The Metaphysics of Truth: The Divine Abstract in Enoch and Philo

Author: Michael Miller, ,
Author Full name: Miller Michael

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  1. Gabriele Boccaccini

    Some comments on Benjamin E. Reynolds’ paper — The paper does a very good job in explaining why both Johannine scholars and Second Temple specialists have seldom connected John’s Christology with Second Temple Judaism. The lack of historicity of the Gospel of John, its close relationship with the Johannine community, and its distance from the earliest forms of Christology should not be viewed as obstacles to a rediscovery of the Jewishness of John. Jewish messianism does not simply predate Jesus but accompanies and follows the composition of the Gospels. For us it would be sufficient to demonstrate that the Gospel of John developed its Christology in the context of, and in conversation with, (other) first-century Jewish messianic expectations. The Gospel of John is both a witness of the existence of other forms of Jewish messianism, and a component and protagonist in the Jewish messianic debate of its own time … Boyarin says: “Jews came to belief Jesus was God, because they already believed that the Messiah would be a divine redeemer…” I agree, but I would say: “Some Jews came to believe Jesus was God, because some of them already believed that the Messiah would be a divine redeemer…”. We cannot talk of a single form of Jewish messianism and we should see John’s Christology as one of the many possible forms of Jewish messianism. John’s Christology is “Jewish” not only if we could show that it “copied” (or reflected) something that already existed in early Judaism; it remains “Jewish” even without strict parallels, as it was an original variant of other existing models. As the paper says in conclusion: “Some Jewish texts present a high messianism that is remarkable similar to the Christology of John” (I would emphasize: similar not identical). The Son-of-Man theology (in Enoch and in the Synoptics) was already a form of Jewish “high messianism”, of which John’s Christology was an ingenious variant, based on categories present in the first-century debate within Judaism.

  2. Gabriele Boccaccini

    Some comments on James F. McGrath’s paper — The assumption of NT scholars was that John’s Jesus was not merely the Jewish Messiah and that John’s Christology signaled a radical departure of Christianity away from Judaism under the influence of Hellenistic thought. McGrath correctly points out that “at the foundation of this viewpoint is a lack of appreciation of the extent of Jewish diversity, and thus the extent to which the Synoptics and John can be genuinely different and yet none be ‘less Jewish’ than the other”. Once again, in order to reclaim the Jewishness of John we do not need to downplay the originality and radicality of John. As McGrath says, the rejection of Christian supersessionism does not automatically mean that “the view that John’s depiction represents… a radical new innovation ”within” Judaism… (is) incorrect” Some scholars however still argue that John’s depiction of the Messiah was “a step too far”. In reality, as McGrath says, the distance that separated John from Enoch and the Synoptic does not look so great .. I particularly agree on McGrath’s suggestion that in John we should see “the convergence of two important sets of Jewish ideas–the Philonic-tyoe Logos concept with an Enochic-type son of man”, as well as on his conclusion that Christology is a possible answer to ‘questions that are part of a broader shared heritage of Jewish messianism, of which the Gosepl of John is but one example”. In order to prove the Jewishness of John (or Jesus or Paul) we don’t have to prove that they repeated ideas already said in Judaism by somebody else, but they answered common questions and took part in the same debate. Otherwise, by applying the same double standard, we should reach the paradoxical conclusion that ALL Jewish thinkers ceased to be Jewish as soon as they expressed a new idea and gave an original answer to the common questions of their own time.

  3. 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”.

  4. Gabriele Boccaccini

    Some comments on Adele Reinhartz’s paper — I think that this paper has important implications for our search of the Jewishness of John and for our attempt to see John’s Christology as a form of Jewish messianism. Reinhartz draws our attention on the fact that the “Jewish matrix [of the Gospel of John] is not primarily the expectation of a personal messiah as developed in the second temple period but rather the biblical and postbiblical understanding of God the redeemer of Israel”. In other words, John tells us that, yes, Jesus fulfilled all Jewish expectations about the Messiah, but he was primarily a manifestation of God’s redemptive activity. That Jesus is the Word of God (who became flesh) is not a concept limited to the Prologue but the overall message of the entire Gospel. John did not simply create a new form of Jewish messianism, but combined Jewish speculations about the Messiah with Jewish speculations about God’s redemptive activity through God’s manifestations (God’ Word-Wisdom).

    In my view, in Second Temple Judaism, we see two contemporary trends–the trend to exalt some of God’s creatures to a “divine” status and the trend to have God “embodied” in God’s creation through some of God’s divine manifestations. The genius of John the Jew is in having merged these two trends. In the previous Christian traditions, Jesus was the exalted Messiah Son-of-Man (and John recognizes it, as the Son of Man remains the only self-identification of Jesus in the Gospel of John too). But the exalted Jesus the Messiah is now identified with the Word of God who became flesh. In overcoming the Jewish High Christology of the Son-of Man, John did not make something that was less Jewish but placed it in the context of other Second Temple Jewish traditions. The result was not a process “from a Jewish prophet to a pagan God” as Maurice Casey argued, but “from a Jewish prophet to a Jewish God”.

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