James D. G. Dunnís, The Partings of the Ways
From Baur to Sanders
skimming back through the revised edition of James D. G. Dunn's The Partings of the Ways: Between
Christianity and Judaism and their Significance for the Character of
Christianity. The preface to the second edition, as you would
expect, catches up on developments these fifteen plus years since the first
Dunn's main acknowledgements in this section relate to the work of individuals like Judith Lieu's Neither Jew Nor Greek, Daniel Boyarin's Border Lines, and the compilation, Ways That Never Parted. These are books on my shelf that, unfortunately, I've only dabbled in thus far.
But the basic thrust of these books is clear. It is anachronistic to speak of a hard and fast departure between Judaism and Christianity before the late 300's. Boyarin speaks of a partitioning rather than parting of the ways, by which he means that there were no hard and fast lines of orthodoxy at that time to decide exactly what was in and what was out.
Another good insight is that the term Judaism at the time of Christ did not refer to all Jews but to those who were particularly keen to follow the Law in the manner of the Maccabees. Similarly, Dunn wonders if Ignatius' Christianity might have been a similar subset of Christianity at the time.
But alas, this post was supposed to review Dunn's first chapter. Not much startling here. It is largely a review of the missteps of the last 100 years on the relation between Judaism and Christianity.
F. C. Baur: Baur of course famously applied an evolutionary model to early Christian history and the New Testament. Jesus represented some Hegelian ideal that was immediately corrupted by Jewish Christianity. Pauline Christianity came along with a purer antithesis, only to be corrupted again in the Catholic synthesis.
J. B. Lightfoot rightly trashed Baur's chronology by establishing the authenticity of seven of Ignatius' letters. In order for Baur's evolutionary scheme to work, he had to date them to the late second century. But interestingly, Lightfoot really only shifted the chronology earlier. His scheme was just as skewed in its perspective toward early Jewish Christianity as inferior to Paul and his supposed Jesus.
A. Ritschl added a middle ground between supposed Gentile Christianity and the Primitive Jewish church, namely, Hellenistic Christianity. This was the
But all of these had as their implicit agenda the distancing of Jesus and Pauline Christianity from Judaism. And the attitudes of so many German scholars went hand in glove with Nazi attitudes toward the Jews some forty years later.
Johannes Weiss and Albert Schweitzer accepted the apocalyptic aspects of Jesus, but found his essence in his ethic. Rudolph Bultmann spent a mere 30 pages on Jesus in his 600+ page Theology of the New Testament, finding the essence of the gospel an existentialist message about authentic existence.
Dunn ends this chapter with what was in 1991 the maturing turn to Judaism as the background of the New Testament and Jesus. The third quest for the historical Jew was nearing its peak, with its emphasis on Jesus as a Jew. It left us wondering how a century's worth of such exploration had missed such a basic point.
The new perspective on Paul with its renewed understanding of Judaism was going strong and its detractors had not yet mustered their voice. It made us wonder how for so long Christians had misrepresented Judaism.
At the same time Jacob Neusner had brought sanity to the use of rabbinic material in the study of Judaism at the time of Christ. Once again, we wonder how Joachim Jeremias could miss so many obvious conclusions, seriously calling into question Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus.
Chapter 2: The Four Pillars
A quick summary of chapter 2 of James D. G. Dunn's The Partings of the Ways. This chapter sketches the central
principles of Second Temple Judaism--Judaism as we define it rather than the
as the Jews would have understood it at the time of Christ. As I mentioned in
the previous post, Dunn believes that this term was coined in direct opposition
to the term hellenismos and thus that it is a term born of the
distinction between Jewish practice and Greek, particularly when it comes to
the ethnic distinctives of the Law like circumcision,
food laws, sabbath observance.
Dunn refers to these things as "common Judaism" in the absence of later rabbinic "orthodox" Judaism, which would represent significant pruning of an earlier diversity (and I remain inclined to think that rabbinic Judaism--as indeed the current Jewish canon--is largely the continuation of the Pharisaic tradition. The Protestant Old Testament, perhaps ironically, is thus the Pharisaic canon rather than the canon of Jerusalem Christianity, which I suspect was more along the lines of the Essene canon (including books like 1 Enoch as Scripture).
It seems to me that N. T. Wright truncates Dunn's list to three pillars, leaving off land. I don't know if he gives rationale for this somewhere, and I'm not in my office right now to look. In any case, the four or three pillar idea is an interpreter's construct. The Jews themselves did not use this language. They are scholarly reconstructions and must therefore be considered very tentative and amendable.
