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For the writers of the books of the New Testament, as well as for Christians thereafter, “gospel reading” included reading the books of the Jewish Scriptures, which were understood to bear witness to the coming of Christ (cf. e.g. Matt. 1:22–23 and Isa. 7:14) and thereby to the gospel (e.g. Gal. 3:8–13 and Gen. 15:6). Subsequently, “Christological readings” of what became the Christian Old Testament took a variety of forms, many of which moved beyond identifying prophetic predictions of the coming Messiah to attempts to identify the preincarnate Word as a distinct agent in the Old Testament books. Although such strategies have long been called into question on historical-critical grounds, this essay will argue that there are also specifically Trinitarian reasons for eschewing such approaches to the text, arguing instead that a more faithfully Christological reading of Israel’s Scriptures will focus not on the whereabouts of the preincarnate Word, but on the topic of YHWH’s presence in and to Israel, as that which assumes new and unpredictable but nevertheless consistent form in the incarnation. This chapter explores a form of theological “gospel reading” in which early Christian writers, steeped in the Jewish scriptural traditions, discerned in Jesus the activity and presence of Israel’s God.
In this paper I carry out a microphilological study of a section of the Codex Indianorum 7, a colonial devotional manuscript in Nahuatl preserved in the John Carter Brown Library. It contains wisdom teachings derived from the biblical Book of Tobit and directed to both parents and their children. I argue that this hitherto unstudied text reveals the Native author's liberty to creatively mold and adapt a culturally remote European prototype into the Native genre of oratorical art—the huehuehtlahtolli, or “words of the elders.” The author also skillfully embedded and contextualized the content of the biblical instruction in local cultural meanings understandable and valid to an Indigenous audience. As an example of cross-cultural translation and colonial textual production, this source provides new insights into Native forms of agency, intellectual autonomy, and acculturation strategies reflected in creative dialogues with European traditions, developed and maintained despite the seemingly substitutive Christianization policies imposed on Indigenous people in the sixteenth century.
In this book, Yitzhaq Feder presents a novel and compelling account of pollution in ancient Israel, from its emergence as an embodied concept, rooted in physiological experience, to its expression as a pervasive metaphor in social-moral discourse. Feder aims to bring the biblical and ancient Near Eastern evidence into a sustained conversation with anthropological and psychological research through comparison with notions of contagion in other ancient and modern cultural contexts. Showing how numerous interpretive difficulties are the result of imposing modern concepts on the ancient texts, he guides readers through wide-ranging parallels to biblical attitudes in ancient Near Eastern, ethnographic, and modern cultures. Feder demonstrates how contemporary evolutionary and psychological research can be applied to ancient textual evidence. He also suggests a path of synthesis that can move beyond the polarized positions which currently characterize modern academic and popular debates bearing on the roles of biology and culture in shaping human behavior.
In his refutation of Marcion, Tertullian argued that Marcion failed to appreciate that Christ, as figured, is present in the Old Testament. Marcion may have similarly denied the presence of Christ, as figured, in the Eucharist. This outcome is expressed in the eucharistic theology of the great eighteenth-century Anglican theologian, Samuel Clarke. Clarke is a harbinger of modern Marcionism because his Old Testament denigration is the product of his specifically Marcionite impulse to excise Christ from the Old Testament. And as he consistently applies this impulse to his eucharistic theology, his memorialism becomes another venue for him to transmit Marcionism to modernity.
Places the four gospels in the scriptural environment of Israel’s story. Taking each gospel in turn, Hays and Blumhofer show that the scriptures constitute the gospels’ ‘generative milieu’. The stories about Jesus gain their full intelligibility within the context of the textual tradition and the larger scriptural story of God’s dealings with Israel.
Following unsuccessful attempts to keep the descendants of Nebuchadnezzar II on the throne, the usurper Nabonidus became king. Persian tribes had moved into Elamite lands, and the Medes made Harran a dangerous city; Nabonidus‘ mother, an aged acolyte of Ashurbanipal, resided there. His lengthy inscriptions are informative about his deeds and his character. He dedicated his daughter to the Moon-god at Ur according to precedent, and spent ten years in Arabia, leaving his son Belshazzar in charge in Babylon. He returned and restored the temple in Harran. Cyrus the Great brought his rule to an end, but continued to employ some high officials. Cyrus was probably of mixed Elamite and Persian descent. The Cyrus Cylinder, inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform for a Babylonian audience, used traditional denigration of the previous king Nabonidus, and acknowledged Marduk as Babylon’s god. In another cuneiform text, Nabonidus was mocked for his scholarly pretensions and for sacrilegious acts. Babylon continued to be the centre where all subsequent kings felt obliged to celebrate the New Year festival to be accepted as legitimate rulers. Old monuments were not defaced. Cyrus may have been responsible for an imitation of Babylon’s glazed bricks at Persepolis. He made his son Cambyses co-regent.
