Eerdmans Sale on Kindle Books for July 2019

During the month of July, Eerdmans has some great deals on Kindle versions of recent publicationsAlthough I prefer real books to digital (and Logos books to Kindle), these books are worth the price. If you do not own a Kindle device, you can get an App on most devices to read Kindle books. I use the iPad Kindle App, it is very convenient for travel (or reading in the dark).

Although used hardback copies are available for less, George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (1974) is $4.99. This was one of the most influential books on evangelical scholarship. Ladd “popularized a view of the kingdom as having two dimensions: ‘already/not yet’” (The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax, A Theologian You Should Know).

Commenting on Ladd’s legacy John D’Elia said

Ladd’s legacy within evangelical scholarship is hard to overstate. I argue in the book that he carved out a place for evangelicals in what was then the threatening and bewildering world of critical biblical scholarship. By demystifying the methods of critical scholarship, Ladd made them available to evangelicals who wanted to use them in their study of the Scriptures. Historic premillennialism, then, is really an incidental part of Ladd’s story.

A few other interesting titles:

Michael F. Bird’s The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus (2014), 3.99. I reviewed this book in three parts starting here. To quote myself:

Michael Bird’s The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus is a study of the origins of the New Testament Gospel. The first three chapters concern the pre-literary forms of the Gospels, focusing on the shape of the Jesus tradition. He includes a chapter on the Synoptic Problem and another on the genre of the Gospels, two often discussed issues in Gospels introductions. Finally, he concludes the book with a chapter on the reason four Gospels were included in the canon of Scripture rather than only single story of Jesus. Each chapter concludes with a related excursus. While most excurses are brief expansions on some technical aspect of a chapter, some of Bird’s excurses are long enough to be chapters on their own. The book was named one of Christianity Today’s top books of the year in the Biblical Studies category.

Michael Green’s Thirty Years That Changed the World: The Book Acts for Today (2004) is a quick overview of the book of Acts.

Anthony J. Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society (2001, The Biblical Resource Series; $2.99). An excellent academic text on Second Temple Judaism.

Reinhard Pummer, The Samaritans: A Profile (2014, $2.99). I reviewed this book in 2016, concluding:

Pummer’s introduction to the Samaritans goes beyond the usual topics to include the whole history of Samaritan culture. By blending literary and archaeological sources, Pummer presents a clear and concise picture of the Samarians both in antiquity and in the modern world. Although the arrangement of topics is sometimes odd, this book will be a useful contribution to the ongoing study of the Samaritans.

William Dever’s Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (2008, $3.99) caused a bit of a stir when it was published. Ziony Zevit blurbbed the book:

“Once again William Dever has written a page-turner for thoughtful individuals interested in the Bible. This time, however, he explores what most biblicists ignore — the folk religion of ancient Israel, the religion as lived and practiced. . . Although written for the general public, this is one book that scholars cannot afford to miss. . . Writing in a personal style sprinkled with anecdotes, Dever has produced a rare work — a book that may be read and appreciated by all who take the Bible, archaeology, and history seriously. Packed with information, crackling with brilliant observations.”

For church history, Michael Graves, The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture: What the Early Church Can Teach Us (2014, $3.99). I reviewed the book here.

Here is a different sort of title for me: Dale Allison’s Night Comes: Death, Imagination, and the Last Things (2019,$1.99). This short book was developed from Allison’s Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary in October 2014. As he notes in his preface, these essays are edited and are more like a series of thoughts and reflections on life, death and the afterlife. As the book develops, there is a sense of Allison’s struggle as a scholar to deal some very basic issues human existence. You can read my full review of the book here.

There are quite a few others, so poke around the Eerdmans books on Amazon and see what you can find.

The sale runs through the end of July 2019.

Eerdmans Sale on Kindle Books for May 2019

During the month of May, Eerdmans has some great deals on Kindle versions of recent publications

Although I prefer real books to digital (and Logos books to Kindle), these are worth buying at the price. If you do not own a Kindle device, you can get an App on most devices to read Kindle books. I use the iPad Kindle App, it is very convenient for travel (or reading in the dark, which is sometimes a thing).

