The conflict between the Hellenists and the Hasidim came to a climax during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-163 B.C.), leading to the Maccabean revolt. Antiochus IV had been in Rome as a hostage because of his father’s military defeats. Before his death Seleucus Philopater had sent his son to Rome in exchange for his brother Antiochus IV. This twelve years spent in Rome influenced the young Antiochus greatly.

antiochus_iv_epiphanesAfter leaving Rome Antiochus went to Athens where he served as chief magistrate until Seleucus IV Philopater was murdered by Heliodorus. Heliodorus ruled as regent for Demetrius, the second son of Seleucus IV. When Antiochus IV heard of his brother’s death and that Heliodorus had seized the throne, he arranged financial support King Eumenes II of Pergamum. When he arrived in Syria, Antiochus began to flatter and bribe everyone involved in arbitrating the dispute over who should be king.

Although he was finally named king, Antiochus took over a troubled kingdom. The Seleucids were nearly out of money and continually harassed by Rome to the west and the Parthinians to the east. Antiochus dealt with the first problem by robbing temples and shrines throughout the kingdom, including Jerusalem. In order to develop some stability in the kingdom, he encouraged Hellenism throughout the kingdom, usually by adding Zeus to the local pantheon.

Antiochus angered the Jews by appointing high-priests who had bribed him for the office. He appointed Jason as high-priest in 175 in exchange for a bribe (which was larger than the bribe offered by Onias III, the high-priest antiochus_iv_epiphanes_1appointed by Antiochus’ predecessor.) Three years later, Jason was replaced by Menelaus, an enemy of Onias III, who happened to offer an even larger bribe to Antiochus.  Both Jason and Menelaus were extremely lax with respect to Jewish law; Jason even petitioned Antiochus to re-found Jerusalem as a Greek city-state with the name Antioch and built a gymnasium at the foot of the temple mount.

Jason attacked Menelaus in Jerusalem, forcing Antiochus to put down the rebellion with a show of force. Antiochus responded to this Jewish in-fighting by outlawing distinctive Jewish religious practices and began a program of persecution of the Jews with the intent of insulting and offending the Jews in every way possible. This included sacrificing a pig to Zeus in the Temple, the “abomination that causes desolation” from Daniel 9.

Antiochus is often described as a “Hellenistic zealot” who sought to impose Hellenism on the “faithful” Jewish people. That is the impression one gets from reading 1 Maccabees, but the book is not necessarily “objective history.” There is really no evidence that indicates Antiochus was any more Hellenistic that any other Greek ruler, nor was his method of suppressing the Jewish nationalistic feelings particularly extreme by the standards of the day.

While these outrageous actions of Antiochus were the direct causes of the Maccabean revolt in 164 B.C.E., the tension between completely Hellenized Jews (Menelaus and Jason) and somewhat Hellenized Jews (Onias III, and the later Hasmoneans) was present in the period prior to Antiochus’ offensive actions.

There will be a range of responses from the Jews to the highly offensive policies of Antiochus and his political descendants, from the armed rebellion of the Maccabeans to passive martyrdom of the seven brothers in 4 Maccabees. Some groups withdrew from society to study their sacred Scripture (the Essenes, some Pharisees), others developed elaborate apocalyptic hopes for God’s immediate intervention. Others give up any resistance to the empire and ally themselves with the emperor who commits abominations.

What is remarkable is these are still the kinds of options available to modern Christians in a post-Christian America. What are the dangers of joining the empire, what are the risks of speaking out against the “abominations”? How can the various responses to Antiochus be a guide (or a warning) to Christian responses to present anti-Christian governments?

 

 

holy-landJust as the writer of Jubilees sought to insert the Law into primeval history, so to the boundaries of the Land. Jubilees begins with the recognition that the Land is a gift from God rooted in the covenant.  Chapter 1:7-14 summarizes Israel’s history as being given the Land, and being removed from the Land.  Verse 13 especially emphasizes the connection between covenant obedience and continued presence in the Land.  In 1:15-18 the Lord tells Moses that after the people repent, he will replant them in the Land and the sanctuary will be rebuilt.

The allocation of the land of Israel to the descendants of Shem is made in documents written by Noah himself (8:10-11).

