Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Review: Vahoozer's Is There Meaning chapter 3

In last week's review we looked at Vanhoozer's two chapters on the author: chapter 2 where he treats the deconstruction of the author and chapter 5 where we reconstructs his vision of authorial meaning.

The key to authorial intent for V is the illocutionary aspect of a text. Texts are acts of communication in which an author does something with a text--commands, asserts, promises, etc... Or to put it more lightly, when Voldemort tries to kill Harry Potter, some of his powers are transferred to Harry. Texts bear the scar of the author's intent on them.

OK, maybe not the most helpful illustration :-)

It is late enough in the day that I've decided to post my summary of Vanhoozer chapter 3 today and my summary of chapter 6 tomorrow. Unfortunately, Piper and Wright will have to wait till Monday for my next summary.

Chapter 3: "Undoing the Book: Textuality and Indeterminacy"
Chapters 2 and 5 had to do with the author. Now chapters 4 and 6 will have to do with the text itself. Chapter 3 will deal with deconstructive movements afoot. Chapter 6 will give V's attempt to reconstruct meaning in texts.

It seems to me that there are two key issues under discussion in this chapter. I want to apologize to Vanhoozer if I ever misrepresent him. Each time I pass by the material I gain some clarity on what I think his "design plan" was, but it has not always come easy. If nothing else, my attempts to systematize will start you out reading much further along in the understanding process than otherwise...

1. The first key interpretive issue in this chapter is the question of the "autonomy of the text" from its author, that is, the extent to which a text inevitably takes on a life of its own after it has been created. To be sure, this topic is to some extent the same as that of the previous chapter on the author, except now we are looking at it from the standpoint of the text receiving meaning from the author rather than an author giving meaning to a text.

a. Derrida, Rorty, and Fish
So it is no surprise that we hear the names of our old friends again. V gets into some issues of metaphysics a bit more at the beginning of this chapter (although this was really the professed topic of the previous one, chap. 2). He discusses Rorty's pragmatism as a User of reality. Rorty does not believe we can say that claims about the world are anything more than ways to function in the world--we can't say they're about anything truly "out there."

He mentions Paul Feyerabend's philosophy of science. From elsewhere, Feyerabend believes that ultimately there is no difference between a witch doctor's conception of the world and that of a medical doctor.

With regard to Derrida, we have already heard of his attack on "logocentrism" and his dictum, "there is nothing outside the text." Now in this chapter V discusses his sense of "grammatology." Grammatology is a word meant ;-) by Derrida to replace logocentrism. If logocentrism thinks words refer to things outside themselves, grammatology focuses on letters as arbitrary symbols that do not refer to anything but other letters. Derrida thus speaks of the end of the "book," since the idea of a book is the binding of ideas together. For him we have rather a text that has no glue.

b. Gadamer and Ricoeur
In this chapter, however, Vanhoozer's sparring partners are more the likes of Gadamer and Ricoeur. V of course likes them in some respects. They both believe that texts exists as "other" from us. They are not like Fish, who largely sees texts as mirrors of the communities reading them. They are not like Derrida, who sees meaning as an elusive dog chasing its tail. But V disagrees with the way that they divorce authors from the meanings of texts.

For Gadamer, the process of reading is a "fusing of horizons." My horizon, the horizon of the reader, fuses with the horizon of the text. What is key to understanding Gadamer is to realize that we cannot step outside ourselves to fuse with the text--we bring our "tradition" with us to the text, our pre-understandings. Unlike Descartes and modernism, which would bid us become "objective" about our approach to truth and the world (or the text, for Hirsch), Gadamer suggests that our pre-understandings are a good thing.

By the way, I am more and more convinced that this is the underlying hermeneutic of Green's book, Seized by Truth. As a good case study, we embrace the "traditions" with which we come to the text to fuse our horizon to it. For Vanhoozer, Gadamer does not take into account the authorial dimension of a text as a communicative act. Also, because we as readers all bring different traditions to the text, we do not have anything like a single correct interpretation in this scheme (106).

As far as Ricoeur is concerned, a text is "discourse fixed by writing" and as it is fixed it becomes autonomous from its author. It takes on a "surplus of meaning" that, again, precludes a single correct interpretation (107). But for both Gadamer and Ricoeur--unlike Derrida and Fish--a text is "other" from the reader and has the capacity to "read the reader," to change the reader's thought rather than merely mirror it in some way.

2. The second key interpretive issue in this chapter is the question of a text's polyvalence. In keeping with Vanhoozer's quest for the single correct interpretation, he takes a substantial part of this chapter addressing literal versus allegorical interpretation. Here he draws on the stereotypical distinction between Antioch (Theodore of Mopsuestia) and Alexandria (Origen). Predictably, he endorses literal interpretation over allegorizing interpretation.

a. Literal versus Literalistic
V does make some valid distinctions. First, he is not trying to make things literal that were never meant to be literal. There are many parts of Scripture whose "plain sense" is figurative. When Revelation depicts Jesus as a lamb, it is not being literal. V is not arguing for some thoroughgoing literalism in instances where the Bible never intended to be literal.

b. Allegory versus Allegorizing
V also acknowledges that the Bible uses allegory at some points. What V would argue is that the Bible is upfront about such allegories. What it does not do, he would say, is allegorize as an interpretive method in a way that dismisses the original meaning. This is important for much evangelical hermeneutics for, as I've said before, one of the core values of much evangelical hermeneutics is the importance of reading the Bible in context.

But what happens if, as we try to read the Bible in context, we find that the NT does not try to read the OT in context? A good case can be made that this finding would deconstruct evangelical hermeneutics or at least (as in my case), require some shuffling of it.

So V endorses typology as the way. Typology, so the story goes, acknowledges the original meaning before attaching a figurative meaning to it that is in continuity with it. Allegorizing, on the other hand, might not pay any attention to the intended meaning at all. It might even dismiss it in preference for some spiritualized or allegorical meaning.

I personally think there is much to commend Augustine's use of allegorical interpretation. Whenever the literal meaning of the biblical text would seem to contradict the "rule of faith," we are permitted to spiritualize the text in some way. This is, in my opinion, the way the NT authors themselves interpreted the OT.

I am aware also that this approach involves a host of interpretive and theological worms. I would also claim, however, that we are fooling ourselves if we think they were ever in a can in the first place.

c. Metaphor
The final part of this chapter is dedicated to various views of metaphor. Let's present three approaches to metaphor: 1) the Aristotelian approach, 2) the Ricoeurian approach, and 3) the Derridaian approach. My read is that V favors the second, as long as an author intended to use metaphor :-)

1) Aristotle apparently bequeathed us with a sense of metaphor as a poor substitute for the literal. Metaphor simply substitutes y for x. Hermeneutics is a can of worms. Aristotle would apparently say you should just say it literally: Hermeneutics involves all sorts of difficult questions.

2) Ricoeur rightly rejects this impoverished understanding of metaphor. For Ricoeur, a metaphor creates new meaning that was not present literally. It does this by placing two unlike things next to each other.

Tell me, I ask you, what is the literal equivalent of "the trees will clap their hands"? It doesn't nearly carry the meaning of the metaphor. I pronounce at an end the impoverished era of religious history in which things like ritual, myth, and symbol were derided as defective because they do not function on a literal level.

Hogwash! These are the richest levels of meaning--far greater than can be expressed in literal terms. I decry the embarrassing myopia of centuries of stupidity.

3) But Ricoeur does believe in literal meaning, as do I and as does Vanhoozer. Derrida, and a host of theologians in his train, however, do not accept that there ever is such a thing as literal meaning. Everything is metaphor without us being able to distinguish more from less literal.

I have a really big footnote to add to this comment. Someone who has followed my philosophical ramblings will recognize that my comment here seems to contradict things I have said elsewhere. For the moment let it suffice to say that I find the distinction between literal and figurative a distinction that works very well.

Chapter 6 tomorrow (d.v.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Book Review 1: The Future of Justification

Although I usually post my book reviews on Fridays (indeed, I plan to post on Vanhoozer's chaps 3 and 6 tomorrow), I am chomping at the bit to dig into John Piper's new book The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright. In biblical studies, this is the equivalent of a cafeteria fight--"A fight, a fight," and everyone scrambles from the table to watch.

And of course when the two people are notorious opponents, the fight becomes all the more salacious, like in Matrix when Neo and Morpheus are fighting in the virtual room.

Now neither Tom Wright nor John Piper would approve of this description of their disagreements. Indeed, I consider both of these to be godly men who will not only be in heaven but who, dare I suggest, may even be entirely sanctified--even though neither of them believe in the doctrine. Piper is gracious in his introduction to Wright, and indeed sent an earlier version of the book to Wright, who sent back an 11,000 word response.

[I feel compelled to make the major disclaimer that I detest Piper's particular version of Calvinism and his theology in general, but that is not my topic today. As he sees Wright a threat to sound theology, I see him as an enormously negative influence on American pop-theology]

But as extensive an influence as Piper has, he has seen the impact Wright is having on his circles. Piper explains that no one from his church has ever come up to him with one of James Dunn or E. P. Sanders' books. But they have come up to him with a rather large volume written by Wright. He feels the need to respond.

I should say that neither of these individuals represent my understanding exactly. As I read through Piper's introduction, I found myself sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing with his initial thoughts. I'm of course very sympathetic to aspects of the new perspective on Paul and Judaism. But I also agree with Piper that at times, Wright is in his own world.

