Sunday, December 17, 2017

Moss on Hanukkah

'TIS THE SEASON (HANUKKAH EDITION): The Mad King and the Secret History of Hanukkah. The story behind the holiday of Hanukkah is full of palace intrigue and rebellion (Candida Moss, The Daily Beast).
In their analysis of the Maccabean revolt, scholars tend to see Antiochus’ actions less as those of a persecutor and more as those of a legislator who sided with one (the reformist) of two competing factions in Jerusalem. Whether you see Antiochus as a pragmatic ruler or a crazed persecutor, these legislative actions culminated in the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem.
A somewhat related PaleoJudaica post, with links, is here. On the fate of the Temple menorah, see here and links. And for many past posts on ancient menorahs and representations of menorahs, see here and here and links.

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The early history of Hanukkah

'TIS THE SEASON (HANUKKAH EDITION): The Original Meaning of Chanukah (Prof. Eyal Regev, TheTorah.com).
Why did Judah Maccabee establish the holiday? What were the religious and political factors ​that inspired the Maccabees to promote it throughout Judea and the diaspora?

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Inauguration of St. Catherine's Monastery

NOW REOPENED: St Catherine's Library and Mosaic of Transfiguration inaugurated after restoration. Work on restoring the library of St Catherine's Monastery began in 2014 (Nevine El-Aref, ahramonline).
Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany, South Sinai Governor Major General Khaled Fouda, and St Catherine's Monastery Archbishop Dimetriose have inaugurated the first phase of the St Catherine's Library conservation project, including restoration of the Mosaic of Transfiguration.

The opening ceremony was attended by a number of ministers along with members of parliament and ambassadors of foreign countries in Egypt, as well as representatives of Pope Tawadros II and Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb.

El-Enany described St Catherine's as "a source of inspiration that radiated across civilisation, both regionally and globally." He added: "St Catherine's Monastery combines Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This is what we could call the genius of Egypt and its reflection on the harmony between its components and its great people."

[...]
The article has some good photos. Background here. And follow the links from there for much more on the vast collection of precious ancient manuscripts in the monastery. And also see this: What you must know about St. Catherine Library (Angy Essam, Egypt Today).

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PSCO report on thinking with ancient animals

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: PSCO 2017-18: Thinking with Ancient Animals (Matthew Chalmers).
What, then, does thinking through animals get scholars of ancient religion? It opens a rich ancient archive, articulated with an alternative framework than those which we often use—religion, theology, scripture, or human history. It encourages us to engage more closely with possible relationships between religion and science. Technical knowledge, like that of divination or medicine or psychology functions within regimes of knowing entangled with non-human animals. And it cheerfully impedes taking our intellectual desires and projects for granted. If we are animals as well, what to do with conceptions of ancient religion that have space only for the human?

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Review of Collins, Scriptures and Sectarianism

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Scriptures and Sectarianism: Essays on the Dead Sea Scrolls (Amanda M. Davis Bledsoe).
John J. Collins, Scriptures and Sectarianism: Essays on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 332. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014.
Excerpt:
Although most of the essays contained in this book have been previously published elsewhere, their collection into a single, readable volume nevertheless provides a valuable resource to scholars and students alike. Its inclusion of extensive indices of modern authors and ancient sources, further increases its accessibility and greatly contribute to the volume’s overall usefulness.

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Tamar, rule-breaker

PROF. JACQUELINE VAYNTRUB: “Her Name was Tamar”: Invasive, Destructive, Redemptive (TheTorah.com).
The character of Tamar draws on a botanical motif—the tamar, the date palm—to evoke a recurring trope of female family members whose beauty and presence have the power to destroy or save the family.

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LXX studies

THE LOGOS ACADEMIC BLOG: So you want to study the LXX? Here’s why and where to do it. Cambridge doctoral student William Ross has a guest post on the important and expanding field of Septuagint studies. I have noted some of his related posts on his own blog here and links. And for his series of interviews with Septuagint scholars, see here and links.

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Siegal, Grünstäudl, and Thiessen (eds.), Perceiving the Other in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Perceiving the Other in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. Ed. by Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, Wolfgang Grünstäudl, and Matthew Thiessen. [Die Wahrnehmung des Anderen im antiken Judentum und im frühen Christentum.] 2017. VIII, 196 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 394. 99,00 €. cloth. ISBN 978-3-16-154962-5.
Published in English.
In what ways, both positive and negative, do ancient writers interact with and relate to those outside of their ethnicity or religious tradition? This volume examines religious tolerance and intolerance amongst ancient Jews and Christians, focusing particularly on the New Testament and early rabbinic literature.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

On the Pope and temptation in the Lord's Prayer

MEREDITH WARREN: ‘Lead us not into temptation’: why Pope Francis is wrong about the Lord’s Prayer (The Conversation).
Pope Francis recently announced that he thinks the common English translation of the Lord’s Prayer is mistranslated. He is calling for a new version that doesn’t imply that God might lead people into temptation –that, he says, is the Devil’s job. But aside from changing hundreds of years of tradition in the English version of the prayer, is the Pope’s claim that the English misrepresents God an accurate one?

