Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jewish Views of the Temple--Some Notes

I want to jot down some thoughts today on Jewish views of the Herodian temple from a historical perspective.

First, I think it is plausible enough to think that those who lived in Judea were very loyal and perhaps even dominantly zealous toward the Jerusalem temple. Of course around 200BC there were also strong forces wanting to make Jerusalem a fully Hellenistic city. But these forces were soundly defeated in the Maccabean crisis. While the Hasmonean rulers were far from purists, elements of Jewish distinctiveness became political boundary markers, with the temple a symbol of Hasmonean power.

To be sure, there were elements in Judea that lost in this power struggle, the Teacher of Righteousness being the best known. The Essenes, particularly those that settled at Qumran, rejected the legitimacy of the tainted temple. They did not reject the notion of a temple per se, only the current temple with its administration. They ran their community as a temple substitute.

We can imagine that they had no better view of the Herodian temple, although at least it was sometimes administrated by "sons of Zadok" (Sadducees). They were apparently willing to join in with others in the battle against the Romans in AD66-73.

Secondly, I want to take a snapshot of the scene at the time of the Babylonian captivity, 586BC. The northern kingdom at this time is 150 years post Assyrian conquest. I'm assuming that means that it is pluralistic and syncretistic. Some people probably worship Yahweh among other gods. But the northern kingdom never had any sense of an exclusive temple, as even the ministries of Elijah and Elisha show. They know nothing of any need to offer sacrifice at the Samaria or Jerusalem temples.

I'm assuming that this situation continues until the Hasmonean period. The Samaritans build a temple to Zeus after the Greek conquest in 332BC. Not until Aristobulus and Alexander Janneus does Galilee seem to become attached to Judea (ca. 100BC). Richard Horsley has suggested that the forced conversion of the Galileans to circumcision and Jewish customs probably did not completely stick (Galilee).

It is tempting to see a correlation here between Jesus' less than stringent attention to the details of Jewish purity concerns and a Galilean context that was only a little more continuous with Judea than Samaria and Idumea. However, we must also take into account that Jesus was a descendent of David, a datum we can hardly question given Paul's affirmation of it in pre-Pauline material in Romans 1:2-3 (and given that the Roman church was likely related to the Jerusalem church, this implies it was their understanding as well).

As it relates to the temple, however, I can easily see some ambivalence, perhaps even resistance to the Jerusalem temple among the Galilean population. After all, it would have corresponded directly in their mind to their Hasmonean conquerers, who held the title of high priest at this time. Further, they were the descendants of the northern kingdom, that had never recognized the authority of the Jerusalem temple. We can imagine at the same time that Jesus, as a descendent of David, would have had a more favorable view of it.

In the end, the gospels seem to align Galilee more with Judea than Samaria, and this attitude seems multiply attested enough to consider historically credible. It would thus seem likely that many Galileans would have identified the Jerusalem temple as their sanctuary. Meanwhile it is understandable if those from Samaria were more resistant to it given that they had their own temple.

Finally, we have to consider the probable attitudes of Diaspora Jews toward the temple. We remember that the Jews in Egypt had a temple at Elephantine from the beginning of the Babylonian captivity. However, it apparently ceased to function long before the New Testament period.

Onias IV also founded a temple at Leontopolis after his father was removed and killed as high priest in around 170BC. Interestingly, Philo does not mention it but considers the one temple in Jerusalem to correspond to the one God.

When we think back to the Diaspora created by the Babylonian captivity, we remember than the exclusivist reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah had been relatively recent developments. In other words, we can easily imagine that many of those who went into the Diaspora at this time may or may not have seen the temple as the only location to sacrifice to YHWH. In fact, Yah apparently was given a consort at Elephantine during this period.

But it also makes sense that those Jews who remained Jews in the Diaspora--who kept their identity connection with Judea--would have "retrofitted" their identity to some extent around Torah and temple. An interesting footnote here is the fact that Philo does not consider Jeremiah to be as authoritative a Scripture as the Pentateuch, and he barely engages other parts of what we consider to be the Jewish Bible. I personally suspect this befits an Egyptian Judaism whose roots date to a time well before the other parts of the Jewish Bible became "canonical" and also given the history of the translation of the Bible into Greek.

At the same time, Philo's views of the temple as important politically and symbolically but not essential to atonement befit a Diaspora context as well.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Philo, Paul, and the Temple

I have wondered for some time the extent to which Paul's Diaspora roots played a significant role in his psyche and theology. For example, it is easy for me to see his Pharisee days as an attempt to overcompensate for his Diaspora origins. I can also see Hellenistic Christian Jews like Stephen and Philip as really getting under his craw because of their inattention, in fact blatant disregard for Judaismos, zeal for the Law Maccabean style.

I can also see this background building up to Paul's "conversion," so called. It is what he had resisted by going to Jerusalem to be a "Hebrew of Hebrews." He could see what Hellenistic Christian Jews were saying. God was the God of all the Jews, not just the "proper" ones in Jerusalem who spoke Aramaic and were better than everyone else. In fact, God was the God of the nations too--wasn't it all there in Isaiah 56, that God's house would be a house of prayer for all the nations?

Once he affirmed Jesus as Lord, the things that had gnawed at him snapped into place. The good news must be preached to all Jews and all the nations.

It is at this point that the relevance of Philo really kicks in. Philo valued his literal Jewish heritage. He had pride in the temple and gloats in the demise of Caligula, considering it appropriate to someone who messes with God's stuff. "It is not so easy to counterfeit the form of God" (Embassy)

Philo considers the Roman governor Petronius very wise for not following through with Caligula's order to put his statue in the temple precincts: the Jews "would willingly die not once but 10,000 times than see something done that was prohibited... Their diligence about the temple is more intense and distinctive than all of them" (Embassy 209, 212).

However, these sorts of comments are personal and political. Philo did not actually believe that the temple was necessary for atonement. The true temple of God is the universe, which the physical temple symbolizes. A human couldn't build a house to contain God (Cherubim 99). You could use the physical temple to indicate your thanks or to ask forgiveness. But it was not necessary for this (Special Laws 1.67).

What is important is the attitude of one's heart. A hundred bulls a day would not suffice for forgiveness if one's intent was wrong (Planting 108; cf. Moses 2.107-8). "But He receives those of blameless intent, even if they sacrifice nothing at all. God takes delight in altars without fire, where the virtues play the role of the choir" (Planting 108). Those whose minds are set on virtue are in a holy place even if their bodies are not (Allegorical Laws 1.62).

My suspicion is that while Diaspora Jews on the whole valued the Jerusalem temple, literal sacrifices may not have played a large role in their religious life. They sent their yearly offering, perhaps dreamed of one day making a pilgrimage to see it. The valued it and were deeply stirred by Caligula. But it is easy to see where they might not be zealous for it as a means of atonement. After all, the temple at the time was constructed by Herod the Great--not a hero of Jewish faith. And it had some associations with the Roman administration of Judea.

In short, there is nothing particularly startling about Paul's spiritualizing use of temple and cultic symbolism, and in itself it says nothing of certainty about his attitude toward the Jerusalem temple. He seems to assume the legitimacy of the temple's operation in 1 Corinthians 9:13. At least he doesn't question it. And 2 Thessalonians 2:4 seems to imply condemnation of a man of lawlessness setting himself up in the temple as God.

The greatest objection to Paul having a place for the temple in his theology is his teaching on justification by faith and the accompanying defeat of the power of Sin by the Spirit. What sins would there be for the temple to cleanse thereafter? We immediately see why the temple plays virtually no role in Paul's theology--and why one of his heirs, the author of Hebrews, could see Christ as the complete reality behind it.

We should also note that Paul probably shared Stephen's sense of the temple as off track. After all, he had apparently worked for the high priest. Then there are unintentional sins and the role of the temple in those intentional sins that one does commit, not to mention offerings of thanksgiving and praise.

So Philo's sense that the heart was what mattered, even in sacrifice, seems similar to Paul's sense that we have a spiritual worship and that the church offers its body as a living sacrifice. The temple was tangential to Paul's theology, but it did not clearly contradict it.

Dunn's Partings 8: "Jesus and the One God"

I've skipped three chapters in my review of James D. G. Dunn's The Partings of the Ways because the summer is nearly gone and there is so much I still want to do. Maybe some time I'll come back and fill in the gaps before archiving the review.

But I'm skipping his consideration of election and covenant and going to the set of chapters in which Dunn considers monotheism, beginning with chapter 9: "Jesus and the One God." Dunn's conclusion about Jesus is, "Jesus himself still stood well within the boundaries of second Temple Judaism at the point of Jewish monotheism" (240).

I might preface the following discussion by noting the absence of John from much of the discussion. It is not that Dunn does not consider John. It is that he has concluded that John at these points reflects later Christian reflection on Jesus more than Jesus' own words and self-presentation. Whether you agree with him or not, it is instructive to consider the synoptic portrait in itself, because you realize just how different John's portrayal is--and how much we shove its presentation down the Synoptic gospels throat without truly listening to them.

1. Jesus was a devout worshipper of the one God.
Dunn agrees with the general sense that "Jesus proclaimed God and not himself" (216). Jesus had a regular prayer life. Dunn decides not to speculate on Jesus' participation in temple sacrifices, although he notes that "It would presumably have been regarded as extremely odd if he had never done so" (217). On this matter the silence of the biblical record does not mention any oddness or issue in this regard.

The Shema shows up in his language at times, and Jesus deflects Satan by reference to it. Finally Jesus called for faith in God. Faith in him did not seem to be a feature of his call for faith.

Thus no contradiction of monotheism here. Jesus squarely placed himself under the one God.

