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«A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Near Eastern Studies) in The University ...»

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Torah Praxis after 70 C.E.:

Reading Matthew and Luke-Acts as Jewish Texts


Isaac Wilk Oliver

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

(Near Eastern Studies)

in The University of Michigan


Doctoral Committee:

Professor Gabriele Boccaccini, Chair

Professor Raymond H. Van Dam

Assistant Professor Ellen Muehlberger

Assistant Professor Rachel Neis

Professor Daniel Boyarin, University of California, Berkeley To my Father, Benoni Batista de Oliveira ‫ז"ל‬ Sou caipira, Pirapora Nossa Senhora de Aparecida Ilumina a mina escura E funda o trem da minha vida (“Romaria” by Renato Teixeira de Oliveira) ii Acknowledgements First and foremost, I would like to thank my supervisor, Gabriele Boccaccini, not only for his original and sophisticated input throughout this project, but also for his support in so many other endeavors during my stay at the University of Michigan. I have learned much about Middle Judaism (we both include the Jesus movement under this rubric) by sitting at the feet of this Italian maestro. His charisma and ability to create bridges between different academic communities at the international level through his tireless efforts in founding and facilitating the various Enoch Seminars continually inspire and remind us all to not only explore texts but also foster positive human relationships.

I am immensely thankful for Daniel Boyarin’s graciousness and willingness to participate as a member of my dissertation committee. As I embarked on this project, I was unaware that Boyarin was writing a book about the canonical gospels—read as Jewish texts. This turned out to be the most serendipitous of events for me, and I thank him for sharing a copy of his book before its publication so that I could interact with his work in my own research. His feedback has been most valuable. Professors Ray Van Dam, Ellen Muehlberger, and Rachel Neis from the University of Michigan provided me with great suggestions and important corrections about my presentation, style, and argumentation. I thank them for their professional and academic support that reaches far beyond this dissertation project.

iii I am also grateful for and indebted to Dr. Mark Kinzer for encouraging me to select and pursue this dissertation topic. Kinzer, who also earned his PhD at Michigan under the tutorship of Jarl Fossum and Gabriele Boccaccini, introduced me to the writings of Jacob Jervell when I met him during my stay in Ann Arbor. Indeed, there is a special story about Luke that runs deep in the history of the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Michigan. Kinzer tells me that Fossum was a student of Jacob Jervell and taught about the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles here at Michigan from his professor’s perspective, which in turn was handed down and accepted by Kinzer and now by me. May this chain of tradition continue to be transmitted! Hopefully, the time is now ripe for the rest of the academic community to shift their understanding about these New Testament documents and to view them simply as Jewish texts.

The Rackham Graduate School provided me with two fantastic fellowships, the Rackham Merit Fellowship and the Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship, which allowed me to devote my time and energy to research and completing my dissertation within a reasonable timeframe. The Frankel Center for Judaic Studies generously granted me funding during the summers to study and share my research abroad both in Europe and Israel. I am also thankful for the Department of Near Eastern Studies for supplying additional funding.

Marc Gottlieb has been my guardian angel and a great mentor. Also a special thanks to my mother, Susan. Matteo Silvestri and especially Hervé Gonzalez from l’Université de Lausanne greatly assisted me with accessing and using the excellent library for biblical studies of their institution during my annual summer stays in France and Switzerland. I am grateful for the many conversations and discussions with Luca

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the various members of the Graduate Enoch Seminars. Last but not least, my wife, Ségolène, for her patience and support throughout this six-year exodus in Michigan during which three kids were born and had to be raised while I completed my PhD!

