Book Review: John J. Collins, Scriptures and Sectarianism: Essays on the Dead Sea Scrolls (Part 2)

Collins, John J. Scriptures and Sectarianism: Essays on the Dead Sea Scrolls. WUNT 2/332; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014. 329 pp. HB; 119,00 €.  Link to Mohr Siebeck

Due to the length of this review, part one appears here.

Part two of Scriptures and Sectarianism collects four essays on history and sectarianism in the Scrolls. First, Collins examines historiography in the Dead Sea Scrolls (chapter 8). This seems like an impossible task since there are no historical narratives in the DSS comparable to the books of Maccabees or Josephus. There are, however, several apocalyptic texts which are quasi-historiographical (CD 1:3-11, 4Q390, two pseudo-Daniel texts). The pesherim interpret the prophets in terms of recent history. For example, the pesher on Nahum 2:13 interprets the “lion who tears enough for her cubs” as a reference to Alexander Jannaeus crucifying 800 Pharisees, the “seekers of soft things” in the Scrolls. The second chapter in this section makes a similar point, that historical information in the Scrolls can be inferred from the pesherim and that the “Man of the Lie” and the “Wicked Priest” cannot be dismissed as fictional (148).

Collins-Scripture-And-SectarianismChapter Ten interacts with Gabriele Boccaccini’s recent suggestions the Qumran Community can be described as “Enochic Judaism.” This article was written for the 2007 collection The Early Enoch Literature (JSJSup 121; Leiden: Brill, 2007), and is in many ways similar to Collins’s essay “Enochic Judaism: An Assessment,” in Adolfo D. Roitman, Lawrence H. Schiffman, and Shani Tzoref, eds., The Dead Sea Scrolls and Contemporary Culture: Proceedings of the International Conference Held at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem (July 6-8, 2008) (STDJ 93; Leiden: Brill, 2011), 219-34), reprinted in Collins, Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy: On Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2015).

The final essay in this section could have served as an introduction to the collection (“Sectarian Consciousness in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” chapter 11). The essay attempts to define what “sectarian” means when applied to the DSS. Following Carol Newsom, the adjective could simply mean a text was written by a member of the Qumran community, or that a particular scroll was used as by the community regardless of where it was produced. The third possibility is a scroll is “sectarian” when it has a specific bearing on the origins and unique structures of the community. As Newsom puts it, a text which is “sectually explicit” (165). Newsom’s categories are helpful for 4QMMT (clearly sectarian) or for some texts which are clearly not sectarian (copies of Scripture, for example). But Collins points out there is a huge grey area of texts which are compatible with the Qumran community, but lack “unambiguous indicators” (166). After a short survey of the self-consciousness of the yahad, Collins examines 4QInstruction as a test case and concludes it was produced at an early stage in the community’s development, before the “spiritual separatism” had manifest itself social action (176).

In part three of the book, five essays are collected under the heading of “the sectarian worldview.” Collins begins his essay “Covenant and Dualism in the Dead Sea Scrolls” with the observation that the sectarian community known from the DSS was “first of all a movement of covenant renewal” (179). Since the covenant God made in scripture was made with all of Israel, the sectarian movement needed to modify it, either as a “new covenant” (1QpHab 2:3) or a secret covenant made with Moses and only known by the community (CD 3:12-15) (180). But a third way the sectarian community could distinguish itself was by thinking of the world in dualistic terms. The community were the ones who walked in the way of light, their opponents walked in the darkness. This kind of dualism has no precedent in the Hebrew Bible, and Collins cautiously suggests some interaction with Zoroastrian dualism (188).

