SBL Notes, part three

This post covers the afternoon session of the Function of Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal Writings in Early Judaism and Early Christianity Consultation, held 4:00-6:30 pm on Monday 19 November 2006.

Amy-Jill Levine presided at this one, and kept everyone right on time with her sharp charm, and the threat of her sharper stilletto heels! I kid you not.

Casey Elledge was the first presenter, with “Rewriting the Sacred: Some Problems of Textual Authority in the Light of the ‘Rewritten Scriptures’ from Qumran.” His seven page handout covers an outline of his talk, a very interesting table of “Texts Exhibiting ‘Scriptural Rewriting’ in the Qumran Library”, and a very helpful bibliography, as this is not an area that I’ve found particularly welcoming: daunting is rather the word, I think. This talk was a great introduction for concepts that make “Rewritten Scriptures” more approachable, I found. The following is based on his detailed outline, with a few of my own notes thrown in. The first part of the talk focused on recent scholarly investigation, covering instances of scriptural rewriting in canonical books, scriptural versions, pseudepigrapha, and Qumran, with a special focus on the latter. Elledge then proceeded into the stick issue of definitions, preferring this definition from George Brooke, that a “rewritten scripture” is “…any representation of an authoritative scriptural text that implicitly incorporates interpretive elements, large or small, in the retelling itself…. [The Scriptural source] acts as the primary control on what is re-presented” (from “Rewritten Bible” pp 2.777-781 in Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Oxford, 2000). Alongside this he lists also the sources for further definitions: by Phillip Alexander (“Retelling the Old Testament” pp 99-121 in It Is Written: Scripture Citing Scripture: Essays in Honour of Barnabas Lindars. Cambridge, 1988), by Geza Vermes (somewhere in Emil Schürer’s The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ. T&T Clark, 1986), by George Nickelsburg (“The Bible Rewritten and Expanded,” pp 89-156 in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period. Fortress Press, 1984), by Joseph Fitzmyer (in The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave 1 (1Q20): A Commentary. Editrice Pontificio Instituto Biblico, 2004), by Craig Evans (“Genesis Apocrypon and the Rewritten Bible.” Revue de Qumran 13 [1988]: 153-165), by Emanuel Tov (“Rewritten Bible Compositions and Biblical Manuscripts, with Special Attention to the Samaritan Pentateuch.” Dead Sea Discoveries 5.3 [1998]: 334-354), and by Sidnie White Crawford (“The Rewritten Bible at Qumran,” pp 131-148 in The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume One: Scripture and the Scrolls. Baylor University Press, 2006). The second part of the talk was on “The Varied Sources of Rewritten Scriptural Compositions,” focusing on the relationship between the Genesis Apocryphon, 1 Enoch 106, and Genesis. The handout includes a chart showing more parallels between the Genesis Apocryphon and 1 Enoch than Genesis. A second chart shows parallels between Genesis Apocryphon, Jubilees, and Genesis, with, again, the unmistakable conclusion that Jubilees has been followed more closely than Genesis itself. He moved on to the Temple Scroll, perhaps the most complicated of these “Rewritten Scriptures” from Qumran in its combining, rewriting and expansion of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Kings/Chronicles, Ezra/Nehemiah, Ezekiel and other sources, which Elledge characterizes as “An Expanded Arsenal of Authoritative Sources.” I’ll say! The third part of his talk covered “The Status of Rewritings at Qumran.” FIrst he touched on the criteria for evaluating authority, which he characterizes as: 1. Quotation, 2. Copies, 3. Revelation, 4. Completeness, and 5. Compatibility. Related to “copies” was a point Elledge made that not only the number of copies is important, but the duration of copying. That is, while, for instance, there are numerous copies of 1 Enoch at Qumran, all of them date to the Hasmonean period, indicating that 1 Enoch had lost some of its caché by the Herodian period. Writings that otherwise rate strongly on all counts are Jubilees and Psalms of Joshua.