2. Jesus as Messiah
Dunn makes an excellent case that people certainly wondered if Jesus was the Messiah. What is interesting is that Jesus rather consistently deflected these questions or distanced himself from this identity. Dunn puts it this way, "there is an indication on the part of Jesus of an unwillingness to accept what those who put the question would understand by the term (Messiah/King)" (222).

In any case, the Jews were not expecting the messiah to be superhuman anyway. So definitely no contradiction of monotheism here.

3. Jesus as God's son
Dunn considers it very clear that Jesus considered himself God's son. His use of Abba makes the case particularly for Dunn. However, there is no connotation of divinity here. "At the time of Jesus 'son of God' was a way of characterizing someone who was thought to be commissioned by God or highly favoured by God" (225). At most it might be a reference to the Messiah as Son of God, but even this use does not imply superhuman status.

4. Jesus as son of man/Son of Man
Dunn first rightly observes that the phrase "son of man" appears almost exclusively on the lips of Jesus himself in the NT. He concludes "the phrase must have been a very firm and clear characteristic of Jesus' own speech" (227).

After looking at several references and their parallels, Dunn concludes that Jesus must at least some of the time have used "son of man" simply as a way of referring to "man," to himself as a person. This is almost certainly true. The controversy comes when we ask whether Jesus ever referred to himself by this phrase as the Son of Man of Daniel 7.

Dunn does not commit to a position here. He does argue that the Parables of Enoch and 4 Ezra post-date Jesus. These writings do see the Son of Man as an exalted figure involved in the judgment. 4 Ezra dates from around AD100. The date of the Parables is disputed, but I think they must be roughly concurrent with the rise of the Christian movement or else the phrase son of man would impact the NT more.

In the end, Dunn concludes, "even if Jesus did draw on Dan. 7:13 to express his hope and conviction regarding his future vindication in particular, that would not be un-Jewish in character, and would be quite consistent with a strongly held monotheism" (230).

5. Jesus' authority
Here Dunn rehearses suggestions that Jesus' claims to authority might supercede the human. Not so. Priests had authority to pronounce sins forgiven (as we saw, this more the point of contention). There were other exorcists, other miracle workers who called themselves God's son. The Teacher of Righteousness claimed incredible authority.

6. Jesus in John
In this section, Dunn argues that the Fourth Gospel reflects a later stage of christology rather than the first stage and Jesus' historical self-presentation. "Had Jesus spoken in the terms ascribed to him in the Fourth Gospel the crisis [of parting] must have come must sooner" (234). He catalogs the stark difference between the way Jesus speaks in the Synoptics and the way he speaks in John. He notes the consistency of style across characters in John and 1 John and concludes that "the teaching of the Fourth Gospel can hardly be explained as other than the much developed theological reflection of the fourth evangelist" (253). If Jesus had historically said these sorts of things so early, "it is astonishing that there is no greater mark of it elsewhere in the NT, not just in the Synoptics, but also in the other NT writings" (234).

7. The eschatological plus
Dunn ends the chapter with features of Jesus' ministry that begin to move beyond the normal, elements that must have been "uncomfortable from the first" (235). While Jesus self-identified as a prophet, it was not just any prophet but the eschatological prophet of Isaiah 61. Jesus strikingly modifies the prophetic, "Thus says the LORD" to "I say to you." He was not just an exorcist, but the exorcist who would end the rule of Satan. Jesus saw himself as empowered by the Spirit. His use of Amen of his own sayings was striking when others used it of others' sayings. He called disciples, 12 of them, but did not include himself among them.

In short, "Jesus taught with a degree of self-consciousness of being God's spokesman, able to act and speak in God's stead, which is only partially paralleled within the Jewish tradition" (238). He saw himself as the eschatological spokesman for God, a role beyond any human role before him.

What do we conclude from all this? We conclude that Jesus could probably have been understood by those around him in human terms. At the same time, he also seems to have given hints of something unprecedented, of something more.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Famous Empiricists

Here is the list that corresponds to the "Famous Rationalists" of last week.

_________________
Famous Empiricists

Aristotle (384-322BC): Plato thought that ideas exist on their own, in heaven. Our souls know them before they enter our bodies, and thus truth is something our minds know innately. However, for Aristotle, we only come to knowledge by experiencing things with our senses. Universal truth is something we abstract from our experiences, not something built into our minds even before birth. Before experience, our minds are like a blank tablet with only the potential to have things written on them.

John Locke (1632-1704): We might call Locke the “founder of modern empiricism” for the way he steered philosophy, at least in Britain, away from the rationalism of continental Europe (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz) and toward empiricism. Like Aristotle, Locke considered our minds to be a “blank slate” (tabula rasa) prior to experiences from our senses. We have sensations of the world and reflections on the workings of our own minds that result in simple ideas (each part of a flower, the color blue). Our minds then rightly connect simple ideas into more complex ideas (a blue flower).

At the same time, Locke continued to believe that the things we experience have “substance” behind them. The substance behind our sensations is matter, and the substance behind our reflections is mind. Thus like Descartes he believed that the world consisted of two basic substances, mind and matter, in a mind-body dualism.

George Berkeley (1685-1753): With Locke, Berkeley affirmed that experience was the source of all our knowledge and denied that we have any innate knowledge. However, he disagreed with the dualism of Locke and Descartes, that mind and matter are two different substances. Locke had distinguished between two different kinds of things we experience in the material world. Primary qualities are aspects of the world that exist independently of our experiencing them (like shape) while secondary qualities are things that only exist as a result of our experiencing them (like color).

Berkeley denied this distinction—all the qualities of the world exist because someone is experiencing them, in particular, because God is perceiving them. Berkeley thus denied that any material substance underlies the world of our perception at all. Rather, “to be is to be perceived” (esse est percipi). He was an idealist, who believed that, apart from God, the only kinds of things that actually exist are ideas.

David Hume (1711-76): Hume developed and refined Locke’s empiricism to its ultimate, logical conclusion. He called Locke’s sensations “impressions,” and believed that these correspond to ideas we have in our minds. Hume also followed Locke in seeing complex ideas as conglomerates of simple ideas. But Hume strongly argued that no idea we have makes sense unless it corresponds and originates with sense impressions.

Accordingly, Hume questioned Locke and Descartes’ claims that matter and mind are substances that underlie our experiences. Berkeley had denied that matter underlies our experiences, but had accepted that idea underlies them. Hume denied both, finding the notion of underlying substance—which cannot be experienced—meaningless. Hume also questioned notions like cause and effect, the existence of God and the soul, the connection between events and moral significance. In his view, none of these connections or entities could be experienced, and thus they were meaningless notions.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bread and Circuses

This quote from the Roman satirist Juvenal has been on my mind lately. He meant it as a slam against the Roman "rabble." It may just be, however, that it is the secret to a content society.

"... Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions - everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses."

Juvenal, Satire X

A Passing Observed

I woke up at 4:30 to a sound. Couldn't figure out what it was. Apparently it was our ailing Chocolate Lab, who died in the night. Here's to Buddy in memoriam of almost 10 delightful years in our family.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Review: Hurtado 6, Chapter 3, Part 2

Now to finish our review of chapter 3 of Larry Hurtado's, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity.

Hurtado next looks at Jesus' redemptive death in the Judean community. H suggests that the earliest Christians saw a connection between Christ's death and redemption. But he does not think they emphasized the doctrine the way Paul did.

As he has said earlier, he believes the understanding of Jesus' death as a sacrifice was primarily apologetic for Judean Christians. They wished to show that Jesus' death was no surprise to God and did not constitute a contradiction of their messianic claims (187). But for Paul it meant the inclusion of the Gentiles and thus was given more extensive significance.

This is an interesting suggestion, maybe even one that has some legitimacy. However, the early Christian practice of baptism leads me to question it a little. Why did people get baptized in the name of Jesus? Hurtado mentions this practice later in the chapter to argue for the unprecedented place of Jesus in the devotion of the early Christians.

But it seems to me that since this baptism is an extension of John the Baptist's baptism, it must in some way be a baptism for the forgiveness of sins, as Paul and Acts actually tell us. Further, it likely focused on corporate forgiveness more than individual forgiveness--that is, individual forgiveness as a means to corporate forgiveness. I believe the earliest Christians would still have seen this corporate forgiveness primarily in relation to Israel.

I thus conclude that the earliest church likely saw Christ's death primarily as a ransom for the sins of Israel and baptism in the name of Jesus as participation in this work, including an affirmation of his messianic identity.

In another subsection he looks at somewhat unique epithets in Acts for Christ: archegos, "founder," dikaios, "righteous one," pais, "servant." H plausibly argues that all three go back to the early Judean church.

Devotional Practice
In this section Hurtado covers first the relationship between the Judean church and the temple. He reinforces my own position that the earliest Jerusalem Christians continued to participate fully in the temple, including in its sacrifices.

Probably the most striking Christian innovation is "calling on the name of the Lord." As we have seen, this text clearly referred to YHWH in the OT, and the early Christians must have know this fact. Yet they still appropriated the passage in relation to Jesus. Hurtado argues that this practice was very early, a remarkable, unprecedented innovation.

It certainly is. However, I am not convinced that it indicates the kind of "inclusion within the divine identity" for which Bauckham argues.

By the way, if anyone wants to pay my way to Cambridge in December, Richard Hays and Richard Bauckham are giving lectures on Jesus' divine identity in the synoptics at Tyndale House, an evangelical para-university institution at Cambridge. Here are the details.

At the same time, healing and exorcism in the name of Jesus is similar in some ways to Mediterranean practice, except that Christians did it only in the name of Jesus and it seemed to be regular practice.

