EMail Discussions, Religious Studies 525, Spring 2006

[Items are in reverse chronological order, the most recent first]




Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2006 11:56:36 -0500
Subject: Re: Ezra (more)

Virginia Wayland clarifies:

> The aspect of Koch's Ezra that I see as forerunner of the Teacher of
> Righteousness and apocalyptic is the dimension of active fulfillment of
> prophecy (Isa, Ezek) with the law as guide to God's will. We would have the
> beginnings of the idea that "the eschatological fulfillment is now" in the
> 5th-4th century BCE. In this case, the "eschatological fulfillment", at
> least as Koch presents it, is very focussed on the return from
> exile/regathering of the people of Israel and reestablishing the temple
> worship.
> (I don't think I made that clear earlier)
> Virginia

Thanks. That is a bit clearer. So "realized eschatology" is already at work for Koch's Ezra, building on the older prophetic promises. It is perhaps striking in this regard how little of the idea of eschatological fulfilment is found in ParJer 6-8 (the letter, the return)! In ParJer 9, there is the "messiah Jesus" expectation, but it is placed hundreds of years in the future. The exile is depicted as punishment for sins, and return to "the city" is conditioned on separation from "Babylon" (and mixed marriages) and general obedience, within a "covenant" framework (e.g. ParJer 6.20-25). There is a glint of hope for the halfway Samaritans (8.12), but is it eschatological in nature? The text isn't clear.

Let's keep this in mind when we look more closely at the Ezra materials in class today!


Subject: Re: Ezra
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2006 23:47:48 -0500 (EST)

Virginia Wayland writes:

> Over the break I was looking for references regarding Ezra with a view
> toward trying to understand how the same figure attracted literature as
> diverse as Ezra-Nehemiah and 1/3 Esdras and also 4(5,6)Ezra, the Greek
> Apocalypse of Ezra, and the Visions of Ezra. I had generally (naively)
> understood Ezra as returning from Babylon, teaching the law, and
> forbidding mixed marriages (we could look at the middle section of Par.
> Jer. in this connection).

Right. I think that the Jeremiah of ParJer mirrors Ezra activities, however one construes that relationship. There are also some other Jeremiah traditions that parallel Ezra stuff. What to make of it all, of course, is at issue!

> This led to a paper: K. Koch "Ezra and the Origins of Judaism" JSS
> (1974) 19, 173-197. Koch suggests that Ezra's return was a formal
> cultic procession which Ezra understood as a second Exodus and partial
> fulfillment of the prophecy in Isa. 52.11-12. He suggests that Ezra's
> mission aimed at restoration of a united Israel (Samaritans as well, in
> contrast to Nehemiah), and that Ezra was contending for the role of high
> priest (based on the genealogy in Ezra 7.1; the Meremoth episode in Ezra
> 8.33, Neh. 10.6, Neh.3.4,21, Ezra 2.61; and Ezra's role in the
> assemblies (Ezra 9.1; 10.2). He suggests that Ezra's 'law' is
> consistently drawn from the "P" source, and that it is interpreted as
> the constitution of a future Israel, rather than as a record of the
> Mosaic past. The law functions for Ezra primarily to make a distinction
> between sacred and profane, clean and unclean; and to give a rule for
> right worship and right maintenance of the temple and surrounding holy
> city.

Interesting and adventurous. I should add a note to my old "Ezra" essay, that is now linked from the course webpage. Koch seems to want to do history. But even if we shy away from that, he still might have his finger on someone who edited the Ezra materials to look that way. Why? In response to what?

> I am a little confused by his reasoning at a couple of points - first,
> he consistently refers to Ezra's law as a codex (isn't this too early?).
> Can codex mean a law code?

It certainly is too early for codex as a book format, but I think the term can be used for law code. Yes, here is stuff from the online OED:

[a. L. codex, later spelling of caudex trunk of a tree, wooden tablet, book, code of laws.]

1. = CODE n.1 1, 2. Obs.
1581 MULCASTER Positions xl. (1887) 228 In the fourth booke of Iustinians new Codex, the thirtenth title. 1622 FLETCHER Sp. Curate IV. vii, The codexes o' th' law. 1659 Gentl. Call. iv. <A7>24. 408 The whole codex of Christian precepts. 1753 Scots Mag. Sept. 460/1 A new codex, or body of the laws.

> Second, he argues that Ezra's inclusion of

> the Samaritans in his mission is essential to understanding the adoption
> of the Pentateuch by the Samaritans?

