Recherche – Detailansicht
Marvin A. Sweeney
Jewish Biblical Theology and Christian Old Testament Theology
From its inception in the 1787 inaugural lecture of Johann P. Gabler, biblical theology has largely been a field of Protestant exegetical and theological discourse.1 In keeping with the Protestant concern for scripture as the basis for Christian doctrine, biblical theology has focused especially on the interrelationships between the historical and the theological, viz., how to articulate the interrelationship between two historically distinct bodies of scripture in the Old and New Testaments and how to develop the exegetical foundations from scripture for Protestant systematic theology. Only since the end of World War II has the field begun to see substantial influence from non-Protestant thinkers, such as Roman Catholic and Jewish scholars, and other voices that were previously marginalized or excluded, such as women, people of color, and gays and lesbians. The result has been a much wider range of discourse, both by the inclusion of so many new voices in the conversation and the development of new modes of exegetical and theological inquiry beyond the classical historical and systematic questions of the past.
A comprehensive attempt to assess all of the impulses in modern biblical theology runs well beyond the bounds of the present essay.2 Instead, this essay focuses on one aspect of contemporary biblical theology, viz., the rise of Jewish biblical theology and its impact on the field of Christian Old Testament Theology. Insofar as Jews and Christians share a common body of sacred scripture, it is imperative to understand the means by which scholars from each tradition read that scripture. To that end, this essay discusses several key issues: 1) the emerging need for change in the classical models of Old Testament theology in the aftermath of World War II; 2) the development of Jewish biblical theology as a means to address that need; and 3) the influence of Jewish biblical theology on Christian Old Testament Theology.
Prior to World War II, Old Testament theologians and biblical scholars in general viewed Judaism quite negatively. Julius Wellhausen’s infamous dictum that Judaism »is a mere empty chasm over which one springs from the Old Testament to the New« expressed the general viewpoint of a field preoccupied with interpreting Jewish sacred scripture that was shared with Christianity.3
Judaism was marginalized in the field by models of exegesis that called for reading and reconstructing the Bible in relation to the historical periods in which it was originally composed and not in relation to its later contexts in Second Temple period Judaism, Rabbinic Judaism, and beyond. In such models, priestly »legalism« was identified with Jewish interests and perspectives in late sources and redactions that misunderstood or attempted to compromise the pristine forms of religious expression in the prophetic, hymnic, and messianic elements of the Bible. Indeed, Walter Eichrodt’s Theologie des Alten Testaments, published in 1933–39 and still highly influential today, reflects the prevailing anti-Semitism of the time with its characterization of Judaism’s »torso-like appearance ... in separation from Christianity«.4
The aftermath of the war saw a great deal of theological introspection and reconceptualization, particularly among German-speaking scholars who had witnessed first-hand the emergence of Nazi Germany within their own cultural milieu and the failure of the churches by and large to speak out effectively against the Nazi government and its collaborators. Early efforts by Protestant theologians such as Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer tended to focus on rethinking Christianity’s perspectives and moral worldview. Although Barth and Bonhoeffer were influenced by the atrocities committed against Jews during the war by the Nazis and their collaborators, both were fundamentally concerned with the theological and moral character of the church and the German nation rather than with a theological reassessment of Judaism in relationship to Christianity and Christian scripture. 5
Similar observations apply to Old Testament theologians in the aftermath of the war. Although there was considerable reflection on the interpretation of the Old Testament and its role in the Christian Bible – stimulated in large measure by Nazi-inspired questions concerning the role of originally Jewish scripture in the Christian Bible – early post-war Old Testament theologians tended to overlook or to ignore the role of Judaism and its relationship to the Bible and to focus instead on the role of the Old Testament as Christian scripture and its relevance for Christian theology. Eichrodt’s above-mentioned Theologie des Alten Testaments focused on the question of covenant as the primary organizing principle for his work. Although many correctly note Eichrodt’s concern for the historical character of the Old Testament, his preoccupation with the question of covenant and how it is expressed throughout the Old Testament points to a larger concern for laying the foundations to articulate how the old covenant or the Old Testament, with its focus on the purported particularism of the nation Israel, ultimately relates to the new covenant or New Testament of Christianity, with its concern for the purported universalism of all humankind. Gerhard von Rad’s 195 7–1960 Theologie des Alten Testaments, arguably the most celebrated work on Old Testament theology in the twentieth century, focused on the theme of Heilsgeschichte or Sacred History in its presentation of the Old Testament as a work that proclaimed G-d’s saving actions throughout history on behalf of Israel and the world from the time of creation through the post-exilic restoration and beyond.6 Von Rad, however, did not account for post-biblical Judaism and instead saw the Heilsgeschichte culminating in the revelation of Jesus as Christ in the New Testament.