There are quite a few interesting books on the list this month, but I notice several volumes of the Socio-Rhetorical Commentary series for $4.99 each. As the title for the series implies, these commentaries focus on the social world of the author (Second Temple Judaism and the Greco-Roman world) as well as tracing the rhetorical strategies of the authors. The latter works best in the letters and sometimes can seem tedious, but this careful examination of how Paul (for example) argued his points has the potential to unfold the letters in new and exciting ways.

I have used many volumes in this series and usually found them helpful. Keener and DeSilva are always good,and Witherington always has something to stimulate my thinking. I looked for Witherington’s Acts but it is not available in Kindle format for some reason. It is really the best of the Socio-Rhetorical Commentary series.

In the non-commentary section of the sale, I noticed Richard Bauckham’s The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences ($2.99). This is a collection of essays which argue the four gospels were not written to specific churches (Matthew to Syrian Antioch, for example) but to the whole church.

For archaeology, Fant and Reddish, Lost Treasures of the Bible: Understanding the Bible through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums is a mere $1.99. The book discusses key artifacts now housed in museums all over the world. I reviewed this book soon after it came out, it is well worth reading. In the review, I concluded “This is an excellent book for general readers interested in archaeology as background for the Bible. Whether it is used in conjunction with a visit to a major museum or not, Lost Treasures provides the reader with good descriptions of the most important artifacts illustrating the world of both the Old and New Testaments.”

For the philosopher/theologian, The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader is $3.99. The book has thirteen essays and book excerpts in four sections (“Natural Theology and Atheology; Reformed Epistemology; Divine Nature and Attributes; Christian Philosophy). Think of this as Plantinga’s Greatest Hits.

There are quite a few others, so poke around the Eerdmans books on Amazon and see what you can find.

The sale runs through the end of May 2019.

Eerdmans Sale on Kindle Books for March 2019

During the month of March, Eerdmans has some great deals on Kindle versions of recent publications

Although I prefer real books to digital (and Logos books to Kindle), these are worth buying for a few bucks. If you do not own a Kindle device, you can get an App on most devices to read Kindle books. I use the iPad Kindle App, it is very convenient for travel (or reading in the dark, if you are into that).

I think the highlight of this month’s sale is J. R. Daniel Kirk, A Man Attested by God: The Human Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels. James McGrath said “This may well be the most important book about New Testament Christology to appear in recent years.” Kirk argues against the idea the Gospels present Jesus as divine, but rather he is a idealized human similar to other ideal humans (Moses, Elijah, etc.) It is a challenging book, well worth reading and considering his arguments.

There are quite a few others, so poke around the Eerdmans books on Amazon and see what you can find.

The sale runs through the end of March 2019.

Book Review: Michael F. Bird, An Anomalous Jew: Paul among Jews, Greeks, and Romans

Bird, Michael F. An Anomalous Jew: Paul among Jews, Greeks, and Romans. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2017. xii + 322 pages; Pb. $28.   Link to Eerdmans

This new collection of essays from Michael Bird includes three chapters previously published and two lengthy chapters written for this volume. A lengthy thirty-page introduction explains what Bird means by “an anomalous Jew” (aside from the play on John Meier’s work on the Historical Jesus, A Marginal Jew or Daniel Boyarin’s Paul: A Radical Jew). Although it is commonplace in contemporary scholarship to acknowledge Paul’s Jewish roots, Bird points out Paul says things that no other Torah-affirming Jew would say and he was opposed violently by Torah-affirming Jews. Paul’s view of what God is doing in the present age through Jesus Christ led to his “decentering of the Torah” (7). So if Paul is a Jewish thinker, how should he be situated in what we know about Second Temple period Judaism?

Prior to the twentieth century, situating Paul within Judaism was not even considered since Paul was read as completely rejecting his Jewish (legalistic) religion and “converting” to Christianity. Aside from the historical anachronisms, the traditional view of Paul was at best anti-Semitic. But since the Holocaust Pauline scholarship had returned the idea Paul represents some form of early Judaism. Bird offers several contemporary scholarly opinions that Paul was a Former Jew (Martyn), a Transformed Jew (Sanders, Dunn and the New Perspective), a Faithful Jew (Mark Nanos), or even a Radical Jew (Daniel Boyarin). Bird picks up on a suggestion from John Barclay that Paul was an anomalous diaspora Jew, although he wants to include the “thoroughly Judean Paul” of W. D. Davies, E. P. Sanders and the New Perspective (27).