I don't know why this is a necessary solution for the origins of the Samaritan Pentateuch. Textually, it is usually argued that the SamPent can't predate the early hellenistic period (3rd-2nd BCE), but even if that is so, we don't need a historical Ezra imposing it on the Samaritans to explain it. Josephus has the Samaritan Temple built by a Jerusalemite priest who leaves home for love (or something along those lines). That's a nice romantic alternative for establishing Jerusalemite scriptures among the Samaritans, for those who want concrete historical explanations.

> Third, the establishment of the
> unique central place of worship (at Jerusalem!), (I thought) belongs to
> the Deuteronomist and Deuteronomistic history?

Well, yes, but that doesn't preclude it from being an Ezraic ideal as well, if you place Ezra later in the historical chain and make him aware of the Deuteronomic picture. Ezra's use of "Priestly" materials is probably not to be seen as independent of the older Mosaic strains, but built on them.

> On the positive side, this Ezra seems a more likely forerunner of the
> Judaism that eventually produced the 'Teacher of Righteousness' and
> apocalyptic.

I'm not so sure that such an ecumenical Ezra would lead directly into apparently separatist/sectarian Qumranic perspectives, except for the purity focus; maybe the post-destruction outlook of 4 Ezra, or other ideas of apocalyptic reunification would come closer. But is Koch's Ezra really necessary for that sort of thing? With all these streams running together, or perhaps alongside of each other, it is difficult to isolate any one of them as convincingly generative of others, although it's not out of the question either. Fun stuff.

> Can you help?
> Virginia

Not a lot!




Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2006 11:16:26 -0500
From: Robert Kraft <>
Subject: Researching "BC" on the Web

Forwarded message:
> By the way, did we ever find out when B.C. began to be used? The Latin used
> was ante christum natum, lit. before christ-having-been-born. ACN.
> Andrew

Yes and No. The Oxford English Dictionary was a disappointment, without even an entry for BC, as far as I could find.

Some other googled sources claimed that "BC" as an English abbreviation came fairly late (17th century?), while others said it was used by Bede (d 735) -- but only once! I don't know what that means -- whether he actually used the abbreviation, or only the words "before Christ."

Now you are ready for the next cocktail hour discussion!



Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2006 12:25:13 -0500

From: Robert Kraft <>
Subject: Re: Parabiblical Queries

Virginia responds:

> Daniel is probably the hardest to classify of all of our materials because:
> a) Does "Daniel" include the Song of the Three Children?, Bel and the
> Dragon?, Susanna?

We seldom start at the mountain spring, but step into the stream after it has been flowing for awhile. Thus the preoccupation by some scholars with the origins of particular sections (divide and conquer), which creates/identifies more simple units with which to work, and thus also makes classification easier. But some scholars are nervous about such a "hypothetical" approach, arguing that at the point of composition things were already complex, and consider that to be the actual "origin" of the text.

Of course, in some senses both approaches are correct. There had to be some developments from relative simplicity (e.g. memory and reporting of a dream) to more complexity (e.g. a series of dreams with interpretation). But we can only really "control" what is there when it is available to us in some (more or less) fixed form -- a manuscript, usually. Sometimes the textual situation is more complex and shows that things have continued to expand, or perhaps to contract, which serves at least two purposes: it gives us analogies on which to base conjecture (e.g. dream reports tend to pick up narrative settings as materials arepassed along), and it also gives us controllable materials from somewhat different historical settings for closer analysis (e.g. Greek translation choices such as rendering ambiguous semitic terms such as "Kittim" by less ambiguous terms such as "Romans" in Dan 11.30).

The Daniel "additions" you mention are part of the evidence for the expansion of that text in its Greek and derivitive forms. But they also suggest that already in its semitic form(s) the book may have been developing, as seems to be the explanation for the long Aramaic section (chs 2.4b-7.28) in the middle of a Hebrew framework (whether the Aramaic is "more original" than the Hebrew is an additional question)! So one problem is to identify the "units" that one wishes to classify, compare, etc.

> b) "Daniel" contains some wildly different forms:
> - Dan. 2,4 belongs to the wise man/interpreter of dreams with Gen. 40-41.
> Are there Greek or Latin parallels? Egyptian? Persian?

Yes, there are "parallels" -- although careful definition of what constitute "significant" parallels is important. Interpreting dreams has a long history in various cultures, and leaves its mark on the surviving evidence.

> - The fiery furnace, Dan 3, has a parallel in Pseudo-Philo/Biblical
> Antiquities (Vol.2 of Charlesworth) in the story of Abraham in the furnace
> at Babel; and maybe in the expression "out of the iron furnace" in Deut
> 4:20. There is a story told about St. Patrick of Ireland that is part of a
> group of stories/cycle in which he duels with the Druids in which he is
> locked in an iron house which is set on fire but survives (this may have
> been adapted from an earlier story about Lleu, an Irish/Welsh mythological
> figure, or from Daniel, or both.)