Brent Strawn was Elledge’s respondent. He made the point that many of these (re)writings’ sources could conceivably be traditions rather than actually written. The typical form for their expression was simply scripture-like. Strawn mentions that Kugel disagrees, rather instead seeing such rewritings as the standard format for interpretation at the time. I would lean toward the former myself. Are we, if following Kugel, to understand the authors as completely without tradition, creating all these things ex nihilo? We know this is not the case with those traditional elements which are otherwise recorded in other writings. Nor should we consider these authors to be simply innovators in working with such traditional materials, even if they are commentators.

David deSilva next presented “‘An Example of How to Die Nobly for Religion’: The Influence of 4 Maccabees on Origen’s Exhortatio ad Martyrium. For those unfamiliar with Origen’s Exhortatio, it was written to encourage two imprisoned Christians during the persecutions of Maximin, arguing against accommodation. In this paper, deSilva presents parallels between 4 Maccabees and Exhortatio that cannot be either attributed to either 2 Maccabees (which is extensively quoted in 4 Maccabees) or to general cultural or Christian themes. Although these don’t include any explicit citations, there are numerous phrases in parallel and several themes, all of which are used authoritatively, if not explicitly as scripture. One example is in Exhortatio 1 (from deSilva’s handout):

The martyr contends “as a noble athlete” ως γενναιος αθλητης. This is a title also applied to the Maccabean martyrs throughout 4 Maccabees (6:10; 17:15, 16); see especially 4 Macc 6:10: καθαπερ γενναιος αθλητης.

It’s pretty obvious that there’s a connection between the two. Relatedly, deSilva is the author of 4 Maccabees: Introduction and Commentary on the Greek Text in Codex Sinaiticus, part of the Brill Septuagint Commentary Series.

Sigrid Peterson was deSilva’s respondent. She’s been working on the book of 6 Maccabees for the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha project headed by Richard Bauckham and James Davila at St Andrews University, Scotland. Her two handouts consisted of a half-page with a short comparison chart of some parallels between 2 Maccabees, 6 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees, which are suggestive of 6 Maccabees being intermediate to the two, and thus one of 4 Maccabees’ sources. The second handout is a full sheet showing parallels between 6 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees in great detail. It’ll certainly be interesting to finally be able to read 6 Maccabees, and everything in the MOTP, for that matter.

Jeremy Hultin was next, presenting “Jude and 1 Enoch.” There was unfortunately no handout with a convenient list of the citations he covered, so some of my guesses below may be incorrect. Hultin cited patristic opinions on 1 Enoch primarily and Jude secondarily. There was a spectrum of attitudes regarding 1 Enoch, ranging from “Scripture” with Tertullian and apparently Origen, through to so bad that Jude is questionable for quoting it, a view of other mentioned by Jerome. Tertullian defends 1 Enoch in several ways (On the Apparel of Women 1.3):
1.) Although the Jews don’t consider it Scripture, why follow them?
2.) Objections that it must’ve perished in the Flood [there were giggles here] don’t take into account that Noah will have known him and will have remembered/memorized the writings.
3.) Even if they were lost, they could’ve been recovered through inspiration as in the case with Ezra and the Scriptures after the Exile.
4.) Jude uses it.
Cyprian also refers to the story of the fallen angels in On the Dress of Virgins, 14, and this is clearly a reference to the story as depicted in 1 Enoch. Origen refers to 1 Enoch in the context of Scripture (De Principiis 1.3.3) and even quotes from it twice (4.4.8, quoting 1En 21.1 and 19.3). He defends it against Celsus’ misreading (Contra Celsum 5.52-55), while also mentioning that “In the churches the books that bear the name of Enoch do not at all circulate as divine,” showing that his preference for the book of 1 Enoch may’ve been idiosyncratic at the time. Athanasius would have implicitly included 1 Enoch amond the writings of the heretics mentioned in his Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter. Likewise, a quotation of Athanasius regarding 1 Enoch is preserved in the Pachomian Lives: “Who has made the simple folk believe that these books belong to Enoch even though no scriptures (or writings) existed before Moses?” Augustine has a mixed opinion of 1 Enoch (City of God 15.23; 18.38), noting that one cannot deny that Enoch “left some divine writings” on the evidence of Jude, but these are not canonical because they lack attestation throughout the ancient Scriptures among the Hebrews. Likewise, the simple matter of suspicion of their claimed antiquity is brought up. Jerome, in De viris illustribus 4, says the following: “Jude, the brother of James, left a short epistle which is reckoned among the seven catholic epistles, and because in it he quotes from the apocryphal book of Enoch it is rejected by many. Nevertheless by age and use it has gained authority and is reckoned among the Holy Scriptures.” In other places (Comm. in Ep. ad Tit. 1.2 [PL 26.573D] and Homily 45) he likewise refers to Enoch explicitly as apocryphal. Priscillian, in his Liber de Fide et de Apocryphis (tractate 3), 56-57, asks, “Who is this Enoch to whom the Apostle Jude refers as a witness of prophecy?” at the beginning of a long passage defending Enoch as prophetic even if not canonical.