Hellenists and Hebrews
In this final section of the chapter, Hurtado disagrees with the position of Dunn, Martin Hengel, and others that the Hellenistic Jews of Acts 6ff differed somewhat in their theology from the Aramaic speaking ones of Acts 1-6. Here he draws heavily on the arguments of Craig Hill in Hellenists and Hebrews (1992).

On the one hand, I agree that Hengel's position is a little extreme. Hengel, showing his Lutheran background, sees not only the Hellenists but Jesus criticizing Torah and temple. I do personally think that Jesus largely disregarded the Torah's purity codes in deference to more important principles.

I do agree with Hurtado that the Hellenists probably did not have a different Christology from the "Hebrews." However, I suspect that they were in fact "proto-Paulinists," that they differed from Aramaic-speaking Jerusalem Christianity in ways similar to how Paul differed with them. And the temple surely played some role in the differences, even if Acts 7 has upgraded their position in the light of its own day.

Finally, I still side with Dunn that the persecution in Acts 8 was directed more toward the Hellenists than the Hebrews. Mentioning that James was martyred too is irrelevant. Stephen was martyred for quite different reasons than James by different people at a different time. I'll say what I tell all my NT survey classes. Acts 12 shows what Peter did when he was the target--he left town. In Acts 8 he doesn't have to leave.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bertrand Russell on Aristotle

Not a long note here but just my observation that as much as Russell liked Spinoza, he really can't stand Aristotle. On the one hand, he recognizes Aristotle's greatness: "... after his death it was two thousand years before the world produced any philosopher who could be regarded as approximately his equal" (159).

With regard to his predecessors too, "Aristotle's merits are enormous."

Then we get a hint of Russell's frustration: "almost every serious intellectual advance has had to begin with an attack on some Aristotelian doctrine; in logic, this is still true at the present day" (160). Since logic and such were Russell's babies, this was his battle at the time.

But he has some interesting "snide" remarks throughout several chapters on Aristotle:

With regard to Aristotle tutoring Alexander the Great: "I cannot imagine his pupil regarding him as anything but a prosy old pedant, set over him by his father to keep him out of mischief" (161).

"Aristotle's metaphysics, roughly speaking, may be described as Plato diluted by common sense" (162).

"If, therefore, I have failed to make Aristotle's theory of universals clear, that is (I maintain) because it is not clear" (164).

After Russell has quoted at length Aristotle's sense of the best individual, he writes (perhaps correctly), "One shudders to think what a vain man would be like" given how Aristotle portrays a magnanimous one (176).

Again perhaps rightly, Russell writes, "When we come to compare Aristotle's ethical tastes with our own ... we find ... an acceptance of inequality which is repugnant to much modern sentiment. Not only is there no objection to slavery, or to the superiority of husbands and fathers over wives and children, but it is held that what is best is essentially only for the few--proud men and philosophers" (183).

"There is in Aristotle an almost complete absence of what may be called benevolence or philanthropy."

Then Russell gets to Aristotle's logic and the gloves come off.

"Even at the present day, all Catholic teachers of philosophy and many others still obstinately reject the discoveries of modern logic, and adhere with a strange tenacity to a system which is as definitely antiquated as Ptolemaic astronomy. This makes it difficult to do historical justice to Aristotle. His present-day influence is so inimical to clear thinking that it is hard to remember how great an advance he made upon all his predecessors... Aristotle ... is still especially in logic, a battle-ground, and cannot be treated in a purely historical spirit" (195).

"I conclude that the Aristotelian doctrines with which we have been concerned in this chapter are wholly false, with the exception of the formal theory of the syllogism, which is unimportant. Any person in the present day who wishes to learn logic will be wasting his time if he reads Aristotle or any of his disciples" (202, italics mine!).

Finally, with regard to Aristotle's physics, Russell concludes with a number of observations:

"This theory provided many difficulties for later ages... Galileo's discovery that a projectile moves in a parabola shocked his Aristotelian colleagues. Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo had to combat Aristotle as well as the Bible in establishing the view that the earth is not the centre of the universe, but rotates once a day and goes round the sun once a year" (207).

"Aristotelian physics is incompatible with Newton's "First Law of Motion," originally enunciated by Galileo."

"Finally: The view that the heavenly bodies are eternal and incorruptible has had to be abandoned. The sun and stars have long lives, but do not live forever. They are born from nebula, and in the end they either explode or die of cold... the Aristotelian belief to the contrary, though accepted by medieval Christians, is a product of the pagan worship of sun and moon and planets."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Henry David Thoreau on Marion

I get a sinking, sad feeling often as I make my way around Marion, where I live. Don't get me wrong, IWU is an island (or perhaps bubble) of brilliance. The typical reaction of visiting academics to IWU is "What is all this??? I didn't even know this place existed and it is massive, new, and very, very exciting!!!!" The typical reaction of the prospective student is, "Yep, I'm coming here--for the buildings and student life alone if nothing else."

But once you leave the campus and venture out a bit, the feeling is quite different. I had the sinking feeling last night as the middle aged custodian grandmother with her two grandchildren had to leave her bags behind at the grocery store because she didn't have the money in her account. I had the sinking feeling this morning as I looked at the distant, hopeless look of the lady at the door of Walmart stacking carts together.

Then Thoreau hit me, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." But this time I finally felt the pathos of the quote.

Famous Rationalists

Here is the text box on famous rationalists. You can probably see why I've relegated these particulars to a text box. Any suggestions welcome.
_____________________

Plato (ca. 427-347): Plato famously suggested that the world around us that we experience with our senses is far less real than the world we can access with our minds (see chapter 7, What Is Reality?). The world of our senses is a world of shadows cast by the truest world, the world of ideas. The things we experience with our senses are like copies or images of the ideal patterns that we can only contemplate with our minds. Our minds know these ideas because our souls had access to them before they became imprisoned in our bodies. Learning is thus remembering this innate knowledge rather than a matter of gaining new knowledge.

René Descartes (1596-1650): Descartes is known as the founder of modern philosophy primarily for the way he drew attention to the question of certainty in what we know. He notoriously set out to doubt everything he could doubt and to accept as true only those things that he could conceive clearly and distinctly. The perceptions of his senses were the first to go, securing him his place among the rationalists. Descartes suggested that I could be dreaming what I think I am experiencing. Even in my thoughts, an evil demon could be manipulating me. What I cannot doubt, he famously suggested, is that I am thinking. “I think; therefore, I am.”

Thinking that he had established a point of certainty, he proceeded to argue that God existed, because any conception of God “clearly and distinctly” includes the idea that He is a necessary Being. And if God exists, he is not an evil demon who would try to deceive us by making us perceive the world outside our minds differently than it is. Thus I can trust my mind as it thinks about the world outside it.

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677): Spinoza took from Descartes the idea that truth is a matter of what we can conceive of clearly and distinctly. But whereas Descartes saw knowing as a matter of our souls understanding a material world outside our minds, Spinoza believed that everything was one basic thing, God. The truths we associate with our thought and the truths we associate with the world are both truths about “God” that we can discover through reason. Experience is not necessary to learn any truth. All such truth is predetermined, and understanding not least involves coming to accept it. In this Spinoza partially resembles the Stoics, although he did not oppose emotions to the extent they did. My emotions also involve truths that I must accept.

Gottfried W. Leibniz (1646-1716): The depth of Leibniz’ rationalism did not come through clearly until his unpublished writings became better known in the 1800’s. Leibniz’ two principles of reason were already known: his “law of contradiction” and “principle of sufficient reason.” Truths of reasoning are truths we can know apart from experience. The law of contradiction says that two contradictory claims cannot both be true, and we know this must be the case even before we have any relevant experiences. Truths of reasoning are thus necessary truths.

On the other hand, principles of sufficient reason relate to truths of fact. These truths are contingent rather than necessary truths—they did not have to be true but turn out to be. As human beings, we come to know these sorts of truths through our experiences. Leibniz’ unpublished writings have shed considerable light on what he was thinking here. For Leibniz, all the things that happen to us in life are dictated by reasons we will never fully know. Of all the possible things that could be, some cannot coexist because of the law of contradiction. Those things that do exist are the greatest number of possible things that could coexist.

In the end, Leibniz followed Spinoza in believing that all truths are already determined and known by God. Experience thus does not contribute to truth, even if we as humans seem to come to know truth by this path. In theory, all truth could be known through reason alone.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bertrand Russell on Spinoza

Today has been almost completely a philosophy day, as I've buried myself in the particulars of Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza. I've largely relegated them to a textbox on famous rationalists (which I'll probably post later tonight).

Anyway, I was skimming through Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy on this triad of rationalists. I find him very readable today, although I didn't twenty years ago.

Russell (early 20th century) was of course an atheist, but a friendly one. What I mean is, there does not seem to be an edge to his thought. Spinoza (1600's) was not an atheist proper, but a pantheist. In other words, he did not believe in a personal God.

I was just struck by a number of comments Russell makes in his chapter on Spinoza, and when the striking hit a critical mass, I felt like sharing some excerpts. Keep in mind that he published this history in 1945 around the age of 73, having been a professor at Cambridge, the second most glorious university in the world after the University of Durham :-) World War 2 was just winding up.
_______________

"Spinoza (1634-77) is the noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers. Intellectually, some others have surpassed him, but ethically he is supreme. As a natural consequence, he was considered, during his lifetime and for a century after his death, a man of appalling wickedness. He was born a Jew, but the Jews excommunicated him. Christians abhorred him equally; although his whole philosophy is dominated by the idea of God, the orthodox accused him of atheism" (569).

"... The whole of this metaphysic is impossible to accept... And the concept of substance, upon which Spinoza relies, is one that neither science nor philosophy can nowadays accept" (578).