Early explorers and excavators knew only biblical and classical accounts, some of them garbled and confusing. They were unaware that Babylon had an advanced literate culture. Mud-brick ruins contrasted unfavourably with marble, and the sprawling site of Babylon had many separate mounds, with the Tower of Babel indistinguishable amid the rubble. As Babylon’s power grew, quarters of the citadel were named after more ancient cities, and branches of temples to deities in other cities became established there. Early travellers from the twelfth century onwards brought back to the west their accounts of what they saw. In the seventeenth century, cuneiform writing on stone was identified at Persepolis. In the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, cuneiform inscriptions from Mesopotamia increasingly arrived in Europe and a few national museums were soon built to house the items discovered by travellers, dilettante collectors, and informal excavators. Decipherment then began to excite public interest, but literal understanding gave way only slowly to appreciation of symbolism and rhetoric. Official excavations in Babylon took place under German leadership between 1899 and 1917. A chronological sequence for the history still has a few unsolved problems. Cuneiform writing unexpectedly lasted into Roman times.
This chapter outlines antislavery readings of the Bible during the 1830s and 1840s, highlighting their implications for historical awareness. It shows how words such as context, circumstance, and accommodation seeped into the readings of figures who demonstrated little interest in or awareness of biblical criticism and suggests that even interpretations that did not privilege historical explication sometimes challenged the assumption of a close correspondence between biblical and modern times. The historicizing process began with the most distant periods in question, the Old Testament eras, before encroaching on the period of the New Testament. As debate rested on the New Testament, a number of antislavery readers argued that Christ and his apostles had planted the seeds of slavery’s abolition, a reading that further highlighted historical distance. The argument that the universal principles would find fulfillment in the future drew attention to the distance between the biblical past and the American present. This contention, which retained faith in sacred texts, held great potential to spread awareness of that distance.
The 2000-year story of Babylon sees it moving from a city-state to the centre of a great empire of the ancient world. It remained a centre of kingship under the empires of Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids and the Parthians. Its city walls were declared to be a Wonder of the World while its ziggurat won fame as the Tower of Babel. Visitors to Berlin can admire its Ishtar Gate, and the supposed location of its elusive Hanging Garden is explained. Worship of its patron god Marduk spread widely while its well-trained scholars communicated legal, administrative and literary works throughout the ancient world, some of which provide a backdrop to Old Testament and Hittite texts. Its science also laid the foundations for Greek and Arab astronomy through a millennium of continuous astronomical observations. This accessible and up-to-date account is by one of the world's leading authorities.
Chapter 6 outlines a political theology of monotheism using Assmann’s concepts of the Mosaic distinction, supplemented by other scholars like Mark S. Smith, Robert Gnuse, Rainer Albertz, et al. We dwell closely here on Israel’s political conditions of sovereignty, subjugation, and exile that all help illuminate – as we saw in Gans’ critique – what historical peculiarities constitute the Hebrew discovery of monotheism. I explore how monotheism could be composed of polytheistic building blocks – first in state-based religion and political symbols, like monolatry and despotic vassal treaties – but transform among an exiled people into a division of God from political representation.
This chapter examines a peculiar theme in divine narratives, according to which human beings at one time replaced the gods as workers. The author considers the occurrence of this theme in the Akkadian poem Atrahasīs, the opening of the Biblical book of Genesis and early Greek epic, especially the Iliad. The comparison illustrates that authors and audiences in the ancient world shared not just stories about the gods but also some of the larger questions that made them important. We cannot always tell how the stories travelled but we can certainly understand better how the texts work by considering the narrative resources they share. In particular, the theme of divine labour allows us to appreciate how the Mesopotamian, Israelite and Greek traditions created important, and distinctively different, transitions in the shared history of gods and humans, and how the very concept of the gods at work gave rise, within each tradition, to implicit or explicit criticism and to consequent attempts to rewrite the story, or at least to contain its supposedly undesirable theological implications.
In this book, Jason A. Staples proposes a new paradigm for how the biblical concept of Israel developed in Early Judaism and how that concept impacted Jewish apocalyptic hopes for restoration after the Babylonian Exile. Challenging conventional assumptions about Israelite identity in antiquity, his argument is based on a close analysis of a vast corpus of biblical and other early Jewish literature and material evidence. Staples demonstrates that continued aspirations for Israel's restoration in the context of diaspora and imperial domination remained central to Jewish conceptions of Israelite identity throughout the final centuries before Christianity and even into the early part of the Common Era. He also shows that Israelite identity was more diverse in antiquity than is typically appreciated in modern scholarship. His book lays the groundwork for a better understanding of the so-called 'parting of the ways' between Judaism and Christianity and how earliest Christianity itself grew out of hopes for Israel's restoration.
Biblical theology is the systematic theological interpretation of the Bible, and Jewish biblical theology is the systematic theological interpretation of the Jewish Bible (Tanak). The Jewish Bible appears in its uniquely distinctive form as the Tanak, which enables the Jewish Bible to function as the essential and foundational work of Jewish thought and practice. In order to provide an overview of Jewish biblical theology, this essay treats several fundamental concerns, viz., the unique form of the Jewish Bible in contrast to the distinctive forms of the Christian Bible; the dialogical character of the Jewish Bible in relation to itself and to the larger context of Jewish thought; the eternal covenant between G-d and the Jewish people; the construction of the Jewish people and its institutions, such as the land of Israel, the holy Temple, and the monarchy; and the problem of evil, particularly the exile and potential destruction of the Jewish people, that calls the eternal covenant between G-d and Israel into question.
