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"Jews" in John and Acts

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  • siguiriya@comcast.net
    Well, the list activity has been light lately, so I thought I d throw out a non-scholarly question, or a question from a non- scholar, however you look at it.
    Message 1 of 11 , Jun 12, 2004
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      Well, the list activity has been light lately, so I thought I'd
      throw out a non-scholarly question, or a question from a non-
      scholar, however you look at it.

      One of the features of GJohn that differentiate it from the synoptic
      gospels is the frequent use of the word "Jews," especially in a
      negative context. One scholar describes GJohn thus:

      "The language of John's gospel is intentionally antagonistic at
      times toward Jewish tradition and toward Jewish sensitivities. . . .
      John's gospel is witness to a Christianity that's moving farther and
      father away from Jewish tradition. And in fact it's seeing Jewish
      tradition often as actually hostile to the Christian movement."
      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/john.htm
      l

      In contrast, the other gospels rarely use the word "Jews," except
      for reference to Jesus as "King of the Jews." I believe GLuke only
      has three other references to "Jews," all of which are merely
      descriptive.

      But then in Acts, we're back into use of the word "Jews." I believe
      there are 60-some uses of this word. Some of the usage in Acts is
      descriptive, but many uses have a negative connotation. In Acts we
      definetly see Paul and his party differentiated from "the Jews."

      To the layperson (me) this is all very confusing. If Luke-Acts was
      composed by one author, why the differences in the use of this word
      between the two writings? If the manner of use of the word "Jews"
      in GJohn signifies hostility to Jewish tradition, they why don't we
      see that hostility in Luke -- if Luke and Acts were composed by the
      same author -- since Acts often exhibits a hostile view of "the
      Jews" similar to GJohn?

      jim holman
    • Bob Schacht
      ... Since you describe yourself as a layman, the first thing you need to know is that the Greek word for Jews is *Ioudaios* which means, literally, Judean--
      Message 2 of 11 , Jun 12, 2004
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        At 12:10 AM 6/13/2004 +0000, Jim Holman wrote:

        >...One of the features of GJohn that differentiate it from the synoptic
        >gospels is the frequent use of the word "Jews," especially in a
        >negative context. ...

        Since you describe yourself as a layman, the first thing you need to know
        is that the Greek word for "Jews" is *Ioudaios* which means, literally,
        Judean-- i.e., someone who lives in, or is from, Judea.

        But just to make our life more complicated, the Romans often used the name
        for the place as a gentilic-- that is, a word that denotes the members of a
        people or the inhabitants of a place. We moderns don't think of "Jews" as
        people living in, or from, Judea, but the Romans did, more or less. We
        sometimes do the same thing: For example, if we call someone a Korean, we
        assume that means someone who lives in, or is from, Korea. We tend not to
        use that word to describe, say, an American who was born and raised in Korea.

        And to make our lives even more complicated, "Judea" was geo-politically
        distinct from Galilee. People from Galilee could be called Galileans
        (Galilaios). In the Gospels, Peter (Mark 14:70; Luke 22:59) was called a
        Galilean, as were Jesus (Luke 23:6) and the disciples (Acts 2:7), and we
        see Galilean as a general term in Luke 13:1-2 & John 4:45. So, therefore,
        one might say that Jesus and his disciples were not "Jews" to the Romans,
        but "Galileans." This is confusing to us, because in terms of his religious
        orientation, we would call Jesus and the disciples "Jews".

        And if that isn't confusing enough, Paul calls Peter a Jew, not a Galilean
        (Gal. 2:14), and calls himself a Jew from Tarsus (Acts 21:39). For Paul,
        what defined a man as a Jew is circumcision.

        >In contrast, the other gospels rarely use the word "Jews," except
        >for reference to Jesus as "King of the Jews."

        Mark has it at 7:3 in addition to the dialogue with Pilate about the KoJ.
        Matthew has it at in his birth narrative (KoJ) and in 28:15 as well as the
        dialogue with Pilate.

        > I believe GLuke only
        >has three other references to "Jews," all of which are merely
        >descriptive.

        Luke 7:3. The other references are all in Chapter 23, which is about the
        King of the Jews dialogue with Pilate.

        >But then in Acts, we're back into use of the word "Jews." I believe
        >there are 60-some uses of this word.

        I count almost 80, so you make a good point.