"But when it comes to Spinoza's ethics, we feel--or at least I feel--that something, though not everything, can be accepted...

"Take for instance, death: nothing that a man can do will make him immortal, and it is therefore futile to spend time in fears and lamentations over the fact that we must die... What should be ... avoided, is a certain kind of anxiety or terror... The same considerations apply to all other purely personal misfortunes.

"But how about misfortunes of people whom you love? Let us think of some of the things that are likely to happen in our time to inhabitants of Europe or China. Suppose you are a Jew, and your family has been massacred. Suppose you are an underground worker against the Nazis, and your wife has been shot because you could not be caught. Suppose your husband, for some purely imaginary crime, has been sent to forced labour in the Arctic, and has died of cruelty and starvation. Suppose your daughter has been raped and then killed by enemy soldiers. Ought you, in these circumstances, to preserve a philosophic calm? (578-79)

"If you follow Christ's teaching, you will say, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' I have known Quakers who could have said this sincerely and profoundly, and whom I admired because they could. But before giving admiration one must be very sure that the misfortune is felt as deeply as it should be. One cannot accept the attitude of some among the Stoics, who said, 'What does it matter to me if my family suffer? I can still be virtuous' ... the Christian principle does not inculcate calm, but an ardent love even towards the worst of men. There is nothing to be said against it except that it is too difficult for most of us to practice sincerely.

"The primitive reaction to such disasters is revenge... Nor can it be wholly condemned... But on the other side it must be said that revenge is a very dangerous motive... A life dominated by a single passion is a narrow life, incompatible with every kind of wisdom. Revenge as such is therefore not the best reaction to injury."

"As we saw, he believes that hatred can be overcome by love... I wish I could believe this, but I cannot, except in exceptional cases where the person hating is completely in the power of the person who refuses to hate in return... (580)

"The problem for Spinoza is easier than it is for one who has no belief in the goodness of the universe" [like Russell himself].

Immanuel Kant

I finished a summary of Kant today. He's notoriously difficult, so I welcome any suggestions so that it is accurate and precise.
_________________
Immanuel Kant lived from 1724 to 1804. In his whole lifetime, he never ventured more than a hundred miles from his hometown of Königsberg, Prussia (today in Russia). Although his early writing was popular among his contemporaries, he wrote his most enduring works in later life. The Critique of Pure Reason, which he wrote in his late fifties, would become one of the most important books in the history of philosophy.

In the Preface to his book, A Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (a summary of the ideas in the Critique), Kant wrote that the empiricist David Hume had woken him from his “dogmatic slumber.” Hume had shown him that empiricism could only account for the content of our thoughts, not for the shape those thoughts took in our mind. To explain the organization of our thought, the synthesis of information in our minds, Kant suggested that our minds operate within certain a priori categories like space and time or cause and effect.

Kant believed that these categories, the frameworks by which we understand the things that we sense, are “transcendental.” Although some scholars interpret Kant differently, Kant seemed to believe that the categories by which we understand the world are universally true. On the one hand, these categories come from our minds, not from the world itself. In that sense, we cannot know the world as it is in itself, we can only know the world as it appears to us, as it is organized by our minds. We cannot understand the world without using categories like time and space, cause and effect, and believing that the things we perceive have substance.

On the other hand, Kant was inclined to think these categories were, in reality, universally true, even though our minds impose them on the data of our senses. Some who have followed Kant have accepted that our minds construct reality while rejecting that those constructions are universally true.

Kant argued that our belief in several other things followed naturally from these transcendental categories, namely, our belief in God, the soul, and human freedom. We cannot be consistent with the way our reason makes sense of the world without also affirming them.

But the way Kant affirmed them flowed straight from his philosophy. For example, freedom for Kant was to act in accordance with universal reason, not the capacity to do whatever you want to do. And the moral law for him was a function of conclusions that flow directly from the categories of reason.

Kant called his understanding of ethics, the “categorical imperative.” Kant’s thinking seems to be that if something is an imperative, a “must do,” then it is “categorically” a must do. Kant believed that if something was right or wrong, then it was always right or wrong without exception.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

I've finally begun writing the second chapter of a book I'm working on. A lot of my book reviewing has been in preparation for writing. Usually I just write and modify as I go, but I've spent a lot more time preparing my mind this time.

This morning I was looking at 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, and with surprising results. This is the passage where Paul describes the Corinthian church as "temple of God."

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you? If someone harms the temple of God, God will harm this one. For the temple of God is holy--which you are.

Perhaps the most striking thing to me this morning is that Paul does not absolutely define the Corinthian assembly as the temple of God. He has just finished warning ministers of the gospel about how they "build" on the foundation of Jesus Christ. I think it more likely than not that Paul has a temple building in mind throughout.

But it is interesting when he gets to 3:16 that he does not use the definite article when he says "You are a temple of God." We can debate whether it is appropriate to use the word "a" or not, but clearly Paul's main point is the kind of building they are rather than to equate them with the temple in some absolute way.

It is then interesting in 3:17 that Paul does use the word the in relation to "the temple of God." It is interesting because we might easily hear him to be making statements about the Jerusalem temple in general--"If someone harms the temple of God, God will harm him. The temple of God is holy." Writing around 54, the image of Caligula trying to desecrate the temple some 15 years earlier would be a poignant example.

Then at the end of 3:17, Paul shifts back to the specific analogy to the Corinthian situation--"which you are." In other words, this is what God does to people who mess with his temple in general, and you are a temple too.

I intend to continue playing this hand out throughout Paul's writings. His rhetoric lines up very well with Hebrews on the issue of atonement. But are we reading Paul through the eyes of later Christian belief, especially when it seems clear that other Christians still had a place for the temple in their theology?

The real kicker is justification by faith to be sure. But the new perspective has also made it clear to me that the Reformation absolutized Paul's distinction between faith and works in ways Paul never intended.

We'll see if the thesis will hold up. It is at least interesting to me that my first stop not only did not soften my thesis, it strengthened it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hurtado 5: Chapter 3, "Judean Jewish Christianity" 1

This is the first half of our look at chapter 3 of Larry Hurtado's, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. After looking at Paul's writings, to which we have direct access, Larry Hurtado turns to the period between Jesus and Paul. For this period we primarily have indirect access. The authorship of James, 1 and 2 Peter are all disputed. Paul and Acts only give us indirect testimony, as does the Didache. And Q is hypothetical in so many respects.

Pauline Evidence
In this section Hurtado presents what I consider very obvious. Paul was reasonably well informed about Christianity in Judea (by which Hurtado refers to the Roman province, from Judea proper to Galilee). Paul refers to people like Barnabas, Peter, and James without explanation.

Hurtado's main point is that while Paul regularly discusses points of contention between himself and the Jerusalem community, matters of Christology or devotion to Christ are not part of them. Rather the main issue had to do issues relating to Torah observance among the Gentiles.

One interesting sidelight is that Hurtado has a quite different approach than Dunn to the reasons for Paul's persecution of early Christians. Unlike Dunn, who suggests it was a mix of things including prominently the Hellenists attitude toward the temple, Hurtado suggests it was the Christ devotion of the early church that led Paul to persecute them.

Acts, part 1
Hurtado, while not presupposing the historicity of Acts, hints that the Christ devotion as portrayed in Acts generally fits Paul's references to them. He has already argued that "Christ" almost certainly goes back to the Jerusalem church. Lord he believes goes back even into the earthy ministry of Jesus as "sir" and then became a testimony to their resurrection beliefs.

He thinks that references in the OT to YHWH as "Lord" then came to be used by the early church in reference to Jesus. He then makes his thesis. The resurrection involved revelatory and "charismatic" experiences that led them to search the Scriptures. It led them to show cultic devotion to Jesus understood as obeying God and as an expression and extension of their reverence to God (185).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gabriel's Stone Postlude

Israel Knohl's translation of Gabriel's Stone is available at this site.
Here's a picture of the stone that was in Time Magazine:
N. T. Wrong's blog has drawn attention to some early lines on the stone that help us with the key lines.
Lines 19-21 read, "By three days you shall know, for thus said 20. the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, the evil has been broken
21. before righteousness."
As several have suggested, the reference to three days very possibly is an allusion to Hosea 6:1-2: "Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us. He has injured us, but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us. On the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence" (mostly NIV).
In other words, the stone, if authentic, is speaking of the restoration of Israel "by the third day."
The key lines are 75-81: "Three shepherds went out for Israel … 76. If there is a priest, if there are sons of holy ones ... 77. Who am I? I am Gabriel … 78. You will rescue them … for two ... 79. from before of you the three si[g]ns three ... 80. In three days, live, I Gabriel com[mand] yo[u], 81. prince of the princes, the dung of the rocky crevices ..."
Well, I for one find this text very ambiguous. I'm not inclined to think that the three days here are literal. And what exactly "live" means is not clear at all either. Prince of the princes, as several have pointed out, could easily refer to the angel Michael, who is mentioned at line 28.
In short, REALLY hard to say what this text was saying here.

Metaphors We Live By Chaps. 7 & 8

Philosophy writing and other things are zapping my life today, so I didn't have the time to give to resume reviewing Dunn today. I am hoping for a late post tomorrow with some of Hurtado.

But since Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors has really short chapters (and since my wife Angie is on my laptop looking for used cars), I thought I'd put a quick post up on a couple of their chapters.

Chapter 7, "Personification" is only 2 pages long (Ya-hoo!). Their point in this chapter is that we often understand things by comparing them to people (thus, by using metaphors).

Here are some examples. "Cancer caught up with him." "Inflation has attacked us." The latter example is not only an example of the general metaphor, inflation is a person. It is an example of inflation is an adversary.

