Last week I read through Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho. In XLV-XLVII the two discuss whether or not a Christian can observe the Law. Justin aims to emphasize his priority that Christians observe those things which as good and right universally (e.g., living peacefully with others, love of enemy, care for the orphan and widow, etc). He finds other aspects of the Law such as regulations regarding food, or holy days, or even circumcision as (1) typological realities pointing toward Christ and (2) Laws given to Israel specifically because of the particular density of Israel’s hardened hearts. Yet when pressed Justin concedes that a Christian can observe the Law for one’s self as long as there is no effort on his/her behalf to proselytize others to Law observance (XLVI).
In Justin Martyr’s writings I have noticed that he is not ashamed to call for good deeds from Christians, Jews, and even Pagans. He seems to have understood the likes of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle as righteous in some sense because of their philosophical views that he interprets as arising above the debased paganism of their day. Justin argued in his apologetical letters that the Logos was active in the world before being incarnate in Jesus Christ.
For contemporary Christians who debate the difference between the “works of the Law” and good actions–especially as this relates to the Pauline corpus–Justin’s writings may be of interest. There remains some debate over whether Trypho was a real person, representing a real diaspora Jew after the Bar Kokhba Revolt went sour, so it may be best to focus on how Justin as a Christian interprets the difference between “works of the Law” such as circumcision, Sabbath keeping, and those sorts of Laws and good actions. Justin does not free Christians from the necessity of good deeds as part of the salvific process and he makes a distinction between these actions the Law observance.
What do you think of this?
You mention “… part of the salvific process…” for Justin. I’m wondering how specific he gets as to a view of “salvation” and what one must do and/or believe to be “saved” (probably not his terminology, tho it does appear in Acts)? And does he focus on the individual (qualifications as above) for salvation as opposed to loyal membership AS a professing Christian… the latter more as the Jewish idea that loyal membership makes one part of the covenant (rough equivalent to “saved”) as long as one does nothing seriously and unrepentantly against the Torah?
I don’t know that any of those categories quite fit what I have read. Justin does frame Christianity as a philosophy of sorts. He argues that it is rooted back in Moses, and that Moses’ writings influenced every one from great law makers of the ancient world to philosophers like Plato. So for Justin Christianity seems to be the true philosophy. Those who love truth accept it and those who hate truth do not. Those who love truth are honored by God with resurrection life and those who hate truth face eternal judgment.
Wow, I really need to go back and re-visit the Dialogue with Trypho. My current understanding, which was shaped years after reading the dialogue, is that that “works of the Law” were specifically meant for Jewish believers ie Sabbath, circumcision, kosher, etc. And they are not obligatory for Gentiles, however, there is no harm in observance as long as it is not done as some sort of works-based righteousness. I believe there is much of the Law (Torah) that doesn’t apply to Gentile followers of Jesus, they are more or less “bound” to the Noahide laws. But there is much of the Torah that is universal and applicable to Gentiles and I think that has been brought out in the N.T. specifically in Paul’s writings.
Now, I don’t know if that’s how Justin framed his arguments. It’s been a while since I’ve read it. But I’m curious as to his reasoning on those laws specific to Israel.
Thanks for the reply, Brian. Interesting: someone who apparently WAS philosophically sophisticated thinking (apparently) in such stark black/white categories: truth/falsehood, love/hate; those two becoming “love truth” and “hate truth”. When one compares this with attitudes seen even in I John, where there is grandeur on God as love, etc. in one place, condemnation of those who see doctrine differently in another, one has to wonder about the mindset of authors and “church leaders” around the late 1st century to mid-2nd century (or beyond). I suppose the milieu of so many (more than we tend to hold in mind) new, competing sects and versions of Messiah-following and early Christian faith and one of much violence and reactiveness played in heavily. (Lay people and often even scholars I think tend to not realize or forget just how tenuous and difficult was life, how violent were the times, how dislocated and insecure were so many people from BEFORE Jesus on through to Justin’s time particularly–as you cite re. the Bar Kochba revolt of 132-135, following the massive violence and loss of life of the earlier war…. What kind of “reasonable” theology can one do in those conditions?)