And it came to pass at the beginning of the thirty-third jubilee, that they divided the land (in) three parts, for Shem, Ham, and Japheth, according to the inheritance of each, in the first year in the first week, while one of us who were sent was dwelling with them. 11 And he called his children, and they came to him, they and their children. And he divided by lot the land which his three sons would possess. And they stretched out their hands and took the document from the bosom of Noah, their father. OTP 2:72.

Noah rejoiced that his son Shem should receive this land, and blessed his son saying “may the Lord dwell in the dwelling place of Shem” (8:18).  In this territory are the three most holy places on earth: Eden, Sinai and Zion (8:19-21).  Of the territories assigned to the three sons of Noah, only Shem’s is described as “very good,” an echo of the text of the creation story itself (8:21, cf Gen 1:31).  When Canaan sees this good land he seizes it from his brother, incurring a curse (10:30).

After the flood, Noah makes a sacrifice to atone for the defilement of the land (6:2). The description of this sacrifice in Jubilees 7:30-33 is greatly expanded from the text in Genesis 9 and is a careful interweaving of texts from the Law on the defilement of the land (Halpurn-Amaru, Rewriting the Bible, 27).  In 7:34, Noah’s sons will be like plants in the land (medr) if they are righteous.  This may echo the prophets (Jer 11:17, Amos 9:15) as well as 1 Enoch (10:16, 93:5, 10).

When Abraham is taking possession of the land for the first time, the Lord promises to give the land to Abraham’s descendants forever (15:10).  In Abraham’s farewell to his children in chapter 20 he implores his children to not worship false gods so that they will remain in the land, blessed with the good things of the land (20:6-10). This section is an echo of the blessings found in Deut 27:15; it is perhaps significant that the writer does not include an equal place to the curses of the covenant.

The emphasis on God’s gift of land to the descendants of Israel is important because many Jewish readers of this book were living outside of Judea. Perhaps the author of Jubilees places the promise of land to the time of Noah in order to assure readers of God’s promise restore the people of Israel to the land in the future, or even to encourage a return to the land at the present time.

How does this idea of land play into the Maccabean revolt? Does the view of Jubilees reflect the same sort of land-theology as 1 Maccabees or 2 Maccabees? It is even possible the idea of the land as a sacred gift of God impacts later Christian writing (and perhaps contemporary theology).

 

Bibliography: Betsy Halpern-Amaru, Rewriting the Bible: Land and Covenant in Post-Biblical Jewish Literature. (Valley Forge, Penn.: Trinity Press, 1994), 26.

In Jubilees, the law is established in creation, therefore “obedience to the Law is the central message of Jubilees” (Wintermute, “Jubilees,” OTP 2:40).  The writer desires to place as many Jewish customs and religious features as early in the history as possible. The earlier a practice can be rooted in history, the better. For example, the purity laws concerning a pregnancy (3:8-14) are found in the creation narrative alongside marriage and Sabbath. Adam is created unclean and must wait forty days before entering the garden, Eve must wait eighty (3:8-14, the number of days after which a woman is to present herself at the temple for ritual cleansing after the birth of a male and female).

Jubilees 2:19-20 selects phrases from Exodus on Sabbath and inserts them into the creation story.

And he gave us a great sign, the sabbath day, so that we might work six days and observe a sabbath from all work on the seventh day. 18 And he told us—all of the angels of the presence and all of the angels of sanctification, these two great kinds—that we might keep the sabbath with him in heaven and on earth. And he said to us, “Behold I shall separate for myself a people from among all the nations. And they will also keep the sabbath. And I will sanctify them for myself, and I will bless them. Just as I have sanctified and shall sanctify the sabbath day for myself thus shall I bless them. And they will be my people and I will be their God. And I have chosen the seed of Jacob from among all that I have seen. And I have recorded him as my firstborn son, and have sanctified him for myself forever and ever. And I will make known to them the sabbath day so that they might observe therein a sabbath from all work.” OTP 2:57.

There are other later Jewish institutions and beliefs retrojected into the story of Genesis. Noah establishes the feast of Shevout and Firstfruits (6:17-31). These feasts are “Thus it is engraved and ordained on the heavenly tablets, and there is no transgressing in a single year, from year to year.”

Image result for sabbath commandment manuscriptThe prohibition on eating blood in Gen 9 is greatly expanded, conforming it to later command sin the mosaic law (7:20-33). Abraham implores his father to not worship idols (12:1-8) and burns down the house of idols (12:12-14).