By the way, since I've been reading Locke, Hume, and Kant this week, the connections of this book with empiricist philosophy are pretty clear to me. I'm sure someone (perhaps Lakoff and Johnson themselves) have pointed out the connection. In their own way, they are with much more specificity doing exactly what Locke and Hume did in the 1600 and 1700s. They are showing the empirical basis for our ideas.

Chapter 8, "Metonymy" is a painful six pages :-) L and J distinguish metonymy from metaphor because a metonymy is when something stands for something associated with it. They give as one example, "The ham sandwich is waiting for his check."

As far as meaning, L and J see metonymy as more focused than metaphors because a metonymy focuses on a particular association with the thing it stands for. I had some questions about this paragraph.

L and J subsume synecdoche under the heading of metonymy. A synecdoche is when you substitute the part for the whole, such as "There are a lot of good heads at the university." A fun paragraph was this one:

"If you ask me to show you a picture of my son and I show you a picture of his face, you will be satisfied... But if I show you a picture of his body without his face, you will consider it strange and will not be satisfied" (37).

The point is that the parts we choose for the whole (in this case--a face is a person) are not arbitrary. In this case it reflects a feature of one way our culture conceptualizes identity.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Reason versus Experience

I am falling well behind on my philosophy writing, so I wanted to finish a section here today to get my keester in gear.
____________
Philosophy students often find the two thousand year debate over whether reason or experience is the more important path to truth exasperating, and not without reason. :-) The conclusion we ultimately reach in Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)—that both are intrinsic to knowing—can seem anticlimactic and obvious. But if we cut through the tiring repetition and get to the heart of the matter, we see a crucial question that we are still wrestling with today.

Perhaps we can see the underlying issue better if we start with Kant’s solution. Is reason or experience the dominant path to truth? Kant responded that both were involved, namely, that the content of my knowledge is largely a matter of my senses, of my experiences. Thus the empiricist is partially right. But the organization of that content is something I don’t get from experience. It is something my mind does to the content I get from my senses. Thus the rationalist is partially right.

Kant put it in this way:

"There can be no doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience. For how should our faculty of knowledge be awakened into action if objects did not affect our senses… In order of time, therefore, we have no knowledge prior to our experience, and with experience, our knowledge begins (1).

"But thinking, which is limited to objects of experience, nevertheless is not derived entirely from experience, but ... there are without question elements of thinking that exist in the mind a priori [prior to experience] (95).

"The uniting together of all impressions [from our senses] requires a synthesis of them into a unity in our consciousness" (79). Critique of Pure Reason

[Let me just say how hard it is to find a good clear quote on this from Kant. To get primary source material, I've not only had to jump all over the first part of the Critique but I've done my own dynamic equivalence translation at that to try to make his sense clearer. No wonder students hate philosophy.]

What Kant is basically saying is that we must have something in our minds that makes sense of our experiences, that connects them together so that they become meaningful. For example, I can experience a horse and I can experience a horn, but I cannot experience a unicorn. Experience may account for my idea of a horse and horn, but it cannot completely account for my idea of a unicorn.

Of course Kant was not interested in unicorns. He was concerned with things like how we can understand one event to cause another or how we can say an event is right or wrong. These are issues that a man named David Hume (1711-76) had raised just prior to Kant. Hume was the empiricist to end all empiricists. Kant once reflected on the impact of Hume on him, saying that "he interrupted my dogmatic slumber." Kant's most important ideas were to a large extent his attempt to grapple with issues raised by Hume.

For example, Hume recognized that empiricism alone cannot account for the idea of cause and effect. I can experience something happening after another thing. But these are simply a succession of experiences, one right after the other. The idea of one event causing another is not something I experience with my senses. Accordingly, Hume questioned whether the idea of cause and effect really made sense, although he decided not to try to jump out the window just the same.

But rather than conclude in Hume's pessimistic and skeptical direction, Kant suggested that my mind rightly organizes the two experiences into a pattern of cause and effect. Think of it this way. Most computers you buy come with word processing software. But until you begin to put letters and words into a document, it remains blank.

In a similar way, Kant suggested that our minds come with certain "software" that stands ready to process the input of our senses. In philosophy, we call this kind of software a priori, because it is there "from before" the time we experience anything. But it is our experience that inputs specific content into the "documents" of our knowledge. Before experience, our knowledge is a blank page, even if there are elements of cognition or knowing that are already in place.

Take another issue Hume raised, what is known as the fact-value problem. Hume suggested that there is nothing in experience that can get us from a fact (like someone just killed another person) to a value (that murder was wrong). Moral judgments, Hume pointed out, are not something that can come from our experiences.

Once again, Kant suggests that God has created our minds with certain "moral software" that glues together events with values. Our minds have built in or "innate" categories by which to process these sorts of things and glue them together. Our minds thus rightly glue together causes to effects and facts to their values. Kant also included the ideas of space and time as categories built into our minds to process experiences. We will discuss the implications of Kant's thoughts for metaphysics in chapter 7, "What is Reality?"

Kant did not end the discussion back in the 1800's. Indeed, in many respects he only got it going full speed. We will look at the major impact of his thought on the philosophy of the last two hundred years in chapter 17, "The Postmodern World."

But he gives us a good perspective from which to summarize the debate between rationalists and empiricists from Plato to Hume. Rationalists, with their emphasis on reason as the best path to truth, have tended to see truth as something that is a priori, already available to our minds in some way apart from our experiences. On the other hand, empiricists have tended to see our knowledge as almost totally derived from our experiences.

Western culture today by and large leans toward the empiricist side of things. It is harder for us to relate to Plato's philosophy (rationalist) than it is for us to relate to Aristotle's (empiricist). Plato, for example, believed that "learning is remembering" (Meno *). Our souls pre-existed our bodies in heaven, where they already were acquainted with universal truth. Learning in our bodies is thus about the process of remembering consciously the things our souls already know a priori.

[text box: Famous Rationalists]

Most of us will find Plato's notion of how learning takes place strange. We much more readily identify with Aristotle's idea that "there is nothing in my intellect that was not first in my senses" (Metaphysics**). In other words, our knowledge comes a posteriori, "from after" we experience things.

If Hume took a purely empiricist approach to its logical conclusion, it was John Locke (1632-1704) who first set down the ground rules, earning him the title "father of modern empiricism." First of all, Locke supposed, we begin with a tabula rasa, a "blank slate."

"All ideas come from sensations or reflections. Let us suppose the mid to be, as we say, a blank slate, empty of all characters, without any ideas. How does it come to fill up? Where do the materials of reason and knowledge come from? To this I answer, in one word, experience. From it all knowledge originates." (Essay Concerning Understanding)

We have sensations of the world that create simple ideas in our minds. We see the color blue and the parts of a flower. Our minds put these simple ideas together to form complex ideas, like our idea of the whole flower in all its aspects. Examples of such complex ideas included things like "beauty, gratitude, a man, an army, the universe." [Essay 12.1] Although these are complex ideas made up of simple ones, the mind considers them as one entire thing.

Hume called Locke's sensations "impressions," and was more imaginative in his examples:

"When we think of a gold mountain, we only join two consistent ideas, gold and mountain, which which we were formerly acquainted. We can conceptualize a virtuous horse because, from our own feeling, we can conceive of virtue. And we can connect this idea to the figure and shape of a horse, which is an animal familiar to us. In short, all the materials of thinking are derived either from our outward or inward sentiment. The mixture and composition of these things belongs alone to the mind and will" (Enquiry 2).

But as Hume would later point out, Locke lacked any basis in his theory to account for the "glue" that stuck some of our most important ideas together. So in Hume's empiricism, things like the relationship between cause and effect did not clearly go together. We put these sorts of things together without a clear basis in experience. If we go with a pure empiricism, Hume would seem to be right. We need some suggestion such as Kant's to come to our rescue if we are to consider some of these other things true. Thus any theory of knowledge that does not involve both the mind and experience would seem to be inadequate.

[text box: Famous Empiricists]

So what does this historic debate have to say about reason and experience as sources of truth, especially for a Christian? One is that experience does not automatically equal truth. Kant rightly pointed out the fact that my mind processes the evidence I get from my senses. I apparently do not know the world as raw experience but as processed experience. My mind organizes my experiences according to its rules.

This raises the question of how accurate the "rules" of my mind are. Kant brings his faith in God into play here--surely God has given us good software. But if our minds are "fallen," affected by sin--not to mention limited in what they can grasp and see--the accuracy of the way my mind processes experience is called into question. [note: James Smith's book] We came across this issue in the previous section as we noted that we do not have the Bible as "raw truth" but we inevitably have to interpret and process its truth with our minds.

We should also point out that although Westerners are thoroughly empiricist in practice. American Christians often lean very heavily in a Platonic direction when it comes to Christian truth. They assume that there is a body of absolute truth that exists in heaven to which we have direct access through prayer and the Bible, rather than through experience. It is important to point out the potential inconsistency--for the same person to affirm such different paths to truth because of the change of subject. In the end it would seem that our minds process and organize spiritual experiences just as they do more conventional sensory ones. [note on brain]

20 Something Faith Abandonment

The opening two paragraphs of a master's project at IWU:
___________________
"Katie* was a dedicated teenager in the youth ministry at Anonymous Wesleyan Church* for four years. She was the type of girl who every leader would want in his ministry. Katie was passionate about Christ and didn’t hesitate to share her passion with others. She was a leader both in actions and in words. To top it off, Katie was a beautiful young lady who her peers enjoyed being around. After years of going on mission trips with the youth group and serving on the leadership team the time came for Katie to graduate and head off to college. Within the first year of her collegian journey, word came back to the church that Katie was no longer attending church, no longer living her life above reproach and no longer desiring to make good decisions. Katie had walked away from the Lord and her faith because it wasn’t convenient in this season of her life.

