Katie Turner, Independent Scholar, ‘Dressing “Jewishly”? Sartorial Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean’
When Yigael Yadin excavated the Cave of Letters (Nahal Hever) in 1960, he found dozens of clothing items therein. To date, they represent the finest collection of clothing from anywhere in the ancient Mediterranean region. In the decades that followed, a small contingent of scholars have demonstrated (through various approaches) what those remains strongly indicated: that Jewish people of the Greco-Roman world dressed in a Greco-Roman manner. With this conclusion now firmly established – even as it could be more widely known – we should turn to more nuanced questions and explore Jewish appearance in antiquity from within its own context. In other words, were there any particularly Jewish aspects of a dress system that otherwise conformed to Greco-Roman norms? Can clothing illuminate Jewish values, thought processes, and notions of identity? What does it say about intra-Jewish debates thereof? Considering these questions and others, this paper constructs a picture of Jewish dress behaviour in the first century, highlighting areas in which future study can offer insights into the social world of ancient Judaism.
Nathanael Vette, University of Edinburgh, ‘The Gospels within Interbellum Judaism: The Production of Early Gospel Literature as a Jewish Response to Jerusalem’s Fall’
The fall of Jerusalem and its temple was the seminal event that shaped the literature of interbellum Judaism (70-132 ce). Apocalypses and histories proliferated to interpret the crisis for shocked Jewish communities, offering theodicies as to why the Judaean god had allowed the calamity to befall the nation and anticipating the day when divine protection would be restored. While scholarship has long recognized 70 ce as a decisive factor in the nascent literature of formative Judaism, the event rarely features in explanations of early Christian writing – despite the emerging consensus that these were predominantly written by Jews in the decades after Jerusalem’s fall. The early Gospels – the Gospel of Mark and its literary successors – belong to this era and tell the story of a Jewish Messiah killed in Jerusalem after he prophesies the city’s destruction and omens portend its fate. And yet, scholarship has tended not to consider the crisis of Jerusalem’s fall as a factor in the emergence of early Gospel literature.
This paper compares the early Gospels to two Jewish theodicies written in response to Jerusalem’s fall: the apocalypse of 2 Baruch and the historiography of Josephus’ Judean War. In particular, the paper explores how these works engage in traditional theodicy by 1) explaining what sacrilege and/or bloodshed had caused the Judaean deity to depart Jerusalem; 2) how the deity’s departure was heralded by omens and prophecies; and 3) under what conditions divine protection would be restored. By comparing early Gospel literature to other Jewish responses to 70 ce, this paper proposes that the Gospel narrative of a Messiah crucified in Jerusalem developed as a theodicy to explain the city’s fall. The early Gospels should therefore be considered alongside the apocalypses and histories of the late-first and early-second centuries ce as belonging to the theodicy literature of interbellum Judaism.
Irene Barbotti, Trinity College Dublin, ‘Beatitudes and Woes as a Literary Pattern in the Second Temple Jewish Literature and in the New Testament’
As Constantin Pogor recently demonstrated (2022), the association of beatitudes and woes is frequently attested in Second Temple and New Testament literature. If their theoretical complementarity (i.e., “happiness” vs “condemnation”) is clear, then the literary function of this antithesis requires investigation. As 2 Baruch, Matthew, and Revelation show, the contraposition of these literary forms often plays a redactional role in the Second Temple and early Christian literary culture, providing a narrative framework to the texts. This is the case of the beatitudes and the woes based on the antinomy “life-death” in 2 Baruch, framing Baruch’s lamentation (10.6-7; 11.7) and the document itself (10.6; 84.11); however, a similar function is also featured in the beatitudes and woes at the beginning and at the end of Jesus’ public life in Matthew (5:3-12; 23:13-36), and then in Revelation where the seven beatitudes found throughout the text are counterbalanced by fourteen woes (cf. Piazzolla 2010). This paper analyses the function of beatitudes and woes in the narrative structure of these documents, stressing the theological underpinning of these redactional choices.
Session 2: Joint Session with Paul Group
Panel review of Yael Fisch, Written for Us: Paul’s Interpretation of Scripture and the History of Midrash (Brill, 2022).
