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Public and Private Spaces and the Figure of the Female Royal Counselor
Was Esther unique—an anomaly in patriarchal society? Conventionally, scholars see ancient Israelite and Jewish women as excluded from the public world, their power concentrated instead in the domestic realm and exercised through familial structures. Rebecca S. Hancock demonstrates, in contrast, that because of the patrimonial character of ancient Jewish society, the state was often organized along familial lines. The presence of women in roles of queen consort or queen is therefore a key political, and not simply domestic, feature.
Attention to the narrative of Esther and comparison with Hellenistic and Persian historiography depicting “wise women” acting in royal contexts reveals that Esther is in fact representative of a wider tradition. Women could participate in political life structured along familial and kinship lines. Further, Hancock’s demonstration qualifies the bifurcation of “public” (male-dominated) and “private” (female-dominated) space in the ancient Near East.
The Texts @ Contexts series gathers scholarly voices from diverse contexts and social locations to bring new or unfamiliar facets of biblical texts to light. Exodus and Deuteronomy focuses attention on two books of the Torah that share themes of journey and of diverse experiences in or upon the land; the echoes of the exodus across time, space, and culture; of different understandings of (male and female) leadership; and of the promise, and problem, posed by various aspects of biblical law. These essays de-center the often homogeneous first-world orientation of much biblical scholarship and open up new possibilities for discovery.
The historical Ezra was sent to Jerusalem as an emissary of the Persian monarch. What was his task? According to the Bible, the Persian king sent Ezra to bring the Torah, the five books of the Laws of Moses, to the Jews. Modern scholars have claimed not only that Ezra brought the Torah to Jerusalem, but that he actually wrote it, and in so doing Ezra created Judaism. Without Ezra, they say, Judaism would not exist. In Ezra and the Law in History and Tradition, Lisbeth S. Fried separates historical fact from biblical legend. Drawing on inscriptions from the Achaemenid Empire, she presents the historical Ezra in the context of authentic Persian administrative practices and concludes that Ezra, the Persian official, neither wrote nor edited the Torah, nor would he even have known it. The origin of Judaism, so often associated with Ezra by modern scholars, must be sought elsewhere. After discussing the historical Ezra, Fried examines ancient, medieval, and modern views of him, explaining how each originated, and why. She relates the stories told about Ezra by medieval Christians to explain why their Greek Old Testament differs from the Hebrew Bible, as well as the explanations offered by medieval Samaritans concerning how their Samaritan Bible varies from the one the Jews use. Church Fathers as well as medieval Samaritan writers explained the differences by claiming that Ezra falsified the Bible when he rewrote it, so that in effect, it is not the book that Moses wrote but something else. Moslem scholars also maintain that Ezra falsified the Old Testament, since Mohammed, the last judgment, and Heaven and Hell are revealed in it. In contrast Jewish Talmudic writers viewed Ezra both as a second Moses and as the prophet Malachi. In the process of describing ancient, medieval, and modern views of Ezra, Fried brings out various understandings of God, God’s law, and God’s plan for our salvation.
The Ecumenical Trio of Virtues
Faith, hope, and love: these words recall one of the most familiar passages in the entirety of the Christian Scriptures and represent three uniquely Christian virtues given by God to the Church. Geoffrey Wainwright explores the contemporary ecumenical potential of these historic Christian virtues. Faith, hope, and love are given to each Christian and are intended to be incorporated in the nature and life of every gathered Christian body. Wainwright pairs each virtue with a practice instituted by Christ himself. Holy baptism teaches faith as an enacted confession. The Lord’s Prayer invites petition as an address of hope. The Lord’s Supper offers bread and wine as an embodiment of love. These historic practices orient all Christians backward in faith to the formative events of the cross of resurrection, forward in hope of the final consummation, and toward all others gathered around the shared meal. Wainwright insists that faith, hope, and love pave a path to unity for a historically divided Church.
The New Creation and its Ethical and Social Reconfigurations
It is widely recognized that in some of his letters, Paul develops a Christology based on a comparison between Adam and Christ, and that this Christology has antecedents in Jewish interpretation of Genesis 1–4. But Paul was not concerned simply to develop themes found in scripture.