I gather from Justin’s writings that he is OK with someone observing parts of the Law that include dietary restrictions, holy days, and circumcision as long as one doesn’t (A) observe these things to replace the centrality of Christ and (B) doesn’t proselytize others to become obedient to them. He seems to interpret the typological elements of the Law as given to Israel because they are a people with a particular hardness of heart. This is a somewhat concerning claim, and it is likely quite to opposite of how Jews in his day understood themselves as children of Abraham. Now good deeds, even those spelled out in the Law, remain a necessary part of what it means to be a Christian. But he finds these laws, like loving one’s neighbor, or not hating, or not acting violently, as being “natural law” in some sense. This is why even Plato or any pagan seeking the true God can access them without Moses’ Law.
Christianity as a persecuted sect likely made it much easier to work within the “us-against-them” paradigm. This is true of most persecuted peoples. Sometimes we forget that Christianity gained power many years after Justin. At the time of Justin this was not so.
It does seem troubling that Justin would reason that. I wonder if there is any weight to the argument that events such as the destruction of the Temple in 70 and the Bar Kokhba revolt served to sever the fellowship (if there ever truly was) between non Jesus believing Jews and believing Jews (and by association believing Gentiles). From what I’ve read, there was tension between the two because the “Jesus followers” did not have the same level of nationalism when it came to things such as the Roman occupation, Temple destruction, etc. They more or less adapted to the conditions and accepted what was happening and didn’t “lose any skin” in the coming revolts and attempted uprisings.
It does appear that early Christians were non-participants in these wars. This isn’t a divide limited to Jewish Christians v. their fellow Jews though. I have read that the Galileans in general were far less engaged in the war of 67-70. One major defeat and there was a quick surrender, as if there was a lack of desire to fight in the first place. Jerusalem’s destruction seems to be driven by those Jews who gained control of Jerusalem (there was much infighting even as Rome engaged them) who were determined to fight for freedom. So as regards 67-70, I don’t think this factor alone explains the split, but it likely does contribute, especially after the Bar Kokhba Revolt has sealed the reputation of the Jews as freedom fighters. It is likely that many Christians, already facing persecution as an unapproved sect, did all that was possible to avoid being associated with a military rebellion.
I’d like to understand the geopolitics of the Galilee and Judean/Idumean regions (and Samaria, etc.) better. Even in a small geographic area, by our standards, it seems there were significant regional differences (cf. comments about a Galilean accent in the Gospels as a tiny example, animosities with Samarians, etc.). I wonder if the greater mix of Herodian family members, or more distant relatives, plus the strong presence of Gentiles in general and Roman commerce in particular made Galilee a more “divided” (politically as well as economically) area than Judea? (cf. Horsley and Silberman, etc.). But all-in-all, I’m not sure HOW the group led by JESUS’ BROTHER and later by other relatives (apparently, and in a dynastic fashion [?]) would have sided and acted once the open rebellion was under way… if the Jerusalem group fled or remained uninvolved, it must have been because they were persuaded God was NOT with the instigators (and they were not among them in the first place).
They WERE apparently expecting Messiah’s return at literally any moment (more so than Evangelicals often do now), and, if Acts is accurate (always a major q.), their numbers had grown to at LEAST 4000-5000 by 66. This would be comparable to the numbers of Pharisees cited by Josephus, I think for all of Israel, not just Jerusalem. Quite a puzzle as to how they looked at and responded to “rumors of wars” (smaller uprisings or fomenting) and the actuality of war…. In about 67, it was appearing the Jews might indeed have the assistance of God and the upper hand, before Jerusalem was besieged.
Jon and Brian,
It seems the situation was very complex as to “levels” of or positions re. nationalism and how to oppose (or collaborate with) Rome. One set of data that I know far too little about, and seldom seems related to the Jesus era and pre-70 CE period is that from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Have either of you read Robert Eisenmann’s works on that area and on James (who he tentatively identifies with “The Righteous Teacher” of the scrolls)? I have some, but not all of it…. complex argumentation but I think he has some fairly strong evidences that apparently have been little considered or responded to by the mainstream of Dead Sea Scrolls scholars, Jewish, Christian or “secular”. But then, I’ve not followed that area really, and don’t read the relevant journals. But if Eisenmann (and a few others not focusing on the DSS) are even partially right, then the early Jesus-followers may have been about as nationalistic as the “average” Jewish position and certainly stood against the Herodian, High Priest and Sadducee general position of relative acceptance and collaboration with Roman rule. The Pharisees (as per early ch’s of Acts also) appeared to have been open to them and some of them in fact joined them, and they were not nearly as anti-pharisee, probably, than the Gospels tend to indicate.
