New Testament and Second Temple Judaism Chairs: Susan Docherty and Crispin Fletcher-Louis
Current Research in NT and Second Temple Judaism: an invited panel will present on their current research projects, highlighting some of the key themes within contemporary scholarship on the NT in its early Jewish context and its possible future directions.
Meredith Warren, University of Sheffield, ‘Tasting Death: Sensory Metaphors and Other Worlds’
‘To taste death’ is a phrase used in several texts in antiquity as a euphemism for dying, including Targum Pseudo-Jonathan; 4 Ezra; Midrash Rabbah; the canonical Gospels; Hebrews, the Gospel of Thomas, and countless later Christian writers such as Origen, John Chrysostom, and more. It also occurs in earlier, non-Jewish/non-Christian Greek texts. However, since Bruce Chilton’s brief 1978 paper, no dedicated treatment has been attempted of this phrase. This paper will explore the use of sensory metaphor in communicating culturally-accepted understandings of death. Building on my previous work on transformational eating, I aim to demonstrate how the sense of taste functions as a way of accessing various underworlds, such as heaven/hell/Hades/Sheol. The shared use of this metaphor might indicate shared cosmological and sensory understanding among various groups in antiquity.
Philip Esler, University of Gloucestershire, ‘The Righteousness of Joseph: Interpreting Matt 1:18-25 in Light of Judean Legal Papyri’
Matthew 1:18-25 has attracted careful analysis with respect to Mediterranean culture by Matthew J. Marohl in Joseph’s Dilemma: ‘Honor’ Killing in the Birth Narrative of Matthew (Cascade, 2009). The aim of this paper is to undertake an interpretation of this narrative so as to explore what Matthew means when he says that Joseph was righteous (dikaios; v 19) in wanting to divorce Mary quietly. This will involve a study of the nature of Judean marriage and divorce in the first century CE. To illuminate this context, recourse will be had to ancient Judean legal papyri. The primary sources will be marriage and divorce documents from the Dead Sea region in the first and second centuries CE, including those of the Babatha archive. In addition, papyri records of litigation from the Judean politeuma of Herakleopolis in the period 144 to 132 BCE will be used to show what could happen when problems arose in relation to marriage. The result will be to demonstrate the critical importance of the Judean legal papyri for understanding Matt 1:18-25 (and other New Testament texts) in their ancient contexts.
Paul—In What Sense ‘in Judaism’? (joint session with Paul seminar)
The extent to which Paul should be interpreted as belonging ‘within Judaism’ is a key issue in contemporary Pauline scholarship. This question will be addressed by an invited panel followed by discussion: Kathy Ehrensperger, Abraham Geiger College, University of Potsdam, Germany; Simon Gathercole, University of Cambridge; Matthew Novenson, University of Edinburgh.
Logan Williams, Durham University, ‘The Praxis of the Promise: Ethics and Unconditional Mercy in Pseudo-Philo and Romans’
Pseudo-Philo regularly insists that God will keep his promises despite Israel’s disobedience (LAB 9.3-5; 12.4; 12.9-10; 15.4-7; 19.2-3, 8-9; 30.7; 32.13-14; 35.2-3; 49.3). While interpreters have also suggested that in LAB God’s promise to Abraham was not conditioned by Abraham’s righteousness, a closer look at Pseudo-Philo’s theological reasoning will uncover a more complex configuration of divine mercy. Though Pseudo-Philo seems to agree with Seneca that a promise can be revoked if it turns out that the recipient of the promise is unworthy (Sen. Ben. 2.34.3-36.3; cf. Cic. Off. 1.10.31-32), the theological genius of LAB lies in the separation of condition from beneficiary. The narrative consistently portrays God as giving the promise to Abraham in response his initial obedience and his continued fidelity (6.1-18; 18.5-6; 23.4-6; 30.7; 32.1-4; 40.2). But because the promise that God would bless Abraham’s descendants is conditioned by only Abraham’s righteousness, Israel’s disobedience does not alter the initial conditions of this promise. Thus, the promise is at once conditioned and unconditional, being given because of Abraham’s righteousness, but for the benefit of his regularly disobedient descendants. While some take this emphasis on the promise to suggest that LAB is not concerned with inciting its readers to obedience, the narrative consistently portrays trust in the unconditionality of the promise as the basis for moral behaviour (9.3-5; 12.4; 13.10; 15.6; 21.9-10; 30.1). Pseudo-Philo’s careful theological reasoning can help illuminate Paul’s somewhat different argument in Romans. Unlike Pseudo-Philo, Paul establishes the present unconditionality of divine mercy (Rom 9:4; 11:1-12, 24-32) by arguing that God’s promise to the forefathers was not conditioned by their obedience (4:2-8; 9:6-18); but like Pseudo-Philo, for Paul the unconditionality of the promise forms the impetus for his commitment to summoning Israel to trust in her messiah (10:14-15; 11:25-26).
