The Abrahamic religions recognize Abraham as the first to arrive at the truth of monotheism and live out the ideal relationship with God. He is the archetype of the stalwart religious individual willing to abandon everything in the journey to realize the truth of God. Yet while the Abrahamic religions all recognize his vital role, each understands his nature differently. In Judaism Abraham represents unfailing obedience to the divine command, while in Christianity he is the epitome of Christian faith. And in Islam Abraham was the first to submit fully and without reservation to the divine will. Because the religions that revere Abraham differ, so do their Abrahams. Thus, not only does Abraham serve as a symbol of common aspirations, he is also a source of disagreement and interreligious polemic, and a fulcrum for leveraging spiritual difference and claims to religious superiority.
This article provides an outline of the Achaemenid empire’s political history followed by an overview of the diverse sources for understanding some of its institutions. Despite inherent difficulties, the sources allow scholars to reconstruct vital aspects, such as the provincial system, variations in the way different provinces were managed, the “king’s law,” Persian religion, and the strength of central control which held the imperial regions together. The chapter ends with a consideration of the king’s position and royal ceremony and ideology.
Although there existed no real millennial text prior to late Jewish and early Christian texts, there exists an overabundance of resources that heavily draw on millennial texts. This article deals with the “Apocrypha” or the Hebrew Bible, which is wrought with apocalyptic literature. Similar literature is also to be found in Mesopotamian scriptures, a string of texts known as the “Akkadian Prophecies”. Ancient Zoroastrian texts, predating both Jewish and Christian counterparts, too seem to have substantial pre-millennial texts, similar in subjective elements such as an unhappy end of time with subsequent salvation, resurrection, personified angels etc. The common factors between these texts are: they commonly draw on general crisis contexts and most immediate and obvious hurdles in projecting the evils of the world; secondly, the geographical origins of these texts were unified by the common factor of their unequivocal resistance to Hellenic expansionism, something that figures prominently in the subjective interpretation of these texts.
This article looks at the impact of ancient Near Eastern studies on biblical scholarship. Before 1800, no accurate first-hand knowledge of Egypt's ancient remains was available to compare with biblical mentions of that land and its ancient civilization. During the nineteenth century, detailed pioneering exploration of Egypt and Nubia led to extensive recording and major publications of the visible monuments and inscriptions, while decipherment of ancient Egypt's hieroglyphic and other scripts, along with their language, finally opened the way towards recovering three millennia of history, literature, and social organization, including religious belief and practice.
W. G. Lambert
This article discusses the impact of ancient Near Eastern studies on biblical scholarship, focusing on written remains of all kinds. Ancient Mesopotamia has yielded tens of thousands of clay tablets with cuneiform inscriptions, apart from monumental stone inscriptions and inscriptions on other media. Palestine and Syria, by contrast, have yielded comparatively little inscriptional material, partly because much was written on papyrus and leather, which has not survived, partly because they were less rich than their Mesopotamian neighbours and so produced less written material.
Gerard J. Norton
This article first gives a schematic outline of the history of the Hebrew text in four stages. It then presents the elements that readers will meet in modern editions of that text. These modern editions find a common focus in the great Tiberian manuscripts of about 1000
John J. Collins
The category of “apocalyptic literature” was invented by the German New Testament scholar Friedrich Lücke in 1832 in the context of an introduction to the Book of Revelation. Lücke identified a small number of Jewish apocalyptic writings (Daniel, 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, and the Sibylline Oracles) and also discussed some Christian apocalypses such as the Ascension of Isaiah. With the resurgence of interest in biblical theology after World War I, interest in the non-canonical literature subsided. A new wave of interest in this material arose in the 1960s, stimulated in part by the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls. As yet, there has been relatively little sociological study of ancient apocalypticism, arguably because the data are inadequate. Perhaps the most urgent desideratum, however, is that the progress made in this area be brought to bear on the study of eschatology in the Hebrew Bible and especially in early Christianity. This article discusses apocalyptic eschatology in the ancient world. It considers the origins of apocalypticism, Zoroastrianism and apocalypticism, apocalyptic writings as a development of biblical prophecy, and wisdom and apocalypticism.
Michael A. Knibb
The beliefs of the movement that lies behind the scrolls were influenced by the eschatological ideas of the early Enochic writings and by the Book of Daniel, and although the movement does not seem to have produced many apocalypses, eschatology and messianism formed a significant part of its thought-world. But the movement was concerned above all with the proper observance of the Torah. It seems likely that the development of dualism and to some extent of eschatology was a way of coping with the fact that their interpretation of the Torah was not accepted by the leaders. The discussion also holds that the eschatological and messianic beliefs of the Dead Sea Scrolls represent a development of traditions already contained in the Hebrew Bible and form part of the spectrum of beliefs that were common to Jews of the period.
John R. Bartlett
This article discusses archaeology's impact on biblical scholarship, especially over the last two centuries. It describes the Christian pilgrims, explorers, travellers, map makers, and military surveyors who paved the way for the archaeologists. It focuses on twentieth-century archaeology in Palestine/Israel, demonstrating archaeology's growing independence as a discipline, and its effect on modern understanding of the Bible's presentation of history.
John R. Bartlett
This article discusses the contributions of archaeology to biblical scholarship. Biblical scholarship needs the archaeologist as it needs the anthropologist, the epigraphist, the philologist, the Assyriologist, the classical scholar, the student of Qumran, the rabbinic scholar, and others for the interpretation of the biblical writings. Archaeology is not so much a method of biblical scholarship as an intellectual discipline and practice, incorporating many methods and subject to many methodologies, assisting the modern interpretation of the Bible.
