333 BCE, to the Arab conquest of Syria and Palestine, 638 CE, with an inevitable focus, due to the nature of the sources, on what may be called the long first century, from the accession of King Herod in 40 BCE to the end of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135 CE, and on the relatively well-attested fourth century CE" (loc. 424).

He wants to investigate "how to account for the emergence of the Jews as a distinct and enduringly distinctive group, their impact on their social and political environment and its impact on them" (loc. 187).

Schwartz discusses in this introduction the issue of how to categorize ancient Jews. Did they form a distinct group? What does that mean? What categories should we use to describe them? He wants to avoid anachronism.
One of my goals in this book is to produce an account of the ancient Jews which resonates oddly because so much of it (like so much of classical antiquity in general) is simultaneously uncannily familiar and completely unrecognizable. (loc. 248)
Schwartz then raises the question of whether we can or should use modern categories for understanding an ancient people, categories that might not have made complete sense to those ancient people. Schwartz argues in favor of this.
To take as an example a concept especially relevant to this book, it has been argued that the term 'religion' as we now use it is shaped by the concerns of the European Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, and so is invalid if applied to earlier cultural practice, or outside areas that are part of the European cultural sphere. This is because the word is too freighted with modern baggage to use without misleading, but also because the abstract concept 'religion' allegedly did not exist in any meaningful way before the Enlightenment. Now this second point is inaccurate, since medieval Christians--and Muslims and Jews--indubitably had the term, and it indubitably had a meaning related, though not identical, to its post-Enlightenment meaning. (loc. 254-60)
Schwartz goes on to say that the term 'religion' can be misleading, and that our modern concept 'religion' has no precisely equivalent ancient term, and not all varieties of modern Judaism can be thought of as 'religions' (Reform--yes; Zionism--no), and even to term 'Jew' doesn't necessarily correspond to an ancient reality.
But 'religion', if understood to refer simply to practices, social and cognitive, which embody people's relationships with their god(s), is too useful a term to discard, even if it admittedly has a dangerous tendency to mislead. Those who advocate the abolition of such terms, as opposed to their cautiously sceptical and self-aware analytical deployment, are forgetting that historians' primary job is translation or explanation, and that we can begint o make sense of worlds which are different from our own only by using concepts familiar to us with all due caution and self-consciousness. (loc. 277)
He cites his article in this journal issue for more.

Do we know a Jew when we see one?

This is the title of a helpful section in which Schwartz discusses whether ancient Judaism was recognizable as a distinct entity, whether anything bound ancient Jews together as one group. Some forms of modern Judaism do not distinguish its members from outsiders in any perceptible way, but medieval and early modern Jews were separated by their adherence to specific laws.
To be Jewish meant to belong to a distinct legal category and to live your life according to a well-defined (if not always and everywhere uniform) set of rules. It required at the very least conformity with the laws of the Torah as refracted through the Talmud and interpreted by contemporary rabbinic legal experts. (loc. 299)
What about ancient Jews? Shaye Cohen's answer is no (mentioned by Schwartz in a note at the beginning of the section; see ch. 2 of this book). Schwartz begins (at loc. 317) with previous answers. He says that it used to be assumed that ancient Jews were like medieval Jews, and outliers like Philo were regarded as non-typical and possibly heretical. The 1960s brought a reversal, as scholars began to think of ancient Judaism more in terms of the diversity of modern varieties of Judaism rather than in terms of the near-homogeneity of medieval Judaism. Schwartz praises this move, but also criticizes it, because "the new scholarship, for all its vigilance and caution, was not infrequently blind to its own ideological motivations, or at least it avoided revealing them" (loc. 369). Neusner's project of analyzing the various "Judaisms" revealed in the different rabbinic writings comes in for some critique, as do the theories of J.Z. Smith (esp. as articulated in this 1978 essay) which influenced Neusner (loc. 397).
There is some validity to this after all [i.e., Smith's insistence on multiple Judaisms with little in common], but Smith's illustration [= varying Jewish explanations for the practice of circumcision] actually proves two things, neither of them intended by Smith. The first is the danger mentioned above of understanding ancient Judaism through concepts like 'religion'. Smith strikingly, embarrassingly and presumably unconsciously, christianized: the idea that theology is what mainly matters about a religion, rather than ritual behaviour, is after all a peculiarly Christian one, and it is a categorical error to describe other religions, including Judaism, by emphasizing theology over practice, as Smith did, by privileging the divergent ancient explanations of circumcision over its shared practice. So it emerges that the texts prove (my second point) that at least in this case one can tentatively speak of a normative centre in ancient Judaism. All Smiths texts endorse the practice of male circumcision, which is why they are so keen to discern its meaning, and none opposes it or regards it as optional. (loc. 408-13)
Schwartz says that ancient Judaism should not be thought of either as equivalent to modern Judaism or to medieval Judaism, but perhaps somewhat in between--not as homogenous as medieval Judaism, not as diverse as modern Judaism.