Les Walck was Hultin’s respondent, and mentioned an (upcoming?) article by Hultin on the reception of Enoch, which I’ve been unable to track down. I’m sure it’ll be fascinating, judging by the variety of perspectives presented in the few patristic citations noted in his talk.

Simon Lee next presented “The Transfiguration remembered, reinterpreted and reenacted! — An examination of the dynamic relationship between the scriptures and their interpretive traditions and interpreting community in Acts of Peter 20-21.” [Whew.] He provided a single page handout, comprising an outline and several illustrative quotations. Lee argues that the Acts of Peter defends the canonical Gospels, though using “rewriting” to do so. In Peters’ recalling of the Transfiguration in the first half of Acts of Peter 20, the Incarnation is also implied. In the second half of the chapter, the Transfiguration is then reinterpreted, with a number of descriptions of Jesus (polyonomy) leading to a number of different appearances of Jesus (polymorphy) in chapter 21. I found this quote especially striking: “This God [Jesus} who is both great and little, beautiful and ugly, young and old, appearing in time and yet in eternity wholly invisible, whom no human hand has grasped, yet is held by his servants; whom no flesh has seen, yet now he is seen; whom no hearing has found, yet now he is known as the word that is heard….” This brought to my mind the possibility that this is on the road to apophaticism, for when one is said to be so many things, is one really said to be anything at all? Apophaticism is often described as a way of negative theology, of describing what God isn’t, but this is far too simplistic, a reduction of its richness. At core, apophaticism is about non-specific theological language, and maintains a variety of references (as above) or descriptions, particularly in the usage of opposites (again, as above) in order to maintain the transcendence of God. Fascinating stuff.

Henry Rietz was Less’ respondent, beginning with “I’m no Peter, but Simon’s no magician!” He made the point, echoing some of what Elledge touched on earlier, that memory of the past is always being made present and effective, as here. A story of a story is reenacted in the community, and is then not just past, but present. In that sense, “rewriting” simply adjusts traditional materials for a new audience so that it is more alive to them, while the older versions still retain their value as well. Rietz also perceptively noted that the “touching” in the Acts of Peter 20 Transfiguration account is language peculiar to the Gospel of Matthew. Good catch!

