The Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls The Center for the Study of Christianity
The Thirteenth International Orion Symposium
Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation: From Second Temple Literature through Judaism and Christianity in Late Antiquity
February 22–24, 2011
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2011 Beit Maiersdorf, Room 502
Session I (17:00–19:30)
Menahem Kister The Hebrew University
"Primeval Light and Sabbath Light: Jewish-Hellenistic Writers and Palestinian Traditions"
One of the most puzzling problems of postbiblical Jewish literature is the relationship between Hellenistic Jewish literature, written in Greek, and rabbinic literature, a product of Palestinian Jewish literature composed in Hebrew and Aramaic. This problem is of vital interest for students of ancient midrashic literature.
The lecture will deal first with statements concerning the dust of which Adam was created: on the one hand, there is, in rabbinic haggadah, an apparent usage of a Jewish tradition formulated in Greek; on the other hand, I contend that Philo makes use of a tradition independently attested in later rabbinic literature. The use of the tradition in rabbinic literature illuminates Philo’s own interpretation, notwithstanding the chronological gap between the two.
Later on, I will deal with the notion that the creation of light on the first day is a reflection of the divine light, which is the origin both of physical and metaphysical light. This is identified either as the light of God or as the light of a divine entity (the Logos, the Spirit of God, the Torah). Strikingly similar utterances will be traced in a variety of sources and genres.
The Jewish philosopher Aristobulus (known to us only through quotations in Christian literature) argues that the primeval light of Wisdom is the light of the Sabbath. The (spiritual) light of the Sabbath is also mentioned by Philo. Analyzing rabbinic interpretations of the verse in the light of Philo’s interpretation, I try to demonstrate that at the core of the interpretations of the rabbis, as well as those of Philo and Aristobulus, is the same ancient tradition, whose content underwent crucial metamorphoses in the process of its transmission and adaptation to the different literary and cultural contexts in which it was embedded.
Lorenzo DiTommaso Concordia University, Montréal
"The Fifteen Signs of Doomsday in Ancient Judaism and Mediaeval Christianity"
The Fifteen Signs of Doomsday is a list of omens that are expected to occur over the fifteen days before the Judgment Day. Yet there is more to this text than its contents might initially suggest. This paper will examine the complicated literary history of the Fifteen Signs, which begins in early Judaism and may be traced along a maze of paths into many corners of the late antique and mediaeval worlds. Recent research has revealed new information about this history, including its manuscript evidence and the diversity of literary and other sources in which the tradition appears. This has prompted a re-evaluation of some long-held assumptions about the text’s origin and provenance. An examination of the Fifteen Signs also sheds light on the ways that texts and traditions were transmitted and received in the mediaeval centuries.
William Adler North Carolina State University
"The Palaea Historica: ‘Rewritten Bible,’ ‘Compendium,’ or Something Else?"
An anonymous work composed no earlier than the ninth century C.E., the Palaea Historica is a survey of Old Testament history from the Creation to Daniel. The Palaea was highly influential in Byzantine culture. Although Vasiliev used only two manuscripts in his edition of the Greek, my own inventory of manuscript catalogues has already turned up thirteen complete Greek witnesses to the work (in addition to excerpts and summaries). The translation of the Palaea into Slavonic, and subsequent extracts and condensations of the work in that language, assured its continued popularity in Russia and southern Slavic countries. It continued to be read and used well after the Old Testament first became available in a complete Slavonic translation in the late fifteenth century.
For students of early Judaism, the particular interest of the Palaea lies in the copious body of extrabiblical traditions about various biblical personalities, most notably Lamech, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Melchizedek, Ephron, Moses and Balaam. All of this has been amply documented in the study by David Flusser, still the most thorough analysis of the Palaea’s preservation and use of older Jewish source material. But because the avenues of transmission and influence are obscure, any attempt to reconstruct the older sources lying behind the Palaea’s treatment of biblical history is bound to remain highly speculative. Specifically, how much of this material originated in written works, how much in non-literary sources, and how much was simply a creation of the author’s own imagination? This paper attempts to cast some light on these questions by analyzing the Palaea’s treatment of biblical history in the nonliterary context of Byzantine hymnody, art and local oral tradition.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2011 Rabin Building, Room 2001
Session II (9:00–10:30)
Chaim Milikowsky Bar-Ilan University
"Where is the Lost Ark of the Covenant? The True History (of the Ancient Traditions)"
I do not intend in this paper to reveal to all the nonbelievers in the audience what actually happened to the Ark of the Covenant. My present purpose is much more modest—to delve into the various traditions about the hiding of the Ark and other Temple vessels, that are found in the rabbinic corpus as well as in other Jewish writings of the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
Many texts tell us that the Ark was hidden in the period leading towards the First Temple's destruction. In some of these texts the Ark is the only item thus hidden and in others it is included on a longer list, consisting primarily, but not solely, of other Temple vessels. It seems probable that we should conclude from these traditions that the Ark was not extant in the Second Temple; this is stated explicitly in rabbinic literature, but there is still room for some contention on the matter.