One further note:

From the preface: "John [Ma] sent me [...] some not yet published papers which contain the most original ideas about the background of the Maccabean Revolt since Bickerman's" (loc. 70). High praise. For an online essay by Ma on this topic, see MRB. In that piece, Ma mentions a forthcoming book by Sylvie Honigman, now scheduled for August release.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Rest of Satlow

I've posted several times on Michael Satlow's new book How the Bible Became Holy (Yale, 2014). (1, 2, 3). This'll be my last post on the book, covering its third part, on early Christianity (chs. 11-14) and the rabbinic movement (ch. 15). I'll just be going through the stuff I highlighted on my Kindle while reading through it.

Satlow says that "we can be relatively sure that most Jews in Judea and Galilee [at the time of Jesus] would have ascribed authority to most if not all of the books included in the Jewish Bible, [though] the limits of scripture--both what 'counts' and how it counts--were still fuzzy" (p. 209).

What he means about how it counts has to do with what kind of authority it possesses. In the epilogue (p. 278), he distinguishes three different kinds of authority: literary, oracular, and normative. Satlow insists that most of the time for most people, scripture functioned with oracular authority rather than normative authority. For instance, when Jesus read from Isaiah in Luke 4:
The choice of reading Isaiah, no less this passage in Isaiah, appears to have been entirely random, not part of any regular lectionary cycle. This, in fact, is an important feature of Luke's story: scripture plays an oracular function here. (p. 202)
I don't think this is quite right. Luke does not represent the choice of the Isaiah scroll as random; it was the scroll that was handed to Jesus. Luke does not say that it was a part of a lectionary cycle, but it may have been. The choice of the particular passage may have been random, but I don't think it was, since Luke says that Jesus "found" (εὑρίσκω) the passage. Now, that doesn't mean that the reading of this passage had been pre-arranged (as if following a lectionary), but it does seem to mean that Jesus chose it on purpose. But anyway, none of these caveats mean that the type of authority exerted by the Isaiah scroll was not oracular; I suppose I would agree with Satlow, but this seems an unremarkable point, so the scroll of Isaiah is filled with, well, oracles, so what other kind of authority should it exert?

The next chapter discusses Paul. "Like many Jews of his time, he understood scripture primarily as a collection of divine oracles" (p. 211). I guess I agree with this (cf. Rom. 3:2). Later: "Although Paul uses scripture in a variety of ways, he most commonly cites it for its oracular authority" (p. 220). I'm not sure that we should distinguish oracular from normative authority in the case of Paul. While Paul does think that prophecies are being fulfilled in his own day, he also uses scripture to guide the ethics of his communities. See e.g. Rosner. But maybe Satlow would not call this 'normative', I don't know.

On the Gospels (ch. 13):

  • "Matthew, like Paul and Mark, locates the value of scripture in its prophecies" (p. 230).
  • Regarding Luke 24: "Luke thus positions Jesus not just as the fulfillment of scripture but as the very key to their understanding: Jesus himself unlocks their true, secret meaning. This goes beyond Matthew. For Matthew, scriptural prophecies refer to Jesus; scripture and Jesus are distinct from each other. For Luke, scripture and Jesus are more completely intertwined" (p. 231).
  • "The author of John is not ready to abandon scripture altogether, but he does displace its importance in favor of Jesus as the prime vehicle of God's revelation. Scripture was still relevant, but now theologically less so" (p. 234).

I appreciate his attempt to draw out some differences among the Gospels, but I'm not sure that he's been very successful. I would have thought each Gospel writer would have pretty much affirmed all of these points. Jesus is the key to scripture. He fulfills the prophecies. He is the prime vehicle for God's revelation.