Like Hurtado and Bauckham (and Wright), Dunn considers monotheism one of the key distinctives of Jewish identity in the first century. This was mostly an exclusivist monotheism, meaning that YHWH was not equated with Zeus or Jupiter but was considered God with them not being gods at all. It is true that we do find some incidents of syncretism like this (Letter of Aristeas). Others considered these sorts of powers to be demonic powers of the other nations (cf. Ps. 82). Dunn mentions that at other times the virtues of other gods were captured as the virtues of God himself (e.g., wisdom).
Also common to most of the surviving Jewish literature from this period is the sense that God had called
Covenant (based in Torah)
In this section, Dunn confirms the idea of "covenantal nomism" in perhaps slightly broader terms that the way E. P. Sanders used the phrase. The idea is basically that
The covenant involved certain obligations on
We can see the time of the Maccabees as the most important backdrop to the Judaism of New Testament days.
[For those of you who know the chapter, it's clear that I'm doing a targum on Dunn, merging my own thoughts with his]
Dunn suggests two features of the common Jewish understanding of Torah at the time:
1) The law came to be understood as a basic expression of Jewish distinctiveness.
He cites Jubilees, Aristeas (! - pluralist yet big on the distinctiveness of
2) A sense of privilege as Jews.
This of course plays into Dunn's "new perspective" on Paul. He understands the boasting of Romans to be not an individualistic boasting in good works but a nationalistic boasting in ethnic privilege (so also Wright--"nationalistic righteousness"). A Gentile is thus a sinner by definition.
Naturally, argues Dunn, this distinctiveness and privilege led to a focus on aspects of the law that distinguished Jew from Gentile. As we know from elsewhere, Dunn believes these are the things that would have immediately come to mind when someone used the phrase "works of law": circumcision, Sabbath, and food laws.
Land (centered in
In Deuteronomy, the focus of
a) The temple was the political center of
b) The temple was the economic center of
c) The temple was a religious center.
Dunn ends the chapter by considering various aspects of the Jewish world that might be taken as arguments against considering the temple as a pillar of common Judaism:
1. The Essenes decried the temple. But Dunn rightly notes that it is not the institution of the temple per se that the Essenes opposed, but its current priesthood, practice, and general defilement.
2. The Jewish temple at Leontopolis in
3. The rise of synagogues in the Diaspora similarly were not against the
Chapter 3: Jesus and the
of James D. G. Dunn's, The Partings of the
Ways, asks whether Jesus himself shows any sign of
"parting" from the limits of the Judaism of his day on the matter of
the temple (Dunn's fourth pillar). Dunn rightly concludes, "Jesus appears
on this subject to stand well within the diversity of second
As usual, Dunn's writing is clear and logical. First, he brings together evidence of a positive attitude toward the temple in the gospels. He suggests that comments like the Q saying "O Jerusalem,
The statement in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:23-24) about leaving your gift on the altar and being reconciled to your alienated brother presupposes continued use of the temple cult. Of course Dunn does not defend the historicity of these sayings, which some might challenge.
However, in the second section Dunn discusses how Jesus' interaction with Jewish purity issues constituted an implicit challenge to the religious system centered in the temple. Dunn spends a little time arguing that "purity was a matter of wide concern within the Judaism of Jesus' time" (53), including short discussions of priests, Pharisees, and Essenes.
Then he shows how Jesus' engagement with lepers, the woman with the hemorrhage, etc. He concludes that a consistent picture emerges "of a Jesus who did not share the concerns or degree of concern regarding purity of many (most?) of the Pharisees, and who indeed sat loose to, disregarded or discounted some at least of the outworkings of the purity legislation as it governed social contact (people with skin diseases, corpse defilement, discharge of blood)" (58).
In the third section of the chapter, Dunn asks whether Jesus offering forgiveness to people challenged the Judaism of his day. He first clarifies that Judaism "was and is a religion of repentance and atonement," a "religion of forgiveness" (59). He discusses Mark 2:5-7, 10 where Jesus gets into trouble for forgiving someone's sins. Dunn points out that the priests regularly pronounced people's sins forgiven, so the simplistic reading usually given of this passage is wide of the mark.
Dunn suggests that the most logical explanation for the protest is "that he pronounced the man's sins forgiven outside the cult and without any reference (even by implication) to the cult" (61). In other words, Jesus' actions once again stood somewhat in tension with the temple cult. Jesus takes on himself the task of pronouncing priestly absolution without the authoriztaion of the temple and without reference to the cult (62).
In the fourth section of the chapter, Dunn discusses Jesus' action in the temple. Is it a) a revolutionary act, b) a symbol of the end of the sacrificial system, c) a symbol of the destruction of the temple, d) a cleansing of the temple? Dunn ends up opting for the final option. A revolutionary act would have brought swift Roman action. He thinks b and c require reading too much into the act when prophetic actions are usually fairly clear. He acknowledges that Mark seems to interpret Jesus' act according to c.
He opts for d, the cleansing of the temple. The act was "a symbolical representation of the 'cleansing' of the temple which would be necessary if it was to serve its intended eschatological function" (64). I personally lean toward it being a statement against the injustice of the leaders of
Dunn next discusses Jesus word about destroying the temple and building it back up after three days (Mark 14:58). In some texts this is said to be false testimony but in John Jesus says something like it. It seems like Jesus did say something about the temple being destroyed and rebuilt. Dunn interprets the statement against the backdrop of 2 Samuel 7 and expectation that a son of David would build the temple. To him it "seems to set Jesus firmly within the expectation of Jewish apocalypticism" (67).
Lots of ifs in my mind for this section.
Next Dunn asks what killed Jesus. He notes the almost complete absence of Pharisees from the passion stories. The crucial issue, he argues was the temple and not the law (68). He argues that it was Jesus' challenge to the temple--at least as perceived by leading members of the Sanhedrin--that was the central issue (69). The principal movers were the high priestly faction (70).
Finally, Dunn asks whether Jesus saw his death as a sacrifice, as the end of all sacrifices. Dunn argues that Jesus did in fact anticipate his death, which not all scholars accept. He goes through several models that Jesus might have conceptualized his death by: a) the suffering of the righteous, b) a martyr's death, c) sufferer of end time tribulation, d) a covenant sacrifice. Whichever one of these is more correct, Dunn argues, none of them imply an end to the sacrificial system (73).
So Dunn concludes the chapter as I mentioned at the beginning. Nothing Jesus says or does would indicate that he stood outside the parameters of the diversity of Judaism in relation to the temple. It is important to realize that groups like the Essenes were highlly critical of the temple. The Essenes did not participate in the temple because they believed it was defiled. So they ran their community as if it were a temple community.
The fact that the earliest Christians seem to have participated in the temple seems to indicate that Jesus did not make clear to them that the temple was no longer needed.
Chapter 4: A
On to chapter 4 of J. D. G. Dunn's The Partings of the Ways. This title has
to do with Stephen's apparent critique of the temple in Acts 7 and whether it
constitutes a partitioning (to revise Dunn's language) of the ways.
Dunn's conclusion is that "the Stephen episode marks the beginning of a clear parting of the ways between Christian and Jew, as also probably to some extent between 'Hebrew' Christian and 'Hellenist' Christian - at all events the first rending of a major seam in a Judaism still best designated 'second Temple Judaism'" (94-95, italics his).
I think Dunn might use Boyarin's language if he were writing this chapter today--it is more a partitioning than a parting, if Dunn's interpretations are correct. I don't have the first edition here at home, but I wonder if the final paragraph of p. 99 is a new addition (I'll check): "the more we see a split opening up between 'Judaism' and 'Christianity' at this point, the more we must recognize that it was also a split within the new movement, between (the majority of?) Jewish Christians and others.
He also notes that "the Judaism which emerged from the first century was also able to reconstitute itself without the resource of the
OK. So those are Dunn's conclusions from this chapter. What is the argument?
4.1 Earliest Followers
The first part of the chapter documents what in my mind must certainly have been the case. The core of Jerusalem Christianity participated fully in the life of the temple. Dunn makes a number of observations to support this conclusion:
1. They remain in
2. They attended the temple and participated in the cult. He mentions Matthew 5:23-24 again and James admonition to Paul to participate in a temple ritual in Acts 21:24. The historicity of these data need not be established since they certainly imply that some Christians had these views, or else they would not have been put in these texts.
3. Absence of a theology of the cross in the sermons of Acts.
4. Earliest Christianity differed from
5. However, references to Peter, James, and John as pillars is temple like imagery. It is possible that the early community did see itself as the eschatological
4.2ff The Hellenists
Dunn sees the Greek-speaking Jewish community in
Dunn believes that Luke has drawn Stephen's sermon from a source of some kind, differing as it does in theological perspective from the bulk of Acts. Dunn follows others in noting an underlying sense of geographical displacement from Judea in the narrative presentation of
Crucial for Dunn is not just Stephen's jump to "God does not dwell in buildings made with hands" from the mention of Solomon's temple. Most crucial is the phrase "made with hands" itself, for this term is used of the idolatrous idols mentioned earlier in the sermon. To use this phrase of the temple would have been massively divisive!
Dunn sees Stephen's statements here as the beginning of a breach between Christianity and Judaism over the temple. He suggests that "it was with Stephen and the Hellenists that a theology of Jesus' death as a sacrifice which ends all sacrifice first emerged" (94). It's important to reiterate that this is only one stream within a movement and that Stephen would not have seen it as a breach too. "Stephen speaks still as a Jew eager to live within the terms actually laid down in the scriptures to his people" (93).
Dunn makes some observations about the rest of Acts 8-12 that he thinks implies the same. Philip goes to
There are some great observations in this chapter and well worth considering. Of course they go against one of my signature ideas, alluded to in Cosmology and Eschatology of Hebrews and the basis of a book proposal I have in play. My argument is that the idea of Christ's death as a sacrifice does not in itself imply the end of the temple cultus. This idea, I argue, was a realization that largely developed after the destruction of the temple, although the temple was already well marginalized within Pauline Christianity.
One doesn't want to hold onto an idea simply because you have already published a different position (although we suspect this happens all the time :-). My argument has been, however, that William Manson had the relationship between Hebrews and Acts 7 reversed. Hebrews may very well stand in the tradition of Hellenists like Stephen in Acts 7, no problem there. But I have suggested that the portrait of Stephen in Acts 7 has also been influenced by individuals like the author of Hebrews.
In other words, Luke likens Stephen to contemporaries of his like the author of Hebrews, making Stephen sound even more radical for his time than he was. I will, however, reflect more on the issue.
Chapter 5: A
of The Partings of the Ways is
titled, "A Temple 'made without hands.'" This is the second half of
the Jesus saying in Mark 14:58--"I will tear down this temple made with
hands and after three days I will rebuild another made without hands."
Dunn pointed out in the previous chapter that Matthew and Luke both omit the
"hands" parts of the saying. Dunn suggested it might be because
"Matthew often seems to omit Markan phrases which he knows to be Markan
elaborations of the common tradition" (92).
This chapter now discusses ways in which the NT develops the temple "not made with hands" concept, that is, passages that indicate the perspective that the temple cultus is no longer necessary. This leads him to discuss Paul, Hebrews, 1 Peter, Revelation, and John.
Paul only mentions the literal temple in
I want now to address Dunn's interpretation of Paul on this subject as a hostile witness. My position thus far has been that while Paul has all the elements of a replacement view of the temple, he nowhere clearly expresses that point of view. That a replacement view is a natural development of Paul but one Paul himself never makes explicit. Dunn believes that "the implication is unavoidable" that no more sacrifice would be necessary (103), although as far as I can tell he does not use the word replacement to compare Christ's death with the temple cultus in Paul.
The hidden element in this equation is what role Paul believed the cultus to have prior to Christ. Paul does not clearly have the cultus in mind when he speaks of the Law (unlike Hebrews). What I would suggest is that Paul and the Hellenists of Acts may have had a more spiritualized view of the temple to begin with (cf. Philo). Christ's death then was not so much a "replacement" of the cultus as a "sacrifice" with a higher reality with ultimate cosmic significance.
It is clear that Paul has appropriated cultic language around Christ and the assembly of believers in ways that parallel the temple cultus. The local body of Christ is the
A Jew could have used most of this language without in any way denying the validity of the
The real sticking point comes in Paul's sense of faith as the basis of justification and the Spirit as ending the power of Sin. If a person is deemed right with God on the basis of faith and the Spirit then empowers a person to put sin to death in his or her mortal body, then what further need was there for a temple cultus?
Some nuances. Faith for a Jew would have included participation in the cultus as an expression of that faith. Paul of course seems unconcerned about such things, but it is important to mention that faith was not the antithesis of action per se for Paul. This is a Reformation dichotomy.
The expression "faith of Christ" I believe at several points refers to the faithful obedience of Jesus to the point of death (e.g., Rom. 3:22; Gal. 2:16). This act of obedience, of offering himself as a living sacrifice, is the kind of "higher reality" that I'm suggesting Paul and the Hellenists may have seen as the real operative factor in atonement, even for those who participated in the cultus. The cultus would thus only be the surface act that represented the deeper basis for atonement (Philo says such things about literal sacrifices being unnecessary when the heart was right).
The cosmic scope of Christ's sacrifice does indeed destroy the power of Sin. In theory, therefore, no more sacrifices would be necessary. However, Paul never addresses key questions we might raise in relation to this schema. What, for example, about unintentional sins and wrongs done to others? What about the sin that, while undesirable, clearly attends to many Christians after they have received the Spirit? Did Paul understand Christ's sacrifice to cover these as well?
In short, we are forced to fill in these gaps ourselves. Certainly it would seem true that Paul had no need for a temple in his thought. But was it because he saw Christ's sacrifice as the end of all sacrifices? This Paul does not say and we can at least imagine some scenarios in which that might not have been the case.
Dunn wrote Partings before I studied with him from 1993-96. I was certainly more on the same page with him when I started than as I have ended up. He considers Hebrews to have decisively parted from Judaism on matters like the temple. I might just mention areas in which I have come to differ from him on Hebrews as Dunn discusses it in this chapter.
I agree with Dunn that Hebrews post-dates the destruction of the temple. I have come to disagree, however, on the audience being Jewish. I also think that Hebrews should be read in the context of an audience coping with the destruction of the temple and in that sense that it does not represent a departure so much as a coping strategy for the audience. While I think there are elements of Middle Platonic dualism in Hebrews I do not think that language of copy and pattern should be understood in that way.
However, I certainly agree that Hebrews views Christ's sacrifice as the definitive end of all sacrifices and thus, in effect, as a replacement for the temple cultus. Of course Hebrews does not believe that the temple cultus was ever truly effective in the removal of sins. Further, Hebrews does not clearly indicate that Christ's death atones for sins subsequent to one's initial cleansing.
1 Peter, Revelation, John
In each case Dunn also sees a parting as with Hebrews. 1 Peter considers all believers to be priests. Revelation sees no need for a temple in the new Jerusalem. John symbolically sees Jesus as a reality relating to sacrifice, purity, and festival that makes any literal such practices redundant. I largely agree with Dunn here, although I think it's important to note that all three of these writings date to after or around the time of the temple's destruction. As Dunn has pointed out several times, even rabbinic Judaism managed to survive without need for a temple.
The most fun aspect of this chapter was picturing Dunn giving it at the
Chapter 6: Jesus, Covenant and Torah
Chapter 7: Paul and Covenantal Nomism
Chapter 8: The
Chapter 9: Jesus and the One God
Chapter 9 begins
the set of chapters in which Dunn considers monotheism. Dunn's conclusion about
Jesus is, "Jesus himself still stood well within the boundaries of second
I might preface the following discussion by noting the absence of John from much of the discussion. It is not that Dunn does not consider John. It is that he has concluded that John at these points reflects later Christian reflection on Jesus more than Jesus' own words and self-presentation. Whether you agree with him or not, it is instructive to consider the synoptic portrait in itself, because you realize just how different John's portrayal is--and how much we shove its presentation down the Synoptic gospels throat without truly listening to them.
1. Jesus was a devout worshipper of the one God.
Dunn agrees with the general sense that "Jesus proclaimed God and not himself" (216). Jesus had a regular prayer life. Dunn decides not to speculate on Jesus' participation in temple sacrifices, although he notes that "It would presumably have been regarded as extremely odd if he had never done so" (217). On this matter the silence of the biblical record does not mention any oddness or issue in this regard.
The Shema shows up in his language at times, and Jesus deflects Satan by reference to it. Finally Jesus called for faith in God. Faith in him did not seem to be a feature of his call for faith.
Thus no contradiction of monotheism here. Jesus squarely placed himself under the one God.
2. Jesus as Messiah
Dunn makes an excellent case that people certainly wondered if Jesus was the Messiah. What is interesting is that Jesus rather consistently deflected these questions or distanced himself from this identity. Dunn puts it this way, "there is an indication on the part of Jesus of an unwillingness to accept what those who put the question would understand by the term (Messiah/King)" (222).
In any case, the Jews were not expecting the messiah to be superhuman anyway. So definitely no contradiction of monotheism here.
3. Jesus as God's son
Dunn considers it very clear that Jesus considered himself God's son. His use of Abba makes the case particularly for Dunn. However, there is no connotation of divinity here. "At the time of Jesus 'son of God' was a way of characterizing someone who was thought to be commissioned by God or highly favoured by God" (225). At most it might be a reference to the Messiah as Son of God, but even this use does not imply superhuman status.
4. Jesus as son of man/Son of Man
Dunn first rightly observes that the phrase "son of man" appears almost exclusively on the lips of Jesus himself in the NT. He concludes "the phrase must have been a very firm and clear characteristic of Jesus' own speech" (227).
After looking at several references and their parallels, Dunn concludes that Jesus must at least some of the time have used "son of man" simply as a way of referring to "man," to himself as a person. This is almost certainly true. The controversy comes when we ask whether Jesus ever referred to himself by this phrase as the Son of Man of Daniel 7.
Dunn does not commit to a position here. He does argue that the Parables of Enoch and 4 Ezra post-date Jesus. These writings do see the Son of Man as an exalted figure involved in the judgment. 4 Ezra dates from around AD100. The date of the Parables is disputed, but I think they must be roughly concurrent with the rise of the Christian movement or else the phrase son of man would impact the NT more.
In the end, Dunn concludes, "even if Jesus did draw on Dan. 7:13 to express his hope and conviction regarding his future vindication in particular, that would not be un-Jewish in character, and would be quite consistent with a strongly held monotheism" (230).