And I laughed to myself when I read Piper's comment that Wright sometimes leaves his readers, "not with the rewarding 'ah-ha' experience of illumination, but with a paralyzing sense of perplexity" (24). I know that feeling when reading Wright--what is he saying here?
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The tone of the introduction is humble. I infer that Piper recognizes that Wright is an intellectual powerhouse. Piper's a preacher. I'm not calling him uneducated by any means (he actually has a ThD). But he's tussling with perhaps the most renowned Bible scholar of this century so far--not his usual fare.

A number of Piper's comments also said to me, "I'm too old for this." :-)

Let me briefly list the main aspects of Wright's thoughts on justification to which Piper will take exception in the book:

1. That the word "gospel" does not mean for Paul "how to get saved"
I agree with Wright against Piper here.

2. That justification is not about how you become a Christian
I agree more with Piper than with Wright here.

3. That justification is not the gospel
Technically, I agree with Wright.

4. That we are not justified by believing in justification
OK, agree with Wright

5. That the imputation of God's righteousness does not make sense
Generally agree with Wright, as Paul uses the words.

6. That future justification on the basis of the complete life lived
Agree with Wright on this comment, but recognize Piper's point that Wright has redefined justification in a strange way.

7. That Judaism was not about "legalistic self-righteousness"
I agree more with Wright than Piper.

8. That God's righteousness is His covenant faithfulness to Israel
I agree more with Wright than with Piper.

So on the whole, I will agree more with Wright than Piper on justification, although Piper I think rightly recognizes a number of eccentricities to Wright's reconstruction of Paul.

This is just a review of the introduction... next installment on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Righteous and Sinners in Psalms of Solomon

I noticed something interesting in the Psalms of Solomon this week that I had not noticed before. Here's the text if you want to read it.

The Psalms of Solomon, by the way (not the Song of Solomon), is a late first century BC Jewish work that is largely a reaction to the take over of Jerusalem by the Romans (63BC). Particularly humilitating-infuriating was when the Roman general Pompey went into the Jerusalem temple and even entered the Holy of Holies.

By far the main thing I gain from this work is its sense of the Lord Messiah in chapters 17-18. Clearly the Messiah for this writer is a human, Jewish political figure who will drive the Romans out of Jerusalem. Traditionally, it has been considered the work of a Pharisee, although we really don't have enough evidence to say.

The writing was not found at Qumran, which suggests to some that it was not Essene. However, in my opinion, its theology would fit just fine with broader Essenism (as opposed to Qumran Essenism). The comment about oath taking seemed significant in this regard.

All that is background. The tidbit I noticed this week that I have not noticed before is the way it talks about the "righteous" and "sinners." What struck me was its comment about how fasting and the equivalent of repentance atone for the unintentional sins of the righteous (3:8).

Here were the thoughts about this comment in the context of the Psalms of Solomon:

1. Notice that the righteous have sins--but they do not change the overall designation of "righteous." The key is the attitude/orientation of the person. This person does not intentionally sin against God and others, and is repentant when s/he does sin.

2. The sinner, on the other hand, would seem to be a) the Gentile outside of Israel who violates Israel and b) the person who flagrantly and intentionally does wrong in Israel (like the Hasmonean priests).

What does this have to do with anything?

With some significant modifications in relation to Christ and the Gentiles, it seems to me a fair analogy for the NT perpective on sin.

1. The righteous are those who have put their trust in what God has done through Jesus Christ. They may sin unintentionally, but they do not sin "with a high hand." If they were to fail in this regard, they would immediately repent. They do not willfully do that which they know goes against God's known will. They are considered righteous despite unintentional sin.

2. Sinners are those who willfully and intentionally violate God's will, whether Jew or non-Jew, but primarily referring to those who have not trusted in God's work in Christ.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Subordination of the Spirit?

Something dawned on me that I had never thought of until this weekend: just as the neo-Calvinists subordinate the Son to the Father, they subordinate the Spirit to the Son.

This realization dawned on me as I read the second to last chapter of Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in This Text. Both V and Grant Osborne keep the Holy Spirit on a short leash when it comes to biblical interpretation. According to them, the Spirit does not innovate when it comes to biblical meaning. He illuminates the intended meaning of the text and leads us to apply the appropriate significance of that meaning to our lives. He blows wherever He wills, but not whatever He wills. He does not make it mean something out of continuity with something it meant.

Of course whether the Spirit is subordinate to the Father or Son, this particular theology seems to crash on the rocks of NT texts. The Spirit seems to blow all over the place often with little concern for the intended meaning of OT texts. I guess He didn't read the rule book.

The question of subordination is an interesting one, though. Classic orthodoxy of course rejects any subordination of the persons of the Trinity within the Godhead itself. In that sense, individuals like Wayne Grudem and John Piper are unorthodox. They would see the subordination of the Son to the Father within the Godhead as a paradigm for the household today in which the wife is subordinate to the husband.

But since in my own way I accept the Protestant principle ecclesia semper reformanda--"the church always needs to be reformed"--I am open to the possibility that this consensus might need adjustment. I will give it the benefit of the doubt, mind you, to the consensus of the church over these "neo-reformers."

Certainly in the NT we see Christ subordinated to God the Father (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:28). But then again, questions about the relationships within the Trinity go well beyond the NT. When Paul subordinates Christ to God the Father, he is not thinking of the subordination of the second person of the Trinity but the subordination of the Messiah as mediator of God's kingship on earth. I remain convinced that Paul has no understanding of Christ's divine ontology.

And the logos Christology of John did not get the Trinitarian rocket fully into orbit. The classic creeds of the church did not use logos language because it played into views of Christ that did not see Christ to be quite as much God as God the Father.

So I see people like Grudem and Piper as inconsistent. If they're going to believe in the Trinity, then they're going to have to be willing to put some faith in the Spirit working through the church of the fourth and fifth centuries (and not just in an individual named Augustine :-).

But the same Spirit that led that generation to affirm the Trinity led them to affirm the persons of the Godhead as unsubordinated to one another.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday Thoughts: Dispensationalism versus Covenantalism

Occasionally you catch wind of entire conversations and debates that are pretty foreign to you, just as your debates may be foreign to others. I've been picking up on a big debate between, say, Baptists and the Presbyterian/Reformed, that I wasn't really aware of.

I've noticed from time to time some rather strong statements on the covenant among certain biblical scholars. For example, Grant Osborne's Hermeneutical Spiral makes a pretty big deal of the idea that every bit of the OT still applies--it's just fulfilled through Jesus.

In chapter 7 of Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in This Text, he distances himself fairly strongly from fundamentalism. One of his examples is an "insistence that passages about Israel concern the physical nation Israel and never the church" (429). He then mentions the hermeneutics of dispensationalism.

A new book by Todd Magnum, The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, apparently tells the historical roots of this conflict, going back to a rift between Dallas Theological Seminary and places like Westminster Theological Seminary. I picture the Presbyterians and Reformed looking down their noses at "less sophisticated" Baptists.

Dispensationalism tends to view history as a series of dispensations in which God runs things differently. I remember hearing of seven dispensations as a child--the Pilgrim Holiness side of Wesleyan background was significantly impacted by dispensationalism. I was raised a pre-trib. rapture, premillennial.

Of course I now consider the very idea of a seven year tribulation dubious from a biblical perspective. Paul knows nothing of anything like this. Jesus will return and the judgment will ensue. Revelation is highly symbolic, and we'll know what God was thinking after it happens. In any case, it doesn't have a seven year tribulation, in my opinion. It mentions a "great tribulation," but nowhere connects it to a number of years.

All that's really a tangent. I wonder if some of the negative response to my hermeneutic is because it sounded a tinge dispensational to some of the publishers who looked at it. Of course I didn't come up with this hermeneutic because I started with a particular theological vantage point like dispensationalism. It is my attempt to let the Bible say what it says while coming out with orthodox Christian belief on the other side.

When it comes to the relationship between the OT and the NT, I end up with a couple conclusions that rub the current evangelical consensus the wrong way:

1. The NT surprisingly disregards a number of OT ethics in a way that is mostly explicable in terms of a) the expansion of the people of God to include the Gentiles and b) injunctions that simply didn't fit the Mediterranean world in the way they fit the ancient near east.

This is not the theologically neat fulfillment of all the OT in the NT that covenantal scholars envisage. Even Jesus' fulfillment of every jot and tittle in Matthew 5 dispenses with parts of the OT, like an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." And Jesus' command to love one's enemy stands in serious tension with significant portions of the OT when read in context.

2. The NT doesn't follow Vanhoozer or Osborne's rules for how to read texts in context in its reading of the OT. The whole "the NT reads typologically, not allegorically or with disregard to context" is just plain wrong. The NT doesn't care about this scruple of evangelical scholarship past. This deconstructs Vanhoozer's entire hermeneutical project, by the way.

So the result looks a little like one form of dispensationalism, where God has one set of rules for Israel and then changes the rules in the NT.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Romans Sundays

In a slight diversion from the lectionary, I hope to spend a little Sunday time each week in Romans. This will take some time...

I am primarily interested in how the Wesleyan tradition might read this text. Of course the original meaning is the original meaning--no changing of that for any tradition. But the significance of the Romans text differs from tradition to tradition.

There's already plenty out there on Romans from other theological perspectives. I think of Ben Witherington's recent comments on a forthcoming New Testament Theology--almost certainly that of Thomas Schreiner of Louisville Southern Baptist Seminary (see Witherington's initial reaction). Of course I don't think Schreiner or his close friend John Piper even has the original meaning right.

So today I give my translation of Romans 1:1-7, the prescript of the letter, and will be reading the comments of Wesley and Adam Clarke on that passage. I'm also creating a Romans interlinear at the same time, which of course can be expanded with my own explanatory notes in time.