Big furnaces are fixtures in most societies (e.g. for metal smelting technology), so there is probably less need to try to trace influence here than in stories or phraseology that is more unusual.

> c) Daniel's dream about the beasts, Dan 7-8, I think probably is related to
> the Dream Visions of Enoch. Both in the animal symbolism, and in the
> dream-revelation category.

This deserves further exploration. Are there other parallels from surrounding cultures, etc.?

> The question concerning "Testaments", such as the Testaments of the Twelve
> Patriarchs, etc. and their parallels (or lack thereof) elsewhere is
> significant, I think, because it reflects a different source of authority
> than the Enoch - the teaching of the fathers/ancestors rather than
> revelation by an angel/angels or through dreams/visions.

Right. "Authority" is relative, and the more we can be conscious of where it resides in the various "traditions," the better.

> As far as modern "parabiblical" texts are concerned, I had in mind things a
> bit closer to home, so to speak. Such as, the Nicene Creed, Westminster
> Confession (or Belgaic Confession or Augsburg Confession, depending), or
> Moltmann or Barth or Buber; Hymns; the prayer that is usually attributed to
> St. Francis of Assissi (Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace...); The
> Chronicles of Narnia; The Passover Plot; The DaVinci Code. (These are
> mostly hopelessly, or helplessly, Protestant examples.)

Oh yah. I was trying to think "secular," but of course you are correct that various religious contexts also have their non-biblical bibles. I'm not sure where you were trying to go with Passover Plot and DaVinci (or even Narnia). Perhaps time will tell. What sort of circumstances would be needed for them to qualify?


> Virginia


Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2006 01:54:19 -0500
From: Robert Kraft <>
Subject: Re: Parabiblical Queries

Yes, Virginia, these are tough issues!

> I came up with some questions in connection with our perpetual quest for
> a definition of "parabiblical" (or the holy grail, whichever we find first).

My quest is less a matter of defining "parabiblical" (although that is basic to the discussion, of course) than of finding appropriate terminology to apply to the materials we are examining. So far, in this hopefully transition period, something like "parabiblical" seems necessary. Maybe in a future generation, a terminology will be accepted that embraces both the proto-biblical (i.e. what comes to be called "canonical" and Bible) and its companions without prior distinction. Are we ready for that yet? Are "they" (people who haven't wrestled with these issues)?

> First, if there was no "Bible", how would we classify the texts we have
> looked at so far?

> For example: The 'Dream Visions of Enoch' might be classified as
> historical allegory, or as prophetic dream texts.

Good. Let's come up with categories and labels that suit the materials. Would you also put Daniel (or parts of it) in that category? A problem for everyone will be those texts that do more than one thing -- e.g. Testaments with eschatological (even apocalyptic) predictions and homiletic exhortations within a framework of historical flashback.

> Are there "Testaments" known from classical literature? Are there
> copies of actual wills from this period? How do our "Testaments" line
> up with these?

Yes and yes, but I don't think anything quite like "our Testaments," which surely go far beyond the legal requirements and expectations of bone fide last wills.

> In this line, the "Apocalypse of Adam" is similar to the "Testaments" in
> some ways, particularly the introduction (Charlesworth, p. 707).

Right. We have form, and title, to start with. What should we look for in content?

> Second, what kinds of literature are "parabiblical" in the 20th/21st
> century world? Are there texts which are "authoritative" but not
> Biblical? "Authoritative" for whom?

I suppose one could point to things like the bill of rights for Americans, and to our laws (some taken more seriously than others). Authoritative bodies of leaders produce authoritative rules or guidelines for particular groups and/or situations. The umpires and referees need to know the rules that govern their games, and for established sports, those rules are written in books that participants accept as authoritative.

> Can we come up with some collective answers for these?

Perhaps. Give it a try! Anyone for multiple choice? Definitions, labels, categories are largely arbitrary, but important for clarity of discussion and understanding. And getting into the heads of the people who produced the materials, and the first readers/users, and then subsequent generations of users and revisers, is the problematic that faces us. See you in class!


> Virginia


Date: Fri, 10 Feb 2006 14:28:54 -0500
From: Robert Kraft <>
Subject: Next Week in Class

The minutes from two weeks ago are now online (use the link on the class page), and
I hope to have this week's up soon (thanks to Virginia's promptness). I'm still
waiting for week #2.

