Friday, October 12, 2007

the cultural angst of late capitalism

I am a moth
who just wants to share your light
I'm just an insect
trying to get out of the night

I only stick with you
because there are no others

You are all I need
You are all I need
I'm in the middle of your picture
Lying in the reeds

It's all wrong
It's all right
It's all wrong

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Exile and the Problem of the Diaspora

Exile and the Diaspora

A far more profound challenge for the exile and return motif is raised when the evidence is read in such a way as to call into question any use for the exile. More specifically does the exilic element in Second Temple Judaism(s) loose all its ability to resonate, if it is discovered that the Jews of the diaspora were not languishing in the constant reminder of national sin and thus longing for an idyllic restoration?

This new perspective of the diaspora argues that even though the Greek term for ‘diaspora’ may mean ‘scattering’, and while it has been argued that in ancient Jewish usage the term generally had connotations of ‘exile’, which was brought about by divine judgment,[1] we now know that some, perhaps most, Jews in the ancient ‘diaspora’ did not think of their location in that way, nor did all necessarily regard Palestine as their ‘homeland’ in any meaningful sense.[2] Many Jews were integrated into their respective cities of residence, and this did not mean the abandonment of active attention to Jewish distinctiveness. It was as Jews that they were involved in, and part of, the life of the cities in which they lived.[3]

The issue is often too readily conceived of in terms of mutually exclusive alternatives: either the Jews regarded their identity as exilic and the achievement of their destiny was wholly dependent upon re-entry into the Land; or they clung to their heritage abroad, shifting attention to local and regional loyalties, and cultivating a permanent attachment to the diaspora.[4] Those alternatives, of course, have continuing contemporary resonance, but the Jews of the Second Temple period did not confront such a stark choice.[5] The diaspora was not something to be overcome.[6] It was not as if pinning away for the restoration of their homeland was the single ideal which Jews embraced to remain faithful.[7] As a matter of fact, the Jews living around the Mediterranean were unapologetic and not embarrassed by their situation. They did not describe themselves as part of any diaspora. They did not suggest that they were cut off from the center, leading a separate, fragmented, or unfulfilled existence. People from communities and nations everywhere settled outside their places of origin in the fluid and mobile Hellenistic world without abandoning their identities as Athenians, Macedonians, Phoenicians, Antiochenes, or Egyptians. The Jews could eschew justification, rationalization, or tortured explanation for their choice of residence, for they felt no need to construct a theory of diaspora.[8] The Jewish communities abroad still paid respect to the holy land while standing in full harmony with and allegiance to the Gentile governments. Diaspora Jews did not bemoan their fate or pine away for the homeland. Nor, by contrast, did they ignore the homeland and become people of the book, which became a surrogate for the temple.[9] Palestine mattered, and it mattered in the territorial sense, but it was not a required residence. Just as the Jews made pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem, they likewise announced a devotion to the symbolic heart of Judaism and had singular pride in the accomplishment of the diaspora. Jewish Hellenistic writers were not driven to apology. Nor did they feel obliged to reconcile the contradiction, for as they saw it, there was none.[10]

The advancement of this corrective concerning the ability of Jews in the Second Temple period to live faithfully in foreign lands is needed and welcomed. And while we agree that it is simplistic to view the various Jewish rehearsals of the biblical history of exile as automatically proof for exilic thought in the Hellenistic diaspora, it seems that Gruen is alternatively too quick to gloss over any mention of exile during the period as having any present day ramifications. When we view the use of exile as shorthand for the multifarious ideas that restoration is still future, we are able to hold together the present day resonances of exile, without the doleful picture in which Gruen seeks to eradicate.[11] It is true that during this time the Jews did very little about their desire to be free from Roman rule and create a Jewish state in Palestine. But as James C. Scott has shown us it is dangerous to interpret passivity as equal to the idea that Jews had no hopes for a Jewish state at all.[12]

The crux of the issue resides in the questions that Gruen so carefully raises: does exilic theology have to be a theology of despair, a theology of national corporate guilt, where the righteous individual bemoans the fact that the nation is not what it ought to be, that the Temple is not functioning as it ought, or that Israel is not under self-rule?[13] Could it be that a man like Yeshua Ben Sira, while possibly being content with the religious autonomy the Jews enjoyed at the time, nevertheless dreamed that the Jewish nation would regain the political grandeur it had once enjoyed in the past (whether this be described in terms of political nationalism, or as discussed earlier in terms of the eschatological end of time)?[14] In fact exile could be interpreted metaphorically as Neusner postulates, in order that an ‘Israel’ might never take its very existence as a permanent condition; rather, the paradigm of exile and return might remind the Jews that ‘the life of an Israel was never to be taken for granted but always to be received as a gift.’[15] In this manner all Judaism(s) became a reworking of exile and return, alienation reconciliation, a group troubled by the resentment of that uncertain past and of that future subject to stipulation.[16]

Whatever the term exile meant to the various Judaism(s), it was obviously still a powerful symbolic term, with a potent array of meanings. It was the type of concept that was malleable enough for the variegated Judaic groups to use in diverse ways without talking about completely different concepts. It does not follow that all Jews were waiting for restoration in a literal sense (land), and it does not follow however that all Jews mourned their national sin and eagerly awaited God’s vindication (although no doubt some did). And while the remnant theology offered a way for the individual to be holy despite the larger sin of the nation, it did not diffuse the use of the exilic narrative as a powerful narrative.

Our task in this section was to offer enough plausibility to warrant our looking at Paul through the lenses of exile and return, through the lenses of a powerful biblical and extra-biblical motif in which the ‘second exodus’ was prevalent.[17] We have seen that neither the existence of a remnant theology nor the perspective of an assimilated faithful necessarily negate the powerful symbolic images of exile and return. We have also acknowledged that not all the Jews of this period believed that they were still in exile, and among those Jews who did, there was even more diversity as to how they thought the restoration would be consummated.[18] Whatever the Jew on the ground actually believed, we may never know for certain, but there are enough texts which have come down to us, that speak of a continued state of exile after the (re)building of the Second Temple, and its subsequent destruction, so as to speak of a plausible shared cultural background of exilic thought, albeit malleable enough to speak in many different ways.[19]

[1] See, Unnik, Das Selbstverständnis Der Jüdischen Diaspora in Der Hellenistisch-Römischen Zeit, 89-147.

[2] Barclay, "Diaspora Judaism," 48. It is important not to understand the encounter with Judaism and Hellenism as being one of only enmity. Furthermore, it follows that hellenization is not a single entity, and so if you are hellenized in one aspect it does not follow that you are hellenized in every respect. Perhaps a more nuanced view of diaspora Judaism is to recognizes that the object was not to ape Greek culture so much as to re-express Judaism within it, sometimes even with a significant polemical edge against non Jews. So Barclay, "Diaspora Judaism," 49, 51, 53. See also Thomas Kraabel, "Unity and Diversity among Diaspora Synagogues," in The Synagogue in Late Antiquity, ed. Lee I. Levine (Philadelphia: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1987), 57-58, who argues that over the centuries many Jews left the homeland voluntarily, just as did other people of the Mediterranean, to seek their fortunes in the centers of power of the Hellenistic and Roman world. These individuals did not understand themselves to be in exile, but rather welcomed and desired immigration as part of a new situation that was also under the control of Providence. The diaspora was not exile; but in some senses it too became a holy land.