A central question in the nexus of details about the hiding of the Ark is that of who hid it. A number of rabbinic texts mention only the fact of the concealment, with no indication of the responsible party; others mention King Yoshiyahu explicitly. No other agent for the concealment is mentioned in rabbinic literature. In nonrabbinic literature, on the other hand, Yoshiyahu is never mentioned, and the only biblical figure who is reported to have hidden Temple vessels is Yirmiyahu. A less stark contrast among the various sources focuses upon the place of the hiding: in rabbinic literature the most famous locale is beneath the Temple itself, but this is not the only idea to be found among the rabbis.
The remainder of the paper entertains various speculations concerning the history and the development of these traditions, with special emphasis upon the shift from Yirmiyahu to Yoshiyahu as the person who hid the Ark.
Yair Furstenberg The Hebrew University
"Impurity and Social Demarcation: Resetting Second Temple Halakhic Traditions in New Contexts"
In a variety of Second Temple sources, including the earliest strata of rabbinic literature, we find the prevailing halakhic assumption that purity is possible only through a definite social affiliation. This widespread notion was deeply rooted both in contemporary conceptions of purity and in the specific nature of Palestinian Jewish society of the time. According to this view only by joining into the circle of the pure—be it priests, Pharisees, or the Qumran Yahad—does one gain the privilege of purity, which is otherwise unattainable for the individual. Over time, this halakhic tradition moved away from the specific social constellations of Second Temple Palestinian Jews among whom the distinction between pure and impure established clear social demarcations. In its new community contexts, both rabbinic and Christian, the status of purity changed, and with it, the halakhic conception was reinterpreted and transformed.
This transformation is most notably manifested in early rabbinic literature through a set of interpretations of early traditions by later authorities towards the latter half of the second century. By comparing the strata of the Mishnah and Tosefta, we can trace the movement from a strictly social conception of purity to an individual realization of purification. In its most extreme manifestation, the same halakhah that initially tied purity to a declared social affiliation was re-read to pertain to purely individual intention. Henceforth, within social contexts that did not support purity, the maintenance thereof was to become a matter of personal decision. Interestingly, a parallel move can be found in Paul’s epistle to the Romans (ch. 14). What seems to be a halakhic (Pharisaic?) tradition reflecting on the variety of purity levels is quoted by Paul in the name of Jesus and is reinterpreted by Paul himself. The initial quotation of the Palestinian purity tradition is thus implemented in a new context for the gentile/Diaspora community, and here, too, personal intention comes to the fore.
Session III (11:00–12:30)
Avigdor Shinan and Yair Zakovitch The Hebrew University
"‘Whyis A Placed Next to B?’ Juxtaposition in the Bible and Beyond"
We often find the rabbis asking what we are to learn from the juxtaposition of two biblical units (be they stories, laws, proverbs etc.):"Why is the chapter of Absalom [=Psalms 3] juxtaposed to the chapter of Gog and Magog [=Psalms 2]?" (b. Berakhot 10a); or "What has the topic of the sabbatical year to do with Mount Sinai?" (Sifra, Behar 1). The rabbis believed that the textual proximity of different items within the Scriptures created additional strata of meaning and they pointed these out and made them explicit.
It is clear that this mode of interpretation was not the invention of the rabbis but pre-dated them and exists within Scripture itself. Juxtaposition, like other phenomena that are found abundantly and explicitly in rabbinic literature, can be discovered in biblical literature as well, where it is, however, usually implicit. In our lecture we intend to demonstrate that the biblical writers and redactors were aware of the interpretative function of juxtaposition.
Our lecture will demonstrate the phenomenon described above as found in the Bible and rabbinic literature and will trace it in the postbiblical, prerabbinic literature (e.g., the Book of Jubilees, a text from Qumran, Flavius Josephus, and Ps.-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities), providing one more example of the exegetical continuum that exists between innerbiblical interpretation and rabbinic literature.