So we begin with Romans 1:1-7. I'll be reading different commentators for a few weeks on this passage.
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Romans 1:1-7 (The Prescript)
Paul, a slave of Messiah Jesus, called [by God to be] an apostle, set apart for this wonderful message from God, which God promised earlier through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. This message is about God's Son, who came from the seed of David in terms of his flesh. But he was enthroned with power as the Son of God by the Spirit of Holiness, because he rose from the dead--Jesus [the] Messiah, our Lord.

It is through [Jesus] that we have received grace and a commission to take the good message to all non-Jews in his name, so that they might obey and have faith. You are among them--even you are called by Jesus Messiah.

So I write to all who are in Rome, loved by God, called to be holy ones. Grace and peace be to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Messiah.
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Perhaps the most "Wesleyan" thing that Adam Clarke has to say comes in his treatment of the word "slave" (doulos). Here he speaks of Paul's complete surrender to Jesus Christ. Indeed, we should remember when we get to Romans 6 that Paul has already identified himself as a slave of Jesus Christ, which is not to be a slave of sin but a slave of righteousness.

The phrase, "Spirit of Holiness" does not have any particular Wesleyan import, although Clarke does discuss the phrase. As I may mention next week, it seems a non-Pauline way of referring to the Holy Spirit.

Of some interest, although neither Wesley nor Clarke discuss it, is the expression "the obedience of faith." Faith here seems to issue in obedience, "the obedience that comes from faith." Faith thus does not contradict action. Its opposite is disbelief and disobedience, not works.

The expression, "called to be saints" or "called as holy ones" is not a call to become holy. Rather, all who are believers are holy, set apart to God.

I will explore some other aspects of these verses next Sunday. But these seem to be the aspects of these verses that are of greatest interest to those in the Wesleyan tradition.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday Review: Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in This Text? 1

Today (d.v.) we begin a three part review of Kevin Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in This Text? My intention :-) is to review chapters 2 and 5 on the author today, chapters 3 and 6 on the text next Friday, and then finish two weeks from today with chapters 4 and 7 on the reader
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Background
Vanhoozer's book was, in my opinion, a kind of watershed moment for a movement in biblical studies (1998), a movement I am calling the "speech-act" approach to the biblical text. It not only defends the legitimacy of talking about authorial intent in texts, but argues that this is the only proper meaning of a text--what its author was "doing" with that text.

Given my current state of knowledge, I consider Anthony Thiselton to be the "Luther" of biblical speech-act theory (Two Horizons), and Vanhoozer I would consider its Melanchthon. We now see the concept everywhere in a particular stream of hermeneutical writing, not least in Jeannine Brown's very well written book that came out this year, Scripture as Communication (an excellent choice for a hermeneutical textbook).

Vanhoozer's book is laid out in two parts. After the introductory chapter, the next three chapters deal with postmodern challenges to authorial intent (chap 2), stable meanings in texts (chap 3), and the reader as interpreter rather than creator of meaning (chap 4). In the second half of the book, he then constructs a theory of textual meaning that claims that we can speak of authorial intent coherently (chap 5), that it exists in texts (chap 6), and that the reader is responsible for trying to determine it (chap 7).

He prefers to relate the domains of author, text, and reader to the three primary domains of philosophy. Authorial intent is the reality behind the text (ontology). We can know it in the text (epistemology). And the reader is obligated to try to determine it (ethics). In today's review, we will look at Vanhoozer's treatment of authorial intent.

Chapter 2: "Undoing the Author: Authority and Intentionality"
I wondered as I read this chapter if it reflected the beginning of Vanhoozer's writing process. It seemed to me to have a tone that does not show up as much later in the book. By this I refer to a rather straightforward equation he seems to make between deconstructive readings and atheism, where the death of the author is coupled with the death of God.

This is such a dangerously simplistic connection that I wondered if he wrote it before he had really dug into the details of his investigation. I certainly would not want to claim, for example, that those who do not believe in authorial intent must thereby surely be atheists. Vanhoozer does not say this, but it is the tone I picked up on here and there in this chapter.

a. Undoing the Author's Authority
Vanhoozer speaks of three types of "hermeneutical non-realists" who have undone the author's authority: undoers, users, and unbelievers. By hermeneutical non-realists he means that these individuals do not believe in the reality of meaning, that meaning truly exists.

1). He spends most of his time in this section targeting the "undoers," by which he refers to deconstructionists like Jacques Derrida. By the end of the chapter, Vanhoozer has explained some of Derrida's signature concepts:

Logocentrism: the idea that there is some stable point outside of language that guarantees meaning, something to which language points, a realm of truths.

"There is nothing outside the text": Words are arbitrary signs connected to signifieds (meanings) that, for Derrida, do not point to anything but more signs. "Meaning" is like a dog chasing its tail or someone who sits and looks up the definition of a word only to find more words to look up. You never arrive at any substance, any "presence" of meaning but only more arbitrary signs.

2). Vanhoozer spends less time with the "users" or pragmatists. These are individuals like Richard Rorty, who believes "knowledge" is a matter of coping with reality rather than truth. Vanhoozer places Stanley Fish in this same domain. An author does not have the authority to tell his or her readers how to read the text. Interpretive communities inevitably decide how they choose to read a text.

I have not fully explored the possibility that Vanhoozer was on the road to contradiction when he first wrote this part of the chapter. The historical roots of speech-act theory go back to Wittgenstein, where Wittgenstein posits the meaning of words being a matter of their function in language games. Indeed, I have not found a negative word toward Wittgenstein in the book (except that Austin and Searle are refinements of his approach to language).

Herein you will find the seeds of my central disagreement with the biblical speech-act movement. It is an impressive meta-edifice to justify one legitimate use of words, indeed, one of the most important ones. But it fails in its attempt to be an overarching theory of meaning because 1) it does not practice what it preaches and 2) the Bible itself does not practice what this theory preaches. Ironically, Vanhoozer's book would have provided Derrida with an easy target for deconstruction.

While I agree with Vanhoozer far more than Derrida, he and his compatriots have only made plausible arguments that 1) there is a stable authorial intent for texts and 2) it is a significant interest in interpretation. They have not succeeded at showing that there are not other meanings for the biblical texts that may in fact be more Christian than the original intent.

3). The third category Vanhoozer styles the "unbelievers," by which he has in mind not only key players he has already mentioned--Derrida and Rorty--but also Friedrich Nietzsche. As I've mentioned, I find this framing distracting. He is correct, of course, that Nietzsche is a forerunner of the deconstructionists. "There are no facts; only interpretations." And certainly Nietzsche did connect the death of God to the death of some sort of God's eye view.

It does not go the other way, however. To argue that we do not have a God's eye view does not deny that God exists and that He has a God's eye view.

At times I have not found Vanhoozer's book well put together on the level of subheading. Don't get me wrong. It takes a lot of mental energy and skill to present such diverse and complicated material in an organized fashion. The headings within each chapter generally make sense. But I've found it hard to discern the logic of the subheadings and sub-subheadings at times. So you can imagine that my students have! The book seems to wander on unnecessarily at times.

2. Undoing the Author's Intention
In this section Vanhoozer presents the thought of E. D. Hirsch as well as what some have called the "intentional fallacy." My students found the section on Hirsch confusing, because Vanhoozer starts with the impression that he agrees with Hirsch and will build on Hirsch. But by the end of this section, it appears that Vanhoozer does not agree with Hirsch. I find myself wondering if V's position toward Hirsch changed a little in the process of writing?

Hirsch (following Husserl) makes a distinction between an act of consciousness and an object of consciousness when authoring a text. By authorial intention, Hirsch refers to the object of consciousness or the message the author was conscious of as s/he wrote the text. It is this shared object in the text that allows a reader to understand the meaning of a text despite his or her differing context from the author.

Reading between the lines, Vanhoozer and others like Thiselton no doubt strongly resist this language of subject-object. No doubt they prefer the language of Gadamer that talks of a fusing of horizons, with less language of Cartesian dualism that sharply divides me as subject from that which is outside of me as object of knowledge.

A second distinction Hirsch makes is between meaning and significance. Meaning is a property of a text for Hirsch. Significance, on the other hand, is the relationship of the meaning to something else, such as a reader. A text, in Hirsch's view, has a single meaning, but it may have as many significances as the individuals relating to that single meaning.

It is only later in the book (frustratingly) that Vanhoozer makes the difference between Hirsch and himself clear. Intention is not a matter of the consciousness of an author, but the concrete act that is embodied by a text created by an author.

The idea of an "intentional fallacy" was raised by W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley in a famous article in 1946. These two individuals argued that all we had before us was the text an author created, not the author him or herself. They thus believed it was a fallacy to speak of the author's intention. It confuses psychology with the semantics of a text.

Other critiques of Hirsch (who is more contemporary with us than with Wimsatt and Beardsley) include the fact that an author is not always conscious of the forces at work in his or her creation of a text (unconscious forces). Nor is any author objective toward his or her creation.

c. What about the Bible?
At the end of the chapter, Vanhoozer gives us a small taste of how these lines of undoing might impact our approach to the Bible. For example, if a text has no meaning, the Bible can hardly be authoritative. Further, because Christ is the Word, Vanhoozer argues that Christianity is "logocentric" in a way that falls apart if Derrida is right. And, to modify Dostoevsky, V suggests that "if there is no author, then everthing is permitted."