Sorry… last line should read “as the Gospels…”
Howard wrote “I’d like to understand the geopolitics of the Galilee and Judean/Idumean regions (and Samaria, etc.) better.”
That’s an excellent goal. Understanding that to be a citizen of Judea didn’t make one an Israelite – is an understanding light-years ahead of most. Get as far as appreciating the politics of having the nation of Edom (12 tribes of Esau (Idum)) ‘blended’ into the House of Judah, Levi, Benjamin and Judah, (under John Hyrcanus) to become the dominant force within Judaism is an insight missed by most; though it is quite revelatory in how much it reveals and explains the bible.
Best of luck meeting this goal.
Hey, I thought Brian or you or someone was going to hand me the understanding “on a platter” (not meaning to invoke a grisly image). One relevant q.: Did Paul (or anyone at the time) have valid basis to claim to be of a particular tribe (sub-one of Benjamin in his case), other than a Levite (via priestly succession)? I’ve heard repeatedly what does seem to make sense — that all other tribes had lost individual identity…. They were probably so inter-married that rarely, if ever, would tribe identity mean much, if anything. I understand the potential importance re. Jesus and messianic claims, but even the Gospels’ supposed genealogies for him look contrived and are very hard to “harmonize” are they not?
It is wild mythology that any figures from early Christianity had any association with Qumran, other than maybe John the Baptist, and even that is doubtful. We don’t know the identity of the Teacher of Righteousness, but we do it may have been someone who was part of the priesthood at one point, who felt it had become corrupted, who then began a schismatic sect.
According to 1 Chronicles 9:2 we have exiles returning from Babylon who belong to the tribes Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh and then we have Levites as well. I don’t recall if there is another place that names survivors from other tribes who remember their affiliation with those tribes. I presume tribal identity did matter, so records were kept as best as possible, even with oral tradition. Intermarriage doesn’t matter all that much since the woman’s tribal identity would become that of her husband, e.g., if a woman from Benjamin marries a man from Judah her children are of the tribe of Judah (interestingly enough, modern Jews determine one’s Jewishness through the mother!), so it is possible that Paul claiming to be from the tribe of Benjamin is done so with good reason.
Now, as to Andrew’s point above, it seems that “Jew” is defined differently by different groups. Romans don’t care about much other than their dwelling in Judaea. Then there are theological definitions like Paul who argue that a true Jew is one who is not merely circumcized outwardly, but inwardly by the Spirit (2:29). I need to revisit whether the Qumran community referred to themselves as Jews. I know they used language like “Sons of Light” (1QS), the “House of Judah” (1QpHab 2:4), the “Yahud” (1QS, meaning “Unity”, which may have been the Qumran sect in general, or an elite group within the sect, I can’t tell), but I’d need to go back and see if they refer to themselves as “Israel” anywhere.
You may well be right and my surface understanding is that what you say is “consensus” scholarship. But I take it you’ve not read the case made by Eisenman. BTW he is ACUTELY aware of being a maverick but counter-accuses others of serious bias and ignoring of data, etc. He did challenge the “establishment” scholars/institutions starting back in the ’80s at least… and apparently won (or helped win) some victories re. release of DS docs held waaaay too long in academic cloisters… that which ended in the Huntington Library releasing photos, I believe, followed by the originals being made more accessible… the former around 1990 or so. All that to say that altho he may be discounted by associates, and may be a prickly personality to deal with (I don’t know but suspect maybe so), I’m not aware that he has been shown “wrong” or even overly speculative on a detailed basis relative to evidences he sites. I guess complex issues of materials-dating (carbon-based, etc.) is part of it, but not the full story, at least as he argues.
IF indeed the DSC’s have been mis-dated and/or misinterpreted with the failure to link at least a couple key ones of them to James and the Jeru. group, this is a MAJOR scholarly/historical deal!! (He also makes a case about possible references to Paul in the DSC’s, and that Paul likely had Herodian connections, maybe even familial ones… this contention seems somewhat inter-twined with although largely independent of the James/Righteous Teacher connection.)… Are people maybe purposely just ignoring him, knowing to refute him much, publicly, might just bring more publicity, and maybe with it INCREASE his influence or the strength of his positions rather than letting his contentions atrophy via lack of attention? (He does have going against him already that his writing is hard to follow and often not well organized, worded, etc., so ignoring him might be an effective strategy.)
