Paul’s Scriptures

Author: Michael Satlow
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  1. Gabriele Boccaccini

    Some comments on William Loader’s paper — This is a very important paper for our discussion on the Jewishness of John. I completely agree with Loader’s overall argument that behind John there are Jewish speculations about the role of Wisdom/Word (En 42 and Sir 24, above all). I will focus here on 3 points that in my opinion needs to be emphasized.

    (1) I agree with John Collins that some terms traditionally used in scholarship to described the phenomenon of the relation between Wisdom and Torah in Second Temple Judaism (in particular, “identification”) may be misleading, There is a big difference between Sirach and Baruch, which see the Torah as a manifestation of Wisdom on earth (there is no preexistence of the Torah) and the later Rabbinic Tradition, which would claim that the Torah is Wisdom and Wisdom is the Torah. Likewise there is a big difference between the Synoptics and Paul and Hebrews (who apply the language of Wisdom to Jesus, but there is no incarnation) and the Gospel of John which argues that Jesus is the Wisdom/Word who became flesh, and that the Word is Jesus. With Collins I would prefer not to talk of “identification” of the Torah with Wisdom before Rabbinic Judaism (and of Jesus with Wisdom/Word before John). I think it would be better to use terms like “association”, “connection”. It is only in the Gospel of John that the uncreated Word became flesh in Jesus, and Jesus is the Word and the Word is Jesus. Before John, we have different models of association, which as Loader says, prepared the path to the position of John, but were not yet identical to what John would claim.

    (2) About John’s choice of the Word (instead of Wisdom), I also agree with Loader that “Logos better fits a depiction of the male Jesus.” I would add another fundamental reason. While there were discussions whether Wisdom was created or uncreated, everybody within Judaism agreed that the Word was uncreated, and this was crucial for John’s understanding of Jesus as an uncreated manifestation of God who became flesh.

    (3) I am not afraid of using the term “replacement” when it fits, but the relation between Wisdom and Torah and the relation between Word/Wisdom and Jesus are asymmetrical. In Christianity (with John and after John) Jesus was identified with the “uncreated” Logos/Wisdom, while in later Rabbinic Judaism the Torah was identified with the “created” Wisdom. The Gospel of John did not “replace” the Torah with Jesus, but changed the terms of the relationship; and chronologically speaking, we should rather say that it was the Rabbis who “replaced” Jesus with the Torah, not the other way around. Probably it would be better to describe it as a parallel process. While in some Jewish apocalyptic circles Wisdom speculations were applied to the Messiah (leading to the identification of the Messiah Jesus with the “uncreated” Wisdom/Word); in proto-rabbinic circles the same speculations were applied to the Torah (leading to the identification of the Torah with the created Wisdom). In this sense I think that John represents a possible “Jewish” trajectory through which Wisdom speculations could develop. The fact that the majority of Jews followed a different path does not make this trajectory less “Jewish”.

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