This chapter offers a reexamination of three key figures that developed trajectories of Christian interpretations of Mosaic and later Jewish law, focusing on the distinctions that Justin Martyr, Thomas Aquinas, and Martin Luther each create to interpret scripture’s accounts of law. Early Christian theologians consistently reconsidered the soteriological and moral importance of law, denying it pride of place in the economy of salvation. In contrast, public law was largely addressed through the lens of nature, culture, or creation. Israel’s laws were Christologically rethought, but the civil laws of the nations were by and large left to the realm of natural law. The process of making soteriological distinctions about the law resulted in an anemic account of public law that is highly critical of Israel and Judaism and overly positive on natural law. Even in Thomas’s highly developed theology of the law or in Luther’s instance on the primacy of the gospel, nature remains the governing category for building a Christian understanding of public law. Natural law and by extension public law was thus quarantined from critical interrogation.
Chapter 6 offers summary reflections on the conclusions and contributions of the present work, including its findings for the study of the royal palms, the study of Syro-Palestinian inscriptions, Hebrew Bible theology, and the history of Israelite religion. In addition to proposing a new analytic for royal psalms (i.e. psalms of defeat), the book adds depth and specificity to previous scholarship on the theology of the royal psalms. It draws in sharper silhouette the animating commitment of royal psalms: Yhwh’s loyalty to his one individual client king. The book also calls attention to the non-narrative and lyric qualities of inscriptions, and it emphasizes the rhetorical centrality of their closing curse sections. For the study of Hebrew Bible theology, the present work holds up the important and distinctive theological offer of royal psalms. Historically, Levantine memorial inscriptions reflect an earlier engagement with Neo-Assyrian royal ideology and its monuments than scholars have argued heretofore, and a deeper indigenization.
Paul’s letters offer eloquent testimony to his profound activity as a reader of Israel’s scriptures. This chapter offers an overview of that activity, discussing Paul’s scriptural sources and citation technique, the variety of formal and material ways in which Paul engages scripture, and the rhetorical purposes for which he quotes.
Most studies on violence in the Hebrew Bible focus on the question of how modern readers should approach the problem. But they fail to ask how the Hebrew Bible thinks about that problem in the first place. In this work, Matthew J. Lynch examines four key ways that writers of the Hebrew Bible conceptualize and critique acts of violence: violence as an ecological problem; violence as a moral problem; violence as a judicial problem; violence as a purity problem. These four 'grammars of violence' help us interpret crucial biblical texts where violence plays a lead role, like Genesis 4-9. Lynch's volume also offers readers ways to examine cultural continuity and the distinctiveness of biblical conceptions of violence.
In this volume, Douglas Yoder uses the tools of modern and postmodern philosophy and biblical criticism to elucidate the epistemology of the Tanakh, the collection of writings that comprise the Hebrew Bible. Despite the conceptual sophistication of the Tanakh, its epistemology has been overlooked in both religious and secular hermeneutics. The concept of revelation, the genre of apocalypse, and critiques of ideology and theory are all found within or derive from epistemic texts of the Tanakh. Yoder examines how philosophers such as Spinoza, Hume, and Kant interacted with such matters. He also explores how the motifs of writing, reading, interpretation, image, and animals, topics that figure prominently in the work of Derrida, Foucault, and Nietzsche, appear also in the Tanakh. An understanding of Tanakh epistemology, he concludes, can lead to new appraisals of religious and secular life throughout the modern world.
This chapter identifies and explains three important changes in Hobbes’s religious arguments from The Elements of Law to On the Citizen. First, Hobbes comes to focus more on religious and scriptural matters, devoting a greater amount of space to them in On the Citizen than in Elements of Law. Second, Hobbes’s argumentative strategy evolves. He multiplies independent lines of argument for the same central claims. Third, the content of Hobbes’s arguments changes. In On the Citizen, he takes a Hebraic turn, offering a new and detailed discussion of the Israelite kingdom of God and relying far more heavily on scriptural evidence from the Old Testament. In each case, these changes can be explained by the changing political context in England and Hobbes’s increasing sensitivity to the challenges of religious pluralism.
Following Kristallnacht, Dietrich Bonhoeffer marked the date of the pogrom beside Psalm 74:8 in his personal Bible. This annotation has been frequently cited; however, though scholars have recognised historical implications of associating this psalm text with Kristallnacht, the discourse has yet to examine this annotation thoroughly in the context of Bonhoeffer's figural interpretation of the Psalms during this period. This article will establish the context of Bonhoeffer's figural approach to the Psalter in order to address this question: by connecting Psalm 74:8 with Kristallnacht, what theological claim might Bonhoeffer have been making about the events of November 1938?