5. Jesus' authority
Here Dunn rehearses suggestions that Jesus' claims to authority might supersede the human. Not so. Priests had authority to pronounce sins forgiven (as we saw, this more the point of contention). There were other exorcists, other miracle workers who called themselves God's son. The Teacher of Righteousness claimed incredible authority.
6. Jesus in John
In this section, Dunn argues that the Fourth Gospel reflects a later stage of christology rather than the first stage and Jesus' historical self-presentation. "Had Jesus spoken in the terms ascribed to him in the Fourth Gospel the crisis [of parting] must have come must sooner" (234). He catalogs the stark difference between the way Jesus speaks in the Synoptics and the way he speaks in John. He notes the consistency of style across characters in John and 1 John and concludes that "the teaching of the Fourth Gospel can hardly be explained as other than the much developed theological reflection of the fourth evangelist" (253). If Jesus had historically said these sorts of things so early, "it is astonishing that there is no greater mark of it elsewhere in the NT, not just in the Synoptics, but also in the other NT writings" (234).
7. The eschatological plus
Dunn ends the chapter with features of Jesus' ministry that begin to move beyond the normal, elements that must have been "uncomfortable from the first" (235). While Jesus self-identified as a prophet, it was not just any prophet but the eschatological prophet of Isaiah 61. Jesus strikingly modifies the prophetic, "Thus says the LORD" to "I say to you." He was not just an exorcist, but the exorcist who would end the rule of Satan. Jesus saw himself as empowered by the Spirit. His use of Amen of his own sayings was striking when others used it of others' sayings. He called disciples, 12 of them, but did not include himself among them.
In short, "Jesus taught with a degree of self-consciousness of being God's spokesman, able to act and speak in God's stead, which is only partially paralleled within the Jewish tradition" (238). He saw himself as the eschatological spokesman for God, a role beyond any human role before him.
What do we conclude from all this? We conclude that Jesus could probably have been understood by those around him in human terms. At the same time, he also seems to have given hints of something unprecedented, of something more.
Chapter 10: One God, One Lord
of James D. G. Dunn's, The Partings of the
Ways is "One God, One Lord," and it asks whether or not
Paul's writings have yet departed from mainstream Judaism. Dunn's answer is
"no." Throughout the chapter he concludes repeatedly that
"nothing of what has been covered above seems to have caused any question
or concern among Paul's Jewish contemporaries" in relation to the issue of
monotheism (170). In a comment reminiscent of Hurtado--while
ironically differing from him on the issue--Dunn suggests that "Had Paul's
christology been equally, or
more contentious [as his understanding of the Jewish Law] at this time for his
fellow Jews, we would surely have heard of it from Paul's own letters."
The belief of Paul and the earliest Christians that Jesus rose from the dead, that he was exalted to heaven, did not threaten monotheism. A unique and remarkable belief about a person who had just been alive, yes. But squarely within Judaism.
2. Exaltation to divine functions
Here Dunn disagrees with what would become Bauckham's position. The fact that Jesus participates in the judgment is quite remarkable, but it does not threaten Jewish monotheism for Jesus judges as God's representative.
Jesus' resurrection, his ascension, his apotheosis/transformation, these are remarkable things to attribute that someone who was recently alive. But we find Jewish precedents for them. Peter facilitates the giving of the Spirit, and no one thinks he threatens monotheism.
So to extend Dunn, I don't find Bauckham's assumption that Jesus must be included within the divinity because Jesus is on a throne persuasive. I think he fails to demonstrate that this must be the case. He mostly assumes it must be. His valiant attempts to work around Ezekiel the Tragedian and the Parables of Enoch are unpersuasive to me.
3. Jesus as Lord
This sentence sums up Dunn on this issue, and I find it hard to disagree: "Paul in fact calls Jesus 'Lord' as much as a means of distinguishing Jesus from God as of identifying him with God" (250).
"The LORD said to my Lord," says Psalm 110:1. Hebrews 1:6: "Therefore God, his God anointed him." And the timing of the acquiring of the name LORD is at the point of resurrection/exaltation. Bauckham in my opinion largely ignores this dynamic.
4. Jesus as Last Adam
I hink most will agree that Paul's Adam Christology did not impinge on monotheism. However, Dunn tries to make it undo the pre-existence of Christ in the Philippian "hymn." Few will go with him here.
As I've said here before, the Philippian hymn is the one place in Paul's writings that is very difficult not to see an affirmation of Christ's pre-existence. Its uniqueness, in that regard, is suspicious. But Dunn's understanding of the hymn seems problematic--that the form of God is Christ's Adamic state in the image of God, but that unlike Adam Christ did not try to seize equality with God.