Chapters 13 and 14 concern the related topics of the “angelic life” and the afterlife in the DSS. Collins begins with 1 Enoch 104:2-6 and Daniel 12:1-2 to show that the idea of an afterlife for some (or all) Israelites was developing in the second century BCE, but there was little description of that transformed state (196). The Qumran community expanded on these traditions to describe the afterlife as being clothed with majestic clothing of light and the “glory of Adam, and in 1QS 11:7-8, the transformed will have fellowship with the angels. The main evidence for this angelic fellowship The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice. While the description of angelic worship in these thirteen Sabbath songs are not particularly sectarian, they do indicate the yahad saw itself as participating in the heavenly worship (203). Life in the community was structured to around this heavenly worship; 1QS2:3-9 limits participation to only the upright of the community “for angels of holiness are among their congregation.” Did the yahad believe they would participate in an afterlife? Collins surveys evidence concerning the Essenes in Josephus and Hippolytus since these descriptions of the Essenes are often taken as referring to the Qumran community (an open question). He concludes that if these Greek sources do indeed describe the Qumran community, they are “not very well informed” about their beliefs and practices.

In chapter 15 Collins discusses “Prayer and the Meaning of Ritual in the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Prayer played an important part of life in the yahad, whether at Qumran or elsewhere. Since the yahad was a substitute for the Temple cult, prayer became a substitute sacrifice (1QS 9:3-5, 232). 1QS 1:16-3:12 describes a covenant ceremony modeled on Deuteronomy 27, although modified to include confession of sin. The frequent washings known from literary sources and evidences by stepped pools at Qumran indicate ritual washing was important to the community, although Collins offers important cautions against seeing a precedent for either John’s baptism or later Christian baptism.

In chapter 16 Collins revisits Von Rad’s suggestion that apocalyptic was “eschatologizing of Wisdom.” He examines 4QInstrustion as a “bona fide wisdom text of the traditional type in which eschatological expectations play a significant part” (242). The text is not an eschatological discourse, but there are allusions to eschatological themes such as judgment scenes, God as divine warrior, flesh/spirit dualism, and a hint of periodization of history. In one fragment (4Q417 1 i), the writer refers to the “book of memorial,” a common motif in apocalyptic literature. Collins sees 4QInstrustion as addressed only to the “people of the spirit,” the elect and enlightened, rather than to all of humanity (Proverbs) or Judaism (Sirach) (245). This narrow focus is more like apocalyptic than classic wisdom literature. Although the presence of both wisdom and apocalyptic motifs could be explained as a redaction (as suggested by Torleif Elgvin, for example), Collins suggests the text reflects a development in which wisdom and apocalyptic themes were combined. He cites both Daniel and the Epistle of Enoch as examples (251).

As an epilogue to the book, Collins discussions one of the more controversial topics in Dead Sea Scrolls studies and the New Testament, the “Case of the Suffering Servant.” Although Collins agrees comparisons between the Qumran community and early Christianity are often exaggerated (citing Robert Eisenman, for example), the Scrolls can shed light on the New Testament in matters of detail (257). After he surveys early attempts to connect the Essenes with early Christianity by Ernest Renan and discusses briefly some of the more sensational claims for the Scrolls in the 1990s, Collins examines possible allusions to Isaiah’s servant songs in Hodayot (1QH) and the fragmentary 4Q541. For Collins, there are no clear allusions to a suffering servant in these texts, despite the popularity of the claim. Yet the study concludes with the observation that the Scrolls and the writers of the New Testament shared a reliance on a common body of authoritative scriptures “that could be used to contextualize and explain a new experience” (271).

Conclusion. It is always welcome for a published to collect essays published in a wide range of difficult to obtain journals and festschrifts. There are some repetitions in the book; several times Collins introduces Jubilees or warns against anachronistic talk of canon in the Second Temple period. Collins repeats his description of the raison d’être for the yahad on several occasions, citing the same texts each time. Given the narrow, overlapping themes of many of these essays, perhaps this is unavoidable. Nevertheless, this volume of important essays is a welcome contribution to the continued study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and their relevance for New Testament studies.

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

Book Review: John J. Collins, Scriptures and Sectarianism: Essays on the Dead Sea Scrolls (Part 1)

Collins, John J. Scriptures and Sectarianism: Essays on the Dead Sea Scrolls. WUNT 2/332; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014. 329 pp. HB; 119,00 €.  Link to Mohr Siebeck

Due to the length of this review, part two appears here.

