The modern concept of the Abrahamic religions has roots in Christian theology, the academic study of the Near East, and the study of Islam. In the nineteenth century, Protestant theologians built on the idea of the ‘Abrahamic covenant’ in developing the idea of a spiritual connection among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At the same time, students of the Near East understood the three religious traditions as sharing a common genealogical bond. Such recognition was enhanced by Islam’s own sense of the religion of Abraham, which was communicated to a broader public by western Islamicists. Although the concept of the Abrahamic religions does not preclude the privileging of one religion over the others, it has provided both scholars and laypeople with a useful way of exploring the common ground of the three faiths.
James D. Tabor
This article focuses on ancient Jewish and early Christian millennialism, which are found to be intrinsically inconsistent—there are no specific pointers towards marking the end of time; messianic figures appear in some texts and not in others; and God is humanized in some while others are exclusively emphatic on the transcendental paradigm. It makes the whole millennialist gamut essentially subjective. The groundwork was laid by the pre-Hellenic invasions of Israel and the context for the emergence of Jewish millennialism was provided by the widespread suppression under Greek emperor Antiochus. This article demonstrates that from the second and third centuries onwards, the trend increasingly tended from literal expressions towards symbolic subjective millennialism, to the extent that the former was considered inferior.
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
In the Old Testament, apocalyptic literature (or simply ‘apocalyptic’, as the genre is often called) might not seem to occupy a prominent place. Only the book of Daniel falls into this category. Despite its poor representation in the Bible, apocalyptic literature is not a fringe activity; nor are its contents peripheral to an understanding of Judaism (or Christianity, for that matter). This article focuses on the book of Daniel, the main Old Testament exemplar, and the book of 1 Enoch, which contains the earliest and in many respects most important Palestinian Jewish apocalypses.
Apocalyptic phenomena and discourses run as a thread through Jewish, Christian, and Muslim history, playing a lead role during times of transition and ferment. Apocalyptic phenomena announce not only ‘the end’ but the completion of history and an essentially better world to come, and may therefore be seen as radical optimism, the product of a profound discontent with present conditions. Although Apocalypticism frequently played a role in political upheavals, apocalyptic discourse has been used also by conservative elements; theologically, apocalyptic arguments can pose a solution for problems of theodicy. In the Abrahamic traditions, apocalyptic discourse frequently concerns a messiah as well as a counter-messiah as lead figures in the events of the eschaton. Apocalypticism continues to this day, as most of the groups usually labelled religiously radical or fundamentalist in the Abrahamic traditions see themselves as actors in an apocalyptic drama.
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.
Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all claim that God has given humans a revelation. Divine revelation may be either of God, or by God of propositional truth. Traditionally Christianity has claimed that the Christian revelation has involved both of these. God revealed himself in his acts in history; for example in the miracles by which he preserved the people of ancient Israel, and above all by becoming incarnate (that is human) as Jesus Christ, who was crucified and rose from the dead. And God also revealed to us propositional truths by the teaching of Jesus and his church. Some modern theologians have denied that Christianity involves any propositional revelation, but there can be little doubt that from the second century until the eighteenth century, Christians and non-Christians were virtually unanimous in supposing that it claimed to have such a revelation, and so it is worthwhile investigating its traditional claim. This article is concerned with the Christian claim to have a propositional revelation. The first section describes the process by which Christians of past centuries have come to believe that certain propositions have been revealed. The second assesses alternative philosophical accounts of what constitutes a belief that such-and-such propositions have been revealed, being a ‘justified’ belief (or a ‘warranted’ or ‘rational’ one).
