James C. VanderKam
The work that is today called the Book of Enoch or 1 Enoch is actually a collection of ancient booklets written at different times by several authors, almost all of them composed in the Aramaic language. They all share the trait that Enoch is the speaker and/or protagonist. Though a book of Enoch was known and fairly widely used in antiquity, most of the text was lost to Western readers until copies of the Ethiopic translation of the book were brought from Abyssinia to Europe beginning in the late eighteenth century CE. This article describes the components, the textual evidence, and influential themes in 1 Enoch. It also considers the place of the book in Second Temple Judaism and evaluates the Enochic–Essene hypothesis.
Judith L. Kovacs
One of the earliest surviving Christian writings, Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians provides a fascinating picture of the life of one early Christian community and the challenges its members faced as they attempted to live out the gospel as a tiny minority in the midst of a pagan world. It also gives a first-hand glimpse of Paul's work as missionary and teacher. Written to a church Paul founded (Acts 18:1–17) and knows especially well, in response to a letter from the Corinthians asking him for guidance (7:1), the letter gives advice on healing factions in the community (chs. 1–4), sexual morality (chs. 5–7), how to relate to the civil and religious institutions of the pagan world (6:1–11; chs. 8–10), and various aspects of Christian worship (chs. 11–14). This article shows how 1 Corinthians is interpreted by a biblical scholar in the 21st century, drawing on a tradition of historical-critical study of the Bible that reaches back to the Enlightenment. It also provides a few glimpses into the long and rich reception history of the letter.
Early Chinese writers rose above particular descriptions of spirits and sacrifices to a meta-discourse about the nature of spirits and the meaning of sacrifices. That is, they themselves mused about the broader meaning of religious phenomena. They recognized diverse ideas about spirits (e.g. whether they possessed agency); they theorized on dependency relationships between spirits and humans (e.g. the nature of reciprocity); they identified secular justifications behind religious discourses (e.g. the orthopraxy of affirming community or sanctioning ethics); they justified religious pluralism (e.g. by recognizing one’s own tradition as the trunk tradition and others as merely branch traditions); and they even permitted personal religious diversity (e.g. the same person could explain away immortals in one setting and yet glorify them in another). Because they themselves theorized about the nature of religious phenomena, we should become cognizant of those theories before projecting our own understandings of religion onto their spirits and sacrifices.
There are two kinds of academic enquiry. ‘Normal enquiry’ examines human behaviour in contexts of conventional language use. ‘Reparative enquiry’ identifies and offers responses to occasions of radical change, when conventional language breaks down. For scholars dedicated to normal enquiry, Abrahamic studies names a curriculum that collects together individual studies of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions of belief, practice, and social history. For scholars dedicated to reparative enquiry, Abrahamic studies names an academic response to conditions of radical disruption among the Abrahamic traditions. The contemporary academy offers few models for conducting this kind of enquiry. The best resources may rest within the Abrahamic scriptural traditions themselves: generations of commentary and many-levelled reflection on ancient narratives of conflict and redemption.
Leonardo F. Lisi
John J. Collins
Strictly speaking, the Second Temple period extends from the construction of the temple at the end of the sixth century
In one of the most moving acts of his reign, when Charlemagne decided to collect a great library to build up the palace school of his court in Aachen, he did so first by bringing over from England a person, Alcuin of York. Alcuin in turn collected a group of scholars about him, to form the palace school and thus to create the palace library. Of course they brought books with them, but mostly they brought their learning, stored away in the treasuries of their memories. In doing so, Charlemagne, wittingly or not, was realizing an antique and early Christian trope (and reality) that one finds articulated in Jerome and in Cassiodorus, among others — that of the learned person as a living library, one who makes for him- or herself a mental chest of memorized texts and materials, which are then always ready as a reference and meditation tool. Two questions at once present themselves. Most intriguing perhaps is how one might go about making oneself into a library (whether of Christ or not). But this question depends on a prior one: why would want to make oneself into a library? The bulk of this article is concerned with the question of how, but it first addresses the question of why. A common explanation of ‘why>’ is that oral societies rely on memory because they lack access to writing and written sources.
Following an introduction that seeks to locate stories about apostles within ancient (especially popular) narratives, the chapter presents analytic and critical summaries of three groups: these are the five ‘major’ apocryphal acts, intermediate works including the Acts of Philip and the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions, and representatives of the ‘minor acts’, works which are devoted to Titus and Barnabas, as well as the Doctrine of Addai. The chapter therefore illustrates a trajectory by which the canonical Acts developed over the course of time to hagiography and pamphlets claiming ecclesiological privilege. A brief final section notes outstanding tasks for future research and study.
It is surprising to realize that no historian of Judaism wrote a history of the Middle Ages in Jewish history. Between 1923 and 1926 a Jewish historian, Shlomo Bernfeld, wrote a three-volume historical work, consisting mainly of an anthology of sources, entitled Sefer ha-Demaot, ‘The Book of Tears’. These volumes present a history of the Middle Ages up to the ‘Age of Reason’, which the author hoped would be the beginning of a new age in which the fate of the Jews would be different, yet this hope, he states in the end of his work, seems to have been unfounded. This article examines such narratives: the way narratives shape the chronological boundaries of the Middle Ages; their consequences concerning the examination of the relationships between Jews and non-Jews in the medieval world; and the place of history of ideas in the descriptions of the Middle Ages.