[3] Paul R. Trebilco, Jewish Communities in Asia Minor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 187.

[4] Many who view the diaspora in this way view the Jewish people as no longer people of the ‘Land’ but as people of the ‘book’.

[5] Gruen, Diaspora, 235.

[6] Gruen, Diaspora, 233.

[7] Gruen, Diaspora, 234. cf. Deuteronomy 30.2-5; 1 Kings, 8.33-34, 8.46-51; 2 Chronicles 6.24-25, 36-39; Jeremiah, 29.10-14.

[8] Gruen, Diaspora, 243; Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora: From Alexander to Trajan (323 Bce - 117 Ce), 418-24, also argues that the attachment of the motherland could coexist with fidelity to the regions abroad, although he regards the degree of attachment as dependent upon the circumstances of the community.

[9] A popular alternative to an exilic understanding of Second Temple Judaism(s) is to posit that the Jews where in no way interested in a territorial sanctuary or national legitimation because through the Babylonian diaspora they had become ‘the people of the book.’ In this view their homeland resides in the text—not just the canonical scriptures but in a wide array of Jewish writings that help to define the nation and give voice to the sense of identity. Thus for these Jews the diaspora is no burden, but rather a virtue in the spread of the word. This justifies a primary attachment to the land of one’s residence, rather than the home of the fathers. See S.D. Ezrahi, "Our Homeland, the Text...Our Text, the Homeland," Michigan Quarterly Review 31 (1992): 463-97; G Steiner, "Our Homeland the Text," Salmagundi 66 (1985): 4-25.

[10] Gruen, Diaspora, 252.

[11] Gruen, Diaspora, 239.

[12] Doron Mendels, The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism: Jewish and Christian Ethnicity in Ancient Palestine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 7.

[13] See, for example, the puzzling criticism of Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness, 22-25, who bemusingly argues that an exilic interpretation of the Second Temple texts is just a ‘mere variation’ of an introspective psychologizing of Paul. Only the burden of personal guilt (sin) carried around by Paul, is replaced by the onus of national guilt (sin). Seifrid mistakenly views guilt with sin, the two may go hand in hand, but not necessarily. Why it follows that Jews of the Second Temple period who were expecting the return from exile, necessarily had to be guilt ridden seems to import the vary framework of introspective guilt on to the whole of the nation, a concept that Stendahl has vigorously tried to shed. See Krister Stendahl, "Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West," in Paul among Jews and Gentiles: And Other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 78-96.

[14] Mendels, Jewish Nationalism, 6. Obviously there were Jews who accepted Roman rule and who were quite content with it. They may have actively supported the Romans because they believed either that God had justly deprived them of their state or that the Jews no longer needed an independent state.

[15] Neusner, Judaism When Christianity Began, 58.

[16] Neusner, Judaism When Christianity Began, 59.

[17] Of course there are those who deny or downplay the exile/return motif by offering an alternative narrative altogether. Most notably in the essay ‘See How They Go with Their Face to the Sun’ John Howard Yoder, For the Nations: Essays Evangelical and Public (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 51-78., sets out the history of diaspora Judaism as a means for God to accomplish the world mission that was impossible when Israel was settled in Judea. Thus instead of the theology of exile/return, the normative theology according to Yoder is that of the diaspora found in Jeremiah 19.4-7. The new pattern for the Jews was to live well among a foreign people, because in their ‘welfare you will find your welfare’. See also Daniel Boyarin, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 242-60; John Howard Yoder, Michael G. Cartwright, and Peter Ochs, The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited (Radical Traditions; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003). For a recent biblical theology of exile that incorporates many of these ideas see Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, A Biblical Theology of Exile (Overtures to Biblical Theology, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002).

[18] This is to say that the invention of single coherent grand narrative, like Wright suggests, which controls the range of Jewish expectations during this period is probability untenable. See the criticisms ofJames D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 473-77.

[19] Certainly enough evidence exists to move forward with a reading attuned to the motif of exile and return, even if such motifs were never part of the larger shared cultural background. See also the discussion in, J. Ross Wagner, Heralds of the Good News: Isaiah and Paul in Concert in the Letter to the Romans (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 29-33.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


I Just found out and had to post this:

This appeared on the Radiohead blog yesterday:

Hello everyone. Well, the new album is finished, and it's coming out in 10 days; We've called it In Rainbows. Love from us all. Jonny
The interesting thing is that Radiohead has been without a recording contract since their last album, and I imagine that any record label would have died to get Radiohead signed on, but when you are the super group of post rock, are you really concerned about distribution... So here is their little experiment, I think it is brill.

Two options. First you chose to download it from the "In Rainbows" site. (The kicker is You decide what to pay for it.)

Or you order the "Discbox" which includes two cd's and vinyls, a book with artwork and lyrics, and the download. Price 40 pounds.

It will be interesting to see if this is it, or if they will indeed sign a distribution deal, down the road. It would also be a great way to see what the price the public think premiere music should sell for.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Exile and The Problem of the Remnant

Exile and the Remnant

During the tenuous times of the ‘historical’ exile, the proliferation of what might be termed ‘remnant’ theology was developed. It was most likely developed in an effort to make sense of the delay of the second exodus and the ongoing tribulations felt by those Jews in captivity. The theology of a remnant can be traced to the canonical book of Isaiah, especially chapters 56-66. This theology of a remnant dealt with the issue of exile through the obedience and faithfulness of a few.[1] The general thinking was that if God was indeed going to be faithful to his covenant then he would have to preserve at least some of Israel. So even though the nation experienced the punishment for her sins collectively, there was still a reason for the individual to be faithful to the covenant. A careful reading of several texts of the Second Temple period seem to point to the developing view that only a remnant would survive to see the blessings of the restoration.[2] At its core this theology consisted of this basic story: the people transgress against yhwh’s will and thus anger him; yhwh is said to destroy the godless among the people; while yhwh spares the remnant.[3]

The existence of a remnant theology has recently been used to call into question the power the concept of exile and return had over the Judaism(s) of the Second Temple period.[4] It is argued by Seifrid, in rather syllogistic fashion, that a belief in a continuing exile demands that generally the Jews regarded themselves under a corporate guilt (guilt for Seifrid is equivalent to sin) and lamented their condition; but since remnant theology insists that Israel is divided into two groups, the pious and the wicked, the sin of the people as a whole can no longer be considered absolute, as an exilic reading would require; no corporate sin, no continuing exile.[5] Seifrid essentially wonders how the nation as a whole can be under sin, while at the same time the remnant, still under the umbrella of the nation can be considered faithful.[6] But Seifrid’s critique seems to be flawed on at least two fronts. Firstly, no one who argues for a continuing exile thinks that this state is due to the Jews sense of guilt. But as the prophets in the Scriptures of Israel are fond of saying, the exile is because the nation has failed to live by the covenant and failed to be obedient to yhwh.[7] Secondly, his notion that the concept of national sin can not coexist with remnant theology seems to be a quarrel with the idea of remnant theology itself, rather than that of a continuing exile. If Seifrid is right then why did these Jews hold to any view of restoration at all? What value would they see in nurturing any hopes related to ethnic or national Israel?[8]

It is possible, of course, that restoration was simply such a strongly held traditional belief, clearly expressed in the Scriptures, that removing it completely from the theology of these groups would have been impossible.[9] There is, however, another motivation that would make sense of the inclusion of the theology. The continuation of Israel in some form, even after judgment, offered the opportunity of vindication for the teachings or 'way' of the remnant group. Elliott writes:

It is a feature of these writings…that Israel would eventually come to the knowledge that the righteous were correct all along, even openly honoring them. Since Israel was the larger unit over against which these groups defined themselves, since Israel was the group they argued with and protested against, and since Israel shared with these groups similar claims on a common inheritance, it can be seen how a fuller restoration would grant to the cause of the remnant groups an especially satisfying, and ultimate, vindication.[10]

The faithful remnant of the present, having perceived an unprecedented degree of apostasy in the nation, and having voiced its protest against the present state of things and against Israel, firmly believed that its message of protest and teaching about the true righteousness would eventually be vindicated. This vindication would not only be by the Gentile nations being brought into the fold, but even more significantly, by the ‘elect’ nation itself, as they would come to honor the remnant group and eventually join their cause.[11]

But in most of these texts, while a return from exile is acknowledged, the teaching is that exile is an ongoing condition, one that may never end in historical time. The burden of these authors consequently fits within the same framework of an exilic narrative; i.e. to provide the necessary information and consolation so that the readers of their messages are able to cope with the discouraging course of history and to renew their confidence in the God who governs and directs all of history.[12]

But even if these texts only envision a return from exile within the sectarians own group, the wide variety of texts certainly would speak then of competing groups who would view themselves as the true remnant. Thus showing that the exile and return motif was a strong way to talk about who was the true remnant, and thus proving that the motif still carried strong currency in the Second Temple period.

[1] On remnant theology see, R. E. Clements, ""A Remnant Chosen by Grace" (Romans 11.5): The Old Testament Background and Origin of the Remnant Concept," in Pauline Studies: Essays Presented to Professor F.F. Bruce on His 70th Birthday, ed. Donald Alfred Hagner and Murray J. Harris (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 106.

[2] In Hebrew tyrav or hljylp, the concept of remnant, following the usage in the Hebrew Bible, assumes that sectarians at Qumran were the true representatives of the biblical remnant and it is they who will therefore survive into the end of days. This notion appears in 4Q393 (Communal Confession) frag. 3.7, where the author sees himself and his fellow (sectarians?) as the remnant of the patriarchs in accord with God’s covenant with Abraham. See Schiffman, "Concept of Restoration," 207.

[3] See the discussion in Antti Laato, Who Is Immanuel?: The Rise and the Foundering of Isaiah's Messianic Expectations (Åbo: Åbo Academy Press, 1988), 88-94.

[4] Mark A. Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Justification (NSBT 9; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000), 21-25.

[5] Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness, 22.

[6] Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness, 23. Ironically, the idea of a remnant theology might have been the impetus for a more individual conception of restoration, an idea that suggests the covenant endured through those individuals who despite the rebellion of the nation as a whole remained faithful to yhwh. See Gary W. Burnett, Paul and the Salvation of the Individual (Biblical Interpretation Series 57; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 81-82; Géza Vermès, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (New York: Penguin Press, 1997), 68-9.

[7] Seifrid seems to think that the conception of national sin is highly superficial when compared to Paul’s view of sin. Seemingly setting up the continuing exile as a foil to the heart of Paul’s real thought on sin. See Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness, 22.

[8] Not to mention Seifrid’s assumption that the sin of Israel is somehow their quilt, and not their disobedience? So Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness, 22, 24-5.

[9] According to Neusner the motif of exile and return itself was a self fulfilling prophecy which all Judaic systems have incorporated, regardless of whether it ever meshed with reality. See Jacob Neusner, "Exile and Return as the History of Judaism," in Exile: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Conceptions, ed. James M. Scott (JSJSup 56; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 221-38. One of the main reasons for this was the authoritative nature of the scriptures Jacob Neusner, Judaism When Christianity Began: A Survey of Belief and Practice (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 63. Neusner posits that this paradigm of exile and return, even when the Jews in question had no experience of exile and return, tells us more about the power of religion not merely to respond to world, but rather to define the world. See Neusner, Judaism When Christianity Began, 58.

[10] Elliott, Survivors, 636. cf. 1 En. 90.30; Jub 1.25

[11] Elliott, Survivors, 637.

[12] Vanderkam, "Exile in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature," 109.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Variegated Nature of the Exilic Motif in the Second Temple Period

One may wonder if it is enough to sift through the extant texts and to isolate the views of exile and return, which may not have been as important as they seem to be when isolated from their contexts, and marshal this as evidence for a narrative world view, an orthodoxy, or even an orthopraxy. The burden of describing the various Second Temple Judaism(s) in relation to exile and return becomes how much evidence is needed to maintain that the ideas of exile and return proliferated down to the ‘common people’ and were thus powerful and meaningful motifs during this time period?[1] And moreover what kind of evidence is permissible as evidence at all? It is noted that just as there is no uniform theology in the texts of the Second Temple period there is also no uniform orthodoxy of exile and return. And it is important to remind ourselves that a list of texts is not necessarily proof that such ideas ever proliferated beyond those who read and preserved those texts, but texts are by in large all we have to go on. Thus we move forward with a plausibility, noting that the Jewish sources represent a wide spectrum of divergent thinking upon the subject of exile, but a thinking nonetheless.

Two further questions that logically might seem to call into question the use of the exile as a powerful shared narrative in the Second Temple Period that need to be addressed are; firstly, the notion of a remnant theology emerging in the early Second Temple Period, and secondly the possibility of a vibrant assimilated Jewish community which would have no need for restoration.

[1] This is of course a central problem to all social histories of antiquity, not less a problem with all ‘history of ideas’ in antiquity.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Concept of Exile during the Second Temple Period: Part 8 Conclusions

Conclusions concerning exilic thought

As seen from this brief sampling of texts the exile was still a very powerful motif used in the literature of the Second Temple period, although the term exile can be misleading in that it no longer refers to the initial forced diaspora under the Babylonians, nor does it refer to Israel’s displacement from the land, rather what we see in these texts is that the idea of exile had evolved into a shorthand for the complex set of beliefs concerning Israel’s present plight and their continuing future restoration.[1] Exile as non-restoration was a powerful set of ideas that were used in this period, even if they were never universally applied in any normative way.[2] In the Judaism(s) of the Second Temple period we see that the ideas of exile/return (restoration) were used in multifarious ways to serve the ideological needs of the various communities in which they spoke to. If there was continuity in the use of the exile/return (restoration) in this period it was at the basic conceptual level, namely that the end should recapitulate the beginning (the Urzeit/Endzeit or protology/eschatology) pattern.[3] But despite the wide variety of uses in this period it is evident that the basic thought structure was still used and still maintained currency with the various Jewish groups.