Chapter 5: "Resurrecting the Author: Meaning as Communicative Action"
a. In this chapter, Vanhoozer will try to reconstruct a sense of authorial meaning. We found the beginning of this second half of the book a little disingenuous. Vanhoozer implies that he is going to proceed along the lines of a Reformed epistemology that unapologetically proceeds from Christian premises. For V, this clearly includes certain premises about God's "design plan" for communication, the nature of Trinitarian relationships, and meaning in texts as "properly basic" (showing the influence of Plantinga).

To say that something is "properly basic" means that it does not need to be defended because it is such a foundational item that sane people don't question it. We might spend a few moments questioning whether the world outside us exists or if I am a brain in a vat. But in real life we simply assume the existence of the world around us.

Vanhoozer suggests that meaning in texts is like that. To a large degree, I agree. Communication works... a lot of the time, even in text. To be sure, I've had people seriously misinterpret my comments. But it does seem to me reasonable enough to believe in communication, despite Derrida's important footnote.

Where my students and I found the beginning of V's second half a bit self-contradictory was that he had been reasoning and talking about meaning for almost 200 pages! So now he's just going to impose a structure on reality by faith? That's not exactly what he goes on to do either. He goes on to discuss meaning philosophically throughout the second half, only occasionally bringing in his theological deus ex machina. Jeannine Brown's book seems more consistent in this regard, starting and proceeding with an assumed position, informing of it rather than arguing for it.

b. So a good deal of this chapter addresses deconstruction from a theoretical perspective. We have Ricoeur's sound judgment that a "sentence" represents a higher order of meaning than a word. You cannot reduce the meaning of a sentence to some addition of the words within it. The meaning of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I agree and thus accept Ricoeur's criticism of Derrida on this point.

But Vanhoozer's hero par excellence is undoubtedly John Searl, who built on the speech-act theory of J. L. Austin. Language is far more than just the logical, "propositional," or "locutionary" part of it, the content of what is said. Language is a kind of action. When we speak, we do things with our words. The words, "I do" at a wedding are not simply communication--they enact a marriage (well, the whole license signing thing in the back room afterwards aside ;-). I might add that William P. Alston has apparently tried to extend Searle's classification of text acts even further in his 2000 book, Illocutionary Acts and Sentence Meaning.

More than one movie makes a joke based on this fact (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Incredibles). It has a conversational "I do" coincide in one way or another with a wedding "I do"--thus the humor.

While Vanhoozer likes a good deal about Ricoeur, he uses speech-act theory to critique Ricoeur's sense that a text is divorced from the event of its creation. The creation of a text for Vanhoozer is not an event, but an action, and we cannot understand the text unless we identify what action an author was doing with these words (asserting, questioning, commanding, promising, etc...).

Vanhoozer also draws on the work of Jürgen Habermas, who tries to avoid Descartes' subject-object dichotomy (unlike Hirsch). Habermas speaks of structures of inter-subjectivity that are implicit in communication. He believes in a universal language game that all competent speakers inevitably play. This universal game makes communication possible, despite our individual subjectivity. Language is thus a social activity rather than one aiming at representing the world. Vanhoozer's exception to Habermas has mainly to an overemphasis on the "propositional" aspect of communication.

Finally, this chapter draws on other scholars like P. D. Juhl, Steven Knapp, and Walter Benn Michaels. The last two suggest that the idea of "intentionless meaning" is incoherent, something we could only talk about in theory--not in practice. Juhl suggests that we can only speak of meaning in terms of whole texts, which automatically leads to the question of a text's purpose, which involves assumptions about an author's intentions.

c. The "Christian assumption" part of Vahoozer's work begins to peek out in this chapter. He speaks, for example, of a "design-plan" for language. Language, like my mind, was designed by God to be used in certain ways. "The design plan of language is to serve as the medium of covenantal relations with God, with others, with the world" (206).

From my perspective, this is a fine "working theology." However, it would be Christianly irresponsible simply to assume this point without further examination. For example, James Smith raises the question of the Fall's affect on the human mind (The Fall of Interpretation). Similarly, we must at least consider alternative conceptions of the relationship between rationality and faith (Kierkegaard, Pascal). This design plan for language seems quite possible to me--in a fallen world it is fantastically messed up.

In one part of this chapter, V considers potential similarities between meaning in text and God's presence in the Eucharist. Is there a real presence in the text? I found this section distracting. On what basis might one defend such perspectives? At best they seem illustrations of a position one has determined on some other basis. Maybe an interesting aside for a long footnote?

d. So after much circling and driving around, we finally arrive at Vanhoozer's definition of a text: "A text is a complex communicative act with matter (propositional content), energy (illocutionary force), and purpose (perlocutionary effect)" (228), which is "fixed by writing" (225).

"Every text is the result of an enacted intention." "Every text is an embodied intention" (253).

The perlocutionary effect may be intended by an author, but Vanhoozer, following Habermas and Searle, does not consider it normally to be a part of the meaning of the text. It rather has to do with the intended significance of the text for its immediate audience.

Vanhoozer acknowledges some of the complications of authorial intention. By avoiding "perlocutions" as part of the meaning of a text, V acknowledges that the effects a text has are not always what an author intended. V also acknowledges potential ambiguity about what an author intended.

The final section of the chapter potentially deconstructs it. Here V talks about the possibility that a "fuller sense," a sensus plenior might "supervene" on the level of the canon. V has invoked the idea of supervening meaning before. It was when he affirmed Ricoeur's claim that a sentence is a higher level of meaning than a word. Now V suggests that the canon might have a higher level of meaning that is greater than any of the individual biblical texts, a meaning that God intended the canonical text to have. "The divine intention does not contravene the intention of the human author but rather supervenes on it."
____________________

What are we to make of Vanhoozer's material on the author?

Well, for the most part, I agree with him. Communication happens. The words we say and write usually have intended meanings. We do things with words.

As I've said elsewhere, Derrida is an important footnote to meaning. Texts are easily interpreted differently than their authors intended. And Fish's footnote is significant too--while I don't believe the quest for the intended meaning of a text is unavailable (contra Ricoeur as well), interpretive communities usually dominate interpretation.

But intended meanings exist. The contrary suggestion deconstructs on life.

I am less concerned about restricting or cataloging meanings, although V and others have already done the heavy lifting. It really does not make sense to speak of the meaning of a text either in terms of something an author psychologically intended that didn't make it into the text or in terms of some intended effect of the text. The intended meaning of a text is an embodied meaning "in" the text.

Where I would differ with V is in the extent to which he sees this as a property of the text. Authorial intention as embodied in the code of a text is a theoretically stable meaning. It is probably the most "natural" reading of a text in most instances. But there are other stable meanings in relation to texts, such as the meanings that particular communities find in texts. An individual can read a text in a relatively stable way for that individual. We will wait for the chapters on the reader to see if V can give us a compelling reason to restrict a text's meaning to the originally intended one.

In particular, the idea of a canonical meaning potentially decontructs V's whole enterprise. The diversity of the canon makes it susceptible to countless systematizations of meaning, as the plethora of Protestant denominations shows.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Increasing Face of Education

I was gone Monday and Tuesday from classes at IWU because I was in San Diego.

So to recoup the loss of class time, I set up several blog discussions. How much you want to bet they will learn more from these than from me standing in front of them lecturing?

I'm convinced that the best model for education is one in which things like textbooks (substitute for an expert), information disseminated by the prof beforehand (when the prof is also an expert), as well as video and podcasts (in lieu of lectures) will be done before "class time."

In other words, lectures will not take place during "class time"--and shouldn't. "Class time" is time for unpacking the reading/viewing students have done prior to class, including the evaluation, analysis, synthesis, and appropriation of it.

Eventually, the very idea of "class time" becomes squishy. Participation in a blog discussion, if done correctly, creates a higher average appropriation than in class. In class, only a few students usually make comments. Online, everyone has to participate or else they're not there. Coming video technology will make it easier for such discussions to involve faces.

Indeed, we have already reached a point where online classes do not have to be asynchronous (not done at the same time), although there are advantages to asynchronous posting too.

Anyway, the blogs I've set up in lieu of my classes are not state of the art, but they work. Here are a few:

Intertestamental Literature: http://www.intertestament.blogspot.com/

General Epistles: http://www.generalepistles.blogspot.com/

Inductive Bible Study: http://www.integratedbiblestudy.blogspot.com/

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

God's blessing to you and yours on this day American Christianity has sanctified to give thanks to God for all His blessings to us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Tale of Two Introductions: 2 Peter

I have had my Monday and Tuesday classes engage in various blog discussions in lieu of me being away. Here is the assignment for the General Epistles class, given that they were to read three introductions to 2 Peter: 1) Doug Moo's intro in the NIV Application Commentary series, 2) Ralph Martin's intro in the New Testament Theology series, and 3) Richard Bauckham's intro in the IVP Dictionary of the New Testament.

They are to give a 200 word response to 1) a "testament" introduction to 2 Peter and 2) a "traditional" introduction. Here are the two different introductions:

Introduction 1: Testament Introduction
Although 2 Peter begins by telling us that the apostle Peter is its author, an ancient Jewish audience would have soon recognized it to be a kind of "testament." A testament was a kind of final statement someone made right before they died to help others remember what their life had stood for. They would thus suspect that Peter was in fact not the writer of this letter, but that this letter was meant to remind an audience of what Peter stood for a couple decades after his death. The mention of Peter witnessing the Transfiguration, for example, was not lying, but a literary device meant to remind the audience that Peter himself had been an eyewitness of things the audience was doubting.