Yes, I understand it would be a fantastic “Lone Ranger” story for Eisenman to be correct over against the “majority” of “establishment” scholars who have presented a fake “consensus”, but I don’t have time to chase conspiracy theories. I enjoy a good discussion about things that are plausible, though I prefer things which are probable, and this does not qualify as one of those things I find plausible and therefore worth discussing.
I want to clarify that I am not trying to be a jerk about Eisenman’s ideas. My last comment may read forcefully, and for that I apologize, but this is a subject which I find to be distractive speculation at best. There is a lot of literature on the Dead Sea Scrolls written by people from a large variety of backgrounds. While there are many issues that have not been resolved regarding the origins of the scrolls one thing that is not being seriously considered is that it somehow mirrors some early Christian community, or even worse, that Qumran was a Christian community. In my opinion spending time discussing Eisenman’s views is as fruitful as debating whether Constantine invented the New Testament canon or the doctrine of the Trinity. If people are going to believe that sort of thing I suspect that people want to believe something that absurd and baseless, otherwise all that one needs to do is spend some time reading respected historians of events like the Council of Nicaea or communities like that at Qumran and the fanciful speculations of people trying to either (A) make a name for themselves, (B) make a quick dollar, or (C) be contrarian for the sake of being contrarian will be dismissed.
Hi again, Brian… Before I came back and saw your last reply of 3:14 pm, I went back to read part of the Intro to “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians” by Eisenman, published first in 1996 (tho mine is the 2006 ed., which I’m not sure if/how may vary from the 1996 one). In the intro he explains a good bit of the history involved, his own work and involvement prior to and after the 1991 releases, and his perception of the academic “conspiracy” (I think his words were more “monopoly”, “control” and such, but whatever it was, a conspiracy of some type, in the literal sense of people collaborating privately toward a goal, tho not necessarily with ill intent, did seem to have to be involved). He also covers how his work has held up, reactions to it, etc…. And this section is quite understandably written.
Also, I recall gaining a sense of inappropriate seclusion of docs from way back, before knowing anything of Eisenman, and I think that is agreed upon by numerous non-Eisenman-following scholars of the DSC’s. Probably some Claremont profs I didn’t know or have classes with (I wasn’t in Biblical Studies) have held this…. I know James Robinson was heavily involved, but not sure when, how, etc., nor what he’s written.
HOWEVER, aside from all that and whatever unscholarly collusion, etc. there may or may not have been, the key thing is the actual issues over interpretation and how that is intertwined with the dating issues and “placing” Qumran potentially in relation to 1st Century “Christianity”. On THAT central matter, I frankly don’t see how Eisenman’s work can be dismissed out of hand, even if he is the ONLY one (and I’m not sure he’s entirely alone, is he?) making some of the connections and interpretations he is. As far as I can tell from his work and know from his credentials, he IS a qualified, meticulous and credible scholar, and this area was (maybe still is?) his main specialization for a long time. Am I off track from what you know?
And are you at least willing to read (if you haven’t), at minimum, his roughly 20-some page intro to the book mentioned to let him make a summary of the case himself?
I find the word “conspiracy” to be completely misleading. As we have seen with the recent ‘Jesus’ Wife’ fragment, there is a danger in releasing information to the public on an important discovery before it has had the opportunity to go through the proper channels of verification. It is agreed by many that the DSS went through a very long, very frustrating process. There are some from those years who were quite bitter against what was perceived to be a monopoly. In the last twenty years more and more people have handled the scrolls and the conspiracies have begun to disappear. As people realize that these scrolls are very useful for understanding early Judaism, and the matrix within which Christianity was born, there is very little talk about any conspiracies. Read widely the literature of folk like M.O. Wise, Geza Vermes, J.C. VanderKamp, Jodi Magness, L.T. Johnson, Peter Flint, C. A. Evans, E.M. Cook, J.J. Collins, M.G. Abegg, and others and it is quite apparent that these experts on the scrolls have found nothing like the mythological speculation that arose when the scrolls were less accessible. So one good scholar with wild views is not enough to convince me that I should spend time entertaining his views, especially when I have heard the gist of these types of arguments.
Eisenman may not be alone. It is possible that there are others. It is likely that their books can be found in the bargin bins of the religion section of used bookstores across the country.