This article discusses authorship, books, and readers in Old Testament and New Testament times. In the Old Testament world, authorship is necessarily admitted in letters, and related to letters are prophetic communications. The usual physical form of the book in Babylonia was the clay tablet, normally of a size convenient to hold in the left hand while the right impressed the cuneiform signs with a reed stylus. The complexity of the cuneiform script meant that reading was a skill confined to those trained in scribal schools, some of whom may have progressed from the scribal profession to take other offices in temples and royal courts. The New Testament writings follow the traditional patterns. The letters declare their senders' identities, although not always by name, with the exception of Hebrews, and the single prophetic work makes its author clear. The roll of papyrus or leather remained the standard form of book throughout the Hellenistic period and well into Roman times. Jewish tradition required males to be able to read the Torah, and there were schools throughout Palestine from the first century
Eryl W. Davies
This article begins with a discussion of the methodological issues faced by scholars of ethics in the Old Testament and New Testament. It then identifies the basis of Old Testament ethics in law, natural law, and the imitation of God. This is followed by a discussion of New Testament ethics covering Jesus and the law, Jesus and eschatology, the background of Paul's ethics, and Paul's Christology and eschatology.
The nature of modern Bible study changed in or about September 1969 when the French Catholic Association for the Study of the Bible got the already renommé structuralist Roland Barthes to analyse Acts 10-11 (the conversion of Cornelius) for its Chantilly Congress. This introduction of those curious Catholic Biblicists to the new ways of handling texts that were burgeoning in the nouvelle vague of French (post)structuralism, or, as we would now say, of the Linguistic or Theoretical Turn in literary studies, was quickly followed by the two even more momentous evenings in February 1971 at the Faculté de Théologie of the University of Geneva when the nouveau critic Jean Starobinski offered ‘A Literary Analysis of Mark 5.1-20’ and Roland Barthes, now a neo-Biblicist mage, pulled out of his analytical hat his ‘Textual Analysis’ of Genesis 32:23–33, ‘The Struggle With the Angel’ — soon to be widely recognized as innovatively absorbing structuralist approaches into post-structuralist ones and highlighting a major way forward for biblical (and literary) studies. These tentative Biblicist dips into the Barthesian well of Theory dramatically opened the portal for the revolution in recent times in Biblicist hermeneutic practice, the great recent shaking of Biblicism to its established historicizing core, the door through which would rush the literary Theory and theories then muscling their way into the secular literary-critical world — the mixed postmodern bag, or coat of many postmodern colours, sheltering structuralists, Derridean deconstructionists, neo-Freudians, Konstanz School reader-responders, interpretive communitarians, and power-spotting Foucauldianized new-historicist/new-wave feminist/Queer-theorist/post-colonialist body-baggers.
This article gives an overview of the basic problems in biblical theology from the point of view of how they have developed since the beginnings of biblical theological work in the seventeenth century and how they appear today. This sketch of the problems will therefore concern itself less with a discussion of details than with major trends and contexts. After a definition of the term ‘biblical theology’ and a brief outline of the history of interpretation, there follows a sketch of those problems that are at present most intensively discussed. The main emphasis will be on the Old Testament and its significance for a theology of the whole Bible.
Lee Martin McDonald
This article examines the notion of canon in antiquity and its application to the writings that eventually received canonical recognition in the Jewish and Christian communities of faith. The investigation of the Hebrew Bible and the ‘First’ or ‘Old’ Testament of the Church are shown to be inextricably bound together. The lack of agreement in antiquity on the definition of a biblical canon, as well as the books that comprise it, and the inconsistency in the use of terms to describe it and its processes make any investigation of the origins and stabilization of the Bible more difficult, but some inferences and conclusions can be drawn. The article begins with a focus on the context of canon formation, and then proceeds to what can be discerned in the ancient sources.
Kevin P. Spicer
Catholic and Protestant churches were on-lookers and sometimes worse, as their responses to persecution included forms of inaction that spilled over into complicity. Beginning with an examination of the corrupting influence of Catholic antisemitism on European Christians through the centuries and the role of religious prejudice in advancing racial antisemitism, this article explores the controversial choices and modulated actions of the Catholic Church. It gives particular attention to German Catholicism's response to the question, ‘who is my neighbour?’ and assesses the reaction and attitude of the Church hierarchy, especially Pope Pius XII (1876–1958), to Nazi acts of persecution.