[...]
I'm not going to comment on God or the theology of evil. But the traditional English translation of the Greek phrase is not a mistranslation. It is correct. Grammar is grammar and the text says what it says, even if it is theologically problematical.

I kept meaning to write a blog post on this story, but Dr. Warren has saved me the trouble. Go and read her essay.

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Hanukkah and early liturgical poetry

'TIS THE SEASON (HANUKKAH EDITION): In Praise of the Hasmoneans: Chanukah Beyond Rabbinic Literature (Prof. Ophir Münz-Manor, TheGemara.com).
The relative absence of Chanukah from rabbinic literature has been seen by many scholars as evidence that late antique Jews were ambivalent about the holiday and its Hasmonean founders. However, the highly suggestive evidence of piyyut (liturgical poetry), which extensively and creatively thematizes Chanukah and the Hasmoneans, suggests that this apparent ambivalence was not shared across late antique Jewish society.
So Hanukkah and the Hasmoneans were popular in paytanic circles from the fifth century on. This is important to realize, althought it doesn't tell us about the earlier period of the Tannaitic literature. But it does remind us that there is a lot we don't know. The compliers of the Mishnah had their own agenda, and we have few other sources for that period. We need not assume that all Jews shared exactly the same views.

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New Jewish Museum in Italy

INAUGURAL EXHIBITION: National Jewish museum opens in Italy. New exhibit details history of Jewish presence in Italy from ancient Roman times until the Middle Ages (JTA via Times of Israel).
FERRARA, Italy – Italy got a Hanukkah present – the opening of a national Jewish museum.

The National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah, or MEIS, opened Wednesday with an inaugural temporary exhibit called “Jews, an Italian Story: The First Thousand Years,” that illustrates the history of Jewish presence in Italy from ancient Roman times until the Middle Ages.

The exhibit, which will run until September 2018, is the first step in a multi-year program of exhibits and events that will culminate in the final form of the museum and its permanent core exhibit, expected in late 2020.

[...]
I'm surprised that I don't seem to have heard about this before. Very good news.

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Geniza Fragments 73 and 74

GENIZA FRAGMENTS, the Newsletter of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, Cambridge University Library has published two new issues since I last posted on it. I was sure that I had posted on the April issue earlier this year. I certainly was watching for it and noticed it. But apparently I didn't put up a post. Anyhow, here they are now:

Geniza Fragments 73 (April 2017)
Geniza Fragments 74 (October 2017)

Both have articles on the Discarded History Geniza exhibition, as well as other articles of interest.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Porcupines everywhere!

APPREHENDED: ‘We were just hunting porcupines,’ claims antiquities robber. Twice in one night, Israel Antiquities Authority theft-prevention unit catch suspects excavating at 2,000-year-old sites (Amanda Borschel-Dan).
Tuesday night was busy for the Israel Antiquity Authority’s theft-prevention unit in the Lower Galilee region. In two separate instances, inspectors encountered antiquities robbers in the process of illegal excavations.

“We were just hunting porcupines,” said one of the robbers in explanation of his presence in the middle of the night at a 2,000-year-old grave on Mount Hazon near the Druze/Arab village of Maghar.

[...]
Of course they were.

Sort-of-related porcupine stories are noted here.

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Questions about the Greek First Apocalypse of James fragments

DAVID MEADOWS IS ASKING QUESTIONS: Oxyrhynchus and the First Apocalypse of James: Collection History Just Got Murkier (Rogue Classicism Blog). I leave the reader to decide how much weight to give David's concerns. In any case, it should be a straightforward matter to produce a paper trail showing that the papyrus was excavated in 1904/5 and has been held by the Sackler Library at Oxford since then.

Background here and here.

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The Joseph story as literature

PROF. GARY A. RENDSBURG: The Joseph Story: Ancient Literary Art at Its Best (TheTorah.com).
The Joseph story invites the reader to be transported to Egypt itself through the inclusion of Egyptian words, proper names, and customs; to analyze the unsurpassed use of repetition with variation; and to enter the mind of the character (in this case, especially Pharaoh) through the use of interior monologue.
It's a good story.

