Antichrist, Authoritarianism, Lilith

It’s almost the Sabbath, so I don’t have time to write long posts about my readings. Plus, I’m tired. So I’m going to do three posts in one:

1. Source: Devorah Dimant, “Qumran Sectarian Literature,” Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period, ed. Michael E. Stone (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984) 518.

Dimant refers to 4QTestimonia at Qumran, which discusses a “son of Belial” who may represent “an early Jewish version of the idea of the Antichrist, i.e. the wicked opponent of the Messiah at the threshold of the end of days.”

That would make a good paper topic: the Antichrist in Judaism. And Judaism does have such a concept. In the Jewish Encyclopedia article on “Antichrist,” we read: “Thus Eliezer b. Hyrcanus—an eye-witness of the national catastrophe in the year 70—speaks only of a ruler after the style of Haman, who will usher in the pangs of the Messianic period (; Sanh. 98b)” (see here). The Jewish Encyclopedia also labels the tribe of Dan a Type of Antichrist. Maybe that’s why Dan got omitted in Revelation’s list of the 144,000 (Revelation 7:4-8): there were Jewish traditions that bad-mouthed the tribe!

2. Source: Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1910) 160-161.

“The celebrated Hippolytus, in the beginning of the third century, was a decided antagonist of the Roman [bishop] Callistus…Nevertheless we learn from his work called Philosophumena, that at that time the Roman bishop already claimed an absolute power within his own jurisdiction; and that Callistus, to the great grief of part of the presbytery, laid down the principle that a bishop can never be deposed or compelled to resign by the presbytery, even though he have committed a mortal sin.”

Schaff is discussing the rise of the papacy, so this quote is a small part of a much larger discussion. I don’t know if he thinks the church recognized Callistus’ right to insulate bad bishops from removal, or if the Catholic church follows such a policy today. That’s my problem with placing too much authority in a human institution: human institutions can be corrupt. But they also have a sense of right and wrong, so perhaps the church today does have a system to discipline its leaders.

What’s the Bible stance on this? In the New Testament, particularly the pastoral epistles (I-II Timothy and Titus), there are high moral and spiritual standards for leaders of the church. Matthew 18 outlines a system of accountability, by which unrepentant sinners are disfellowshipped. Paul discusses this in I Corinthians, where he talks about the man who lived with his father’s wife (see I Corinthians 5).

As far as the Old Testament goes, I don’t know. We know that God disapproved of the immorality of Israel’s priesthood. But God was the one who removed Eli, not the Israelite people. One might conclude that the Armstrongite “let God work the leadership abuses out, laypeople–you just pray and pay your tithes” was the Old Testament attitude.

At the same time, when the issue is monarchy, the Old Testament is mixed. When Gideon’s son, Abimelech, tried to establish his own personal tyranny over Israel, his brother boldly opposed him. Jeroboam led a tax revolt against King Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. These are examples of resistance to authority. On the other hand, David always had respect for Saul. Even when Saul was trying to kill him, David honored the Lord’s anointed.

3. Jacob Neusner, Judaism’s Story of Creation: Scripture, Halakhah, Aggadah (Boston: Brill, 2000) 8.

That’s right–I finished volume II of Graetz. It was fun! Now, for my rabbinics reading, I’ll be turning to Neusner’s book on creation.

Here’s something from one of his footnotes:

“We need not enter the matter of the documentary hypothesis to recognize that different modes of expression characterize different sections of the Pentateuch; of these differences the sages themselves are entirely cognizant.”

The issue is this: in the Pentateuch, there are apparent contradictions. In Genesis 1, God makes animals before humans. In Genesis 2, he makes humans before animals. Scholars today account for these differences by dividing the Pentateuch into different sources. For a while, the dominant division was J, E, P, and D. Under this model, J was the Yahwist, a writer from Judah, probably in David’s time. E was the Elohist, who lived in Northern Israel. P was the priest, who wrote during the exile. And D was the Deuteronomist, who lived in the time of Josiah and in the time of exile (meaning there were two Deuteronomists).

Today, things aren’t so clear-cut. For one, scholars disagree on the dates of these authors. John van Seters places J in the time of the exile. Yehezkel Kaufmann dated P to the pre-exilic period. And David Carr doesn’t even think there was an E.

Second, there are scholars who maintain that you can divide these sources into even more sources. That’s how we can have a P20 (or something like that). Third, some scholars have other ideas as to how the Pentateuch came to be in its present form. There’s the supplementary hypothesis, which says there was an overarching narrative that other authors added their two-cents to. And, fourth, there are scholars who think you can’t really tell who wrote what.

What always gets on my nerves is how some people talk about the documentary hypothesis, and act like they’re so smart because they know about it. Their tone is, “Let me enlighten you–the Pentateuch is composed of four sources…” Underneath that smugness is a contempt for those who believe in more traditional ideas about the Pentateuch–like the one that says God revealed it to Moses.

But Neusner does well to point out that the ancients were not stupid. Before the Enlightenment, readers were able to see that the Bible had contradictions. They just handled them differently than moderns do. They tried to reconcile them. And maybe they had other ways of dealing with them. I don’t know. The ancients never cease to surprise me!

For example, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 have different stories about God’s creation of man and woman. Many scholars assert that P wrote Genesis 1, whereas J wrote Genesis 2. But a rabbi in the rabbinic period had a different explanation: Genesis 1 describes the creation of Adam’s first wife, Lilith, who refused to obey her husband. As a result, God took Lilith away from Adam and gave him the more docile Eve, who appears in Genesis 2.

That’s one way they explained tension in the text. I wonder what other ways there are.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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