Book Review: Sidnie White Crawford, Scribes and Scrolls at Qumran

Crawford, Sidnie White. Scribes and Scrolls at Qumran. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2019. 406 pp. + 8 pp of figures. Hb; $50.   Link to Eerdmans 

Sidnie White Crawford’s new book on the Dead Sea Scrolls and their relationship to both Qumran and the Essenes is a clear presentation of what might be considered the current consensus view on these issues. She does not engage in any fanciful new theory to completely overturn previous scholarship. On the contrary, she present a reasonable thesis based on evidence draw from both the archaeology of Qumran and the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Crawford’s Scribes and Scrolls won the American Schools of Oriental Research Frank Moore Cross Award for the most substantial volume related to the history and/or religion of the ancient Near East and Eastern Mediterranean. She previously published Rewriting Scripture in Second Temple Times (Eerdmans 2008).

In the introduction Crawford says her goal in this book is to take the insights of the first generation of scroll scholars and combine them the more complete picture from ongoing archaeological studies and the complete publication of the scrolls and develop a convincing history of and purpose for the Qumran settlement and the various caves in which documents were found. She argues in this volume there is enough evidence to identify the Qumran collection as a sectarian library and that the main purpose of the Qumran settlement was as an Essene scribal center and library (p. 16). As she observes later in the book, almost every aspect of the “Essene Hypothesis” has been challenged since the 1980s (p. 271).

The evidence for this conclusion is drawn from the archaeology of Qumran and its caves as well as a fresh survey of the contents of the library. Although the Qumran-Essene theory has been challenged, Crawford argues current understanding of the textual and archaeological evidence favors the view Essenes occupied Qumran prior to the destruction of the site by the Romans in 68 CE.

To achieve her goals, Crawford begins with two chapters on scribes and libraries in the Ancient Near Eastern (Mesopotamia, Egypt and Ugarit) and Mediterranean (Hellenistic and Roman) worlds. Scribes were involved at all levels of society. The transmission of literary texts necessarily involved revision and updating of texts. Unsurprisingly, she concludes it is difficult to identify a library room prior to the Roman period unless books are found in situ (p. 48). In fact, a library as a collection of books is a relatively late development.

With this background in mind, Crawford then surveys what can be known about scribes and libraries in Ancient Israel. With respect to libraries, the evidence is meager (perhaps in Jerusalem and Masada). By examining the biblical references to scribes she infers the scribe was associated with the royal court and like scribes in other Ancient Near Eastern contexts, families are associated with the profession (i.e. the family of Shaphan). She takes the reference in Jeremiah to the “false pen of the scribes” turning the Torah into falsehood (Jer 8:8) and the scribal collection of Solomon’s proverbs (Prov 25:1) to suggest scribal activity in the temple and royal courts (p. 57). The evidence is better in the Persian period (539-332 BCE), with several inscriptions and papyri in addition to books like Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah produced in the period. The best data comes from the Hellenistic and Roman period (300 BCE-135 CE), including the Wisdom of Ben Sira, written by Jesus ben Sira, a professional scribe (p. 73). The book has a lengthy description of an ideal scribe (Sirach 38:34-39:11). The Enoch literature, Jubilees, the Aramaic Levi Document and Daniel are included in the evidence for scribal activity in this period. The New Testament is treated in an appendix to chapter 3. Crawford concludes the New Testament portrays scribes as “teachers, interpreters of Scripture, and experts in the Law of Moses (p. 111).

The second part of the book devotes three chapters to the archeological and textual evidence in the light of her description of scribes and their libraries. In chapter 4 Crawford catalogs the caves around Qumran and their contents. She divides the material by examine the the limestone caves as a group before moving on to the marl caves.  This survey includes cave 53, recently excavated by Oren Gutfeld and Randall Price. Although the cave only produced one rolled up parchment and the remains of one had, Crawford suggests it is “profoundly for understanding the function of the limestone caves related to Khirbet Qumran” because the material assemblage resembles the other limestone caves , implying the jars were “taken to the caves at least since the first century BCE” (p.123). The purpose of storing scrolls in jars was for long-term storage, but not all the manuscripts can be considered burials of retired scrolls (contra Joan Taylor).

The man-made marl terrace caves were not intended for long-term habitation (p. 137) although they were used on a daily basis by the residents of Qumran (p. 164). Crawford suggests these caves functioned like a remote storage facility based on the likely presence of wooden shelves in Cave 4Q. Cave 4Q has a “working quality” (p. 260).

The difference between the limestone caves and the marl caves is not the content of the scrolls, but the function of the cave. For Crawford, there is overwhelming evidence the manuscripts in all eleven caves were one collection owned by one group of people (p. 156). One scribal hand is responsible for at least 54 manuscripts found in five different caves and one manuscript at Masada (p. 162). She surveys the contents of the caves and concludes the manuscripts were a “living collection” rather than deposited in the caves before Rome destroyed Qumran. The exception is material was “thrust helter-skelter into Cave 4Q in anticipation of the Roman attack” (p. 258).

Crawford revisits the archaeology of Qumran in chapter five, arguing Qumran was built to function as a scribal center and library for the Essenes in Judea (p. 166). Based on the archaeology of the site, it was not a fortress, although there was a watchtower and outer wall. Neither was Qumran a Hasmonean villa, even if the main building was “built on the footprint of a Hasmonean villa” (p. 214). There are no mosaic floors, frescos, swimming pools, or triclinium.  She therefore concludes it was a community settlement occupied by Jewish men who engage in some small-scale industrial and agricultural work (p. 215). Since Jewish scribes in the Second Temple period were all male, that Qumran was a working library and scribal center explains the lack of archaeological evidence for women at the site (p. 319).

She then surveys the contents of the caves and concludes the manuscripts were a “living collection” rather than deposited in the caves before Rome destroyed Qumran. The exception is material was “thrust helter-skelter into Cave 4Q in anticipation of the Roman attack” (p. 258). With respect to the origin of the scrolls, it is likely the majority of the scrolls were copied elsewhere and brought to Qumran (p. 261), about 25% of the manuscripts predate the settlement at Qumran (p. 157). Although there was scribal activity at Qumran, the site was not engaged in large scale book production.

The final two chapters of the book draws conclusions based on the archeological and textual evidence amassed in chapters 4-6. First, Crawford revisits the Qumran-Essene Hypothesis by asking “Who Owned the Scrolls?” In order to answer the question, she first surveys the contents of the sectarian documents found in the library. From the rules documents (Serek Hayahad and the Damascus Document) she outlines admission procedures, organization and leadership roles, legal interpretations of Sabbath and purity laws, and the sharing of property. These sectarian documents also describe some practices of the community such as prayer and worship and living separate from all Israel. She only briefly discusses the theological topics of eschatology and predeterminism. Using Josephus’s list of Jewish “philosophies,” she concludes the only possible candidate for the owners of the scrolls is the Essenes. Although I agree with this conclusion, it is entirely possible a group Josephus ignores occupied Qumran. His “four philosophies” is not exhaustive of all sub-groups within Second Temple Judaism. For example, Enochian Judaism and perhaps even early Jesus-followers could be described as a Jewish sect even if it is not included in Josephus’s list.

In the conclusion to the book Crawford outlines her “New Synthesis” and offers a suggested sequence of events which explains why the community hid their scrolls in the Qumran caves. Qumran was likely built with the permission of Alexander Jannaeus, explaining an enigmatic reference to the king in 4Q448. Qumran operated as a library until it was destroyed in 68 CE., serving Essenes who lived throughout Judea. This scenario avoids making the Essenes into an eschatological sect waiting for the last days in a desert monastery. On the contrary, the community functioned like a Roman library until the disastrous war with Rome destroyed the site.

Conclusion. Crawford’s contribution to the study of Qumran and the manuscripts discovered in the Judean desert summarizes and build on previous scholarship and advances a modest proposal by comparing the collection at Qumran to Roman libraries. This is not a thorough introduction to either the Dead Sea Scrolls or the archaeology of Qumran, but there is more than enough detail for to support her contention the  Essenes occupied the site at Qumran and the scrolls found in the nearby caves were their working library.

I noticed page 277-8 repeats verbatim material from page 227-8.

NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

The Dragon Makes War – Revelation 12:13-17

The final section of Revelation 12 the woman escaping the dragon. The individual images are difficult, but they all refer Satan’s persecution of the children of the woman. In Revelation 13 the dragon empowers two agents to wage war against God’s holy people (13:7).