Armin Lange University of Vienna
"Rabbinic References to the Severus Scroll in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls"
Medieval biblical manuscripts and the late rabbinic midrash Bereshit Rabbati by Rabbi Moshe HaDarshan of Narbonne preserve lists of variants recorded from a Torah scroll that the Roman emperor Severus—probably Alexander Severus (222-35 C.E.)—donated to a synagogue in Rome. The variants recorded in this list have been the object of several studies. To date, in part due to the delayed publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Torah scrolls from the Dead Sea, the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the text-critical evidence of biblical quotations and allusions from Second Temple Jewish literature have not been taken into consideration comprehensively in the study of the Severus Scroll variant lists. A comparison with the text-critical evidence from the Second Temple period finds some of the Severus Scroll variants also attested in textual witnesses from the Second Temple period and thus confirms earlier claims by Siegel (J. P. Siegel, The Severus Scroll and 1QIsaa ). Contrary to the classification of the Severus Scroll as a vulgar manuscript, comparison with the biblical manuscripts from the Dead Sea shows that it was part of the protomasoretic textual tradition of the Pentateuch. Like other texts from that textual tradition, the Severus Scroll attested to a few exceptional readings against the consonantal text of MT. Some of the Severus Scroll variants can even be found in medieval Masoretic manuscripts of the Pentateuch such as Codex Leningradiensis or are recorded as either Sebir or Ketiv and Qere readings. That several hundred years after the destruction of the Second Temple Jewish scholars found the variant readings of the Severus Scroll worth recording points to the progress in the textual standardization achieved since the Second Temple Period.
Session IV (14:00–15:30)
Serge Ruzer The Hebrew University
"From Body as Tabernacle of the Holy Spirit to Death as Destruction of the Temple"
The tension between the notions of God’s presence and that of the gift of prophecy/Spirit—as connected with the sanctuary or, alternatively, as pertaining to certain individuals or to the Commonwealth of Israel as a whole—is attested already in the Hebrew Bible. My paper reviews a number of Second Temple period traditions—found, e. g., in Hellenistic Jewish sources, in Qumran, and in the New Testament—that replay the above tension in the context of a new, more developed, religious anthropology and/or a sectarian community outlook. With regard to New Testament sources, an attempt is made to distinguish between a particular, Jesus-centered messianic line of argument and conceptions that may be reasonably seen as reflecting beliefs in broader circulation among Jews of the time.
The paper thus highlights some characteristic Second Temple period expressions of ideas concerning alternative (i.e., not limited to the sanctuary) loci of the indwelling of God/the Holy Spirit: the human being, the body, a community of the elect. This, in turn, provides a backdrop for the discussion of developments that these patterns undergo in later sources, both rabbinic and Christian. Observing that the main themes of the earlier period survive in the post-70 era, I also single out meaningful modifications introduced into the motif in Jewish and Christian contexts.
Finally, a peculiar variant of the motif—attested in John 2:19–22—is addressed. In this passage, it is suggested that Jesus’ death and resurrection are, in fact, a representation of the destruction and rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple. Although some inroads in this direction can be discerned elsewhere, this tradition remains doubly outstanding—vis-à-vis both roughly contemporaneous broader Jewish ideas and those found in nascent Christianity itself. The paper elaborates on the possible historical circumstances underlying this idiosyncratic exegetical offshoot and proceeds to discuss some later Christian responses to the passage, including an instructive passage from the Life of Moses by Gregory of Nyssa which bears witness to the metamorphosis that the identification of Christ-Messiah with the Temple/Tabernacle would undergo in patristic thought.
Gary Anderson University of Notre Dame
"The Treasury in Heaven and the Tun-Ergehen-Zusammenhang"
This essay will consider the meaning of the concept "treasury in heaven" in early Jewish and Christian literature. Its point of departure will be the well-known essay of K. Koch on the Tun-Ergehen Zusammenhang and a follow-up contribution titled, "Der Schatz im Himmel." I will argue that there were two traditions about such a treasury in Second Temple Judaism, one that privileged acts of charity and one that did not. The essay will close with a consideration of how my thesis illuminates a famous dispute in BT Qiddushin 39a.
Session V (16:00–17:30)
Yaakov Kaduri (James Kugel) Bar-Ilan University
"Some Possible Connections between the Book of Jubilees and Rabbinic Midrash"
Despite what one might expect, there are a number of elements connecting the Book of Jubilees with later, rabbinic writings; indeed, as I hope to show, a knowledge of rabbinic midrash can sometimes aid us in restoring parts of the text of Jubilees that have been corrupted in the process of transmission or in other ways situating a remark in Jubilees in it's broader, exegetical context. Such resemblances between Jubilees and rabbinic writings also raise interesting questions about their relationship in the overall picture of Second Temple Judaism.
Annette Yoshiko Reed University of Pennsylvania
"Retelling Biblical Retellings: Epiphanius, the Pseudo-Clementines, and the Reception History of the Book of Jubilees"
This paper explores the late antique Christian afterlives of so-called "Old Testament Pseudepigrapha," by considering the redeployment of traditions about primeval history from the second-century BCE Book of the Jubilees in the fourth century CE, by Epiphanius and the authors/redactors of the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies. The fourth century CE is often hailed as a turning-point in the reception of Christianity’s Second Temple literary heritage, due to the efforts of Athanasius and other ecclesiarchs at promoting a closed Christian canon and denigrating parabiblical works as spurious "apocrypha" produced by "heretics." This pattern may fit with what we know of the Nachleben of works like the Enochic Book of the Watchers, which were widely cited before the fourth century but marginalized thereafter in Western Christendom. Yet the evidence surrounding Jubilees strikingly diverges: explicit references to Jubilees are only extant during and after the fourth century. To explore this apparent shift in citation and/or usage, and possible reasons for it, this paper focuses on the question of the reception of Jubilees’ truth-claims as a Mosaic pseudepigraphon and "biblical retelling": I draw attention to the renewed importance in fourth-century Christianity of "biblical retelling" as literary and interpretative practice, powerful for relativizing "pagan" universal histories and for neutralizing competing (e.g., "gnostic," Marcionite) genealogies of error.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2011 Rabin Building, Room 2001
Session VI (9:00–10:30)
Pieter van der Horst University of Utrecht
"Pious Long-Sleepers in Early Judaism and Ancient Christianity"
Graeco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian antiquity know stories about pious persons who, thanks to their status as favourites of the gods or God, slept for very long periods (decades or centuries) without being aware that so much time had passed. The best known story of this kind is the Christian tale of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, which was extremely popular in the Middle Ages—but this story had several precedents. In this paper I will trace this motif from its earliest occurrence in Greek literature (Epimenides) through its Jewish varieties (Choni and Abimelech) to the Christian story. I will argue that, though it cannot be proven that the Jewish versions were formed under the influence of the Greek Epimenides story, it is well-nigh certain that the Christian story of the Seven Sleepers is a Christian reworking of the Jewish Abimelech story.
Hillel Newman Haifa University
"Stars and Salvation in the Second Temple Period and Beyond"
Literary sources of the Second Temple period attest to the popularity of messianic interpretations of the stellar imagery of Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17. Other biblical passages (Isaiah 60, for example) also contributed to the cultivation of such motifs. In several famous cases this imagery was translated into eschatological narrative, such as the story of the Star of the Magi, or gave form to apocalyptic tensions, even fueling open revolt against Rome. In some instances unusual astronomical events, such as the appearance of a comet, contributed to eschatological expectations (cf. Josephus, Jewish War 6: 289); evidence for the appearance of a comet in 132 CE suggests that this may even have been true of the "Bar Kokhba" Revolt. Stellar typology continued to feature in Jewish messianic midrashim and apocalyptic sources throughout late antiquity and beyond. In these later sources (e.g., Sefer Zerubavel, Secrets of R. Shimon b. Yohai, Prayer of R. Shimon b. Yohai) earlier material is both preserved and adapted to new circumstances. The story of the Star of the Magi also continued to be embroidered in Christian tradition, particularly as preserved in Syriac. This elaborated tradition left its mark in Jewish texts as well.
Session VII (11:00–12:30)
John C. Reeves University of North Carolina at Charlotte
"The Parascriptural Dimensions of the ‘Tale of Hārūt and Mārūt’"
Early commentators and traditionists embed and amplify Q 2:102, an enigmatic allusion to angelic complicity in the transmission of esoteric knowledge to humankind, within a rich layer of interpretive lore frequently bearing the rubric ‘Tale of Hārūt and Mārūt.’ A close study of this verse alongside its external narrative embellishments uncovers a wealth of structural and contextual motifs that suggestively link the ‘Tale’ with biblical and parascriptural myths about ‘fallen angels’ and their perceived role in the corruption of antediluvian humanity. The present paper catalogs a representative number of these motifs, speculates about their mode of transmission, and offers some guidelines for analyzing the different versions of the ‘Tale’ which surface centuries later in medieval Jewish interpretive and mystical literature. Particular attention is devoted to the identity of the woman who is responsible for the seduction of the angels.
Michael Stone The Hebrew University
"The Armenian Abraham Saga: How does It Read the Biblical Text?"
Medieval Armenian literature contains a plethora of stories, poems and scholastic texts relating to Abraham. I shall address two issues in my talk:
a. How do these texts relate to the biblical Abraham narratives: Which episodes are omitted, which new episodes are introduced? What are the principles governing this activity and what is the authorial context implied thereby?
b. How do these texts relate to one another in genealogical fashion: Does genetic derivation explain their interrelationship and, if not, does the idea of textual clusters? What does the answer to this question imply about Sitz im Leben and authorial practice?