Abraham even keeps the Feast of Booths centuries before it is given (Jub. 16:20-31). Passover and the Feast of Lights are not celebrated by Abraham since they are rooted in well-known historical events. Purim is also omitted, although if the book comes from a theological current akin to the Qumran community, Esther may not have been an important book and Purim a secular celebration. Even the Day of Atonement is foreshadowed in the story of Genesis; it is a day of mourning for Joseph (34).

In Jubilees, Seth, Enoch, and Noah are “proto-Jews” who were righteous before God well before Abraham. The tithe is rooted in the patriarchal stories in Jubilees 32.  The writer is therefore weaving law material into the narrative of the earliest histories in the Hebrew Bible in order to provide a more sure foundation for distinctive Jewish practices.

Jubilees repeatedly condemns fornication in the early generations, rooted in the Noahic covenant.  Similarly, many of these commands are “written on heavenly tablets,” an indication of the solemnity of the commands as well as their inviolability.  Even when a patriarch is guilty of fornication and is not judged (Reuben, 33; Judah 41), the author makes it clear this is no excuse for the reader to commit such acts.

What motivated the writer of Jubliees to ground distinctive Jewish practices in the earliest stories in Genesis? Is his motivation to prove to the Gentile world that the Judaism of the Second Temple period is ancient and worthy of respect? Or is he “preaching to the choir,” trying to encourage Second Temple Jews to continue in their practice of Sabbath and festivals?

The book of Jubilees is a critically important book for the study of the New Testament. The book was written in the second century B.C. in Hebrew as a summary and expansion of the book of Genesis and Exodus 1-12. Vanderkam reports paleographic studies date fragments of Jubilees to 100 B.C., providing the latest possible date for the book (Vanderkam, “Jubliees” ABD 3:1030). Recent studies have concluded the latest historical references in Jubilees are to the Maccabean revolt (specifically, 1 Mac 5:3, 6:5), thus the book must be dated between 161 and 140 B.C.

Image result for the book of jubilees greek manuscriptSince it was written in Hebrew in Palestine by a member of a priestly family, the book is a unique insight into the heart of an observant Jew in the period just prior to the events of the New Testament. Frank Cross described Jubilees as representing a kind of “proto-Essene” because of this emphasis on separation (The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies. Rev. ed., 199). In either case, we have a representative of a strict form of Judaism reacting to the Hellenizing tendencies of the Hasmonean rulers.

Jubilees claims to be a record of what was revealed to Moses during his forty days on Mount Sinai. Many distinctive Jewish practices are grounded in patriarchal narrative and in the created order itself. For example, circumcision was given as a sign of the Covenant in Genesis 15 and Jubilees expands on the practice. Circumcision is a commandment “written in heaven on heavenly tablets” (15:25). If Israel keeps the eternal commandment of circumcision, then “they will not be uprooted from the land because the commandment was ordained for the covenant so that they might keep it forever for all of the children of Israel” (15:28-29).

The primary purpose of Jubilees is to define the true Jewish people as those who keep God’s law and to call the Jewish people back to obedience to that Law. The Law is rooted in the very creation of the world. To violate law is therefore to flaunt the created order itself. Given the probability of a date just after the Maccabean revolt, the writer is reacting to those within the Jewish community who were too tolerant of the Greek world.

When Antiochus IV Epiphanies banned feasts and festivals, the Sabbath and circumcision, he violated the Law of God. Although the Maccabean revolt restored these practices, there was still apathy towards them in the Hasmonean period. The writer of Jubilees might have thought the Maccabean revolt did not go far enough since the Hasmonean kings were little better than the Seleucid kings they replaced. To be a proper Jew, one must retain the traditional boundary markers of the Hebrew Bible because they are rooted in the very nature of the world and there is no room for any negotiation on these practices.

Unlike Sirach, Jubilees envisions a complete separation from the Hellenistic world. The author of Jubilees does not encourage readers to adopt or adapt Hellenistic practices or thinking along Jewish lines. Unlike Sirach or the canonical Proverbs, wisdom is not rooted in creation, but rather the Law of God as it appears in the Mosaic Law. While Sirach said wisdom was to keep the Law of God, he was never very clear on what that Law might be. The author of Jubilees is quite clear as he re-writes the stories of the Hebrew Bible to establish the antiquity of the boundary markers of the Jewish people.

