week 1
week 2
week 3
week 4
week 5

Week 3.

OUTLINE. These are the topics, as outlined in the book, and the page number.. We hope to follow this outline, with room to explore topics of interest to the group.

  1. The setting and the story 147
    1. Introduction
      • The aim
      • The sources
    2. The Greco-Roman World 152
    3. The Story of Israel. 157
      • From Babylon to Rome
      • Jews under Roman Rule
      • Judaism Reconstructed
      • Conclusion
  2. The developing Diversity 167
    1. The social setting
    2. Movements of Revolt. 170
    3. The Pharisees 181
      • The sources
      • The Identity of the Pharisees
      • The Agenda and Influence of the Pharisees
    4. The Essenes 203
    5. Priests, Aristocrats, and Sadducees 209
    6. 'Ordinary Jews': Introduction 213
  3. Story, Symbol, Praxis: Elements of Israel's Worldview 215
    1. Introduction
    2. Stories
      • Introduction
      • The basic Story
      • The Smaller Stories
      • Conclusion
    3. Symbols 224
      • Introduction
      • Temple
      • Land
      • Torah
      • Racial Identity
      • Conclusion
    4. Praxis 233
      • Introduction
      • Worship and Festivals
      • Study and Learning
      • Torah and practice
    5. Scriptures: The Anchor of the worldview.
    6. Conclusion: Israel's worldview.
  4. The Beliefs of Israel 244
    1. Introduction
    2. First century Jewish Monotheism
      • Creational
      • Providential
      • Covenantal
      • Types of duality
      • Monotheism and modifications
    3. Election and covenant
      • Introduction
      • covenant
      • Israel, Adam, and the World
    4. Covenant and Eschatology
    5. Covenant, redemption, forgiveness
    6. Beliefs: Conclusion
  5. The Hope of Israel 280
    1. 'Apocalyptic'
      • Introduction
      • Literary form
      • Contexts of the Apocalyptic
      • Representation
      • Daniel 7, 'Son of Man'
      • Dualities
    2. The end of Exile 299
    3. No King but God 302
    4. The King that would come 307
    5. The Renewal of the World, of Israel, and of Humans 320
    6. Salvation and Justification 334
    7. Conclusion: First Century Judaism 338

Week 2: First Century Judaism within the Greco Roman World 6

The setting and the story

There are currently tensions in this area of the world, and there is no reason to believe things were any less complicated then than they are now.

To understand the origin of Christianity, and the terms in which the question of gos was posed and addressed within it, we must fain as accurate an understanding as possible of the Judaisms(s) in which Jesus and Paul grew up. We must understand the worldviews and self-understandings held by the Jews of the time. Looking wider, we must also understand something of the cultural milieu in which Israel and Judaism found itself.

We will look at:

  1. The worldview of second temple Jerusalem by studying:
  2. The regular, day-to-day life
  3. The physical symbols, such as the temple
  4. The retelling of the nation's story
  5. The belief system
  6. The set of basic answers to basic questions that can be inferred (p 148).

The main feature of Judaism within first-century Palestine was neither a static sense of a religion which one adhered, nor a private sphere of religion into which on escaped, but a total worldview, embracing all aspects of reality, and coming to sharp focus in a sense of longing and expectation, of recognition that the present state of affairs had not yet seen the full realization of the purposes of the covenant god for his people. The Jewish people told themselves stories which encapsulated their worldview.

Many "Christian" readings of the gospels have screened out the political overtones of Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom. A fresh examination of the Jewish background will put that straight. The goal is to create a critical realist reading of first-century Judaism.

Christians and Jews continue to regard the story of Israel as the earlier chapters of their own stories.

The Old Testament was read in particular ways, seen through particular grids of interpretation and anticipation. The grids of interpretation offered constitute key variations in the first-century Jewish worldview.

After Alexander conquered Palestine in 332 BC, in all sorts of ways, things were never the same. The Roman empire took the place of the Greek.

Perceiving that the Jews would rather die en masse than offer pagan worship, the pragmatic Romans permitted them instead to sacrifice to their own god on the emperor's behalf.

Looking at the religion of the Roman world, we find the basic landscape dominated by paganism. The prevalence of all these deities meant that the average town or city was full of reminders of the pagan way of life: temples, shrines and alters; sacred pillars and cult-objects, some shocking to a Jewish conscience.

By the first century AD, there were many distinct views:

There is no time to go into the details of each of these. The important thing to remember is that religion, culture, and politics were not sharply divided in the ancient world, as we are the 20th century USA.

In this context, the Jews were regarded as atheists. The Jews appeared as a strange race who kept their ancestral customs (p 156)

The story of Israel

The Babylonians had destroyed the first temple in 587BC. When the great moment had come, and Babylon had been destroyed, Israel did not become free, mistress in her own land: the Persians, who had crushed Babylon, were generous overlords to the Jews, but overlords none the less.

