An Intellectual History of
Judaism and Christianity

HILR Fall 2015

SGL: B Ruml

2. Modern Bible Scholarship:
The New Testament

How to read Oxford Biblical Studies online

Geller, "The Religion of the Bible"

"biblical religion"
-- the beliefs and practices described in the Hebrew Bible

  • a minority, dissident phenomenon
  • not the religion practiced in Israel and Judah
  • differing, competing opinions and traditions

Israelite-Judean Religion (900-600 BCE)

YHWH = El + Ba'al (+ familial "god of x")

consort: Asherah - tree of life (hypostasis of fertility?)

Israelite Religion

centers in Dan and Bethel: YHWH worshipped as a calf

but aniconic tendencies; later confirmed

worship consisted of animal sacrifices

role of prophets: medium for inquiring of God (later suppressed)

child sacrifice ?

Judean Religion

a royal theology (Davidic covenant; messianic expectations)

the afterlife in Sheol: a shadowy, listless realm

but compare: stories of necromancy (e.g., Saul)

the divine assembly toned down in HB

Continuity or Revolution?

Differences between earlier and later religion:

  • monotheism (we'll call it cosmic monism)
  • centralization of worship and cult ("radical")
  • myth => history (but a typology: the cyclical recurrence of a few historical patterms (esp. apostacy followed by repentance)
  • individualism - esp. individual suffering
  • text and canon (precluding further prophecy)
  • prayer and study in addition to ritual sacrifices

Torah (final redaction: 400s BCE)

a compromise between Deuteronomic-convenantal religion and Priestly-cultic religion

Deuteronomic-covenantal Religion (the dominant stream)


monolatrous (via covenant) => monotheistic

the "name of God" rests in the Temple

divine transcendence: no God-earth interactions

love of God as total commitment (implicit free will)

militant against pseudo-foe "Canaanites"

textual -- no (competing) prophecies

Priestly-cultic Religion (final redactor?)


sacrifical cult as "eternal (unconditional) covenant"

the "glory of God" rests in the Temple (divine immanence)

touching, smelling: a physical religion

central ritual substance: blood; central idea: atonement

cf. Rabbinic Judaism: prayer => atonement

holiness = separation, exclusion

For Geller, underlying unity is "faith"

unconditional trust in God (and in the prophets who delivered his word)

and, derivatively, in the authenticity of the textual record of his revelation.

The Six Retrojections

religion as belief

the divine realm as transcendent

evil as an independent force

the afterlife as just deserts

soul/body dualism

salvation as redemption from sinful embodiment

The Book of Isaiah

Isaiah of Jerusalem (late 700s)

reflected in chapters 1-39

anonymous Second Isaiah (post-exilic)

reflected in chapters 40-66

New Testament Terminology: Christ

from the Greek Christós

transliterated in Latin as Christus

translates the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Māšîaḥ)

which means the annointed one

What's the connotation: who was annointed?

What was the messianic expectation?

Was the messiah expected to suffer and die?

New Testament Terminology: Kingdom of God

exact phrase does not appear in the Hebrew Bible

but: "Yours is the kingdom, O Lord" and "The Lord is King"

from the prophets and Jewish apocalypticism

in heaven or on earth?

New Testament Terminology:
Son of Man

Daniel 7:13-14: As I looked on, in the night vision, One like a human being Came with the clouds of heaven; He reached the Ancient of Days And was presented to Him. Dominion, glory, and kingship were given to him; All peoples and nations of every language must serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, And his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed.

Chronology of the New Testament

Letters of Paul (7 of 13): 50-58 CE

Sayings Gospel of Q: 40-75 CE

Mark: 70 CE

Matthew: 80-85 CE

Luke (and Acts): 85-90 CE

John: 95-100 CE

Deutero-Pauline Letters (6 of 13): 85-100 CE

Revelation: 110 CE ??

The Synoptic Problem

What is it?

Arguments in favor of Q

Arguments against Q

The Gospel of Mark (chapters 1-10)

What's the story line?

What's emphasized?

What's the "messianic secret?"

Ends at 16:8: "and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid."

John the Baptist

"a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins"

baptizes Jesus: what's wrong with this?

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

"tempted by Satan"

"the kingdom of God has come near; repent . . ."

The Miracles

unclean spirit; fever

healed; cast out demons

great crowds

Disputes with the Pharisees

a self-appointed "movement" to interpret the Law

minority but widespread (Paul in Tarsus)

how to observe the Sabbath (meaning of "work")

wahing of hands before eating

Mark 3:22

the scribes: "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons."

proponents: a miracle

opponents: magic through demonic forces

Mark 4: Parables

the insiders understand; the outsiders are doomed

Mark 4:15 - Parable of the Sower

"when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them."

Mark 5:12

The unclean spirits enter into a herd of swine.

Mark 6:3

The family of Jesus: four brothers and plural sisters.

Mark 6:14

Herod believes that John the Baptist has been resurrected.

Pharisees but not Saducees

Mark 7:3

"(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders, . . . )"

v. 8: "You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."

oral law compiled in the Mishnah, c. 200 CE

Mark 7:19

"(Thus he declared all foods clean.)"

Mark 8:13

"Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly, I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation."

Cf. John 20:30-31: "Now Jesus did many other signs . . . which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah . . .."

Mark 8:31

"Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, . . . be killed, and after three days rise again. . . . And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him."

No Jew expected a suffering messiah.

Cf. v. 38: ". . . the Son of Man . . . when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Mark 9:2

The Transfiguration

A substitute for a resurrection appearance?

Elijah: one of two HB figures to be taken up to heaven.

Elijah: "there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (2 Kings 2:11)

The other was Enoch: "walked with God: and he was no more; for God took him" (Genesis 5:21-24)

Mark 10:37

"[James and John] said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory. . . . [Jesus replied] to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."

Matthew 9:27-28: "Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

The End