Stephen R. Haynes
Without Christianity and its centuries-long hostility toward Jews and Judaism, the Holocaust scarcely would have been possible. What difference has that recognition made to Christian traditions, institutions, and Christians themselves? This article addresses these aftereffects of the Holocaust, underscoring how reflection on Christianity and the Holocaust has produced challenging questions, fierce debates, and a voluminous literature. As with Holocaust studies generally, perspectives have evolved steadily in the decades since the end of World War II, with new developments catalyzed by important publications. It focuses on three salient issues in Christianity's unsettling and unfinished encounter with the Holocaust: the relationship between Christian belief and antisemitism, the role of Christian people and institutions during the Nazi era, and the post-Holocaust need to change Christian understandings of Jews and Judaism.
This chapter examines such current expressions as ‘the three monotheisms’, ‘the three religions of Abraham’, and ‘the three religions of the book’, points to their falsity and the dangers inherent in their use, and argues they mask real differences underneath a surface harmony. Concerning monotheism, it points to the fact that not only the Abrahamic traditions are monotheists, and the Abrahamic traditions frequently do not recognize each other as such. Concerning Abraham, it argues that while a person with this name indeed appears in the scriptures of all these religions, this figure is rather a source of disagreement than of concord, interpreted in widely differing ways; furthermore, each religion believes only its version of Abraham to be the true one. Concerning ‘religions of the book’, it claims that the character of the three religions’ scriptures are highly diverse, and each religion has a very different relationship with its own ‘book’.
John J. Collins
This article surveys the outline, form, and content of the Book of Daniel. The Book of Daniel is found among the Writings in the Hebrew Bible, but appears as fourth among the Major Prophets in the Greek Bible. Daniel is traditionally grouped among the Prophets in Christian Bibles. The differing placements point already to different assessments of the genre and character of the book. Canonical placement is not, however, the only anomaly in the Book of Daniel. The form of the book found in the Hebrew Bible is bilingual: articles 1:1–2:4a and 8–12 are in Hebrew, but from article 2:4b to the end of article 6 is in Aramaic.
David M. Freidenreich
This survey of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic dietary law finds no recognition within pre-modern sources of the biblical or familial affinities implied by the contemporary term Abrahamic. The profound diversity of norms regarding animal species, blood, meat and dairy, and alcohol demonstrates that it is misleading to focus on the fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are rooted in a common scripture. Pre-modern sources about the food of religious foreigners, moreover, do not express a sense of Abrahamic kinship among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. These sources instead employ classificatory methods that reinforce ideas particular to each tradition’s approach to claiming superiority over foreigners. The term Abrahamic offers a convenient label for the juxtaposition of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sources that bypasses the diverse and ideologically driven categories native to these traditions; the more one focuses on the term’s meaning, however, the less useful it becomes.
Ellen T. Charry
This article explores the Jewish-Christian dialogue regarding the doctrine of God. It examines two encounters that occurred during the patristic and medieval periods and two encounters that occurred in the past thirty years. It explains that while the former two encounters were hampered by Christian inability to articulate the doctrine of the Trinity, the latter two show signs of promise. This is part because both the Jewish and the Christian participants share a debt to Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, and Abraham Heschel.
Scott M. Langston
The questions scholars are raising in regard to the biblical text are changing. With increasing frequency biblical scholars are asking, ‘What does the Bible do’?, in recognition that the Bible's impact on individuals, societies, and cultures (and vice-versa) is an important part of understanding the Bible holistically. Unquestionably, understanding a text's inception and formation remains at the heart of biblical studies, but the move to study its wider impact promises to engage a larger number of fields and practitioners and broaden the horizons of biblical scholars. As part of this holistic focus Exodus has proven especially fertile, particularly as a paradigm for critiquing, challenging, and/or overthrowing systems and groups deemed to be oppressive. Interacting with a variety of outside factors, the biblical text has proven flexible enough to accommodate a multitude of distinctions, visions, and solutions.