Archive for June 2015

The Nonviolent Messiah: Part 2   3 comments


Back cover, click to enlarge

Earlier, we surveyed Simon J Joseph’s first part of his The Nonviolent Messiah. As we saw, the first part was Joseph’s view of the main problems in the historical Jesus scholarship and the models that depict him in a violent way (mainly the apocalyptic prophet of the impending judgment). In the following parts of the book, Joseph suggests a solution to the problem of the tension surrounding Jesus traditions. Joseph argues that the Essenic-Enochic literature provides us with the necessary views that explain  the theme of Christology  as found in Q which could be the key to understand Jesus’ historical message.

His strategy is to prove the similarity between Eschatology in Q and 1Enoch (mainly the Book of Parables) and the role of the Messiah in both (mainly the Son of Man and the Animal Aposcalypse) then we can claim the similarity of Messianship (Christology).


First, he surveyed the different definitions of Jesus’ Messianship which showed that scholarship is quite divergent on the matter. Joseph stated that the problem is that there is no such thing called “the Messiah” in Second Temple Judaism which produced “a plurality of Messianic ideas, expectations, typologies, titles, attributes, motifs, traditions and prospective candidates, and any attempt to pronounce a definitive, exclusive identification of Jesus as the Messiah is more at home in religious and theologically apologetic debates than in historical Jesus studies.”[1] However, Joseph later shows that there is some sort of a common denominator between these traditions which could be attributed to the Messiah in Judaism: he is of a Davidic royal ancestry and he has a decisive role in the war that will bring the eschaton.  But the case of Jesus in Q is not. Joseph uses Q 7:22 (Jesus’ response to John’s disciples) as a key statement of Messianship, but what sort of Messianship is it? Joseph finds in Qumran’s 4Q521 as the best parallel to Jesus’ answer.[2]

4Q521 2 ii Q 7:22
Blind see Blind see
Lame walk Lame walk
Lepers cleansed
Deaf hear Deaf hear
Dead raised Dead raised
Poor/Good News Poor/Good News

His analysis agrees with John Kloppenborg’s observation on this point.[3] Now we can see Joseph’s programme: how the definition of the Messianiship of Jesus is embedded in an eschatology that finds its prallel in 4Q521 more than the classic violent (war) Messianship feature.

He then moves to the next and most challenging topic in Christology: the meaning of the Son of Man title. Undoubtedly, the SoM is one of the distinctive features in Q as it appears 9 times. The SoM is certainly associated with judgment in other texts (Daniel 7, 4Ezra and 1 Enoch) and it has to be found in Q engaging with the theme of judgment, but in what way? here, Joseph seems to accept the stratification or shifting in Q  toward the judgment of this generation using the SoM.[4] However, again, I must say that I wish Joseph could have reflected more on the fact that the parallel sayings between GTh and Q show how this shift indeed took place when we see the same sayings in GTh without that title (and other Christological overtones). This could have certainly furthered his argument for the secondary nature of judgment sayings.  It is the Book of Parables, according to Joseph, that provides a similar conflation between two traditions of the Servant of Isaiah with the SoM.[5] The redactor of Q accessed this book to find a corresponding tradition that could explain Jesus’ eschatological proclamation (especially after his resurrection). Yet, this part is not strong enough to make his case. As we said the backbone of Joseph’s strategy is comparing eschatology, in which the Messiah operates, between the Animal Apocalypse (1 Enoch 83-90) and Q.

Joseph shows that the eschatology of both Q and 1Enoch are similar in their reversal of some concrete ideas in early Judaism: the Messianic Age is a return to the prelapsarian state: “The An. Apoc. envisions a return to the beginning, a universal transformation … there is no need to  war.”[6] What is the tool of bringing this peaceful universal transformation?  It is the role of the White Bull who actualised this transformation. The white Bull:

  • leads the cows
  • No mention of a Davidic royalty.
  • He/it is the archetype of the prelapsarian state and its restorer. Through him/it, the cow begets white bulls.