[1] Steven M. Bryan, Jesus and Israel's Traditions of Judgement and Restoration (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 13; F. Gerald Downing, "Exile in Formative Judaism," in Making Sense in (and of) the First Christian Century, ed. F.Gerald Downing (JSNTSup 197; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 150; Klyne R. Snodgrass, "Reading and Overreading the Parables in Jesus and the Victory of God," in Jesus & the Restoration of Israel: A Critical Assessment of N.T. Wright's Jesus and the Victory of God, ed. Carey C. Newman (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 62.

[2] E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 87, refers to the exile and return motif as 'Jewish restoration eschatology,' yet cautions that the expectation of restoration is neither clear nor consistent in the textual corpus of the Second Temple period and therefore one cannot refer to an orthodox theology of hope. Thus in referring to a motif of exile and return, I am speaking of a narrative whose basic outline is clear; god will restore his covenant people as promised, this much is clear, even if the detailed plotline is developed in diverse ways in the surviving literature. The fact that Wright seems to describe the exile as a basic belief among all Judaism(s) has been the main criticism of his portrayal of the exile.

[3] Aune, "From the Idealized Past," 147.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Concept of Exile during the Second Temple Period: Part 7 The Testament of the Patriarchs

The Exilic thought in the Testament of the Patriarchs.

The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs were probably written in the second half of the second century c.e. or the beginning of the third century c.e. [1] There is debate on whether the Testaments should be considered Jewish works with Christian additions or whether they should be just be read as origination from a Christian group. [2] Whoever the originators of these texts were, we can be certain that the person(s) in question know these Jewish traditions and find them useful for their own purposes.[3] The Testaments themselves are written from the perspective of one of the various named patriarchs and are meant to give the readers moral advice to follow after the patriarch’s own death so that the readers might be faithful and obedient.

Throughout most of the Testaments is a section that rehearses the sin-exile-return/restoration framework (henceforth, SER). The repetition of the SER passages serves to describe the history of the descendents of the patriarchs till the coming restoration.[4] In some cases the SER passages are expanded and employ the sin-punishment-repentance-salvation scheme that are common to earlier apocalypses, usually specified as sin-exile-repentance-return. These sections of the Testaments are perhaps the most stereotyped and contain many parallels to one another. They can be very short, and their content can be very general.[5]

The return/restoration portion of the Testaments can include not only the appearance of an anointed priest and/or king, the binding of Beliar, the return from Dispersion, and the salvation of the Gentiles, but also resurrection from the dead and life in a new Jerusalem and/or in paradise.[6]

In the sin sections much of the sin has to do with the general impiety of Israel and their disobedience to the ordinances of God, and in many of the Testaments this treatment is very short and general.[7] In other testaments the list of sins are given in considerable amount of detail and include such things as witchcraft, intercourse with prostitutes, intermarriage, the giving up of agriculture, and following the ways of the sons of Levi.[8] Many of these specific sins are often hard to match up with any known period in the history of Israel, or even in the later Christian era.[9]

The consequences for sin are conveyed in terms of conquest and in exile. Again this is either described in historical terms as the loss of the sanctuary, forced exile, and the judgment of God; or in greater detail as the Testament of Judah describes:

In response to this the Lord will bring you famine and plague, death and the sword, punishment by a siege, scattering by enemies like dogs, the scorn of friends, destruction and putrefaction of your eyes, slaughter of infants, the plunder of your sustenance, the rape of your possessions, consumption of God’s sanctuary by fire, a desolate land, and yourselves enslaved by the gentiles. And they shall castrate some of you as eunuchs for their wives.[10]

What is common to all the Testaments is that punishment always connotes a forced exile. Often the idea of exile can be explained in the pseudo-historical interest of the Testaments and the figures themselves looking to the future ‘historical’ exile.[11] Yet there are places in the Testaments that specifically warn the present and future generations about the result of these sins, so that when these things happen they will repent quickly. [12] The Testaments are pretty uniform in that repentance must take place before the mercy of the Lord’s restoration will be experienced. Though the restoration itself is hardly uniform; some of the Testaments have in view a physical return to the land in a future time and within history,[13] while others see the period of exile only ending at the eschatological end of days.[14] Despite these radical differences the time of exile and captivity is still an ongoing reality for the Testaments.

[1] H. W. Hollander and M. De Jonge, The Testaments of the Patriarchs: A Commentary (Leiden: Brill, 1985), 82-85.

[2] Robert A. Kraft, "The Pseudepigrapha in Christianity " in Tracing the Threads: Studies in the Vitality of Jewish Pseudepigrapha, ed. John C. Reeves (Early Judaism and its Literature 6; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1994), 55-86, has argued compellingly that, since the texts in question have been transmitted by Christians in church languages and survive in Christian manuscripts, most of them rather late, that our starting point for discussion ought to be these manuscripts. We should try to under stand these documents initially as Christian works, since this was their function in the forms in which they are actually preserved; they must have meant something to their original Christian readers, whatever their.

[3] H. Dixon Slingerland, The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs: A Critical History of Research (SBLMS 21; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1977), 109.

[4] See Hollander and Jonge, The Testaments of the Patriarchs, 56.

[5] Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature, 233.

[6] Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature, 233; J. Jervell, "Ein Interpolator Interpretiert," in Studien Zu Den Testamenten Der Zwolf Patriarchen, ed. J. C. Burchard, J. Jervell, and Thomas (BZNW 36; Berlin: 1972), 36, notes that the Testaments take for granted that the Gentiles have a part in salvation; it is the position of Israel that leads to repeated warnings, calls for obedience and repentance, and promises of salvation.

[7] See TZeb 9.5; TNaph 4.1; TAsh 7.1

[8] See TLevi 14.4-8; TJud 23.1-2; TIss 6.1-2; TDan 5.4-7; TB 9.1

[9] Hollander and Jonge, The Testaments of the Patriarchs, 54.

[10] TJud 23.3-4

[11] There is a deliberate attempt to attach the exile of the testaments to the biblical exile. As evidence the terms for shame: ai0sxu/nh and ai0sxu/nesqai are also used in connection with Israel’s punishment in the exile cf. Ezra 9.7; Isa 29.22; Jer 2.26; 3.24f; 22.22; 51.51; Dan 3.33 LXX, Th; 9.7f.; Hos 10.6. SeeHollander and Jonge, The Testaments of the Patriarchs, 169.

[12] Hollander and Jonge, The Testaments of the Patriarchs, 249. cf. TIss 6.3-4 “Tell these things to your children, therefore, so that even though they might sin, they may speedily return to the Lord, because he is merciful: He will set them free end take them back to their land.”