Other post-war Old Testament theologians followed suit in their attempts to interpret the Old Testament as Christian scripture with scant attention to Judaism. Walther Zimmerli’s 1972 Grundriß der alttestamentlichen Theologie emphasized the concerns of classical Reformed theology, viz., the absolute free sovereignty and grace of G-d, the revelation of the divine name to Israel, Israel’s ungrateful response leading to divine judgment, and the salvation offered to the entire world.7 Hartmut Gese’s 1977 Zur biblischen Theologie. Alttestamentliche Vorträge followed von Rad in emphasizing the traditio-historical stream of development from the Old Testament to the New.8 Claus Westermann’s 1978 Theologie des Alten Testaments in Grundzügen followed his colleague von Rad’s heilgeschichtliche concerns to a degree, but sought to make up for lapses in von Rad’s treatment by focusing on G-d’s blessing in creation, G-d’s judgment and compassion, the human response to G-d, and the relation between the Old Testament and Jesus Christ.9 Horst Dietrich Preuss’s 1991–1992 Theologie des Alten Testaments focuses on the question of Israel’s election as a means to trace the election of humanity in the New Testament.10
Other Old Testament theologians began to take note of Judaism, however, even as they constructed their respective Old Testament theologies along Christian lines. Jewish philosophers and theologians played an important role in stimulating the concern for describing the interrelationship between G-d and humankind. Franz Rosenzweig and Martin Buber both attempted to reimagine the human experience of a personal G-d in an increasingly secular world.11 Buber’s work was heavily influenced by his own experience of Hasidic Judaism and its conceptualization of an immanent G-d, but the experience of the Shoah made his work even more pertinent as he addressed the problem of divine absence in the world.12 In the aftermath of the war, Abraham Joshua Heschel’s work on the notion of divine pathos, which took up the question of G-d’s need and search for humankind, based on kabbalistic/Hasidic notions of divine vulnerability, likewise prompted attempts to rethink the interrelationship between G-d and human beings in the field of Old Testament theology.13 Theodoor Christian Vriezen in successive editions of his Hoodliijnen der theologie van het Oude Testament (1949, 1956, 1964) increasing cited Buber and other Jewish thinkers as he focused on the Reformed notion of the kerygmatically proclaimed communion between G-d and humankind.14 Georg Fohrer’s 1972 Theologische Grundstrukturen des Alten Testaments likewise emphasized »the rule of God« and »communion with God« as the two fundamental centers of the Old Testament, and later converted to Judaism in his old age.15 Well aware of Jewish scholarship and the character of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) as Jewish scripture is Brevard Childs’s 1993 Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments: Theological Reflection on the Christian Bible in which he sought to define a canonical basis for reading the Old Testament as Christian scripture by reading the Old Testament in relation to its own historical context and theological concerns before attempting to demonstrate how those concerns were taken up and read in the New Testament.16 James A. Sanders followed by arguing for the importance of recognizing the various biblical canons read in relation to their own respective religious communities, whether Jewish or Christian.17
The growing theological discussion concerning the theological significance of the Shoah or Holocaust and its implications for Christianity,18 first among Jewish theologians and later among Christian thinkers as well, would challenge classical forms of both Jewish and Christian theology and lead to rethinking concerning the field of biblical theology among both Christians and Jews. Again, the fields of theology and philosophy were key to stimulating discussion concerning the power, presence, and moral character of G-d in the aftermath of the Shoah.
As noted above, Buber and Heschel were very influential in examining the questions of divine absence and vulnerability in relation to humankind. An early attempt by Ignaz Maybaum to view the murder of some six million Jews and others as a vicarious sacrifice meant to provoke the revulsion of humankind and thereby to stimulate efforts to bring an end to such injustice was widely criticized as unworkable, particularly since no moral crime could justify the murder of an entire nation, including the one and a half million Jewish children who perished in the Shoah. 19 Richard Rubenstein responded to such attempts at theological justification of the Shoah by contending that the Shoah had exposed the inherent problems of classical Jewish (and Christian) theology based on the notions of a just, omnipotent, and moral G-d, who rewarded the righteous and punished the sinful.20 In keeping with the secularist theology of the »death of God« movement in Protestant theology, Rubenstein called for Judaism to recognize that there was no divine covenant between G-d and Israel at Sinai (nor with Christianity), and that human beings were responsible for establishing meaning and morality in a secular world by developing their own national communities and associated mores. Emil Fackenheim responded to Rubenstein’s work with the contention that G-d had addressed Israel at Auschwitz with the six hundred and fourteenth commandment, viz., not to give Hitler a posthumous victory.21 Just as the Babylonian destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 587/6 B. C. E. and the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C. E. constituted divine addresses that called upon Jews to develop new forms of religious Judaism in the Second Temple and Rabbinic periods, so the Shoah demanded that Jews reconstitute their commitment to G-d and to Judaism. Eliezer Berkowits, who had earlier written a systematic study of the interrelationship in the Bible between human beings and G-d, argued that the Shoah pointed to the biblical and rabbinic notion of hester panim, »the hidden face of G-d«, in which G-d would deliberately hide the divine face in order to allow human beings to mature morally and theologically and to take responsibility for their own actions and the state of the world in which they lived.22 David Blumenthal’s 1993 study, Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest, employed the dialogue with G-d in the Psalms as a model for calling upon Jews both to challenge and forgive G-d much as the victim of child abuse must challenge and forgive the abusing parent.23
The discussion among Jewish theologians of the theological significance of the Shoah and the establishment of modern Israel in the aftermath of the war had an impact on Jewish biblical scholars. Jewish scholars ironically were relative late-comers to the field of modern, critical biblical scholarship and generally focused on the study of Hebrew language and linguistics, ancient Near Eastern languages and literatures, and biblical history and archeology.24 The result was the emergence of concern for Jewish biblical theology. Yehezkel Kaufman was one of the first modern Jewish biblical scholars to raise questions pertinent to ancient Israel’s worldview as expressed in the Bible.25 Although he understood himself to be a historian of Israelite religion, he played a foundational role in studying the universal monotheism of Israelite religion from the earliest rather than the latest periods in Israelite history and the roles of the Temple and priesthood in expressing that monotheistic viewpoint. Indeed, his notion of the national spirit of biblical Israel, heavily influenced by the development of a modern Jewish national consciousness in Russian Zionism, provided the foundation for his understanding of Israel’s religious worldview as expressed in the Bible. Harry Orlinsky offered a detailed study of the conceptualization of covenant in the Torah in which G-d’s grant of the land of Israel stood as the foundation of the covenant with the people of Israel.26 Moshe Weinfeld likewise recognized the national foundations of covenant in the Bible, particularly in relation to Deuteronomy, and emphasized the dimensions of national identity and social justice articulated in the Bible.27 Moshe Goshen-Gottstein, who was well-rooted in the study of Christian Old Testament theology, began to call for a