The third point is the pivotal one: Against Olsen’s thesis which aimed to show that the White Bull is a reference to Jacob,[7] Joseph convincingly finds sort of a divine Messiah who restores God’s likeness of the human state (before the fall), something resembles Adamic Christology in Paul.[8] But what about Q? Joseph shows that the Kingdom of God as the eschatological proclamation of Jesus shows the same features.  His argument appears in his treatment of 4 key verses in Q that should be understood within “radical wisdom of eschatology.”[9]

1- “Seek His Kingdom” (12:31): The Kingdom is proclaimed to be present in Jesus’ ministry.[10] This verse particularly prioritises seeking God’s Kingdom over the necessary needs which come through work; it reverses the normal day-to-day wisdom that praises work over everything else and resonates with the year of God, the jubilee, which is highlighted by Luke. Through showing several structural similarities with the fall in Gen 2-3, it also reverses the post-lapsarian logic of survival.

2- “Why Do You Call me Master” (6:46): this verse aims to go with the followers beyond acceptance or approval of an aphoristic saying to actualising eschatology i.e. a call for transformation.

3- “love your enremies” (6:27):  “the historical Jesus directly challenges the Jewish biblical tradition of war and violence.”[11] This is something understood in realising eschatology and transformation (1 and 2). This is understood in comparison with God’s behaviour toward the good and the wicked granting both the light of the sun and rain.

4-“Sons of the Father” (6:35c-d): on the path of eschatological transformation, becoming like  God is certainly the climax of the journey.

Now comes the result of Joseph’s study clear: both eschatologies have the same features, and the Messiah operating through them is acting as the peaceful restorer of prelapsarian state which is the divine likeness of the archetype of humanity.

It remains for Joseph to say that the Christology of Q here is distinctive in a major feature: Q has inclusive and exclusive Christologies, something we do not find in the SoM of the Parables. This is precisely the conflation of both the Son of God and Son of Man traditions in Q.

“Q’s concurrent identification of Jesus as the Enochic Son of Man and the Enochic/Adam Son of God conflates two distinct roles: the end-time judge and the tranforming Adamic Messiah. Both roles reflect strong first-century Jewish Apocalyptic traditions with strong wisdom components, but they are in certain respects thematically and theologically incompatible. There is a gospel of Jesus and a gospel about Jesus

Personal Comments

I would like to make brief comments. Let me start with the challenging point in Joseph’s method. In some cases the comparison is broad enough to enquire about the parameters of this comparison. For instance, in his key argument about the role of the Messiah as a transformer of the creation to its prelapsarian divine likeness, the comparison between Q and the Animal Apocalypse seems to me a bit ambiguous. The transformation (or as he uses the word metamorphosis) in the animal apocalypse is apparently ontological, not simply moral. It does resonate with the idea of new creation in Paul, but does Q understand Jesus’ call for discipleship and new eschatological moral conduct necessary imply an ontological transformation? this is something I cannot see in Q, or at least it is not present within this document (perhaps in the overall theology of the community behind it but this remains hypothetical).

A second point comes to my mind, Joseph went through a large number of materials around both Q and 1Enoch (NT and Qumran) to show the similarities. We have to be careful on this point because the relationship between these materials could change our view of the matters. In a point related to the first comment (the nature of transformation), we note that Joseph goes with the “Temple as community” theme beyond 1Enoch to the wider milieu of Qumran. He finds this idea mainly in the Rule of the Community (1QS) and connects it with Paul’s image in 1Cor. 3:16-7. Two problems arise: first, the yahad  יחד  as a Temple is indeed in 1QS but does it mean the whole community of Qumran as a Temple? scholars are divided on that but the direct and clear definition of the document itself, and thus I stick to John Collins here, is that the elite “Council of the Community עצת היחד ” formed of 15 persons (twelve scholars and three priests) are the temple… and even if we think that the Council of the Community and the whole community are identical, the message is that that community becomes a Temple for Israel when they preach the rest of the people, so it does not signify an ontological transformation/sanctification, while it could be so in Paul.

Adding to these points the fact, which Joseph asserts, that “there is no evidence on a direct literary dependence from the Parables to Q”[12] I find Joseph’s statement that “Q used the book of Parables”[13] perilous.

The book is of great significance to scholarship. While Q is not necessarily a product of an Enochic-Essenic group nor that Q accessed directly the Enochic literature known to us, the careful thematic similarities and theological connections between Q and the book of parables and the fascinating Animal Apocalypse make a very convincing case for putting Q in a milieu that breathed the same air of ideas found in 1 Enoch. Each point was carefully investigated, put against the gaps in our knowledge, and the cumulative argument is probably the most convincing amongst other portrayals of the intellectual profile of Q community.


