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Re: [XTalk] Re: Hellenists originated Death Tradition

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  • Frank Jacks
    John, I see that you continue to exempt yourself from list protocol by not identifying yourself at the end except just by name ... oh, well ... I also notice
    Message 1 of 4 , Sep 2, 2005
      John,

      I see that you continue to exempt yourself from list protocol by not
      identifying yourself at the end except just by name ... oh, well ... I
      also notice that no moderator has jumped in to adjudicate over whose
      reading of the protocols is accurate.

      So leaving that aside for now, let us look at the content of your latest
      posting. I begin by assuring you that I have no intention to defend the
      stance taken by Ted Weeden in his recent postings, for I share your
      perception that he has at best over-stated his case. On the other hand,
      this does not mean that your own "statement to the contrary" is any more
      satisfactory.

      Let me add, however, that on your web-site (which I think you really
      should mention as part of your "sign-off" for it is most
      interesting) you pursue the issue about the rules and practice of
      governance in the early Christian synagogues; I commend
      anyone who is trying to take polity issues seriously, for I find them
      all too often ignored as if they were not "at issue." Here,
      I confess an indebtedness to P. T. Forsyth (of honored British memory)
      who tried to teach us that all issues of practice or
      belief are really/basically questions of "authority," i.e. who ought to
      have the authority to decide any such matter. And
      truth to tell, I do think that "James, Jesus' brother" along the way did
      claim authority (as Jesus' "successor"/apostle ... on the basis of
      dynasty) over all Christians, a position which Paul did in fact contest.

      Further, I do agree that the patterns of early Christian polity were
      based upon and derived from prior Jewish practices in the synagogues.
      Frankly, I have not read the book by Burtcheall to which you appeal, but
      if he does suggest (as you say)
      that all sorts of Jews met together as "synagogues", then I beg to
      differe, simply because I don't think most Jews met
      together for daily and weekly prayer-meetings (i.e. as a "synagogue");
      indeed, I suspect that this was something done by the Pharisees, mostly
      if not solely.

      Of course, I do endorse and embrace your insistence that we really
      should use "Judaism" in the plural, for such was in fact the case, but I
      find that all the more reason to be a bit suspicious of any assertion
      about how all such Jews met together for worship ... except in Jerusalem
      for Temple cultus, especially for the "required feasts," such as the
      "mo'edhim" of the OT,
      although even then I truly suspect that such joint participation did not
      necessarily entail any sense of amity or fellowship among this patent
      diversity of opinion and practice.

      In fact, I would agree with Ted or anyone else who claims that Paul and
      James were at loggerheads about many items, beginning with the question
      of authority, but I suspect that much of their disagreements rested upon
      a disparity that prexisted them and even any Christian gather, for
      James' position seems to have been based upon the practice of Pharisees
      in Palestine (who unlike all other Jews accepted gentiles as converts to
      Judaism) whereas Paul's was at least in the beginning based upon the
      more "liberal" practice of Diaspora Jews who accepted gentiles into
      fellowship (for worship and for meals) without full conversion into Judaism.

      Incidentally, exactly just when and where and how (and why!) the
      Jerusalem "Christian authorities" came to accept the Diasporan practice
      of letting "clean gentiles" [probably taken as a self-contradiction
      among all Jews of Palestine] meet and eat with them involves itself in
      the issues we previously discussed about where and when and why Paul
      went to Jerusalem, an issue between his account in Gal. 1-2 and that
      found in Acts.

      Finally, as to Hengel's take about how Palestinian Jews had all been
      Hellenized already, I would point out that his views have not found
      general acceptance among many scholars, and for good reason - for
      example, if they were all Hellenized then why did Jesus
      speak/teach/preach to them in Aramaic? Why then was Aramaic the
      language of James' congregation of Christians in Jerusalem? The answer
      that many of us accept is simply that Aramaic was the language of most
      Jews in Palestine, although
      many in the cities and especially among the political and economic and
      social elites probably did acquire Greek as their second language. I
      suspect that here we ought to talk about varying degrees of "being
      Hellenized" (from "none at all" up the scale, perhaps even to the
      "maximal" type which we find in Philo of Alexandria) just as we ought to
      talk about the variety of Judaisms, as you suggest.

      You will perhaps notice that I have not ventured to make a comment about
      the issue you have been discussing with Ted (about when and whence the
      tradition about the wine at Communions representing Jesus' blood came)
      for truth to tell I do not have a clue, other than to say the obvious,
      that it was early as we do find it in Paul. But would James have felt
      comfortable
      with this? I suspect he would have, for the reason Ted has elucidated
      for us, which would then suggest Hellenized Antioch
      as the more likely "point of origin." Still, I don't know just where
      this tradition began and am not sure just how we could find out one way
      or another, but I look forward to further comments by one and all on
      this for I surely do need to be enlightened.