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Review of Curtis, Interpreting the Wisdom Books

READING ACTS: Book Review: Edward M. Curtis, Interpreting the Wisdom Books (Phil Long).
Curtis, Edward M. Interpreting the Wisdom Books: An Exegetical Handbook. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Academic, 2017. 204 pp. Pb; $21.99.
Excerpt:
Nevertheless, as with the other contributions to this series, this handbook for the Wisdom books succeeds in its goal of providing students of Old Testament wisdom with the tools for teaching and preaching this difficult material in the Hebrew Bible. This would make a good textbook for a college or seminary class on the Prophets, especially in more conservative circles.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Talmud on the the Talmud's organization

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Order of Things. The reasoning behind the Talmud’s categories and sub-categories isn’t always apparent. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the Talmud wonders about its own organization.
The beginning of Tractate Shevuot, which Daf Yomi readers started last week, is one of the rare places where the Talmud wonders explicitly about its own organization. In the order of tractates, Shevuot follows Sanhedrin, which deals with capital crimes, and Makkot, which discusses crimes punishable by lashes or exile. The main subject matter of Shevuot is the taking of oaths—that’s the meaning of the word shevuot—and in its later chapters, we will learn about the oaths administered to witnesses in court. This explains why Shevuot is in Seder Nezikin, following Sanhedrin, which laid out court procedures and the laws of witnesses. It also answers the question of why Shevuot does not follow Nedarim, the tractate devoted to personal vows, even though the subjects of oaths and vows might seem to belong together. The vows in Nedarim were voluntary and had to do with making gratuitous promises to God (which the rabbis generally discourage), while the oaths in Shevuot are part of court procedure.

Yet while the first word of Shevuot is “shevuot,” the first chapter turns out to discuss oaths barely at all. ...
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Hasmonean-era findings at Susya

ARCHAEOLOGY: Ancient Jewish town from Hasmonean period discovered ,100-year-old Jewish community found in Judea, dating back to Hasmonean period, 600 years earlier than previous finds at the site (Mordechai Sones, Arutz Sheva). Previous remains only went back to the Talmudic period.

Past posts involving Susya, which was caught up in a political controversy a couple of years ago, are here and links.

There are lots of news stories about the Hasmonean era this week. Cross-file under 'Tis the Season (Hanukkah Edition).

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That gold-lettered Turkish Torah is a "crude fake"

HERE WE GO AGAIN: Ancient 'Torah' uncovered in Turkey actually a crude fake: experts (i24 News).
An ancient Torah scroll reportedly seized from smugglers by security forces in Turkey in November is in fact a crude forgery, the museum analyzing it said on Tuesday.

The story of the seizure gained worldwide attention in several media outlets last month after Turkish news agencies said police in the country’s south west had unearthed what they believed was a 700-year old holy text being offered by "smugglers" for $1.93 million.

Pictures of the rare discovery showed a colorful but haphazardly leather-bound book, with Hebrew markings that appeared at first glance to be upside-down and don’t seem to resemble actual Hebrew phrases.

[...]
The writing appeared upside-down because the book was being held upside-down. But, yes, it wasn't a Torah, as I had already said. I should have clarified that it is a book, not a scroll. I don't know if it is a fake per se, or just a crude tourist trinket.

Background here, with links to notices of many other doubtful antiquities that have surfaced recently in Turkey.

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News on St. Catherine's Monastery

REOPENING: Antiquities minister to inaugurate St. Catherine's' library on Saturday (MENA, Egypt Today).
CAIRO - 11 December 2017: Antiquities Minister Khaled el Anani will open on Saturday the library of St. Catherine Monastery and the renovation work of the famous mosaic of the Transfiguration in Church of the Transfiguration, St. Catharine’s largest church.

Director General of Research and Archaeological Studies and Scientific Publications in Lower Egypt and Sinai Abdul Rahim Rayhan told MENA that the library contains six thousand manuscripts, including 2,319 in Greek, 284 in Latin, 600 in Arabic in addition to Coptic, Syriac, Ethiopian, Armenian, English and French manuscripts as well as other religious, historical, geographical and philosophical ones.

[...]
There was a notice of the closing of the monastery "for security reasons" back in 2015. The current article seems to indicate that it is now reopening, which is good news.

For many other past posts on St. Catherine's Monastery and its precious collection of manuscripts, see the last post above, plus here and here, and follow the links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hanukkah 2017

HAPPY HANUKKAH (CHANUKKAH, CHANUKAH) to all those celebrating! The eight-day festival begins tonight at sundown.