Unclean spirits, Getty Apocalypse. Ms. Ludwig

For many interpreters the woman represents the church and her children, the holy people attacked by the dragon and the beast (13:7) is a metaphor for the church. Greg Beale, for example, interprets the chapter Jesus’s victory of Satan at the cross. Revelation 12:11 especially important for this interpretation since the holy ones have triumphed over Satan by the blood of the Lamb. As a result, the devil’s fury is expressed against Christians” (Revelation, 667). Beale draws parallels between the saints under the altar in Revelation 6:9 and the ones who have lost their lives in 12:11. He therefore summarizes this war against the holy ones “as a result of Christ’s victory over the devil, God protects the messianic community against the devil’s wrathful harm” (668).

However, all of the allusions to the Old Testament and symbolism in Revelation 12 refer to Israel. The word dragon (δράκων) is rare in the New Testament, only appearing in Revelation as a metaphor for Satan. In the Septuagint it is used to translate the Hebrew תַּנִּין (tannin) a snake, but often a sea-monster or dragon. The word is used in Exodus 7:9 when Moses throws down his staff and it becomes a snake. The Septuagint uses the word dragon (δράκων).

This is not to say Moses’s staff became a Harry Potter style baby dragon, but the association of a sea-monster occupying the chaos of the sea is common in the Ancient Near East. For example, Jeremiah 51:34 describes Nebuchadnezzar as a sea-monster (using תַּנִּין, δράκων in LXX Jeremiah 28:34). Isaiah 27:1 and 51:9 describe God destroying the great chaos monsters Leviathan and Rahab. Rahab is not the woman from Jericho in Isaiah 51:9, but rather “a mythical monster, the name of which means ‘surger,’ and plays upon the restlessness and crashing of the sea,” (HALOT). In Psalm 89:9-10 speak of God’s power over the chaotic seas in the Exodus: “You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. You crushed Rahab like a carcass.”

The woman is given to eagle’s wings to flee the dragon into the desert. The woman is not rescued by eagles, but she is given eagle wings. the use of a passive verb implies God is the one who gave her wings.

Rescued by means of eagle’s wings is probably drawn from Exodus 19:4 and Deuteronomy 32:10-11 (cf. Ps 103:5-7). When God rescued Israel from Egypt it was as if he had carried them on eagle’s wings and brought Israel to Mount Sinai in the wilderness. That she flees to the place prepared for her in the wilderness evokes Israel’s gathering around Mount Sinai. Isaiah uses similar language to describe a second Exodus when the exile comes to an end. Those who return to Zion will “they shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Isa 40:31). Beale suggests a possible parallel to Psalms of Solomon 17:18-27: “Those who love the gatherings of the holy ones fled from them. They were scattered from their bed like sparrows” (LES2).  The Words of the Luminaries (4Q504 Frag. 6:6-8 probably alludes to Isaiah 40:31 to describe the Exodus: “You have lifted us wonderfully upon the wings of] eagles and you have brought us to you.”

The woman is rescued and taken on eagle’s wings into the wilderness where she is nourished for “for a time, and times, and half a time.” In the context of the wilderness, God’s provision of manna and quail come to mind. The verb is used with this sense in LXX Deut 32:18. When Israel rebels, they forget “God who nourished you” (the Hebrew text has “gave birth”).

Verses 15-16 are quite strange. Frustrated by God’s protection of the woman in the wilderness, the serpent (now using ὄφις) “spews water like a river” is an attempt to destroy the woman and her child, but the earth opens its mouth and swallows the river of water. This unusual spewing may simply reflect the common practice of describing enemies as a flood or watery chaos when they seek to destroy Israel. For example, In Psalm 18:5-18 the writer is tangled in the cords of death, but the Lord rebuked the waters and “the channels of the sea were seen” (18:15). Reflecting on God’s victory over his enemies, Habakkuk says “You trampled the sea with your horses, the surging of mighty waters.”

Unable to destroy the woman, the dragon is enraged and makes war against the children of the woman. These children are the ones who “keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” Like Daniel and his friends, these offspring of the woman refuse to compromise on the commandments of God even if that means death at the hand of an evil empire. So too the willingness to sacrifice one’s life rather than compromise on core elements of faith and practice during the Maccabean Revolt. “They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. Very great wrath came upon Israel” (1 Mac 1:63-64). When facing torture for refusing to eat swine flesh, seven brothers responded “What do you intend to ask and learn from us? For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors” (2 Macc 7:1-3).

This sets the stage for the increased of persecution in the second half of the book. The final line is a dramatic segue to the introduction of the beasts in Revelation 13: the dragon stood by the shore of the sea.