Collins-Scripture-And-SectarianismIn this collection of previously published essays, Collins focuses on how the Dead Sea Scrolls interpret Scripture to support that particular form of Second Temple Judaism. Collins accepts a more or less standard view of the relationship of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran. The reason the yahad existed was to study the Torah (54) and this study included sectarian interpretations of the authoritative text. He considers attempts to find a prototype for Jesus in the scrolls as a theologically and ideologically driven “mirage” (13). There are similarities, Collins says, but the differences are significant (15). “Essenism and Christianity were different movements, with different values, even though they arose in essentially the same environment” (16). Nevertheless, the documents used by the sectarian community at Qumran shed light on early Christianity as well as Second Temple Judaism. Although many of the scrolls were written elsewhere, Collins suggests the collection itself has a sectarian character since there is nothing that could be considered Pharisaic or pro-Hasmonean (54). Throughout most of the book Collins avoids equating the community at Qumran with the Essenes (chapter 14 comes close), and the yahad (community) cannot be equate with Qumran (231). Late in the book, Collins observes that the “community of the new covenant drew its ideas, and probably also its membership, from various sources” (253). This ought to warn against using any particular text from the Scrolls to argue a close relationship between the Qumran community and early Christianity.

Collins wrote the introductory chapter for this volume, offering an overview of the current state of Dead Sea Scrolls studies. Since the publication of 4QMMT it has become clear the sect described in the scrolls did not originate out of a particular view of the messiah or their belief in a final battle between the sons of light and the sons of darkness, but rather out of disagreements over exact interpretation of the Law, including the cultic calendar and the state of the Temple (12). The literature created by the community at Qumran includes examples of re-written scripture such as Jubilees and the Temple Scroll. The authoritative books for the DSS overlap with the Hebrew Bible, but also seem to have considered some of these other books as authoritative since they supported the their struggle within Judaism.

The first part of this book collects six essays on the topic of Scripture and interpretation in the Dead Sea Scrolls. First, Collins traces “The Transformation of the Torah in Second Temple Judaism.” Like most ancient Near Eastern legal documents, the Torah was not considered the basis for the practice of law, but rather an object of adoration (Psalm 119) or a source of wisdom (Sirach 24:23). It was during the Hasmonean period that books like Jubilees or the Temple Scroll began to engage with halakhic issues (31), probably in response to Antiochus Epiphanes attempt to displace the Torah as the ancestral law of Judea (34). Judaism could tolerate a range of opinion on the nature of the messiah, but some matters of interpretation of the Torah inevitably led to sectarianism reflected in 4QMMT.

The third essay in this collection examines the scribal activity on the Torah that developed into the sectarianism found in the DSS (“Changing Scripture”). Starting with Michael Fishbane’s “inner-biblical exegesis,” Collins suggests that even within Deuteronomy there is interpretation of the authoritative covenant. By the second century BCE, the Torah was “clarified and solidified” so that the practice of rewriting developed as a way to interpret and adapt the classic texts to new situations. For the legal texts, Jubilees and the Temple Scroll are prototypical examples of scripture rewritten. Jubilees is “an exegetical attempt to resolve problems in the traditional text of the Torah” (46), while the Temple Scroll “claims the status as Torah” (48). The author of Jubilees did not change the traditional text, but the writer of the Temple Scroll seems to have been free to change and adapt the text.

This freedom to innovate is the subject of the fourth essay in the collection (“Tradition and Innovation in the Dead Sea Scrolls”). For Collins, an innovation of the sectarian literature found amongst the DSS is that it is so focused on the Torah (59). Some tradition is known by all Israel, but there were hidden laws only obtained by sectarian exegesis of the Teacher of Righteousness. The community produced pesherim, biblical commentary which “established and reinforced the identity of the community” (66) and interpret prophecy as referring to the community’s own history (67). Although there was no authoritative canon, 4QMMT implies the Qumran community shared a pool of texts with the Jerusalem community, but what counts, Collins points out, is not the Scripture cited, but the way it was interpreted (69).

