Some random thoughts

On the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha
There’s a definite gap in dealing with these writings. The focus so often goes back to a putative Jewish original, although the form in which we have the texts are Christian, and much later. Both the initial Christianization of these writings (if indeed they were not simply originally Christian) and the later use of them as evidenced by the physical characteristics of the manuscripts (e.g., as part of hagiographical menologies, the liturgical texts for saints’ commemorations read in churches) are generally ignored. It appears, for one thing, that much is written on the authoring of various New Testament Apocrypha and Patristic works during the course of the second and third centuries, but that the Christianization (or authoring) of these Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are not included in such accounts, though it was precisely in these centuries that a plurality of these works appeared in their known forms. I know that Jim Davila deals with this in part in his book The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha: Jewish, Christian, or Other? (Brill, 2005), which book glares at me, guilt-inducingly, from a pile of others in the To Read category, saying, “Read me…read me….”

On Rebellious Angels
About the Genesis 6 “sons of God” and the Enochian Watchers and the Nephilim. Having recently worked through Jubilees and the Ascension of Isaiah with much reference to parallels in the Genesis Apocryphon and various stray references to New Testament books and letters, I’m convinced that the earliest Christians, including Paul, actually did believe this tale of various angels impregnating women and bearing these hybrid Nephilim. A frequent objection to this has been said to be found in Matthew 22.30 (parr), where we read, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (NRSV). Reading this as reference to not the nature of angels in general, but as something of a reaffirmation of the goodness of the obedient angels in heaven as opposed to those fallen ones on earth, we might even take this to be a belief of the Master himself. Now, the emphasis in the tradition appears to be not that these angels were incapable of engendering some kind of children with the human women, but rather that they 1.) sullied themselves by doing so and 2.) broke the boundaries of their assigned positions, all because of the beauty of the women. Certainly Paul can be understood to refer to this also in 1 Corinthians 11.10: “For this reason a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” There is likewise the reference in 1 Peter 3.19-20, situating these events in the time of the Flood, which the tradition of the Nephilim also does, and Christ preaching to the imprisoned spirits of the Nephilim. Then of course is the obvious quotation of 1 Enoch in Jude 14-15, indicating a knowledge and acceptance (despite claims to the contrary) of the whole of that book.

On the Prophetic Nature of the Old Testament
It is an archive of the prophets, not the kings, not the priests. Though the latter two groups may have occasionally been the recipients of good press from the prophets, as much as they adhered to the prophetic perspective, it is only the perspective of the prophets, their religion, that stands forth as the sole valid perspective from Genesis to Malachi (or to 2 Chronicles or to Daniel, depending upon your canon!). And that perspective, that religion, eventually became the religion of the Judean people, after the return from the Babylonian Exile, though with an apparently somewhat shaky beginning. The recurrent syncretism and outright foreign worship (presented as adultery and idolatry) of pre-exilic Israel and Judah were finally eliminated, and the ideal of the prophetic worship became everyone else’s standard as well. The oracular nature of much of the (Latter) Prophets is clear, but it is likewise present in the Historical Books (the Former Prophets, namely Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings), where the oracular/prophetic perspective is the filter through which events are interpreted, comprising a prophetic commentary on history itself. In this, they don’t differ from those oracularly-driven perspectives we read of in other ancient Near Eastern texts.