Thanks, Brian. I appreciate your response. You’ve at least demonstrated why you don’t think he’s worth spending time on, and I concede you may well be right. I realize (as I think I alluded to before) that I DO need to, hopefully sometime before toooo long, do much more reading OF and about the Scrolls (by authors such as you cite). I certainly agree that the 16 or more years since 1996 (as one “dividing” point, which might be pushed earlier, too) is a good period over which interpretive issues can be (and have been) probed, discussed, etc., potentially leading to some reliable conclusions, at least of a general sort. I’ll have to see what I think after having a deeper look. Thanks again.
Not only was there imprecision with respect to “Jew” being defined differently by different historical groups that has propagated forward into modern thinking, but it has befuddled, what is otherwise clear in the bible.
When Abraham was promised blessed offspring who would be God’s heritage, and who God would be a heritage for ([Gen 17:7-8], and again [Ex 6:7][Lev 26:12]) the wording was strangely precise: “A nation and a company of nations shall come from you”. This is the same ‘multitude of nations’ from [Gen 17:5] referenced in [Rom 11:25] (as πλήρωμα ἔθνος, except ‘ἔθνος’ has to be read correctly as ‘nations’)
Q. For example, was Israel ever unified? When was it unified?
A. It was only unified under four kings, and only 2 where of the House of David. All other times, both before David’s Kingdom and afterwards it was “a nation” (the House of Judah) and “a company of nations” (the House of Joseph).
Q. When did the term ‘Jew’ first appear in the bible?
A. It only appeared associated with the House of Judah about the time of Babylon and afterwards. For example, in [2 Kings 16:6] the ‘Jews’ are at war with the Israelites! If Jew’s and Israelites were one and the same why does the bible treat them as different? Most Israelites were never known as Jews
There is biblical precision here, and Paul was equally aware of it (more evident in Greek than English). Paul used ἅγιος, Ἰουδαῖος, Ἰσραηλῖταί, ἔθνος, and κόσμος. Paul also knew how the House of Judah had been to Babylon and back, while the House of Israel had been through Assyria, Greece and Rome as they were sifting through the nations (with the sieve of destruction), but not yet returned [John 7:35].
It was Paul’s careful understanding that shows he also understood OT prophets (who also understood the difference between the two houses and their eventual separate paths). Hosea could not have been clearer. Add to this the idea that the concept of the House of Judah (‘Jew’) was further diluted through the integration of unbelieving goats (Edomites) and its no wonder Jesus was harsh with the Pharisees, Herodians, Sadduccess. Nevertheless, the true ‘sheep’ indeed heard their shepherd as Jesus said “MY sheep hear my voice”.
If only modern Christians would do as you are thinking of doing Howard, and pay a bit more attention to biblical history, for if they did they’d be amazed at how closely aligned History and Prophecy actually are!
I am one of the great unwashed who has stumbled upon Eisenman’s work and I too find it impressive as the poster above said at first. I know you don’t want to spend time on this subject, but I was hoping you might be able to help me with a little puzzle.
I saw this passage in Justin’s Dialogue With Trypho:
“He shall come from heaven with glory, when the man of apostasy, who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians”
From here: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/justinmartyr-dialoguetrypho.html
It looked a bit familiar so I had a look at some DSS stuff and saw this in the Habakkuk Pesher:
“the city is Jerusalem where the Wicked Priest committed abominable deeds and defiled the Temple of God. The violence done to the land: these are the cities of Judah where he robbed the poor of their possessions.”
From here: http://www.preteristarchive.com/BibleStudies/DeadSeaScrolls/1QpHab_pesher_habakkuk.html
Does Justin say anything else about this “Man of Apostasy”? Because, from this little snippet (which I admit I can’t read in its original language) he appears indistinguishable from the “Wicked Priest” of the Scrolls.
Could there be anything to this idea, or am I doing the usual Amateur trick of getting carried away with coincidence?
Just to add to my earlier post: I can tell you aren’t exactly a fan of Prof. Eisenman and I know looking up texts and translating stuff is actual work. I will understand completely if you don’t want to bother with this, but if you could point me towards someone who can help me solve this, I would appreciate it. Thank you. (I guess that should be please…)
Me again. I found someone to help with the translation, so I guess you needn’t trouble yourself over this.
I haven’t heard back from my “translator” yet, but when he comes back and tells me how I’ve made the discovery of the millenium, I bet you’ll wish you checked your blog more often! Ha Ha,
I’m kidding of course, I don’t really expect you are missing out on anything.
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