The book of Sirach was originally written in Hebrew by Yeshua ben Sira at the beginning of the second century B.C.E. and was translated into Greek by the author’s grandson before 116 B.C.  The book was likely completed before the reign Antiochus IV Epiphanies (175-164 B.C.E.) since there is no reference to the events of that period in the book although he does include a hymn extolling the virtue of the high priest Simon, son of Onias, who was high priest from 219 to 196 B.C. (Follow this link to a list Sirach allusions in the Talmud).

Image result for sirach hebrewOne objective of Sirach is to present the traditional faith of Israel as superior to the Hellenistic world. It is not surprising to find some influence from Greek and Egyptian wisdom literature, although there is no direct citation of a Hellenistic philosopher in the book. David deSilva lists Iliad 6.146-149 as parallel to Sirach 14:18 and Aristotle, NicEth 9.4.1166 as parallel to Sirach 6:11. Neither of these proves Ben Sira knew either of these works since the sayings may have passed into common wisdom usage by the second century B.C. (Introduction to the Apocrypha, 165). Sirach 11:28 (“Call no one happy before his death; by how he ends, a person becomes known” is similar to the major theme of Sophocles, Oedipus the King., but once again, this may be “common knowledge” by the time Sirach writes.

A few older scholars who have denied any Hellenistic influence. For example, Smend said: “He hates with all his heart Hellenism and the Greeks, as well as the small pagan neighboring nations, and yearns for the day of God’s reckoning with them….in fact, no Greek influence is discernable in his work.” This statement seems based on 50:25, in which Ben Sira expresses his hatred of Samaritans, Philistines and those who live in Shechem, all classic enemies of Israel. Even if the Hellenistic parallels are not present, Ben Sira does not seem as hostile as Smend implies. Sirach rarely (if ever) comments on the spiritual state of the nations. Of the twenty-five times ἔθνος is used in Ben Sira, only once does it appear in the context of judgment.

Carl Selmer suggested Sirach knew The Sayings of the Seven Sages by Demetrius Phalerus (d. 280 B.C.) This Greek work contains a series of short pieces of advice, many of which closely parallel Ben Sira. But the Sayings of the Seven Sages is preserved in a Latin proverb collection dated to the late Middle Ages. Selmer thought many earlier works went so far as to suggest that Ben Sira was simply gathering a collection of popular proverbs in the tradition of the canonical book of Proverbs. In order to show parallels Selmer gives the Latin form of the proverb in the Seven Sages and then potential parallels in the Latin form of Sirach. This method is problematic because the form of the Greek proverbs is preserved in a late Latin manuscript, the form of Sirach Selmer uses is Latin as opposed to Greek or Hebrew (which were not available to Selmer in 1943). Therefore, while it is impossible to trace with confidence any use of the Seven Sages by Ben Sira, it is remarkable that the content of all fourteen of the sayings appear someplace in the much larger book of Sirach. This may only speak of the currency of these themes in the wisdom literature of the third and early second century B.C.

While there is little evidence to suggest he borrowed freely from Greek or Egyptian writers, there are enough allusions to indicate Ben Sira knew some proverbial ethical Hellenistic philosophy. Why did he use so little of it to argue Torah is superior to Hellenistic philosophy? What was his motivation in alluding to Greek wisdom at all? Or we might ask, who was Ben Sira writing to, young Jewish readers tempted by Hellenism, or Hellenistic readers he hoped to convert?

To put it in contemporary terms, is Sirach apologetics or missionary literature?

 

 

Bibliography: Carl Selmer, “Traces of The ‘Sayings of the Seven Sages; In the Liber Ecclesiasticus.” CBQ 5, no. 3 (1943): 264-74l Carl Selmer, “Traces of The ‘Sayings of the Seven Sages; In the Liber Ecclesiasticus.” CBQ 5, no. 3 (1943): 264-74; Smend cited by Edmond Jacob, “Wisdom and Religion in Sirach,” pages 247-60 in Israelite Wisdom: Theological and Literary Essays in Honor of Samuel Terrien. Edited by John G. Gammie (Missoula, Mont: Scholars Press, 1978): 248.