Fast forward to the first century BC, the Hellenistic cultural setting formed a perpetual cultural and religious threat to the Jews, every but as powerful as the political one.

One Syrian ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes, wanted to use Judea as a buffer state against Egypt, He tried to gain Jewish support. He did this by changing the direction of their central religious symbol. He took over the Temple on December 25, 167 BC, desecrating it so the Jews would no longer thing of it as the place where they were reaffirmed as a unique people. But he underestimated their tenacity. One strand of Jewish self-understanding coalesced into a movement. Three years to the day after the Temple's desecration (Dec 25, 164BC), Judas cleansed and reconsecrated it. A new festival was added to the Jewish calendar.

The truth is, most Jews- the ones who didn't write any books or lead any marches, struggled to maintain their livelihood.

Under Roman rule, they managed to make matters worse by ruling with an insensitive arrogance that consistently bordered on provocation to rebellion.

Granted this mood, it was not surprising that Herod the Great (37-34BC) would never be accepted as king of the Jews. Revolution remained in the air during the early years of the new century, and after the revolt led by Judas the Galilean in AD 6, Rome deemed it safe to make Judea a province of its own right.

Sooner or later the covenant god would act once more to vindicate his name, to restore the symbols (particularly the Temple) which expressed his covenant with Israel, and of course, to liberate Israel herself. It was this hope that led to the great rebellion of AD 66.

Judaism Reconstructed (AD 70-135)

The period after AD 70 was of great significance for the future direction of Judaism. The new rabbinic movement organized itself into a great Synod and introduced measures which excluded Christians. The young church response by creating sayings that were hostile to Judaism.

The elements in early Christianity which are least acceptable to a certain form of contemporary scholarship are placed on the head of a generation for whose views we have very little evidence.

The destruction of the Temple in AD 70 created on one reaction, but a variety.

The study and practice of Torah could function as an effectual replacement for Temple-worship.

There were several views that grew during this time, and it was within this pluriform and complex context that, according to tradition, some steps were taken to tighten up the boundaries of acceptable Judaism.

This was a period of transition when many ambiguities lived side by side (p165). This period of transition came to a bloody end against the emperor Hadrian in AD 132-135A. Simon ben Kosiba began a revolt which quickly roused the whole land. He himself was hailed as Messiah by the great rabbi Akiba.

This, in brief, is the story of the Jews in the period which was formative both for them and for the new movement that arose in their midst. But, as we saw when discussing history in the abstract, the story of 'what happened' can only be fully grasped when we ask the question 'why'. Why did the Jews of this period do what they did? In order to answer this question we must first fill in the story by examining the growing diversity within Judaism (chapter 7). We will then be able to examine the underlying Jewish worldview, by means of its symbols (chapter 8), its basic beliefs (chapter 9), and the hope to which these beliefs gave rise (chapter 10), a hope which, variously reinterpreted, has given shape and colour to Judaism and Christianity from that day to this.

The developing diversity

The period between the Babylonian exile and the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans saw the birth of a fascinating and complex variety of expressions of Jewish identity and life.

Most Jews of the period cherished the hope that the covenant god would act again in history, this time to restore the fortunes of his internally-exiled people. But the Maccabean crisis was also, the cause of some of the divisions within Judaism.

Belief and aspirations were not the only reasons for diversity. Geographical factors were also a part. Jews in Jerusalem area on one hand, and Jews in Galilee on the other. The former could focus their worship in the Temple. The latter was a three days journey from the temple, with hostile territory in between.

Adherence to Torah was even more significant when Jews were living away from the land of Israel, among aliens and pagans, in the Diaspora.

So it was that the maintenance of traditional Torah-based boundary markers in Galilee had little to do with theology of post-mortem salvation. The choice between loyalty and assimilation faced Jews in the ancient no less that in the modern world.

Geographical diversity was as nothing compared with the socio-economic diversity. This plagued Judaism throughout our period.

It is not insignificant that when the rebels seized power at the beginning of the war in Ad 66 one of their first acts was to burn the records of debts. Hatred of Rome, and hatred of other wealthy aristocracy characterized many Jews of the period. The faced many external threats, and major internal problems. The question, what it might mean to be a good or loyal Jew, had pressing social, economic, and political dimensions as well as cultural and theological ones.

The pressing needs of many Jews of the time had to do with liberation - from oppression, from debt, or from Rome.

Fidelity to Torah, readiness for martyrdom, resistance to compromise, and resolute military or para-military action: that was the combination that would win the day.

Economic pressure created a new class of brigands, desperate bands of Jews who found no way forward from their poverty except by living outside normal society and sustaining themselves through raids on those who still had property that could be stolen.

