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.