Jewish biblical theology or a Tanakh theology that would articulate the religious ideas of the Jewish Bible.28 He did not envision a systematic study of the Tanakh, however, since he was well aware of the differences in conceptualization of G-d and religious thought evident throughout the various books of the Bible. In this respect, he is followed by Mattitiahu Tsevat, who also called for the development of Jewish biblical theology based on careful, objective historical and grammatical analysis of the biblical texts that express the Bible’s religious ideas.29 Emil Fackenheim’s 1990 study, The Jewish Bible after the Holocaust: A Rereading, points to the challenge posed to biblical interpretation by the Shoah, insofar as the significance of the issue has so frequently been overlooked.30 The book of Esther, for example, posits the absence of G-d when a government attempts to destroy the Jewish people, and the book of Job leaves unanswered the question of justice in the killing of Job’s ten children even after his fortunes are restored. Ruth Wisse’s 2007 study, Jews and Power, presents a cogent reflection on Jewish political institutions and their relationships with Gentile political systems from the time of the Babylonian exile through the rise of modern Zionism and the establishment of modern Israel.31
One of the major figures in the field of modern Jewish biblical theology is Jon Levenson.32 Like Kaufman, he sees himself as a historian of religion. His provocative essay, »Why Jews are not Interested in Biblical Theology«, first published in 1987, contends that biblical theology is an inherently Protestant Christian field that frequently expresses anti-Jewish bias and serves as a means to repristinize Christian theological thought.33 Nevertheless, a stream of works throughout his career has laid essential foundations for a Jewish biblical theology. His 1976 dissertation, Theology of the Program of Restoration of Ezekiel 40–48, took direct aim at the Wellhausenian-inspired consensus that matters pertaining to the Temple and priesthood must represent a late decline in Israelite religiosity by arguing that Ezekiel’s vision of the restored Temple in Jerusalem was not the product of late, post-exilic, priestly redaction of a prophetic work, but instead represented the crown and consummation of the prophet’s life work.34 Employing standard historical methods of philological analysis and comparative mythology, Levenson points to the role that a Temple-based Zion tradition plays in Ezekiel’s portrayal of the restored Jerusalem Temple as the locus of the Garden of Eden, the source for the revelation of divine Torah, and the holy center for both the restored twelve tribes of Israel and a new creation in which even the Dead Sea blooms. Levenson’s 1985 study, Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible, followed this line of thought by arguing that the portrayal of divine revelation at Mt. Sinai was deliberately constructed on the model of divine revelation at the Jerusalem Temple on Mt. Zion.35 Post-biblical Jewish tradition, such as the Heikhalot literature, Rabbinic literature, medieval philosophy, and even modern Jewish thought presupposes that the Temple serves as an ideal expression of divine presence in the world – whereas Christianity has tended to focus instead on the Davidic monarch or messiah – and Levenson’s work demonstrates the centrality of the Temple to the expression of the ideal in biblical literature.
Levenson’s 1988 study, Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence, focuses on the means by which the Bible addresses tensions in its portrayal of an ideal crea-tion as portrayed in the priestly portrayal of Gen 1:1–2:3 and the disruption of the creation in Israel’s historical experience.36 He challenges the contention that the Bible presents a doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, »creation out of nothing«, with a close analysis of the Hebrew text of Gen 1:1–2:3 (with due acknowledgement of Rashi’s exegesis of the passage) and a comparative mythological study of ancient Near Eastern texts, such as the Enuma Elish and the Baal Cycle, and biblical texts, such as Psalm 74 and Job 38–42, to show that creation was the product of daily struggle in which G-d overcame the forces of chaos. Indeed, that daily struggle is represented in the daily liturgy of the Temple, which begins with the daily victory of light over darkness. Levenson’s 1993 study, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity, provides a foundation for the differentiation of the world views of Judaism and Christianity based upon their respective understandings of child sacrifice, particularly as expressed in Genesis 22, the Binding of Isaac.37 Whereas Judaism employs the rejection of Isaac’s sacrifice as a basis for its own self-identity as a chosen nation that serves G-d, Christianity employs the notion of divine sonship as a basis for its contention that Jesus’s self-sacrifice provides the means for Christianity to assert its own identity over against Judaism as the truly chosen people of G-d.
Levenson’s 1997 commentary on Esther provides him with the opportunity to demonstrate that the book of Esther presents a profound and realistic statement of faith when considered in relation to its focus on the absence of G-d at a time of grave threat to the Jewish people.38 Such a focus counters criticism that the book is nationalistic and bloodthirsty, and instead speaks to millennia of Jewish experience of pogroms culminating in the Shoah and contemporary hostility to the modern state of Israel. Finally, Levenson’s 2006 study, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life, examine the theme of the resurrection of the dead in the Bible.39 Again, Levenson employs comparative mythology to study biblical texts such as Ezekiel 37 and Daniel 12 in relation to ancient Near Eastern literature and Rabbinic literature. He does not accept the customary contention that resurrection of the dead is the result of foreign influence in Israel; rather, he contends that the motif provided the mythological means to express national restoration in the aftermath of disaster. Such a contention has obvious implication for the restoration of Judaism in both the diaspora and modern Israel in the aftermath of the Shoah.
Michael Fishbane is another major figure in the field of contemporary Jewish biblical theology. Fishbane’s work challenges the consensus of late-nineteenth and twentieth-century biblical critics that the Hebrew Bible must be read strictly speaking in relation to its own historical context and not in relation to the later traditions of subsequent Second Temple, Rabbinic, Medieval, and Modern Judaism. Of course, that consensus has been breaking down throughout the later twentieth century, but Fishbane’s work in particular has charted the development of the Jewish exegetical tradition that begins even within the Bible itself and continues throughout the various stages and movements of Judaism from antiquity through the present. His first major work in this area is his 1985 study, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel, which presents a comprehensive study of the phenomenon of inner-biblical exegesis that traces both the traditum, »tradition«, and traditio, »traditioning«, of the exegetical process.40 His work is organized according to four major categories. Scribal exegesis highlights the process by which the scribes both corrected and interpreted the text of the Bible. Legal exegesis emphasizes the continuing process of interpreting and revising legal texts in relation to problems apparent within the text itself and the continuing needs of a living and developing Jewish society. Aggadic exegesis takes up the religious, moral, non-halakhic, and didactic expositions of biblical texts to affirm continuity between past present, and future in the Jewish imagination and the actualization of that imagination. Mantological exegesis takes up the interpretation of dreams, omens, and visions, on the one hand, and prophetic oracles, on the other hand within the prophetic corpus. At the conclusion of the volume, Fishbane clearly sees the study as the foundation for tracing the continuity of the exegetical tradition beyond the Bible itself into the later streams of Judaism, viz., insofar as figures such as R. Hillel and Nahum of Gimzo were the heirs of a well-established and rich exegetical tradition originating in the Bible itself.
