Law and Narrative in Luke 2:22-24
This paper wrestles with four critical questions often cited in relation to Luke 2:22-24, the gospel writer’s description of two legal rituals (the sacrifice to complete purification after birth, and the consecration of a firstborn son) performed by Mary and Joseph at the Temple. These four questions attend to Luke’s legal interpretation and narrative method: Why does he refer to “their purification” (2:22) when Lev. 12 seems to stipulate only the mother’s ritual cleansing? Why does he seem to think that the infant needed to be brought to the Temple for his consecration, when a presentation such as this is nowhere explicitly required by the Law? What is the meaning of his silence on the payment of five shekels required to “redeem” a firstborn son from lifelong Temple service? Finally, why are the two separate rites seemingly conflated in his narrative? In contrast with previous interpretations of these issues, which have tended to conclude either that Luke has been misinformed about Jewish law, or that he simply is not interested in legal precision (being motivated rather by theological or literary concerns), this essay argues for a more nuanced reading of Luke’s account along a broader spectrum of Second Temple legal interpretation. By positioning Luke 2:22-24 among other examples of what we might call “legal narrative” or “legal midrash” in Second Temple Judaism, particularly those that deal with the laws Luke cites, I conclude not only that the childbirth laws in the Torah leave multiple gaps that invite later interpretive differences, but that Luke’s own halakhic reading can be contextualized by comparable readings within the diversity of Second Temple interpretation.
Liminal Israel: The Uncircumcised Jew as Abnormal Jewish Body
A decade ago, Saul Olyan recognised the overlap between disability and uncircumcision in the Hebrew Bible (Olyan 2008). Yet, the focus on circumcision has been with regards to extra-Jewish relations, namely its applicability to non-Jews (Zeitlin 1936, Cohen 1999, Hayes 2002, Thiessen 2011). Rarely has circumcision been examined as an instrument of intra-Jewish distinction (Cohen’s 2005 work on Jewish women and circumcision is an exception). This paper argues that the bodies of uncircumcised Jews in the late-Hellenistic and Roman period should be viewed as abnormal. To be sure, uncircumcision did not annul the Jewishness of men and women. However, the rhetoric against uncircumcision pushed Jewish women and uncircumcised Jewish men to the margins, to liminal spaces removed and in contradistinction to the ideal circumcised Jewish male body. Second Temple writers (e.g. 1 Maccabees, Philo, the Scrolls, Jubilees) echoed the animosity toward uncircumcision found in the Hebrew Bible by putting forward uncircumcision as pollution, violation, and epistemic invalidity, with the potential for negative social ramifications. Yet commands like those found in Genesis 17:10 (the uncircumcised to be “cut off” from Israel) were not always followed (indeed, as argued by Cohen 1993, when was circumcision ever checked?). However, Jewish responses to uncircumcision (the spiritualisation of circumcision or the intensification of physical circumcision through forced mutilation or eschatological judgement) indicate an increasing concern some Jews had with the physical difference between foreskined, foreskinless, and de-foreskined flesh. Their responses highlight how, while uncircumcised men and women lived in Jewish communities as Jews, their inclusion was not without the stigma of being liminal. The Othering of uncircumcised Jewish men and women has important implications for understanding Pauline anti-circumcision (e.g. Rom 2:28-29; Phil 3:2-3; 1 Cor 7:18-19; Col 2:11-12; Gal 3:28).
Jesus the Giant-Slayer: The Assumption of Enochic Daemonic Etiology in Mark 5:1-20
Mark 5:1-20 contains an extended allusion to 1 Sam 16-18 with over 17 points of correspondence and significant structural assimilation. While this allusion likely serves a Christological purpose there remains the question as to how the Gerasene Demoniac, a man tormented by a legion of evil spirits, came to be allusively figured as Goliath, a gigantic Philistine? This study will argue that the Enochic etiology of evil spirits from the Book of Watchers (1 Enoch 1-31) provides a solution. Such an etiology would allow the interpretive moves required to 1) conflate David as exorcist (1 Sam 16:14-23) and giant slayer (1 Sam 17), and 2) to make the genetic link between evil spirits and giants implied by the figuring of the Gerasene Demoniac as a giant. Further support for this suggestion will be provided by examining the text of Mark 5:1-20 for other features indicative of the influence of the Book of Watchers' storyline.