About the canon(s) of Jewish scripture (ch. 14), Satlow says that Josephus' list in Against Apion "is not a description of a well-known and accepted Jewish canon. It is, rather, the somewhat wishful thinking of a Jewish intellectual" (p. 244). "I would like to suggest that Josephus' concept of scripture in fact developed specifically in Rome" (p. 245). Satlow means that in Palestine there was still no interest in defining which books were scripture, just as there was less interest in scripture at all in Palestine than in the diaspora. (This is a point that Satlow has been arguing for several chapters now.) When Josephus arrives in Rome, he's still thinking like a Judean, so "his earliest composition, when he was fresh in Rome, exhibits limited interest in and knowledge of scripture" (p. 246). That'd be the Jewish War. Even though Josephus says in that work that "many Jews before me have accurately recorded the history of our ancestors, and these records have been translated by certain Greeks into their native tongue without serious error," Satlow assures us that this "reference here is to the writings of earlier Jewish historians, not to the history told in scripture" (p. 246). But of course later his Jewish Antiquities displays a great interest in scripture, in other words, after he has been in Rome for some time. Satlow acknowledges that the contrast might be due to the genres of the respective works, but he rather thinks it is because Josephus only at this later time gave much thought to scripture.
Josephus relates that on the fall of the temple Titus gave him a gift of "holy books" [Life 418]. This is the term that Josephus uses most frequently in his later works to refer to scriptures, and it is possible that this was the first time that he had possessed a copy of them. Over the next two decades Josephus worked his way through them systematically [...]. (p. 247)
The rabbis occupy ch. 15. Satlow says that the rise of scripture's prominence among the rabbis "looked like a Sadducean victory" but "it was a pyrrhic [victory]" because the "text was objectified, almost fetishized" (p. 259). You'll need to look back at my post on ch. 8 to get the background for these ideas. The rabbis incorporated the earlier Pharisees and Sadducees into one unity movement. [I'm not sure how this works in terms of the rabbinic self-representation: the Rabbis usually seem to identify the Pharisees and not the Sadducees as their predecessors. I don't recall Satlow dealing with this point, but I may have missed it.]
Rabbi Ishmael's approach bore a strong relationship to that of the Sadducees: scripture was seen as the authoritative guide to proper practice. Rabbi Akiva's approach was Pharisaic: tradition took precedence, even when it seemed to conflict with scripture. (p. 263)
Even in second century CE, the position of scripture within some streams of Judaism was precarious:
If Bar Kosiba had any knowledge of scripture or gave to it any authority, he does not demonstrate it in his documents. Nor do these documents show any awareness of the rabbis. (p. 264)
But, finally rabbinic literature moves beyond viewing scripture as oracular and sees it instead as normative.
 Paul and the authors of the pesher literature and gospels primarily mined scripture for its oracles and prophecies. While the rabbis, like these authors, formally divided the citation of scripture from its interpretation, the use to which they put these divisions fundamentally differed from these earlier authors. The rabbis almost never used scriptural verses to verify or announce prophecies. Although at this stage they were probably still not reacting directly to Christian claims, they adopted a different approach to scripture. For the rabbis, it was not a collection of oracles but the source of all true knowledge. It was not just a historical record of God's revelation but the very place at which God continued to reveal his will to his people. (p. 268)
In the Epilogue:
Despite rabbinic insistence on the importance of the very text of the Bible, Jews would not come to a final consensus about a standard Hebrew text until the eleventh century CE. It was only then that Maimonides, a towering and revered intellectual figure in his time, declared that one particular text--that of the Aleppo Codex--was to be considered the standard. (p. 277)

Some dubious points:

  • "Mark does one thing that Paul never does: he puts scripture in Jesus's mouth. Paul almost always directly quotes scripture in order to prove that Jesus 'fulfills' the scriptural prophecy. Mark apparently knew of stories that were circulating about Jesus. In retelling them, though, he added the scriptural citations, transforming Jesus into a citer of scripture. The scripture-citing Jesus of Mark and the other Gospels is thus not an accurate representation of the historical Jesus" (p. 227). How often does Paul ever represent Jesus saying anything? 
  • On Paul: "some of his interpretations are so strained that he seems to be counting on the fact that his audience gives authority to scripture but does not actually know it well enough to take apart his arguments" (p. 220). I prefer the reading of someone like Hays
  • On Mark's Gospel: "He ends it abruptly with Jesus' appearance, after he was entombed, to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome" (p. 228). What version of Mark ends with the appearance of Jesus' to these women? The Gospel probably originally ended at 16:8 without any resurrection appearances. 
  • "Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, and Thomas are all 'gospels'; they tell the story of Jesus's life in narrative form" (p. 235). Thomas? Narrative? Later, he sort of corrects this: "The Gospel of Thomas, for example, is more of a collection of sayings of Jesus than a narrative story" (p. 237). 
  • I found it interesting that on p. 238 (ch. 13), he attributes Colossians to Paul, though I'm pretty sure that back in ch. 12 he said he was limiting the Pauline corpus to the undisputed letters. 
  • These two sentences appear back-to-back, though in different paragraphs: "prior to the second century CE, nobody thought to create a 'closed canon,' a definitive list of specific books that should be considered 'scripture.' The notion that Jews had a closed canon of scripture is first found in the writings of Josephus" (p. 244). Josephus is at the end of the first century. The dates are not that far off, but it is striking in juxtaposed sentences that Satlow would cite a first-century source for an argument about something that he dates to the second century. 
  • About the reception of Josephus' Jewish Antiquities: "The book apparently received a mixed reception. One Greek intellectual by the name of Apion wrote what we would call a particularly scathing review, which we know only through Josephus' response to it" (p. 244). This is just silly. Josephus' Against Apion was in some ways written in response to criticisms of the Jewish Antiquities, but Apion was not one of those critics. Apion had never heard of Josephus; he died too early. See Wikipedia, or the new Schürer, 3/1.604-7.
  • On Justin Martyr: "Since the Romans, however, had destroyed the Jewish temple, Justin needed to create another unbroken chain of reliable transmission. That chain, according to Justin, could be found in the Septuagint, not the Hebrew Bible preserved by the Jews" (p. 250). I'm not sure what Satlow intends to imply about Justin's view of the Hebrew Bible, but I'm pretty sure whatever the intent, it's wrong. See ch. 5 of my Hebrew Scripture in Patristic Biblical Theory
  • "the author of 4 Ezra had essentially claimed that God continued to make his knowledge and will known through continuing revelation" (p. 267). But, just accepting the claim of 4 Ezra at face value, wouldn't that continuing revelation have been completed by the time of Ezra? So, the revelation wouldn't be continuing through the first century CE, would it?
  • "To the vast majority of Jews [at the turn of the era--time of DSS], the Hebrew of scripture would have been almost incomprehensible" (p. 274). Perhaps an overstatement? I assume he's talking about Jews in Judea. Interesting to read this just at the time of the little dust-up regarding the language(s) Jesus spoke, ignited by a brief conversation between the Pope and the Israeli prime minister. See here, and further here with links. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The High Cost of Books

I happened to be reading a 1987 review of a book on renaissance literature published by Columbia University Press, and I really enjoyed this comment from the reviewer:
Because these are such rich and insightful pieces and deal with so many major texts from the Renaissance, one must regret that the high price of the volume will put it out of reach for many readers and hope that the Press will decide to issue it in a less expensive paperback version. 
The price listed was $32.50.

Satlow on the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls

I finished Michael Satlow's new book. Last time I filled you in up to ch. 8, which gets you a little over half-way through. We'll pick up here with chs. 9-10. I'll try to finish it out in another post or two.

On the whole, it's an interesting book, well-written (again, for a general audience), but not really convincing. Of course, in so much of this area, we're asking questions for which our available evidence provides no definite answers. So I don't think that anyone can say that Satlow's reconstruction cannot be right, but I think there are simpler ways of accounting for the data. So, it's probably not right. :) Anyway, certainly worth a read.

I'm going back through to see what I highlighted in my Kindle version of the book. I'll give bullet points of the the passages I found most interesting, provocative, or remarkable. By the way, the Kindle went through some sort of update, and Satlow's book now displays page numbers. So I'll be referencing his page numbers instead of Kindle locations.