For next class, we will try to finish up with the Testaments of the Twelve
Patriarchs and move on to other "Testaments" (some of which are very different).
Please ignore (or postpone) the assignment I gave at the end of class, about the
Paralipomena Jeremiou. We'll get to that a bit later.

For more clarity and guidance, I've also developed the QuickLinks section of the
class page in more detail, as a map both of where we've been and where we're going.
Please check it out and note that some of the desired texts are not online,
although you can find them in Charlesworth and sometimes elsewhere (e.g. Testaments
of Isaac, Jacob). And always keep in mind that the online texts are not necessarily
the best available editions. They provide a place to start, and to look at
together, but sometimes may be misleading in view of more recent discoveries or

I've also created a link from the class page to substantive email discussions and
similar class-focussed materials. It makes it easier to keep things together -- and
I can expect you to be aware of this material in the "exit interview"!



Date: Tue, 7 Feb 2006 21:30:24 -0500
From: Robert Kraft <>
Subject: Your Guess -- When was "B.C." first attested?

When I've sent this off, I'll consult the Oxford English Dictionary for its answer.
The question is, when did "B.C." (English) come into use for designating the time
that preceded "A.D." (Latin)? One guess was 15th century. I'm thinking
significantly earlier. And how would one say it in Latin? OED evidence to follow.



1. A[ndrew] M

I'm going to say later than 15th century. The literate types were still using Latin designations for such things at that point, I would guess. 18th century.


2. Virginia
I am going to guess much earlier. I think the 6th century when Dionysius  Exiguus tried to calculate the date of the birth of Christ, but it would not  be English, I don't know how to say it in Latin. Ante Natus Domini?

ANSWER: The OED doesn't even have an entry for BC/BCE, as far as I could find, but somewhere else it hints at the 15th century date. Other online sources also go for that date, except a few that claim that Bede used the designation (as an abbreviation??) at least once. Who wants to look up Bede?!



Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2006 11:50:29 -0500
From: Robert Kraft <>
Subject: Re: Jubilees and Writing

Andrew asked questions relevant for today's class discussion, so I pass them
along with my response. If you have a chance, please look at the web page on
the subject, which is still very much "in progress" but provides a useful
jumping off point:

Andrew wrote:
> > I wonder if I could run a thought by you about Jubilees, seeing that we may
> > be occupied mostly with 1 Enoch this coming Tuesday. Again, this material
> > is all very new to me, and I do appreciate your patience!
> > You asked that we think about written sources, or texts, while we read
> > Jubilees. As a philologist I'm quite used to this sort of exercise, but it

> > is a different matter when reading a translation. What I did instead was
> > keep an eye out for discussions of writing or written documents themselves
> > in the text.
> > It's interesting to note how important the craft of writing itself -- and
> > not just writing but writing of the Hebrew language -- is portrayed to be.
> > Enoch is the one "who first learned writing and knowledge and wisdom" and he
> > went into the garden "writing condemnation" and judgement of the world.
> > Noah gives "everything he wrote" to Shem. Cainan's father "teaches him
> > writing". Abram's father "teachings him writing". The angel of God says to
> > Moses "your father taught you writing". Then there is that part about the
> > preservation of the Hebrew language.
> > The obvious conclusion, it seems to me, is that the author(s) of this text
> > were concerned also with preserving the Hebrew language as a literary
> > language, as the holy language. Can this be chalked up as a response to
> > "Hellenizers" (I know you said you don't like that term!). What was the
> > competing language, and what were the competing texts?
> > All this may well have been pointed out and discussed already; but I wanted
> > to throw it out there, just for fun.
> >
> > Andrew

RAK responded:
> Thanks for the questions and observations, which caught me on the weekend when
> my email access is limited. We will pick up on some of this in class, and I've
> prepared a quick reference list for Jubilees and authoritative writing at
> As for the linguistic situation, there are various complexities. "Hebrew"
> sometimes means the actual language (as over against closely related Aramaic, or
> quite foreign Greek), but sometimes the form in which the language is written
> (e.g. "paleo" Hebrew characters, or "square" Hebrew letters). It is interesting,
> if not necessarily significant, that as far as I know, the Dead Sea Scroll
> fragments of Jubilees are all in square Hebrew (not paleo Hebrew, not Aramaic).
> The author/compiler surely has negative attitudes to "gentiles" and those who
> associate with them. This can all take place in a semitic setting, so I'd
> hesitate exclusively to blame non-Jewish Greeks, or "hellenizing" Jews.
> I'll circulate something to the class, as soon as I'm sure the email list is in
> place.