[13] TJud 22.2-3; TIss 6.4

[14] TZeb 9.8-9

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Concept of Exile during the Second Temple Period: Part 6, 2 Baruch

The evidence for a continuing exile from 2 Baruch

The text of 2 Baruch, written after the destruction of the Temple in 70 ce, shows evidence that the theme of exile still resonated as a useful motif. In recounting the past Baruch seems to fuse all the former exiles into one general captivity (78.4). Like other biblical books before it, the wilderness is not represented as a place of judgment alone, where God has sent his people because of their sins, but it has the added dimension of a refuge for the righteous, a place where they have a mission to perform, so that the nations too can be found worthy at the last times (1.4; 78.5-6).[1] Baruch is represented as a prophet like Moses who deliberately frames his own work within the context of Moses (82.2-7). The problem that Baruch addresses is the fall of Jerusalem, which interestingly to Baruch is an example of the corruptibility of the present world (31:4-5), and like some explanations of the first exile, its destruction was brought about by God, not the Gentiles (7:1).[2] The resounding solution to the fall of Jerusalem is that since God has not abandoned his covenant with Israel, obedience to the Law is imperative if one is to still benefit from the promises.[3] In this vein the exodus is used in the same way it is used in Isaiah 40-55; as a motif to encourage the people to direct and dispose their hearts to the ‘Mighty One’ and ‘His Law’, so that in the end they will receive everything which they had lost, and much more, ‘by many times’ (85.3-6). In the end the Messiah will summon the nations together and judge them based upon how they have treated Israel (70.1-10). [4] He will then sit down in peace forever on the throne of his kingdom in Edenic conditions in an incorruptible Zion and in an incorruptible land.[5]

As one might expect in 2 Baruch the exile was a powerful motif that very well might be used to explain the destruction of the Temple, and thus the re-interpretation of the exile motif itself into a more positive experience was key to 2 Baruch’s (re)use of the exodus material. Instead of a place of judgment, the wilderness, became an opportune place for grieving and atoning, a place that provided a sanctuary for the righteous, a place to wait until their journey was completed by yhwh’s coming restoration (85.10-12).

[1] Vanderkam, "Exile in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature," Hos 3.5, Jer 29.7

[2] David E. Aune, "From the Idealized Past to the Imaginary Future: Eschatological Restoration in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature," in Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives, ed. James M. Scott (JSJSup 72; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 167.

[3] Richard Bauckham, "Apocalypses," in Justification and Variegated Nomism: A Fresh Appraisal of Paul and Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter Thomas O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 175-6.

[4] Aune, "From the Idealized Past," 158.

[5] Despite the probability that this refers to a heavenly Zion, where the faithful will be received, it nevertheless still shows the power of the exile motif, even if the return is not to the literal land, but the heavenly land. Cf. Aune, "From the Idealized Past," 173.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Concept of Exile during the Second Temple Period: Part 5 Josephus

The evidence of a continuing exile from Josephus

Although the writings of Josephus for the most part downplay the historical exile to Babylon and at times over emphasize the positive attributes of how Jewish people can contribute to their alien environments, coupled with the fact that Josephus himself spent the last three decades living in luxurious exile in Rome, it is not surprising that he does not emphasize restoration.[1] Josephus, however, does speak of two separate instances where certain Jews who claimed to be sign prophets promised their followers signs of coming salvation; Theudas and the Egyptian.[2]

Theudas came upon the scene during the reign of the procurator Fadus (44-?46 c.e.), he most likely was responding to friction arising over a dispute about who controlled the vestments of the High Priest.[3] Although Josephus calls Theudas an impostor, Theudas convinced his followers to take all of their possessions and to follow him to the Jordan River where he promised that upon his commanded the Jordan river would part allowing his followers to cross. Fadus however sent a squadron of cavalry and took Theudas’ group by surprise, capturing most of them and beheading Theudas on the spot. The head was displayed around Jerusalem to discourage other would be prophets.[4]

Thaedus’ intentions of parting the Jordan river, strongly evokes the re-enactment of the first exodus, by associating their actions with the splitting of the Re(e)d Sea (Ex. 12.29-14.30) and the Jordan river (Josh. 3-4), this group may have thought they were enacting the Isaianic second exodus thus bringing about the end of the exile by ridding the Jews of their foreign yoke and partaking of the land promised to them.

Josephus’ account of the Egyptian is part of a longer narrative summarizing the events of Palestine under Felix, who was procurator from 60-52 c.e.[5] Like Theudas, Josephus calls the Egyptian a false prophet, but by Josephus’ own estimation the Egyptian seemingly garnered a much wider following.[6] Although there are discrepancies in Josephus’ own accounts of the Egyptian, in the Antiquities Josephus tells us that the Egyptian first came to Jerusalem and raises a following there, the mass then marches from Jerusalem to the Mt. of Olives, outside the city walls, and there the Egyptian claimed that the walls would miraculously fall down at his command, allowing his followers to enter, and probably enact an armed invasion of Jerusalem.[7]

Here too the Egyptian modeled his actions upon the events surrounding the first exodus, namely in a re-enacting of the original entrance into the Promised Land by the defeat of Jericho by Joshua, by claiming to bring down the walls of Jerusalem. The Egyptian was most likely expecting divine intervention to help them in this new defeat of the Romans and in ridding the land of the political oppressors.[8]

Evans suggests both of these ‘prophets’ were probably laying claim to the promises in Deuteronomy 18.15-22 that someday God would ‘raise up a prophet like Moses.’[9] The promises of Isaiah 40 might have also contributed to the actions of the “prophets” to start in the wilderness thus drawing continuity between their own actions and the “high way” of God in the second exodus.[10] Because these signs recalled both the exodus and the conquest they were almost certainly meant as eschatological signs.[11] There is little doubt that in both of these cases some sort of restoration was still pined for, and the fact that both events were modeled after the events surrounding the first exodus gives credence to the idea that a new exodus from exile must have still resonated with many Jews, for it is unlikely that these two men would have collected ‘masses’ of followers, if there was a general consensus that the restoration was complete and thus the exilic experience was over.[12]

[1] Louis H. Feldman, "Restoration in Josephus," in Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives, ed. James M. Scott (JSJSup 72; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 226, 29.

[2] The account of Theudas is found in Ant. 20.5.1, 97-98; and the account of the Egyptian Jew is found in JW 2.13.4-5, 258-263; Ant. 20.8.6, 167-172.

[3] Rebecca Gray, Prophetic Figures in Late Second Temple Jewish Palestine: The Evidence from Josephus (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 114-15.

[4] Gray, Prophetic Figures, 115.

[5] For the larger narrative see, JW 2.13.4-5, 252-265; Ant. 20.8.6, 160-172.

[6] In Acts 5.36 Gamaliel 1 claims that Theudas had about 400 followers while Josephus cites that Theudas was able to convince the ‘majority of the masses.’ This is contrasted with Josephus account of the Egyptian in JW where he claims the followers to be in the 30,000 range.

[7] On the possible reasons for the discrepancies between JW and the Ant. see Gray, Prophetic Figures, 116-17.

[8] Gray, Prophetic Figures, 119.

[9] Craig A. Evans, "Aspects of Exile and Restoration in the Proclamation of Jesus and the Gospels," in Exile: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Conceptions, ed. James M. Scott (JSJSup 56; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 303.

[10] Craig A. Evans, "The Beginning of the Good News and the Fulfilment of Scripture in the Gospel of Mark," in Having the Old Testament in the New Testament, ed. Stanley E. Porter (McMaster New Testament Studies; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 101.