Having charted the course in his introduction, Bird then turns to “Salvation in Paul’s Judaism” (chapter 1, a shorter version appeared in Paul and Judaism, LNTS 463; T&T Clark 2012). He begins by surveying several recent attempts to describe Paul’s view of salvation as being either against Judaism or within it. If Paul was against the Judaism of his day, then he was necessarily supersessionist and conceived of Christianity as the replacement for Israel. But if Paul stayed in some sense within Judaism, then Paul viewed Jews and Gentiles as a “remnant within Israel who occupy a special place within an irrevocably elected Israel” (45). Bird concludes Paul was somewhere between these two poles since he seems intra-Judaism with respect to halakic discussions, but contra-Judaism in the sense he says things no Second Temple Jew would, such as the Torah leads to death.

Written specifically for this volume, the second essay in the collection asks if Paul was an Apostle to the Gentiles and Jews. Bird begins with the observation that Paul’s title of “apostle to the Gentiles” has obscured his continued mission to the Jews. Since the epistles of Paul may be used to argue Paul only went to the Gentiles after his conversion, the accuracy of Acts is questions (since Paul continues to reach out to Jews throughout his whole career). Bird therefore focuses this essay on the place of the Jews in Paul’s apostolate to the Gentiles (71). In order to achieve this goal, he begins with an overview of the vocabulary Paul used for non-believing non-Jews (ἔθνη, Ἕλλην, ἀκροβυστία, περιτομή, ἄνομος). This vocabulary is more “fuzzy” than often observed, especially when used to describe the target of Paul’s mission. Bird has a helpful chart on page 85 demonstrating that there are both lawless Gentiles and Jews, Greeks (Hellenes who may also be lawless) but Diaspora Jews (who might be Hellenistic but keep the Law).

Bird argues Paul did in fact target Jews in the Diaspora, but also that his mission evolved over the years. Although this is not controversial as far as I can see, Bird goes on to ask when Paul received his commission to go to the Gentiles. He argues the evidence from Acts is ambiguous. Acts 9:15 indicates he was to carry Jesus’ name to “Gentiles and Kings and the sons of Israel.” In fact, Paul does go to synagogues where he preaches that Jesus is the Messiah, and he does continue to go to synagogues in the book of Acts. One potential problem is Paul’s time in Arabia, but Bird argues Paul’s focus was on Jews living in the Nabatean kingdom, especially around Damascus. What may be controversial in this essay is Bird’s contention the commission to go to the Gentiles occurs after the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. It is only after this watershed moment that Paul begins to partition his Gentile churches from the synagogues (96). Bird thinks this may help understand Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 that he became a Jew in order to win the Jews, and a Gentile to win the Gentiles. Given the flexible vocabulary Paul uses to describe his mission, Paul’s target were those who were not in Christ, which may include some Jews. The door was opened to the Gentiles, but as Bid says, it was never closed to the Jews (104).

By the end of this chapter, Bird indicates Acts is a trustworthy guide, which raises a question for the thesis Paul’s Gentile mission developed more fully after the Jerusalem Council. Although he acknowledges the synagogue sermon in Acts 13 is paradigmatic for Lukan theology, he overlooks the important symbolic miracle earlier in that chapter. After “Barnabas and Saul” visit synagogues on Cyprus, Saul approaches a Roman official. This man is not a God-fearing Gentile (like Cornelius) and appears to be a pagan Roman. When Saul attempts to share the Gospel with him, a Jewish sorcerer attempts to stop him. At this point in the story Luke tells the readers Saul is also called Paul, and Paul delivers a judgment speech on the Jewish sorcerer and he is blinded for a time. After this dramatic incident, Luke only uses the name Paul and almost always places Paul first (“Paul and Barnabas,” the only exception is at the Jerusalem council). This symbolic blinding is explained in the synagogue sermon later in Acts 13, where Paul and Barnabas “turn to the Gentiles” for the first time in the book of Acts. Luke has used this story at a crucial turning point in his overall story, but the incident also seems to indicate Paul was targeting a Roman official before the Jerusalem council. I have no doubt Bird is correct that Paul’s missionary strategy developed and matured over the years and it is absolutely the case Paul continued to use the synagogue as a platform for preaching Jesus as Messiah. But perhaps he was engaged in Gentile mission such as approaching Romans such as Sergius Paulus from the beginning.