It was between the death of Herod the Great and the destruction of Jerusalem (4BC to AD70) that movements of revolt came to a head, creating problems for government (p171).

It started in 4BC, as Herod was dying, a group of people pulled down the ornamental eagle he had caused to be placed over the Temple gate. This was encouraged by the teachers of the law, and the high priest. This was punished severely by Herod, then, immediately after his death, a bigger revolt took place in Jerusalem at Passover.

During this time there were two would-be messianic movements. Simon, an ex-slave of Herod who was proclaimed king before being killed by the Romans, and a shepherd called Athronges, who gave himself royal airs and organized his followers into brigand bands before being captured by Archelaus.

This flurry of rebellions in 4 BC was clearly occasioned by the proximity of Herod's death, which allowed for the persistent hope for a new order of things to come to the surface.

A decade after Herod's death (6 AD), the Jews appealed to Rome against Archelaus, who had succeeded his father Herod in Judea, Samaria, and Idumaea. Hist subjects went over his head to Rome and had him removed.

A man named Judah 'The Galilean' led the revolt which was considered the founding act of the sect that became responsible for the major war two generations later.

There were many things that had the effect of inciting Jews to revolt. We know of seven from the years AD 26-36:

There was a brief respite from the provocation during the reign of Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, whom the Romans allowed to rule in place of procurators, from 41 until his early death in 44.

Josephus, our reliable source, had thoroughly falsified his own suggestion that one single part, begun by Judas the Galilean, was responsible for the entire drift towards the war with Rome which broke our in AD 66.

One might argue there was widespread resistance to Rome, but initiative and leadership came almost entirely from the ruling class of the Jews. They consisted of a puppet oligarchy put in place by the Romans after the decline of the Herodian dynasty, against the wishes and greatly to the dislike of the people as a whole.

The Pharisees

The sources for the study of the Pharisees are, as is well known, full of problems.

  1. Josephus, who is thought of to be a Pharisee himself, writes about them both explicitly and implicitly, as a political group wielding power in the last two centuries BC, and fading out of consideration after.
  2. The references in the Qumran scrolls are enough to confirm the Pharisees held influence in the latter half of the first century BC. They were regarded as a dangerous rival group.
  3. The rabbinic evidence is massive, and paints a picture that the Pharisees were concerned with purity. The are seen as the precursors to the rabbis themselves.
  4. Paul's mention of his Pharisaic background suggests his Christian theology was shaped by the content of his earlier training.
  5. In the gospels and Acts, the Pharisees are in Galilee and elsewhere appearing as guardians of the strict interpretation and application of ancestral laws.

These sources suggest problems.

The name 'Pharisee' itself is a matter of considerable controversy, though one writer makes the case for the meaning 'accurate, sharp'.

What was their agenda, and how widespread was their influence?. Though it is unclear their numbers in the first century, their focus of interest had shifted from politics to pierty.

They were a small group, based only in Jerusalem, with little political influence, following their own limited agendas and without taking much interest in the major movements of the day (p186).

Before 63BC, there was a pressure group known by its enemies as 'Pharisees'. This group rose after the Maccabean revolt and exercised influence over the Hasmonian rulers. They were motivated by purity. The most attractive thesis seems: faced with social, political, and cultural 'pollution' at the level of national life as a whole, one reaction was to concentrate on cleanness, to cleanse and purify an area over which one did have control as compensation for the area of which one had none.

During the Hasmonian period, the Pharisees existed as a political group and concerned with purity. Even if this purity did not imitate that purity of the priests serving in the Temple.

In the peak of their influence, they did not consider themselves as a secret form of thought-police. They were not an official body. They didn't even teach the Torah. They only obtained power if they colluded with or influenced another group who already possessed it.

They sought to bring moral pressure to bear upon those who had actual power.

Their goals were to honor Israel's god, the following of his covenant charter, and the pursuit of the full promised redemption of Israel.

The arrival of Roman rule in 63 BC and the rise of Herod in the late 40s and 30s reduced the Pharisees actual power. Their agenda remained the same: to purify Israel by summoning her to return to the true ancestral traditions.

Page 190 gives a great perspective of the tension they faced: the Pharisees viewed themselves as either going inwards, with more purity; or go 'outward' with more zeal, leading to the revolutions described earlier. History seemed to tell them that revolt led to disaster.

So, at least one strand of Pharisaic activity maintained a political role, and an active revolutionary role as well.

There were many views held among pharisees. Pages 190-193 highlight how those differing views were reflected through the revolutions described above.

How much influence did the Pharisees seek, and how much did they wield during this period?

*In the time of Jesus, the Pharisees were a small group, numbering a few thousand at most, based almost entirely in Jerusalem.