Ch. 9 iss about the LXX, ch. 10 the DSS, and then chs. 11-14 deal with Christianity (Jesus, Paul, Gospels, patristic literature) and the last chapter covers the Rabbis. You'll see that Satlow generally tries to downplay the authority of scripture until as late as possible.

Ch. 9, the LXX
  • Satlow thinks that public reading of scripture in the synagogue did not happen until the first century CE, and this started in Alexandria with the LXX (p. 153). He thinks he's developed an original argument here (n. 38). 
  • He says about the LXX translators (Pentateuch): "their Greek was not very good. [...] These translators knew enough Greek to get by. They knew enough vocabulary to know when they encountered potential theological problems" (p. 158). For a refutation, see T. M. Law's podcasts (here and here). 
  • In the second century BCE, "there is little evidence that the Alexandrian politeuma consulted the Pentateuch or followed any distinctive law based on it" (p. 161). 
  • "The very first evidence that we possess for appropriation of the Greek translation of the Pentateuch by Jewish intellectuals comes from a man named Demetrios, a Jewish 'chronographer' who attempted to reconcile the various dates and genealogies in the Septuagint" (p. 162). Satlow cites (n. 21) Niehoff (pp. 38-57) for dating Demetrios to the second century rather than the traditional (and Wikipedia-approved!) third century date.
  • On 2Mac 2:13-15 (the collection of books by Judah the Maccabee): "But while the books are clearly marked as important, they are not called 'holy'" (p. 163). 
  • On the banquet in the Letter of Aristeas, where the king asks the translators questions about ruling a people and the translators prove their wisdom with their brilliant answers: "Curiously, throughout this conversation the translators neither actually cited the Pentateuch (which actually says very little about kingship) nor offered any advice that can be particularly identified as anything other than good Greco-Roman virtues" (p. 164). 
  • "The main thrust of the Letter of Aristeas is to authorize a particular Greek translation of the Pentateuch. By the time the Letter was written, probably in the late second century BCE, there were different Greek translations in circulation" (p. 164). The evidence for this claim is actually not extraordinarily strong. It may well be that Aristeas simply wants to authorize the use of a Greek translation as opposed to the Hebrew text, to canonize the translation. See ch. 5 of my book.
  • "the author of the Letter of Aristeas made two innovative claims. The first is that the Pentateuch was a collection of 'laws,' or perhaps better, ancestral customs. [...] The Letter's second claim is that the Pentateuch constitutes a single book, and that this book comes from God" (p. 165). Satlow thinks the claim to divine authorship is somewhat vague in the Letter, but the claim that the Pentateuch was a single book is clearer. 
  • About the tripartite structure of the Hebrew Bible: "it could have emerged from the way in which the individual scrolls were categorized in the Library of Alexandria" (p. 166). He cites Sarna for this idea. 
  • "By the end of the [first] century [BCE], as the writings of Philo demonstrate, the Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria, and likely beyond, saw the Pentateuch as a holy and vitally important book" (p. 167). 
  • "In Alexandria, the stakes were culture and prestige. In Jerusalem, the authority of texts was drawn into a high-stakes and sometimes fatal struggle for power and money" (p. 170). 
Ch. 10, the DSS
  • "The Sadducees, like the older aristocratic families from this period that we know of as the Pharisees, did not constitute a very coherent group. They shared political commitment to the Hasmoneans and an ideological commitment to the normative authority of texts. This commitment could be rather weak, as it was for the more politically minded court author of 1 Maccabees, or it could be more extreme, as shown in the book of Jubilees. As long as they held power, these differences could be minimized. Only when the Pharisees finally succeeded in displacing the Sadducees almost forty years after the death of John Hyrcanus, though, did hte divisions openly erupt. One group, splitting from the others, moved to the Judean desert, where they established a settlement in Qumran and authored many of the texts that we know as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Over time, left alone by Herod, they would develop an increasingly idiosyncratic worldview" (p. 171). 
  • Satlow dates the establishment of the Qumran community to 76 BCE or shortly thereafter, and he thinks it was a Sadducean group (a position associated with, e.g., Schiffman). After Sadducean loss of power following the accession of Alexandra Salome: "This loss of power allowed the long-simmering tensions within the group to erupt. The members of one small group of Sadducees, a segment of those who subscribed to the teachings of the Teacher of Righteousness, decided that the time had come, now that they had less to lose, to finally break with the temple and its hierarchy" (pp. 173-74).  
  • Satlow thinks that the addressee of the Halakhic Letter was Hyrcanus II (p. 179), thus it was written shortly after the esablishment of the community at Qumran (on Satlow's dating). He acknowledges that his dating of this letter is later than usual (n. 11). 
  • About 4QMMT C 10, which mentions the book of Moses, the books of the Prophets, David, and (according to Satlow) "all the events of every age," he thinks that last category "might be referring to books like 1 Enoch and Jubilees" (p. 179). 
  • "John Hyrcanus II may or may not have shared the Halakhic Letter's claim that these texts had normative authority, but clearly by this time it was a reasonable one to make" (p. 180). 
  • Satlow thinks that some people in the first century knew the Qumran group by the name Essene, and that they were distinct from the mainstream Sadducean group (p. 180-81). 
  • Satlow (p. 187 and n. 30) points to Metso's work (here) as demonstrating "the addition of clearly indicated citations of authoritative texts to the rules contained in the Community Rule. While this text was originally composed in the late second century BCE, copies made during the Herodian period sometimes add textual citations in order to provide justification."
  • A funny mis-statement: when "two bored Bedouin" threw a rock into a cave and heard pottery break, "[t]hey investigated and discovered jars inside which were scrolls" (p. 174).

