New Testament and Second Temple Judaism 2020 Programme

Chairs: Susan Docherty and Crispin Fletcher-Louis

Session One Judaism and Rome

Kimberley Fowler, Durham University, ‘Judaism and Rome Research Project Overview’ (20 mins)

Dr Fowler will report on a recently completed a five year ERC funded research project, Judaism and Rome: Re-thinking Judaism’s Encounter with the Roman Empire, and will introduce to the seminar the digital resources it has made available (

Crispin Fletcher-Louis, University of Gloucestershire, ‘The Testament of Moses, Jewish and Roman Republicanism, and the apotheosis of Augustus’

The Testament of Moses is a Roman-era prophetic retelling of Israel’s history. It both laments the oppressive presence of Rome in the holy land and simultaneously describes Israel’s divinely bestowed institutions as the perfect fulfilment of some ideals of the Republic. Rivalry with Rome becomes pointed polemic in the climactic tenth chapter, where there is a prediction that all Israel will experience an eagle-borne exaltation that rivals the apotheosis Rome’s senate had recently accorded the one man, Augustus. On this reading, inter alia, the Testament contributes valuable evidence for the, much disputed, character of Augustus’ funeral (in Sept. 14 CE). Rome’s political ideals inform the meaning of the Jewish text, which, in turn, informs our understanding of a key episode in Roman history.

Kimberley Fowler, Durham University, The Romans and the Purification of the Jerusalem Temple in the Testimony of Truth (NHC IX, 3)’

The Testimony of Truth is a Christian text found as the third tractate in Nag Hammadi Codex IX, and probably dates to the second century CE. The text’s essential purpose is to present its “truth” over and against other Christian “heresies”, by using and interpreting the NT and various Jewish literary traditions. This paper considers the discussion in Testim. Truth 69,32-70,24 of the building of the Jerusalem Temple by Solomon, whom it is claimed was aided by demons that were imprisoned in the Temple in water jars. The author narrates that when the Romans entered the Temple (a reference to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE) they discovered the water jars, and the demonic spirits escaped, purifying the jars. It is stated in the text that each character and feature of the story is symbolic. However, the next part of the tractate is very badly damaged, and it is therefore somewhat a matter of conjecture as to precisely how the author understands each aspect of the narrative. This paper will argue that the Romans can be understood as performing an act of purification on the Temple, which itself was essentially a demonic entity (a view which seems to go further than other early Christian perspectives). In this sense, the Romans act as God’s agents to punish the Jews. I will therefore argue that the Testimony of Truthcan be read within the broader early Christian tradition which presented Rome as God’s tool of vengeance against his wayward people. Moreover, I will highlight the more extreme attitude of the Testimony of Truth’s author in comparison to more mainstream Christian opinion on this issue, which contributes to the text’s anti-Jewish polemic.

Session Two Book Review Panel [joint with Synoptic Gospels]

Book: Sean A. Adams, Greek Genres and Jewish Authors: Negotiating Literary Culture in the Greco-Roman Era, Waco: Baylor University Press, 2020.

Panel: Helen Bond, University of Edinburgh and Elizabeth Shively, University of St. Andrews

Book description: The ancient world, much like our own, thrived on cultural diversity and exchange. The riches of this social reality are evident in the writings of Jews in the Hellenistic and Roman eras. Jewish authors drew on the wide range of Greek literary conventions and gave fresh expressions to the proud traditions of their faith and ethnic identity. They did not hesitate to modify and adapt the forms they received from the surrounding culture, but their works stand as legitimate participants in Greco-Roman literary tradition. In Greek Genres and Jewish Authors, Sean Adams argues that a robust understanding of ancient genre facilitates proper textual interpretation. This perspective is vital for insight on the author, the work’s original purpose, and how the original readers would have received it. Adopting a cognitive-prototype theory of genre, Adams provides a detailed discussion of Jewish authors writing in Greek from ca. 300 BCE to ca. 135 CE—including New Testament authors—and their participation in Greek genres. The nine chapters focus on broad genre divisions (e.g., poetry, didactic, philosophy) to provide studies on each author’s engagement with Greek genres, identifying both representative and atypical expressions and features. The book’s most prominent contribution lies in its data synthesis to provide a macroperspective on the ways in which Jewish authors participated in and adapted Greek genres – in other words, how members of a minority culture intentionally engaged with the dominant culture’s literary practices alongside traditional Jewish features, resulting in unique text expressions.

Session Three The New Testament and the Qumran Literature

Jonathan Darby, Nazarene Theological College/University of Manchester, Singing in the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Corporate Song of Praise of Psalm 154/Syriac Psalm II’

The Great Psalms Scroll from Qumran (11QPsa/11Q5) contains three Psalms previously known only in Syriac recension and preserved in the Nestorian tradition. The Psalm makes explicit reference to the liturgical practice of corporate sung praise, and I argue that this theme runs throughout and characterises the Psalm as a whole. This paper explores the nature and function of corporate singing within the community as envisaged in this text, and on the basis of my analysis I argue that singing is presented as a prominent and habitual liturgical practice which was considered to be as acceptable to God as sacrificial offerings of animals and incense. These observations indicate that the liturgical practice of corporate singing was considered to be of prime importance as part of the regular cycle of communal religious life. Its role in Torah-instruction and meditation also renders it a primary mode of the interpretation and transmission of sacred texts. For members of the community that possessed low to non-existent levels of literacy, singing becomes a vital means of receiving, internalising and passing on sacred texts. Equally, trained and training scribes would be shaped as participants and agents of the same liturgical practices. In these ways, the prominent and habitual practice of communal singing must be considered an influential factor upon processes of oral and textual transmission within Second Temple Judaism.

Hyung-Tae Kim, Durham University, ‘An Interpretation of ‘Born of Woman’ in Gal 4:4 in Light of 1QHa 5:24-37’

Many scholars have argued that the expression ‘born of woman’ in Gal 4:4 is simply ‘a Jewish locution for a human birth or idiom for being human.’ A close look at the occurrences of ‘born of woman’ in early Jewish writings (e.g. Job 14:1; 15:14; 25:4; 1QS 11:20-21), however, leads us to find a connection between ‘born of woman’ and the Adamic narrative in Gen 1–3. Particularly, the parallelism between Gal 4:1-7 and 1QH5:24-37 is striking in terms of (1) the use of the phrase ‘born of woman’; (2) the eschatological dualism between the old age and the new age; (3) God’s recovering of humankind’s dominion; (4) God’s placing his Spirit in human beings; (5) God’s appointing of the ages; (6) the context of new creation. The evidence for the connection between ‘born of woman’ in 1QHa5:31-32 and the Adamic narrative in Gen 2 is as follows: (1) the use of עפר for God’s creation of Adam; (2) Gen 2:22 uses the verb בנה, a cognate of מבנה in 1QHa 5:32, to describe Eve’s creation; (3) the expression ‘kneaded with water’ may indicate that God forms Adam from dust watered by the stream which rose from the earth in Gen 2:6; (4) the importance of the Adamic theme in Hodayot. The Adamic motif and the new creation context of 1QHa 5:24-37 shed light on the interpretation of ‘born of woman’ in Gal 4:4 and a Pauline Adam-Christology (Cf. Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 15:45-49). God sent Christ as the new Adam to redeem his people from slavery under the law and their Adamic sin. The ‘lord of all’ (κύριος πάντων) in Gal 4:1, which alludes to Gen 1:26-30, and the use of ‘Spirit’ and ‘hearts’ in Gal 4:6 in the context of new creation also support this interpretation.