The Galileans as a whole did not follow the Pharisees. As to their numbers, the only figure we have is the "over 6,000" mentioned in Antiquities 17.42 as refusing to take the oath to Caesar. To be sure, this does not mean that we imagine the Pharisees to be a large, all-powerful group. But they were reasonably numerous, reasonably widespread, and reasonably influential.

Between the year 70 and 135 AD, the two strands remained, but no longer as Pharisees (the two strands being zealots, or purists).

After the second revolt, there began the period which marked the real beginning of what we know as rabbinic Judaism. They had the idea that the study of Torah has the same effect as worship in the Temple.

The Sadducees on the other hand believe that everything comes down to the exercise of human free will. They proclaimed they they believe in seizing and maintaining political power for themselves.

The Sadducees proclaimed by their very existence that they believed in seizing and maintaining political power for themselves. The Pharisees remain a complex and elusive group.

The Essenes: Spotlight on a sect.

Many believe that those who lived in Qumran, the writers of the scrolls that were discovered in 1947, were a subgroup of a wider group of Essenes. What we are interested in is how some Jews thought, lived, and prayed in that period.

Let's look at the scrolls (p204). They are arguably the work of a multiform Jewish sectarian group. It remains likely that the Maccabean movement brought them into existence. It is also possible that some Pharisees joined the movement as well.

The symbolic world of the group was focused on its own existence as the rightful heirs of Judaism. One thing deserves special attention: The community described the Community Rule offered no animal sacrifices. Building on this, we find that at least one branch regarded itself as not just the true Israel, but as the true Temple in which Israel's god had called them into being as an alternative Temple (p 205).

The praxis of the group did not involve participation in active revolt.

Why did they live where they did, out in the desert? One explanation is that during Herod's reign, the community lived in Jerusalem itself.

Israels history had entered a bottleneck. The return from exile had not yet really happened. This little group was the advanced guard through whom it would come about. If we press this group for answers to the basic worldviews, they are not slow in answering.

The badges of membership in the renewed covenant ewre clearly the piety and purity enjoined by the community's rules. The purity regulations of the group give several indications that they regarded themselves as in some senses analogous to, or on a par with, the priests of the Temple.

The exalted language about a coming day was intended to refer to the time when Israels god would act within history to redeem his people and reestablish them as his people, within his holy land, and worshipping in a new Temple.

It would be wrong for a Davidic king, from Judah, to preside over the Temple. Only a descendent of Levi, Aaron, and Zadok would do (personally, I, Luke, have always wondered about this too).

Priests, Aristocrats, and Sadducees.

Josephus writing at the end of the first century AD says that there were at least twenty thousand priests, far more than the figure given for Pharisees (6000) or the sect of the Essenes (4000). The great majority were not aristocrats, or wealthy. The priests were the local representatives of mainline, 'official' Judaism.

At the top of the priestly tree, we find the chief priests. One other author claims that the Romans chose to elevate and work with local landowners, who were thus given a position for which their family status would not have prepared them.

Thus, by the time Judea became a Roman province in AD 6, the ruling high-priestly family was firmly established, but without any solid claim to antiquity. Their interest lay in keeping the peace between Rome and an often discontented people.

I am inclined to thing that the Sadducean belief in free will has little to do with the abstract philosophy and a great deal to do with the politics of power. Israels god will help those who help themselves. They had no time for laws other than those in the Bible. And, they denied the doctrine of resurrection. 'Resurrection' had functioned for a long time as a symbol and metaphor for the total reconstitution of Israel.

In terms of effectiveness, the Pharisees were farm more successful in persuading people of their views than the Sadducees were.

Who were the 'ordinary Jews' of the time? It is often thought that the majority of Jews were regarded as 'sinners'. They cared about their god, their scriptures, and their Jewish heritage to take a fair amount of trouble over the observance of at least biblical law. They prayed, fasted, went to synagogue, and travelled to Jerusalem for the regular feasts. They kept sabbath, and circumcised their children.

Story, symbol, praxis: Elements of Israel's worldview

If Israel was liberated from Egypt, and placed in her own land, why is everything not now perfect? The great story of the Hebrew scriptures was therefore inevitably read in the second-temple period as a story in search of a conclusion.

Some groups hijacked the story-line of Israels future hope, and claimed that this hope had been achieved through them. There are many retellings of Israels story that show that Jews of the period did not simply think of the biblical traditions atomistically, but were able to conceive of the story asa whole, and to be regularly looking for its proper conclusion.

Israel must remain faithful to all the requirements of the covenant. Only then will the story which began with Adam and Isaac reach its proper conclusion (p218).

On almost all sides, there is a sense that the history of the creator, his world, and his covenant people is going somewhere, but that it has not yet arrived there.