Felipe Legarreta gives careful attention to patterns of exegesis in Second-Temple Judaism and identifies, for the first time, a number of motifs by which Jews drew ethical implications from the story of Adam and his expulsion from Eden. He then demonstrates that throughout the “Christological” passages in Romans and 1 Corinthians, Paul is taking part in a wider Jewish exegetical and ethical discussion regarding life in the new creation.
The Apocalypse of Paul and Its Contexts
In early Christianity, many people were inspired to write gospels, treatises, letters, and stories celebrating the new faith, but not all of these writings are found in the New Testament. One such story from an unknown author is the Coptic, gnostic Apocalypse of Paul, a tale of the apostle Paul’s ascent to the heavens that was lost for millennia and rediscovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945. In Flora Tells a Story, Michael Kaler discusses the Apocalypse of Paul and how it was shaped by its literary environment.
The book takes a behind the scenes look at early Christian literary production, analyzing the ways in which various literary traditions—such as apocalyptic writings, gnostic thought, and understandings of Paul—influenced the author of the Apocalypse of Paul and helped to shape the text. It also includes a new annotated English translation of the Apocalypse of Paul and a fictional account of how it might have come to be written.
This work is the most in-depth study of the Apocalypse of Paul to date and the only full-length discussion of it in English. It provides a detailed but accessible account of the literary environment in which its author worked and integrates this little-known work into the broader stream of early Christian writings. This book will be of interest to specialists in Nag Hammadi and gnostic studies and early Christian literature, but will also appeal to the general reader interested in Christianity, mysticism, and gnosticism.
The New Testament and the Reform of Christian Worship
Premier liturgical theologian Gordon Lathrop argues that far too often liturgy, preaching, and liturgical theology are informed by naïve and outdated exegesis. In another fully original and deeply reflective work, Lathrop partners with newer biblical studies to see the Gospels anew. He treats the Gospels as early witnesses to the meaning of Christian assembly and forces in the shaping and reshaping of liturgy.
Lathrop first probes each Gospel historically and exegetically to discern what it tells us about early Christian worship and Christians' relationship to the Risen One. Then Lathrop treats the Gospels together to draw out more of their contemporary importance, especially ways in which they can enrich our reflection about the assembly itself, ministry, baptism, the use of scripture in liturgy, and unity within ecumenical diversity.
Taking seriously the origins of the New Testament, as we understand them today, Lathrop demonstrates that the Gospels can remain a true catalyst for liturgical theology and liturgical renewal, as well as an inspiring link to the faith and convictions of the earliest followers of the Christian way.
Early Christian Theology and the Origin of the New Testament Canon
As the inaugural volume in the Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity series, Jens Schröter’s celebrated From Jesus to the New Testament is now available for the first time in English. Schröter provides a rich narrative to Christian history by looking back upon the theological forces that created the New Testament canon. Through his textual, historical, and hermeneutical examination of early Christianity, Schröter reveals how various writings that form the New Testament’s building blocks are all held together. Jesus not only bound the New Testament, but launched a theological project that resulted in the canon. Schröter’s study will undoubtedly spark new discussion about the formation of the canon.
Myth, History, and the Interpretation of Scripture in Lurianic Kabbala
In From Metaphysics to Midrash, Shaul Magid explores the exegetical tradition of Isaac Luria and his followers within the historical context in 16th-century Safed, a unique community that brought practitioners of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam into close contact with one another. Luria's scripture became a theater in which kabbalists redrew boundaries of difference in areas of ethnicity, gender, and the human relation to the divine. Magid investigates how cultural influences altered scriptural exegesis of Lurianic Kabbala in its philosophical, hermeneutical, and historical perspectives. He suggests that Luria and his followers were far from cloistered. They used their considerable skills to weigh in on important matters of the day, offering, at times, some surprising solutions to perennial theological problems.
A Handbook on the Hebrew Text
This second volume in the Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible series provides expert, comprehensive guidance in answering significant questions about the Hebrew text. While reflecting the latest advances in scholarship on Hebrew grammar and linguistics, the work utilizes a style that is lucid enough to serve as a useful agent for teaching and self-study.