Fishbane’s subsequent writings emphasize the continuity of the Jewish exegetical tradition from the Bible through later movements and traditions. His 1994 study, The Kiss of God: Spiritual and Mystical Death in Judaism, traces the impact of Song of Songs 1:2, »let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth«, on the understanding of »the kiss of God« through the Kabbalistic and Hasidic literature where »the kiss of God« expresses the deepest love of G-d and desire for encounter with G-d through the moment of death.41 His 1998 study, The Exegetical Imagination: On Jewish Thought and Theology, emphasizes the poesis of midrashic exegesis in Judaism as a conscious construction of meaning based on the verbal character of scripture.42 He rejects the notion that Israel abandoned mythical thinking by pointing to the many expressions of mythic imagery in the Bible and the continuity of mythical images of G-d, Israel, creation, the exodus, messianic ideals, etc., in midrashic literature and the Zohar. His 2002 commentary on the Haftarot, the prophetic texts read liturgically together with the Torah in synagogue, presents a full range of context for the reading of the prophetic texts from the ancient Near Eastern world of the Bible itself, through Rabbinic, Medieval, Mystical, and Modern movements of Judaism.43 Finally, his 2003 study, Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking, provides a comprehensive treatment of the development of mythopoeic thinking in the Bible, Midrash and the Zohar.44
A number of Fishbane’s students have also contributed to discussion. Bernard Levinson’s 1997 monograph, Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation, emphasizes the hermeneutical concerns that stand behind the rewriting of law from the Covenant Code (Exodus 21–23) and the laws of Deuteronomy in an effort to update earlier laws in relation to the needs of seventh-century Judean society.45 Marc Brettler, who studied with both Nahum Sarna and Michael Fishbane, focuses especially on the interpretation of historical literature in the Bible in his 1997 article, »Biblical History and Jewish Biblical Theology.«46 In assessing such study for Jewish biblical theology, he emphasizes the need to take historical texts seriously as texts with distinctive viewpoints and makes four fundamental claims: 1) we should hardly be concerned about the veracity of a biblical text; 2) we must not harmonize divergent biblical traditions; 3) we must be more sensitive to the true genres of biblical historical texts; and 4) we must understand what frames these texts that are framed as depictions of a past. Benjamin Sommer’s 1998 monograph, A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40–66, focuses on the hermeneutics by which Second Isaiah read and understood earlier prophetic literature in relation to the period of restoration at the end of the Babylonian Exile.47 His 1996 study, »Revelation at Sinai in the Hebrew Bible and in Jewish Theology«, examines the dialogical »give and take« that takes place between the various authors and editors that produced the written Torah of the Sinai revelation narratives in Exodus 19–20 as well as the dialogs between the biblical texts and its later readers, such as the Talmud, Maimonides, Aryeh Toeg, Moshe Greenberg, and others.48 To the degree that all Jewish tradition, including the Torah, is part of an ongoing dialog, it must all be recognized as oral Torah.
My own contributions to the field of Jewish biblical theology have appeared for over a decade. My 1997 study, »Tanak versus Old Testament: Concerning the Foundation for a Jewish Theology of the Bible«, argues for recognition of the distinctive canonical structures of the Tanak and the Christian Bible provide the basis for constructing distinctive biblical theologies.49 My 1998/2000 paper, »Reconceiving the Paradigms of Old Testament Theology in the Post-Shoah Period«, argues that biblical theology – and Jewish biblical theology in particular – must take account of the modern realities of the Shoah (Holocaust) and the national character of the Jewish people as expressed in antiquity and in modern times in the reading of biblical texts.50 My 2000 study, »Isaiah and Theodicy after the Shoah«, points to the troubling dimensions of Isaiah’s commission to ensure that Israel is blind, deaf, and lacking in understanding so that G-d’s punishment may proceed.51 My 2000 study, »Absence of G-d and Human Responsibility in the Book of Esther«, likewise points to the disturbing dimensions of a book that posits a government willing to destroy its Jewish population.52 My 2001 study, King Josiah of Judah: The Lost Messiah of Israel, examines the role that King Josiah’s program of religious reform and national restoration play in the reading and composition of biblical literature.53 My 2005 introduction, The Prophetic Literature, emphasizes the synchronic and theological dimensions of the prophetic books.54 The essays in my 2005 collection, Form and Intertextuality in Prophetic and Apocalyptic Literature, focus on a number of issues relevant to Jewish biblical theology, such as the constitution of Isaiah as a book of divine Torah, the intertextual dialog and debate that takes place between the prophetic books, and the role that social identity, e. g., royal counselor, Levitical priest, Zadokite priest, etc., plays in the construction of the prophets’ theologies.55 My 2005 study, »The Democratization of Messianism in Modern Jewish Thought«, reads the designation of the Davidic covenant to Israel in Isaiah 55 in relation to the work of Moses Mendelssohn, Isaac Luria, and Ahad Ha-Am.56 My 2007 Old Testament Library commentary on 1–2 Kings emphasizes the theological dimensions in Kings’ reading of history, focusing especially on the questions of the construction and the downfall of the monarchy.57 My 2000 and 2008 surveys of Jewish biblical theology discuss various aspects of the field.58 Finally, my 2008 study, Reading the Hebrew Bible after the Shoah: Engaging Holocaust Theology, examines the import of the Shoah and the overall question of theodicy for reading the entire Bible.59 This study is preparatory to writing a Jewish biblical theology.
