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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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’.
Ellen T. Charry
Timothy K. Beal
Like the literature that precedes and follows in the Hebrew Bible, the book of Judges is clearly the product of a complicated literary history involving the early formation and deformation of Israel in the land of Canaan. It is a book whose coherence is in many ways found in its dissymmetry. In recent decades, such tensions between surface structure and deep chaos, and predictable repetition and disturbing interruption, have made the book of Judges a significant focus of study for new literary approaches in biblical studies. The book of Judges may be divided into three main parts: 1: 1–3: 6, accounts of tribal conquest and failure in Canaan; 3: 7–16: 31, the cycles of thirteen judges who delivered Israelites from oppression by other peoples; and 17: 1–21: 25, narratives of atrocity, civil war, and collapse among the tribes of Israel.
This article discusses the discipline and practice of Old Testament theology. It covers the modern preoccupation with history; the break with historical relativism; a fresh beginning beyond historicism; the move away from a single, dominant perspective that resulted in a much more diverse, pluralistic, and variegated field of study; the emergence of new accents in the field in the 1970s; and future developments in Old Testament theology.
This chapter examines the distinctive character of philosophy among Muslims, Jews, and Christians in the medieval Islamic world. It relates philosophy to theology, but also to other competing intellectual projects such as Sufism and Ismaʿīlī esotericism and shows how philosophers argued for the religious legitimacy of their project, among others by portraying religious founders like Abraham as accomplished philosophers. The chapter also addresses methodological issues, most importantly the question how to capture the complicated relations between religious identity, intellectual commitments, and cultural exchange in this period. It ends with a sketch of similarities and differences between philosophy and theology in the Muslim world and in the Latin West.
David Nirenberg and Leonardo Capezzone
This chapter explores the place of love—of human towards humans or towards God, and of God towards humans—in the Abrahamic traditions. Christianity frequently presented itself as a religion of love, as opposed to ‘loveless’ Judaism and Islam. However, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have all used love to imagine, contest, and represent relations both proper and improper between and among created beings and divine creator; and all three religions have also used love to imagine their relation to each other (as well as to other religions), and to represent the stakes in their competing claims to truth. Although claims of love animate many Abrahamic ethical, social, and onto-theological ideals, the same claims underpin many of the sectarian dynamics and discriminations through which religious communities distinguished themselves from one another. The chapter focuses on various types of love from the Hebrew Bible and Quran to medieval Jewish and Islamic philosophers.
The problem of the nature and dynamics of the interrelations between traditions of religious dualism and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is of major importance for the exploration and understanding of some of the characteristic theological tensions and polemics within the Abrahamic religions. It also has significant implications for the investigation of and gaining new insight into the processes of the construction of their normative orthodoxies, especially in the spheres of devising strategies of defining and refuting doctrinal error, heterodoxy, and heresy. This chapter discusses the history of the study of dualism in religion, various typologies and definitions developed to map and analyse various types of dualism, and the roles played by dualistic ideas and influences in the history of the Abrahamic religions.