Sirach wrote in the period before the events which led to the Maccabean revolt. He is friendly toward the Greeks and optimistic that Jewish people can live alongside their Greek neighbors. Perhaps Israel’s religion can be presented to the nations as a rational philosophy of life, so that the Gentiles would flock to Israel and fulfill the sort of hopes found in Isaiah 2. That Sirach would try to synthesis Wisdom and Law implies that Judaism is facing a crisis between Torah and Wisdom: many of the peculiar laws cannot be made to work with Hellenism.

This kind of apologetic strategy is rarely successful. Sirach could be attacked by more liberal Jewish thinkers as antiquated, and by more conservative thinkers are giving up the heart of Judaism. Hebrew Law never was going to appeal to the Hellenist and factions on either end of the spectrum might think Sirach was wrong to even try. The Maccabean revolt will try to re-assert and enforce the Jewish boundary markers.

Perhaps an analogy would help. How do extremely conservative Christians keep their children from leaving the faith? What is their apologetic strategy”?  For some, they shelter their children and never let them think outside of the approved conservative reading list. For others, they develop rationalistic explanations for why “the world” has a keatondifferent view (creation science as a rational way to explain away evolution). On the other end of the scale, some conservatives allow their children freedom to explore, and sometimes they lose them to “the world.” Potentially this analogy works for extremely liberal parents shielding their children from the conservative worldview (Alex P. Keaton, for example).

After the Maccabean revolt, there are several movements which step forward as competitors to Sirach’s hope for a rational and intellectual Judaism.

First, although the apocalyptic movement begins before Sirach, the best representatives of this style of literature appear after the Maccabean revolt. The Enochian literature, for example would find Sirach far too worldly.  1 Enoch sees the cosmic dimension of the Jewish religion: evil angels and the war of the forces of darkness and the forces of light.

Second, martyrdom movements that produced 4 Maccabees, revolutionary prophets and the Zealots at the end of the first century would find intellectual arguments as insufficient.  Sirach never calls for the use of force, the Zealots will. The Law of Moses is recommended to people through rational persuasion – the Zealots think that violence is necessary to enforce the Law.

Third, the development of scribes and “teachers of the Law” who worked to make new connections between Torah and contemporary practice (and to undo the connections others are made). The old Torah was alive and could be made to work in a Hellenistic world, a Roman world, or even the modern world.

In the Second Temple period Jewish people are desperate because history is not actualizing their hopes. The utopia dreams of Isaiah or Ezekiel’s hope for a restoration of the tribes of Israel around a Davidic leader are not being realized. They are trying to bring together elements to give their children something which will prevent them from going to Hellenism.

It is not a stretch to say that Christianity developed as one answer to this struggle for the heart of Judaism. But Christianity finds itself in a similar place, at least in the west. How does the approach of Sirach (or Aristeas or others) help Christians who are finding it difficult to remain faithful to the core beliefs of the faith in an increasingly anti-Christian world?

From 336-323 Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world.  The empire extended from Greece to Egypt, and as Far East as Babylon and parts of India. Alexander believed that Greek culture was superior to all other cultures, so forced all captured peoples to become Greek. Tomasino refers to Alexander as a “Greek missionary” (109). Hellenism refers to the adoption of Greek culture by non-Greeks (either by choice or by force). But For the most part, cultures captured by Alexander adopted Hellenistic culture and often saw the advantages of speaking the Greek language.

judith-in-art-salvi

Judith did not Assimilate

For Jews living in the Diaspora, there was a struggle to maintain some distinctive markers of their Jewish faith and practice, but also engage the culture of their new communities. Some Jewish practices were considered strange at best by the Gentile majority, and perhaps even dangerous to the health and prosperity of the city. If, for example, the Jews do not honor the patron gods of the particular town, and that town experiences some natural disaster, it is easy enough to blame the Jews for not worshiping the gods or participating in public festivals honoring divine civic patrons.

John Barclay suggested the level of Hellenization in Diaspora Jewish communities appears on three levels.

Assimilation.  How successfully has a Jew become integrated into the dominant culture?  On the low end, someone who stays within a Jewish neighborhood and has no contact with gentiles, in the middle, someone who has daily business contact with gentiles but maintains the “boundary markers” and at the high end Jews who have abandon those markers. There are relatively few Jews at the high end, although some reversed circumcision or became a part of a pagan cult.