        > Some of the usage in Acts is
        >descriptive, but many uses have a negative connotation. In Acts we
        >definetly see Paul and his party differentiated from "the Jews."

        This oversimplifies, because he also identifies himself as a Jew from
        Tarsus (see above, and also 1 Cor. 9:20). It is also misleading, because he
        was engaged in a struggle not to differentiate himself and the followers of
        Jesus from Judaism, but to re-define what Judaism was.

        >To the layperson (me) this is all very confusing. If Luke-Acts was
        >composed by one author, why the differences in the use of this word
        >between the two writings? If the manner of use of the word "Jews"
        >in GJohn signifies hostility to Jewish tradition, they why don't we
        >see that hostility in Luke -- if Luke and Acts were composed by the
        >same author -- since Acts often exhibits a hostile view of "the
        >Jews" similar to GJohn?

        Several possibilities come to mind:
        * Acts & GJohn express a more Galilean orientation than the Synoptic
        Gospels.
        * Acts and GJohn are later in date than the Synoptic Gospels, dating
        after the Birkhat ha-Minim or other events that led to the schism between
        Judaism and the followers of Jesus.
        The first possibility is seldom heard, but might have played *some* role.
        The second possibility is often heard, at least regarding GJohn. Regarding
        Luke's authorship of both the Gospel and the Acts, perhaps, by this theory,
        Acts was written much later, and after the schism.

        However, Jewish Christianity persisted for several hundred years, so that
        the second possibility above at least needs to be qualified by inserting
        the word "some" before "followers of Jesus".

        Your linking of Acts to GJohn in this regard is a good one. I'm sure
        someone has noticed it before, but I don't know any of the references on this.

        Bob
        Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
        Northern Arizona University
        Flagstaff, AZ

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • nancy
        Hi, I m very much a layperson in this study ... so I m confused about the term / event -- Birhat ha-Minim -- can someone please tell me about it? Thanks, Nancy
        Message 3 of 11 , Jun 12, 2004
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          Hi,

          I'm very much a layperson in this study ... so I'm confused about the term
          / event -- Birhat ha-Minim -- can someone please tell me about it?

          Thanks,

          Nancy Jones
          near Chicago

          At 10:59 PM 6/12/2004, you wrote:
          >* Acts and GJohn are later in date than the Synoptic Gospels, dating
          >after the Birkhat ha-Minim or other events that led to the schism between
          >Judaism and the followers of Jesus.


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Bob Schacht
          ... Nancy, According to a GLOSSARY of Basic Terms for Biblical Study compiled by Sheila E. McGinn, Ph.D. (last update: 19 March 2002)
          Message 4 of 11 , Jun 13, 2004
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            At 11:45 PM 6/12/2004 -0500, you wrote:
            >Hi,
            >
            >I'm very much a layperson in this study ... so I'm confused about the term
            >/ event -- Birhat ha-Minim -- can someone please tell me about it?
            >
            >Thanks,
            >
            >Nancy Jones
            >near Chicago

            Nancy,
            According to a GLOSSARY of Basic Terms for Biblical Study compiled by
            Sheila E. McGinn, Ph.D. (last update: 19 March 2002)
            <http://www.jcu.edu/bible/BibleIntroReadings/Glossary.htm>,
            >birkhat ha minim
            >name given to an addition to the Eighteen Benedictions recited during
            >daily synagogue worship, ca. CE 90, that put a curse upon heretics,
            >including followers of the Nazarene (i.e., Jesus of Nazareth)

            It is often thought that John 9 contains an implicit reference to this Birkhat.
            However, the issue is more complex than this. That is, the date of this
            addition, and whether it really referred to followers of Jesus, and which
            synagogues used it, have been matters of dispute.

            As is often the case, this issue has come up on XTalk before. I quote below
            from an exchange between Tom Kopecek, a Patristics scholar, and Mahlon
            Smith, whose website is a valuable resource on all these matters:

            >Date: Sun, 06 Feb 2000 23:26:45 -0600
            >From: "Thomas A. Kopecek" <kopecekt@...>
            >Subject: [XTalk] Re: Birkhat ha Minim ( was: Theology of Reaction
            >
            >"Mahlon H. Smith" <mahlonh.smith@...>
            > > Actually my "rather standard textbook view" is based on an even later
            > > Jewish text: Louis Finkelstein's classic reconstruction of the original
            > > version of the 18 Benedictions from ms. fragments & rabbinic references
            > > (JQR n.s. 16, 1925-26). This is the work on which Louis Martyn based his
            > > arguments for the dating of 4G not long after 85 CE. Finkelstein's 75
            > > year old work is dated, of course. But not being myself a rabbinic
            > > specialist, I know of no more recent work that has discredited it. Its
            > > been more than 25 years since I read S. Schechter's article in JQR 10
            > > (1898) on the version of the 12th benediction found in the genizah of
            > > the old Cairo synagogue. But my notes tell me that he identified this as
            > > an archaic *Palestinian* liturgy. How archaic & for what reasons I can
            > > no longer remember. But I do recall either him or Finkelstein arguing
            > > that the expanded petition of benediction 12 ["Let the Nazarenes and
            > > sectarians (*minim*) vanish in a moment! Blot them out of the book of
            > > life and do not record them among the righteous"] was never used
            > > throughout the Mediterranean & was discontinued after it had achieved
            > > its purpose of getting Jewish Christian evangelists to stop crashing
            > > synagogue services.
            >Neither am I a rabbinic specialist. It is just that I have a whole bunch of
            >references to different Jewish scholars from yours in *MY* notes. I'll have
            >to track them down, of course, but, if I can read my handwriting, a partial
            >list goes something like this:
            >Three articles in Jewish and Christian Self-Definition (Philadelphia:
            >Fortress, 1981), Vol. 2:
            >1. L. Schiffman, "Tannaitic Perspectives on the Jewish-Christian Schism,"
            >pp. 115-156;
            >2. E. E. Urbach, "Self-Isolation or Self-Affirmation in Judaism in the First
            >Three Centuries," pp. 269-298; and, especially,
            >3. R. Kimelman, "Birkat ha-minim and the Lack of Evidence for an
            >Anti-Christian Jewish Prayer in Later Antiquity," pp. 226-244.
            >Then also:
            >1. Peter Schaefer, "Die sogennante Synod von Jabne," Studien zur Geschichte
            >und Theologie des rabbinischen Judentums (Leiden: 1978) 454-64;
            >2. A. Finkel, "Yahneh's Liturgy and Early Christianity," Journal of
            >Ecumenical Studies 18 (1981) 231-250;
            >3. J. Maier, "Juedische Auseinandersetzung mit Christentum in der Antike
            >(Darmstadt: 1982), pp. 206ff; and
            >4. S. T. Katz, "Issues in the Separation of Judaism and Christianity after
            >70 CE," JBL 103 (1984) 43-76.
            >There are a couple of others, but my notes are less full (and frankly I
            >can't quite figure out what I thought I learned from the other pieces--and
            >may have put together the ones I read incorrectly, but I don't think so).
            >If I've all this correct, Schaefer, Katz, Maier, and Finkel are not
            >persuaded that the term minim was directly primarily at the Christians
            >(which they consider the "older" standard view), which you probably would
            >grant, and Schiffman, Katz, and (I think but am not sure) Finkel argue for
            >notzrim being added after the Bar Cochba revolt, which coheres with the way
            >I reconstructed things in my previous post.
            >So goes the way we all depend on "authorities" in fields that are not
            >directly our own!
            >I'll have to look at Finkelstein, Mahlon, for I guess I didn't go back that
            >far in tracking down the discussion of the issue.
            >BTW, I believe I recall Raymond Brown in his recent Introduction having
            >something to say about this topic (supporting my remarks in my previous
            >post, I think), but that book is in my office, and I'm at home now.
            >Tom


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Linda & Ernest Pennells
            [jim Holman] ... this word between the two writings?
            Message 5 of 11 , Jun 13, 2004
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              [jim Holman]
              > If Luke-Acts was composed by one author, why the differences in the use of
              this word between the two writings?<

              There are a number of major contrasts between Luke and Acts. Perhaps the
              most striking is that two conspicuous features of Judaism in the Roman world
              (circumcision and sabbath) are key controversial issues in one volume, but
              raise no ripples in the other. That circumcision was not a contentious
              issue in Judaea or Galilee is none too surprising, although Galilee did
              have a substantial gentile population. More startling is that sabbath was
              a major source of dispute for Jesus among Jews; but, as gentiles become
              his followers, sabbath is never mentioned as an issue despite the fact that
              it would seem to be a natural flash point between Gentile and Jewish
              converts.