Logos Free Book of the Month for June 2020 – Ancient Christian Commentary on Mark (Second Edition)

ACCS MarkThe theme of the Logos Free Book of the Month promotion is reading Scripture with the church fathers. Logos is offering two volumes of The Ancient Christian Commentary series from IVP Academic. There are now 29 volumes in the series. From IVP Academic’s website,

The ACCS is a postcritical revival of the early commentary tradition known as the glossa ordinaria, a text artfully elaborated with ancient and authoritative reflections and insights. The vast array of writings from the church fathers—including much that is available only in the ancient languages—have been combed for their comment on Scripture. From these results, scholars with a deep knowledge of the fathers and a heart for the church have hand selected material for each volume, shaping, annotating, and introducing it to today’s readers. Each portion of commentary has been chosen for its salient insight, its rhetorical power, and its faithful representation of the consensual exegesis of the early church.

During the month of June you can add the second edition of Mark for free and the volume on James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude for $4.99.

IVP Academic as a second series of historical commentaries, the Reformation Commentary on Scripture Collection. Through the end of the month you can add the Galatians, Ephesians volume for $1.99 and the Acts volume for $9.99. I reviewed the Acts Reformation Commentary when it came out in 2014. From that review:

Timothy George’s General Introduction to the RCS is a good 23 page refresher on what constitutes the literature of the Reformation in terms of chronology and confession. There is far more to read from this period than just Luther and Calvin. This commentary therefore includes Erasmus as a biblical humanist as well as obvious examples from (Wittenberg, Luther; Strasbourg, Bucer; Zurich, Zwingli; Geneva, Calvin). There are also examples from the British reformation (including John Donne and William Perkins) and a few from the Anabaptist tradition.

Edit: Someone pointed out the link at the bottom of the page will get you a free copy of Commentaries in the Ancient Christian Texts series: Severian of Gabala and a fresh translation of a portion of Bede the Venerable on Genesis 1–3: Homilies on Creation and Fall and Commentary on Genesis: Book I for free and Commentaries on Ambrosiaster’s commentary on Galatians–Philemon for $3.99, Jerome on Jeremiah for $6.99 and Ambrosiaster’s  commentaries on Romans and 1-2 Corinthians for $9.99.

Logos is also sponsoring a giveaway of a 14-volume collection of resources from IVP Academic valued at $679.99. As usually there are multiple ways to win, so enter as often as you can.

You need to have Logos Bible Software to use these resources.  As always, there are less expensive paths to upgrading that will keep you from mortgaging your home. At the very least, download the free Logos Basic or any Logos 8 base package. Try using the coupon code PARTNEROFFER8.

Any books you purchase from Logos can  read these books via the free iOS app.

These valuable resources are only free (or almost free) through June 30, 2020.

Biblical Studies Carnival 171 for May 2020

March and April 2020 were bad months for most people as COVID-19 changed the way we lived. Just as many people were preparing to return to work for the first time in three months, May ended with another murder of a black man in police custody followed by riots throughout the country. Given the loss of life from the pandemic and the deep divisions in America playing out nightly in the streets of many cities, commenting on an academic issues in biblical and theological studies seems less important. I really do not think shouting at each other on Twitter helps, and I am confident passing along conspiracy theories on FaceBook makes things worse.

Despite all the weirdness and evil in the news over the last month, there were some quality academic posts in the world of biblical and theological studies this month. This month’s Biblical Studies Carnival host Bobby Howell posted the Biblical Studies Carnival 171 for May 2020 at The Library Musings. Head over to his blog and check out his collection of postings during the month of May. He focuses on Old and New Testament, Biblical Greek, Biblical Hebrew and  a helpful set of links to articles at Click all the links!

In other blogging news, Aaron White has returned to blogging as he begins his Brill LXX Commentary on Judges, Pastor-Scholar Meets Commentary: A Log on Writing a Commentary. Bookmark it, but also read his comments on The Mysterious Mu.

Brian Small had some links to reviews on Hebrews resources posted in May, I miss the old Hebrews mini-carnivals he used to post.

James McGrath posted several excellent posts on making the transition to online teaching and the future of education in the post-COVID-19 world.


For future Biblical Studies Carnivals…I have a couple of veteran bloggers lined up for the next two months. The godfather of blibioblogs Jim West (@EmilBrunner1) will host the June Carnival and Bob MacDonald (@drmacdonald) has the July carnival. I am looking for volunteers through the rest of the year starting with August 2020 (Due September 1). Even if you hosted in 2019 feel free to volunteer again. I am always interested in getting new bloggers and podcasters involved.

Are you new to blogging? Are you a lapsed biblioblogger? James McGrath has some encouraging words for you.

Would you like to see your posts included in a future carnival? Start by writing a quality academic post, perhaps a book review. Then send the link to the upcoming host. It is entirely their decision to include your post in their carnival, but you can at least nominate yourself for inclusion. Sometimes you have to toot your own horn.

If you have questions about what writing a carnival involves, contact me via email, or twitter DM @plong42. I would be happy to answer any questions.

Book Review: Bruce Longenecker, In Stone and Story

Longenecker, Bruce W. In Stone and Story: Early Christianity in the Roman World. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2020. 292 pp. Hb. $34.99.   Link to Baker Academic

Longenecker has already written on the importance of Pompeii for understanding early Christianity in his The Crosses of Pompeii: Jesus-Devotion in a Vesuvian Town (Fortress, 2016, follow this link for an interview with Nijay Gupta on the topic of this book). Like his popular The Lost Letters of Pergamum (Second edition; Baker Academic 2016), this new volume presents historical data for the non-specialist. The book is richly illustrated with Longenecker’s own photographs from Pompeii, although photographs of realia is prohibited in the book. Unfortunately, the Superintendency of the Vesuvian towns prohibit reproduction of these photographs.

Longenecker, In Stone and StoryAs he states in his introductory unit, this book is not a complete introduction to the archaeology of Pompeii, nor is it an introduction to early Christianity in the Roman world. Longenecker intends to provide a series of snapshots, or “up-close vignettes” to illustrate first century context and bring that context to bear on New Testament texts (p. 24).

Although the book is written for non-specialists, Longenecker is thoroughly aware of current scholarship on the Vesuvian towns and early Jesus devotion and cites this literature in an appendix. His goal is not to write an academic book on Pompeii or the development of early Christianity.

The book is divided into four parts: Protocols of engagement, popular devotion, social prominence, and household effectiveness. Each chapter introduces the reader to some aspect of Pompeiian culture followed by how it relates to the New Testament. Every chapter is richly illustrated with both photographs and citations of primary sources.

Protocols of Engagement serves as an introduction to the book. Longenecker begins with the observation historians access the Roman world through the study of classical literature and the study of archaeology. Although he occasionally refers to ancient literature, Longenecker’s focuses is on the archaeology of Pompeii and Herculaneum as a window into the actual life of the first century Roman world. Because Mount Vesuvius destroyed both in 79 CE, they are frozen in time. Both cities have been excavated and there is an extensive collection of graffiti, frescoes, and other real-world artifacts to illustrate life in a Roman city.

With a population of ten to twelve thousand, Pompeii is comparable to the city of Philippi. Herculaneum much smaller with no more that five thousand inhabitants. Although Christianity developed in much larger cities (Ephesus, Pergamum, for example), the unique archaeological situation at Pompeii and Herculaneum can illustrate other Greco-Roman urban centers. Peter Oakes has a similar method in his Reading Romans in Pompeii (Fortress 2013). After describing the archaeology of a set of houses with various social statuses in Pompeii, Oakes suggests how the residents of each home may have heard Romans differently because of their social status.

In part 2, Protocols of Popular Devotion Longenecker begins with two chapters on religion in the Roman world. For most people in the Roman world, there is never a sense that having a favorite deity required them to be exclusively devoted to that God. Pompeii was dedicated to Venus, but also had temples to Jupiter, Mercury, Apollo, Juno, Minerva, and many more. The Christian gospel demanded exclusive devotion to Jesus, which challenged the Roman religious system. Similarly, sacrifices were made in all of these temples frequently. Yet the Christian gospel recite sacrificial practices. Longenecker introduces the reader to the early controversy of eating meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor 8-10).

Chapters 6-7 concern devotion to the empire. The Roman empire claimed they ushered in the present era of abundant peace and security, and they promoted this ideology in every Roman city through inscriptions and imperial statues. After several pages explaining the concept of genius and juno (the spirit of a man and woman), Longenecker observes the people of Pompeii were eager to worship the emperor’s genius since this worship would contribute to the heath of the empire. After the devastating earthquake of AD 62, temples for the imperial cult were the first to be rebuilt (p. 87). He then shows how dangerous a book like Revelation might have been since it declares the source of Rome’s power to be satanic (Rev 12:9).