Dunn also notes the key passage in the Life of Adam and Eve where God commands the angels to "worship" Adam. Dunn would not see the worship of Jesus in Paul as any more of a departure from Jewish monotheism than this.
5. Jesus as wisdom
Dunn makes an excellent case, I think, in this section that a Jew reading passages like Colossians 1:15ff would hear an implicit comparison of Christ to God's wisdom. The strength of his argument is that he so much as asks us to picture how a Jew with no prior knowledge of Christ would understand such passages. I think he is absolutely right in his answer to this question. However, the retort asks, But these would be individuals who knew a little something about Christ beforehand?
6. Jesus and the Spirit
Dunn here shows the striking way in which Paul glides from virtually equating the Spirit with the risen Christ to distinguishing the two. "Jesus and the Spirit were seen to overlap in function, but not wholly to coincide" (266). This stretches mainstream Jewish categories, but Dunn thinks it still stands within Judaism.
7. Jesus as God
Since Dunn does not think Paul wrote Titus, the only place he really considers as a possible flat out reference to Jesus as God is Romans 9:5. But the punctuation is at issue and Dunn favors as more likely the reading that separates, "God be blessed forever" from Jesus. One's answer here will largely turn on one's assessment of Paul's broader categories.
Dunn also addresses Hurtado's argument that the cultic devotion to Jesus in Paul already marks a significant mutation of Jewish monotheism. Dunn does recognize its significance: "These are indeed remarkable and we should not allow our familiarity with them to dull the astonishing character of such language spoken of one who had so recently lived on earth" (269).
But Dunn considers such imagery "a development only begun." In other words, it would lead eventually to something beyond Jewish monotheism. Just not yet in Paul. The hymns Hurtado cites are about Christ rather than to Christ. And despite invocations of Jesus, prayer is more often in Paul to God through Christ.
I might close by saying that I think it is a mistake to assume that the Christian understanding of Christ's divinity stands or falls on the interpretation of Paul. I think people like Bauckham, Hurtado, Wright, Witherington, etc. find themselves strongly driven to see as much of a later Christology in Paul as they can make the evidence fit without soiling their academic conscience. They are good Protestants.
But Roman Catholic scholars often have exactly the same impulse, it seems to me. Can't we have as much faith that God was unfolding these things in the early church as much as we Christians have faith that the New Testament unfolds things not yet on the Old Testament page?
Chapter 11: Is Christianity Monotheist?
is entitled, "Is Christianity Monotheist? The First
Dunn begins with Hebrews. His interpretations of wisdom language and Adam imagery are largely the same for Hebrews as they were for Paul and thus do not indicate a parting with Judaism for Hebrews with regard to monotheism. Dunn leans toward a fairly strong Platonic bent to Hebrews and so aptly concludes, "If Philo remains within the spectrum of recognizable and acceptable first-century Judaism, would the same not be true for Hebrews also?" (276).
James is no sweat on this issue. It barely expresss any Christology to speak of!
1 Peter also has no new spin on Christology that might be in tension with monotheism, although Dunn does discuss 1 Peter 1:20: "Jesus was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake." Does this statement imply pre-existence? I wonder if Simon Gathercole would say yes, given his expose on "I have come"language in the New Testament.
But Dunn cites the Testament of Moses 1.14: "Moses says, 'He designed and devised me, and he prepared me before the foundation of the world that I should be the mediator of the covenant.' No one would suggest that this statement implied Moses literal pre-existence.
Matthew has a wisdom Christology in which Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. Matthew seems to modify Q and allude to Sirach in ways that imply that Jesus is God's wisdom. Dunn nevertheless concludes "that the terms of Matthew's christology are thoroughly Jewish and would have been so perceived by Matthew's Jewish readers when they made their own assessment of the significance of that christology" (281).
The worship of Jesus in Revelation is indeed striking. In my opinion, it is more striking than anywhere else in the NT. Dunn points out precedents and parallels in Ezekiel 1 and Daniel 7 that show how imagery both of the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days are applied to Jesus.
Dunn concludes that "the visions of Revelation ... seem to be stretching that pattern [of apocalyptic] and indeed beginning to break it" (286).
Yes, Revelation would be unacceptable to the rabbinic Judaism that was beginning to take shape after the destruction of
It is during this period that the "two powers" in heaven heresy was arising and being defined as heresy by some rabbis. We remember that other rabbis--Akiba and especially Elisha ben Abuyah--had visions of Metatron as a second divine power in heaven. Similarly, Merkabah mysticism is similarly beginning to bloom. This wild and wacky world of post-70 apocalyptic and mystical Judaism is hardly what we tend to think of as "orthodox" Judaism. Dunn by the way argues in this chapter that the Parables of Enoch post-date AD70 (292-93).