[11] E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 171; Richard A. Horsley, Christian Origins (A People's History of Christianity 1; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), 30.

[12] Horsley, Christian Origins, 29. Josephus may have used these instances to reassure the Romans that he supported the swift action taken against these false prophets, but nevertheless these ‘rebels’ were able to garner popular support precisely because exilic notions still prevailed. See Steve Mason, Josephus and the New Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1992), 110.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Homi Bhabha

Communication is always a process

that is never perfectly achieved

and that there is always


a gap,

between what is said

and what is heard.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Concept of Exile during the Second Temple Period: Part 4 Qumran

The evidence for a continuing exile from the texts of Qumran.

Probably the least controversial group of texts that speak of the potency and power of exilic ideas and restoration are those texts discovered in the Dead Sea.[1] While the concepts of exile and restoration are prevalent at Qumran, they oscillate between the restoration of the land of Israel, the restoration of Jewish people, the restoration of the temple, and the restoration of sacrificial worship, and restoration to a ritual purity and perfection.[2] Furthermore it is often hard to distinguish from the concept of restoration and the overlapping concepts of remnant, eschatology, and messianism. Such fluidity found within these texts ensure that any evidence given for continuing exilic thought must admit to only being a partial picture of the texts and certainly nothing like a theology. [3]

That being said the texts found at Qumran do show that the community[4] itself may have been modeled after the exodus traditions.[5] With this insight it can be readily appreciated just how central the theme of exile was to the authors of the Qumran manuscripts. Martin Abegg, Jr. states that:

While the sojourn in Egypt and exile of the northern tribes was still reflected in the writings, it was the Babylonian exile which had captured the corporate imagination. In a very real sense it had become a new paradigm which spoke of how god dealt with his people Israel. The new going down to Egypt was the deportation to Babylon in fulfillment of God’s warning of Judgment (CD 7.9b-15). The return was followed by an important albeit unknown event which led to a lengthy wilderness wandering (1QS 8.12b-14)—the new Sinai—so as to prepare for the coming of God. The New Moses was the Teacher of Righteousness. The Faithful then waited for God to bring them into the land of promise—the iniquity of the Amorites not yet being full—and establish them in their rightful place (4Q171 1-10 ii 26-iii 2).[6]

It is possible that the Qumran community believed that it was already living in the eschaton (cf. CD 1.12), and that the eschatological salvation was, already present and able to be found by following the Teacher of Righteousness whom God had raised for this purpose.[7] The Damascus document gives the impression of a community which thought of itself as the continuing faithful remnant of returnees from the Babylonian exile (CD 7.20-8.2). By framing the eschatological beliefs in the ‘historical’ return from exile it could be argued that the community themselves thought that they were indeed the first-generation of the 'new Israel' to return from exile.[8] In fact when the Damascus document speaks of the returnees (CD 3.21-4.4) it ignores the historical return of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubabbel, since in the sect’s eyes the exilic period would continue until the sectarians took control of the Temple’s ritual at the end of days. In other words the restoration is not an event that had already taken place in the Persian period, but rather a part of the eschatological future being played out already in his own day.[9] Although the texts make reference to the restoration as in the process of happening, this was still only a kind of prototypical return in which they modeled their vision of the future.[10] In this sense there was still a future element that had not yet taken place.[11] And at least for this segment of Judaism(s), as far as these texts represent a community, the matrix of exile and return was not only very powerful, but central to their own self-understanding.

Another interesting set of texts found at Qumran that speak of restoration in terms of the past exodus are the liturgical and hymnic texts. It has long been realized that because these texts do not betray sectarian terminology they may in fact have already been in use before the sect came into existence and may have been used by much wider circles of Jews in the Second Temple period.[12] One of the most interesting aspects then of these texts is that they include prayers for the restoration of Jerusalem and the ingathering of the exiles at a time when Jerusalem and its Temple actually stood and when the bulk of the Jewish people remained in the Holy Land. Clearly, this is an example of how the restoration does not necessitate purely physical conditions, but restoration also rests on religious and political dissatisfaction with the state of the nation and its religious life.[13]

In The Words of the Heavenly Lights (4Q504), which are a collection of prayers for each day of the week, we find a particularly strong recollection of Israel’s past, in an effort to stir up hope in a future restoration. The prayer itself reads as if it could be found in Isaiah 40-55 asking God to “Remember Thy marvels which Thou didst for the poor of the nations,” asking God to heal them from the sin which caused the exodus, calling for the restoration of Israel so that the nations might see God’s glory. This text looks to a time that is yet future, where there will be “neither adversary nor misfortune” but “peace and blessing.” In Zion God’s holy city, they call for God to remember his Covenant, asking him not to forsake Israel whilst in captivity, seeking God to save them from all the nations of their exile, near or far, as has been promised in Scripture. Likewise, in frag. 6 6-8, in a clear reference to Isaiah 40, God is asked to bring His people back on the wings of eagles. [14] These strong allusions to the Isaianic second exodus in 4Q504, and fragments, surely betray a strong longing for a future restoration that speaks of a still future restoration from sin and exile even at a time when the Temple stood and many Jews resided in the land.

[1] When discussing exilic thought in the texts found at Qumran it is important to recognize that despite the fact that most scholars identify these texts with the Essenes, the texts themselves betray a wide diversity of thought on a number of areas, especially that of exile and restoration. See Lawrence H. Schiffman, "The Concept of Restoration in the Dead Sea Scrolls," in Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives, ed. James M. Scott (JSJSup 72; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 205.

[2] Schiffman, "Concept of Restoration," 203. Furthermore once we begin to examine specific features of the sectarian ideology of restoration in the Qumran documents it is not clear whether only the sectarians will share in the ultimate eschatological restoration, or whether all the people of Israel as a unity will be restored. Cf. The Pesher Psalms’ (4Q171) 3: 10-13 with 4Q385 (Pseudo-Ezekiel) frag. 2, 4Q386 (Pseudo-Ezekielb) frag. 1, and 4QMMT.

[3] Schiffman, "Concept of Restoration," 205.

[4] I hesitate to speak of a Qumran community here because the exact nature these texts played within the community is open to debate. Thus I speak of community knowing that any conclusions cannot definitively speak of the views held by one group, especially the Essenes, but rather may only be evidence of minority views within these texts.

[5] Frank Moore Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran (New York: Doubleday, 1961), 56 n. 36a, notes that the camp of the sons of light is ordered according to the prescriptions of the mosaic camp in Num 2.1-5.4; 10.17-28; (1QM 3.12-4.11). The Law of the camp (Num 5.1-4) is kept (1QM 7.3-7). The victory of God in the final war is compared with the first exodus (1QM 11.8). The typology of the Mosaic camp lies close to the surface in CD, 1QS and 1QSa.

[6] Martin G. Abegg Jr., "Exile and the Dead Sea Scrolls," in Exile: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Conceptions, ed. James M. Scott (JSJSup 56; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 125.

