2012 NT & Second Temple Judaism

Session 1

Joan E. Taylor (King's College London)

The Herodians and the Essenes

The question of the identity of the group called the ‘Herodians’ in the Gospel of Mark has long been a thorny issue, with most commentators now deciding that they are in some way associated with Herod Antipas. However, a narrative-critical approach to Mark makes this unlikely. Rather, the suggestion that the Herodians are the Essenes under another (disparaging) name has many points in its favour, especially given evidence found in Josephus, patristic literature and archaeology that testifies to an association between the Essenes and the Herodian dynasty. Likewise, an assumption that the Essenes were a small, marginal and isolated group is one that needs to be laid on one side as a by-product of outdated conceptions of Judaism, wedded to a caricature in Pliny. Josephus or Philo indicate that the Essenes were the most esteemed of the Jewish legal schools within Second Temple Judaism.


Session 2

Anna Davina Grojnowski (King's College London)

Josephus and his literary context – the cross-cultural influences of autobiography in antiquity

The origins and early development of ancient autobiography as a literary genre remain unclear, as the majority of texts exist in a fragmentary state. Josephus’ Vita remains the only full, extant example of the genre of autobiography in the pre-Christian era, and must provide us with a key to understanding the gradual development of a distinctive, and in later times markedly Christian, genre and corresponding socio-political and literary developments. Therefore, in order to place the Vita within the creation and evolution of the genre, this paper will note the ubiquity of autobiographical influences impacting on Josephus and his contemporaries, including literary and epigraphic examples from the Greco-Roman, Ancient Near Eastern, and biblical realms.

Based on Richard Burridge’s successful analysis of the Gospels, this paper will discuss and analyse the Vita within the same framework, by comparing the text with earlier, contemporary, and later influential examples of autobiographic literature in terms of external and internal features and literary devices. The outcomes of this analysis will carry numerous implications for our understanding of the ancient genre, Josephus’s thought-process and social context (i.e. social standing and audience), and lastly, the dramatic prominence of the genre in early Christian literature. 


Session 3

Bobby J. Ryu (University of Oxford)

Scriptural Exegesis and the Language of Divine Inspiration in Philo of Alexandria: Some Observations from the Allegorical Commentary

A striking feature of Philo’s allegorical writings is his frequent use of the language of divine inspiration to describe the quest of the human mind to know God. Much has been written on this subject of course, but surprisingly minimal attention has been given to a pair of more specific questions which frame this paper. First, what scriptural texts (or sequence of texts) provoke Philo’s use of this language? Second, what, if anything, might this tell us about the broader agendas and aims that shape his allegorical readings of Moses? In an attempt to address this gap, this paper marshals the pertinent evidence from the so-called Allegorical Commentary and further argues that Philo’s varied discourses on divine inspiration are animated, at least in part, by two distinct yet related points of exegetical focus. Texts from Exodus and Numbers, on one hand, featuring the priestly mediatory figures – the Levites, Phinehas, and preeminently Moses – prompt Philo to stresses the divine enhancement of human reason in one’s quest to know God. As another point of exegetical focus, texts from Genesis featuring patriarchal figures like Abraham and Isaac provoke Philo to move in markedly different line of thought, one which stresses the divine eviction of human reason in that same quest. By insisting on both human rationality (divine enhancement) and irrationality (divine eviction) as necessary and reciprocal parts of one’s epistemological transformation, Philo can speak of divine inspiration in ways congenial to the Middle Platonic schools and his more advanced readers of Moses.