2007 NT & Second Temple Judaism

Session 1

Dr. Darrell Hannah

The Negative Golden Rule in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity: A Saying of Jesus?

The negative form of the so-called Golden Rule was widespread both in second temple Judaism and early Christianity. In Judaism it is attested as early the Book of Tobit and as late as the Babylonian Talmud and late Targumim. In Christianity it appears to have enjoyed as much or more popularity than the positive form known to us from the Gospels. This essay examines the possibility that the popularity of the negative form in early Christianity suggests that it may have circulated as a saying of Jesus. Moreover, the Jewish evidence supports such a conclusion.

Session 2

Kevin Bywater

The Testy Case of the Testament of Abraham: (Mis)Reading and (Mis)Using Second Temple Literature in New Testament Interpretation

Proposing background traditions against which one should read Paul is a virtual industry. The recently-published monographs of Gathercole, Das and VanLandingham (among others) point to particular cases of Second Temple literature to illustrate the kinds of Jewish traditions Paul is thought to be repudiating - traditions that devalue grace, elevate strict justice and judgment according to deeds, and also propose troubling exemplars of sinlessness. Using the Testament of Abraham as a test case, I examine ways in which genre, narrative flow, and other mitigating elements have been overlooked or misconstrued, leading to a tendentious employment of such texts. Drawing on this study, I suggest ways of encouraging students toward a more careful use of proposed background traditions.

Session 3

George van Kooten (University of Groningen)

The Notion of Man as the Image of God: Its earliest Jewish Development

The theme of this paper proposal is man as the image of God (eikôn theou) in early Judaism. The development of the notion of man as God's image seems to be a parallel development in Jewish and Greek-philosophical writings. This paper deals with the earliest Jewish interpretation of this topic.

Within Jewish Scripture, the idea that man has been created after God's image is mainly expressed in the Book of Genesis. Man's likeness to God is not understood as a spiritual nature which God and man hold in common, but is functional: man participates in God's dominion over creation. The isolated Jewish notion of man as God's image and the corresponding Greek-philosophical notion start to coincide in Jewish writings of the Hellenistic-Roman period (300 BC-AD 200), when Judaism in the Mediterranean was Hellenized and nothing less than a boom occurred in the usage of the eikôn theou-notion. This paper deals with the earliest phase of the Jewish reception of this theme.

The material of this earliest Jewish interpretation of the eikôn theou-notion can be divided into three categories.

(I) Many Jewish authors paraphrased the biblical creation story or simply referred to the fact that man had been created after God's image without any further clarification. This category is represented by writings such as Sirach, the Testament of Naphtali, the Life of Adam and Eve, the Sibylline Oracles, Pseudo-Philo's Biblical Antiquities, 2 Enoch and 4 Ezra.

(II) The Jewish writings in the second category, however, do not understand the eikôn theou-notion in its original Jewish sense of exerting dominion over creation. (a) The author of 1 Enoch applies the notion of Adam as God's image to Noah, who is pictured as an exalted patriarch and a specific divine agent. This author belongs to a Hellenistic-Jewish tradition in which patriarchs like Noah, Enoch and Moses are characterised as exalted, angelic or semi-deified beings. This tradition is partly Jewish and was facilitated by some remarks in Jewish Scripture, but according to some scholars also reflects the influence of the Hellenistic-Greek tradition of promoting a particular figure as a theios anêr, a divine man (C.H. Holladay, Theios Aner [1977]). The interplay between Jewish and Hellenistic traditions should be analysed carefully. Incipient spiritualization of the eikôn theou-notion is also noticeable in (b) the Wisdom of Solomon, (c) the writings of Pseudo-Phocylides and (d) the Sibylline Oracles: not man but his spirit is God's image. At the same time a counter-movement emerged in some Jewish and Christian writings which emphasise that not (only) the human mind is God's image, but the body. It is against this understanding of God's image that the Platonist philosopher Celsus directs his anti-Christian polemic around 175 AD.

(III) The third category consists of the Hellenistic-Jewish writings of Philo of Alexandria.

Together these categories of material enable us to draw the earliest Jewish development of the notion of man as the image of God.