Last year's Hanukkah post is here. It links to past Hanukkah posts with additional historical background. For PaleoJudaica posts in the last year that relate to Hanukkah, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Pereginations of an ancient stone menorah-incised door

ARCHAEOLOGY: Archaeologists uncover bittersweet end of 1,800-year-old Tiberias menorah. Once carved on a Jewish grave, the menorah had two more lives -- as the base of a mosque and then in a Crusader-period sugar factory (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
The 68×78-centimeter (27×31 inch) seven-stemmed menorah was uncovered in a dig led by The Hebrew University’s Dr. Katia Cytryn-Silverman, which has been ongoing since 2009. The door the menorah decorated was typical of a Jewish tomb from circa 150-350 CE, said Silverman in conversation with The Times of Israel on Monday.
For many past PaleoJudaica posts on ancient menorahs and representations of menorahs, start here and follow the links. Cross-file under 'Tis the Season (Hanukkah Edition).

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Maccabean-era candle holder excavated by porcupine

DISCOVERY: MOTHER AND DAUGHTER DISCOVER ANCIENT CLAY LAMP FROM HELLENISTIC PERIOD Second century CE relic dates to Judah Maccabee’s battles against ruler of Antiochus (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post).
A leisurely afternoon hike in the North’s Beit She’an Valley turned into much more when a mother and daughter discovered an ancient clay candle holder dating to the Hellenistic period – when Judah Maccabee fought against the ruler of Antiochus 2,200 years ago.

While making their way through the mounds near the historic area by the Jordan River Valley one week ago, Hadas Goldberg-Kedar, 7, and her mother, Ayelet, first noticed the well-preserved pottery vessel near the entrance to a porcupine cave.

[...]
Yes, the porcupine was the excavator. For another, similar example of porcupine archaeology, see here. Cross-file under 'Tis the Season (Hanukkah Edition).

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Reprising an ancient menorah sketch

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Understanding the Jewish Menorah. Does this ancient menorah graffito show the Temple menorah?
The Jewish menorah—especially the Temple menorah, a seven-branched candelabra that stood in the Temple—is the most enduring and iconic Jewish symbol. But what did the Temple menorah actually look like?

In early August 2011, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) issued a press release announcing the discovery of “an engraving of the Temple menorah on a stone object” in a 2,000-year-old drainage channel near the City of David, which was being excavated by Professor Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron. (An unusually well preserved iron sword in its leather scabbard, which presumably belonged to a Roman soldier, was also found there.) The IAA release went on to say that “a passerby who saw the [Temple] menorah with his own eyes … incised his impressions on a stone.” The excavators were quoted as saying that this graffito “clarifies [that] the base of the original [ancient] menorah … was apparently tripod shaped.”

But does it?

[...]
I noted the discovery of this menorah sketch at the time here. This BHD essay was first published in 2011, but I missed it then, so here it is.

Another ancient (nine-branched) menorah graffito was discovered in Aphrodisias in Turkey in 2015.

Cross-file under 'Tis the Season (Hanukkah Edition).

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Halvorson-Taylor and Southwood (eds), Women and Exilic Identity in the Hebrew Bible

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY/T&T CLARK:
Women and Exilic Identity in the Hebrew Bible
Editor(s): Martien A. Halvorson-Taylor, Katherine E. Southwood
Published: 28-12-2017
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 192
ISBN: 9780567668424
Imprint: T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Volume: 631
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm

About Women and Exilic Identity in the Hebrew Bible

Notions of women as found in the Bible have had an incalculable impact on western cultures, influencing perspectives on marriage, kinship, legal practice, political status, and general attitudes. Women and Exilic Identity in the Hebrew Bible is drawn from three separate strands to address and analyse this phenomenon. The first examines how women were conceptualized and represented during the exilic period. The second focuses on methodological possibilities and drawbacks connected to investigating women and exile. The third reviews current prominent literature on the topic, with responses from authors.

With chapters from a range of contributors, topics move from an analysis of Ruth as a woman returning to her homeland, and issues concerning the foreign presence who brings foreign family members into the midst of a community, and how this is dealt with, through the intermarriage crisis portrayed in Ezra 9-10, to an analysis of Judean constructions of gender in the exilic and early post-exilic periods. The contributions show an exciting range of the best scholarship on women and foreign identities, with important consequences for how the foreign/known is perceived, and what that has meant for women through the centuries.

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Stuckenbruck, Angel Veneration & Christology

REISSUED IN PAPERBACK BY BAYLOR UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Title: Angel Veneration & Christology
Sub-title: A Study in Early Judaism & in the Christology of the Apocalypse of John

Series: (Library of Early Christology Series)
By (author): Loren T. Stuckenbruck
ISBN10-13: 1481307983 : 9781481307987
Format: Paperback
Size: 230x155mm
Pages: 366
Weight: .614 Kg.
Published: Baylor University Press (US) - August 2017
List Price: 38.50 Pounds Sterling
Availability: In Stock Qty Available: 8
Subjects: Ancient history: to c 500 CE : History of religion : Church history : New Testaments : Biblical studies & exegesis : Christian theology : Judaism

The public worship of the risen Christ as depicted in John's Apocalypse directly contradicts the guiding angel's emphasis that only God should be worshiped (Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9). Loren Stuckenbruck explores this contradiction in light of angel veneration in Early Judaism. Stuckenbruck surveys a wide variety of Jewish traditions related to angelic worship and discovers proscriptions against sacrificing to angels; prohibitions against making images of angels; rejections of the "two powers"; second-century Christian apologetic accusations specifically directed against Jews; and, most importantly, the refusal tradition, widespread in Jewish and Jewish-Christian writings, wherein angelic messengers refuse the veneration of the seer and exhort the worship of God alone. While evidence for the practice of angel veneration among Jews of antiquity (Qumran, pseudepigraphal literature, and inscriptions from Asia Minor) does not furnish the immediate background for the worship of Christ, Stuckenbruck demonstrates that the very fact that safeguards to a monotheistic framework were issued at all throws light on the Christian practice of worshiping Jesus. The way the Apocalypse adapts the refusal tradition illuminates Revelation's declarations about and depictions of Jesus. Though the refusal tradition itself only safeguards the worship of God, Stuckenbruck traces how the tradition has been split so that the angelophanic elements were absorbed into the christophany. As Stuckenbruck shows, an angelomorphic Christology, shared by the author of Revelation and its readers, functions to preserve the author's monotheistic emphasis as well as to emphasise Christ's superiority over the angels -- setting the stage for the worship of the Lamb in a monotheistic framework that does not contradict the angelic directive to worship God alone.
Another in Baylor's new Library of Early Christology reprint series, on which more here and links.

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Lehmhaus and Martelli, Collecting Recipes

NEW BOOK FROM DE GRYUTER: Collecting Recipes. Byzantine and Jewish Pharmacology in Dialogue. Ed. by Lehmhaus, Lennart / Martelli, Matteo.
Aims and Scope
With a clear comparative approach, this volume brings together for the first time contributions that cover different periods of the history of ancient pharmacology, from Greek, Byzantine, and Syriac medicine to the Rabbinic-Talmudic medical discourses. This collection opens up new synchronic and diachronic perspectives in the study of the ancient traditions of recipe-books and medical collections. Besides the highly influential Galenic tradition, the contributions will focus on less studied Byzantine and Syriac sources as well as on the Talmudic tradition, which has never been systematically investigated in relation to medicine. This inquiry will highlight the overwhelming mass of information about drugs and remedies, which accumulated over the centuries and was disseminated in a variety of texts belonging to distinct cultural milieus. Through a close analysis of some relevant case studies, this volume will trace some paths of this transmission and transformation of pharmacological knowledge across cultural and linguistic boundaries, by pointing to the variety of disciplines and areas of expertise involved in the process.

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Howell, The Pharisees and Figured Speech in Luke-Acts

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: JUSTIN R. HOWELL, The Pharisees and Figured Speech in Luke-Acts. [Die Pharisäer und die figurierte Rede im lukanischen Doppelwerk.] 2017. XII, 386 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 456. 94,00 €. sewn paper. ISBN 978-3-16-155023-2.
Published in English.
A scholarly consensus holds that Luke is ambivalent toward the Pharisees, or at least that he has left readers with an ambiguous depiction of them. What previous evaluations of the Lukan Pharisees have left unanswered, however, is why Luke would give such an impression of these characters and then what might lie behind the rhetorical effects of ambiguity. Justin R. Howell reevaluates the long-standing debate about the Pharisees in Luke-Acts, arguing the thesis that there is ambiguity in the Lukan Pharisees because, in his portrayals of them, the author has applied what ancient Greco-Roman rhetoricians call “figured speech.” The fact that the Lukan Pharisees appear ambiguous to some readers does not necessarily mean that Luke was also undecided about or ambivalent toward them, for the use of figured speech can presuppose a firm and critical stance on the characters in view.

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