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List of Tables

Chapter 1 Introduction

Part I Sabbath Keeping in Matthew and Luke-Acts

Chapter 2 Non-Controversial Sabbath Episodes

Chapter 3 Plucking Grain on the Sabbath

Chapter 4 Healing on the Sabbath

Chapter 5 Burying and the Sabbath

Chapter 6 Traveling on the Sabbath in Matthew

Conclusion on Sabbath Keeping in Matthew and Luke

Chapter 7 The Sabbath in the Acts of the Apostles

Part II Food Laws in Matthew and Luke-Acts

Chapter 8 Food Laws in Matthew

Chapter 9 Food Laws in Luke

Chapter 10 The Cornelius Incident

Chapter 11 The Apostolic Decree

Part III Circumcision in Matthew and Luke-Acts

Chapter 12 Circumcision in Matthew and Luke-Acts

Chapter 13 Conclusion


vi List of Tables

Table 2-1

Table 2-2

Table 2-3

Table 2-4

Table 3-1

Table 4-1

Table 4-2

Table 5-1

Table 6-1

Table 6-2

Table 6-3

Table 7-1

Table 7-2

Table 8-1

Table 8-2

Table 8-3

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These are exciting times for exploring any topic that relates early Christianity to its original Jewish matrix. How fortunate we are to lie far away from those days when many Christian theologians and historians felt anxious about the Jewish heritage of their Christian tradition. From the historical Jesus to the apostle Paul, many are the scholars of Christian provenance who have affirmed in positive terms the Jewishness of these two foundational figures. This tendency has also been reciprocated among several Jewish scholars, first with the historical Jesus, and eventually even with Paul who had previously been viewed as a Jewish apostate and the first “Christian.”1 Ever since the publication of E.P. Sander’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism, many Christian scholars have embraced and reaffirmed George Foot Moore’s prophetic cry against Christian misrepresentations and stigmatizations of rabbinic Judaism. 2 The fascinating discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the new intellectual and ecumenical atmosphere reigning after World War II have only accelerated the process of recovering the diversity of Second Temple Judaism.

These processes have in turn brought the early Jesus movement, at least some of it, back to its Jewish pastures.

1 Jewish scholars who have affirmed the Jewishness of both Jesus and Paul include Claude G. Montefiore, Joseph Klausner, David Flusser, Samuel Sandmel, Alan F. Segal, Geza Vermes, Daniel Boyarin, Paula Fredriksen, and Mark Nanos, to name a few. Further references can be found in the ever expanding www.4enoch.org., created by Gabriele Boccaccini (2009). For the “older,” less favorable view of Paul as the inventor of Christianity, seen as a religion in radical discontinuity from Judaism, see Hyam Maccoby, The Mythmaker, Paul and the Invention of Christianity (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1986).

2 George Foot Moore, “Christian Writers on Judaism,” HTR 14 (1921): 197–254; E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (Philadelphia, Pa.: Fortress, 1977).

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achievements made during the second half of the twentieth century in the field of biblical studies, ancient Judaism, and early Christianity. But new frontiers of exploration and methodological considerations are constantly emerging in the world of academia. The beginning of the third millennium has already generated its share of new proposals concerning Jewish-Christian relations in Late Antiquity that open fresh opportunities to revisit the documents now incorporated in the New Testament. Thus, the many articles now compiled in the volume, The Ways That Never Parted, propose moving away from pinpointing an early date when Judaism and Christianity became distinct, autonomous entities everywhere throughout the Greco-Roman and Near Eastern worlds of Late Antiquity. 3 While popular opinion continues to imagine that Jesus almost immediately founded a new religion upon his arrival on the earthly scene, specialists of early Judaism and Christianity have traditionally issued the bill of divorce between Jews and Christians at a slightly later time. Paul, as mentioned above, has in the past been viewed as the primary culprit for initiating this process of separation. Others, however, turn their gaze toward 70 C.E. and consider this date as the watershed moment when Jews made their way to Yavneh and developed what eventually became “rabbinic Judaism,” while the last remnant of Christians attached to Judaism settled in Pella never again to reincorporate themselves into Jewish society. 4 Until recently, the Second Jewish Revolt (c.132–35 C.E.) 3

Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed, eds., The Ways That Never Parted (Minneapolis, Minn.:

Fortress, 2007); cf. Daniel Boyarin, Borderlines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Philadelphia, Pa.:

University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). “Late Antiquity” normally refers to the period after the composition of the documents included in the New Testament. My point is that if no definitive separation between the entities we are accustomed to calling “Judaism” and “Christianity” occurred everywhere during the third, fourth, or even fifth centuries of the Common Era, how much more for the first century of the existence of the nascent Jesus movement.