Archaeological materials and research have long informed the study of the Pauline letters. These materials have typically been used to provide a ‘background’ to Paul’s writings, to solve interpretive problems, or to ‘prove’ the veracity of a detail in Paul’s biography, as recorded in canonical Pauline literary sources. This chapter looks at the history of how archaeological research has been used to interpret the Pauline letters and the methodological issues that such interdisciplinary conversations touch upon. It pays particular attention to the perils and the promise of bringing archaeological research into conversation with Pauline studies. It then turns to explore case studies of interdisciplinary research by scholars of early Christianity on four cities connected to the Pauline letters: Thessaloniki, Philippi, Ephesos, and Corinth. These projects point to promising avenues forward for how Pauline studies might engage archaeological work. (N.B. This article is a distilled, adapted, and updated version of Concannon 2013.)
Ronald S. Hendel
The biblical texts from Qumran are the oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, dating from the mid-third century BCE through the first century CE. Prior to the discovery of the Qumran texts, evidence for the early history of the biblical text consisted of three major versions – the Masoretic text (MT), the Septuagint (LXX), and the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP) – each with an unbroken chain of transmission to the present day. This article assesses the major text-critical theories of the Hebrew Bible after Qumran. First, it surveys the textual situation at Qumran and the relationships among the Qumran texts and the major versions (MT, LXX, and SP), using, as a perspicuous example, the texts of Exodus. Then, the article addresses the adequacy of the text-critical theories, testing their strengths and weaknesses against this evidence. The major protagonists in the theoretical discussion are Frank M. Cross, Shemaryahu Talmon, Emanuel Tov, and Eugene Ulrich.
This article introduces the Assyrian and Babylonian sources relevant to the Old Testament historical books. The corpus of Assyrian sources consists mainly of royal inscriptions between the mid-ninth and mid-seventh centuries
Perhaps no scriptural passage has divided the church so bitterly, or so often, as the ninth article of the Epistle to the Romans. Predestinarian readings take two forms, one of which maintains that God predestines us to salvation or reprobation in the light of faith or works foreseen, the other that this predestining is itself the unconditioned cause of the good that he foresees. Both can claim the authority of Augustine, the foremost theologian of the first millennium. His adversary Pelagius found a different stratagem — not unknown in modern times — which enabled him to deny that Paul endorsed any species of predestination. To explain how each arrived at his conclusions, we must first sketch the theology of salvation that each set out to reconcile with the difficult text of this epistle.
Timothy H. Lim
The approach advocated in this article is the understanding of canon as authoritative literature that is binding for the Qumran community. The distinctive features of this approach are: authority is related to a community; the pesherite is central to the understanding of authoritative literature; there is a vaguely bipartite canon where the ‘Torah of Moses’ referred to the Pentateuch; authoritative literature included the biblical lemmata cited and the pesherite interpretation; Jubilees, Enoch, and the Temple Scroll were not considered part of the Torah of Moses; the rules of the community were considered canonical and authoritative; and other books, such as the Psalms of Joshua and ‘the book of meditation’, may also have been considered authoritative.
Joan E. Taylor
The nature of groups named in classical sources as ‘Essenes’ was considered in scholarship of Second Temple Judaism long before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but discussion of the Essenes has intensified greatly during the last sixty years. This article reviews the classical sources on the Essenes. It notes propositions on how the Essenes may relate to the scrolls communities and considers how variant opinions may be resolved, with particular reference to the Serekh.
Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls can be classified as religious documents of one kind or another, and all the studies since 1947 that have been devoted to their significance can be characterized as attempts to construct some aspect of ancient Judaism from them. Where agreement has been harder to achieve is on the centrality of the role to be accorded to the evidence from the scrolls in constructing a picture of Judaism in the last centuries BCE and the first century CE. Although the scrolls provide reason to believe that some sectarians believed that much was wrong with the Temple in Jerusalem, no text actually states that sectarians should avoid the Temple altogether. The question for the historian is whether the evidence from such texts should be enough to encourage the view that sectarian Jews with such beliefs would cut themselves off from the Temple.
Colleen M. Conway
This chapter begins with a brief overview of the theorists who have shaped gender analytical work on the New Testament, especially the application of gender theory in classical studies. It then concentrates on gender analyses on New Testament writings that demonstrate the differing approaches of masculinity studies, queer theory, and intersectional analysis. The primary focus is on gender construction in Paul’s letters and the canonical gospels, with additional discussion of symbolic and metaphorical uses of gender in other writings of the New Testament. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of future directions for gender criticism.
Considering Qumranic hermeneutical systems with regard to form, this article distinguishes between ‘internal interpretation’ integrated within rewritten biblical books, such as the Temple Scroll, and ‘external interpretation’ which is separated from the biblical lemma. The latter forms appear in the pesharim and in the genre called halakhic midrash. With regard to content, the discussion distinguishes between two hermeneutical systems of ancient literature: interpretation that attempts mainly to explain the reality of the biblical period; and interpretation that attempts to adapt the content of the Bible to the reality of a later period. The first is found in the Qumran scrolls primarily within the ‘Rewritten Scriptures’, and the latter is represented in the pesharim and some types of halakhic midrash.
Daniel K. Falk
Prayer as a service to God by the people is one of the most far reaching of religious practices, forming a central part of the religious practice of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; yet there is still much uncertainty about how this developed within Judaism and why. Scrolls from Qumran provide the most important corpus of evidence to shed light on the critical period during the days of the Second Temple. This article presents a case study for prayer in ancient Judaism. It is organized around the types of questions being asked: questions of definition and classification, textual questions, historical questions, questions concerning context, and questions of ideology and theology. There is a good deal of overlap between these categories, but they are be treated separately for heuristic purposes.