One of the most challenging points was understanding the circumstances that led Q to jump in its traditions, through redaction, toward the apocalyptic interpolation and I think this book contributed significantly to this issue. The sociological speculation of so many scholars fails, in my opinion, to interpret the theological development of Q from the first to the following layers. This book proposes a theological standing for those who felt the need to develop the manual of Jesus’ sayings to serve their needs, not only “as a reaction to some social circumstances.” It is imprudent from then on to ignore Joseph’s theory on the matter and a critical examination in the direction of Enochic literature has become a necessity in Q scholarship after this book.

Mina Monier

Cambridgeshire, June 20th 2015

[1] p.97

[2] 118f.-123

[3] Excavating Q, 123 n.17

[4] A huge number of prominent scholars could be cited here.

[5] 160f.

[6] p.174-5

[7] A New Reading of the Animal Apocalypse of 1 Enoch

[8] Cf. Rom 5:12-21; Phil. 2:5-11 on Adamic Christology in particular see James Dunn’s Christology in the Making vol1.

[9] or Sapiential eschatology as both Koester and Kloppenborg call it.

[10] p.199 for the treatment of the arrival of the Kingdom and other verses see 200f.

[11] p.216

[12] p.151

[13] p.159


Posted June 20, 2015 by Mina Monier in Reviews

James Dunn’s Christianity in the Making Vol3 in Stock   1 comment

dunn_Chris Making vol 3_jkt_front_des 5.indd

In an earlier post, I talked about Professor James D. G. Dunn’s project which is the third volume of Christianity in the Making. The book has been announced available for pre-order now and it will be in stock from December 2015.

As I said before, I had the honour to be in the seminar he convened at King’s College London which read the chapters of the book and discussed them in a jolly atmosphere. This book concludes his trilogy Christianity in the Making series which in fifteen years investigated the origins and development of Christianity in a century from the life of Jesus himself to what we find in the third volume: the formation of the different churches, partings of the ways  and the emergence of Christian catholicity in the second century.

 I cannot spoil the content but I could say that the book does not only complete what is left from the earlier volumens but also recapitulates more than 4 decades of discussions about the partingS of the wayS (as he emphasises the plural form of the words). Thus comes the title Neither Jew nor Greek: a Contested Identity. So, the discussion will go through challenging historical issues about the phenomenon of Christianity and its own diversity which included Jewish Christianity, that sect which was crushed between two orthodoxies : Christian and Jewish ones.

Before I leave you with the description of the book as found on its cover, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Prof. Dunn for his humble and welcoming spirit, genuine English sense of humour (he really cracked me up sometimes) and respectful approach to our enquiries. I remember that he was lost before the first session and I picked him up from the wrong building and we discussed politics until we arrived in the right building.

I would also like to thank the department at King’s for offering this opportunity to engage with one of the most prominent voices in the field, not only in the UK but the whole world.


The culmination of Dunn’s three-volume magnum opus, fifteen years in the making

This book brings James Dunn’s magisterial Christianity in the Making trilogy to a close. Neither Jew nor Greek covers the period following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 c.e. and running through the second century, when the still-new Jesus movement firmed up its distinctive identity markers and the structures on which it would establish its growing appeal in the following decades and centuries.

Dunn examines in depth the major factors that shaped first-generation Christianity and beyond, exploring the parting of the ways between Christianity and Judaism, the Hellenization of Christianity, and responses to Gnosticism. He mines all the first- and second-century sources, including the New Testament Gospels and such apostolic fathers as Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus. Comprehensively covering an important, complex era in early Christianity that is often overlooked,Neither Jew nor Greek is a landmark contribution to the field.



Posted June 16, 2015 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

The Gospel of Thomas: Introduction and Commentary By Simon Gathercole   Leave a comment

When I read on Larry Hurtado’s blog that Simon Gathercole has published his commentary on the Gospel of Thomas, I was interested to see it. I was more suprised when I learned that such a huge work was published a year ago since I almost saw no reviews or discussions about it despite its size and expected contribution. So, I went to the UL yesterday and went through it and would like to make a quick note for my friends and visitors.