Chapter 8 describes mysteries cults in Pompeii, primarily the worship of Dionysus at the Villa of the Mysteries. Isis cult is the main topic of chapter 9, “death and life.” In his Crosses of Pompeii, Longenecker describes Pompeii as suffering from “Egyptomania” (p. 108-15). He suggests the idea of resurrection central to the Isis cult may have led some Jesus-followers to think of Christian as a kind of mystery cult (p. 115). This may shed light on Paul’s discussion of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15.

Part 3 deals with Protocols of Social Prominence: Prominence and Character, Money and Influence, Literacies and Status, Combat and Courts, and Business and Success. Pursuit of honor was a primary cultural value for a Roman, as evidences by graffiti from Pompeii (p. 124). Romans demonstrated their wealth and political power through benefaction. Although there are examples of wealthy benefactors in the New Testament (Philemon, for example), Jesus-followers challenged these values. For example, James 2:1-6 turns the Roman social expectation of honoring the wealthy upside down. Jesus himself taught his disciples to not be like the Gentiles; leaders ought to be like one who serves (Luke 22:25-26). In addition, Longenecker points to Revelation 18 and John’s condemnation of economic greed of Roman merchants.

Part 4 deals with issues of real life, “Protocols of Household Effectiveness.” In each case, Early Jesus-followers were often at odds with the Roman ideal in each of these cultural areas. For example, the relationships within a Roman household differed greatly from the New Testament household codes (Eph 4-6; Col 3-4). Chapters 15 and 16 survey the relationships within the family, including the relationship of masters and slaves, including sex slavery. Longenecker shows how radical Paul’s teaching on masters and slaves would have been in Roman Pompeii.

Chapter 17 (Piety and Pragmatism) and 18 (Powers and Protection). These chapters discuss how a Roman family may have worshiped household gods to ensure safety and prosperity. Residents of Pompeii feared curses and took measures to ward off evil and the powerful influence of the dead (p. 231). Longenecker refers to the use of curse language and the evil eye in Galatians 3-5. I expected material on the apotropaic cross markings Longenecker described in Crosses of Pompeii as a likely use of Christian imagery for warding off evil.

Finally, this section concludes with a chapter on “Banqueting and the Dead,” a survey of burial practices in Pompeii, including memorial meals celebrated at family tombs. The chapter draws analogies to Paul’s view of death 1 Corinthians and the practice of the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of Jesus’s death. Longenecker suggests Paul’s perception of the Lord’s Supper as “a spiritual meal involving spiritual power was completely at home in the first-century” (249).

As an appendix to the book, Longenecker gives several “questions to consider” for chapters 4-19. These questions ask students to consider some portion of the New Testament in the light of the world described in the chapter. For example, after reading the chapter on money and influence, Longenecker asks what the Corinthian church may have thought about Paul’s request they support his collection for the poor (1 Cor 16:1-4). The final verse of 1 John is “keep yourself from idols.” In what ways might an enslaved Jesus-follower in a pagan household have wanted to know more about the practicalities of that instruction? Or consider a woman who became a Jesus follower after marrying into a pagan household reading “keep yourself from idols.”

There is actually very little on sexuality in Pompeii in the book which is surprising given the number of phalluses carved around the city (although there are a few examples on p. 232; see also Crosses of Pompeii, 132-33). In addition, there is an abundance of filthy graffiti from Pompeii cataloged. Perhaps the intended audience restricted this content.

Following short glossary of key terms is a section for “further reading.” Longenecker provides additional scholarly material on the city of Pompeii and its relevance for understanding early Christianity. He has an excellent bibliography of general studies of early Christianity in the Roman world. Following these general bibliographies are important studies on the topic of each chapter. Much of the material in these bibliographies will be difficult for the average reader to find, since most of these titles will require a visit to a university research library.

Conclusion. Anyone with an interest in how the Greco-Roman world illustrates the world of the New Testament will thoroughly enjoy reading this book. Despite targeting a popular audience, In Stone and Story would be an excellent choice for a New Testament backgrounds course at the undergraduate or graduate level. Longenecker summarizes the scholarship in the chapter’s topic and provides a wealth of supplemental reading for further research at the academic level.

NB: Thanks to Baker Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

War in Heaven – Revelation 12:7-9

These three verses describe a conflict in heaven:  the dragon, identified as Satan in 12:9, attacks Michael and his angels. The battle goes against Satan and he is thrown down to the earth along with his angels.

