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The Soteriology of R. Akiba and E. P. Sanders' Paul and Palestinian Judaism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2009

Charles L. Quarles
Affiliation:
(4221 Crump Road, Memphis, TN 38141, USA)

Extract

In his book Paul and Palestinian Judaism, E. P. Sanders challenged the traditional assessment of early rabbinic soteriology as based upon legalistic works-righteousness. Sanders contended that the strict Pauline view of the law was foreign to early rabbinic Judaism:

There is no hint in Rabbinic literature of a view such as that of Paul in Gal. 3.10 or of IV Ezra, that one must achieve legal perfection... Human perfection was not considered realistically achievable by the Rabbis, nor was it required.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1996

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References

1 Sanders, E. P., Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977) 137.Google Scholar

2 Sanders, , Paul, 146.Google Scholar

3 Sanders, , Paul, 132.Google Scholar

4 Sanders, , Paul, 139.Google Scholar

5 Sanders focused his research at this point completely on the Mishnah, in which systematic expressions of theology are generally lacking. Unless one intends to ignore the Mishnah as an expression of rabbinic theology, such ‘nonsystematic statements’ must be taken seriously.

6 Unterman, I., ed. and trans., Pirke Aboth (New York: Twayne, 1964) 197.Google Scholar

7 Unterman, , Aboth, 199.Google Scholar

8 Danby, H., The Mishnah (Oxford: Oxford University, 1934) 452Google Scholar, ‘but’; Blackman, P., ed. and trans., Mishnayoth (New York: Judaica, 1963) 4.513Google Scholar, ‘yet’; and Unterman, Aboth, 197, ‘yet’. The adversative sense is also made explicit by the textual variant which will be discussed later.

9 Buxtorf, J., ‘Π┐ς┐’, Lexicon Chaldaicum, Talmudicum, et Rabbinicum (Hildesheim/New York: Georg Olms, 1977) 2290.Google Scholar

10 Danby, , Mishnah, 452Google Scholar; Blackman, , Mishnayoth, 4.513Google Scholar; and Unterman, , Aboth, 197.Google Scholar

11 The LXX offered ten different translations of the Hebrew word ℸΠΟ, with ⋯γαθός being the most frequent and χάρις being the least frequent. Höver-Johag, I., , TDOT 5 (1974) 317.Google Scholar

12 See Jastrow, M., ‘’, Dictionary of the Talmud (Brooklyn: Traditional, 1903) 1.521Google Scholar and Dalman, G., ‘כוס’, Aramäisch-Neuhebräisches Handwörterbuch zu Targum, Talmud, und Midrasch (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1967) 167Google Scholar. The literal translation ‘in goodness’ is preferred in Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah (New Haven/ London: Yale University, 1988) 680.Google Scholar

13 Grundmann, Walter, ‘⋯γαθός’, TDNT 1 (1964) 1017Google Scholar and Höver-Johag, I., ‘’, TDOT 5 (1974) 296317.Google Scholar

14 In m. Aboth 3.15, bears a similar sense.

15 This statement is made with hesitation. In the absence of a concordance for the Mishnah, the search for occurrences of in the Aboth tractate had to be conducted by this researcher. While the search was intended to be exhaustive, the writer recognizes that, in the examination of nineteen discovered occurrences within the tractate, some occurrences may have been overlooked inadvertently.

16 Blackman's translation.

17 A sample of such terminology can be found in m. Aboth 2.13, which quotes Joel 2.13 and makes reference to divine mercy, grace, compassion, and patience using words such as ΟΠ┐, ΡΠ, and ┐ΟΠ.

18 Danby, , Mishnah, 447.Google Scholar

19 Danby, , Mishnah, 454Google Scholar. Sanders dismissed references to the weighing of deeds as mere ‘rabbinic exhortation’. While m. Aboth 2.1 and even 4.11 may be hortatory, 3.16 appears as a theological maxim rather than an exhortation.

20 Danby, , Mishnah, 452.Google Scholar

21 Danby, , Mishnah, 454.Google Scholar

22 Sanders, , Paul, 132.Google Scholar

23 Sanders, , Paul, 132.Google Scholar

24 Anthony Saldarini, J., The Fathers according to R. Nathan (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1975) 275CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Neusner, Jacob, The Fathers according to R. Nathan (Atlanta: Scholars, 1986) 237Google Scholar. The former work is based upon version B, normally abbreviated as ARNB. The latter work is based upon version A, normally abbreviated as ARNA. This mishnah is attributed to R. Eliezer, the son of R. Jose the Galilean in ARNB. However, in ARNA, the mishnah is anonymous.

25 Epstein, I., ed., ‘Aboth’, Hebrew–English Edition of the Babylonian Talmud 15: Seder Nezikin (London: Soncino, 1988).Google Scholar

26 David, Arthur, Maimonides: The Commentary to Mishnah Aboth (New York: Bloch, 1968) 57Google Scholar. The English translation by David was based upon Samuel ibn Tibbon's Hebrew translation from Arabic.

27 See Epstein, ‘Aboth’, b. Aboth 3.16 col. 2 note 1.

28 Interestingly, though the emender misunderstood the intended sense of the first statement regarding judgment, by his emendation he preserved the theological sense of Akiba. He merely reversed the order of Akiba's argument from justice versus grace to grace versus justice.

29 Sanders, , Paul, 137–9Google Scholar. Sanders seems to have forgotten this statement of Gamaliel when he claimed that there is ‘no hint’ in rabbinic literature that one must achieve legalistic perfection.

30 Sanders, , Paul, 443.Google Scholar

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