              Another shock is that whereas table fellowship with undesirables was a key
              feature of Jesus' itinerant lifestyle, this vanishes in Acts. Table
              fellowship actually becomes a divisive issue within the NT church, calling
              for restructuring the leadership to ensure even handedness in food
              distribution, and - according to Paul - provoking sharp confrontation with
              Peter.

              Sepphoris and Tiberias are conspicuously avoided in the Gospels. Rome,
              Athens, Antioch, Corinth, Caesarea ... a whole string of major cities
              provide the venues for the spread of the gospel - the rural population all
              but disappears, along with most of the twelve.

              Regards,

              Ernie Pennells
              220 - 50 Songhees Road, Victoria BC, Canada V9A 7J4
              http://www.lukeacts.com
              Tel: (250) 381 5674
            • John E Staton
              Actually, the issue of table fellowship with undesirables *does* come up in Acts, but the undesirables are Gentile believers. This issue lies behind a great
              Message 6 of 11 , Jun 13, 2004
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                Actually, the issue of table fellowship with undesirables *does* come up in
                Acts, but the "undesirables" are Gentile believers. This issue lies behind a
                great deal of the tension between the "Judaising tendency" and Paul.

                I would see the more frequent reference to "the Jews" in Acts as being due
                to two circumstances:
                1. The persecution of the Christians by the Jewish authorities
                2. The rise of the Gentile mission. Paul is presented as preaching to "the
                Jews" first, and then after rejection, preaching to "the Gentiles".

                As for John, there is a remnant of a geographical use of the term "Jew" to
                mean "resident of Judea", but there is also a use of the term to represent
                the unbelieving Jews. Believing Jews (e.g. Nathanael) are called Israelite
                (cf. Nicodemus, "teacher of Israel"). John appears to have a doctrine of the
                righteous remnant that narrows down to one man (Jesus) and then expands to
                include everyone who joins themselves to Jesus (which will include both Jews
                and Gentiles)

                The whole matter is confused, of course, by the references to Jews who
                believed in Jesus, but he did not put his trust in them (John 2), which
                presumably believes their faith was not genuine, and the "Jews who believed
                in Jesus in John 8 who appear to get the sharp edge of his tongue. Perhaps
                Jesus felt their faith was suspect, too.

                Best Wishes
                JOHN E STATON
                Penistone, Sheffield UK
                www.jestaton.org
                jestaton@...
              • Linda & Ernest Pennells
                [John E Staton] ... Acts, but the undesirables are Gentile believers.
                Message 7 of 11 , Jun 14, 2004
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                  [John E Staton]
                  >Actually, the issue of table fellowship with undesirables *does* come up in
                  Acts, but the "undesirables" are Gentile believers.<

                  That's an interesting way of looking at this, but whereas Jesus is
                  portrayed as a willing guest/host who drew criticism from his detractors,
                  the dispute between Jew/Gentile factions points to internal tensions among
                  his followers. Those tax harvesters whose collaborative posture provoke
                  hostility in the Gospels, simply vanish in Acts.

                  Luke expressly acknowledges using sources. Whether he intended to or not,
                  one of the consequences is to reveal a number of major shifts between the
                  praxis of Jesus and his followers. There are notable limitations on the
                  extent to which the final redactor shaped the material to suit his own
                  praxis. The label "Jews" is but one among many.

                  Regards,

                  Ernie Pennells
                  220 - 50 Songhees Road, Victoria BC, Canada V9A 7J4
                  http://www.lukeacts.com
                  Tel: (250) 381 5674
                • John E Staton
                  Ernest wrote: That s an interesting way of looking at this, but whereas Jesus is portrayed as a willing guest/host who drew criticism from his detractors,
                  Message 8 of 11 , Jun 16, 2004
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                    Ernest wrote:
                    "That's an interesting way of looking at this, but whereas Jesus is
                    portrayed as a willing guest/host who drew criticism from his detractors,
                    the dispute between Jew/Gentile factions points to internal tensions among
                    his followers. Those tax harvesters whose collaborative posture provoke
                    hostility in the Gospels, simply vanish in Acts."