At a combined one hundred pages, chapters 3 and 4 are a kind of mini-commentary on Galatians. In chapter three Bird offers an assessment of recent apocalyptic readings of Galatians (“An Invasive Story: An Apocalyptic and Salvation-Historical Rereading of Galatians”). As his first two footnotes make clear, apocalyptic readings of Galatians are a hot topic for Pauline scholars in recent years. There are two ways of nuancing the issue. For many Pauline scholars such as Krister Stendahl, a salvation-history or covenantal approach is an adequate explanation for Paul’s theology. Paul’s theology is set within the larger story of Israel. But for others (Käsemann and Beker), apocalyptic is central to Paul’s thinking. By apocalyptic, these scholars focus on Jesus as the messiah and his death and resurrection as an apocalyptic event which creates a new world, perhaps a new “kingdom of God.” Louis Martyn and Douglas Campbell make a sharp distinction between these two approaches, although others (Wright, Dunn, for example) see a unity between salvation history and an apocalyptic reading of the Christ event. After surveying some of the literature, Bird engages with Martyn’s apocalyptic interpretation of Paul (especially in his Anchor Bible Galatians commentary) in order to show the dichotomy between salvation history and apocalyptic is not necessary. Bird says “there is no requirement we divorce Paul’s apocalyptic theology from its metanarrative of the Jewish Scriptures” (116) because apocalyptic properly understood is the climax of God’s saving purpose for his people, not a whole new start, and certainly not a repudiation of the past” (121). After examining several key texts in Galatians, Bird concludes “Paul’s apocalyptic gospel is necessarily salvation-historical by nature of the Jewish context of his eschatology and Christology” (167).

This conclusion helps unpack the title of the collection, Paul was truly anomalous in the sense that the Law was preparatory for salvation rather than necessary for salvation, a conclusion which was provocative and an affront to Paul’s Jewish opponents. I am reminded of F. F. Bruce’s comment in his Galatians commentary, the Law was a parenthesis between the promise to Abraham and the present age (NIGTC, 153-4). This view of the Law would certainly be anomalous in Second Temple Judaism.

In chapter four, Bird returns to Galatians 2:11-14 and argues the incident at Antioch represents “the beginnings of Paulinism.” An earlier version of this essay was published in Earliest Christian History (ed. Bird and Matson; WUNT 2.320; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012): 329-61. In this essay, Bird returns to one of the more tantalizing sections of Galatians, Paul’s confrontation of Peter in Antioch. In chapter 2 Bird has already suggested Paul’s mission to the Gentiles developed over time and that the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) played a significant role in targeting Paul’s missionary efforts at the Gentiles.

The final chapter in this collection (“The Apostle Paul and the Roman Empire”) is an expansion of Bird’s contribution to Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not (IVP Academic, 2013). Bird thinks “anyone vaguely familiar with the Roman imperium could see Paul articulating the vision of an alternative empire” (254). In the earlier essay, Bird made four points in favor of an anti-imperialism in the Pauline letters. Each are considerably expanded for this new essay, as are his “lingering doubts.” His literature survey is slightly expanded and now includes interaction with “Augustus guru” Karl Galinski and some account of the “scholarly melee: between John Barclay and N. T. Wright with respect to the importance of the imperial cult to this discussion. What is extremely valuable is the inclusion of all of the texts in Romans which may (or may not) be read as anti-imperial. In the shorter essay Bird was limited to only Romans 1:16-17; 13:1-7 and 15:5-13. In this longer form essay he is able to be more comprehensive as well as draw more scholarship into the dialogue. However, his conclusion remains the same: “Romans is not a political manifesto” (Jesus is Lord, 161; An Anomalous Jew, 253), both essays citing William Ramsay’s statement that “a universal Paulinism and a universal Empire must either coalesce or they one must destroy the other.”