4 By no means does this constitute an antiquated view about the relations between Jews and Christians in antiquity. On the contrary, it is very much alive in the third millennium. See, for example, Donald A.

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Jews and Christians. 5 Now the paradigm offered in the The Ways That Never Parted heralds a new approach for understanding Jewish-Christian relations, denying any real and complete separation between Jews and Christians everywhere during the first three or four centuries of the Common Era.6 This new paradigm, despite its critics, 7 invites scholars to Hagner, “Paul as a Jewish Believer—According to His Letters,” in Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries (eds. Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik; Peabody, Mass.; Hendrickson, 2007), 118–20: “Two questions are debated by scholars today. First, when can we speak of Christianity? And, second, when did the church break with the synagogue? As for the first, the answer depends on what we mean by the word...

. As for the second question, it would seem wise not to think in terms of a specific date for the break of the church from the synagogue. We undoubtedly have to reckon with a process taking place in different locations at different rates of speed. Dating the supposed break circa 85–90 C.E., during the work of the Yavneh rabbis and the adding of the ‘benediction’ of the minim to the Eighteen Benedictions, to my mind is much too late. Tensions were great virtually from the start, and only increased with the passing of time.

Paul knew the reality of Jewish opposition to the message he preached (cf. 2 Cor 11:23–25). There were clear points of vital importance, especially, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70, but it is likely, in my opinion, that the church and the synagogue were obviously separate entities before the end of the first century.” Even in the prestigious Hermeneia New Testament commentary series, similar perspectives on the breach between Judaism and Christianity continue to thrive. Thus, Richard I. Pervo, Acts: A Commentary (Hermeneia; Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 2009), 685: “Judaism and Christianity began to emerge as clearly distinct entities c. 90 CE. A generation later, Luke was engaged in retrojecting this separation to the ‘primitive’ period. This is a normal tactic of an established body that wishes to maintain and protect its boundaries by dating its foundation as early as possible. The separation of ‘Christians’ from ‘Jews’ is an accomplished fact.” Menahem Mor, The Bar-Kochba Revolt: Its Extent and Effect [in Hebrew] (Israel Exploration Society; Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi, 1991), 187–90, says it all when he treats “Jewish Christians” as part of the non-Jewish population during the Second Revolt. His presupposition of Jewish-Christians as non-Jews (and hence already separated from Judaism) continues in his more recent article, “The Geographical Scope of the Bar Kokhba Revolt,” in The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered: New Perspectives on the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (ed. Peter Schäfer; TSAJ 100; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), 108.

5 James D.G. Dunn in his The Partings of the Ways between Christianity and Judaism and Their Significance for the Character of Christianity (2d ed.; London: SCM, 2006), advocates this position, but the preface to the second edition of his book provides a corrective in response to the new paradigm proposed in the book, The Ways That Never Parted: “In short, then, in response to the question, When did the ways part?, the answer has to be: Over a lengthy period, at different times and places, and as judged by different people differently, depending on what was regarded as a non-negotiable boundary marker and by whom. So, early for some, or demanded by a leadership seeking clarity of self-definition, but for many ordinary believers and practitioners there was a long lingering embrace which was broken finally only after the Constantinian settlement” (xxii–xxiv).

6 From an intellectual point of view, one could argue that Christianity never parted from Judaism, since it represents up until this day one of the many possible outcomes and developments of the Jewish system in the aftermath of 70 C.E. Gabriele Boccaccini, Middle Judaism: Jewish Thought, 300 B.C.E. to 200 C.E.

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