A number of other Jewish biblical scholars have addressed the overall field of Jewish biblical theology. Isaac Kalimi’s 1995/2002 study, »Religionsgeschichte Israels oder Theologie des Alten Testaments? Das jüdische Interesse an der Biblischen Theologie/History of Israelite Religion or Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Theology? Jewish Interest in Biblical Theology«, differentiates the descriptive and diachronic study of the history of Israelite religion from the prescriptive and synchronic study of the theological themes articulated in the Bible. 60 He maintains that the Bible cannot be reduced to a single theme, and argues for the study of three types of theology, viz., the theology of biblical authors and redactors,the theology of the redactors of the biblical canon, and the com-mon message of the canon. Although Jewish biblical theology must articulate the meaning of the biblical text in relation to its historical settings, Jewish biblical theology must also take account of the later tradition of Jewish interpretation. Ziony Zevit’s 2005 article, »Jewish Biblical Theology: Whence? Why? And Whither?« surveys the field, notes problems inherent in Jewish biblical theology, such as the relationship between the Bible and later Jewish tradition, the Christian interests that drive the field of biblical theology, and the prescriptive – versus the descriptive – nature of such a theological field. 61 Frederick E. Greenspahn’s 2007 article traces the history of Jewish ambivalence towards the Bible among interpreters from antiquity through the present as a preparation for his own engagement in the field.62 Tikva Frymer-Kensky’s 2000 study of »the Emergence of Biblical Theologies«, emphasizes that the Bible presents an alternative source to Rabbinic hegemony in Jewish thinking and an opportunity for dialog within the tradition that portends the continued development of Jewish thought.63 Esther Fuchs’s 2000 study, Sexual Politics in the Biblical Narrative: Reading the Hebrew Bible as a Woman, provides ample basis for rethinking patriarchal authority and assumptions within the Bible itself and among its interpreters.64
A number of Jewish Bible scholars focus on individual topics or books that have important implications for Jewish biblical theology. Jacob Milgrom’s magisterial 1991–2000 commentary on Leviticus probes the dimensions of holiness evident throughout Leviticus and priestly literature in general.65 He argues that the Holiness legislation of Leviticus 16–27 must be distinguished from the earlier priestly Torah by a concept of spatial holiness that extends beyond the Temple to encompass the entire land of Israel and by its greater emphasis on the ethical dimensions of holiness. Israel Knohl’s 1995 study, The Sanctuary of Silence, examines the interrelationship between the dimensions of ethical action and ritual in the Holiness legislation which he dates to the reign of Hezekiah.66 Knohl’s 2003 study, The Divine Symphony: The Bible’s Many Voices, emphasizes that the multifaceted voices and perspectives evident within and among the biblical books entails that the Bible must be considered as pluralistic work in which the many perspectives engage in debate with each other by virtue of their inclusion in the Bible.67 Yairah Amit’s 2000 study of the editing of the book of Judges points to the ideological dimensions of a redaction that engages in polemic against Saul on behalf of the house of David.68 Benjamin Uffenheimer’s 1994 study probes the differing theopolitical perspectives of Isaiah and Micah, arguing that Isaiah believes in divine intervention on behalf of Zion whereas Micah maintains that YHWH will intervene only if Judah wages offensive warfare against the Assyrian enemy.69 Yair Hoffman’s 2004 study of the Babylonian oracle in Jeremiah 50–51 takes up the question of theodicy insofar as this text anticipates the fall of Babylon as an expression of divine justice.70 Dalit Rom Shiloni’s 2005 study, »Ezekiel as the Voice of the Exiles and Constructor of Exilic Identity«, demonstrates how Ezekiel enters into dialog with Pentateuchal concepts concerning land and exile to construct a separatist ideology on behalf of the exiles over against those who remained in the land.71 Her 2002 paper, »Facing Destruction and Exile: Inner-Biblical Exegesis in Jeremiah and Ezekiel«, examines the ideology of exile in Jeremiah 21 and Ezekiel 20 to illustrate how each prophetic book reads earlier pentateuchal tradition to present differing understandings of exile.72 Edward Greenstein’s 2004 study, »The Wrath of God in the Book of Lamentations«, demonstrates how Lamentations charges that G-d has gone too far in destroying Jerusalem.73 Sara Japhet’s 1977/1989 study, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and its Place in Biblical Thought, and her 1993 Old Testament Library Commentary on Chronicles emphasizes the theological character of the Chronicler’s work, especially insofar as it depicts the interrelationship between a just and sovereign deity and the nation of Israel which has moral and cultic obligations to sanctify itself before YHWH.74 Joel Kaminsky’s 2007 study, Yet I Loved Jacob: Reclaiming the Biblical Concept of Election, examines in detail the concept of election in the Bible.75 He rejects recent calls to jettison election theology in the Bible and instead calls for Jews and Christians to recognize that their distinctive understandings of election as a basis for interreligious dialog.
Although many recent Christian Old Testament theologies continue to focus on the classic themes of the field, Jewish theological interpretation of the Bible is beginning to have its impact on Christian theology in general and biblical theology in particular. The groundbreaking 1964 study by Jules Isaac, The Teaching of Contempt: Christian Roots of Anti-Semitism, did much to awaken Christian scholars to the role of the New Testament and early Christianity in fomenting anti-Jewish attitudes.76 Likewise, the 1974 study by Rosemary Radford Ruether, Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism, demonstrated the role that patristic literature played in developing Christian anti-Semitism.77 Paul Van Buren’s 1990 article contends that the Church must learn to read Israel’s scriptures as Jewish scripture that is also read within the context of the Church.78 Clark Williamson’s 1993 study, A Guest in the House of Israel: Post-Holocaust Church Theology, provides a cogent analysis of contemporary Christian theology and New Testament studies that calls upon scholars to rethink the classic Christian expressions of anti-Semitism in systematic theology and biblical exegesis.79 Katharina von Kellenbach’s 1994 Anti-Judaism in Feminist Religious Writings points to the emergence of anti-Semitism in modern feminist religious thought where Judaism so frequently functions as the paradigm for patriarchy.80 Michael Wyschogrod’s essays argue that the emergence of Christianity does not entail the abrogation of G-d’s promises to Israel but constitutes an intensification of G-d’s covenant with Israel through the very different vehicles of Christianity and potentially Islam.81 The impact of Jewish scholarship and the Shoah in particular is summarized by Erich Zenger: »After Auschwitz, the Church must read the Old Testament differently.«82
The impact is already apparent in some major Old Testament theologies. Walter Brueggemann’s 1997 Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy focused in general on the communicative aspect of the Hebrew Bible in its efforts to engage in discourse and dialog about G-d.83 As part of his discussion of this discourse, Brueggemann very pointedly examined the problem of the continued existence of evil in the world stating that »an Old Testament theology cannot usefully be organized with reference to the Holocaust«, but that it »cannot proceed without acknowledgement of the profound and unutterable disruption of the interpretative enterprise that is embodied in the Holocaust« (328). The issue of the Shoah constitutes »a massive and unanswerable challenge to claims about (YHWH’s) sovereignty and fidelity« (329) and that this issue presents similar problems for absolutizing Christian claims concerning Jesus Christ.