Peter B. Clarke
This article looks at the origins, force and scope of millenarianism, sometimes referred to as millennialism or messianism, and offers some idea of how widespread the belief has become. The conclusion speculates about the reasons for its vitality, appeal, and persistence. Often associated exclusively with Christianity, the belief in paradise on earth has a long history and is found in many religious traditions, including Zoroastrianism, Islam, and forms of Hinduism and Buddhism. While the origins of millenarian belief pre-date Christianity, the Christian tradition very soon after its beginnings in the 1st century
Since their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492, the dissemination of the Jews in Europe, northern Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas has resulted not only in the production of a literature in modern Jewish languages and dialects such as Yiddish, Hebrew, Ladino, Judaeo-Italian, and Judaeo-Arabic, but also in a Jewish literature delivered in virtually every major Western tongue. These literatures in non-Jewish languages obviously fit into their respective national canons: Jewish-Portuguese authors are part of Portuguese letters, Jewish-Polish authors part of Polish letters, and so on. Five centuries after the expulsion from Spain in 1492, and more than 200 years after the Haskalah, an abundance of fiction and poetry by Jews in non-Jewish languages around the globe is produced regularly. And a solid body of literary criticism that attempts to examine its ambivalence at the national and international levels goes hand in hand with it.
This chapter considers currently held views about the history of Pauline interpretation with their strong critique of Lutheran readings of Paul and attempts to locate Lutheran readings more fully within the wider history of Pauline interpretation. It pays particular attention to the work of Marcion, Chrysostom, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin. It seeks to show how each new interpreter interacts with earlier readings and brings in other aspects of the text which enable him to confront contemporary issues in his reading community. As such, the reception history of the Pauline letters sheds light on the process whereby the letters themselves came into being as Paul’s readers reacted to his utterances, verbal and written, and Paul responded.
There is a long-standing Jewish tradition, both religious and secular, of responding to catastrophe in the present by recalling, and recasting, models and archetypes from the past, particularly from the Bible. They may be recalled literally, as traditionally understood, or rewritten, even parodied (often violently), in order to challenge and/or subvert more traditional readings. Interrogating and/or deconstructing traditional responses and archetypes is present in scripture and in midrashic readings that seek to tease out the tensions, gaps, and silences in the biblical text. If, as James Young suggests, a ‘self-reflexive questioning of the available archetypes’ is the typical Jewish response to catastrophe as writers and artists turn to ‘the only system of myths, precedents, figures, and archetypes available to them’, then it is hardly surprising that writing and rewriting biblical archetypes is a recurrent motif within Jewish literary, artistic, and theological responses to the Holocaust. This article begins by analyzing different forms post-Holocaust biblical hermeneutics can take. It then explores the complexities and tensions within the biblical Book of Job. It considers a range of post-Holocaust Jewish interpretations of Job and the relevance this biblical figure and text might have to the realities of the Holocaust and living in a post-Holocaust world.
This article deals with rabbinic literature, considering what rabbis wrote in the context of performing their rabbinic functions: halachic literature in all its aspects — talmudic commentary, books of legal decisions, responsa, halachic monographs, works on prayer and liturgy, the holidays, and customs. The corpus of medieval rabbinic texts, which is today witnessing a renaissance, constitutes the basis of what is called mishpat ivri (Jewish law). It is possible to describe this literature according to four different categories: geography, chronology, content, and literary genre. The description here is related to content and literary genre, while taking note of geographical and chronological divisions. The books were mostly from European countries — Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Provence. Rabbinic literature began to be produced in all the European regions more or less at the beginning of the eleventh century.
Tova Rosen and Eli Yassif
This article aims at a critical examination of modern research on medieval Hebrew literature. Here, the definition of ‘medieval Hebrew literature’ excludes writing in Jewish languages other than Hebrew, and singles out literature from other types of non-literary Hebrew writing. The variety of literary types included in this survey ranges from liturgical and secular poetry to artistic storytelling and folk literature. Both early liturgical poetry (piyyut) and the medieval Hebrew story are rooted in the soil of the Talmudic period. The beginnings of medieval Hebrew storytelling were even more deeply connected to the narrative traditions of the Talmud. However, the constitutive moment of the birth of piyyut and narrative as distinct medieval genres had to do with their separation from the encyclopedic, all-embracing nature of the Talmud.
As a general overview, the article explores the whole range of non-canonical texts about Jesus. Starting with aspects of the scholarly and public interest in those texts, and questions of genre and classification, the article discusses scattered sayings of Jesus (agrapha), the more important papyrus fragments of unknown gospels, and the fragmentary quotations from lost Jewish-Christian gospels and from the Gospel of the Egyptians. Then the more important infancy gospels are discussed (Protevangelium of James, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and later compilations), the Gospel of Peter, the Acts of Pilate, and the Gospel of Nicodemus, further sayings gospels such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip, and dialogue gospels such as the Epistula Apostolorum and the gospels of Mary and Judas. Finally, traditions about Jesus' writing such as the Abgar legend and the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark and the problems of its authenticity are presented.