A number of features are taken in evidence of a later date for 2 Peter. The style is quite different from 1 Peter and has a lot of rare biblical vocabulary. While 1 Peter expects the Lord's return to take place very soon, 2 Peter speaks of it taking place in the future after the Christian "fathers" have died. In talking about the coming false prophets, it switches from the future tense (as if Peter is speaking) to the present tense (the time it is actually being written). It considers Paul's writings as Scripture, perhaps addressed to a universal audience (which is not how he wrote them)--something unlikely to happen within Peter's lifetime.

So the reference in 3:1 to the previous letter is possibly a reference to 1 Peter, even though 2 Peter doesn't have the same audience as 1 Peter. But the pseudonymous author means to remind the audience of what Peter stood for and to renew their confidence in it.

Introduction 2: Traditional Introduction
1 Peter begins by saying that Peter is its author. As such, deception would be involved if that were not the case. All the evidence we have from the early church suggests that the early Christians considered such writings as forgeries. Further, while there are ancient examples of pseudonymous writings, including the testament genre, we have no ancient testaments that were written in the form of a letter. The claims to see the Transfiguration cannot be considered anything but a lie if the author is not in fact Peter.

None of the usual arguments against Petrine authorship preclude this conclusion. The style is different, but then again, 1 Peter implies that Silas had a hand in its writing. Perhaps we are getting Peter's actual Greek style in 2 Peter--or that of a different secretary from 1 Peter. In fact, the style has the flavor of someone who has used rhetorical exercises to learn Greek rather than a colloquial speaker.

The "fathers" who have died refers not to Christian fathers but to the OT fathers, and thus says nothing of the dating of the letter. The changes in tenses can similarly be explained with minor tweaks in interpretation.

And even though 2 Peter seems to address a universal audience, its flavor is much more that of a particular church or set of churches. In that sense, perhaps it was written to some of the churches 1 Peter addresses, like those in Galatia. On the other hand, the letter referred to in 3:1 might be a completely different letter from 1 Peter.

Since Paul wrote the Galatians, perhaps that is what Peter means when he says, "as Paul writes you." And who is to say that Peter did not come to recognize that he had been wrong and that in fact Paul was right when he wrote Galatians? It is thus possible that Peter might have come to view Paul's letter to the Galatians--as well as those to other churches--as Scripture just like the Old Testament was. Or perhaps Peter is talking about a completely different letter like Romans, which Peter believed to be inspired.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Moment in Philo

There's a photo from the twenties, I think, with all the pioneers of quantum physics in it, everyone from Albert Einstein to Marie Curie to Heisenberg and Schroedinger. Being who I am, I look at a picture like that and think of what an exciting time it must have been to live, to be with all those groundbreaking figures all in the same place. Cambridge was a little like that in the early twentieth century, with Wittgenstein and other well known names in philosophy, economics, and literature.

At the podium today in the Philo Group was John Dillon, a slightly quirky British philosopher whose greatest claim to fame as far as I'm concerned is a book called The Middle Platonists. On the platform with him were the likes of scholars like Ellen Birmbaum, Erich Gruen, James Royse, David Runia, and Annewies van den Hoek. You may not know these names, but they are the picture of a generation of Philo scholars.

As I looked around the room there was David Winston, Greg Sterling, Peder Borgen, James Royse. I'm not sure if Hindy Najman was there. The next generation of Philo scholars was there too. The ones I knew in particular were George van Kooten, an old Durham friend, and Ron Cox. I remember speaking with him at Durham to try to convince him to come as a student, but alas Notre Dame won him instead. Now he's light years beyond me and teaching at Pepperdine.

My apologies to Torrey Seland, who in afterthought I suspected must have been there--and he was. I've never met Torrey, so I didn't recognize him. He now has some pictures of the event on his blog:

John Dillon
Erich Gruen's response to Dillon
Ellen Birmbaum's response to Dillon

At one point, Sean Freyne entered the room late and then his cell phone went off as he arrived at a seat in the front of the room leading him to complete a circle around a section of chairs and back out the door again.

In fact, there were far more laughs than you would expect in an esoteric session on Philo's De Abrahamo. Dillon himself is the stereotypical Englishman whose abrupt and unexpected asides jerk you from conjectural emendations to the Philonic text. And just as amorphously as he talks he suddenly decides that his time is up and he stops and sits down.

Then Gruen begins to throw around words like menopause and Sarah's obvious laugh about sex at 99. It was the best kept secret of SBL, a small little room of friends who know each other's minute, painstaking work in the greatest of detail. The main one missing was David Hay, who died suddenly earlier in the year.

As far as I know, they didn't take a picture (maybe they did, I had to leave early). But this room today was the picture--the greatest Philo scholars of a generation...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Monday Thoughts: Live from SBL

I'm sitting in the lobby of the San Diego Manchester Hyatt with Frank Sinatra singing in the background. It's the annual pilgrimage of all good little religion scholars to AAR-SBL. I'm here for SBL--the Society of Biblical Literature. This is the last year (at least for a few years) that we'll be meeting with AAR--the American Academy of Religion. Word has it that the power structures of AAR wanted to separate from the more Jewish and Christian nature of SBL.

The whole separation thing seems to represent to me a power sequence all too frequent. The power structures want one thing, often on principal. At the same time, the "grass roots" or rank and file want something else. What often plays out is an exodus of the rank and file to other venues. The "principaled" leadership often doesn't mind the smaller numbers, because what's left is the "right" group. Of course if they're not careful, they find themselves leading only themselves. Many booksellers, for example, are considering not going to AAR in Chicago next year--only to SBL in Boston.

The main impact on me is friends. Those who come here for theology (e.g., Barth) are usually members of AAR rather than SBL (although from what I understand SBL has made it clear to individual AAR groups they are welcome to jump ship :-). The Wesleyan-Free Methodist breakfast and worship on Sundays, for example, may not survive, as its perpetrator, Don Thorsen, an AAR Wesley scholar, will be in Chicago rather than Boston next year.

So what is SBL like?

Friends
You see people here that you won't see anywhere else each year. I've had breakfast with Joe Dongell and David Thompson. I've chatted with old Durham friends and had breakfast with old seminary buddies. Because of SBL I can call friends people like George Guthrie and Craig Koester, who I would only read otherwise. These are truly great privileges that SBL affords.

Opportunities
It's hard to get a publisher to take a book idea. Everyone knows that a personal contact at a conference improves your chances greatly. Yesterday I had a very good talk with a publisher in which he took my idea and reformulated it into something similar his press might be interested in. Now when I send the formal proposal, it has a better than average chance of acceptance.

Saturday morning I gave a paper that was well received to a group I had not previously attended. Several people really liked it and, once again, this opens up possibilities for future projects and cooperation with others on future projects.

Sessions also give you a chance to hear what the leading thinkers of the guild are, well, thinking, even before it reaches publication. One nice thing is to realize how tentative some of them are before their thoughts reach the page. Many scholars are just your "above average Joe" or Jane who has had time to reflect (and get feedback) before their thoughts reach the page.

The book hall would have to be the bomb. 50% off on new titles--and everyone is here. We spend hours in the book hall, catching up with what people are writing and chatting with old friends we haven't seen since last year.

Frustration
It would be hard to think of a better argument for deconstruction than SBL. Here you have over 10,000 people doing similar things, and yet they all disagree on fundamental things. One person looks at a book from the angle of Roman imperialism, another from a social-scientific perspective, another from the standpoint of ideological criticism. If they were just different angles that fit together to provide a "thick" understanding, that would be one thing. But more often than not they completely conflict with each other. At some point you begin to ask yourself, am I as off the wall as that presenter is, and I just think my ideas make sense?

If this place makes you wonder if two people can ever communicate with each other, there is also the power aspect of the place. There are people with power in a place like this, and they wield it behind the scenes. Papers get chosen for reasons other than the "intelligence" of the paper. Of course power is a fundamental element of human co-existence, so it would be naive to decry the use of power itself. The question is how to wield it ethically.

That gives you a taste of SBL, says Ken with his Starbucks coffee in hand. Have a happy Thanksgiving, all!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Theology of the Dead Sea Scrolls

With this post and tomorrow's I want to finish my summaries of material related to the Dead Sea Scrolls for my intertestamental class. I've already discussed a possible history of the community. Here I will discuss the theology of the scrolls (notice I did not say of the community), and tomorrow I will point out possible intersections of the scrolls with the New Testament.

1. Theologies rarely if ever exist in a vacuum. In that sense, all theology is historical theology, whether it is in a systematic form or not. A precise theological description of the theology of the Dead Sea scrolls would need to dialog with the historical development of the communities that produced them.

For this reason, the first characteristic of the scrolls I mention is the call to purity and holiness. The antecedents of the Dead Sea community were formed by separation from the rest of Israel. The Enochic community was apparently born in reaction to the radical Hellenization of the early second century BC. The Teacher of Righteousness separated from what became the operations of the temple and further separated the Essene community from broader Israel and the Pharisees. Finally, the community at the Dead Sea appears to have become radically separated from the rest of Israel and, perhaps, the rest of the Essenes.

A good deal of this separation involved "works of law" (cf. 4QMMT, Some of the Works of the Law). In other words, what is the proper way to keep the Jewish Law. The Pharisees said unclean water whose path was broken did not make you unclean. The Teacher of Righteousness (and the Sadducees) said no--the water itself makes you unclean whether the path to you is broken or continuous. The Pharisees said an uncle could marry his niece because the Pentateuch does not forbid it. The Qumranites did not allow it, because an aunt could not marry a nephew.

So proper holiness is perhaps the most defining aspect of Dead Sea scroll theology. The Essenes are thus the strictest of all the Jewish sects we know of at this time.