Rolf Rendtorff’s 2001 Theologie des Alten Testaments. Ein kanonischer Entwurf, translated into English in 2005 as The Canonical Hebrew Bible: A Theology of the Old Testament,84 calls for a common Jewish and Christian reading of the Hebrew Bible, insofar as both traditions share the same scripture and must recognize their inherent interrelationship. Such a proposal is problematic insofar as its goal to arrive at a common understanding of the Bible would undermine recognition of the distinctive theological identities of Judaism and Christianity, but it is nevertheless motivated by a concern to overcome the theological anti-Semitism that has poisoned Christianity’s view of Judaism throughout history.
Concern with the question of the Shoah also appears in the 2000 volume of essays edited by Tod Linafelt, Strange Fire: Reading the Bible after the Holocaust,85 which considers the impact of the Shoah on biblical interpretation, and in selected commentaries published in The New Interpreter’s Bible, such as the commentaries on Ezekiel by Katherine Pfisterer Darr and on Lamentations by Kathleen O’Connor.86 James Crenshaw’s Defending God: Biblical Responses to the Problem of Evil, likewise constitutes an important probe into theological problems posed by the Shoah.87
Jewish biblical theology has emerged in the field of contemporary biblical studies, both as a discrete field and as an important influence on the field of Christian Old Testament theology. The emergence of Jewish biblical theology is a necessary corrective to past attitudes toward Judaism expressed in the field of Old Testament theology throughout much of the twentieth century and as means for Jewish scholars to articulate distinctive Jewish readings of the Bible in relation to the concerns of Jewish thought. Indeed, Jewish biblical theology raises a number of key issues, the definition and reading of biblical canons, the capacity of biblical books to differ among themselves and engage each other within the biblical canon; the capacity of human beings to engage in dialog with G-d and with each other; the questions of theodicy and human responsibility for the welfare of the world; the dimensions of holiness, particularly those related to Temple, ritual, priesthood, and the roles of law, political institutions, and national identity as expressed in the ideals of the Bible; and the interrelationships between Jews and Christians who read the same Bible, however differently.
There remains much to be done in constructing the field of Jewish biblical theology and in exploring its implications for the closely related field of Christian Old Testament theology. We may look forward to a very rich and productive conversation.
Der Aufsatz behandelt die Herausbildung einer jüdischen Biblischen Theologie und deren Einfluss auf die christliche Theologie nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Obwohl sich beide Traditionen auf dieselben Schriften beziehen, lesen sie diese doch sehr unterschiedlich. Die Darstellung orientiert sich an einigen Kernthemen: erstens an der zunehmenden Notwendigkeit, das Paradigma der klassischen protestantischen »Theologie des Alten Testaments« nach dem Krieg zu hinterfragen, wofür die Werke von Eichrodt, von Rad, Zimmerli, Westermann, Preuss u. a. näher betrachtet werden. Zweitens steht die Entstehung von jüdischer Biblischer Theologie in den Arbeiten von Buber, Heschel, Rubenstein, Fackenheim, Berkovits, Levenson, Fishbane und Sweeney selbst im Mittelpunkt. Drittens geht es um den Einfluss jüdischer Biblischer Theologie auf christliche Biblische Theologen wie Brueggemann, Rendtorff, Darr, O’Connor und Crenshaw. Der Aufsatz betont, wie wichtig es ist, die Unterschiede zwischen jüdischen und christlichen Biblischen Theologen als Ausgangspunkt eines konstruktiven Dialogs wahrzunehmen.
1) J. Sandys-Wunsch and L. Eldredge, »J. P. Gabler and the Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology: Translation, Commentary, and Discussion of His Originality«, Scottish Journal of Theology 33 (1980), 133–44.
2) For surveys of the field, see my »Biblical Theology. I. Hebrew Bible/Old Testament«, in H. Spieckermann et al. (eds.), Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception, Berlin-New York, forthcoming; James Barr, The Concept of Biblical Theology: An Old Testament Perspective, Minneapolis 1999; Leo Perdue, Reconstructing Old Testament Theology: After the Collapse of History, Minneapolis 2005.
3) Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel, Gloucester 1973, 1, German original, Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels, Berlin 1905, 1 (»das Judenthum einfach als Vacuum betrachtet, über welches hinweg das Alte Testament in das Neue mündet«).
4) Theology of the Old Testament, OTL, 2 vols., Philadelphia 1961–67, vol. 1, 26; German original, 3 vols., Leipzig 1933–39, vol. 1, 1 (»der Anblick des Torso, den das vom Christentum geschiedene Judentum darbietet«).
5) Both Barth and Bonhoeffer continued to view Judaism in classical supersessionist terms; see Clark Williamson, A Guest in the House of Israel: Post-Holocaust Church Theology, Louisville 1993, 119–22; Stephen R. Haynes, The Bonhoeffer Legacy: Post-Holocaust Perspectives, Minneapolis 2006.
6) Old Testament Theology, 2 vols., New York 1962–65, German original, Munich 1957–60.
7) Old Testament Theology in Outline, Atlanta 1978, German original, Stuttgart 1972.
8) Essays on Biblical Theology, Minneapolis 1981, German original, Munich 1977.
9) Elements of Old Testament Theology, Atlanta 1982, German original, Göttingen 1978.
10) Old Testament Theology, 2 vols., Louisville 1995–96, German original, Stuttgart 1991–92.