So, The Gospel of Thomas: Introduction and Commentary is the second book of Simon Gathercole on this interesting ancient document. It is a huge volume (724 pages) with a book size introduction going through the different issues related to the GTh and a commentary on each logion of the 114 sayings. The commentary includes a note on the text and interpretation. It is a large piece surveying and commenting on a spectrum of views from earlier commentaries (Ménard, Pilsch, Nordsieck al.).

Gathercole sets out the contours of his work in the lengthy introduction. The conclusion of his earlier work has not changed: GTh is dependent on the Synoptic Gospels. His argument, unfortunately, has not developed either: If we can prove that GTh has common sayings with the Synoptic Gospels and shows redactional traces (Matthean and Lukan redaction of Mk) then GTh is dependent on them.[1]   This is of course something we should expect, although I wished he could have had deepened insights in such a large book after the dialogue he had with Kloppenborg and other scholars in an entire issue of JSNT.[2] Sadly, he systematically ignored more than 45 parallels between GTh and Q (I am not sure if he accepts Q) which show how GTh preserves sapiential or eschatological yet non-apocalyptic sayings, more coherent or plausible forms in several cases and free from Christological overtones. (on this matter see my comment on Goodacre’s book here).[3] However, in the commentary itself he admits the existence of these unavoidable observations without making any conclusion on why this is so[4] (!).

He makes his attitude towards the research of tradition-history clear: it is a “fallacious form-criticism method,” … “circular process” and therefore “the present commentary will therefore proceed without reliance on any such speculative archaeology, and will instead examine the form(s) of the text which we have in the extant manuscripts.”[5]

His conclusion of the 200 page introduction is that since GTh is a later secondary work with no new sayings, it “can hardly be regarded as useful in the reconstruction of a historical picture of Jesus.”[6]

The commentary is informative, large and detailed, rich in sources and helpful with its bibliography. Thus, both his introduction and interpretation are cautiously useful. It is certainly a good source of information for English speaking students.

[1] p.178f.

[2] March 2014 vol. 36 no. 3

[3] One of the interesting sentences he made on this point is that it is Goodacre who observed the peculiarity of the Matthean term “Kingdom of heaven.” ! [p.178]

[4] See for example his commentary on Logia 8, 65 etc. interestingly in Logion61 he says that “if this saying is dependent upon the Lukan version, it has in the process of transmission at some point lost its apocalyptic tone” (p.444). Of course the statement shows a great degree of speculation and a refuse to assess the phenomenon as a whole in the different sayings.

[5] p.34

[6] p.184

Posted June 13, 2015 by Mina Monier in Reviews

Review – The Nonviolent Messiah: Jesus, Q, and the Enochic Tradition   Leave a comment

I bought this book once it was published almost a year ago. I read some of its second part but then the merciless machine of my PhD research didn’t give me the chance to read the whole book carefully. The few bits I read gave me the impression that this is not “another book” in the long queue of books that hardly say anything new in the field of Q and Jesus scholarship. Since I am currently having a short break I went through the book carefully and I think it is worth talking to the readers and visitors of my blog about it.

So, The Nonviolent Messiah: Jesus, Q, and the Enochic Tradition is Simon J Joseph‘s second book in a series started earlier with Jesus, Q, and the Dead Sea Scrolls and continues with his upcoming publication Jesus and the Temple
The Crucifixion in its Jewish Context
 which is expected to be available in the next SBL meeting. The first book was his dissertation which sets out his method: arguing for a stronger connection between Q and Enochic tradition. Applying that, The Nonviolent Messiah aimed to deal with the Christology of Q in light of eschatological figures of Qumran and particularly the Animal Apocalypse (of Adam).