There were different ways to retell Israels story, outlined on p 221-223. The Pharisees believed that their brand of fidelity to the traditions of the fathers was the divinely appointed program of Torah-intensification, and thus the means of Israel's rescue.

Many Jewish stories encapsulate the worldview that Israel is the people of the creator god, in exile, awaiting release. Israel's god must become king, and rule or judge the nations; at that time, those who remain faithful to this gof and his Torah will be vindicated.

The world was made for the sake of Israel; Israel is to be the true humanity, the creator's vice regent in his ruling of the world.


The stories which articulate a worldview focus upon the symbols which bring that worldview into visible and tangible reality. At the heart of the Jewish national life, for better or worse, stood the Temple. Temple, land, Torah, and racial identity were the key symbols which anchored the first-century Jewish worldview in everyday life.

The Temple. It combined religion, national figurehead, and government- and also included what we thing of as the City, financial, and economic world. The high priest, who was in charge of the Temple, was as important a political figure as he was a religious one.

Dissatisfaction with the first century Temple was also fueled by the fact that, although it was certainly among the most beautiful buildings ever constructed, it was built by Herod.

The Land. The Virtual absence of the Land as a theme in the New Testament has led many scholars to bypass the topic. But if we are to understand first century Judaism, we must rank land along with Temple and Torah, and one of the major Symbol. The Romans had no more right to be ruling it than did any of their pagan ancestors. And it is now being laid waste.

The Torah offered the promises about the Land, the blessings which would be given in and through it. The study of Torah increasingly became the focal point of Jewishness. For millions of ordinary Jews, Torah became a portable Land, a moveable Temple. It had been democratized, made available to all who would study and practice Torah (p. 228).

Torah had come to assume the status of Temple, and with that, to take on divine qualities.

Admit that one had abandoned Torah, and one admits to being a traitor to Israel.

A symbol that loses touch with either story or praxis becomes worthless.

Racial Identity. The practice of allowing foreigners into 'the Assembly of god' was prohibited. The Jews must stay together and refuse to compromise with pagans.

We thus find, in works from the Hasmonean and Roman periods, an emphasis on the race as the true people.


If one is to keep the symbols alive, one must simply lvie by them. Temple and synagogue were vital social, political, and cultural institutions just as much as religious ones.

Worship and festivals.

The three major festivals were of course intimately connected with agriculture. They symbolically celebrated the blessing of Israels god upon his Land and his people, and drew together the two major covenantal themes of Temple and Land. In addition, Passover celebrated the exodus from Egypt, Pentecost the giving of Torah on Sinai; Tabernacles the wilderness wandering on the way to the promised land. All three therefore focused attention on key aspects of Israel's story, and in the retelling of that story encouraged the people once again to thing of themselves as the creator's free people, who would be redeemed by him and so vindicated in the eyes of the world. This theme was amplified in the prayers appointed for the different occasions.

If the study of Torah is the equivalent to being in the Temple, then studying in itself becomes a 'religious' activity.

Torah provided three badges in particular which marked the Jew out from the pagan: circumcision, sabbath, and kosher laws, which regulated what food could be eaten, how it was to be killed and cooked, and with whom one might share.

It was Torah, and particularly the badges of sabbath and purity, that demarcated the covenant people.

Wright gives a great summary on page 238, that I will not include here.

The gentiles were the hated enemy, and serious fraternization with them was stepping out of line.

The entire story could be read as story, namely as the still-unfinished story of the creator, the covenant people, and the world.

How can an ancient text become authoritative for the present? The events of the present were the real fulfillment of what was spoken many generations before. There is an underlying logic to this: it was agreed on all sides that the prophecies had not yet been fulfilled; the sect believed that they were living in the days of fulfillment; therefore, the scriptures must somehow refer to them- whatever their 'original' meaning may have been.


Story, symbol, and praxis focused in their different ways on Israel's scriptures, reveal a rich but basically simple worldview. It can be summarized as before:

  1. Who are we? *We are Israel, the chosen people of the creator god.
  2. Where are we? We are in the holy Land, focused on the Temple; but, paradoxically, we are still in exile.
  3. What is wrong? We have the wrong rulers: pagans on the one hand, compromised Jews on the other.
  4. What is the solution? *Our god must act again to give us the true sort of rule that is, his own kingship exercised through properly appointed officials. *

The differences between the different groups of Jews in this period can be plotted quite precisely in terms of the detail of this analysis (listed above)

The beliefs of Israel

What did first century Jews actually believe, at a conscious or subconscious level? Here we are walking into a minefield.There is no such thing as first-century Judaism, and it may be best to speak of 'Judaisms' plural.

Even among groups, there is no guarantee of uniformity.

It is the argument of this whole project of books that two people in particular, while claiming to speak from within the system, provided exactly that sort of challenge and redefinition. We cannot therefore ignore the question: what was the basic Jewish belief?