      So thanks for your posting, for it did "get me thinking" which is always
      "to the good."

      Frank

      Clive F. Jacks, Th.D.
      Professor of Religion, Emeritus
      Pikeville College
      Pikeville, KY

      (but now retired back home in the metro Atlanta area!)

      >
      >
    • Theodore Weeden
      John Straton wrote on September 02, 2005 ... John, I apologize for my belated response to your post. The delay has been due to the fact that I have been away
      Message 2 of 4 , Sep 15, 2005
        John Straton wrote on September 02, 2005

        > Subject: [XTalk] Re: Hellenists originated Death Tradition

        > Ted,
        > I am afraid your detailed essay on this subject has failed to prove your
        > point. You have failed to give sufficent account to the evidence adduced
        > by Martin Hengel that Palestinian Judaism by the 1st Century CE had
        > already been thoroughly Hellenised, and that there were in effect mnay
        > "Judaisms" of the period. You have also failed to give sufficient weight
        > to the evidence adduced by Burtcheall (in "From Synagogie to Church")
        > that these "many Judaisms" for the most part (leaving aside certain
        > extreme separatisits, such as the Qumran community), managed to live
        > together. In large centres of population they would have there own
        > synagogues (not buildings, but meetings), but in small centres of
        > population they would all meet together. And in the larger centres they
        > would meet together in Council (especially the elders). Burtchaell then
        > goes on to suggest that, just as a largely disparate Judaism managed to
        > live together (for the most part) in one body, so did a disparate
        > church, because they took on the synagogue style of government almost by
        > symbiosis. This would suggest your picture of schism is somewhat
        > overdrawn. Differences of opinion, certainly. Even sharp differences of
        > opinion (not unknown in supposedly united churches of today), but not of
        > the order where one group would not recognise the other.

        John, I apologize for my belated response to your post. The delay has been
        due to the fact that I have been away for a week and to the fact that the
        issue you raise here has prompted me to do some further extensive reading to
        respond to your critique of my position.

        Now, with you with respect to Hengel's contention that by the 1st century CE
        Palestinian Judaism "had been thoroughly Hellenized," I differ with you on
        this matter. As you are aware, Frank Jacks has refuted Hengel's position in
        Frank's XTalk post of 9/02/05 ("Re: Hellenists originated Death Tradition")
        directed to you. With respect to there being "many Judaisms of the
        period," I quite agree with you. In this regard, I find Jonathan Z.
        Smith's brief on the subject to be both convincing and enlightening,
        particularly with respect to support for my thesis that Hellenistic-Jewish
        Christians are responsible for the origination of the creed of 1 Cor. 15:3-5
        and the Pauline-cited eucharistic tradition of 1 Cor. 11. I came upon
        Smith's helpful observations about the Judaisms of the time, and what
        constituted being a Jew, in giving a look again at William Arnal's very
        insightful book _The Symbolic Jesus_. In his book, Bill cites an article
        by Smith ("Fences and Neighbors: Some Contours of Early Judaism," in
        _Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown, 1-18, in which Smith,
        after having reviewed "Jewish" literature of the Hellenistic period,
        concludes that there was no defining attribute, characteristic or quality
        by which Jewishness was defined in antiquity, not even the celebrated
        act of circumcision. Smith, as Arnal reports, found that for some Jewish
        writers circumcision was a sine qua non of Jewish identity. But other
        writers of the period did not consider circumcision as necessarily a
        defining and indisputable sign of Jewishness. Some Jews apparently
        chose not to circumcise their sons (Jubilees 15:33-34), and some
        chose to even reverse their circumcision, while still claiming a
        Jewish identity (1 Macc. 1:15). Moreover, Smith points out that
        circumcision in antiquity was not just a Jewish practice but also the
        practice of other peoples of the time, apparently for health reasons. "For
        Philo," Smith observes (as quoted by Arnal, 32), "the practice seems to have
        little to do with either ethnic or religious identity. Circumcision is
        understood as practiced by intelligent peoples for hygienic reasons."

