“Sectarian” Traditions of the Second Temple Period

In a previous post, I commented on the importance of the Old Testament pseudepigrapha for 21st century Christians and Jews. Click here to read the original post.

As I was reading through The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible of Theology, Volume I (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015), S. Dean McBride Jr. notes, during his discussion of Exodus, an important shift necessary in biblical studies:

From this new perspective [of multiple redactions of the Hebrew Bible] it has become much more difficult to make a sharp distinction between early “biblical” texts of Exodus and derivative literature such as the pseudepigraphical book of Jubilees and the Qumran Temple Scroll. The latter works, which provide precedents for the interpretative paraphrases of scripture found only a little later in the writings of Philo of Alexandria and Josephus, among others, can no longer be marginalized as merely sectarian or of peripheral significance in the development of classical Jewish though.

In other words, the breadth of Jewish literature during the Second Temple Period should be taken into consideration to properly trace the developments of biblical theology and the redactions of Hebrew Bible texts, or edits that have formed the bible people generally read in the 21st century. And, more importantly, writings should not be dismissed as insignificant due to their “sectarian” nature. No longer should Pseudepigraphal traditions be considered “sectarian”. People who value the Hebrew Bible, whether Jew or Christian, must consider this shift because it adds a new layer of depth and insight to their respective holy books. The question, though, is how this may be accomplished.

To use the basic argument of Benjamin Sommer in Revelation and Authority (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015), these layers must also be considered part of Jewish interpretation and traditions, or Christian. So rather than their dismissal, they should be embraced in order to demonstrate how different people in different times adjusted theological thrusts and goals to fit their own socio-political context. After all, the same thing is done for Bible believers in the 21st century.

But this change must first fully shift within the academic world, a shift with which I struggle. Only when the academy shifts its thinking completely will lay persons begin to see that the shift is not the demise of their Truth in the Hebrew Bible but an addition to the depth of Truth within the Hebrew Bible.

Belief in God and His Servant

Too often I’ve heard it expressed to me that our faith is to be in God alone. And because the New Testament consistently references people faith in Jesus, Jesus must divine. While this post isn’t intended to act as a polemical argument against Jesus’ divinity, it may be perceived as so. Either way, my point in this post is to draw out a possibility of “faith” and its implications for interpreting New Testament literature in light of the Hebrew Bible.

In exploring the “believing” of Abraham in Genesis 15:6, I realized that the same Hebrew root and Greek root in the LXX are used in Exodus 14:31: “When Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses” (NASB Ex 14:31, italics added for emphasis). As far as I’m aware, no person would go as far to claim that Moses was a divine being. Moses was a human who humbly served God.

Yet because people are to have faith in Jesus, it is often argued that faith placed in Jesus to God designated him as divinity. By the same argument, faith in God and His servant Moses designates Moses divinity. Perhaps my thinking is off. After all, this is a brief post intended to provoke critical thought and encourage people to engage is dialogue regarding what, who, and why they believe. What are your thoughts?