Acculturation.  To what degree does a Jew internalize the dominant culture? At the low end, a Jew might have no knowledge of Greek, while in the middle of the scale there is a use of Greek and basic familiarity with Greco-Roman ethics and culture.  At the high end, a Jew who understands and uses the literature and rhetoric of the Greco-Roman world and has a mastery of the Greek language (such as Philo and Josephus, perhaps we can add Paul and perhaps Luke here).

Accommodation.  This measures the extent to which a Jew puts to use their acculturation. At the low end, a Jew might reject Gentile culture entirely, while in the middle of the scale, a Jew might use the culture to express their own tradition, still maintaining the core values of Judaism.  At the high end, the Greco-Roman culture asserts itself over Jewish practice (the aristocratic priests in Jerusalem, perhaps). On the other end of the scale would be the Essenes or the Zealots in the middle of the first century A.D.

This struggle to maintain cultural boundaries against the overwhelming force of Hellenism is the “plot” of most of the Second Temple Period.

Barclay’s scale is also helpful for looking ahead to some problems which appear very early in the church, especially as Gentiles begin to come to faith. How the early Christians assimilated, acculturated, or accommodated was a real problem in Paul’s churches, especially in Galatia and Corinth.

Can these categories be applied to the present Church? The struggle to maintain distinctive beliefs and practices in an overwhelmingly pagan culture sounds quite a bit like today’s news. Can we learn from the past with respect to absorbing and using culture?  Is it always a good thing to be separate from the world?  Or, like the Jews we meet in the Gospels, is it the case that we cannot avoid some level of assimilation?

 

 

Bibliography: John Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora from Alexander to Trajan Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996.

 

BiblioBlogger Carnival Barker?

BiblioBlogger Carnival Barker?

Cassandra Farrin hosts the January 2017 Biblical Studies Carnival at her Ethics & Early Christianity Blog hosted by the Westar Institute. In addition to the usual categories, Cassandra has a collection of links to biblioblogs (and others) commenting on Religion, Media & the US Presidential Election. I might have filed this under Apocalyptic and the End of the World, but her category works too.

Brian Small has a few Hebrews Highlights for January 2017 at his Hebrews themed blog, POLUMEROS KAI POLUTROPOS. I noticed Brian is part of a Hebrews group at the upcoming Midwest SBL meetings (now in South Bend, Indiana). I hope to attend these sessions discussing ““What Is Hebrews?”

I am always looking for hosts for future carnivals, so please considered volunteering as a host. If you you have hosted in the past, feel free to volunteer again. Carnivals are a great way to attract attention to your site if you are new blogger, but more importantly it gives you a chance to highlight the best and the brightest in the world of bibliblogs. Contact me via email (plong42@gmail.com), DM on twitter (@plong42) or a comment on this post and I can contact you.

The upcoming schedule for Carnivals is as follows:

Obviously I am still looking for volunteers for March – June 2016, and then the rest of the year.

Finally, I have a FlipBoard Magazine dedicated to biblical studies. You can use the web version or follow me using FlipBoard on your iOS or Android devices. I really enjoy the iPad version of FlipBoard, so check it out. You can always follow me on twitter, @plong42.

Image result for following jesus: biblical reflections on discipleship [book]Logos Bible Software is offering N. T. Wright’s Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Christian Discipleship for free in the month of March. This book was originally published by SPCK in 1994 and has been reprinted in North America by Eerdmans. Both books have been recently reprinted by Eerdmans with redesigned covers.

The book is a series of sermons on six books of the New Testament ( Hebrews, Colossians, Matthew, John, Mark, and Revelation) and six key themes (resurrection, rebirth, temptation, hell, heaven, and new life in a new world). Although he has developed these ideas further in more recent books, Following Jesus demonstrates something of Wright’s pastoral heart. These short chapters are intentionally devotional and challenge the reader to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

N. T. Wright For $1.99 more, you can also get Wright’s Who Was Jesus?  (SPCK 2005). This book is a response to three authors who have rather radical views on Jesus (Barbara Thiering, A. N. Wilson, and John Shelby Spong). For a Jesus scholar like Wright, responding to these three is a fairly easy task and Wright is perhaps at his snarkiest. For example, the Jesus described by A. N. Wilson a “moderately pale Galilean.”

Although this Free Book of the Month promotion will likely give Jim West an apoplectic fit, most will find this a great deal on two of Wright’s popular level books.