At the end of a lengthy discussion of John--the longest in the chapter--Dunn concludes wisely, "So far as the Jewish authorities were concerned, the claims made by the (Johannine) Christians had gone too far: the Jesus of John's Gospel had made himself God" (299). On the other hand, "as far as the Fourth Evangelist was concerned, and the Christian Jews for whom he spoke, however, this last was a false evaluation of their belief" (299)--that is, that they had "knocked away the final pillar of second Temple Judaism," monotheism. Dunn claims, "John saw himself still as a monotheist."
If I were to explore these issues on a scholarly level, something I have neither the time nor the opportunity to do, I think statements like these are somewhat simplistic. To my surprise, I have felt like Dunn was simplifying things in this book for a somewhat more popular audience. I know it hardly seems that way in my circles, but there is a large number of really smart lay Christians out there who used to read Dunn's stuff, just like they read Tom Wright's stuff now.
Anyway, that's the only way I can explain why Dunn oversimplifies things in the book. I doubt we can study Revelation or John on a scholarly level without concluding they both had a composition history. I further suspect that their namesakes may not have been involved in the final stages of composition. We thus have to consider seriously the possibility of Christological development even within each book.
John clearly teaches that Jesus was pre-existent. John further is clearly in a major conflict with its Palestinian Jewish environment. Since J. Louis Martyn it has been passť in Johannine scholarship to see in the blind man ousted from the synagogue a reflection of the Johannine situation. Dunn says, "There is ... no indication that such a confession [of Jesus as Messiah] became a make or break issue between Jewish Christians and leaders of Judaism prior to 70. The earlier disputes, as we have seen, were about the
John sees Jesus as the exclusive revealer of God. As we've implied, Dunn sees most of the Daniel 7 speculation as consequent on the fall of
John, however, sees Jesus as the exclusive revealer of God. Dunn suggests that "No one has ascended to heaven" in John is a polemic against other forms of mystical Judaism at this time, hints of which we also find in Colossians and possibly Hebrews 1.
Daniel Boyarin's term is a better description of what we find in Revelation and John than "parting." We are surely witnessing in these NT books the partitioning of the ways between some forms of Christianity and some forms of Judaism.
Chapter 12: The Parting of the Ways
is the concluding chapter of the book. Much of it is spent exploring how
Judaism and Christianity today might relate to each other, and it ends with
Dunn's sense that "At its historic heart, Christianity is a protest
against any and every attempt to claim that God is our God and not yours"
(337). It's interesting to think of him saying this at the
The part of the chapter that I'm interested in as far as research is, however, the question of when Judaism and Christianity "parted." Dunn rightly indicates the sloppiness of the question. Rabbinic Judaism was not the whole of Judaism. It did not have the Jewish realm in its grip until the 300's, even though Javneh was recognized as the center of Jewdom by the Romans soon after the Fall of Jerusalem.
Jewish Christianity in its older sense continued. The tradition that Jerusalem Christians fled to
Other forms of Judaism apparently flourished for a time after the destruction of
Meanwhile Jews and Christians remain in contact. The pattern of synagogue leadership becomes the pattern of Christian assembly leadership (overseer and elders). Jewish texts like the Psalms of Solomon, Sibylline Oracles, Testament of Moses, 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch were preserved by Christians, not by rabbinic Judaism.
Christians added to this literature and made it its own. Christians added chapters at the beginning and end of the Jewish 4 Ezra to make it the Christian 2 Esdras. The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs are Christian, but draw on Jewish source material. The Jewish Martyrdom of Isaiah with some addition becomes the Christian Ascension of Isaiah.
Meanwhile, the rabbis begin to ostracize Christian Jews. In some places, they become included within the minim clause of the 18 Benedictions as heretics, unable to eat with other Jews or participate in synagogue liturgy. Copies of the Torah made by Christians are not considered sacred.
The LXX is rejected as an appropriate translation of the Hebrew Bible, and Aquila makes another that is not so susceptible to signature Christian interpretations (like Isaiah 7:14). Indeed, books from Sirach on are excluded from the rabbinic canon. Christians continue to use these books as Scripture.
Greco-Roman authors begin to recognize Christianity as distinct from Judaism. Tacitus may not completely see the distinction around 100, but Suetonius does just a little later. The fiscus Judaicus of Domitian, the "Jewish tax," included anyone who looked anything like a Jew in practice. But with Nerva in 96, a person could opt out simply by declaration. Dunn suggests, "there is something both sad and modern about the likely conclusion that government taxation policy played a significant part in the final parting of the ways" (317).
Dunn's conclusion about when the parting took place? Sloppiness to be sure. But "by the end of the second Jewish revolt, Christian and Jew were clearly distinct and separate" (318).