Tim Murray, Newman University Birmingham, ‘Widows’ Money in the Jerusalem Temple: Making Sense of 2 Maccabees 3:10’
The uncertainty of how best to understand 2 Maccabees 3:10 is reflected by the history of the New American Bible translation. Originally rendering the verse to refer to a ‘care fund’ for widows, the revised edition instead referred to a ‘deposit’. The latter is currently the majority view, but this raises historical questions that remain intriguing. This paper will first survey the major contributions to this question and then probe some of the unresolved questions. Finally, it will discuss whether the connection between widows and the temple can contribute anything to our understanding of the various episodes in the gospels that connect the two.
Nathanael Vette, University of Edinburgh, ‘How Mark Wrote: Scripturalization in the Gospel of Mark and Second Temple Literature’
Devorah Dimant helpfully distinguishes between an expositional and a compositional use of the Jewish scriptures in Second Temple literature. The former refers to marked citations or allusions which seek to interpret the meaning of the scriptural text, whilst the latter refers to the unmarked use of scriptural material embedded and re-contextualized in a new work. Studies on the use of the Jewish scriptures in the Gospel of Mark have tended to focus on the first kind, the expositional use of scriptural material (i.e. Mk 1:2-3; 4:12; 7:6-7). Instead, this paper will try to understand the compositional use of scriptural material in Mark by looking at two texts from the Second Temple period which similarly use the Jewish scriptures to compose new narrative—a process that I will call scripturalization, following the work of Judith Newman. I will look at three episodes from the Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum: the use of Dan 3 in the episodes of Abram and the fiery furnace (LAB 6) and Jair and the fiery furnace (LAB 38) and the use of Judg 7 in the episode of Kenaz’s rout of the Amorites with three-hundred men (LAB 27); and one episode from 1 Maccabees: the use of Deut 2:26-36 (cf. Judg 11:19-21) and 20:10-14 in Judas’ siege and slaughter of Ephron (1 Macc 5:45-51). I will then look at episodes in Mark which feature a similar compositional use of the Jewish scriptures: the use of Elijah’s forty-day sojourn in the wilderness and the call of Elisha (1 Kgs 19) in Jesus’ forty-day sojourn in the wilderness and the call of the disciples (Mark 1:12-20); the use of Elisha’s feeding miracle (2 Kgs 4:42-44) in the two feeding miracles of Jesus (Mark 6:35-44; 8:1-9); the use of LXX Esther in the banquet scene in the episode of John the Baptist’s execution (Mark 6:17-29); and the use of various scriptural passages in the Passion Narrative (Mark 14–15). I propose that, together, these examples point to the shared compositional technique of scripturalization: narratives which have been composed using a scriptural episode as a model or by inserting scriptural details into the new narrative. I will conclude by outlining some consequences of this study for Gospel of Mark research and why scripturalization deserves to be studied further in relation to other early Christian literature.