[7] On the variety of eschatological views at Qumran see, e.g., Philip R. Davies, "Eschatology at Qumran," Journal of Biblical Literature 104 (1985): 39-55; John J. Collins, "The Expectation of the End in the Dead Sea Scrolls," in Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. Craig A. Evans and Peter W. Flint (SDSSRL; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 86-88. On the problems of interpreting the ‘age of wrath’ see, Philip R. Davies, The Damascus Covenant (JSOTSup 25: Sheffield Academic Press, 1983), 61-69.

[8] Mark Adam Elliott, The Survivors of Israel: A Reconsideration of the Theology of Pre-Christian Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 542-43, states that, ‘This could mean that the sect considered themselves later returnees, to be distinguished from those who returned at the time of Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, or that they discounted this earlier return as entirely ineffective or incomplete, or at best conditional on the faithfulness of the returnees.’ See also Shemaryahu Talmon, "Between the Bible and the Mishna," in The World of Qumran from Within: Collected Studies (Leiden: Brill, 1989), 48.

[9] Schiffman, "Concept of Restoration," 208. See also CD 6.11-14; 20:20-21, 32-33.

[10] Shemaryaha Talmon, King, Cult and Calendar in Ancient Judaism: Collected Studies (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1986), 214-15.

[11] Davies, "Eschatology at Qumran," 52; Collins, "The Expectation of the End in the Dead Sea Scrolls," 90.

[12] Schiffman, "Concept of Restoration," 219.

[13] Schiffman, "Concept of Restoration," 217-18.

[14] Schiffman, "Concept of Restoration," 218. The ingathering of the exiles also features in the Festival Prayers (4Q509 frag. 3 3-5) and also appears to be mentioned in 4Q528 (Hymnic or Sapiential Work B) 3.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Patron Saint

There is a reason why Dorothy Day is the patron saint of missional/emergent/emerging Christians:

Love of brother means voluntary poverty, stripping one's self, putting off the old man, deny one's self. It also means non-participation in those comforts and luxuries which have been manufactured by the exploitation of others. While brothers suffer, we must suffer with them. While our brothers suffer from lack of necessities, we will refuse to enjoy comforts. These resolutions, no matter how hard they are to live up to, no matter how often we fail and have to begin over again, are part of the vision and long-range goal of the catholic worker.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Why they call him a saint...

Augustine's ultimate test for exegetical correctness is whether one's interpretation "contributes to the reign of charity." Thus for Augustine the imaginative empathy to identify with the other and to welcome the stranger is the sine qua non of all ethics.

-See De Doctrina Christiana 3.15.23

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Concept of Exile during the Second Temple Period: Part 3 Jubilees

The evidence for a continuing exile from Jubilees.

The book of Jubilees, written in the second century b.c.e, is a re-representation of the biblical history from creation to the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai in order to re-contextualize the narrative for a new generation.[1] The author still sees the restoration from exile as a future event.[2] A striking feature in the narrative that attests to this is set in the wilderness where the Lord tells Moses that once the people enter into the Promised Land, then they will turn to other gods and abandon the covenant (1.7-11). The result of these transgressions is exile, but the text is unclear on which exile is referred to (1.13-14). While the author of Jubilees is rehearsing the biblical narrative, it is evident by the subsequent criticisms of Israel that this return and restoration have not happened.[3] For instance in the vision of the end of exile the author states:

And afterward they will return to me from among the nations with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their might. And I shall gather them from the midst of the nations. And they will seek me so that I might be found by them. When they seek me with all their heart and with all their soul, I shall reveal to them an abundance of peace and righteousness. And with all my heart and with all my soul I shall transplant them as a righteous plant. And they will be a blessing and not a curse. And they will be the head and not the tail. And I shall build my sanctuary in their midst, and shall dwell with them. And I shall be their God and they will be my people truly and rightly. And I shall not forsake them, and I shall not be alienated from them because I am the Lord their God (Jub 1.22-23).[4]

For while the following passage reminds the readers that the return and restoration are bound up in the covenant promises of God to never forsake his people.[5] The eschatological significance of this passage is furthered demonstrated by the subsequent prayer of Moses to not abandon His people Israel (19-21). The Lord responds to Moses

And the Lord said to Moses, “I know their contrariness and their thoughts and their stubbornness. And they will not obey until they acknowledge their sin and the sins of their fathers. But after this they will return to me in and with all of (their) heart and soul. And I shall cut off the foreskin of their heart and the foreskin of the heart of their descendants. And I shall create for them a holy spirit, and I shall purify them so that they will not turn away from following me from that day and forever. And their souls will cleave to me and to all my commandments. And they will do my commandments. And I shall be a father to them, and they will be sons to me. And they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ And every angel and spirit will know and acknowledge that they are my sons and I am their father in uprightness and righteousness. And I shall love them.

It is in light of this that the author predicts that the people will repent while in exile, not only for the present generation’s sins but also for the sins of their ancestors.[6] The return, the sanctuary, and the new ability to perfectly obey the covenant all point to an ideal future that will come about at the ‘end of time.’ In fact the surface narrative of the whole book climaxes, in the expected jubilee of jubilees, when Israel is to be liberated from slavery in Egypt and receives back the land that is rightly theirs by inheritance.[7] This return from exile is thus envisioned as an eschatological return mapped out in terms of the traditional Sin-Exile-Restoration pattern.[8]

[1] Lester L. Grabbe, Judaic Religion in the Second Temple Period: Belief and Practice from the Exile to Yavneh (London ; New York: Routledge, 2000), 63; Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature, 72, Jubilees is by and large concerned with halakhah.

[2] Vanderkam, "Exile in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature," 103.

[3] What is interesting here is that the author of jubilees does not resort to a remnant theology, but rather envisions that since all Israel suffer together (1.12) all Israel will turn back to God (1.15-16). Cf. Martha Himmelfarb, A Kingdom of Priests: Ancestry and Merit in Ancient Judaism (Jewish Culture and Contexts; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), 81-82.

[4] The translation is that of O. S. Wintermute, "Jubilees," in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City: Doubleday, 1983).

[5] Peter Enns, "Expansions of Scripture," in Justification and Variegated Nomism: A Fresh Appraisal of Paul and Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter Thomas O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 97.

[6] Gene L. Davenport, The Eschatology of the Book of Jubilees (Studia Post-Biblica 20; Leiden: Brill, 1971), 27. The author knew that the transformation of Israel’s heart had not yet taken place, for in his own day there was apostasy. What we usually think of as the return from exile had not, in fact, led to a new allegiance to God, but to repetition of the old unfaithfulness and rebellion. Israel had not yet sought God with all her heart. He had not yet truly been found by them. The author however was hopeful that in his own day the authentic return form exile was beginning to occur, that the time of God’s return was now.

[7] James M. Scott, On Earth as in Heaven: The Restoration of Sacred Time and Sacred Space in the Book of Jubilees (JSJSup 91; Leiden: Brill, 2005), 164-65; James C. Vanderkam, "The Origins and Purposes of the Book of Jubilees," in Studies in the Book of Jubilees, ed. Matthias Albani, Jörg Frey, and Armin Lange (TSAJ 65; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 22.In fact Doron Mendels, The Land of Israel as a Political Concept in Hasmonean Literature: Recourse to History in Second Century B.C. Claims to the Holy Land (TSAJ 15; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1987), 59, 63-5, states that the raison d’`etre of the book was the reconquest of the land.