On the Davidic-Messianic Nature of the Old Testament
Tied to the above is the realization of the OT designed by those prophetic voices to reflect the ongoing loyalty of God for His promise to David as given in 2 Samuel 7, through the prophet Nathan, “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam 7.16). Firstly, the genealogies of the various books drill down toward the family of David, from Adam to Noah, from Shem to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Judah, and so on, to David (as I describe here). In addition to this, that oracular promise was continually on the minds of the prophets, so that they were always in anticipation, generation by generation, of its fulfillment in the birth of a new scion of the House of David, a Son of God in a particular manner. This would explain the strong language found in Isaiah 7 and 11. Every king in that line was viewed not only as the living embodiment of the fulfillment of God’s particular promise to David made through one of their own. Later, the expectation of an ideal Son of David grew (this too, is reflected in Isaiah 7 and 11, and perhaps also in Ezekiel 34 and 37, if “David” there is not to be understood as King David redivivus) as time went on and the prophets were presented with various disappointing (and occasionally murderous) results. This Davidic-Messianic perspective is likewise, in combination with various references to prophetic texts, drawn on in the Gospels in reference to Jesus, a son of David, though the Messiahship there is one quite different than that of a physical kingdom, drawing on further aspects of the Davidic-Messianic tradition which must certainly have been in play in those days in reference to an expected Davidic scion, otherwise they’d’ve been incomprehensible to the original audience. One can only imagine that in the second century that at least some of the same references would have also been in play in reference to Simon bar Kosiba. One wonders if the miraculous healings and such things were likewise expected of bar Kosiba or if they had dropped out of the tradition by then; or perhaps the adherents of that tradition had simply entered into the Christian community, so that it was simply no longer held by other Judeans at the time.

8 Replies to “Some random thoughts”

  1. Kevin,

    Yours is a thoughtful post, so I feel like a bit of a dolt ignoring its substance and asking: whose canon (testament) ends with Daniel?


  2. What an excellent post, Kevin! I will try to pick up on a detail or two in a post of my own.


    The short answer to your question is that those of us who read the Septuagint via Rahlfs(-Hanhart) are used to finding Ezekiel and then Daniel at the end of the volume. I don’t remember offhand, however, the order in Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and other great pandects, though I believe Alexandrinus concludes with Wisdom of Solomon and Ben Sira. For further details, see Thinking about Canon (Part Four) on my blog.

  3. Kevin – I second – or is is third – the above kudos. These questions are very important in bridling a simple binary understanding of complex issues. Four legs to this table, each of them of ornate interest – perhaps many will sit at it and eat together?

  4. Thanks, gents!

    Justin, yes, as John mentioned, it’s the Orthodox order of books. The Twelve Minor Prophets (with a slightly different order: Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and then the rest are the same order as the Hebrew) are placed before Isaiah, Jeremiah (with Baruch, Lamentations and the Letter of Jeremiah), Ezekiel, and Daniel (with Susanna in the beginning and Bel et Draco at the end).

  5. Kevin,

    Orthodox still have that collation for the books? I suppose I’m really displaying my ignorance here… I seem to vaguely recall Daniel being at the end of some (not all – maybe just Greek-speaking?) (Eastern) Orthodox Old Testament canons.

    As far as the historical canons go, I suppose I didn’t even consider Septuagint, which is actually shameful.


  6. Well, at least in the Greek ones, not just in Rahlfs but in the Apostoliki Diakonia text from Constantinople and a modern Greek translation I have, they’re in that order. I think the Russian Orthodox Synodal Bible follows the Latin order, so it’d end with Malachi. And I don’t know what the Syriac order is like. So, yes, you’re right that it’s only some of the Orthodox Bibles that have the books in that order, but this old Septuagintal order preserved in the Greek Bibles is recognized as “Orthodox” more than any others, for historical reasons.

  7. Kevin,

    Now that you say (write) that, I can recall reading that – and displaying my ignorance of the Greek tradition. I’ve attended a Greek service before, but it was *in* Greek, so I couldn’t follow along. I have been to a Romanian church several times that uses the Western/Latin collation. Always good to have a refresher on canons.


  8. Dear Kevin,

    I like your proposal so far. I do understand that more flesh needs to be added to the theory.

    Furthermore, Jesus in Luke 24:25-27 and 24:44-48 clearly indicated that the OT spoke of Him, His Mission, His Suffering, His Resurrection, His Ascension and His Glory. Thus, your prophetic perspective is clearly on the mark so far.

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