2. In keeping with the above separation and distinction of practice is a sense of a "new covenant" God is establishing with Israel. It is no surprise that the Covenant of Damascus document, perhaps the charter of the Essenes, uses this sort of language of renewal. The Temple Scroll optimistically looks to a time of a renewed temple and city of Jerusalem.

3. The Thanksgiving Hymns (1QH) perhaps not surprisingly have a strong sense of humility and renewal to them. Perhaps giving the voice of the Teacher of Righteousness himself, we hear the acknowledgement of deep sinfulness and need for God's grace, coupled with the prospect of perfection in the rest of life. Most of the scrolls do not have this sort of humility to them, the majority of the scrolls are very concerned with perfection and do not have this sense of utter sinfulness.

4. It follows from what we have just said that the scrolls have an increasing sense of election and predestination the more sectarian they become. By the time we reach 1QS (the Community Rule), the sect exclusively constitutes the sons of light and the rest of Israel will be judged with the rest of the sons of darkness.

5. The scrolls perhaps expectantly become more and more vindictive toward the rest of the world and look for apocalyptic judgment. The pesher commentaries of Habakkuk and Nahum look to the destruction of the enemies of the community (principally the Hasmonean priest-kings). The War Rule (1QM) looks to the final battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. The angel Melchizedek or perhaps Michael (11QMelch) will lead the spiritual charge againts Belial, while the righteous Branch will lead the earthly fight. The Kittim, the Romans, will bite the dust, reflecting the new enemy of the community after the Romans took control in 63BC.

6. At the same time, messianic expectation arguably wanes as the community continues. While two or even three messianic figures are expected at one point--the messiahs of Aaron and Israel and the Prophet. At one point this was the messiah of Aaron and Israel, perhaps reflecting the fact that the Hasmonean rulers were priest-kings. Eventually that line is taken out (in the 4Q versions of the Community Rule) and we have just the Prophet, who may now retroactively have become equated with the Teacher of Righteousness now long dead.

7. In all this, there is little sense of the afterlife. There are hints here and there, but almost nothing. They were interested in vindication in this life, not in the next. There are images of eternal punishment, perhaps confirming Josephus' claim that the Essenes' beliefs were closer to the immortality of the soul, in contrast to the Pharisaic belief in resurrection. Only two fragments seem to imply physical resurrection. And given the fact that many scrolls must have come to Qumran from elsewhere, we cannot be sure at all that these two small fragments represent mainstream Qumran belief.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Where at SBL is Ken Schenck?

A lot of bibliobloggers put out the sessions of SBL that they will likely attend, perchance to meet up. Here are some of the sessions I have my eye on:

Saturday
9:00-10:20 Jewish Christianity Group (I'm giving a paper)
10:30-12:00 Hebrews Consultation (questions on the identity of the audience)

1:00-3:30 Josephus (Josephus and the Essenes)
4:00-6:30 Hebrews Consultation (up and comings)

Sunday
7:00-8:30 Wesleyan-Free Methodist Breakfast
9:00-12:00 Possibly Josephus (Harold Attridge, John Barclay, Greg Sterling)

4:00-6:30 Philo of Alexandria Group (contexts of Philo)

Monday
1:00-3:00 Pauline Epistles (John Barclay and Tom Wright)
4:00-6:30 Philo of Alexandria Group (Philo's "On Abraham")

Maybe see you there or more likely, among the booths!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday Thoughts: Hebrews, Me, and SBL

The yearly pilgrimage to the Society of Biblical Literature conference is this coming weekend. I'll be presenting a paper to the Jewish Christianity Group this Saturday morning during the 9am session (GH Betsy B). The title in the program is "Hebrews and the Parting of the Ways," but after too many pages I altered my topic and title somewhat. The title I am now using is "The Levitical Cultus and the Partitioning of the Ways in Hebrews."

I thought for today I would give you a few excerpts that capture the gist of the paper:

"The assumption Longenecker makes is that Hebrews’ rhetoric on the superiority of Christ’s atonement to that of the Levitical cultus is tantamount to a polemic against participation in the sacrificial system of the Jerusalem temple. He likely assumes that the audience’s interest and reliance on the Jerusalem cultus had at least significantly diminished, perhaps even disappeared, when they believed on Christ. Now, however, they were tempted to return to reliance on the atonement the Jerusalem temple offered.

"We can identify two significant problems with these assumptions. The first is the particular way in which the author formulates his argument vis-à-vis the Levitical cultus. Arguably, the author never makes the negative argument not to rely on the mainstream Levitical system. Rather, he consistently makes the positive argument to rely on the atonement provided through Christ, an exhortation that he then substantiates extensively by argument.

"Second, it is unlikely that the earliest Christians initially thought of Christ’s death as a complete replacement for the temple. It is more likely that they originally saw Christ’s death in relation to a particular point in Israel’s history rather than as a replacement of its fundamental institutions. In that sense, it remains to be seen to what extent they had ever “left” reliance on the temple in the first place, despite their affirmation of Jesus as Messiah. Both of these observations point to continuing, unexamined assumptions by scholars in relation to the distinctness of Christianity and Judaism in this period."

...

"We can thus identify several questionable assumptions that play into the “common sense” that Hebrews must surely pre-date the destruction of the temple. The most significant relates to the fact that Jews and Christians continued to think of the operation of the Levitical system in the present tense. It was not nearly as clear to them as to us either that the temple would lay in ruins for the next two thousand years or that Christ would not return within the near future.

"If, further, Hebrews were written, not to argue against participation in the cultus, but to bolster the audience’s confidence in Christ, the absence of specific mention of the temple’s destruction seems less puzzling. In the end, the author’s theoretical treatment of the wilderness tabernacle seems more explicable in reflection on the temple’s destruction than if the temple were still standing. If the temple were still standing at the time of Hebrews’ writing, it becomes an incredibly subversive and revolutionary piece that “parts” from Judaism in some of the strongest terms possible. The sermon does not, however, have this tone."

...

"When we search for conceptual models the earliest Christians are likely to have used to make sense of Jesus’ death, clearly that of sacrifice featured at an early point. Most, for example, believe that Paul was drawing on traditional material of some sort in Romans 3:25, which pictures God offering Christ as a sacrifice, a hilasterion by means of his blood. Yet we find no Jewish precedent for a sacrifice with universal, timeless significance. The scope of a sacrifice was always bound by a particular time and, indeed, by a particular sin or set of sins.

"No sacrifice ever implied an end to future need for sacrifice. The burden of proof is thus on anyone who would suggest that the first believers would initially have viewed Christ’s death as some sort of ultimate sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Our default expectation is rather that they would have thought that Christ’s death atoned for a particular set of sins at a particular point of history."

...

"It is not necessary for us to argue that all Christian Jews had a place for the temple in their theology for our understanding of Hebrews to stand, only that some did and that the audience of Hebrews is a likely candidate. Here we can easily suggest that those that disagreed with Paul on the scope of justification ek pisteos Iesou Christou would have disagreed with him as well on any suggestion that Christ’s death provided absolute atonement, if Paul ever made such an argument.

"The fact that Peter and James disagreed with Paul about whether works of law played any role in justification (cf. Gal. 2:11-21) suggests that they might also have disagreed with him on the scope of Christ’s atonement if Paul had made a universal argument. Indeed, Acts 13:38 perhaps gives us their position on justification on the lips of Paul: "Through this man is announced to you forgiveness from all the sins from which you were not able to be justified by the law of Moses." The implication seems to be that the law of Moses could justify you in relation to some sins, but through Christ it was now possible to find justification for sins not covered by the law and, presumably, by its cultic system."

...

"It is thus far more likely than not that the bulk of Christian Jews prior to the temple’s destruction saw a continuing role for it in the kingdom of God. If Hebrews addressed such an audience, its rhetoric cannot be about turning back toward Judaism or the temple, for the audience would have never left it on this subject. Further, it is hard to see how the Levitical system might be challenging the audience’s faith in such an environment, since faith in Christ would never have conflicted with reliance on the temple in the first place. On the other hand, we can easily see how the destruction of the temple might cause a faith crisis of some sort, as it apparently did for the author of 4 Ezra. In this regard, Hebrews’ rhetoric on the Levitical system is far from a parting of the ways. It is rather a testimony to how little Christian Judaism had parted at this point."

...

"Indeed, I believe the current English-speaking majority position that the audience is Jewish reflects equally myopic perspectives with regard to Jewish and Christian identity. Hebrews 6:1-2 implies that the “foundation” that the audience experienced as “the beginning word of the Christ” (5:12) was not specifically Christian, but in fact Jewish. Hebrews thus looks to a Gentile audience tempted to turn away from the living God of Judaism (cf. 3:12) rather than a Jewish audience tempted to turn back to Judaism! But, alas, that argument will have to wait for another time."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lectionary Thoughts: Job 19:23-27

“O that my words were written down! O that they were inscribed in a book! O that with an iron pen and with lead they were engraved on a rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!" (NRSV)

These words, here translated in their original sense, give us Job's conviction that the LORD will in fact vindicate him before it is all over. His flesh may indeed disintegrate from the boils, but God will show up eventually. God will arrive before he is dead and tell these "comforters" around him that in fact Job is not being punished for his sins.

This of course does happen. The lesson, which we have to filter through our added understanding of the afterlife, is that God will vindicate the righteous. He does not always do so in this life, to be sure, but He will do so at the resurrection.

This text, however, is also one of those that was particularly susceptible to a Christian reading that read the words against the context of Christianity. Take the translation of the NKJV:

"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God."

Christians have traditionally heard in these words a reference to Christ as Reedemer, as well as to the resurrection. And it is completely correct.