[8] Scott, On Earth as in Heaven, 165.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Concept of Exile during the Second Temple Period: Part 2 Yeshua Ben Sira

A litany of texts from the Second Temple Period can be amassed to support the interpretation that the return to the land and the rebuilt temple had not ended the exile, in the imaginations of many Second Temple Judaism(s).[1] Here we will rehearse only a few.[2]

The evidence for a continuing exile from Yeshua Ben Sira.

The book of wisdom compiled by Yeshua Ben Sira was composed early in the second century b.c.e., and for the most part it can be compared to the book of Proverbs, where its contents concern views concerning right and wrong.[3] Although, the Wisdom of Ben Sira has a peculiar text that suggests Israel still remained in a state of oppression and that the exile was still continuing.[4] In a soliloquy reminiscent of the prophets of old, Ben Sira reminds his readers of the justice that ultimately would culminate in the eschatological judgment. In contrasting the mercy of God with the justice of God, Ben Sira speaks for God stating:

He will not ignore the supplication of the orphan, or the widow when she pours out her complaint. Do not the tears of the widow run down her cheek as she cries out against the one who causes them to fall? The one whose service is pleasing to the Lord will be accepted, and his prayer will reach to the clouds. The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds, and it will not rest until it reaches its goal; it will not desist until the Most High responds and does justice for the righteous, and executes judgment. Indeed, the Lord will not delay, and like a warrior will not be patient until he crushes the loins of the unmerciful and repays vengeance on the nations; until he destroys the multitude of the insolent, and breaks the scepters of the unrighteous; until he repays mortals according to their deeds, and the works of all according to their thoughts; until he judges the case of his people and makes them rejoice in his mercy. His mercy is as welcome in time of distress as clouds of rain in time of drought (Sirach 35).

What starts out as an appeal for justice concerning those who cannot defend themselves turns rapidly into a plea for eschatological vindication.[5] Ben Sira has taken a common conception of how that nation Israel was to practice social justice as a nation, and turned it on its ear. The implication in this text is that it is the nations that bear the brunt of responsibility for the condition of the widow and the orphan.[6] The Most High is called upon as the Divine Warrior, reminiscent of the first exodus, to repay the nations and to destroy the insolent until they are judged according to their deeds. For Israel, she will rely upon the mercy of the Most High in this present time of distress. The text continues:

Have mercy upon us, O God of all, and put all the nations in fear of you. Lift up your hand against foreign nations and let them see your might. As you have used us to show your holiness to them, so use them to show your glory to us. Then they will know, as we have known that there is no God but you, O Lord. Give new signs, and work other wonders; make your hand and right arm glorious. Rouse your anger and pour out your wrath; destroy the adversary and wipe out the enemy. Hasten the day, and remember the appointed time, and let people recount your mighty deeds. Let survivors be consumed in the fiery wrath, and may those who harm your people meet destruction. Crush the heads of hostile rulers who say, "There is no one but ourselves." Gather all the tribes of Jacob, and give them their inheritance, as at the beginning. Have mercy, O Lord, on the people called by your name, on Israel, whom you have named your firstborn. Have pity on the city of your sanctuary, Jerusalem, the place of your dwelling. Fill Zion with your majesty, and your temple with your glory. Bear witness to those whom you created in the beginning, and fulfill the prophecies spoken in your name. Reward those who wait for you and let your prophets be found trustworthy. Hear, O Lord, the prayer of your servants, according to your goodwill toward your people, and all who are on the earth will know that you are the Lord, the God of the ages (Sir 36:1-22) .

In perhaps the most violent text in Sirach, Ben Sira again uses the language of the exodus this time in an effort to plead with God to enact a new exodus, ‘Give new signs, and work other wonders; make your hand and right arm glorious…Hasten the day, and remember the appointed time, and let the people recount your mighty deeds.’[7] It is clear that while Ben Sira echoes the Scriptures of Israel, it is not for the purposes of simply recounting the glorious past, but rather like the Isaianic new exodus, he seeks to evoke the traditions of the past so as to foster a new hope in these new times of distress.[8]

[1] See, e.g., Tobit 13.5; 14.5-7; Baruch 2.7-10, 14; 3. 6-8; 4.18-23; 5.7; 2 Macc 1.27-29; 2.5-7, 18; 1QM 1.3 ; 1QpHab 11.4-6; CD 6.4-5; 4Q504-506; 1 Enoch 89.73-75; cf. 4.83-90; T. Mos. 4.8-9, 13; Pss. Sol. 8.28; 4 Ezra 13.40-48.

[2]For a more thorough reckoning of the texts see: Evans, "Aspects of Exile and Restoration in the Proclamation of Jesus and the Gospels," 299-328; Craig A. Evans, "Jesus and the Continuing Exile of Israel," in Jesus & the Restoration of Israel: A Critical Assessment of N.T. Wright's Jesus and the Victory of God, ed. Carey C. Newman (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 77-100; Micheal A. Knibb, "The Exile in the Literature of the Intertestamental Period," Heythrop Journal (1978): 253-79; James M. Scott, "Exile and the Self-Understanding of Diaspora Jews in the Greco-Roman Period," in Exile: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Conceptions, ed. James M. Scott (JSJSup 56; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 173-218; Wright, People of God, 280-338; F. Gerald Downing, "Exile in Formative Judaism," in Making Sense in (and of) the First Christian Century, ed. F. Gerald Downing (JSNTSup 197; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 148-68.

[3] George W. E. Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature between the Bible and the Mishnah (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), 59.

[4] John Joseph Collins, Jewish Wisdom in the Hellenistic Age (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1997), 23, suggest that chapter 36 was a later addition added sometime in the Maccabean period.

[5] This text echoes Isaiah 1.10-17

[6] This implication can be taken when read within the context of the eschatological fervor of Sir 36.1-22, but may simply intimate God’s universal judgment over the unrighteous, whereby he repays all according to their deeds. See Collins, Jewish Wisdom, 111.

[7] In fact it is because of the violence of this text and the fact that no where else does Ben Sira invoke wrath upon the nations, that this text is disputed. See the discussion in Theophil Middendorp, Die Stellung Jesu Ben Siras Zwischen Judentum Und Hellenismus (Leiden: Brill, 1973), 125-32. But even if this text does comes from a latter time (i.e. the Maccabean period) the point still holds that the there were Judaism(s) of the Second Temple that still found it useful to invoke the motif of the second exodus in times of distress.

[8] Ex 15.15-16, Ex 7.3, Contra Gruen, Diaspora, 235, who, although he acknowledges Ben Sira’s plea for the gathering of all the tribes of Jacob, to be restored as from the beginning (36.10), he attributes this to mere echoes of the biblical texts, implying that these echoes have nothing to do with the longing for return felt in the diaspora. However, one might wonder why Ben Sira bothers to echo these texts at all, for what other end could the powerful images of the ‘exodus’ motif produce? The more pertinent question for Gruen’s thesis to my mind would be: Is it possible to long for an Isaianic like restoration without condemning the present diaspora? See next section.