                    This is what one would expect as the scene shifts from Jesus earthly
                    ministry to the history of the church. One may suspect the concerns of the
                    church lie beneath the surface in the gospel, but Luke is too good a writer
                    to let them intrude too obviously. It may well be, however, that the stories
                    about the tax harveters are being told with an eye to the dispute concerning
                    Gentile believers in Luke's day. It is likely that the practice of having
                    table-fellowship with uncircumcised people (even though they are believers)
                    was one of (if not the main) points of issue between Paul's group and the
                    Judaizers (cf Galatians 2)

                    Best Wishes

                    JOHN E STATON
                    Penistone, Sheffield UK
                    www.jestaton.org
                    jestaton@...

                    JOHN E STATON
                    Penistone, Sheffield UK
                    www.jestaton.org
                    jestaton@...
                  • Linda & Ernest Pennells
                    [John E. Staton] ... told with an eye to the dispute concerning Gentile believers in Luke s day
                    Message 9 of 11 , Jun 22, 2004
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                      [John E. Staton]
                      >It may well be, however, that the stories about the tax harveters are being
                      told with an eye to the dispute concerning Gentile believers in Luke's day<

                      Mmmmm ... that demotes the taxation issue more than I feel willing to grant.
                      Criticism of Jesus' attitude to table fellowship started from a local tax
                      office in Galilee, according to the synoptics. This escalated to a public
                      insurrectionist dispute over the denarius in Jerusalem after what, IMHO,
                      was a public demonstration against temple tax just after Jesus had been
                      given a messianic welcome. Luke adds a powerful demonstration of
                      willingness to embrace a high profile Roman tax official - Zacchaeus.

                      Previous discussions on XTalk have aired this theme, and I would add
                      m.Sheqalim 1.3: "On the fifteenth of that same month [Adar] they set up
                      money changers tables in the provinces. On the twenty-fifth [of Adar] they
                      set them up in the temple. Once they were set up in the temple, they began
                      to exact pledges [from those who had not paid the tax in specie]" (Jacob
                      Neusner translation, 1988). At face value, this establishes a connection
                      between money changers IN THE TEMPLE, and temple tax.

                      Taxation was an explosive issue in Roman-Jewish relationships, given high
                      profile by Josephus as well as the synoptic gospels. It plays a prominent
                      role in the political profile of the gospels.

                      The divisive issue for gentile mission was whether gentile converts should
                      become Jews. For me, that debate is in different territory.

                      Regards,

                      Ernie Pennells
                      220 - 50 Songhees Road, Victoria BC, Canada V9A 7J4
                      http://www.lukeacts.com
                      Tel: (250) 381 5674

                      -----Original Message-----
                      From: John E Staton [mailto:jestaton@...]
                      Sent: June 16, 2004 11:13 AM
                      To: Crosstalk
                      Subject: [XTalk] RE: RE: "Jews" in John and Acts
                    • Mike Grondin
                      ... Ernie- What Neusner work is this from? What is m.Sheqalim ? What year is being talked about? Mike Grondin Mt. Clemens, MI
                      Message 10 of 11 , Jun 23, 2004
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                        > m.Sheqalim 1.3: "On the fifteenth of that same month [Adar] they
                        > set up money changers tables in the provinces. On the twenty-
                        > fifth [of Adar] they set them up in the temple. Once they were
                        > set up in the temple, they began to exact pledges [from those
                        > who had not paid the tax in specie]" (Jacob Neusner translation,
                        > 1988). At face value, this establishes a connection between
                        > money changers IN THE TEMPLE, and temple tax.

                        Ernie-

                        What Neusner work is this from? What is "m.Sheqalim"? What year is
                        being talked about?

                        Mike Grondin
                        Mt. Clemens, MI
                      • pennells@islandnet.com
                        Hope to reply on Friday, when I am back at base. Regards, Ernie
                        Message 11 of 11 , Jun 23, 2004
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                          Hope to reply on Friday, when I am back at base.

                          Regards, Ernie


                          > > m.Sheqalim 1.3: "On the fifteenth of that same month [Adar] they
                          > > set up money changers tables in the provinces. On the twenty-
                          > > fifth [of Adar] they set them up in the temple. Once they were
                          > > set up in the temple, they began to exact pledges [from those
                          > > who had not paid the tax in specie]" (Jacob Neusner translation,
                          > > 1988). At face value, this establishes a connection between
                          > > money changers IN THE TEMPLE, and temple tax.
                          >
                          > Ernie-
                          >
                          > What Neusner work is this from? What is "m.Sheqalim"? What year is
                          > being talked about?
                          >
                          > Mike Grondin
                          > Mt. Clemens, MI
                          >
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