This article proposes to rethink the genealogy and origin of the rabbinical terms Oral Torah and Written Torah. The terms appear for the first time in Tannaitic literature, yet scholars have attempted to ascribe to them an earlier date and to present them as a Second Temple, specifically Pharisaic, distinction. This article problematizes the existing genealogies and considers neglected evidence found in Paul’s Letter to the Romans that advances our understanding of the Oral Torah/Written Torah distinction in the first century CE. According to my rereading of Rom 10:5-13 and 3:19-31, Paul has a notion of double-nomos within scripture, and his twofold torah is presented as oral and written. Apart from rabbinic literature, it is only in Paul that we find the use of an Oral Torah/Written Torah distinction. This evidence affects both how the history of the rabbinic terms is understood and how Paul is configured in his Jewish matrix.
In this article I demonstrate how a careful reading of the text of Midrash Tehillim 22 reveals a clear distinction between its different developmental layers. While we do find the identification of particular verses with Esther in the early stages of the midrash’s development, there is no reason to assume that this identification was rooted in an anti-Christian polemic. On the other hand, in the later layers of the midrash, we find clear echoes of the systematic creation of a continuous exegesis that focuses on identifying the entire Psalm with Esther. The background for this trend was a polemical confrontation with the Christian interpretation which viewed the Psalm as a prefiguration for Jesus’s crucifixion. The midrash also serves as a Jewish counter to the Christian liturgy created in the wake of the Christological reading.
This article argues that the opening of Genesis Rabbah 1 can be read productively in conversation with Christian controversies which raged from the middle of the third century to the fourth century. In rabbinic literature, it is not until the Amoraic period, in Palestine, that Proverbs 8 began to be employed as a proof of Torah’s pre-existence. This is precisely the same time that Christians engaged in heated debate as to the pre-existence of the Son, also based on Proverbs 8, not least in Palestine. By way of a broad reading of the christological controversies of this era, and a close reading of the exegesis of Proverbs 8 in Genesis Rabbah 1, the obscure debate partners of Genesis Rabbah 1 come to light: Christians who were debating the pre-existence of Wisdom.
Many contend that the Hellenistic-era author Artapanus employed the LXX translation, albeit in relatively liberal fashion. Departures from LXX narratives are attributed to his literary and apologetic interests. Although he may have relied upon a combination of oral and written sources, most scholars presuppose his primary reliance upon the LXX. This paper evaluates arguments for Artapanus’s use of the LXX, highlighting the paucity of decisive verbal links and weakness of other proposed linguistic correspondences, and attributing the emergence of similar Greek naming conventions between Artapanus and the LXX to the shared Egyptian provenance. These findings challenge the prevailing consensus concerning Artapanus’s source for Jewish traditions.
This article argues that whatever else Joseph and Aseneth is and for whatever other reason that it might have been written, the narrative is an entertaining tale. The starting point for this thesis is an assessment of the extent to which Joseph and Aseneth can be characterized as “fan fiction.” The article suggests that because both fan fiction and Joseph and Aseneth are “archontic,” fan theory can profitably inform Joseph and Aseneth. This theory is then applied to Joseph and Aseneth to throw new light on the motivation for which Joseph and Aseneth was written, specifically suggesting that, like fan fiction, the narrative is the result of the simultaneous adoration of and frustration with a specific cultural text, namely the Joseph Cycle. The article further contends that the narrative makes extensive use of irony, humor, and adventure as it displays various tendencies of fan fiction.
The first section describes the major progress in the study of Second Temple Judaism during the past fifty years, since A.S. van der Woude founded the Journal for the Study of Judaism. This part—the whence—comprises the main bulk of the argument. It also paves the way for the conclusion—the wither. There, I present some ideas potentially leading to new advances in the field. I call for an engagement with the social and natural sciences based on a gene-culture coevolutionary paradigm. In particular, adopting a biocultural evolutionary perspective makes it possible to situate the field and its empirical focus in a much larger context. Thereby, we shall be able to tackle some of the pivotal questions with which our scholarly predecessors wrestled. Finally, I discuss emotional studies that may help us to get a better grasp on a traditionally moot question in the texts we study.
There has been an explosion of interest in Second Temple Judaism over the last fifty years. In the first half of the period under review, the Pseudepigrapha were at the cutting edge. This period culminated in the publication of the new enlarged edition of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. Beginning in the 1980s, interest shifted to the Dead Sea Scrolls, culminating in the rapid publication of the corpus under the editorship of Emanuel Tov. At the same time, new discoveries shed light on the encounter of Judaism with Hellenism, both in Judea in the Maccabean period and in the Egyptian diaspora. Few scholars would now defend an idea of “normative Judaism” in this period, but that idea still casts a shadow on the ongoing debates.
This article sets up a dialogue between two bodies of ancient texts, i.e. Jewish wisdom literature and Greco-Roman didactic of the Hellenistic period, with an awareness of the scholarly and interpretive communities that have studied, taught and transformed these bodies of texts from antiquity until the present. The article does not claim direct influence or cross-pollination across intellectual, religious or social communities in the Hellenistic period. Instead, the article suggests four discrete frameworks for thinking about comparative antiquity: creation, the law, the sage and literary form. The comparative model proposed here intends to create the conditions for noticing parallels and kindred concepts. However, the article resists the temptation to repeat earlier scholarly arguments for dependency or priority of influence. Instead, the essay demonstrates remarkable alignments, suggestively similar developments, and synergies. Perhaps, the ideal first reader for this article is none other than Philo of Alexandria.