*Jews do not characteristically describe the nature of Judaism in terms of 'beliefs'. It often contrasts with Christianity in this light.

To call Judaism 'a faith' is actually, in one sense, a piece of Christian cultural imperialism, imagining that because Christianity thinks of itself as a 'faith', other peoples do the same.

  1. Underlying worldviews are more fundamental that even the most ingrained habits of life.
  2. We must focus on the Jewish worldview and belief-system, because this was what was radically redefined by Jesus and Paul. This book hopes to reveal the 'inner' history of first-century Judaism.

Wright discusses the various types of monotheism and duality.

  1. Theological/ontological duality. There are heavenly beings other than god, even if they only do his will.
  2. Theological/cosmological duality. The difference between the creator god and the created order.
  3. Moral duality. This distinction between good and evil in the realm of human behavior.
  4. Eschatological duality. The distinction between the present age and the age to come, usually the present age is evil and the age to come is good.
  5. Theological/moral duality. There are two ultimate sources of all that is: a good god and a bad god.
  6. Cosmological duality. The world of material things is a shadow of the real world.
  7. Anthropological duality. Humans are a combination of body and soul.
  8. Epistemological duality. The attempt to differentiate that which can be known, from that which can only be known through divine revelation.
  9. Sectarian duality. The division between those who belong to one group, versus those who belong to another group.
  10. Psychological duality. Humans have two inclinations: a good one, and a bad one, and those are locked in combat.

Wright proposes that these differences can be viewed in the following way:

Regularly acceptedPossibleMarginal
Theological / ontologicalEpistemologicalTheological/moral
Theological / cosmologicalSectarianCosmological

Ended page 256.

Covenant theology, especially in the second-temple period, functions as the answer which was offered to the problem of evil in various forms.

  1. At large level, the creator has not been thwarted, but has called into being a people through whom he will work to restore his creation.
  2. At a smaller level, Israels sufferings create problems within covenant theology.
  3. At the individual level, the sufferings and sins of individual Jews may be sen in the light of forgiveness and restoration.

All of these are a part of the second major doctrine of Judaism. The term for this is election.The creator god has found a way of restoring his world: he has chosen a people through whom he will act. Monotheism and election along with eschatology, forms the 'basic belief', or worldview. These are the grid through which all experience of the world is perceived.

Pages 261-267 discuss covenant, Israel and Adam, the Pentateuch, the prophets, wisdom literature, and the Qumran.

Other second temple literature. We know that the book of Daniel was a favorite with Jews of the first century AD. Many Jews believed that they, or at least the true Israelites among whom they hoped to be numbered, would on the last day be reaffirmed as God's people by being raised from the day.

Page 269 discusses something interesting. By quoting some parts from the Old Testament, Israel was exiled, but the exile's came back from Babylon. Nowhere in the post-exilic literature is there any passage corresponding to 1 Kings 8.10, according to which, when Solomon's temple had been finished, ;a cloud filled the house of YHWH, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of YHWH filled the house of YHWH'.

It almost seems like a broken promise, as though the Jews felt as though exile had ended, but their god had not returned.

The present age is still part of the 'age of wrath; until the Gentiles are put in their place and Israel and the Temple, fully restored, the exile is not really over, and the blessings promised by the prophets are still to take place.

If Israel was called to be the means of the creator's undoing evil within his world, now that Israel has herself fallen victim to evil, she herself needs restoration. The god of creation and covenant must act to redeem Israel herself from her continuing exile. But how could this come about?

If Israel could come back from exile, it means that whatever caused her to go to exile, has now finally been addressed.

Exile is a result of sing. The problem will be solved by YHWH dealing with the sin, and restoring the people to their inheritance. Exile will be undone when sin is forgiven.


Restoration and forgiveness were celebrated together. Since the exile was the punishment for sins, the only sure sign that sins had been forgiven would be the clear and certain liberation from exile.

Conclusion: When theological differences between groups becomes sharp, it is probably because both sides perceive the other as a threat to the worldview which they cherish, which they see as necessarily entailing the basic and/or the consequent beliefs which are being questioned.

The hope of Israel.

At this point, Israel is still in a state of 'exile' and this must be put right. We will begin to look at things related to Apocalyptic literature.

This form of literature is used all over the place in the second-temple period, not just in Judaism.

The different levels of meaning in vision-literature of this type demand to be heard in their full polyphony, not flattened out to a single level of meaning.

We must not argue that all 'apocalyptic' writings necessarily carried the same, or even parallel layers of meaning.

The restoration which would be brought about was, of course, painted in glowing and highly metaphorical colors (p 284).

What was most important to first-century Jews, more than the end of the space-time universe, were issues of Temple, Land, and Torah, as well as race, economy, and justice.

