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Revealed Wisdom and Inaugurated Eschatology in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity.
Leiden-Boston: Brill 2007. X, 291 S. gr.8° = Supplement to the Journal for the Study of Judaism. Text and Studies, 115. Lw. EUR 119,00. ISBN 978-90-04-15582-4.
The thesis of Grant Macaskill is simple and persuasive: apocalyptic and sapiental elements are not distinct, mutually exclusive categories but often occur together. Several early Jewish and Christian texts blend these categories by understanding the revealing of divine wisdom to a chosen group as an inaugural eschatological event. Thus, the eschatological teaching in these writings is neither »realized« nor »future« but is best described as inaugurated eschatology.
The fusion of apocalyptic and wisdom is nothing new for scholars of Second Temple Judaism. Especially the material from Qumran and the pseudepigrapha shows that there is no generic incompatibility between the two. However, perhaps surprisingly, in New Testament studies wisdom and apocalyptic are still often viewed mutually corrosive. Their relation in a given text is often explained in redactional terms: they are assigned to different strata in tradition. As a matter of fact, they are often used as key criteria in identifying different layers of tradition. Realized eschatology is associated with sapiental traditions, future eschatology with apocalyptic traditions – and an inherent tension between apocalyptic and ethical eschatology is assumed. This is especially salient in scholarship on the historical Jesus that has resulted in two incompatible pictures of Jesus: he was either a teacher of wisdom or an apocalyptic prophet, but not both. M. criticizes explicitly the reconstructions of John Kloppenborg on Q and those of John Dominic Crossan on the historical Jesus that, according to him, are based on »simplistic redactional assumptions.«
To prove his thesis, M. analyzes four texts: 1Enoch, 4QInstruction, the Gospel of Matthew, and 2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch. The first two of these he categorizes as Jewish while the two latter ones represent early Christian texts. The inclusion of 2Enoch to the Christian corpus is somewhat surprising. It is true that its origins are obscure and that it has been transmitted in Christian contexts but on this basis, most pseudepigraphic writings should be considered Christian. Was not 1Enoch transmitted mainly by Christians as well? A clear grouping of texts into »Jewish« and »Christian« is actually unnecessary since M. works with texts from both groups.
1 Enoch is a prime example of a writing where revealing of wisdom to a chosen group marks the inauguration of the eschatological age. The writing is apparently an apocalypse – a revelation of divine secrets – but it uses motifs, forms, and language from the wisdom tradition. M. studies first the so-called Enochic »testamentary collection« (comprising the Book of Watchers, the Dream Visions and the Epistle of Enoch). A central theme in this collection is the revealing of wisdom to Enoch who is then to transmit it to a remnant group of righteous. Another key feature is the idea of the restoration of creation into an incorrupt state after the destruction of sin. The eschatological teaching includes both future and realized elements. The possession of wisdom makes eschatology realized, the restoration of creation makes it future. In an excursus, M. takes up a supplementary question: how this revealed wisdom is related to the Mosaic Torah. His conclusion is that, according to 1Enoch, Torah is not rejected but without the revealed wisdom transmitted by the Enochic writings, it is inadequate for salvation. The discussion on 1Enoch closes with a chapter on the Parables of Enoch. Most of this chapter deals with the figure of the Son of Man around whom both sapiental and apocalyptic ideas are clustered.
4QInstruction offers a totally different kind of text. Whereas 1Enoch belongs to the apocalyptic genre, this writing is an example of a wisdom instruction that primarily employs the form of admonition and makes use of the distinction between wise and foolish, both typical features of the sapiental tradition. However, there are eschatological elements, too, since the wise are described as those who have been elected to partake in the eschatological salvation. M. finds several common features with 1Enoch. First, the eschatological age is inaugurated by the revelation of wisdom. Second, the chosen people – who are the only ones in possession of this wisdom – comprise no more all Israel but a remnant group of righteous. Third, the idea of revealed wisdom has creational associations: the restoration of creation has already begun and calls for a right ethical praxis. And last, Torah is not rejected but its right interpretation requires the wisdom of the elect.
The treatment of the Gospel of Matthew is much longer than that of the other texts and covers nearly one third of the entire volume. The starting point for the analysis is the observation that even though scholars have paid increased attention to both apocalyptic and sapiental elements in the Gospel of Matthew, their relationship has hardly ever been considered. M.’s solution is familiar by now: Matthew fuses sapiental and apocalyptic elements by presenting Jesus as a revealer of wisdom whose activity and teaching mark the inauguration of the eschatological age. Understanding Matthew’s eschatology as inaugurated does better justice to both the strongly sapiental and the strongly apocalyptic elements in his Gospel than does the so-called »Wisdom Christology«, argues M. His main emphasis is on three sections: the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5–7), chapters 11–12 and 24–25. All three sections consist of Jesus’ revelation. The Sermon on the Mount employs wisdom forms and imagery that together with the intensifications of Torah suggest that the wisdom of Jesus is more fundamental than the Mosaic Law. In the other sections, Jesus’ wisdom is presented in eschatological terms, for example, by making him use the sapiental form of meshalim to convey an eschatological message. M. argues rightly that this wisdom is only revealed to a remnant, it is not open to all.
The last text to be examined, 2Enoch, also shows a fusion of apocalyptic and wisdom. The wisdom Enoch receives will be revealed to his sons and to a final generation bound to be saved. In this writing, too, only those who possess wisdom obtain salvation. The text talks about future judgment but this is already prepared for in the creation. Thus, again we find an inaugurated eschatology with creational associations. A characteristic of 2Enoch is the connection between revealed wisdom and fidelity to the will of the Creator.
All in all, M. succeeds in showing persuasively that apocalyptic and sapiental elements are blended in several early Jewish and Christian writings. The idea of revealed wisdom that inaugurates eschatology calls for fusing revelatory, apocalyptic language and ideas to sapiental language and forms. The occurrence of this idea in writings of different kind and genre points to the conclusion that such an inaugurated eschatology is more widespread in Jewish and Christian literature than has been realized. However, not every analysis in the book is equally compelling. M. criticizes another scholar for »seeing his favorite topic under every stone he turns« but the same criticism might be leveled against M. himself. Another somewhat disturbing factor is the imbalance in the treatment of the chosen texts. Not only does the treatment of Matthew far exceed those of all the others but the other texts are also constantly compared with Matthew, two thirds of the conclusions deal with the Gospel of Matthew (and its prior traditions), and there is a substantial appendix on previous scholarship on wisdom and apocalyptic in Matthew.
This is a result of the fact that the book is based on a doctoral dissertation on Matthew’s gospel. It may be asked whether it should have been published as a study on Matthew – or reworked more thoroughly to make a more balanced whole. Notwithstanding these criticisms, the overall thesis remains compelling and seems to make good sense of the studied texts.