Bryan R. Dyer
This article examines 3 Maccabees’ use of the sixth-century BCE tyrant Phalaris in its portrayal of its antagonist, King Ptolemy IV Philopator. Twice in the narrative (3 Macc 5:20, 42) the author explicitly compares Philopator to Phalaris. The author does not describe the earlier figure but assumes that the audience shares knowledge of his reputation and legendary deeds. After tracing the ancient literary evidence of Phalaris’ legacy, the article then argues that 3 Maccabees incorporates that legacy in more implicit ways in the narrative. This contributes to the author’s overall portrait of Philopator’s tyranny. It also helps explain some of the features of the text—specifically, the choice of Philopator’s execution device and the peril of newborn infants found in the narrative.
James M. Scott
When Paul states in 1 Cor 15:8, “Last of all, as to the abortion, he [Christ] appeared also to me” (ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώµατι ὤφθη κἀµοί), the article τῷ indicates that Paul is referring to the well-known “abortion”/giant, ʾOhyah, the one giant—uniquely in all of extant early Jewish literature—to whom God appeared in a dream-vision signifying theophanic judgment. This casts Paul in the role of a violent giant who, on trial before Christ, acknowledged his past crimes and pled for forgiveness. This understanding of 1 Cor 15:8 has important implications not only for the interpretation of Paul and his letters, but also for understanding the relationship between the Qumran Book of Giants and the Manichaean Book of Giants.
Ken M. Penner
Although first-century writings in the New Testament, Dead Sea Scrolls, and the pseudepigrapha are widely recognized for their descriptions of the ultimate destiny of individuals and the world, the views of Philo of Alexandria do not get the same attention. To situate the apocalyptic eschatologies of Jesus, the Qumran sectarians, and Enoch in their context, we must compare them to the eschatology of this contemporary Hellenistic Jew. I demonstrate that Philo’s eschatology is shaped by two convictions: (1) that God is good and can do no evil, and (2) virtue must be developed within people in this life. These convictions entail that the purpose of punishment must be solely for correction, and that God provides unlimited opportunity for souls to improve. Philo held that reincarnation provides just such an ever-improving spiral in which souls finally become wise by honoring God and consequently the world becomes a peaceful, prosperous paradise.
Anthony I. Lipscomb
The Aramaic text from Qumran known to scholars as the Genesis Apocryphon (1Q20) stands out as one the earliest and most innovative examples of the retelling of Abram and Sarai’s sojourn in Egypt (Gen 12:10-20). To be sure, the terse nature of the Genesis account invited creative storytellers to fill in the gaps, but brevity yielded only half the impetus. Ancient storytellers were no less bothered by the inglorious portrayal of Abram and Sarai, for which there is no shortage of attempts to rescue their reputations. The Apocryphon shares several of the same recharacterization strategies as other ancient retellings, but it is nevertheless unique in its engagement with the tradition of personified wisdom. This article imagines the composer of the Apocryphon’s sojourn account in dialogue with ancient Jewish wisdom traditions and discerns an effort to redeem Sarai’s reputation from Genesis 12 by recasting her as an embodiment of Lady Wisdom.
For nearly three decades scholars of the first-century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, have debated this author’s methodologies and goals in writing his Jewish Antiquities. While source-critics view Josephus as a compiler, new historians have chosen to read Antiquities as primarily a literary work which reveals social, political, and intellectual history. A series of recent publications place these methodologies side by side but rarely coordinate them, which leaves out important insights of each group. At stake is how we moderns read Jewish history of the first century CE. I explore how parallel accounts of Herod’s trial while he was Tetrarch of the Galilee in Jewish War and in Antiquities can be justified by employing source-critical analysis as a first step to explain the changes made to the text of Antiquities before turning to new historians’ methodologies. We can better understand the function of Herod’s trial in Antiquities through this process.
This article explores the type and function of historiography in the pesharim, a group of biblical commentaries in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Although the unabashedly subjective viewpoint of history in the pesharim strongly contrasts modern notions of historiography, they nevertheless present a kind of history writing. In particular, historiography in the pesharim is analogous to traditional history, a type of history writing found in oral epics from around the world. Like traditional history, the pesharim owe their primary allegiance to a special register of language that is both traditional and adaptable. Rather than a factual record, the pesharim are formative cultural texts that use history to create and transmit cultural memory. More specifically, traditional history in the pesharim constructs a common descent of membership and “instrumentalizes” the past for identity formation in the present.
The names of Mesopotamian cities and the cuneiform signs used to write them can shed light on the phrase “YHWH is There” (Ezek. 48:35) in its biblical context.
In his recent article “From Persepolis to Jerusalem: A Reevaluation of Old Persian-Hebrew Contact in the Achaemenid Period”, Aren Wilson-Wright reexamines the list of proposed Persian loans in Biblical Hebrew as well as their distribution, specifically in relation to the distinction between Classical and Late Biblical Hebrew. He seeks to demonstrate direct contact between speakers of Old Persian and Hebrew and proposes two further Old Persian calques.
This paper reevaluates Wilson-Wright’s proposals on both methodological and philological levels, and offers a fuller dataset for several phenomena. While allowing the principal distinction between Classical and Late Biblical Hebrew, questions of textual genesis and transmission are combined with sociolinguistic considerations to explore the possible ramifications of the proposed linguistic interaction: What do we know about the use of Old Persian apart from royal inscriptions? What do we know about Iranians, locals and their use of language in the Achaemenid administration? The result is a much more complex picture of multiple linguistic interference with many unknowns.