**One of the hardest questions about the apocalyptic is whether any given writer actually experienced the visions he records, or whether he is simply employing a literary genre as a vivid and dramatic form of writing.

On all counts, apocalyptic can function, and we may supposed was intended to function, as a subversive literature of oppressed groups- whether or not it was inspired by out-and-out mysticism or by good literary technique.

It is normal practice, within the genre of dream and vision literature, that a nation, a group, a collective entity should be represented, in the literary sense, by a single figure, be it lion bear, leopard, city, forest, vine, or even a human figure.

People reading Daniel chapter 7, it is extremely probable, that those reading this very popular chapter in the first century would have seen its meaning first and foremost in terms of the vindication of Israel after her suffering at the hands of pagans. They likely did NOT interpret it as monsters crawling out of the mediterranean.

Pagan pressure for Jews to compromise their ancestral religion must be resisted: the kingdoms of the world will finally give way to the everlasting kingdom of the one true god.

The natural way of reading the vision in Daniel 7 is to see the 'one like the son of man' as representing the people of the saints of the most high. It belongs to the apocalyptic in that the meaning of the vision should be unfolded step-by-step, not that the meaning should change from one unfolding to the next (p 296).

The more oppressed a group perceives itself to be, the more it will want to calculate when liberation will dawn. There is a divine plan, which, though often opaque, is working its way out in history, and will one day demonstrate the justice of all its workings.

We must insist on a reading which does justice to the literary nature of the works in question: which sets them firmly in their historical context, in which Jews of most shades of opinion looked for their god to act within continuing history; and which grasps the fundamental Jewish worldview and theology, seeing the present world as the normal and regular sphere of divine actions, whether hidden or revealed.

The fundamental Jewish hope was for liberation from oppression, for the restoration of the Land, and for the proper rebuilding of the Temple.

One of the ways of expressing this hope was the division of time into two eras: the present age, and the age to come.

salvation as spoken in the Jewish sources of this period has to do with rescue from the national enemies, restoration of the national symbols, and a state of shalom, in which every man will sit under his vine or fig-tree. SALVATION encapsulates the entire future hope (p. 300).

The age to come, the end of Israel's exile, was therefore seen as the inauguration of a new covenant between Israel and her god.

Many believed, and it was the war cry of the zealots, that there should be 'no king but God'. This clearly implies a new order in which Israel is vindicated, and then ruled over, by her god- and by implication, in which the rest of the world is ruled in some way or another, through Israel. This indicates that a violent revolution against Rome was a very live option at this time. It was seen as impossible to have rulers other than Israel's god.

One of the central biblical books which focused on this theme was the book of Daniel. They interpreted it so that it spoke of a kingdom to be set up against the present Roman oppression.

When Israel wins the victory, that is to be seen as the kingdom of YHWH. So when there was 'kingdom' language, it was a regular means of expressing a national hope.

Also, something important of note: There is not much evidence for a direct connection between the symbol 'kingdom of god' and the coming of a Messiah (p. 307).

The king that would come.

There was no single, monolithic and uniform 'messianic expectation' among first-century Jews. Most of the Jewish literature we possess from the period has no reference to a Messiah. We cannot say what the average Jew believed about the coming of a Messiah. This brings up three issues:

  1. The idea of a Messiah may have been relatively unimportant during the period.
  2. The literature we happen to have may not be very representative.
  3. The Messianic expectations may have been suppressed in literature composed after the failure of one or other of the would-be messianic movements.

Page 308 details this very well.

Many scholars soon abandoned Jewish messianic ideas. The title Christos and several other themes- Davidic descent, key tests from the Jewish Bible, key themes such as the link with the Temple- still remain even in the gospels.

The early Christians seem to have done what Herod had done: The took a vague general idea of a Messiah, and redrew it around a new fixed point, in this case, Jesus, thereby giving it precision and direction. It is especially striking that the Davidic Messiahship of Jesus should be given such prominence.

It is enough to note that 1 Enoch does not introduce and explain the 'son of man' figure, but simply assumes it. There is no reason at all why different groups and individuals should not have made their own variations on a theme, returned to the original for fresh inspiration, or harked back to earlier interpretations being current ones (referring to Danial ch. 7) p 318.

We have reinforced the commonly accepted view, that there was no one fixed view of a Messiah in the period. We have come away with these three points:

  1. Expectation was focused primarily on the nation, not the individual.
  2. This expectation could, under certain circumstances, become focused on a particular individual.
  3. When this happened, the generalized expectation of a coming figure can be redrawn in a wide variety of ways to fit the situation or person concerned.
  4. The main task of the Messiah, over and over again, is the liberation of Israel.
  5. It is clear that whenever the Messiah appears, and whoever he turns out to be, he will be the agent of Israel's god.