        Consequently Smith avers (as quoted by Arnal, 32): "The wide range of uses
        and interpretations of circumcision as a taxic indicator in early Judaism
        suggests that, even with respect to this most fundamental division, we
        cannot sustain the impossible construct of a normative Judaism. We must
        conceive of a variety of early Judaisms, clustered in varying
        configurations." Arnal (33f.), for his part, therefore submits: "Smith's
        conclusions point to more than simply diversity within ancient Judaism.
        They also point to the conceptual problems involved in any effort at
        definition. In particular, his claim that we need to construct and adopt a
        polythetic classification of plural ancient Judaisms, or, put differently,
        plural options within Judaism, goes to the heart of the question. If one
        defines a Jew as a Jew because of their adoption of a *large number* of key
        'Jewish' characteristics, rather than in terms of a single, make or break,
        index . . ., it follows that being a Jew, identifying oneself as a Jew,
        *need* require no single feature of belief or practice. One can thus be a
        Jew and not be circumcised. . . . One may be Jewish and uninterested in
        Torah, or the temple, and so on. To be defined as a Jew, one need only
        adhere to *some* (a greater number than non-Jews) of the defining features
        of Jewish identity" (emphases: Arnal).

        Of course, there were some Jews in the first century who insisted that the
        indispensable "taxic indicator" of being Jewish, as Smith puts it, was being
        circumcised. Paul and James the brother of Jesus are two notable examples
        of such a view. And this brings me back to James and the church at
        Jerusalem and my thesis that the Jewish Christians of that church,
        particularly, under the leadership of James could not, in my judgment, have
        been the creators of the creed of 1 Cor. 15, nor the promulgator's of the
        Death Tradition's eucharist, as cited by Paul and narrated by Mark. In the
        profile of James which I provided in my XTalk post of 9/1/05 ("Hellenists
        Originated the Death Tradition"), I described James, drawing upon Crossan,
        as "a strong advocate for and faithful observant of 'the full Jewish law,'
        who likely was an ascetic and ultra-kosher in his observance, who may have
        even lived a nazirite life-style, and who was apparently held . . . in
        favorable regard by [strict Torah-observant] Jerusalemites," likely the
        Pharisees. I also went on to observe that Luke presents the members of the
        church at Jerusalem as regular worshippers in the Temple, "demonstrating
        [thereby] that they [had] not forsaken the religion of their fathers," as
        Haenchen puts it (_Acts of the Apostles_, 267) And, as I pointed out,
        Hegesippus (note: his name is misspelled in my 9/1/05 essay) makes a
        special point of stating that James was entitled to enter the Temple
        sanctuary, though, as I noted, such a special disposition accorded James
        may be Hegesippus' legendary idealization of him.

        In any case, James and his Jerusalem group, with their strong advocacy of
        circumcision (even spying out whether Paul's associate Titus had been
        circumcised: Gal. 2:1-6), their strict observance of the Torah, and their
        faithful worship in the Temple appear to be examples, par excellence, of
        consummate strictly observant Christian Jews, at least as defined by the
        second century BCE priest, Simeon the Just. According to Geza Vermès (_The
        Religion of Jesus the Jew_, 184f.), Simeon is famous for a saying attributed
        to him in which he is reputed as declaring that the three pillars upon which
        stands the world are the Temple cult, the Torah and merciful acts (mAb 1.2).
        James, in his strict observance of the Torah, his apparent cultic worship,
        along with his strong advocacy for circumcision, certainly appears to
        conform, like hand in glove, to the ideology of true Jewishness attributed
        to Simeon.

        If that is the case, then it further explains James' disapproval of the
        practice in Antioch of Hellenistic-Jewish Christians there sharing table
        fellowship with Gentile Christians. And it would further suggest why, as
        Haenchen puts it (268), the Hebrews in Jerusalem would have been "estranged
        and repelled" by the kerygmatic ideology of the Hellenists, and, thus,
        distanced and disassociated themselves from them - if, in fact, Luke is
        reporting an actual historical Sitz. The Hellenists, as I see it, took
        significant liberties in their interpretation and observance of the Torah,
        which James, as a faithful "Simeonite" Jew would not be able to tolerate.
        Moreover, as Vermès notes (185), whereas for Simeon Temple cultic worship
        was indispensable for a true Jew, for Jews in the Diaspora to be so cultic
        observant as to attend "a thrice-yearly event, each of one week's duration .
        . . must have appeared as a dream hoped to come true perhaps once in a
        liftetime." Thus, the various Judaisms of the Diaspora would not have
        considered being faithful worshippers in the Temple, particularly for those
        thrice-yearly occasions, as an indispensable "taxic indicator" of what it
        means to be Jewish.

