Studies in Christianity and Judaism

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Studies in Christianity and Judaism

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Anti-Judaism in Early Christianity

Volume 1: Paul and the Gospels

The period since the close of World War II has been agonizingly introspective—not least because of the pain of reassessing Christianity’s attitude to Judaism. The early Christian materials have often been examined to assess their role in the long-standing negative attitude of Christians to Jews. The motivation for the early church’s sometimes harsh attitude was partly theological—it needed to define itself over against its parent—and partly sociological—it needed to make clear the line that divided the fledgling group of Christian believers fromt he group with which it was most likely to be confused. This collection of studies emphasizes the context and history of early Christianity in reconsidering many of the classic passages that have contributed to the development of anti-Judaism in Christianity. The volume opens with an essay that clearly delineates the state of the question of anti-Judaism in early Christianity. Then follow discussions of specific passages in the writings of Paul as well as the Gospels.

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Anti-Judaism in Early Christianity

Volume 2: Separation and Polemic

The second volume in this two-volume work studying the initial developments of anti-Judaism within the church examines the evolution of the Christian faith in its social context as revealed by evidence such as early patristic and rabbinic writings and archaeological findings.

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A Common Written Greek Source for Mark and Thomas

This book uncovers an early collection of sayings, called N, that are ascribed to Jesus and are similar to those found in the Gospel of Thomas and in Q, a document believed to be a common source, with Mark, for Matthew and Luke. In the process, the book sheds light on the literary methods of Mark and Thomas. A literary comparison of the texts of the sayings of Jesus that appear in both Mark and Thomas shows that each adapted an earlier collection for his own purpose. Neither Mark nor Thomas consistently gives the original or earliest form of the shared sayings; hence, Horman states, each used and adapted an earlier source. Close verbal parallels between the versions in Mark and Thomas show that the source was written in Greek. Horman’s conclusion is that this common source is N.

This proposal is new, and has implications for life of Jesus research. Previous research on sayings attributed to Jesus has treated Thomas in one of two ways: either as an independent stream of Jesus sayings written without knowledge of the New Testament Gospels and or as a later piece of pseudo-Scripture that uses the New Testament as source. This book rejects both views.

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Dangerous Food

1 Corinthians 8-10 in Its Context

Recognizing the social meaning of food and meals in Greco-Roman culture and, in particular, the social meaning of idol-food, is an integral part of understanding the impact of Paul’s instructions to the Christian community at Corinth regarding the consumption of idol-food. Shared meals were a central feature of social intercourse in Greco-Roman culture. Meals and food were markers of social status, and participation at meals was the main means of establishing and maintaining social relations. Participation in public rites (and sharing the meals which ensued) was a requirement of holding public office.

The social consequences of refusing to eat idol-food would be extreme. Christians might not attend weddings, funerals, celebrations in honour of birthdays, or even formal banquets without encountering idol-food. In this extended reading of 1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1, Paul’s response to the Corinthian Christians’ query concerning food offered to idols, Gooch uses a social-historical approach, combining historical methods of source, literary and redaction criticism, and newer applications of anthropological and sociological methods to determine what idol-food was, and what it meant in that place at that time to eat or avoid it. In opposition to a well-entrenched scholarly consensus, Gooch claims that although Paul had abandoned purity rules concerning food, he would not abandon Judaism’s cultural and religious understanding concerning idol-food.

On the basis of his reconstruction of Paul’s letter in which he urged the Corinthian Christians to avoid any food infected by non-Christian rites, Gooch argues that the Corinthians rejected Paul’s instructions to avoid facing significant social liabilities.

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Flora Tells a Story

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.

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From Sermon to Commentary

Expounding the Bible in Talmudic Babylonia

The Bible has always been vital to Jewish religious life, and it has been expounded in diverse ways. Perhaps the most influential body of Jewish biblical interpretation is the Midrash that was produced by expositors during the first five centuries CE. Many such teachings are collected in the Babylonian Talmud, the monumental compendium of Jewish law and lore that was accepted as the definitive statement of Jewish oral tradition for subsequent generations.

However, many of the Talmud’s interpretations of biblical passages appear bizarre or pointless. From Sermon to Commentary: Expounding the Bible in Talmudic Babylonia tries to explain this phenomenon by carefully examining representative passages from a variety of methodological approaches, paying particular attention to comparisons with Midrash composed in the Land of Israel.

Based on this investigation, Eliezer Segal argues that the Babylonian sages were utilizing discourses that had originated in Israel as rhetorical sermons in which biblical interpretation was being employed in an imaginative, literary manner, usually based on the interplay between two or more texts from different books of the Bible. Because they did not possess their own tradition of homiletic preaching, the Babylonian rabbis interpreted these comments without regard for their rhetorical conventions, as if they were exegetical commentaries, resulting in the distinctive, puzzling character of Babylonian Midrash.