The Renewal of the World, of Israel, and of Humans 320

Jews of the period were hoping for the 'real' return from exile. They were also hoping for a full 'forgiveness of sins'. Those are not two separate things, but two ways of looking at the same thing.

It is clear that some first-century Jews at least had already adopted what may be seen as a Hellenized future expectation, that is a hope for a non-physical world to which the righteous and blesses would be summoned after death.

The language can be read as metaphorical in either direction. It can refer to resurrection while using language of immortality.

According to the Essenes, he says, righteous souls go to a place of blessedness beyond the ocean, corresponding to the Greek 'isles of the blessed'.

Immortality here is a gift to the virtuous, not an innate property of the soul.

Josephus is trying to tell his Roman audience that the teachers were urging their followers to die in a noble cause, much as a Roman might have done. What they were actually saying was this: Die for the law, and you will receive resurrection when our god vindicates his people. (p 327) This is referring to the quote on the pace, from 2nd Maccabees.

Resurrection was one of the principal marks of the Pharisees.

Acts depicts the early Christians as being opposed by the Sadducees precisely because they were 'announcing the resurrection of the dead by means of Jesus.' The great majority of Jews of the period believed in some sense or other in the resurrection.

There is a well-shaped belief: The righteous will rise to life in the age to come, so that they can receive their proper reward.

Excerpts from the book of Wisdom leave no doubt that the 'immortality' spoked of in the first passage is the same as the temporary rest in 'heaven' which Josephus spoke as preceding the resurrection itself.

Why did the belief in resurrection arise, and how did it fit in with the broader Jewish worldview and belief-system which we have sketched in the preceding chapters? Again and again e have seen that this belief is bound up with the struggle to maintain obedience to Israel's ancestry laws in the face of persecution. Resurrection is the divine reward for martyrs. It is what will happen after the great tribulation (p 331).

Resurrection would be, in one and the same moment, the reaffirmation of the covenant the the real confirmation of creation.

There is abundant information they the Jews at the time knew a good metaphor when they saw one, and used cosmic imagery to bring out the full theological significance of cataclysmic socio political events.

Salvation and Justification 334

The word 'salvation' would denote, to a first-century jew, the hope which we have studied in this chapter, seen in terms of Israel's rescue, by her god, from pagan oppression.

There were debates as to who would be vindicated when the covenant god finally acted to liberate Israel.

In all cases of disagreements, we are witnessing different interpretations of the fundamental Jewish soteriology.

  1. The creator god calls Israel to be his people.
  2. Israel, currently in exile, is to be redeemed precisely because she is the covenant people of this god.
  3. Present loyalty to the covenant is the sign of future redemption.
  4. Loyalty to this covenant is being tested at this moment of crises.
  5. At this moment, what counts as loyalty and hence what marks out those who will be saved, is (at this point, the different groups fill in the blank with their own interpretation).

If one dies before the great day dawns, one needs to be assured that one will not be left out when salvation arrives, complete with restored Temple, cleansed Land, and Israel at last exalted over her enemies.

Conclusion: First Century Judaism 338

This was stated so well, I have decided to include the entire section here:

I have argued in this chapter for a particular way of understanding the hope which, in its varied forms, was embraced by Jews in the two centuries on either side of the turn of the eras. This completes our survey, in this Part of the book, of the second-temple Jewish history, worldview and belief-system. For the most part this has not been intentionally controversial, though no doubt some will want to challenge this or that aspect of my case. Any resulting controversy, actually, is quite likely to arise not in relation to Judaism in itself but from the effect of this reconstruction upon readings of early Christianity. I have tried to show above all that, despite the wide variety of emphasis, praxis and literature for which we have ample evidence, which indeed justify us in speaking of 'Judaisms' in relation to this period, we can trace the outlines of a worldview, and a belief-system, which can properly be thought of as mainline', and which were shared by a large number of Jews at the time. Having begun with the history, we moved on to the stories which were told by the Jews who lived out that history, the symbols which were common to those who told those stories, and the praxis that went with those symbols. From this, and from the literature we possess, we have now examined the basic belief-system of first-century Jews, and have looked in particular at the hope which they cherished, a hope which drew together symbol, story and belief and turned it into worship, prayer and action. The explanatory circle is complete. It was within this history that we discovered this hope; it was because of this hope that this history turned out as it did. It was to a people cherishing this hope, and living in this (often muddled) state of tension and aspiration, that there came a prophet in the Jordan wilder-ness, calling the people to repent and to undergo a baptism for the forgiveness of sins', and warning them that Israel was about to pass through a fiery judgment out of which a new people of Abraham would be forged. It was to this same people that another prophet came, announcing in the villages of Galilee that now at last Israel's god was becoming king. We should not be surprised at what happened next.