Archangel Michael battles Satan, Luca GiordanoAs with Revelation 12:4, the problem of “when” comes up again. Does this refer to the fall of Satan?  Does John have some event in his own lifetime in mind? Or is this a future event in the last says before the return of Christ? Similar to the problem with verse 4, this war in heaven is sometimes is thought to refer to the fall of Satan, but there is no other reference to Satan making war against Michael in the distant past.

Between the cross and the second coming Satan is active in the world (1 Peter 5:8, for example). But Revelation has already described an increase in demonic activity in the fifth and sixth trumpets.

Who is Michael? Michael is mentioned by name in Daniel (10:13, 21; 12:1) and twice in the New Testament (Jude 9 and Revelation 12:7). The name means ‘who is like God?’ and is synonymous with Micaiah and Micah in the Old Testament. In Daniel Michael is “one of the chief princes” (10:13) who assists the great angel who delivers Daniel’s final vision to overcome the prince of Greece and the prince of Persia. In Daniel 10:21 he is called “your prince” and in 12:1 he is “the great prince.”

Second Temple Literature develops the idea of Michael as a mighty angel who protects Israel. He is mentioned often in 1 Enoch. Although he is one of the chief angels, he is not called an archangel in the book. 2 Enoch 22 calls him “the archangel Michael” although the title “archistratig” (“top general? Cf. Gk. Apoc. Ezra 4.24) is used more often, highlighted Michael’s military role. By 3 Enoch, he is “Michael, the Great Prince, is in charge of the seventh heaven, the highest.” IN 3 Enoch Michael begins to blend with Metatron, a semi-divine angelic being. “At some point, however, the connection between Meṭaṭron and Michael was obscured, and a new, independent archangel with many of Michael’s powers came into being (P. Alexander, OTP 1:244).

In the Book of the Watchers, Michael interceded on behalf of humanity when they were oppressed by the giants (1 Enoch 10:11). In 1 Enoch 20:5 he is one of the “holy angels who watch.”

1 Enoch 20:1-8 And these are names of the holy angels who watch: 2 Suruʾel, one of the holy angels—for (he is) of eternity and of trembling. 3 Raphael, one of the holy angels, for (he is) of the spirits of man. 4 Raguel, one of the holy angels who take vengeance for the world and for the luminaries. 5 Michael, one of the holy angels, for (he is) obedient in his benevolence over the people and the nations. 6 Saraqaʾel, one of the holy angels who are (set) over the spirits of mankind who sin in the spirit. 7 Gabriel, one of the holy angels who oversee the garden of Eden, and the serpents, and the cherubim.

In 1 Enoch 40:9 Michael is one of the four “faces” who never slumber but always watch God and praise him. He is called “the merciful and forbearing Michael.” Along with Raphael, Gabriel, and Phanuel, Michael seize the armies of Azazʾel, on the great day of judgment and casts them “into the furnace (of fire) that is burning” (1 Enoch 54:5). In 1 Enoch 60 Michael explains Enoch’s disturbing vision (similar to the mighty angel in Daniel 10, cf., 1 Enoch 71:3).

In the War Scroll (1QM), Michael leads an army into battle:

1Q33 Col. xvii:7-8 (God) sends everlasting aid to the lot of his [co]venant by the power of the majestic angel for the sway of Michael in everlasting light,7 to illuminate with joy the covenant of Israel, peace and blessing to God’s lot, to exalt the sway of Michael above all the gods, and the dominion of 8 Israel over all flesh.

If Melchizedek is Michael in 11QMelch (Vermes, Dead Sea Scrolls, 300), then this angelic figure will “carry out the vengeance of Go[d’s] judgments, [and on that day he will fr]e[e them from the hand of] Belial and from the hand of all the sp[irits of his lot]” (11Q13 Col. ii:13). The text is fragmentary, but there is certainly a war between the angelic Melchizedek and the demonic Belial prior to the day of peace predicted by Isaiah 52:7 (line 15) and a coming anointed prince anticipated in Daniel 9:25 (line 18). In fact, line 25 says “Melchizedek, who will fr]e[e them from the ha]nd of Belial.”

The war in heaven results in the dragon being thrown down to the earth (Rev 12:7-9) and immediately John hears a loud voice in heaven announcing, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come” (12:10). Like the seventh trumpet, Revelation 12:10 announces the arrival of God’s kingdom.