Peter and the Patriarch: A Comparison of the Eschatologies of 1 Enoch and 1 Peter
The topic of commonalities between Enochic and Petrine traditions has received scholarly attention since the pioneering work of Friedrich Spitta in 1890. However, there still remains at present a need to explore some of the shared interests in 1 Enoch and 1 Peter. This paper will compare three traditions from 1 Enoch with 1 Peter to identify similarities and differences between the texts. After reviewing the themes of suffering, revelation, election and eschatology in each text, I will identify (dis)continuity between the Exhortation and the Apocalypse of Weeks on the one hand and 1 Peter on the other in terms of (1) temporal duality and the depiction of time, (2) wisdom or the Christ as agent of eschatological salvation, (3) election as both a generative act and as one that is predicated upon faithful response and (4) the notion of phased eschatological judgment. Additionally, in comparing the Eschatological Admonition with 1 Peter, I will base my analysis on the response to persecution stipulated by both texts and explore the significance of fire imagery for each author’s exhorational and hortatory interests. Drawing from Mary Douglas’s notion of hidden imagery, I will argue that the testing-refining function of fire is used in both texts to depict the diverse trials of ‘the chosen’ in terms of the imagery of repeated fire which tests the genuineness of metal and refines it to a purer form. Exhortations in both texts should thus be understood as the call to remain unchanged much like pure gold or silver which remains unaffected by fire.
1 Enoch and the New Testament?: The Curious Evidence of the Chester-Beatty/Michigan Papyrus
In this talk, I will address the transmission and transformation of pieces of 1 Enoch in Christian contexts in Late Antiquity. The animating concern for this project stems from the intersection of the problem of Second Temple texts in Christian transmission, and a New Philological recognition of the importance of manuscript contexts. I will bring these concerns to bear on a re-consideration of the Chester-Beatty/Michigan Papyrus of the Epistle of Enoch, highlighting ways that its codicological context and historical location shift the kind of text that is witnessed. The possibility of textual interaction between the New Testament and the Epistle of Enoch in antiquity will be explored, especially in instances where the Epistle of Enoch has been flagged as ‘background’ to the New Testament—I will consider the implications of flipping the direction of that proposed textual influence, in keeping with our material evidence. Finally, I will also offer reflections on how this kind of analysis informs how and whether we retroject and restore ‘Second Temple’ texts from later Christian manuscript traditions, with an eye to a constructive approach.
Ethiopic 1 Enoch: Early Commentary and a Preliminary Assessment of Its Place in the Ethiopian Tradition
Whilst it is assumed that 1 Enoch was translated around the early 5th century CE into Ge’ez, nothing is known about its place in the Ethiopian tradition until its emergence in manuscripts and in commentary in the 14th century and later. It emerges as a controversial book that does not have a fixed place in the canon. This paper explores the earliest known Ge’ez commentary on 1 Enoch to reveal some aspects of the reception of 1 Enoch within the Ethiopian tradition and its place in the formation of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido theology. Commentary is mostly on passages from the Book of Watchers, the Book of Parables, and the Apocalypse of Weeks. Emphases on messianic prophecy and on defining epochs of salvation history dominate, and point to 1 Enoch being used to summarise already established patterns of biblical interpretation.
Joint session with 2018 Paul
Book review panel on J. P. Davies, 'Paul among the Apocalypses?' (T. & T. Clark, 2016)
A vibrant and growing field of discussion in contemporary New Testament studies is the question of 'apocalyptic' thought in Paul. What is often lacking in this discussion, however, is a close comparison of Paul's would-be apocalyptic theology with the Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature of his time, and the worldview that literature expresses. This book addresses that challenge. Covering four key theological themes (epistemology, eschatology, cosmology and soteriology), J. P. Davies places Paul 'among the apocalypses' in order to evaluate recent attempts at outlining an 'apocalyptic' approach to his letters. While affirming much of what those approaches have argued, and agreeing that 'apocalyptic' is a crucial category for an understanding of the apostle, Davies also raises some important questions about the dichotomies which lie at the heart of the 'apocalyptic Paul' movement.