Logos is also running a giveaway this month, you can enter to win The N.T. Wright Collection (52 vols.) for the Logos library. This includes his major works (New Testament and the People of God; Jesus and the Victory of God; The Resurrection of the Son of God; Paul and the Faithfulness of God; Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul 1978–2013; Paul and His Recent Interpreters) as well as his more popular works and the “For Everyone” commentary series. Logos says this is a $700 value and gives you four ways to enter the contest.

The free and almost free book offer expires at the end of February, so head over to Logos and grab these books.

 

The Jewish diaspora begins as early as 722 B.C. when Assyria destroyed Samaria and deported some of the population to other Assyrian cities. For Judah, the exile began before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Babylon began deporting key people to Babylon to help integrate Jews in the empire.

trumpet-zionThe scattering of the Jewish people throughout the world is the foundation for the hope or restoration to the land in the future as the twelve tribes of Israel. The Diaspora will eventually come to an end, the land will be repopulated, Jewish cities will be rebuilt and the people will worship God in Jerusalem.

During the exile many Jews living outside the land looked forward to a time when God would gather the twelve tribes from the nations and return them to the Land. For example, the Psalms of Solomon were written sometime between dates from 70 to 45 B.C. and reflect the thinking of “devout Jews to the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans in the first century B.C.” (OTP 2:640; Trafton, “Solomon, Psalms of” in ABD 6:115-117).

PsSol 11:1-3 (OTP) Sound in Zion the signal trumpet of the sanctuary; announce in Jerusalem the voice of one bringing good news, for God has been merciful to Israel in watching over them. 2 Stand on a high place, Jerusalem, and look at your children, from the east and the west assembled together by the Lord. 3 From the north they come in the joy of their God; from far distant islands God has assembled them.

PsSol 17:28-31 (OTP) He will distribute them upon the land according to their tribes; the alien and the foreigner will no longer live near them. 29 He will judge peoples and nations in the wisdom of his righteousness. 30 And he will have gentile nations serving him under his yoke, and he will glorify the Lord in (a place) prominent (above) the whole earth. And he will purge Jerusalem (and make it) holy as it was even from the beginning, 31 (for) nations to come from the ends of the earth to see his glory, to bring as gifts her children who had been driven out, and to see the glory of the Lord with which God has glorified her.

Notice in these two examples the children of Zion are gathered from the four corners of the world back to mother Zion (recalling Isaiah 54). This “signal trumpet” sounds from the Temple and is an announcement of “good news” since the Jews living in the Diaspora will once again live in the land. In fact, the land will be divided into tribal divisions as it was in Joshua first took the land, but they will be ruled by a son of David (17:21) who will smash the nations (17:23-25) and Israel will once again be a holy people (17:26). Jerusalem itself will be holy, but the Gentile nations will come from the ends of the earth to offer worship (17:31).

Even Philo of Alexandria expected the Diaspora to return to the Land of Israel. In the following example, diaspora Jews will suddenly be restored to freedom at the sound of a signal. Masters will be so surprised at the sudden change they will set their Jewish slaves free. These claves will return to a land which is abundant in wealth and agricultural prosperity.

Philo, Rewards, 164 For even though they may be at the very extremities of the earth, acting as slaves to those enemies who have led them away in captivity, still they shall all be restored to freedom in one day, as at a given signal; their sudden and universal change to virtue causing a panic among their masters; for they will let them go, because they are ashamed to govern those who are better than themselves.

Philo, Rewards, 168 And when they come cities will be rebuilt which but a short time ago were in complete ruins, and the desert will be filled with inhabitants, and the barren land will change and become fertile, and the good fortune of their fathers and ancestors will be looked upon as a matter of but small importance, on account of the abundance of wealth of all kinds which they will have at the present moment, flowing forth from the graces of God as from ever-running fountains, which will thus confer vast wealth separately on each individual, and also on all the citizens in common, to an amount beyond the reach even of envy.

It is this age of prosperity the Jews will look for as they return from the Exile. These eschatological expectations increase throughout the period and have a profound influence on the material found in the New Testament.

But to what extent are these hopes a kind of fantasy for people living in distant lands hoping for a restoration of the “good old days”? Or, are these the hopes of Judeans now living in a barren and oppressed land, people who are looking forward to a future liberation? Is this kind of hope a form escapism? Or more troubling, have Christians transformed some of these Jewish hopes for restoration into a hope for heaven?

 

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Christian Theology

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