Conclusion. As with any collection of essays drawn from various sources, there is potential for lack of cohesion between the chapters. Bird has worked hard to draw previously printed essays back to the title of the book: why does Paul appear to be an anomalous Jew? Although this is achieved by editing the introductions and conclusions to each essay, each topic does in fact demonstrate Paul operated within the world of Judaism, but he certainly did not fit the pattern of other early Jewish Christ-believers or other Jewish groups from the Second Temple period.

 

NB: Thanks to Eerdmans 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, Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy

Collins, John J. Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy: On Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2015. 399 pp. Pb; $34.   Link to Eerdmans  

Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy collects nineteen essays published by Collins in various journals and collections, some of which are expensive and difficult to find. Three of the chapters were originally presentations at conferences. The introductory chapter was presented at a symposium on Forms of Ancient Jewish Literature in Its Graeco-Roman and Ancient Near Eastern Setting, University of Manchester, January 19-21, 2009. Collins reconsiders the definition of the genre of Apocalyptic Collins developed in Semeia 14 in 1979. That volume represented a report on the first stage of the work of the Apocalypse Group of the SBL Genres Project and produced a “first stage” definition of an apocalypse:

A genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world. (Semeia 14 [1979]: 9).

In Semeia 36, this definition was expanded to include “intended to interpret present, earthly circumstances in light of the supernatural world and of the future, and to influence both the understanding and the behavior of the audience by means of divine authority” (Adela Yarbro Collins, Semeia 36 [1986]: 7). Near the end of this book, Collins cites T.S. Eliot, apocalypses are written for times when humankind cannot bear very much reality (324).

Collins-ApocalypseThis definition distinguished between apocalypses which featured an extended review of history and “otherworldly journey” apocalypses. Collins surveys some of the responses to this definition, beginning with the objection that genre cannot be defined, although “we know one when we see it” because of “a family resemblance.” Citing Wittgenstein, a genre like “game” covers everything from card games to the Olympic Games. Even though there is little resemblance between the two, we recognize them both as “games.”

Collins thinks this is “too vague to be satisfying” (11). A second challenge uses prototype theory to suggest a particular example is an ancestor of later similar members of the genre. All subsequent examples of the genre are really variations on the prototype, so that boundaries between genres are blurred. He goes on to offer two problematic examples. Jubilees and Joseph and Asenath. Both have sections which have been identified as apocalyptic, yet cannot be described as apocalyptic as a whole. Jubilees “belongs on the fuzzy fringes of the genre” (18).

The first section of this collection relates the genre of apocalypse to prophecy. In “The Eschatology of Zechariah,” (originally published as L. L. Grabbe and R. D. Haak, eds., Knowing the End from the Beginning: The Prophetic, the Apocalyptic, and Their Relationship [New York: T&T Clark International, 2003]: 74-84), Collins argues the future expectations of Zechariah are eschatological in the prophetic sense, and even messianic, but not apocalyptic (33). In the second essay in this section Collins examines a common element in both apocalypse and prophecy, the end of the world (originally published as “The Beginning of the End of the World,” in John Ahn and Stephen Cook, eds., Thus Says the Lord: Essays on the Former and Latter Prophets in Honor of Robert R. Wilson [New York: Continuum, 2009]:137-55). In the Hebrew Bible and all examples of Jewish apocalyptic, the end of the world always leads to restoration and renewal (53). The only exception Collins finds is Sibylline Oracles 5.512-31, and even this example is debatable.

The third essay in this section discusses the shift from classic prophecy to apocalyptic (originally delivered as the Johannes Munck Lecture: “Apocalypticism and the Transformation of Prophecy in the Second Temple Period,” University of Aarhus, October 10, 2013). During the post exilic period prophecy shifted from a spoken form to a textual form, which had the effect of unmooring a prophecy from a historical context (63). For example, Daniel 12:1-4 makes six references to Isaiah 53. Daniel is “drawing on the linguistic resources of Isaiah” to react to the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes (65). This is a new text, not a pesher (interpretation). For Collins, the apocalyptic prophets were not simply creating a pastiche of older texts, they were “engages in wide ranging bricolage drawing on many sources” (67), transforming prophecy, wisdom and myth in the face of cultural disruption (69).