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Law in Religious Communities in the Roman Period

The Debate over Torah and Nomos in Post-Biblical Judaism and Early Christianity

The role and function of law in religious communities in the Roman period—especially in Judaism—has been a key issue among scholars in recent years. This thought-provoking work is the first full-scale attempt to write a historical assessment of the scholarly debate concerning this question, focussing on two closely related religious communities, Judaism and Christianity. By juxtaposing the two religions, a clearer understanding of the developments with respect to torah and nomos in Judaism and early Christianity emerges.

This insightful work, placing emphasis on the major figures and both the scholarly lines of development and the appropriate lines for future research, will set the debate in a clearer and more and succinct manner. It will serve as a critical point of reference for further discussion.

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Mark’s Other Gospel

Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery

Did the evangelist Mark write two versions of his gospel? According to a letter ascribed to Clement of Alexandria, Mark created a second, more spiritual edition of his gospel for theologically advanced Christians in Alexandria. Clement’s letter contains two excerpts from this lost gospel, including a remarkably different account of the raising of Lazarus.

Forty-five years of cursory investigation have yielded five mutually exclusive paradigms, abundant confusion, and rumours of forgery. Strangely, one of the few things upon which most investigators agree is that the letter’s own explanation of the origin and purpose of this longer gospel need not be taken seriously.

Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery calls this pervasive bias into question. After thoroughly critiquing the five main paradigms, Scott G. Brown demonstrates that the gospel excerpts not only sound like Mark, but also employ Mark’s distinctive literary techniques, deepening this gospels theology and elucidating puzzling aspects of its narrative. This mystic gospel represents Mark’s own response to the Alexandrian predilection to discover the essential truths of a philosophy beneath the literal level of revered texts.

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Mishnah and the Social Formation of the Early Rabbinic Guild

A Socio-Rhetorical Approach

Where do the origins of the rabbinic movement lie, and how might evidence from the early rabbinic literature be made to reveal those origins?

In order to shed light on the early social formation of the rabbinic guild of masters, Lightstone brings the theoretical and methodological insights of socio-rhetorical analysis to examine Mishnah, the first document authored by the early rabbinic movement and its principal object of study for several centuries.

He argues that the enshrinement of Mishnah served to model, via its pervasive rhetoric, the principal authoritative guild expertise that qualified and marked one as a member of the rabbinic guild. Furthermore, he establishes the social and historical venue in late second- and early third-century Galilee.

The author concludes that the social formation of the early rabbinic guild coalesced around the institution of the Jewish Patriarchy, for which the early rabbis served as bureaucratic-scribal retainers. He further suggests that the development of both the Patriarchy in the Land of Israel and the social formation of the rabbinic guild may have been spurred by the imposition of Roman-style urbanization in the region over the course of the latter half of the second and beginning of the third century.

Lightstone’s approach is informed by the insights and methods of several cognate disciplines, encompassing literary analysis, sociology and anthropology, and history (including, in the last chapter, the history of material culture). The book will be of interest to advanced students in the history of Judaism, rabbinic literature, biblical studies, early Christianity, and the history of religion and culture in the late Roman Near East.

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Parables of War

Reading John’s Jewish Apocalypse

What makes the Book of Revelation so hard to understand?

How does the Book of Revelation fit into Judaism and the beginning of

Christianity?

John W. Marshall proposes a radical reinterpretation of the Book of Revelation of John, viewing it as a document of the Jewish diaspora during the Judean War. He contends that categorizing the Book as "Christian" has been an impediment in interpreting the Apocalypse. By suspending that category, solutions to several persistent problems in contemporary exegesis of the Apocalypse are facilitated. The author thus undertakes a rereading of the Book of Revelation that does not merely enumerate elements of a Jewish "background" but understands the Book of Revelation as an integral whole and a thoroughly Jewish text.

Marshall carefully scrutinizes the problems that plague contemporary interpretations of the Book of Revelation, and how the category of "Christian" relates to such problems. He employs the works of Mieke Bal, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Jean Fran‡ois Lyotard, and Jonathan Z. Smith as theoretical resources. In the second half of his study, he provides detailed descriptions of the social and cultural context of the diaspora during the Judean War, and constructive rereadings of four key text complexes.

The result is a portrait of the Apocalypse of John that envisions the document as deeply invested in the Judaism of its time, pursuing rhetorical objectives that are not defined by the issues that scholars use to differentiate Judaism from Christianity.

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