Session VIII (14:00–15:30)
Alexander Kulik The Hebrew University
"How the Devil Got His Hooves and Horns: Towards the Origin of the Motif"
This case study in the history of motifs reexamines the problem of the origins of a medieval image of the devil as a therianthropic creature with hooves and horns. I seek to reconstruct the analogous ancient image of a satyr-like devil as it may be traced in Jewish-Hellenistic, rabbinic, and early Christian texts. It seems that the motif belongs completely to none of these worlds; instead, it emerges from a complicated literary history wherein the Greco-Roman Pan, Jewish seirim, and other mythological figures graft themselves and their imagery around the forces of the demonic. The main argument of the paper centers on a new interpretation of 3 Baruch 2–3.
Sergey Minov The Hebrew University
"The Myth of Satan’s Fall in the Life of Adam and Eve and its Reception in Jewish and Christian Traditions"
In my presentation I am going to deal with the myth of Satan’s fall in the Life of Adam and Eve. I will examine origins of this myth in the context of ancient Judaism as well as its afterlife and impact on rabbinic and patristic traditions. While this myth was marginalized in rabbinic literature, it gained relatively wide popularity among the Christians of late antiquity and the Middle Ages. This version of Satan’s fall is attested in a wide range of Christian sources—Greek, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Slavonic, and some others. Notwithstanding its wide distribution, this myth had an ambivalent status in Christian tradition. While it was adopted by some Christian authors, others rejected it. I will offer a survey of these Christian traditions, focusing mainly on Syriac Christian material, and discuss possible reasons for the negative attitude toward this myth.
Session IX (16:00–18:00)
Yehoshua Granat The Hebrew University
"Before ‘In the Beginning’: The Afterlife of Some Second Temple Literature Preexistence Traditions in Early Piyyut"
The corpus of early Piyyut—Hebrew liturgical poetry composed in Palestine and the periphery during the Byzantine and early Muslim eras—is not frequently discussed from thematic perspectives. It is usually assumed that the subject matter of this poetry is directly derived from mainstream rabbinic compendia; yet this is not always the case. Certain themes and motifs occurring in early Piyyut texts cannot be traced back to the rabbinic sources, and in some cases they even contradict rabbinic parallels. In such instances it may be possible to identify echoes of early traditions recorded in extra-rabbinic, "noncanonical," sources.
Three cases of this kind are to be discussed, all of which relate to the concept of preexistence, the presence of certain entities of religious significance prior the creation of heaven and earth. The first case concerns preexistence attributed to angels in some early Piyyut texts, a view overtly dismissed by the rabbis in Genesis Rabbah, but well-represented in Second Temple literature and later sources of an "esoteric" nature. The second case is a unique depiction, in a composition by El'azar Birabi Kalir (c. 7th century CE), of the created world as being "woven" out of the preexistent Torah; this imagery will be examined vis-à-vis several sources, including an obscure passage from the Biblical Antiquities. The third case comprises a work by Yannai (c. 6th century CE), along with a few additional texts, which attribute preexistence to the Sabbath. This concept contradicts the well-known biblical etiology of the Sabbath and is unknown in rabbinic sources, yet is clearly expressed in Jewish Hellenistic texts of the Second Temple period.
The discussion of each case will emphasize the sometimes surprising continuity of traditions and motifs as well as the transformative dynamics of their transmission.
Philip Alexander University of Manchester
"Enoch, the Son of Yared, in the Hekhalot Literature: Continuity and Innovation"
Having been the "star" of Second Temple Jewish literature, Enoch goes into sharp decline in post-70 Judaism (being ignored or denigrated in Talmud and Midrash), only to make a spectacular comeback in the Hekhalot literature of late Talmudic times. This paper will analyse in depth all the references to Enoch not only in the so-called Third Book of Enoch but also in the other Hekhalot texts, with a view to determining his role in this literature, the sources on which the Hekhalot authors might have drawn, and the possible reasons for a resurgence of interest in this postdiluvian patriarch. An attempt will be made to work out the nature of the relationship implied by the parallelism between Hekhalot Enoch and the earlier Enochic literature, and refine Odeberg’s and Orlov’s treatments of this topic, in the light of the conditions under which texts were created, transmitted and consumed in the world of late antiquity. It will set this recovery of Enoch traditions in the context of the recovery of other Second Temple tradition during the apocalyptic revival of the seventh and eighth centuries, and assess a number of models that might explain how this situation came about.