The final three essays in this section focus on the interpretation of three sections of the Hebrew Bible in the DSS, Genesis (chapter 5), Psalm 2 (chapter 6) and the book of Daniel (chapter 7). With respect to Genesis, the DSS engage in the ongoing debate within Second Temple Judaism on the meaning of Genesis 1-3 and the origin of evil. Although not directly in dialogue with Sirach or 1 Enoch, Collins observes that the several scrolls discussing Genesis 1-3 are remarkably free in their interpretation, even ignoring the command of God not to eat from the tree of good and evil (85). Interpretation is not atomistic, rarely dealing with the details of a text. With respect to Psalm 2, Collins examines 4Q174, the so-called Florilegium. This scroll is a catena of texts which is not a messianic collection. However, as Collins shows, Psalm 2 was regularly understood as messianic in the Second Temple period and the juxtaposition of Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7:14 appears in both the book of Hebrews and this scroll. Fragments of eight manuscripts of the book of Daniel have been identified at Qumran, along with quotations of the book in other scrolls, including a few allusions in sectarian documents. Collins points out the influence of the book goes beyond citations and allusions, since the book of Daniel is the forerunner of pesher-style exegesis and the concept of a mystery and the periodization of history is important in both Daniel and the Scrolls (108). In addition, there are a number of scrolls related to Daniel (The Prayer of Nabonidus, several pseudo-Daniel fragments, an Aramaic apocalypse and a “four kingdoms” text). As Collins cautions, the “para-Danielic” literature is in Aramaic and not sectarian.

Continue to part two of this review.

The Epistle of Enoch – 1 Enoch 99-105

The final chapters of 1 Enoch are advice to his children and follow a pattern not unlike the Old Testament wisdom literature.  There is a general admonition to listen to the words of the father and walk in righteousness.  What follows are a long series of “woe” statements condemning various sins and “unwise” activities.  The rich, the deceitful, the idolater, the oppressor, the one who has luxury, the blasphemous, etc. are all warned of the judgment in store for them. Most of this material is in the format of “woe to the sinner because . . .” There are a few notable exceptions to this format which are eschatological in nature. Chapter 101 is another wisdom piece not unlike God’s speech in Job.  It contains a series of rhetorical questions about nature intended to underscore God’s sovereign control of the universe.

Ethiopic-calendarIn 99:3-10 there is a bit of non-woe material introduced with “in those days.”  The righteous need to prepare to “raise a memorial” in prayer because of the wickedness of those days. Women will abort babies and commit infanticide, it will be a time of “unceasing blood.” There will be idolatry which “blindfolds” the sinner so that they will not be saved.  This idea of a blindness in the last days which prevents sinners from perceiving the truth is found in 2 Thess. 2:11 – God sends a “spirit of delusion” which prevents people in the last days from seeing the truth. Matthew 24:4-13 describes people in the last days as believing lies, false prophets and increasing wickedness.

In 100:1-6 a final judgment is described.  Fathers and sons will kill each other (100:2, cf. the less violent Luke 12:52, fathers against sons, etc.)  The gore of the final battle is so deep a horse walks up to his chest in blood (100:3, cf. Ezek. 39:17; Rev 14:20). Angels will go into secret places and gather those who caused others to sin in order to execute them on the great judgment day (100:4).  The righteous, however, will be protected by angels until sinners are judged.  From that time on they will live in peace and “no one will make them afraid.” They are “saved” from the judgment because they gave heed to the words of “this book.”

In 102:1-11 the terror of the final judgment is described. “In those days” sinners will be unable to hide from the terrors as angels fulfill the orders of the Lord (cf. Rev. 6:16-17).  Sinners will go down to Sheol in sorrow (102:5), but the righteous have no need to fear, there will be no righteous in Sheol (102:4, 11).

Chapters 103 and 104 use an oath motif along with the woe formula to describe the “two ways,” the way of the righteous and the way of the sinner.  Verses 1-4 describes the lot of the righteous: those who die will live and rejoice, their spirits will not perish and they will be a memorial before the Lord.  Sinners, however, are already dead (103:5).  They may have died in prosperity and wealth, but now they are suffering terrible torments on account of their easy lives (103:4-5).  The righteous have no need to hide in the coming judgment (104:1-6).  The sinner thinks they have nothing to worry about on the great Day of Judgment (104:7), but in fact everything will be made known and judged.  Chapter 105 is a brief benediction concluding this section.

