2015 NT & Second Temple Judaism

Session 1

Philip Alexander (University of Manchester)

End of Exile and Early Judaism

I will argue that the concept of 'continuing exile' is important for understanding the development of Judaism in Second Temple times. Drawing not only on ancient literary sources but on insights from modern Zionist thought, I will propose a definition of 'continuing exile', and then assess the relevance of the idea for understanding major events of the period. Implicit will be an attempt to reinstate ideology/theology as a significant cause in history (things happened because people held certain views of the nature of the world and the way events were trending), as against the dominant reductionist sociological, economic and political analyses. By using (cautiously) analogies from other ideologically driven societies (England during the Civil War and Islamic State) I will try to assess the prevalence and power of the idea of 'continuing exile' in Palestinian Jewish society specifically in the time of Jesus.

End of Exile and Early Christianity

The early Christians, under the impact of the events concerning Jesus and the Spirit, retrieved and reworked the Jewish traditions about an extended exile and a delay in the promised divine return, thereby giving decisive shaping to their proclamation and self-understanding.


Session 2

Rebecca Harrocks (King's College London)

Neither Male nor Female, neither Circumcision nor Uncircumcision: Women and Phallic Circumcision in Second Temple Judaism

Gal. 3:28, 5:6 and Col. 3:11 present the end of divisive categories such as ‘male’ and ‘female,’ or ‘circumcision’ and ‘uncircumcision.’ Such contrast between the sexes is clearly apparent in Genesis 17, the aetiological biblical text for Jewish circumcision. This presents the terms of the covenant between Yahweh and the Israelite male, marked on his member, and for which there was no female equivalent. With this in mind, what bearing did phallic circumcision have on the Second Temple Jewess? Women were in fact central to the covenant promises, and integral to the custom of male circumcision in Second Temple Judaism. This is most apparent in those relationships in which males and females were in closest association; marriage and motherhood. A mother’s post-partum impurity (Lev. 12:1-5; Luke 2:22-24) is directly linked to her child’s gender, and in the case of a male, the significance of his eighth day brings about the conclusion of her uncleanness. Furthermore, in 1 Macc 1:61 and 2 Macc 6:10, the concern to circumcise infants is clearly maternal. Jewish marriag certificates from the Second Temple period are distinctive in being completed ‘according to the Law of Moses.’ In reality, this also usually meant within the ‘boundaries’ of Jewish (male) circumcision, though we have examples in which this was not the case, such as the famous Helladote papyrus. The biblical prohibitions against intermarriage (Ezra 9-10; Neh. 13; 2 Cor. 6:14-17) represent the significant risk to the community, represented by marrying outside of these ‘boundaries’. This paper will investigate how women’s marital unions and consequent offspring were imperative to the preservation of Jewish identity and group prosperity in the Second Temple period, though this female perspective is not often considered. With this in mind, the Pauline teachings about circumcision take on new, cross-gender relevance.


Jay Thomas Hewitt (University of Edinburgh)

Describing Pauline Messianism: A Comparison of Daniel 7 to 1 Corinthians 15 in Light of 4Q246

Two interpretive questions regarding 4Q246 concern the identity of the ‘son of God’ and his relationship to the people of God. Noting the reminiscences of Daniel in the fragment, John Collins proposes that Dan 7 provides an elucidating analogy to 4Q246, which yields two clarifications. First, the ‘son of God’ is a positive savior figure, not a megalomaniacal foe. Second, the ambiguous singular suffixes in the final five lines are unproblematic in light the solidarity between the people and the ‘son of God’, their representative. While other discussions of Dan 7’s reception focus almost exclusively on the supposed title ‘son of man’ and the imagery of the sea, beasts, and clouds, Collins’s analysis is unusual since it attends rather to the themes of opposition, victory, dominion, and the nature of the relationship between a savior and the people. Thus Collins’s hypothesis suggests new avenues for exploring the influence of Dan 7, which bypass the potential red herrings of titles and apocalyptic imagery. Accordingly, my own proposal is that Dan 7 is a similarly instructive analog to Paul’s mini-apocalypse in 1 Cor 15.20–28. As in Collins’s analysis, the validity of the collation is suggested by verbal, conceptual, and structural parallels, and its value is in clarifying the relationship between a savior figure and his people. Specifically, the concept of solidarity between God’s people and the ‘one like a son of man’ in Dan 7 illuminates Paul’s logic in 1 Cor 15 concerning the association between Christ and believers expressed with the phrases en to Christo and hoi tou Christou. Moreover, recognition of this suggests that the shape of Paul’s messianism was predominantly Davidic but entailed the integration of non-Davidic messianic language and ideas.


Session 3

Philippa Townsend (University of Edinburgh)

Blood and Seed: Sacrifice and Kinship in Early Christian Texts

Questions of genealogy and descent weave through ancient Jewish debates about sacrifice, the temple and its priesthood. The prevalence of these themes can be understood within the broader context of the deep and multivalent connections between sacrifice and kinship in the ancient Mediterranean world, as Nancy Jay has demonstrated. However, scholars who have focused on ancient Christian debates about sacrifice have often paid little attention to these themes, perhaps because of the perception that issues of kinship and descent were unimportant or quickly became irrelevant to early Christians. In this paper I make the case that the association between sacrifice and descent is in fact integral to a wide range of Christian texts. Examining first and second century texts about sacrifice and priesthood allows us to trace an ongoing debate among Jews and Christians about the importance of physical ancestry and descent in the legitimation of religious communities, and demonstrates that the malleable discursive association between sacrifice and kinship played a fundamental role in both Christian and Jewish discussions of sacrifice in antiquity. In particular, I argue that Christians increasingly deployed traditional sacrificial logic in new ways in order to establish legitimacy and inheritance on grounds other than birth and descent.


David Moffitt (University of St Andrews)

Response to Philippa Townsend

[No abstract]