"Katie is not the exception of those who have participated in the youth ministry of Anonymous Wesleyan Church. Unfortunately situations such as Katie’s are more of the norm. As the youth pastor of Anonymous for the past thirteen years, the greatest hurt and frustration I have had to deal with is watching teens that I personally have invested in graduate from high school and walk away from their faith. I’m afraid that loving a teen just isn’t enough to create a committed disciple of Christ. The means by which the gospel is communicated and the expectations placed on our teens are ineffective and need to be overhauled."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hurtado 4: Chapter 2, "Early Pauline Christianity" 2

And now to finish chapter 2, "Early Pauline Christianity," of Larry Hurtado's Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity.

Preexistence
Hurtado believes that because we find references to Jesus' preexistence in Paul's undisputed letters, the idea of Christ's personal preexistence appeared "astonishingly early in the Christian movement" (125). To me, this question all stands or falls on the matter of the Philippian hymn. If, as the majority of scholars believe (cf. 119), Philippians 2:6 refers to the preexistent Christ, then Hurtado is ultimately correct.

However, if we were to leave the Philippian hymn aside, I do not believe the situation would be nearly as clear as Hurtado thinks it is. If the Philippian hymn understands Christ to preexist literally, then we have no reason to think the other passages do not imply the same. But if we did not have the Philippian hymn, the situation would be far from clear.

Hurtado acknowledges that Paul draws on Jewish wisdom traditions (126). And we must agree with Hurtado that it is astounding that the group of disciples who were so devasted by the crucifixion in AD30 believed Jesus preexisted before coming to earth by AD50. Without the Philippian hymn, we would more likely go with Dunn and Murphy-O'Connor and see the language of 1 Cor. 8:6 and Col 1:15 as figurative depictions of Christ as the wisdom of God.

But Dunn's Adamic reading of the hymn is not convincing, and no other alternative hypothesis has come close to challenging the majority position.

Jesus' Redemptive Death and Resurrection
Hurtado makes an excellent case in this section that an understanding of Christ's death as having atoning significance was pre-Pauline. One interesting suggestion he makes is that this conception might have been somewhat defensive on the part of the earliest believers, to explain why it was that the messiah died. But for Paul, it justified the mission to the Gentiles, for with Christ's death as the basis for atonement, the distinction between Jew and Gentile was no longer focused on cultus.

Binitarian Worship
In the remainder of the chapter Hurtado presents his signature idea that the earliest believers worshipped Jesus in unprecented ways for a Jew while preserving monotheism. On the one hand, he believes that worship is the appropriate term, going beyond the "reverence" and "veneration" that scholars like Dunn and Maurice Casey propose prior to the Gospel of John (137 n.132).

At the same time, "Jesus is consistently reverenced with reference to God" (151), as an "extension of the worship of God." I will confess that I do not fully grasp the distinction Hurtado is drawing here between himself and Dunn at this point, other than the English semantics of the word worship. I'll keep working to grasp it.

The section argues 1) that this worship was early (marana tha), 2) that worship is the right word, not least because of the "pattern" or "cluster" of devotional phenomena, 3) prayer through Jesus name to God was a regular feature, with a few apparent prayers to Christ, 4) confessions of Jesus as Lord in public worship, 5) baptism in Jesus' name, 6) a cultic meal known as the Lord's Supper, 7) hymns about Christ, and finally 8) prophecy, some of which was understood to be Jesus speaking to the assembly. Hurtado rightly notes that this incorporation of Jesus into public worship is unprecedented in the history of Judaism.

I remain unsure of the real distinction between Hurtado and others here. That this incorporation of reverence for Jesus is unprecented within the history of Judaism seems clear. That the early Christians did not think it violated monotheism is even clearer. That it looked like the kind of worship pagans gave to other gods and hero cults seems clear too.

But whether Hurtado has given us a good sense of using "worship" in reference to these practices rather than "reverence" or "veneration," I'm not sure at this point.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hurtado 3: Chapter 2, "Early Pauline Christianity" 1

My task today is to begin to summarize and review the second chapter of Larry Hurtado's Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. The chapter is titled, "Early Pauline Christianity." It is over 75 pages long and thus a torture to my attention deficit mind. I decided to break it up into several posts--should have done so much sooner.

Where to Begin
The opening section of the chapter justifies beginning with Paul rather than with earliest Christianity after the resurrection (the topic of the third chapter). Hurtado gives two main reasons:

1. We have no undisputed source that stems directly from any of these very early circles of "pre-Pauline" Jewish Christians.

Although we have books with the names of Peter, James, and Jude on them, there is significant debate among scholars over the literal authorship of all of them. Hurtado is no liberal--the heart of a believer beats from every page of this book. But as a thinker he does not seem to think the evidence points in the direction of literal authorship for these books (at this point his exact position is not completely clear to me).

I admire him because, on the one hand, it is clear to me that he enjoys standing up for faith--as you'll see in how he treats Crossan below. I believe he has an underlying "apologetic spirit" that he has no doubt had for a very long time. But he is also more interested in truth--at least as it seems to his understanding of the evidence--than in tradition. The more I read this book, the more I respect him as someone who is really interested in truth, whatever conclusion that might mean.

So with regard to arguments by people like Selwyn, Bauckham, and Davids for the literal authorship of these books, Hurtado concludes that "I find some of the arguments impressive, but I choose to proceed here on the basis of views of the sources more commonly shared" (80 n.3). In other words, he will address them later in the book without building his case on the presumption that James, Peter, or Jude are their literal authors.

2. Paul's writings are the earliest surviving writings of Christianity.

In this section Hurtado deliciously dismantles the absurd positions of John Dominic Crossan on Paul in Crossan's book, The Birth of Christianity. People like Crossan (Burton Mack, Marcus Borg, etc...) build their understanding of Jesus and earliest Christianity from a hypothetical reconstruction of Q and its supposed community. How convenient if one wishes to say that these were something different from the actual documents we possess from early Christianity!

Hurtado is very clear. We have no direct source from Jewish Christian groups of this period, making any reconstruction that starts there highly uncertain from the very start. Second, Paul believed perhaps within 3 years of the crucifixion and his writings clearly interact with the earliest layer of Christianity. [Insert here condescending and pompous comments on the stupidity of famous scholars who pretend like Paul doesn't exist when they try to reconstruct this period]

Hurtado sums his reason for beginning with Paul thus: "Paul is important for historical analysis of the earliest Christian decades mainly because of his personal participation in Christian circles in these early years, his acquaintance with Christian traditions from the earliest years of Christianity, and the reflections in his letters of the beliefs and practices of Christian circles of the 50s and previous decades" (84).

I think Crossan must be a nice guy, and he knows the data way better than I do. But he trips so fantastically as he moves to the goal that it makes him look horribly inept as a historian and scholar. I believe there are things we can learn from him, but I personally treat his every word as a hostile witness.

These two sentences were a good snapshot of Hurtado's critique: "Crossan concludes these few pages on Paul with an aphorism: 'Start with Paul and you will see Jesus incorrectly.' In the same spirit, I will give an aphorism in reply: Fail to take adequate account of Paul and you will describe the 'birth of Christianity' incorrectly" (85).

So Hurtado begins his study of earliest Christian devotion by looking at Paul. Paul gives us the earliest direct access we have to the early church. His letters date to the 50s and reach back to the 30s. He knew the key figures--Peter, James, Barnabas. He disagreed with them and tells us so. We see Christ-devotion of an unprecedented sort in Paul already, which anticipate what we will see in the rest of the NT (now getting into Hurtado's unique claims).

Key Personal Factors
In this section Hurtado raises three key personal factors that likely shaped Paul's Christ-devotion.

1. Paul's Jewish background, not least his affirmation of Jewish monotheism.

This was a factor Paul shared with the other earliest believers on Christ. As a note, Hurtado clearly takes the faith in Christ position in the pistis Christou issue. Although I half disagree on that issue, it does not affect his basic conclusions one way or the other. This section gives a nice summary of Paul's Jewishness and shows the impact of the new perspective on Paul (although I don't know if Hurtado might differ with it on some points).

Hurtado mentions to features of Jewish monotheism that are important to consider when appreciating the significance of monotheism for Christ-devotion in Paul:

a. In addition to refusing worship to deities of the Roman religious environment, conscientious Jews also maintained a difference between God and other exalted beings like exalted angels, patriarchs, etc... (91). Devout Jews insisted that worship was to be given to these alone. Note that, as we have seen, this is a point of debate.

b. The Jewish monotheistic stance forbade apotheosis, the divination of human figures. This is certainly the case with Roman emperors (see Philo on Caligula). But even exalted Jewish figures were not given cultic worship. Again, this is a point for discussion.

2. A second key personal factor in understanding Paul's Christ-devotion is his "conversion."

Hurtado knows the debate over whether we should speak of Paul's coming to Christ as a conversion or calling. Hurtado has the appropriate balance--it depends on what you mean. If we do not mean a conversion from Judaism or out of Judaism, the word conversion is appropriate as a significant change from one life to another.

H thinks it likely that we see in some of Paul's arguments a mirror of things he believed before his turn. So if he now speaks of Christ becoming a curse for us, he probably thought of Christ as accursed before as well. On the matter of his conversion, H sees this as a part of his background that distinguished him from the other early Christians. None of them had opposed the Jesus movement in the way that Paul had before he believed.

[I should mention again the occasionally targumic nature of some of my summaries. H never uses the phrase "Jesus movement" here. That's my language.]