Our Lord Jesus Christ will descend with the voice of the archangel. We who are alive and remain will not precede, but the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be snatched up to meet him in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Review: Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?

In preparation for James Smith's visit to campus, a number of faculty and student reading groups read through his little book, Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? The book has five chapters: 1) an introduction to postmodernism, 2) a chapter on Jacques Derrida, 3) a chapter on Jean-François Lyotard, 4) a chapter on Michel Foucault, and 5) a concluding chapter making his pitch for radical orthodoxy.

1. Each chapter begins with a long summary of some movie. For example, the first chapter, "Is the Devil from Paris?," begins with Matrix. Neo is emerging from one construction of reality to another, from modernity to postmodernity (17). Not really the best analogy. Postmodernism would be for Neo to recognize that he lives in a matrix from which he can never emerge.

And herein is probably my central critique, not just of Smith's book, but of postmodernism itself. We can push back on modernist certainty to be sure, but the dualistic "myth" of subject over and against object has served truth very well these few hundred years. Postmodernism is a footnote on this distinction. It is a big footnote, but life doesn't work if we treat the footnote as the central thing and the "world as other" as the footnote.

Postmodernism is the eternal reminder that almost every meaning machine breaks down at some point. But it would be stupid just to sit on the machine while it was still actually working. The Enlightenment enterprise has worked very well, even when it has worked to make nuclear bombs. It has worked in the sense that we have learned to manipulate our reality to where we can go to the moon or speak to people across the globe while walking in the park using a small hand held device.

I'm getting off track. In the introduction Smith introduces the three thinkers he will be discussing and suggests that we need to recover some of the pre-modern that we have lost. The final goal of the book is to "issue in a thickly confessional church that draws on the very particular (yet catholic) and ancient practices of the church's worship and discipleship"--a radical orthodoxy (25).

2. The second chapter deals with Derrida, focusing on his famous statement that "there is nothing outside the text." Smith cleverly suggests that we as Christians can consider that text to be Scripture, giving all new meaning to the phrase "sola scriptura."

What Derrida means is along the lines of Nietzsche earlier, "There are no facts, only interpretations." By saying that there is nothing but the text, Derrida suggests that there is no part of the world that we know by any means other than by interpretation. To this degree, I agree with Derrida.

Derrida also wishes to claim, however, that there is no stable meaning in these texts. In my opinion, Smith sugar coats Derrida just a little too much--at times I could hardly distinguish how he was describing Derrida from how I view things. Then again, Smith is ultimately a little more post-modern than I am...

However, I agree with Smith's critique of D. A. Carson's critique of Derrida (assuming that he has accurately described Carson). There is a vast difference between saying what I just did above--that all our conscious knowledge of the world involves interpretation and that no human being is objective--and saying that a person does not believe in truth.

To me, the "truth" I gain from Derrida is that any text can be interpreted differently from the way its creator might have intended and, indeed, from the way other people understand it. Texts--mirroring their human creators--are prone to internal inconsistencies on some level.

But this is a footnote. It's a very important footnote, a very true footnote. Yet Derrida spent practically his entire career on a footnote! To make his point, he went to ridiculous lengths to find alternative readings of texts whose meaning otherwise seemed pretty clear.

Thanks, Jacques. I got the point back in '67.

Smith then goes radically orthodox on us. If the world is ultimately all text, then, hey, let's make the Bible be that text--sola scriptura. There is nothing outside the scriptural text.

Pure genius. I suspect it basically translates into getting scripture into our imaginary. It's a beautiful poetic image... But it doesn't really tell us anything about interpreting specific biblical texts. :-)

3. The third chapter deals with Lyotard, who as much as anyone gave us the terms "pre-modern," "modern," and "postmodern." Lyotard defines postmodernism as "incredulity toward metanarratives" or in French "big stories."

By "big stories," Smith doesn't think Lyotard has in mind the kinds of narratives that in fact have been the very stuff of postmodernism. In fact, I found it a little hard at first to understand Lyotard, for I have always associated postmodernism with the idea that you can't step outside the story to give some God's eye interpretation of it. I've always associated propositional interpretations to be the modernist and staying in the "stories" they try to interpret as the postmodernist.

... which is why "grand stories" is a bad translation in English of what Lyotard is saying. A metanarrative for Lyotard is an overarching rational supertheory that is meant to stand alongside reality to explain it objectively. Smith does not think that, when properly understood, Lyotard contradicts the idea of understanding the world through the eyes of the Christian story.

I largely agree with Lyotard, at least as I understand him. We would do well to think of the systems by which we describe the world as expressions of the world rather than literal explanations of it. This approach requires the revaluation of metaphor and a realization of the value of myth. As I've said before, we do well to think of scientific theories as very useful myths, expressions of reality that accommodate massive numbers of "characters" in the expression. These myths allow us to predict and manipulate reality. But they are not strictly statements of that reality. They are metaphors for things-in-themselves to which we do not have access.

With this last comment, of course, I distinguish myself from Smith, who with other postmodernists has tried to abandon Cartesian and Kantian dualisms. For me, these dualisms are also myths. But they are extremely functional ones.

4. The fourth chapter deals with the third of the three postmodern giants (why does Smith not treat the pragmatist Rorty, I wonder): Michel Foucault. I found Smith's movie clip here the most useful so far--One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Foucault's famous saying is "power is knowledge" reverses Frances Bacon's old dictum, "knowledge is power." Foucault's basic claim is that what we consider true is not a matter of what is simply fact but that what is considered true is a function of lines of power.

Let me say with Foucault as with Derrida that there is an incredible amount of truth to what Foucault is saying here. What is considered true is as much and usually more about who has the power to convince others of their ideas as it is about some blunt truth out there. Foucault's case studies are far more valuable than Derrida's, describing how our conceptualizations of things like punishment, medicine, and sexuality have changed over the centuries.

Smith suggests that with the givenness of power, we would do well as a church to use the inevitable systems of power at our disposal to form others Christianly.

5. In the final and longest chapter, Smith furthers his agenda of a radical orthodoxy for the emerging church. So when it comes to dogma, we unapologetically affirm it without concern over the Cartesian drive to correlate it to the facts. This is the Christian "take away" from Derrida.

The Christian take away from Lyotard is a re-embrace of the Christian story and Christian traditions. This is the ancient-future trend that we see, for example, in the late Robert Webber's book on worship. We reaffirm the value of ritual and symbol, the role of the tactile in worship rather than just the cognitive.

Smith perhaps best sums up his overall take away in this way: "the best way to be postmodern is to be premodern; to be emergent, one must be catholic" (135). We develop a sacramental imagination rather than, as modernism has, a "gnostic" or dualistic one.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

James K. A. Smith's IWU Lecture: Beyond Integration

"What do you get when you cross a Pentecostal with Calvin College," muses Keith Drury. Answer: "A Wesleyan."

James K. A. Smith of Calvin College (originally a Pentecostal) had those in attendance from the IWU religion division purring today as he gave his lecture, "Beyond Integration: Re-Narrating Christian Scholarship in Postmodernity." Several of us were whispering to each other and thinking throughout, "That's what we've been saying at our Friday lunches." I added, "The main difference between him and us is the footnotes."

1. Smith began with some undoing. First, he addressed the rhetoric of worldview that Christians are fond to throw around. The problem--Christians who use this language almost always treat Christianity as if its essence is a set of cognitive beliefs, "brains on a stick," as Smith put it.

By the way, this I gather is perhaps the biggest distinction between Reformed epistemology and Smith's "radical orthodoxy." Reformed epistemology remains, so it seems, a largely cognitive matter. Or to draw on Heidegger as Smith did, it tends to focus on "knowledge" (Wissen) rather than "understanding" (Verstehen).

[A by the way on the "by the way," this distinction is for me a good example of the frustration I have often experienced when reading philosophers. The distinction Heidegger makes with these two words isn't something you would know out of the blue. He used these words in specialized ways that you have to "catch" the meaning of. Philosophers (not all, certainly not Smith today) have a tendency to make up their own language and then call you stupid because you don't understand them.]

Anyway, "understanding" for Heidegger involves more than just the head. It involves a person's being or the heart as Smith talked about today. More on this in a moment.

Smith critiques talk of "worldview" in Christian circles because it tends to reduce the issue of a Christian approach to knowledge to a matter of the head. It treats humans strictly as "thinking-things," as he put it. No doubt Smith is far less fond of Descartes than I am, whom he blames for starting us down this modernist trajectory.

2. Having critiqued talk of worldview, he proceeds to undo talk of integration. Here he found many Amens from the religion division, that has long bemoaned what often passes for integration of faith and learning in Christian circles. Someone with a doctoral level knowledge of, say, sociology, tries to integrate their discipline with a Sunday School level knowledge of theology.

Here he had a number of images similar to those we've observed. Integration is not a matter of how many "jpm's" you have in a lecture (mentions of "Jesus per minute"). Nor is it simply a matter of coming at things from a theistic point of view--we're Christian theists who believe in a Trinity and that's different from a mere theist. You can't slap a Bible reference on something and call it integration.

3. He then proceeds with the postmodern critique of pretenses to knowledge. He notes that God created us finite even before the Fall, and in that respect God did not make us to have a God's eye view of reality even in our perfect state. Further, the Fall has seriously marred our ability to apprehend truth well beyond our mere finitude.

Smith comes to advocate not apologetics, but "unapologetics," a vision for Christian scholarship that does not try to defend itself but begins at its very starting point with the "thick" presuppositions of Christian faith.

