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[John_Lit] birkhat ha-minim

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  • Stevan Davies
    Mark Matson: Well, I will confess that I have (and still remain) somewhat skeptical of the explanation of the birkhat ha-mimim as the precipitating
    Message 1 of 1 , May 31, 1999
      Mark Matson:
      > Well, I will confess that I have (and still remain) somewhat
      > skeptical of the explanation of the birkhat ha-mimim as the
      > precipitating event for the gospel, as reflected in John 9.
      > In addition to the reasons adduced by Paul, referring to Katz and
      > Kimmelmann, there are other reasons I am a bit suspicious of the
      > laying all this weight on the birkhat ha-minim.
      > 1. While I would agree that tensions between jewish groups and
      > christians is reflected in John, I am not sure we can be as precise
      > about the origin of those. Assuming some validity be attached to
      > Acts, there is detailed fairly early reactions against Christians by
      > at least some jewish groups/individuals (Saul at the behest of the
      > chief priests??).

      Paul as persecutor is, of course, found also in the Epistles and
      so Acts is not the only data we have. Also Paul's being
      scourged in synagogues counts as evidence. "You will
      be beaten in synagogues" Mark 9:13 and so forth.

      > 2. It seems difficult for me to imagine that the origination
      > of the birkhat ha-mimim, as narrated in Jack's references from the
      > Talmud, could have been so pervasive immediately. If I remember
      > Martyn's suggestion (it has been some time), the dictates of the
      > rabbis were assumed to become synagogue "law" rather quickly. Was
      > post Jerusalem rabbinic so hegemonic this quickly? Isn't it more
      > likely that a local synagogue or group of synagogues began using a
      > form of the blessing/curse, and that it slowly spread to others? I
      > would, I guess, be a bit more suspicious of the talmudic account, and
      > suggest that this may be an idealization of the growth of the birkhat
      > ha-mimim.

      And another thing... the theory seems to be that Christians in
      the Synagogues would have understood the birkhat ha-minim
      as directed against themselves, have accepted that, and have
      regarded themselves as banned. But what is the wording
      supposed to have been that would make them say "this
      unquestionably is us?" Christians are extraordinarily able to
      accept things Jewish by radically redefining them, or reunderstanding
      them, to suit themselves. (cf. Galatians, appeals to Prophecy,
      John's 'bread of life' etc.).

      > 3. Isn't it true that there are very few versions of the birkhat
      > ha-minim which specifically refer to the Christians / Nazoreans? Just
      > how solid is the anti-christian tendency of the birkhat ha-minim?

      Yes, exactly.

      > In other words, is there enough evidence to really tag the opposition
      > reflected in John to this specific event, even with its attractive
      > quality of (possibly) giving some date to the origin of John?

      And ironically, while the theory arose, I think, from the desire
      to give a date to the origin of John, the indeterminate nature of
      the date of the birkhat ha-minim in a clearly anti-Christian form
      means that desire goes unfulfilled. Indeed, could it not be said
      that the date of John is more well established than the date of
      the b ha-m?

      Steve Davies
      College Misericordia

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