Stephen Shoemaker was next, presenting “Between Scripture and Tradition: The Marian Apocrypha of Early Christianity.” Wihelm Schneemelcher and others with him are responsible for establishing the view of apocrypha as “failed scriptures.” With knowledge of the reception of many of these texts precisely as scriptures, however, in addition to a better understanding of the canonization process, wuch a perspective need to be rejected. Here is Schneemelcher’s definition of “New Testament Apocrypha”:

The New Testament Apocrypha are writings which have not been received into the canon, but which by title and other statements lay claim to be in the same class with the writings of the canon, and which from the point of view of Form Criticism further develop and mould the kinds of style created and received in the NT, whilst foreign elements certainly intrude…. When we speak of ‘Apocrypha of the NT’, we mean by that Gospels which are distinguished by the fact not merely that they were intended to take the place of the four Gospels of the canon (this holds good for the older texts) or to stand as enlargement of them side by side with them…. It is further a matter of particular pseudepigraphical Epistles and of elaborately fabricated Acts of Apostles, the writers of which have worked up in novelistic fashion the stories and legends about the apostles and so aimed at supplementing the deficient information which the NT communicates about the destinies of these men. Finally, there also belong here the Apocalypses in so far as they have further evolved the ‘revelation’ form taken over from Judaism (Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha 1.58-59).

There are several problems with this somewhat diffuse definition, most particularly the suggestion that some of these works were intended to replace works that are now canonical–there is no evidence for this, only assumption. Shoemaker much prefers the definition offered by Eric Junod for the wider category of Christian Apocrypha:

anonymous or pseudepigraphical texts of Christian origin, which stand in some relation to the books of the NT or the OT, because they are devoted to events which are narrated or mentioned in these books, or because they are devoted to events which can be understood as a continuation of events presented or mentioned in these books, because they concentrate upon persons who appear in these books, or because their literary Gattung is related to those of the biblical writings (Schneemelcher NTA 1.60).

Indeed, this is a fine definition of apocrypha and pseudepigrapha in general after simply the removal of the phrase “of Christian origin.” In any case, a new collection of Christian Apocrypha is in preparation utilizing Junod’s definition, and is intended to replace Schneemelcher’s collection. Schneemelcher had a decidedly low opinion of Marian apocrypha, even though some of it is very early and very popular (e.g., Protevangelium Jacobi). One in particular which he completely excluded is the Six Books Apocryphon, detailing the legends surrounding the Dormition of Mary, and describing Apostolic instructions for three Marian feasts, given after they had miraculously accompanied the Virgin to Paradise. The work dates to the fourth century and is related to some degree to the Kollyridians described by Epiphanius. One thing included in the six books, which Epiphanius mentions was a Kollyridian practice, was the morning preparation of bread for the Virgin, accompanied by various prayers and hymns. This is somewhat reminiscent of the modern Greek Orthodox artoklasia, which is made fresh in the morning, brought to church, and after the liturgy is censed while the priest circles it chanting the “Hail Virgin” (the Eastern equivalent to the Hail Mary), even though the five loaves are intended to reflect the multiplication of the five loaves by Jesus. Perhaps even closer is the production of the prosphora, the loaves used for communion, which require various prayers to be said during the process of their making in the morning before the liturgy. There are 6th century Syriac manuscripts of the Six Books Apocryphon, along with the Protevangelium Jacobi, and even some 5th century palimpsests of the Protevangelium. The antiquity and influence of these two books in particular should ensure their inclusion in any future collections of Christian Apocrypha.

George Zervos was Shoemaker’s respondent. He made the point that with earlier Christian Apocrypha it’s easy to show independence of the canonical Gospels, but difficult to demonstrate liturgical usage. With later apocrypha, that is reversed: it’s more difficult to show independence from the canonical Gospels, but easier to demonstrate liturgical usage. He also noted that Junod’s definition was acceptable to a point. And then we ran out of time!

At that point I said goodbye to several people, unfortunately missing to say hello to Sigrid Peterson, interaction with whom I’ve appreciated for a long time on a Septuagint mailing list. I headed out of the hotel, shared a cab back to the airport, and flew back to San Francisco, thence home by van to Berkeley. I wasn’t even twelve hours in San Diego that day. And I will NEVER do that again, flying in and out the same day. Ugh.

I hope you readers find these notes useful. They were for my own benefit as well. The papers of these sessions should eventually be published in a volume by T&T Clark, I heard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *