Today was my first day of school, for the 2007-2008 school year, that is. I am only taking two classes, since I will be spending a lot of time preparing for my comprehensive exams. My classes look excellent. One is on intertextuality, and we will be reading Michael Fishbane’s Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel. The topic concerns how biblical authors interpreted and used earlier writings that made their way into the Hebrew Bible.
I am also taking a class on 4 Maccabees. That class was interesting because of two issues that were discussed today: hell and the different biblical canons. I have been thinking about hell for a while because I have interacted with a Christian universalist, who asserts that hell in the Bible is not eternal. She argues that the Greek word “aionios” does not mean forever, but my finding is that the words olam (in Hebrew), aion, and aionios can mean forever, but not in every case. Anyway, my class was discussing the immortality of the soul and the resurrection in Hellenistic Judaism. Hellenistic Judaism sometimes has the concept of eternal torment in hell, but there is also the idea that an unvirtuous soul will suffer for a while and then be extinguished. The implication of the latter view is that only the virtuous soul lives forever.
Regarding the different Christian canons, this issue interests me because of my discussions with Roman Catholics. When I listen to Catholics, I get the impression that they see the deuterocanonical books as equal in inspiration to the books that Jews and Protestants accept. The impression I got from class today, however (and my impression may be wrong), was that the term deuterocanonical means that the books under this category were deemed second in importance by the Catholic church. This means that they could be read in church, but they are not authoritative for doctrine. This is an important issue, since Protestants accuse Catholics of basing the doctrine of purgatory on a text in Maccabees (one of them).
Any thoughts? Insights? Info?