I am preparing for a long trip to Europe for a variety of professional conferences. I will be gone seven weeks but plan to keep blogging (July 4-August 24). I will attend four conferences. The first is an international conference held every two years in Italy. It concentrates on one of the more fascinating of the books out of Judaism of the period of Jesus, 1 Enoch. This year's conference will discuss the relationship between 1 Enoch and another key Jewish work, Jubilees. Both of these works were written before the time of Jesus. They come from parts of Judaism that thought about the origins of evil and proper moral life. Jubilees is more focused on the Law, and was one of the most well circulated books at Qumran. 1 Enoch has the most developed presentation of a figure who judges alongside God at the end, the Son of Man, a term that is Jesus' favorite name for himself from Daniel 7. I am currently reading these works as slowly as I ever have, as well as some scholarly literature related to these books. This is what professors do in the summer when they are not teaching; they study. Both books have been associated with the Essenes in discussion because of their interest in the end of the world and judgment, as well as sharing the same concerns about Jews keeping a proper calendar. More careful study is beginning to ask if these works come from the same Jewish Essene background or are part of a more differentiated Judaism, so one work is seen as Essene (Jubilees), while the other reflects a sect Josephus did not mention,namely Enochian Judaism (1 Enoch). These are technical but interesting questions because it also raises questions about what Jewish expectations were about the End. What might some Jewish people who spent the most time thinking about God's promised return have been hoping for in the time of Jesus. So I will keep you posted on anything in these discussions in early July that reflects on the nature of Second Temple Judaism and its interaction with Jesus and the early Christians. It also helps us to see that Jewish views (note the plural) about the end, not simply one singular Jewish view. The same is true about messianic expectations and Jewish takes on the Law. This differentiated understanding of Judaism helps us to see the complexity of the situation when Jesus preached his message. Different Jewish groups had different issues they were sorting through as they heard him. But more on that to come.....
More on Jewish Backgrounds June 19