Home > Early Christianity > “Revealed Wisdom and Inaugurated Eschatology in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism)”

“Revealed Wisdom and Inaugurated Eschatology in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism)”

Publisher: BRILL | 2007 | ISBN 9004155821 | PDF | 294 pages

This book examines four texts 1 Enoch, 4Q Instruction, Matthew and 2 Enoch and argues that in each the revealing of wisdom to an elect group inaugurates the eschatological period. This idea leads to the fusion of sapiential and apocalyptic elements.

This book arose out of the writer doctoral research on the Gospel of Matthew and I think some introductory comment is probably required as to why it now finds itself in a series devoted to the study of Judaism. In 2001, as I began to work towards my research proposal, I was intrigued by the fact that while scholars had identified the importance of sapiential and apocalyptic elements within Matthew’s Gospel, the question of their relationship to one another within Matthew’s schema had been largely ignored. Were they distinct elements with distinct functions within the Matthean narrative? Had they been brought together by redactional chance? Were they, in the end, uncomfortable bedfellows? Or might they relate to one another in some more subtle sense? Might their mutual presence point to some kind of underlying idea in Matthew, betrayed by their presence but largely overlooked by scholarship? As I began to explore the issue, it became clear that at least one constituency within New Testament scholarship, dealing not with Matthew but with underlying sources and traditions, had dealt with this question in an extremely simple, redactional fashion: sapiential and apocalyptic elements in Q and in historical Jesus traditions belong to different strata—they are not simply distinct, but are to some extent mutually corrosive, being founded upon radically different views of God and salvation. Inevitably, such an approach impinges upon Matthew research since, on one hand, the Gospel is generally seen as dependent upon Q and, on the other, it is one of the sources used in reconstructing the Historical Jesus.

At the same time, Macaskill was aware that scholars of Second Temple Judaism, drawing on the rich and diverse sources of the time, were approaching the question in a very different way. The assumption of the “generic incompatibility” of wisdom and apocalyptic had been reassessed in the light of the variegated material from Qumran and the pseudepigrapha, with the conclusion that since these elements often occur together they are clearly not incompatible on a generic level. Thus, the focus of the question had shifted to the specifics and subtleties of the relationship. I was keen, therefore, to approach the question of the relationship of these two elements in Matthew’s Gospel in a way that would draw upon the valuable insights of this second group of scholars. It was important, though, not to repeat the error of much New Testament scholarship by simply trawling Jewish texts for “background.” Instead—and taking my cue from an article by John J. Collins, discussed below in chapter 1— The writer decided to focus on a small number of texts, seeking to ascertain whether there might be underlying themes or concepts that would explain the mutual presence of sapiential and apocalyptic elements. A number of inter-related themes began to emerge: there was an emphasis in each text on revealed wisdom; this, in turn, played a pivotal role in an eschatology which depicted the revealing of wisdom as an inaugural event. Finally, in a way that varied from text to text, there was a sense that the righteous were capable, as those to whom wisdom had been revealed, to return to a state of fidelity to the will of God as Creator.

This process of discovery had been driven by my interest in Matthew’s Gospel, but the themes and concepts that were uncovered may well be of heuristic significance to the study of other Jewish and Christian texts. With the benefit of hindsight, then, it seems to me that my research finds a more wholesome realization in this volume, within which the findings can be seen in their own terms: as manifestations of Jewish thought and as attestations of the influence of that thought on early Christianity. Nevertheless, the final form of this book reflects the fact that it has grown out of research into the Gospel of Matthew: the chapter dealing with the Gospel is considerably longer than the other chapters. This should be recognized by the reader to be a consequence of the evolutionary process behind this book rather than a value judgment on the relative importance of the Gospel.

 

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