11) Franz Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption, Notre Dame 1985, German original, Der Stern der Erlösung, Frankfurt a. M. 1921; Martin Buber, I and Thou, New York 1970, German original, Ich und Du, Leipzig 1923.
12) The Eclipse of God: Studies in the Relation between Religion and Phil-osophy, New York-Evanston 1952.
13) Man is Not Alone, Philadelphia 1951; God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, New York 1955; The Prophets, Philadelphia 1962. See also Edward K. Kaplan and Samuel H. Dresner, Abraham Joshua Heschel: Prophetic Witness, New Haven-London 1998.
14) An Outline of Old Testament Theology, 2nd edition, Newton 1970, Dutch originals, Wageningen 1949, 1954, 1966.
15) Theologische Grundstrukturen des Alten Testament, Berlin 1972.
16) Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments: Theological Reflection on the Christian Bible, Minneapolis 1993.
17) Canon and Community, Philadelphia 1984.
18) For discussion of the term Shoah, see Zev Garber and Bruce Zuckerman, »Why Do We Call the Holocaust ›the Holocaust?‹ An Inquiry into the Psychology of Labels«, Modern Judaism 9 (1989), 197–211.
19) The Face of God After Auschwitz, Amsterdam 1965. For critical discussion of Maybaum, see Steven Katz, Post-Holocaust Dialogues: Critical Studies in Modern Jewish Thought, New York-London 1985, 155–63.
20) After Auschwitz: Radical Theology and Contemporary Judaism, Indianapolis 1966.
21) God’s Presence in History: Jewish Affirmations and Philosophical Reflections, New York 1970.
22) Faith after the Holocaust, New York 1973; idem, Man and God: Studies in Biblical Theology, Detroit 1969.
23) Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest, Louisville 1993.
24) For the history of modern Jewish biblical scholarship in America, see S. David Sperling (ed.), Students of the Covenant: A History of Jewish Scholarship in North America, Atlanta 1992.
25) See History of Israelite Religion from Antiquity to the end of the Second Temple (Hebrew), 8 vols., Tel Aviv 1937–56. Abridged translations of Kaufman’s work appear as, The Religion of Israel from its Beginnings to the Babylonian Exile, New York 1972, and, The Babylonian Captivity and Deutero-Isaiah: History of the Religion of Israel, New York 1970. For critical discussion of Kaufman’s work, see Thomas Krapf, Yehezkel Kaufmann. Ein Lebens- und Erkenntnisweg zur Theologie der Hebräischen Bibel, Berlin 1990; idem, Die Priesterschrift und die vorexilische Zeit. Yehezkel Kaufmanns vernachlässigter Beitrag zur Geschichte der biblischen Religion, OBO 119, Freiburg-Göttingen 1992.
26) »The Biblical Concept of the Land of Israel: Cornerstone of the Covenant between God and Israel«, in L. Hoffman (ed.), The Land of Israel: Jewish Perspectives, Notre Dame 1986, 27–64.
27) Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School, Oxford 1972; idem, Social Justice in Ancient Israel and the Ancient Near East, Jerusalem-Minneapolis 1995.
28) »Christianity, Judaism, and Modern Study«, in Congress Volume: Edinburgh 1974, VTSup 28, Leiden 1975, 69–88; idem, »Jewish Biblical Theology and the Science of the Bible (Hebrew)«, Tarbiz 50 (1980–81), 37–64; idem, »Tanakh Theology: The Religion of the Old Testament and the Place of Jewish Biblical Theology«, in P. D. Miller et al. (eds.), Ancient Israelite Religion: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross, Philadelphia 1987, 587–644.
29) »Theology of the Old Testament: A Jewish View«, Horizons in Biblical Theology 8 (1986), 33–49.
30) The Jewish Bible after the Holocaust: A Rereading, Bloomington-Indianapolis 1990.
31) Jews and Power, New York 2007.
32) For a fuller discussion of his work, see my essay, »Why Jews are Interested in Biblical Theology: A Retrospective on the Work of Jon D. Levenson«, in A. Bernstein-Nahar (ed.), Jewish Book Annual 55–56 (1997–99/5758–59), New York 2001, 134–68.
33) »Why Jews Are Not Interested in Biblical Theology«, in J. Neusner et al. (eds.), Judaic Perspectives on Ancient Israel, Philadelphia 1987, 287–307; reprinted in The Hebrew Bible, The Old Testament, and Historical Criticism: Jews and Christians in Biblical Studies, Louisville 1993, 33–61, 165–70.
34) Theology of the Program of Restoration of Ezekiel 40–48, HSM 10, Missoula 1976.
35) Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible, Minneapolis 1985.
36) Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence, Princeton 1988.
37) The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity, New Haven-London 1993.
38) Esther: A Commentary, OTL, Louisville 1997.
39) Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life, New Haven-London 2006.
40) Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel, Oxford 1985.
41) The Kiss of God: Spiritual and Mystical Death in Judaism, Seattle-London 1994.
42) The Exegetical Imagination: On Jewish Thought and Theology, Cambridge 1998.
43) Haftarot: The JPS Bible Commentary, Philadelphia 2002/5762.
44) Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking, Oxford-New York 2003.
45) Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation, Oxford-New York 1997.
46) »Biblical History and Jewish Biblical Theology«, Journal of Religion 77 (1997), 563–83; see also his How to Read the Bible, Philadelphia 2005.
47) A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40–66, Stanford 1998.
48) »Revelation at Sinai in the Hebrew Bible and in Jewish Theology«, Journal of Religion 79 (1999), 422–51.
49) »Tanak versus Old Testament: Concerning the Foundation for a Jewish Theology of the Bible«, in H. T. C. Sun and K. L. Eades (eds.), Problems in Biblical Theology: Essays in Honor of Rolf Knierim, Grand Rapids-Cambridge 1997, 353–372.
50) »Reconceiving the Paradigms of Old Testament Theology in the Post-Shoah Period«, Biblical Interpretation 6 (1998), 142–61; republished in A. O. Bellis and J. S. Kaminsky (eds.), Jews, Christians, and the Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures, SBLSym 8, Atlanta 2000, 155–72.