        Now, in a departure from my post of 9/1/05, I no longer want to suggest that
        there was a schism in the church at Jerusalem. I was a bit carried away
        with the position of F. C. Baur and Wellhausen (see my post) who argue as
        such. I do think with Bultmann that Luke had a written source which
        indicates tension between Hellenistic-Jewish Christians and more
        conservative "Simeon" ideological Jerusalemite Jewish Christians such as
        James. Paul's reference to the differences and tension between the two
        groups is clearly presented by Paul. I think it is possible that the
        Antiochene document may recount such conflict with the Jerusalem church when
        that church sent emissaries from Jerusalem to Antioch to check to see if the
        Antiochene Christians were following the "orthodoxical" practice as
        prescribed and proscribed by the Jerusalem church. The very fact that the
        James cohort of strictly observant Jewish Christians would clandestinely spy
        out Titus' uncircumcised condition suggests that these men sent from James
        to Antioch may well have been on a "witch hunt" to check out the faith and
        praxis of the Antiochene Christians, a mixed community of Hellenistic-Jewish
        and Gentile Christians. I am wondering now if Luke has antedated the
        conflict and relocated it back to Jerusalem in order to meet his
        programmatic need to show that the early Christian movement began in
        Jerusalem and its Hellenistic offshoots had their origin there (cf. Paul J.
        Achtemeier, _The Quest for Unity in the New Testament Church_, 6. 37. 42,
        45-47, 69-74).

        In any event, whether the two distinctive groups began in Jerusalem with
        their diverse interpretation of the Torah as it applies to their Christian
        faith, as Luke presents it, or whether the conflict originated in
        Antiochene, as I think is likely, I still hold for the reasons cited in my
        essay that the creed of 1 Cor. 15 and the Death Tradition eucharistic
        tradition originated among Hellenistic-Jewish Christians, and likely in
        Antioch where Paul appropriated both, and not in Jerusalem. Ideologically
        and rhetorically, it is not something that "Simeon-like" Jewish Christians
        would have, in my judgment, either created, promulgated, or even rehearsed
        in their Jerusalem community of Jesus-believers. I shall have more to say
        about this in a future post, in which I will suggest that the
        Jerusalem-Antioch conflict is over the issue whether participating in the
        Death Tradition's eucharist is not a violation of Lev. 17:10-14
        (proscription against eating blood), as well as the Noahide Laws (minimal
        laws that all human beings, Jews and Gentiles alike must observe) and
        covenant which forbid the eating/drinking of blood (a proscription
        promulgated by the Apostolic Decree of Acts 15, apparently based upon Lev.
        17:10-14, and possibly with an allusion to the Noahide Laws [see Achtemeier,
        83-84]). I will also suggest, drawing upon the insights of Achtemeier and
        particularly his reconstructed history of the Jerusalem-Antioch relationship
        (51-54, 58f., 83-85), that the statement attributed to Jesus in the Death
        Tradition eucharist that drinking the cup of wine represents a Antiochene
        hermeneutic in defense of and justification for their Death Tradition
        eucharist in which its Antiochene originators attribute to Jesus the
        intentional inauguration of a "new covenant in my blood," i.e., a new
        covenant which replaces the Noahide covenant and which forbade eating blood.
        Thus, the issue that caused the enactment of the Apostolic Decree in the
        Jerusalem by the conservatives (James and others) in the church was
        possibly, even plausibly, the eucharistic ritual of the Antiochene church in
        which Jesus is symbolically eaten (his body and his blood) as an atonement
        for sins.

        > I also suspect that some of these things you believe a Torah observant
        > Jew could not do would not be so impossible - especially if Jesus had
        > actually said something on the subject. In fact, it still appears to me
        > that the only reason a group of Torah-observant Jews would have taken to
        > "drinking blood", even symbolically, would be if the tradition had
        > actually gone back to Jesus and no-one in the first century could deny it.

        I do not think the tradition goes back to Jesus and will speak to this when
        I address the issue of the new covenant as a replacement for the Noahide
        covenant in the Antiochene Death Tradition..

        Thank you for engaging me over my essay and my apologies again for the delay
        in my reply. Should you wish to respond to any of the above, it will be
        next week before I can respond, as I will be away for four days.

        Regards,

        Ted
        Theodore J. Weeden, Sr.
        Fairport, NY
        Retired
        Ph. D. , Claremont Graduate University
      • Theodore Weeden
        ... [snip] ... [snip] ... [snip] ... [snip] ... Frank, I would like to respond to your post to John by asking you to share with me the problems you have with
        Message 3 of 4 , Sep 16, 2005
          Frank Jacks wrote to John Straton on September 02, 2005:

          > John,

          [snip]

          > . . . let us look at the content of your latest
          > posting. I begin by assuring you that I have no intention to defend the
          > stance taken by Ted Weeden in his recent postings, for I share your
          > perception that he has at best over-stated his case. On the other hand,
          > this does not mean that your own "statement to the contrary" is any more
          > satisfactory.