The essays in the second section concern “variations on a genre.” First in this section is an evaluation of Gabriele Boccaccini’s “Essene Hypothesis” (originally published as “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). Although Collins agrees with Boccaccini that the Enoch literature is a distinctive form of Judaism, it is still a movement with Judaism and it is not clear the Essenes were distinct because of their use of Enoch.

As suggested in the introductory essay, Jubilees is problematic for a definition of apocalyptic. In the third essay in this section Collins suggest Jubilees is an hybrid work which does not fit into any one category (originally published as “The Genre of the Book of Jubilees,” in Eric F. Mason et al., eds., A Teacher for All Generations: Essays in Honor of James C. VanderKam [JSJSup 153/2; Leiden: Brill, 2011]: 737-55). He critiques Hanneken’s suggestion that Jubilees imitates apocalypses on the surface level, but the basic elements of an apocalyptic worldview are “caricatured, inverted and refuted” (103). But as Collins points out, if this is irony it is humorless in the extreme.

The fourth essay in this section examines another genre which is not apocalyptic, yet has some elements of the genre, the Sibylline Oracles (originally published as “The Sibyl and the Apocalypses,” in David E. Aune and Frederick E. Brenk, eds., Greco-Roman Culture and the New Testament [Leiden: Brill, 2012]: 185-202. There are some common features such as universal world history (and often violent destruction), but the Sibylline Oracles were not modeled on the apocalypses (125).

The fifth essay in the section critiques a recently published text sometimes called The Gabriel Revelation (originally published as “Gabriel and David: Some Reflections on an Enigmatic Text,” in Matthias Henze, ed., Hazon Gabriel: New Readings of the Gabriel Revelation [SBLEJL; Atlanta: SBL, 2011] 99-112). This text describes an eschatological attack on Jerusalem and refers to an “evil branch” as a kind of Antichrist and a messiah from Ephraim, the son of Joseph rather than David. Collins carefully works through Knohl’s argument and concludes it is problematic on many counts, not the least of which is the uncertainty of this particular text.

Finally in this section Collins discusses the apocalyptic theology of 4 Ezra (originally published as “The Idea of Election in 4 Ezra,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 16 [2009]: 83-96). Although 4 Ezra is certainly an apocalypse, it is quite different from other representatives of the genre. The book has three long dialogues between Ezra and an angel which become increasingly concerned with the election of Israel. Because of the book’s unique view of election, Sanders considered the book as an exception to his “covenantal nomism” and Bruce Longenecker described book as “ethnocentric nomism” (148). Collins suggests the book is in dialogue with wisdom tradition (especially in the laments), but has an “apocalyptic solution” to the problem of covenant theology and the fall of Jerusalem. God’s chosen people will survive, a theology which would serve to “reassure a relatively small and powerless people” (155).

The third section of the book develops themes in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. First, “Jerusalem and the Temple in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature of the Second Temple Period” (originally a presentation at Bar Ilan University in 1998 (International Rennert Guest Lecture Series). Although many Jews in the Second Temple were satisfied with worship at the Temple, “apocalyptic visionaries, by definition, wanted something more” (177). Daniel and the Animal Apocalypse respond to the Maccabean crisis by looking forward to a “more spectacular restoration” than Judas Maccabees provided (165). Collins also examines the Song of Sabbath Sacrifice and the Temple Scroll from Qumran and concludes “the Dead Sea sect evidently expected some kind of restoration of the temple before the new creation” (173).