Part 1

The book comes in three parts: the first part is a survey of the different problems (methodological and exegetical) that build up towards the construction of the seemingly violent image of Jesus. He starts with the question of the sources and goes the scholarship on Q. Joseph makes himself clear in his adherence to the Two-Source hypothesis and the existence of Q against the different alternative theories. He also asks the important question: how helpful would Q be for our understanding of the Historical Jesus? this takes us to the discussion between Kloppenborg, Ron Cameron and Koester at HTR on the matter. [all papers are in the same issue: HTR / Volume 89 / Issue 04 / October 1996,]. He then moves to the famous thesis of Brandon’s 1967 Jesus and the Zealots. Simon refutes the elements which Brandon’s image of Jesus relied on. However,  because the violent Jesus is not necessarily confined in labelling him as a Zealot, he refers to two major elements that build up towards a kind of a violent Jewish prophet:

1- The violent behaviour of Jesus’ Father, the God of the Hebrew Bible.[1]

He comments on the opinions about how problematic the image of God who indiscriminately orders the slaughter of the Canaanites[2] is for the image of the loving Father in Jesus. This section surveys different theological approaches to the matter. He mainly takes an issue with the conservative “Herculean task of reconciling the God who commands the “indiscriminate slaughter” of an entire people with Jesus’ commandment to love enemies while still affirming the authority and inspiration of the bible.”[3] He responds to Daniel Gard’s thesis which considers this sort of divine violence “exceptional” and therefore cannot justify current scripture-based violence.[4] “Was the Jesus who taught ‘love your enemies’ simply mistaken, hypocritical, or deceptive when he grounded this ethic in the unconditionally loving and forgiving character of God?” asks Joseph.[5] “The Old Testament portrayal of God is ethically problematic”[6] he states, quite Justifiably, I must say. The matter, as I said, is theological in the first place: it relies on the religious persuasion of the reader regarding “the scripture.” However, jointly with Joseph, I would like to emphasise that the Old Testament does not have a specific and a consistent portrayal of God , and the New Testament has enough violence in some of its parts to qualify it to become equally problematic for conservative Christians who still stick to canon and revelation à la “people of the book” system.

2- The Apocalyptic Jesus and his proclamation of the divine judgment.

Was Jesus an apocalyptic prophet? did he throw the flames of apocalyptic threats  as it appears in the multiply attested sayings of the judgment?[7] Joseph deals with one of the most controversial topics in Jesus scholarship: his eschatological message that defines his identity. He surveys the different opinions with a special focus on Dale Alison’s  arguments.[8] Joseph justifiably refers to the tricky problem of defining “apocalyptic” which makes categorising scholars difficult. Indeed, the  simplistic view of the two camps (apocalyptic vs non-apocalyptic) is rather misleading. The fact that apocalyptic language is prevalent in first century Christian literature does not automatically suggest that it bore the same content. We have inconsistent and irreconcilable traditions using the same language of apocalyptic expectation and therefore the matter should not be taken at face value. Joseph shares these concerns in this chapter. However, I wish he could have also referred to the fact that the development of the synoptic sayings and their redaction should be taken into consideration. This brings us to another point: while Joseph referred to the different traditions about God in Q (between unconditional forgiveness and the judgment brought against “this generation”) , I was intrigued to search for his opinion regarding the parallels between Thomas and Q which show how the sayings in Q experienced apocalypticising redaction, does Joseph consider the Gospel of Thomas developed independently from the Synoptic Gospels? [On Q and apocalyptic see an earlier post, on Q and Thomas see this post]

Again, Joseph asserts, the existence of apocalyptic judgment traditions does not deny the existence of the opposite traditions, what should we make of it? After surveying some opinions (with special interest in E.P. Sanders’ Jesus and Judaism) Joseph prepares the reader for his own take on the matter in the next part.

The first part is pretty much what you need to know about the eschatological Jesus debate in a comprehensive and well informed introduction. Simon Joseph is not re-inventing the wheel on this well ploughed topic and he understands how challenging it is to say something new[9] but actually he will add something new on the matter when it comes to part 2.

Because parts 2 and 3 are the analysis of his argument, I would like to leave it here for the next blog.

London,  10th of June 2015

[1] p.51f.

[2] Josh. 6-11

[3] p.62-3

[4] Gard ‘The Case for Eschatological Continuity’ in Show them No Mercy p.111-44

[5] p.65

[6] ibid.

[7] Q10:12-15; 11:29,32; 13:28,34-5 et al.

[8] the apocalyptic message exists pretty much in all NT writings and it is natural to draw a trajectory from John the Baptist to the Jesus movement through Jesus himself.

[9] He mentions that clearly in the introduction

Posted June 10, 2015 by Mina Monier in Reviews