On Comparing NT and other early Jewish Texts
A very large part of New Testament and early Christian studies involves comparison of Christian texts with other Jewish texts from antiquity. In all such work, a great deal hangs on the theory and method of comparison adopted by the scholar, but too often these theoretical issues go entirely unexamined. In this panel session, four scholars who have done sophisticated comparative work offer their differing perspectives on how it is best approached.
The (Lack of) Evidence for Jewish Poor-Care in the First Century C.E.
It is generally accepted that Jewish groups cared for their poor in the first century. Such practices are regularly understood as both organized and widespread, often as one of the social functions of the synagogue, regardless of how the first century synagogue is conceptualised. In such a framework, the charitable practices of the early Christians are often assumed to be modelled on what was already happening in Jewish communities. The commonality of this reconstruction, though, belies the evidence upon which it rests. In a majority of cases, scholars are heavily reliant on the charitable institutions of the quppah and tamḥui described in the Mishnah and Tosefta, assuming: 1) that they can be dated into the first century, and 2) that they can be taken to represent normal Jewish practice, both in Palestine and the diaspora. These assumptions are, at best, contestable. A thorough search for other evidence concerning Jewish poor-care in the first century, that might provide a more secure foundation for our reconstructions than the rabbinic literature, results in much less than might be expected. This paper will not argue that there was no Jewish poor-care in the first century, but rather that current reconstructions assume a level of structure, institutionalisation and normativity that is hard to substantiate from the legitimate extant evidence.
Respondent: Nathan Eubank (Oxford University)
The Holy One of God in the Gospels according to Mark and Luke
The christological title ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ (“the Holy One of God”) appears a total of three times in the New Testament (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; John 6:69), and is unattested in other Jewish and Christian literature. While scholars offer a wide range of proposals concerning the background and significance of this title, no one has demonstrated the possibility of a link with messianic traditions. This study fills this lacuna in two ways. First, I examine four texts (Ps 88:19 LXX; LAB 59:2; Pss 152, 153) that explicitly refer to the anointed David as God’s “holy one,” and two additional sources that indicate awareness of the archaic tradition that the oil used to anoint Israel’s kings was holy (Ps 89:21 [88:21]; 11QPsa XXVIII, 11; Josephus, Ant. 6.157). Second, I explore how the underlying logical connection between “messiah” and “holy one” within these texts might illuminate certain features within the Synoptic tradition. For Mark, these textual traditions shed fresh exegetical light on two paradigmatic scenes at the opening of the Second Gospel (Mark 1:9–13; 1:21–28) while, for Luke, they enhance the close link the evangelist draws between messianic Spirit-anointing and holiness (e.g., Luke 4:34; Acts 4:27).
Respondent: Helen Bond (University of Edinburgh)