Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Impossible Yoke: Part V

This post is a continuation of my series of posts about the anthropology of second-Temple Judaism. So far I am simply evaluating the way in which Timo Laato has used texts in Paul and Judaism: An Anthropological Approach. The next two passages that Laato quotes on page 68 are from 2 Baruch (i.e., the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch). He believes that both of these passages highlight a positive anthropology in the Judaism around the NT period.

The first is 2 Baruch 54:15,19 (from A.F.J. Klijn's translation in Charlesworth, OT Psuedepigrapha, [1:640]:

For, although Adam sinned first and has brought death upon all who were not in his own time, yet each of them who has been born from him has prepared for himself the coming torment. And further, each of them has chosen for himself the coming glory...Adam is, therefore, not the cause, except only for himself, but each of us has become our own Adam.

And the second is 2 Baruch 85:7 (1:651):

And these things which I have said earlier should be before your eyes always, since we are still in the spirit of the power of our liberty.

Klijn has dated 2 Baruch to around AD 100 (1:617) and has noted that, though most of the oldest manuscripts are in Syriac, it is likely that 2 Baruch also existed in Greek (we have a few pieces of manuscripts that exist in Greek) and probably Hebrew as well (1:616). One of the primary things highlighted by 2 Baruch is the way in which Judaism coped with the destruction brought on by the Romans in AD 70 (1:620). All of these things point to the fact that 2 Baruch is roughly contemporaneous with much of the NT writings, though Paul's letters are generally quite earlier. So, 2 Baruch may reveal first-century sentiment that can be helpful in understanding the NT.

Like we have already seen, simply admitting free will does not necessarily a positive anthropology make. The phrase "each of us has become our own Adam" reveals this. If someone has become his own Adam, then he can end up like Adam, being punished for his sin. This shows the negative side of freedom clearly.

Again, the picture is not as clear as Laato would like to tell us it is. At best, the literature we have surveyed thus far reveals that Judaism of the second-Temple period believes humans are able to choose to follow God or not, but that this freedom does not mean that they also have the wisdom to make the correct choice.

The Impossible Yoke: Part I
The Impossible Yoke: Part II
The Impossible Yoke: Part III
The Impossible Yoke: Part IV
The Impossible Yoke: Part VI
The Impossible Yoke: Part VII
The Impossible Yoke: Part VIII

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