3. Paul felt a call to the Gentiles.

Paul did not see himself as an apostle to the Jews. In this respect starting with Acts in our understanding of Paul is prone to mislead us. Paul may very well have used local synagogues as a starting point of his ministry in a new location. But Paul did not equally target Jew and non-Jew. He did not see himself as an apostle to the Jews but as apostle to the Gentile. In this respect he also differed from other early Christians.

Hurtado believes that this sense of mission likely shaped the emphases in his Christology (97).

Christological Language and Themes
I've decided to break up the summary of this chapter with the first half of this section (the longest), namely, the part that covers the three Christological titles Christ, Son of God, and Lord.

Christ
This is the honorific term most frequently applied to Jesus in Paul's writings (270 uses in the seven undisputed letters of Paul--Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon--over half the times the term is used in the NT). Yes, at times it does almost seem to function as a alternative name for Jesus. But Hurtado rightly recognizes that Paul does clearly understand it to refer to the fact that Jesus is the Jewish messiah.

He summarizes: "Paul's use of Christos shows how early the term had become a conventional feature of the claims asserted in early Christian belief" (101). An interesting tidbit in this section is Werner Kramer's observation that "Christos is particularly used in sentences that refer to Jesus' death and resurrection" (100, from Christ, Lord, Son of God, 26-28).

Jesus' Divine Sonship
There are only fifteen references to Jesus as God's Son in Paul, wrongly leading Kramer to conclude that it was not an important Christological affirmation for Paul or his churches but merely a feature of pre-Pauline tradition he had inherited (Christ, 189). At least Bousset got it right in seeing it as important to Paul.

Hurtado thinks that perhaps the Greco-Roman environment might have actually led Paul to deemphasize the title so that Jesus was not confused with Greco-Roman demigods and such. But he thinks Paul is too early to reflect the influence of emperor devotion in his categories here--and in fact that if it had been a factor of his environment the impact would have been negative, away from it.

A key statement is this: "In this messianic usage [of Son of God language], divine sonship did not function to connote divinity, but it certainly indicated a special status and relationship to God" (103). Hurtado appropriately strikes a balance between two different senses to Jesus' sonship: 1) Jesus as exclusively the Son of God, messianic king, and 2) Jesus as the "prototype and basis for all others who are brought into filial relationship with God" (106).

H believes that "Jesus' divine sonship expressed the total opposite of what he had thought of Jesus prior to his conversion" (108).

Lord
It is the title of Lord that Hurtado believes functions especially to indicate Jesus' divinity, although he does not explore this dimension yet in this section. It seems to me that there is little to object to in this section, in which I find Hurtado much clearer and more thorough than Bauckham. I suspect I will take some issue with where H goes with the material of this section in the rest of the chapter, but this section seems to have the usual scrupulous scholarship that I am coming to expect of H in this book.

First, Hurtado gives important background. Lord was used of a range of individuals in the pagan context, ranging from "Sir" to the master of a slave to a god like "Lord Serapis." But Greek-speaking Jews regularly used it as the Greek translation of the name of God: YHWH. Hurtado rightly fries Bousset, Kramer, etc. for suggesting the term arose in Hellenistic Jewish Christian settings. The traditional use of marana tha in 1 Corinthians 16 is enough to show that the phrase was used in the earliest Christian Jewish circles of Jerusalem.

I further agree with Bauckham that by far the most likely ground zero for the origins of this epithet in relation to Jesus is Psalm 110:1: "The LORD said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."

However, unlike Bauckham, I believe that the dual use of kyrios in this verse gave the early Christians an exegetical warrant to interpret OT kyrios passages in whichever direction best suited them. I think a blind spot of B and probably H is the expectation of consistency and higher attention to OT context in the NT use of these terms than is warranted. H doesn't cross the line so far, merely arguing that "in some profound way he [Jesus] is directly and uniquely associated with God" (112). Absolutely!

Hurtado's study of the just over 200 occurrences of kyrios in Paul is, as usual, exemplary. Paul can use the term both in reference to YHWH and to Jesus. Yes, he does strikingly use it in reference to Jesus where it was clearly a reference to YHWH in the OT. Yes, Bauckham is right that in passages like Philippians 2:9-11, Paul would have surely known that the background OT text, Isaiah 45:23-25, is perhaps the most polemical monotheistic text in the OT. This is indeed striking and significant.

Hurtado groups the references to Jesus as Lord into three categories:

1. Passages where Jesus is the master or king (my language).

2. Eschatological passages--where he's coming back as Lord.

3. Passages that reflect the use of Jesus as Lord in a worship setting.

To me, this language--even the third--also fits very well in relation to Jesus' kingship as Christ and Son of God. I agree that the term Lord introduces far more exalted dynamics into the equation than the other two. Without doing what I think Bauckham does with his phrase, I would agree that it does "include Jesus within the unique identity of the one God."

More to come...

Friday, July 11, 2008

My Sermon Podcast: "Listening to Wisdom"

Here is the audio file of the sermon I preached last Sunday (July 6, 2008):

Listening to Wisdom, based on Matthew 11.

If I remember correctly, it's about 30-35 minutes long and will take a few minutes to download (as far as I can tell, Blogger uploads video but not audio files).

"Fulfill" in Matthew

I hope to get the next chapter of Hurtado up by tomorrow, but it's a honkin' chapter of around 70 pages and these last two days of the week are busy with summer registration.

But last night we discussed a mini-word study a grad class did on the word fulfill in Matthew (πληροω). We only looked at the instances of the word in Matthew, which is big time cheating (in theory you would at least look at the other occurrences in the NT, then better yet in the LXX, and in a perfect world in the rest of the occurrences in ancient Greek literature, double checking for additional background information we might not be clued into from commentaries, theological dictionaries and such).

Here was the "dictionary entry" for Matthew I created.

πληροω (plēroō)
1. to fulfill (as in to fulfill OT Scripture--Matt. 1:22; 2:15; 2:17; 2:23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 26:54, 56; 27:9, 35)

2. to fill (something--Matt. 13:48; 23:32)

3. to fulfill (as in to complete--Matt. 5:17)

4. bring about, accomplish ("to fulfill all righteousness"--3:15)

Number 2 meaning is the easiest and clearest. The word can mean to fill something, like a cup. We can't presume that this nuance is present everywhere else, but in this case it does give us a good picture of this word, which seems to revolve around "completing" something or another.

When Jesus agrees to being baptized to "fulfill all righteousness" in 3:15, this could have more of a nuance than to bring about all righteousness, to enact or do the right thing. But the general rule is not to read more meaning into an instance of a word than the immediate context requires. You could easily "go theological" here. But it isn't clearly required by the context.

The dominant use of plēroō in Matthew is clearly in the sense of fulfilling Scripture understood prophetically. The sense seems to be that there are prophecies in the words of the OT awaiting their "fulfillment," their happening, accomplishment, in the time of Jesus. And thus the word is used in those passages.

Going beyond the word itself, however, we can see that these prophecies are hidden in the words of the OT. The passages he invokes from the OT were not straightforward predictions about Jesus and, indeed, in some cases weren't predictions at all but comments about events that were past even in the time of the prophet (e.g., Hosea 11:1). Although I don't think he means the word this way, you might say that Matthew hears the Spirit "filling up" the words of the OT with hidden, spiritual meanings.

The final use of the word in 5:17 is very similar to the use of the word in relation to fulfillment, but it seems different enough to give it its own entry. Jesus did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. The sense of completion seems dominant here as Matthew 5 goes on to expand.

It is not enough simply not to murder or not to commit adultery. A full keeping of these laws requires one not to hate and not to divorce so you can sleep with someone else's wife legally. Fulfilling the law is not always adding on to it either. To fulfill the law with regard to the law of retribution (eye for eye) you must not keep this law, as to fulfill the command not to commit adultery you must not do something the law permitted.

To fulfill the law thus involves a shuffling of the law in which some of it is expanded and other parts are removed.

And now for the meta-question. What is the benefit or drawback of teaching ministerial students to do word studies? We have dictionaries that have already done the work for you-ish. What is the place of teaching the kinds of things I have done above (not the specifics of Matthew but the skills of creating "dictionaries" for biblical words)?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dunn's Partings 5: Temple without Hands

Chapter 5 of The Partings of the Ways is titled, "A Temple 'made without hands.'" This is the second half of the Jesus saying in Mark 14:58--"I will tear down this temple made with hands and after three days I will rebuild another made without hands." Dunn pointed out in the previous chapter that Matthew and Luke both omit the "hands" parts of the saying. Dunn suggested it might be because "Matthew often seems to omit Markan phrases which he knows to be Markan elaborations of the common tradition" (92).

This chapter now discusses ways in which the NT develops the temple "not made with hands" concept, that is, passages that indicate the perspective that the temple cultus is no longer necessary. This leads him to discuss Paul, Hebrews, 1 Peter, Revelation, and John.

Paul
Paul only mentions the literal temple in Jerusalem once in the highly ambiguous 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. What Dunn finds is an implicit and thoroughgoing de-orientation from the temple cultus and reorientation around 1) Christ's death as (implicitly) the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, 2) the body of Christ as the temple of God, 3) believers as priests without need for priests as specially designated go betweens, 4) the obliteration of purity as a category, and 5) focus away from the earthly Jerusalem.

I want now to address Dunn's interpretation of Paul on this subject as a hostile witness. My position thus far has been that while Paul has all the elements of a replacement view of the temple, he nowhere clearly expresses that point of view. That a replacement view is a natural development of Paul but one Paul himself never makes explicit. Dunn believes that "the implication is unavoidable" that no more sacrifice would be necessary (103), although as far as I can tell he does not use the word replacement to compare Christ's death with the temple cultus in Paul.