The final chapters of 1 Enoch are fragments of other documents appended to the main text.  Chapters 106 and 107 are a narrative of the birth of Noah which probably comes from a lost Noah Apocalypse (Charles, Commentary, 2:278). When Noah is born, he has white skin and hair as red as a rose; his eyes glowed like the sun.  As soon as he was born, he spoke to the Lord.  Lamech is naturally upset by this odd child and runs to his father Methuselah for advice. Methuselah in turn sends him to Enoch who predicts the flood as a judgment for sin and names the boy Noah.  Enoch also predicts Noah will be the remnant for Lamech in the “oppression” to come.  These predictions are confirmed because they were written on heavenly tablets (107:1-2).

The final chapter of 1 Enoch is described as “another book of Enoch” which was written for Methuselah (108:1).  Enoch tells his son that those who observe the law ought to wait patiently (108:1-3).  He describes a vision of an invisible burning cloud which is explained by an angel as the place where sinners go (108:4-7).  Those who love God endure, although they suffer in the body, because God will make recompense for what they have suffered (108:8-10).  The righteous who endure will eventually see the end of those who are unrighteous (108:11-15).

The Apocalypse of Weeks – 1 Enoch 93:1-10; 91:11-17

bookofenochThe Apocalypse of Weeks is a brief recounting of human history as a series of weeks. This vision concerns the “elect ones in the world” (93:1).  Enoch has learned these future events through a heavenly vision given by holy angels and understood from heavenly tablets (93:2).  This triple proof underscores the surety of the vision.

The First Week (93:3) – Enoch was born seventh in the first week, a time when “judgment and righteousness endure.”

The Second Week (93:4) – After Enoch’s time “great and evil things” arise and the “first consummation” takes place.  Only one man survives (Noah); the flood does not deal with sin.  Therefore, this man makes a law for sinners (the Noahic Covenant).

The Third Week (93:5) – During this week a man is elected as a “plant of righteousness” and a second man as an “eternal plant of righteousness.” The first is Abraham, the second is Moses (eternal since he was “assumed” into heaven).

The Fourth Week (93:6) – During this week visions of old and righteous ones will be seen and “a law will be established as a fence.”  This probably refers to the writing of the Pentateuch (i.e., the Law).

The Fifth Week (93:7) – This week will see the completion of “a house and a kingdom,” the establishment of the Davidic kingdom.

The Sixth Week (93:8) – At the end of the week the house and kingdom will be burnt, people will be blindfolded and the “chosen root” dispersed. This is period from David to the Exile.

The Seventh Week (93:9-10) – In the seventh week an apostate generation will arise, all of their deeds will be criminal.  The elect ones will give sevenfold instruction to the flock.  Since this is post exilic, it could refer to the “criminal activities” of the pre-Maccabean period (Jason and Menelaus purchasing the high priesthood, radical Hellenization, the murder of Onias).  On the other hand, it could refer to the Hasmoneans themselves since they united the high priesthood with the king for several generations. In either case, this is the time of the author of the Apocalypse. There is no explicit reference to the Maccabean revolt or a judgment which puts an end to the criminal activity (i.e. Judas Maccabees as a messiah figure.)

The Eighth Week (91:12-13) –   After the judgment (which is not described in the text, unless 92:3-5 should be inserted here), there will be an “eighth week” which will be a week of righteousness (91:12-13). During this period a house will be built for the great king “in glory forevermore” (91:12-13). There is an implication that the first seven weeks occur before this week of righteousness, therefore all of history before the ideal period is seven “weeks.” This is reminiscent of the epistle of Barnabas which describes the history of the world in seven creational days, with the seventh being the idealized age (i.e., the kingdom).

The Ninth Week (91:14) – In this period there will be a righteous judgment and all sinners will depart from the earth and be “written off for eternal destruction.” Those who are not judged as sinners will “direct their sight to the path of uprightness.”