          [snip]

          > I confess an indebtedness to P. T. Forsyth (of honored British memory)
          > who tried to teach us that all issues of practice or
          > belief are really/basically questions of "authority," i.e. who ought to
          > have the authority to decide any such matter. And
          > truth to tell, I do think that "James, Jesus' brother" along the way did
          > claim authority (as Jesus' "successor"/apostle ... on the basis of
          > dynasty) over all Christians, a position which Paul did in fact contest.

          [snip]

          > In fact, I would agree with Ted or anyone else who claims that Paul and
          > James were at loggerheads about many items, beginning with the question
          > of authority, but I suspect that much of their disagreements rested upon
          > a disparity that prexisted them and even any Christian gather, for
          > James' position seems to have been based upon the practice of Pharisees
          > in Palestine (who unlike all other Jews accepted gentiles as converts to
          > Judaism) whereas Paul's was at least in the beginning based upon the
          > more "liberal" practice of Diaspora Jews who accepted gentiles into
          > fellowship (for worship and for meals) without full conversion into
          > Judaism.

          [snip]

          > Finally, as to Hengel's take about how Palestinian Jews had all been
          > Hellenized already, I would point out that his views have not found
          > general acceptance among many scholars, and for good reason - for
          > example, if they were all Hellenized then why did Jesus
          > speak/teach/preach to them in Aramaic? Why then was Aramaic the
          > language of James' congregation of Christians in Jerusalem? The answer
          > that many of us accept is simply that Aramaic was the language of most
          > Jews in Palestine, although
          > many in the cities and especially among the political and economic and
          > social elites probably did acquire Greek as their second language. I
          > suspect that here we ought to talk about varying degrees of "being
          > Hellenized" (from "none at all" up the scale, perhaps even to the
          > "maximal" type which we find in Philo of Alexandria) just as we ought to
          > talk about the variety of Judaisms, as you suggest.

          > You will perhaps notice that I have not ventured to make a comment about
          > the issue you have been discussing with Ted (about when and whence the
          > tradition about the wine at Communions representing Jesus' blood came)
          > for truth to tell I do not have a clue, other than to say the obvious,
          > that it was early as we do find it in Paul. But would James have felt
          > comfortable
          > with this? I suspect he would have, for the reason Ted has elucidated
          > for us, which would then suggest Hellenized Antioch
          > as the more likely "point of origin." Still, I don't know just where
          > this tradition began and am not sure just how we could find out one way
          > or another, but I look forward to further comments by one and all on
          > this for I surely do need to be enlightened.

          Frank, I would like to respond to your post to John by asking you to share
          with me the problems you have with my thesis and why you think that I "at
          best have over-stated" my case. With respect to Hengel's position on the
          Hellenization of Jerusalemite Jews, I think you make a good challenge to
          Hengel. I am not wedded to that part of his thesis with respect to the
          Hellenistic-Jewish-Christian origin of the creed of 1 Cor 15 and the
          eucharistic tradition Paul reports in 1 Cor. 11. I am inclined to think
          that Luke may be responsible for placing the Hellenists in Jerusalem in
          order to conform with his *heilsgeschichte* paradigm that the entire early
          Christian movement radiated out from its base of origin in Jerusalem to the
          world beyond. Thus, the persecution of the Hellenists may or not be
          historical. It could be a Lukan narrative technique to account for the rise
          and spread of Hellenistic-Jewish Christianity as a distinctively different
          phenomenon from the Torah-observant Jewish Christianity of the church at
          Jerusalem, particularly under the leadership of James.

          In any event, I think that Hengel is correct, as I have stated, that it was
          the Hellenistic-Jewish-Christian wing of the early Jesus movement that is
          responsible for the aforementioned creed and eucharistic tradition. And I
          am inclined to think both creed and eucharistic tradition, at least as Paul
          presents them, were formulated in Antioch. Whether they had nascent root
          among Hellenists resident in Jerusalem, depends on whether Luke's account of
          the Hellenists is historically accurate, and whether those Hellenists, if
          they did reside initially in Jerusalem, had already in Jerusalem taken a
          dramatic turn away from the Jerusalem church in their salvific
          interpretation
          of Jesus' death.

          Regards,

          Ted
          Theodore J. Weeden, Sr.
          Fairport, NY
          Retired
          Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University
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