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Introduction of Greek into English Schools

A recent article by Matthew Adams in Greece & Rome explores how Greek came to be taught in schools in England. Some notes:

  • Erasmus, 1500: "My Greek studies are almost too much for my courage, while I have not the means of purchasing books nor the help of a master" (quoted here, p. 11).
  • "The first Englishman who taught Greek at Oxford was William Grocyn or 'Grocyn the Grecian'. [...] he left Oxford in 1488 to travel and study in Italy, returning before the end of 1491. After his travels he publicly lectured in Greek at the university, and became the first English teacher of Greek at Oxford" (p. 103). There is contemporary testimony that Grocyn learned the rudiments of Greek in England and pursued advanced studies in Italy. 
  • Adams then discusses which secondary schools were engaged in the teaching of Greek. He finds that it is hard to identify the earliest, but three schools were teaching it at or near the beginning of the sixteenth century: Eton, St. Paul's, and Winchester.
  • "Printing came later to England than to almost any other European country; and even in Paris, laying one's hands on a copy of a Greek grammar at the turn of the [sixteenth] century was a ferociously difficult business for Erasmus. It must therefore have been a much more difficult task to acquire a Greek text printed in England, where the first two known books containing Greek characters were printed in Cambridge in 1521 and London in 1524" (p. 107). Adams goes on to describe briefly these two books (pp. 107-8). Both books were by Thomas Linacre, the first being his Latin translation of a work by Galen that contained seven poorly printed Greek words, the second Linacre's monograph on Latin grammar with far more Greek in much superior type than the earlier book, but still Linacre apologizes in the preface for the poor quality of the Greek type.
  • "after about 1530 [...] there was a fall in demand for Greek in all [secondary] schools throughout England" (p. 108). Adams links this decline in Greek to Erasmus' Greek NT and the reforming spirit in which it participated, perceived as dangerous to the church. "In the forty years following Erasmus' publication of the New Testament, until 1559, twenty-five academics and students from Cambridge (Erasmus' alma mater) were burnt at the stake for heresy, many were pursued by agents of Thomas More, many others went into exile. The absence of Greek studies in schools can be explained by the absence of texts; and texts were not being printed, because to be associated with Greek in the middle of the sixteenth century was a dangerous pursuit. Only in 1559 did the study of Greek become freer, when the religious settlement of that year 'formally established Protestantism as the religion of England'" (p. 112; quoting Goldhill, 32).
My interest in this whole subject has to do with the history of the English Bible, particularly how William Tyndale learned Greek. Apparently he could have learned it at Oxford, whither he matriculated in 1506 (at the age of 12!), earning his MA in 1515. I suppose going to Oxford so young meant that he might not have gone to a secondary school at all, but I haven't found anything that says what sort of education he had before Oxford. That is, Wikipedia doesn't say. :) Sometime I'll try to have a look in Daniell's biography