In “Journeys to the World Beyond in Ancient Judaism” Collins focuses on the earliest ascent apocalypses (originally published in Martin McNamara, ed., Apocalyptic and Eschatological Heritage: The Middle East and Celtic Realms [Dublin: Four Courts, 2003]: 20-36). He considers Bousset’s view these heavenly journeys were an anticipation of the ascent of the soul to heaven after death as an “overgeneralization” (195). There is a real interest in life after death, whether to encourage righteous behavior or warn against punishments to come.  The third article in this section is related to this topic, “The Afterlife in Apocalyptic Literature,” (originally published in A. J. Avery Peck and J. Neusner, eds., Judaism in Late Antiquity, Part 4: Death, Life-After-Death, Resurrection and the World-to-Come in the Judaisms of Antiquity [Handbuch der Orientalistik; Leiden: Brill, 2000]: 119-39. Collins repeats the well-known fact that a belief in actual resurrection of individuals was not accepted until the Persian period (199). This belief is developed in several Second Temple apocalypses so that 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch look forward to a general resurrection at the end of history. Collins concludes, however, the more typical apocalyptic description of afterlife is the heavenly ascent (216).

The fourth section of three essays is devoted to pseudepigraphy in apocalyptic literature. First, Collins explores the importance of pseudepigraphy for group formation (originally published as “Pseudepigraphy and Group Formation in Second Temple Judaism,” in E. G. Chazon and M. Stone, eds., Pseudepigraphic Perspectives: The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls [Leiden: Brill, 1999]: 43-58). He surveys apocalypses written in the name of Enoch, Daniel and Moses and concludes these names provide legitimization for the group by creating prophecy ex eventu supporting the group. By way of contrast, the Dead Sea Scrolls do not use pseudepigraphy because of the authority of the Teacher of Righteousness. Rather than create prophecies in the style of some ancient authority, the DSS practice exegesis on prophecy to legitimatize the group (the pesher on Habakkuk, for example).

The second article in this section is closely related to the first. Collins asks why anyone would choose to write in the name of Enoch or Ezra (originally published as “Enoch and Ezra,” in Matthias Henze and Gabriele Boccaccini, eds., Fourth Ezra and Second Baruch: Reconstruction after the Fall [Leiden: Brill, 2013]: 83-97). Enoch seems an obvious candidate since all that is known about him is he “walked with God” or “walked with angels.” But Ezra is a well-known character from the Old Testament. Collins suggests 4 Ezra transforms Ezra into a kind of Moses, subverting the covenant theology of the past “almost beyond recognition” (245).

The final essay in this section focuses on the use of the Sibylline oracles as a pseudepigrapha (originally published in Eibert Tigchelaar, ed., Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the Scriptures [BETL 270; Leuven: Peeters, 2014]: 195-210). Collins argues a non-Jewish person would be unimpressed by the Sibylline Oracles, knowing them to be forgeries. A Jewish (or Christian) reader, however, may have been impressed to find a prophetic voice in the Greek world which rebuked paganism (266). As such, the oracles function as an expression of anger toward a colonial oppressor.

The final section in this volume concerns ethics and politics in apocalyptic literature. First, Collins disagrees with a common opinion that there was a distinct “apocalyptic Judaism” responsible for the collect of books now known as 1 Enoch (originally published as “Ethos and Identity in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature,” in Matthias Konradt and Ulrike Steinert, eds., Ethos und Identität. Einheit und Vielfalt des Judentums im hellenistisch-römischer Zeit [Munich: Schöningh, 2002]: 51-65). The apocalyptic genre could be used by diverse groups often motivated by a desire for higher (or hidden) wisdom and an interest in another life beyond this one.

Collins’s article “Apocalypse and Empire” (originally Svensk Exegetisk Årsbok 76 [2011]: 1-19) evaluates another common view of apocalyptic, namely that it is a kind of resistance literature. This view was popularized by Richard Horsley, who claimed the problem behind both Daniel and 1 Enoch was oppressive violence by foreign rulers. But to describe this literature as “opposition to empire” is “simplistic and misses the nuances of the mode of resistance” and “obliterate the generic that are essential for nuanced interpretation” (306-7).