Book Abstract: This volume re-introduces Paul into the study of midrash. Though Paul writes and interprets scripture in Greek and the Tannaim in Hebrew, and despite grave methodological difficulties in claiming direct and substantial cultural contact between these literary traditions, this book argues that Paul is a crucial source for the study of rabbinic midrash and vice versa. Fisch offers fresh perspectives on reading practices that Paul and the Tannaim uniquely share; on Paul’s concept of nomos, and its implications on the reconstructed history of the Tannaitic twofold-Torah, Oral and Written; on the relationship between allegory and midrash as hermeneutical systems; and on competing conceptualizations of ideal readers.
Panellists: Hindy Najman, University of Oxford, Philip Alexander, University of Manchester; Respondent: Yael Fisch, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Session 3: Joint Session with Later Epistles Group
Michael Francis, Catholic University of America, ‘Sin and Gradations of Sin in Hebrews, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Philo of Alexandria’
The paper explores the idea of sin and gradations of sin in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and offers a comparative treatment of related ideas in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the works of Philo of Alexandria. The analysis of Hebrews centers on three concerns: first, the figuration of sin in relation to the author’s wider concerns and rhetorical strategy; second, the appropriation of a scriptural distinction between intentional and unintentional sin, based on the provisions of Priestly law; third, the phenomenon of a kind of sin that leaves the sinner decisively devoid of hope. The paper argues that there is a fundamental continuity of perspective between Hebrews and the relevant provisions of Priestly law, the latter characterized by certain tensions that prove both interpretive challenge and opportunity for the author of Hebrews and, variously, the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Philo. The paper thus contributes to ongoing consideration of (1) the register and dimensions of the criticism of Mosaic law in Hebrews, and (2) the most important conceptual backgrounds for studying Hebrews.
Payton Miller, University of Aberdeen, ‘The Threat of Death in the Heavenly Cult: Justifying the Resurrected Body of Christ in Light of a Major Source of Impurity’
The Levitical cult considers death to be a major source of communicable impurity to high priests in Leviticus 21 and designates procedures for priests to avoid contact with corpses to preserve their holiness. Though the heavenly cult appears to be removed from earthly sources of contagion, the holiness of the heavenly high priest in the letter to the Hebrews is similarly threatened by death on account of his fleshly body. I will argue that death is a persistent threat to the heavenly cult through analyzing the nature of holiness in both cults, the use of Second Temple literature relevant to the Day of Atonement purification in Heb 9:11-14, and the necessity for heavenly spaces to be purified with “better” sacrifices in Heb 9:23. I will then argue that the continuing threat from corpse impurity in the heavenly cult serves to necessitate the resurrected flesh of Christ as high priest—given that the crucified Christ is still prone to death’s impurity and cannot enter the heavenly cult without transformation. I will conclude with how Christ’s resurrected flesh fulfils the necessity for the high priest’s body to be transformed flesh in heaven in consideration of requirements for the high priesthood and as a means to nullify the impurity of death in the heavenly cult in Hebrews.
Lily Tsai Su, University of Glasgow, ‘The Text in the Pastoral Epistles’
The use of earlier authoritative texts is remarkable in Second Temple Jewish writings. By citing or alluding to earlier authoritative texts, the authors of the Second Temple period were able to stress the continuity of earlier tradition in a new context. Such literary tradition was known to New Testament writers (the citation of Isa 7:14 in Matt 1:23, Deut 25:4 in 1 Cor 9:9 and 1 Tim 5:18, etc.). The reference to Jewish scriptures is explicitly noted by scribes in some New Testament manuscripts, such as diplai were used in Codex Alexandrinus and rubrication was used in Codex Claromontanus to mark out the quotation of Deut 25:4 in 1 Timothy 5:18. This paper investigates the citations of Jewish scriptures and allusions to the corpus of the Pauline Epistles in 1 Timothy as a case study for exploring the compositional and interpretive approach of the Pauline author. The use of earlier authoritative texts in the form of citations or allusions allows the author of 1 Timothy to draw from the Pauline tradition in a new context.