The Tenth Week (91:15-16) – In the seventh part of the tenth week there will be a judgment executed by the angels of heaven – the old heaven will pass away and a new heaven will appear; the powers of heaven will shine eternally sevenfold.  This “new heaven” idea is drawn from Isaiah 66:17-25 and is found in Revelation 21:1 as well.

“Many Weeks” (91:17) – After the sequence of ten weeks there will be an unending period, an “eternal state” during which sin will no longer exist.

This brief Apocalypse gives the same general outline as Similitudes and the Book of Visions. There will be an end to sin and corruption in the future.  A judge will make right what is wrong and the ages which follow this judgment will be an ideal sinless state. The Apocalypse of Weeks develops this idea of a coming new age very much in outline form, not unlike the book of Daniel.  If this sort of an outline of history was well known in the first century (from Daniel, 1 Enoch, etc.), then it is possible the language of “kingdom” used in the Gospels evoked imagery in the minds of the first listeners similar to the Apocalypse of Weeks.

Jesus claims to be given authority to judge (John 5:27, Mt. 28:18) and clearly associates himself with the eschatological Son of Man in Mark 14:62.   It is the authority of Jesus which is questioned in the Temple by the chief priests (Mark 11:27-33).

Last Call for Biblical Studies Carnival Links for June 2016

carnivalThe June Biblioblog Carnival will be hosted by Kris Lyle  and Old School Script. This is a relatively new blog and Kris has been posting quite a bit of useful Contact Kris on this blog or  via twitter @KristopherLyle. I am sure he is nearly finished selecting his links, but if you have something you think is carnival worthy, send Brian a link. What have you read this month that was challenging, simulating, or maybe even a bit strange? This is a good time to promote a less well-known blog you enjoy, or you can send a link to your own work.

Some readers may not know what a “blog carnival” is. Simply, a Blog Carnival is a collection of links on a particular topic for a given period. I think the idea of a blog carnival first developed out of psychology or sociology blogs, but the first BiblioBlog carnival was Joel Ng at Ebla Logs in March 2005.

I took over as the “keeper of the list” from Dr Jim Linville in August of 2012. Basically that means I find volunteers to host the carnival. In fact, I am always looking for volunteers to host future carnivals!  Right now I have June covered, but I need someone for July (due Aug 1) and August (due Sept 1). I know there are a few relatively new bloggers who might like the chance to host, now is the time!

Hosting a carnival is a great way to draw readers to your blog and it is really fun to do. Contact me either by leaving a comment here, or sending me an email (plong42 at or a direct message via twitter (@plong42).


Introduction to the Epistle of Enoch – 1 Enoch 91-92

This last section of 1 Enoch contains wisdom-like literature which condemns various sinners.  The section also contains a “testament” in which Enoch urges his grandchildren to live a moral lifestyle.  Included as chapter 93 is an apocalyptic section commonly known as the Apocalypse  of Weeks.  Both chapter 91 and 92 have superscription in some manuscripts indicating the beginning of the fifth book, therefore chapter 91 may be a conclusion to the dream visions of the previous section. Nickelsburg calls chapter 91 a “narrative bridge” concluding the Dream Visions.

Enoch-manusrcriptLike Jacob in Genesis 49, Enoch gathers his children to listen to his word (91:1-4, 19) and describes to them the increase of violence in the world which will result in great plagues and finally in judgment (91:5-11).  In this judgment all sinners and blasphemers will be cut off.  Chapter 91:12-17 seem misplaced since they describe the eighth and ninth weeks; the Apocalypse of Weeks in chapter 93 cuts off after the seventh week. Charles re-arranges the text so that the Apocalypse of Weeks is in order, OTP leaves the text out of order without comment. This is confirmed by Aramaic fragments from Qumran discovered since Charles published (Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, Second Edition, 62).

Chapter 92 also forms an introduction to this final section (verse one). Enoch tells his readers they ought not to be troubled by difficult times, the Holy and Great One has declared “specific days for all things (92:2).  The Righteous One will wake from his sleep, and walk in righteousness forever.  God himself will give the Righteous One eternal uprightness and authority to judge.  The righteous will “walk in eternal light,” while the “sin and darkness will perish forever” will never be seen again.