Escape to the Wilderness – Revelation 12: 5-6

After the woman clothed in the sun gives birth to the male child, she escapes into the wilderness where she is protected for a period of 1260 days. The interpretation of the escape into the wilderness depends on the identity of the woman.

The child is obviously the messiah. Several messianic texts converge here. First, the child is the “seed of the woman” from Genesis 3:15. Second, Isaiah 66:7 has similar language, “Before she was in labor, she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she delivered a son.” Third, that the child is destined to rule the nations with a rod of iron alludes to Psalm 2:9. John already quoted this messianic Psalm in 2:27 and will again in 19:15 with reference to the coming of the messiah ruling over the nations.

Following the Septuagint of Psalm 2:9, all three occurrences in Revelation use the verb shepherd, ποιμαίνω, rather than rule. A rod (ῥάβδος) refers to a staff or scepter, but here it is likely a shepherd’s staff. Micah 7:14, for example, refers to the Lord shepherding his people with his staff. This passage looks forward to the eschatological age when the Lord would rule over his people as a shepherd cares for is flock. Ezekiel 37:24 looks forward to a tome of peace and prosperity when a future David will shepherd God’s people.

Greg Beale draws attention to a “conceptual parallel” in 1QH 3.7-12. The author of 1QHodayot describes his distress as “like a woman giving birth the first time when her labor-pains come on her.” She “gives birth to a male,” a child who is free from the breakers of death. Then the author alludes to Isaiah 9:5-6, describing the child as “a wonderful counsellor with his strength.” This is in contrast to “she who is pregnant with a serpent.” It is possible this contrast alludes to Genesis 3:15, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Beale suggests the text referred to the origin of the Community or (less likely) the birth of the Teacher of Righteousness. By line 22 the psalm seems to refer to entrance into the Community, “the host of the holy ones, and can enter in communion with the congregation of the sons of heaven.” (Text from Martı́nez and Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (translations) (Leiden: Brill, 1997–1998).

The child is caught up to “God and his throne.” The sequence of sentences does not make it clear this catching up into heaven represents rescue from the dragon. If the child represents Jesus, it is very strange his death on the cross and resurrection is omitted from the imagery. In Revelation 5 John described Jesus as a lamb that had been slain. But here the vision jumps from the birth to the ascension.

After the child has been snatched away from the dragon, the woman flees into the wilderness. If the woman is Israel, then there is an allusion here to Israel’s experience in the wilderness. In the Old Testament, the wilderness is sometimes a positive experience and at other times the result of judgment. Mauser points out that it is in the wilderness that God reveals his name and his law, beginning the religions life of Israel (Christ in the Wilderness, 29). He finds the three major elements of Israel’s theology initiated in the wilderness: covenant and law, election, and rebellion. The Covenant is established at Sinai, confirming Israel’s election. Immediately, however, there is rebellion against God in the golden calf incident. But the focus here is on the wilderness as protection, just as Elijah was protected and nourished in the wilderness for three years, so too will God’s people be protected and nourished for a similar period of time.

Adele Yarbro Collins argues Revelation 12 was originally composed in a Jewish context rather than Christian. She points writer emphasizes the birth of the male child rather than the death (as expected in a Christian apocalypse). God rescues the child from the dragon after he is born (Combat Myth in the Book of Revelation, 105-6). Reading Revelation 12 in a Jewish context would take the woman as Israel (mother Zion of Isaiah 54) and avoids the problematic interpretation of the woman as the church (since the church did not “give birth” to Jesus).

If this is a Jewish apocalyptic fragment, where did it come from? Massyngberde-Ford suggested disciples of John the Baptist reworked and interpreted his apocalypse (Rev 4-11). She argues the flight into the wilderness occurred in the forties A.D. when the “mad Emperor” Gaius demanded his statue be placed in the Temple. This would have been interpreted as the “abomination that causes desolation” and prompted faithful Jewish-Christians to flee Jerusalem.

Although Massyngberde-Ford’s suggestion is intriguing, it has not convinced many. But could Revelation 12:5-6 be a highly creative re-working of Jesus’s warning in Mark 13:14-20? In his apocalyptic discourse, Jesus warned his followers to flee Jerusalem when they see an abomination which causes desolation. There are differences. Jesus tells “those who are in Judea” to flee to the mountains immediately. Revelation 12 indicates only the woman fled into the wilderness. If the woman represents Israel, then (perhaps) the flight to the wilderness is similar to the Judeans fleeing the Romans beginning in AD 66.