Recherche – Detailansicht








Öhler, Markus [Hrsg.]


Religionsgemeinschaft und Identität. Prozesse jüdischer und christlicher Identitätsbildung im Rahmen der Antike. M. Beiträgen v. M. Böhm, M. Grohmann, M. Öhler, Ch. Strecker u. M. Vogel.


Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag 2013. 167 S. = Biblisch-Theologische Studien, 142. Kart. EUR 24,99. ISBN 978-3-7887-2715-4.


Judith M. Lieu

The four substantive essays in this compact volume arise from the first conference of a project-group ›Religionsgemeinschaft und Identität‹, held from 12–14 March, 2012. The mechanisms by which groups establish, maintain and project stable self-definition have been the subject of considerable scholarly interest in recent de-cades. However, the Anglophone and German trajectories of ana-lysis have often pursued somewhat different lines, and have not always paid much attention to each other. To some extent this is due to the different linguistic histories of ›identity‹, a term that, as critics are quick to point out, has no real equivalent in the languages of antiquity; a further factor has been the varying relative influence of social scientific theory or of philosophical analysis. These come together in the different degree to which the individual sense of the self as the primary referent of ›sameness‹ provides the starting-point of any discussion, as apposed to mechanisms fo-cused on group cohesion. One of the significant contributions of the essays here, especially when read together, is that they are aware of these different traditions of scholarly debate and are willing to engage with them, although the German intellectual tradition persists in that perspectives on group identity are most strongly represented by ›social identity theory‹, which largely begins from the individual’s sense of group participation, rather than by social anthropological models of ethnic groups and boundary-formation.
After a brief editorial introduction, Marianne Grohmann (›Diskontinuität und Kontinuität in alttestamentlichen Identitätskonzepten‹) adopts a somewhat eclectic theoretical frame in an ex-ploration of three separate topics: perceptions of the self and of the ›foreigner‹, specifically in reference to Israel and Moab, where the Biblical sources and the Mesha stone offer two different view-points; the use and development of the labels ›Israel‹ and ›Judah‹ in the post-exilic period, thus introducing questions of ›ethnic‹ versus ›religious‹ definition; and the extent to which in Biblical texts the individual can be understood apart from their social embedding. Manuel Vogel (›Modelle jüdischer Identitätsbildung in hellenis­tisch-römischer Zeit‹) also addresses three themes but in more explicit dialogue with recent scholarship: firstly, theoretical issues regarding the nature of ›Jewish identity‹, drawing on social identity perspectives, and how this has impacted on studies of Hellenis-tic Judaism and of the emergence of Christianity, along with terms such as ›Jewish-‹ or ›Gentile-Christianity‹; the vigorous debate about the most appropriate translation of ioudaios as having a primary ethnic or religious reference (in English as ›Jew‹ or ›Judaean‹); and aspects of commonality and difference within second Temple Judaism from a social identity perspective. Against the backdrop of an overview of the Jewish community in Alexandria, Martina Böhm’s contribution concentrates on how Philo uses the model of ›the Abrahamic family‹ in order to present Jewish identity as potentially universal rather than ethnically particularistic (›Philo und die Frage nach der jüdischen Identität in Alexandria‹); although owing something to the work of Maren Niehoff, this is much more of a text-based study.
Finally Christian Strecker examines the growth of ›identity-scholarship‹ in studies of early Christianity (›Identität im frühen Christentum‹); he starts from the philosophical origins of the language of identity and from the development of social identity theory and then goes on to explore scholarly discussion of Jesus’ and Paul’s own self-understanding and/or actual position within a Jewish ›identity‹ framework. In assessing a variety of other ›identity studies‹, Strecker struggles in particular with the functionalist or reductionalist potential of any social-scientific approach, and with how far it is possible to preserve a theological discourse or an affirmation of distinctive ›praxis‹ alongside ethnic categories which are alien to the New Testament’s own conceptuality.
As this overview reveals, the essays cover a far greater range of issues than their relatively brief compass might suggest. The negative side of this is a sense that there has been no time for deeper conversation; the specialist will have to fill in the gaps, but the novice in the field may be left feeling overwhelmed and without a map on which to plot the fleeting glimpses of major features or landmarks in the scholarship. Moreover, the secondary literature foot-noted is somewhat eclectic and random, as if the result of a hasty research exercise by title or key-words. However, these essays are to be welcomed for opening up an important discussion, which, it is to be hoped, further work by the Research Project will continue.