This short chapter seems to speak of a messianic age, assuming the phrase “Righteous One” ought to be taken as the same as in the book of Similitudes (Righteous One, Elect One, “that son of man,” etc.).  There will come an individual who will establish God’s rule on earth and judge fairly between the righteous and the sinner.

The Dream Visions (1 Enoch 85-90) and the New Testament

The animal apocalypse is important for the general eschatological outline it provides.  The people of Israel will be oppressed and a deliverer will come (although this deliverer is not as detailed as in the Similitudes.) There will be a judgment (90:20) and the enemies of the sheep will be cast into the abyss (90:22, 24). A new feature in this apocalypse is that those who are cast into the abyss will be converted (90:30-31, 37-39). This conversion will include the sheep (Israel) as well as the other animals (gentiles). This restoration will include a New Jerusalem and a renovation of the Temple as well as a period of peace and safety for the sheep as they are ruled by the true Lord of the Sheep.

Does the Animal Apocalypse anticipate the conversion of the Gentiles? Some scholars find this unusual coming from a Jewish writer in the midst of the Maccabean revolt. But the prophets of the Hebrew Bible often described the nations as coming to Zion to hear the word of the Lord (Isa 2; 25:6-8; Zech 14:16-19). Like the Animal Apocalypse, the surviving nations will acknowledge the God of Israel, although it appears many will be slaughtered or judged prior to the establishment of a New Jerusalem.

apocalyptic-jesusThere are a number of elements of Gospels which resonate with the Animal Apocalypse. Jesus uses a great deal of shepherd language in the gospels drawn from the same stock of images as the Animal Apocalypse.  When looking upon the crowd, Jesus says they are like sheep without a shepherd (Mt. 9:36-37); he then sends his disciples to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mt. 10:6).  In Mark 6:34 Jesus looks on a crowd and says the same thing, but in this case he has them sit on green grass and feeds them, as a good shepherd tends to his flock (6:39-44). Luke 15:4-7 describes Jesus as diligently seeking the lost sheep and rejoicing when one is found.  In John 10 Jesus claims that he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep and that he tends the sheep for his Father in heaven (10:25-30).

If the idea of Israel as the Lord’s sheep was common enough in first century Palestine, then these statements by Jesus may have been understood more eschatologically than we might have ordinarily thought. Certainly contemporary preaching makes these sheep / shepherd analogies into images of love, care, and protection.  In the Animal Apocalypse, there is something of this present, but the focus is on the shepherd’s ownership of the sheep and the potential slaughter of the sheep by their enemies.

While it is true there is a theme of loving care and tender affection in the “good shepherd” sayings, Jesus may be playing on the idea that the people of Israel are poorly lead by their current shepherds (the elders of Israel) and that a change is in order.  Jesus is therefore claiming that he is the true shepherd of Ezekiel 34.  Israel’s leaders have failed as shepherds, therefore Jesus will feed the people and care for them.  Eschatologically speaking, then, Jesus tapped into a rich tradition shared by the Animal Apocalypse.

One final question. Does this allegorical history result from a loss of faith in God’s plan to restore the Kingdom to Israel? A writer living at the beginning of the Hasmonean period may have thought that Judas Maccabees was a new David or new Joshua, but despite the remarkable progress of the Hasmoneans, they failed to establish anything like a new Davidic kingdom and Judah never rose to the hyperbole of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible.

I do not think that this Apocalypse expresses a loss of faith in God’s plan as much as a re-evaluation of that plan in the light of the present. Judas was not a new David, but someday a new David will appear to render justice and convert the nations. This shift to a future hope for God’s intervention is how apocalypses work. History is working toward God’s goal of restoring the kingdom to Israel and the writer is living in the shadow of that restoration.

Are there other elements of the Animal Apocalypse that shed light on biblical apocalyptic? Daniel and Revelation are obvious, but there are apocalyptic threads in Jesus and Paul as well.