4. The final part of Smith's speech was apparently experimental--don't commit him fully to it yet--but we loved it. Here he built off of Charles Taylor's idea of the "social imaginary." The connections I made with this line were with recent intersections between philosophy and cognitive science, something Joel Green has considered seriously of late and that shows up in his Seized by Truth.

One fundamental idea here is that the majority of the things we "know" our way through in life are known on a "preconscious" level. For me, the best example of this is driving. A person can drive for hours on end without having a fully conscious thought about the mechanics of driving.

When people like Richard Hays or Joel Green talk about a "conversion of the imagination," they are really talking about a transformation of this part of our mind, the underlying part that is so much more who were are than the surface level thoughts we have and express.

It is on this "gut level" part of our being that Smith thinks Christian integration is really supposed to take place, and he further suggests that the very center of such integration is in our worship. Repeatedly the Eucharist or communion came out of his conscious/subconscious as he described worship.

Rather than "I believe in order to understand," he suggests "I worship in order to understand." He is aiming at a Christian "understanding" that is embedded in rituals, integration on a tactile level. Christian education is thus about forming love in your gut more than about informing your conscious mind. The purpose is not to do away with the rational but to situate it in the "imaginary."

I'm not sure I fully "understand" the full force of these latter thoughts, although I fully agree that Christian education should be primarily about forming a Christian "imagination" and then only secondarily about information or the learning of skills.

This last thought resonated so strongly with those of us who will likely be designing the specifics of IWU's coming MDiv courses that it will likely permeate the whole program.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

1 Peter in a Nutshell

I'm Peter, and you're scattered all over Asia Minor. Hello!

God's done great things for us through Jesus Christ! Salvation is coming; it's ready and waiting! Of course things aren't so great right now. But remember, the prophets foretold of all this about Christ. They were puzzled but excited, and the angels were very curious too.

In this time when you are exiles and strangers--this is not your country--live in terms of the country that is coming rather than the way you Gentiles used to live. Be holy like God is holy. You've been born again. You're a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation now.

So live such good lives among the unbelieving nations that they may see your good behavior and glorify God for it at the judgment. Be subject to political authorities. Slaves, submit to your masters even when they beat you wrongly. They beat Jesus wrongly too. Women, submit to your husbands even when they are unbelievers. Maybe they will be won over by your virtue. Husbands, honor your wives.

To sum all that up: live among the nations honorably. Be ready to testify to Christ if they bring you to trial. Christ's suffering brought victory, which he proclaimed to the fallen spirits from the days of Noah. Noah was saved on the water from the Flood of those days. Baptism is water that saves us today.

So suffering purges us of sin and motivates us to live for God, not human passions. Christ is getting ready to judge the living and the dead. Yes, the dead will rise because Christ preached to them too.

The end is near. The judgment has begun with the house of God--don't be surprised. And if it is this bad for us, imagine what it will be like for the rest of the world! Rejoice in the honor of suffering with the name "Christian."

So elders who lead the flock, be good shepherds. And those who are younger should submit to the elders. Humble yourselves under God, and He will lift you up. You will suffer for a while, but then comes a time of eternal glory.

Silas helped me write this letter. Those here in "Babylon," Rome, greet you, including Mark.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Monday Thoughts: A Brief History of Qumran

In this post I want to collect some of my thoughts concerning the history of the Dead Sea community at Qumran.

1. Let me first address the relationship between the Dead Sea scrolls and the archaeological site at Qumran. Norman Golb of course suggests that there is no connection. The Qumran site was perhaps a fortress, and the scrolls of the caves come from another source. Perhaps the scrolls were stashed from a library or libraries in Jerusalem as various individuals fled the city as the Romans approached.

What a coincidence this would be--so many scrolls stashed by coincidence in caves by a compound only a couple hundred feet away. Two data argue against this suggestion. The first is that the documents of the caves are not a cross-section of Jewish literature. We do not find, for example, Esther, let alone fragments of books like 1st or 2nd Maccabees or the Wisdom of Solomon. These books existed by the time of the Roman assault and were no doubt present in Jerusalem.

Even in the apocalyptic tradition of Enoch we do not find portions from the Similitudes or the bulk of the Epistle of Enoch, which perhaps date from after the time when the site of Qumran was founded. What we do find is a significant number of sectarian texts that are unattested elsewhere. The distribution of such books would indicate that the scrolls came from some sort of sectarian provenance rather than from more generic libraries in Jerusalem.

Finally, the site of Qumran is not a fortress. The nearby cemetery points to a community, and the baptismal pools at the entrances to the site point to a community that valued purity. We therefore go with the strong majority who connect the caves to the site and see the site as the location of some sort of sectarian community.

2. The prevalence of works in the Enoch tradition (portions of 1 Enoch, Jubilees) suggests a connection between whatever group created these and the group that landed along the Dead Sea. It seems significant that one of the "charters" of the Dead Sea "movement" dates its origins to about the time the Apocalypse of Weeks and the Dream Visions portions of 1 Enoch were written.

The so called "Covenant of Damascus" says, "in the age of wrath, three hundred and ninety years after He had given them into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, He visited them, and He caused a plant root to spring from Israel and Aaron... they perceived their iniquity and recognized that they were guilty men, yet for twenty years they were like blind men groping for the way" (CD 1.5-10, Vermes' translation).

While the numbers here are most likely symbolic, they do come out about right--the first part of the second century BC for the origins of the movement and mid-second century for the rise of the so called "Teacher of Righteousness." The Apocalypse of Weeks (1 Enoch 93, 91) dates to just before the Maccabean crisis (around 170BC) and the Dream Visions to just after (around 160BC).

We don't know who the members of this movement were, although the Hasidim of 1 Maccabees are sometimes suggested.

3. The Covenant of Damascus then mentions the arrival of a Teacher of Righteousness at this point: God "raised for them a Teacher of Righteousness to guide them in the way of His heart" (CD 1.11).

Who was this Teacher of Righteousness? At this point a number of other Qumran sectarian texts come to our aid. Key is a text sometimes called the Halakhic letter, 4QMMT: "Some of the Works of the Law." This seems to be a letter concerning priestly matters from a disempowered priest to an empowered one. In the light of other texts such as the Habakkuk and Nahum commentaries, it is easy to see this as a letter from the individual who would become known as the Teacher of Righteousness to the one who would become known as the Wicked Priest.

James VanderKam suggests that we may be witnessing in 4QMMT the transition between the unknown priest who presided over the temple from 160-152BC and the assumption of that office by Jonathan Maccabeus. Strangely, we have no record of who was priest during that time.

The Maccabean crisis in part was sparked by the removal of priests who were descendants of Zadok from the high priesthood and the imposition of Syrian puppets like Menelaus and Alcimus, who died of a stroke in 160. Yet it was not until 152 when Jonathan--who was not from the line of Zadok either--assumed the role. VanderKam suggests plausibly that the Teacher of Righteousness was an unknown priest from this transition.

Here we find ourselves perhaps at the juncture in history where the three best known Jewish sects were born. The Sadducees are perhaps the continuation of the line of Zadok who are no longer in charge. The Essenes are perhaps those "doers" of the law who follow the Teacher of Righteousness but who have been part of a purity movement since the early part of the second century. Perhaps the Pharisees are another part of that purity movement who nevertheless do not follow the Teacher of Righteousness or his sectarian ways.

At this point we should mention the hypothesis of Lawrence Schiffman who also resists associating the Dead Sea community with the Essenes. He notes certain similarities between positions the Mishnah says the Sadducees held and views on purity found in documents like the Halakhic letter 4QMMT. However, even Schiffman would distinguish such Sadducees from the aristocratic Sadducees we know otherwise. VanderKam asks what is the point then of calling them Sadducees, especially when so many of their views differed from the known Sadducees.

In the end, the introduction of the possibly "Sadducean" Teacher of Righteousness into the Enochian group might easily account for Sadducean elements in an otherwise apocalyptic tradition.

4. So the Teacher of Righteousness may have been a priest who flourished in the mid-second century, who left the temple establishment when Jonathan became high priest. Jonathan of course did it his way. So the Teacher of Righteousness gathered his own following, a following that apparently numbered about 4000 at its peak (this is the number of Essenes around 100BC according to Josephus).

Where he went we do not know, although it does not appear to be Qumran. It is now more and more agreed that the site of Qumran was not inhabited until around 100BC. That leaves about 50 years for Essenism before the site was settled. Frankly, Damascus is very tempting.

The writing known as the Covenant of Damascus may represent this early period. It is the only sectarian text from Qumran known to us before Qumran was discovered (found in Cairo--we think of Philo's Therapeutae). So one wonders if it represents this early Essenism. The Temple Scroll may also come from this time, as well as some of the Thanksgiving Hymns, some of which may actually come from the Teacher of Righteousness.

At one point Jonathan tracks down the Teacher of Righteousness on the day he celebrated the Day of Atonement. Apparently he was following a different calendar than the temple--another point of disagreement. It does not seem as if Jonathan was successful, although he "tempts" the community to sin.

We have a picture from other sources of Essenes that live throughout the cities and villages of Israel. Some marry and some do not.

5. Around 100BC, a structure is built at Qumran. This particular group of Essenes seems to produce a more sectarian literature even yet. Another "community rule" is established there (1QS) with the clear sense that this is a group living together in isolation from the outside world.

It is presumably here that the best known pesher commentaries are produced like the Habakkuk and Nahum commentaries. Absent from the Dead Sea corpus are Enoch writings apparently produced by other groups.

6. Whatever is left of the community is destroyed around 68 by the Romans. Presumably the scrolls are stashed in the caves about that time.

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