In “Cognitive Dissonance and Eschatological Violence: Fantasized Solutions to a Theological Dilemma in Second Temple Judaism”(originally published in Nathan MacDonald and Ken Brown, eds., Monotheism in Late Prophetic and Early Apocalyptic Literature [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014]: 201-17), Collins explores potential links between apocalyptic literature and violence in monotheistic religions. He takes as a starting point the recent claim that monotheistic religions lead to acts of violence like 9/11. He surveys several Old Testament examples of “violent fantasy” and combat myth, such as Isaiah 63:3-4. The claim these violent texts contribute to the Jewish Revolt in A.D. 70 is an open question, since Josephus states “deceivers and imposters” were the cause of the rebellion (322), but Josephus may be more interested in exonerating the majority of the Jewish people after the war was over. Although this literature may fuel a revolutionary spirit, Collins points out that “imagining an alternative universe can be therapeutic in times of crisis” (324).

Finally, Collins engages the embarrassing legacy of apocalyptic millenarianism such as Hal Lindsey and Left Behind (“Radical Religion and the Ethical Dilemmas of Apocalyptic Millenarianism,” originally published in Zoe Bennett and David B. Gowler, eds., Radical Christian Voices and Practice: Essays in Honour of Christopher Rowland [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012]: 87-102). In Collins’s view, the ambiguity of the genre of apocalyptic and overly simplistic interpretations of apocalyptic has generated many unfortunate views hoping to “decode the text” of Daniel and Revelation. As in the previous essay, Collins points out that violent fantasies common in these interpretations are often cathartic. Apocalyptic literature itself can be “harnessed for good or evil” (342).

Conclusion. Eerdmans has done a great service for Jewish apocalyptic scholarship by bringing these essays together in a single, affordable volume. Readers interested in apocalyptic Second Temple literature will find Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy to be a valuable resource.

 

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

Published on May 24, 2016 on Reading Acts.

Book Giveaway Winner – New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity, Vol. 10

NewDocs 10Now that I have completed my grading for the spring semester and turned in the last of my grades, I am ready to announce the winner of the latest volume of the New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity, edited by S. R. Llewelyn and J. R. Harrison, with E. J. Bridge (Eerdmans, 2012).

I collected all of the comments, randomly sorted them in a spreadsheet then used random.org to generate a winner. And the winner is…

Lindsay Kennedy

So Lindsay can contact me (email, plong42 at gmail.com, twitter DM, @plong42) I will arrange to send the book out to ASAP. And if pastorjimmyreagan sees this, you one the last giveaway and need to contact me with shipping info.

Thanks to everyone who participated. I have at least one more book set aside as a giveaway to celebrate One Million Hits at Reading Acts.  Check back next week for details.

Book Giveaway – New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity, Vol. 10

NewDocs 10

This is the second book I am giving away in celebration of One Million Hits at Reading Acts as well as the end of the spring semester.

I have an extra copy of the latest volume of the New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity, edited by S. R. Llewelyn and J. R. Harrison, with E. J. Bridge (Eerdmans, 2012). I reviewed it when it came out a year ago and have found all ten volumes to be valuable resources. This volume has about 100 pages of cumulative index for volumes 6-10 as well as 175 pages of newly published inscriptions and papyri.

For those unaware of the New Documents series, it began under the editorship of G. H. R. Horsley in 1981. E. A. Judge was a contributor to that first volume and now serves as the director of the project. He wrote the preface to the first volume explaining the rationale for the series. Since the publication of Deissmann’s Light from the Ancient Near East (1908) and Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament illustrated by the Papyri (1930), there has been a flood of new published papyri documents and inscriptions, many which are important to historians of early Christianity as well as interpreters of the New Testament. The New Document series proposed to survey newly published material and collate that material into a single printed volume as a “fresh digest of the ancient evidence.”

As I concluded in my previous review of the book, virtually every section of New Documents Volume 10 is worthy of attention.  The entries make for fascinating reading and they all contribute to our understanding of the world of the New Testament and early Christianity. I highly recommend this volume to students and scholars. Every serious library should own all ten volumes of this important series.

The book is new but has a remainder mark and a partially removed sticker on the cover. To have a chance at winning this book, leave a comment with your name (and anything else you need to say, think of this as a chance for catharsis). I will select on comment at random and announce the winner on May 3, 2016.