The hidden element in this equation is what role Paul believed the cultus to have prior to Christ. Paul does not clearly have the cultus in mind when he speaks of the Law (unlike Hebrews). What I would suggest is that Paul and the Hellenists of Acts may have had a more spiritualized view of the temple to begin with (cf. Philo). Christ's death then was not so much a "replacement" of the cultus as a "sacrifice" with a higher reality with ultimate cosmic significance.

It is clear that Paul has appropriated cultic language around Christ and the assembly of believers in ways that parallel the temple cultus. The local body of Christ is the temple of God (not the universal church until Ephesians). Believers are to offer their body as a living sacrifice. Paul is a minister-priest who is presenting the Gentiles as an offering to God. Christ is a sacrifice to take away Sin and sins.

A Jew could have used most of this language without in any way denying the validity of the Jerusalem temple cultus. The Essenes used such language of their community without denying the validity of temple per se. They only opposed the current temple as defiled and corrupt. Philo could spiritualize the temple cultus while not having a problem with the literal one.

The real sticking point comes in Paul's sense of faith as the basis of justification and the Spirit as ending the power of Sin. If a person is deemed right with God on the basis of faith and the Spirit then empowers a person to put sin to death in his or her mortal body, then what further need was there for a temple cultus?

Some nuances. Faith for a Jew would have included participation in the cultus as an expression of that faith. Paul of course seems unconcerned about such things, but it is important to mention that faith was not the antithesis of action per se for Paul. This is a Reformation dichotomy.

The expression "faith of Christ" I believe at several points refers to the faithful obedience of Jesus to the point of death (e.g., Rom. 3:22; Gal. 2:16). This act of obedience, of offering himself as a living sacrifice, is the kind of "higher reality" that I'm suggesting Paul and the Hellenists may have seen as the real operative factor in atonement, even for those who participated in the cultus. The cultus would thus only be the surface act that represented the deeper basis for atonement (Philo says such things about literal sacrifices being unnecessary when the heart was right).

The cosmic scope of Christ's sacrifice does indeed destroy the power of Sin. In theory, therefore, no more sacrifices would be necessary. However, Paul never addresses key questions we might raise in relation to this schema. What, for example, about unintentional sins and wrongs done to others? What about the sin that, while undesirable, clearly attends to many Christians after they have received the Spirit? Did Paul understand Christ's sacrifice to cover these as well?

In short, we are forced to fill in these gaps ourselves. Certainly it would seem true that Paul had no need for a temple in his thought. But was it because he saw Christ's sacrifice as the end of all sacrifices? This Paul does not say and we can at least imagine some scenarios in which that might not have been the case.

Hebrews
Dunn wrote Partings before I studied with him from 1993-96. I was certainly more on the same page with him when I started than as I have ended up. He considers Hebrews to have decisively parted from Judaism on matters like the temple. I might just mention areas in which I have come to differ from him on Hebrews as Dunn discusses it in this chapter.

I agree with Dunn that Hebrews post-dates the destruction of the temple. I have come to disagree, however, on the audience being Jewish. I also think that Hebrews should be read in the context of an audience coping with the destruction of the temple and in that sense that it does not represent a departure so much as a coping strategy for the audience. While I think there are elements of Middle Platonic dualism in Hebrews I do not think that language of copy and pattern should be understood in that way.

However, I certainly agree that Hebrews views Christ's sacrifice as the definitive end of all sacrifices and thus, in effect, as a replacement for the temple cultus. Of course Hebrews does not believe that the temple cultus was ever truly effective in the removal of sins. Further, Hebrews does not clearly indicate that Christ's death atones for sins subsequent to one's initial cleansing.

1 Peter, Revelation, John
In each case Dunn also sees a parting as with Hebrews. 1 Peter considers all believers to be priests. Revelation sees no need for a temple in the new Jerusalem. John symbolically sees Jesus as a reality relating to sacrifice, purity, and festival that makes any literal such practices redundant. I largely agree with Dunn here, although I think it's important to note that all three of these writings date to after or around the time of the temple's destruction. As Dunn has pointed out several times, even rabbinic Judaism managed to survive without need for a temple.

Vintage Dunn
The most fun aspect of this chapter was picturing Dunn giving it at the Vatican. These are of course lectures he gave there. He apparently caused quite a stir by emphasizing how inappropriate it is to invoke Hebrews, of all books, as a support for distinct priests. With dogged Scottish honesty, Dunn unequivocally hammered in the class that the NT does not support any kind of special class of priests as go betweens to God. At one point he strongly rejects a particular Second Vatican statement to that end.

:-)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Dunn's Partings 4: A Temple Made with Hands

On to chapter 4 of J. D. G. Dunn's The Partings of the Ways. This title has to do with Stephen's apparent critique of the temple in Acts 7 and whether it constitutes a partitioning (to revise Dunn's language) of the ways.

Dunn's conclusion is that "the Stephen episode marks the beginning of a clear parting of the ways between Christian and Jew, as also probably to some extent between 'Hebrew' Christian and 'Hellenist' Christian - at all events the first rending of a major seam in a Judaism still best designated 'second Temple Judaism'" (94-95, italics his).

I think Dunn might use Boyarin's language if he were writing this chapter today--it is more a partitioning than a parting, if Dunn's interpretations are correct. I don't have the first edition here at home, but I wonder if the final paragraph of p. 99 is a new addition (I'll check): "the more we see a split opening up between 'Judaism' and 'Christianity' at this point, the more we must recognize that it was also a split within the new movement, between (the majority of?) Jewish Christians and others.

He also notes that "the Judaism which emerged from the first century was also able to reconstitute itself without the resource of the Temple and its cult" (99).

OK. So those are Dunn's conclusions from this chapter. What is the argument?

4.1 Earliest Followers
The first part of the chapter documents what in my mind must certainly have been the case. The core of Jerusalem Christianity participated fully in the life of the temple. Dunn makes a number of observations to support this conclusion:

1. They remain in Jerusalem (which in his mind creates serious historical doubts about the present form of the Great Commission in Matthew... he suggests the words of Matthew here "reflect a later perception of the missionary task," 77). They saw the temple as the focal point of the eschatological climax of God's purpose for Israel.

2. They attended the temple and participated in the cult. He mentions Matthew 5:23-24 again and James admonition to Paul to participate in a temple ritual in Acts 21:24. The historicity of these data need not be established since they certainly imply that some Christians had these views, or else they would not have been put in these texts.

3. Absence of a theology of the cross in the sermons of Acts.

4. Earliest Christianity differed from Qumran as much as it was alike, so need not have the same theology of the temple.

5. However, references to Peter, James, and John as pillars is temple like imagery. It is possible that the early community did see itself as the eschatological temple of God. Dunn does not believe that the early church, however, saw this fact to abrogate use of the temple, since they continued to use it.

4.2ff The Hellenists
Dunn sees the Greek-speaking Jewish community in Jerusalem quite differently from the core, Aramaic-speaking Jerusalem believers. In particular, he believes Stephen's attitude toward the temple to be what gets him killed and what becomes the core issue in the persecution of the Hellenistic believers of Acts 8. We should be careful of course not to assume that all Greek-speaking believers agreed with Stephen.

Dunn believes that Luke has drawn Stephen's sermon from a source of some kind, differing as it does in theological perspective from the bulk of Acts. Dunn follows others in noting an underlying sense of geographical displacement from Judea in the narrative presentation of Israel's history. Abraham receives his call in Mesopotamia. Jacob is buried in Shechem, Moses spends all his life outside the promised land. Stephen jumps straight from the idolatry of the calf to worship of the host of heaven, which Jews considered the basis of the exile. In short, the time of Israel in Judea is bracketed within two episodes of apostacy.

Crucial for Dunn is not just Stephen's jump to "God does not dwell in buildings made with hands" from the mention of Solomon's temple. Most crucial is the phrase "made with hands" itself, for this term is used of the idolatrous idols mentioned earlier in the sermon. To use this phrase of the temple would have been massively divisive!

4.5f Significance
Dunn sees Stephen's statements here as the beginning of a breach between Christianity and Judaism over the temple. He suggests that "it was with Stephen and the Hellenists that a theology of Jesus' death as a sacrifice which ends all sacrifice first emerged" (94). It's important to reiterate that this is only one stream within a movement and that Stephen would not have seen it as a breach too. "Stephen speaks still as a Jew eager to live within the terms actually laid down in the scriptures to his people" (93).

Dunn makes some observations about the rest of Acts 8-12 that he thinks implies the same. Philip goes to Samaria, which was not least divided with Judea over the validity of the temple. The Ethiopian eunuch would not be allowed in the temple. Paul's persecution came under the authority of the high priest of the temple. The Peter/Cornelius incident not least involves issues of purity.

4.6 Evaluation
There are some great observations in this chapter and well worth considering. Of course they go against one of my signature ideas, alluded to in Cosmology and Eschatology of Hebrews and the basis of a book proposal I have in play. My argument is that the idea of Christ's death as a sacrifice does not in itself imply the end of the temple cultus. This idea, I argue, was a realization that largely developed after the destruction of the temple, although the temple was already well marginalized within Pauline Christianity.

One doesn't want to hold onto an idea simply because you have already published a different position (although we suspect this happens all the time :-). My argument has been, however, that William Manson had the relationship between Hebrews and Acts 7 reversed. Hebrews may very well stand in the tradition of Hellenists like Stephen in Acts 7, no problem there. But I have suggested that the portrait of Stephen in Acts 7 has also been influenced by individuals like the author of Hebrews.

In other words, Luke likens Stephen to contemporaries of his like the author of Hebrews, making Stephen sound even more radical for his time than he was. I will, however, reflect more on the issue.

My Amazon Store