51) »Isaiah and Theodicy after the Shoah«, in T. Linafelt (ed.), Strange Fire: Reading the Bible after the Holocaust, BibSem 71, Sheffield 2000, 208–19.
52) »Absence of G-d and Human Responsibility in the Book of Esther«, in Wonil Kim et al. (eds.), Reading the Hebrew Bible for a New Millennium: Form, Concept, and Theological Perspective. Volume 2: Exegetical and Theological Studies, Harrisburg 2000, 264–275.
53) King Josiah of Judah: The Lost Messiah of Israel, Oxford-New York 2001.
54) The Prophetic Literature, Nashville 2005.
55) Form and Intertextuality in Prophetic and Apocalyptic Literature, FAT 45, Tübingen 2005.
56) »The Democratization of Messianism in Modern Jewish Thought«, in C. Helmer (ed.), Biblical Interpretation: History, Context and Reality, SBLSym 26, Atlanta 2005, 87–101.
57) 1 and 2 Kings: A Commentary, OTL, Louisville 2007.
58) »The Emerging Field of Jewish Biblical Theology«, in Z. Garber (ed.), Academic Approaches to Teaching Jewish Studies, Lanham 2000, 83–105; »Jewish Biblical Theology«, in F. Greenspahn (ed.), The Hebrew Bible: New Insights and Scholarship, New York-London 2008, 191–208.
59) Reading the Hebrew Bible after the Shoah: Engaging Holocaust Theology, Minneapolis 2008.
60) »Religionsgeschichte Israels oder Theologie des Alten Testaments?«, Jahrbuch für Biblische Theologie 10 (1995), 45–68; »History of Israelite Religion or Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Theology? Jewish Interest in Biblical Theology«, in Early Jewish Exegesis and Theological Controversies: Studies in Scriptures in the Shadow of Internal and External Controversies, Assen 2002, 107–34.
61) »Jewish Biblical Theology: Whence? Why? And Whither?«, Hebrew Union College Annual 76 (2005), 289–340.
62) »Jewish Ambivalence towards the Bible«, Hebrew Studies 49 (2007), 7–21.
63) »The Emergence of Biblical Theologies«, in Bellis and Kaminsky (eds.), Jews, Christians, and the Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures, 109–21.
64) Sexual Politics in the Biblical Narrative: Reading the Hebrew Bible as a Woman, JSOTSup 310, Sheffield 2000.
65) Leviticus 1–16, AB 3, New York 1991; Leviticus 17–22, AB 3A, New York 2000; Leviticus 23–27, AB 3B, New York 2000.
66) The Sanctuary of Silence: The Priestly Torah and the Holiness School, Minneapolis 1995.
67) The Divine Symphony: The Bible’s Many Voices, Philadelphia 2003/5763.
68) Hidden Polemics in Biblical Narrative, BibIntSer 25, Leiden 2000.
69) »Isaiah’s and Micah’s Approaches to Policy and History«, in H. Graf Reventlow et al. (eds.), Politics and Theopolitics in the Bible and Postbiblical Literature, JSOTSup 17, Sheffield 1994, 176–88.
70) »Jeremiah 50–51 and the Concept of Evil in the Hebrew Bible«, in H. Graf Reventlow and Y. Hoffman (eds.), The Problem of Evil and its Symbols in Jewish and Christian Tradition, JSOTSup 366, London-New York 2004, 14–28.
71) »Ezekiel as the Voice of the Exiles and Constructor of Exilic Identity«, Hebrew Union College 76 (2005), 1–45.
72) »Facing Destruction and Exile: Inner-Biblical Exegesis in Jeremiah and Ezekiel«, Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 117 (2002), 189–205.
73) »The Wrath of God in the Book of Lamentations«, in Graf Reventlow and Hoffman, The Problem of Evil, 29–42.
74) The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and its Place in Biblical Thought, Frankfurt 1989, Hebrew original 1977; 1 and 2 Chronicles: A Commentary, OTL, Louisville 2002.
75) Yet I Loved Jacob: Reclaiming the Biblical Concept of Election, Nashville 2007.
76) The Teaching of Contempt: Christian Roots of Anti-Semitism, New York 1964.
77) Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism, Eugene 1997, original edition 1974. Unfortunately, her 1989 volume co-authored with Herman J. Ruether, The Wrath of Jonah: The Crisis of Religious Nationalism in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (New York: Harper and Row 1989), presents a heavily biased and distorted view of modern Israel’s history that attempts to portray Israel in Nazi-like terms. For more credible portrayals of modern Israeli history, see Howard M. Sachar, A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, New York 2003; Martin Gilbert, Israel: A History, New York 1998; Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–2001, New York 2001.
78) »On Reading Someone Else’s Mail: The Church and Israel’s Scriptures«, in E. Blum et al. (eds.), Die Hebräische Bibel und ihre zweifache Nachgeschichte. Festschrift für Rolf Rendtorff, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1990, 595–606.
79) A Guest in the House of Israel: Post-Holocaust Church Theology, Louisville 1993.
80) Anti-Judaism in Feminist Religious Writings, Atlanta 1994.
81) Abraham’s Promise: Judaism and Jewish Christian Relations, Grand Rapids-Cambridge 2004.
82) Das Erste Testament. Die jüdische Bibel und die Christen, Düsseldorf 1993, 12 (»Nach Auschwitz muss die Kirche das Alte Testament anders lesen.«).
83) Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, Minneapolis 1997.
84) Theologie des Alten Testaments. Eine kanonischer Entwurf, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1999–2001); English translation, The Canonical Hebrew Bible: A Theology of the Old Testament, Leiden 2005.
85) Strange Fire: Reading the Bible after the Holocaust, Sheffield 2000.
86) Katheryn Pfisterer Darr, »Ezekiel«, in L. Keck et al. (eds.), The New Interpreter’s Bible, Nashville 2001, 6, 1073–1607; Kathleen M. O’Connor, »Lamentations«, NIB, 6, 1011–1072.
87) Defending God: Biblical Responses to the Problem of Evil, Oxford-New York 2005.