Donaldson: Righteous Gentiles, Eschatological Pilgrims

Yesterday, in my post on Terence Donaldson’s Paul and the Gentiles, I talked about three Second Temple (and, sometimes, rabbinic) views Donaldson discusses that pertain to the relationship of Gentiles to the Torah.  The first view essentially says that Gentiles need to become proselytes in order to become saved, but it is skeptical that Gentiles will convert to Judaism and thus anticipates God’s destruction of them.  The second view is open to Gentiles becoming proselytes.  And the third view praises Gentiles who obey natural law, in that they worship the God of Israel alone and practice virtue.

In my post today, I will refer to two other views that Donaldson discusses: the righteous Gentile view, and the Eschatological Pilgrims view.

First, the righteous Gentile view.  In my opinion, this category does not differ too much from Donaldson’s “Natural Law Proselytes” category, and Donaldson refers to some of the same data, such as Josephus’ story in Antiquities 20 about a Gentile who did not have to be circumcised to worship the God of Israel (yet Donaldson says that, for Eliezer in that story, this was a stage before becoming a proselyte).  But Donaldson brings up some interesting things.  There is the debate in Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:2 about whether Gentiles have a place in the World to Come, and the Babylonian Talmud states that the position that they do not became marginalized within rabbinic Judaism (B.T. Bava Metzia 59b).  The “Righteous Gentiles” view is that Gentiles can be saved if they obey the seven Noachide commandments, six of which were given to Adam, and the seventh of which was given to Noah and pertained to the proper eating of meat.  Donaldson refers to the idea that the seven Noachide commandments were developed in the Hasmonean Period to clarify the relationship of the Jews’ Gentile subjects to the Torah, and Donaldson also cites Jubilees 7:20 to defend the notion that the “Righteous Gentile” view existed then.  (Donaldson still characterizes Jubilees as anti-Gentile, but he says that Jubilees 7:20 is justifying God’s judgment of Gentiles by saying that they disobeyed the rules that were given to them.)  Donaldson also maintains that some pre-70 rabbis believed in “Righteous Gentiles”, an issue that is debated.  Donaldson’s support for this position is that Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:2 mentions earlier, anonymous opinions that were open to Gentiles.

Second, the Eschatological Pilgrims view.  Whereas some Jews believed that Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism or be righteous in this lifetime in order to be saved, another prominent view was that Gentiles would turn to God after God restores Israel and inaugurates the eschatological era.  The Gentile oppressors of Israel would be destroyed, but other Gentiles would worship God (and Donaldson opts for the position that the Gentiles, in this view, will become righteous Gentiles rather than full converts to Judaism).  Works that include this view include Tobit, parts of I Enoch, the Psalms of Solomon, and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.  Some works, however, are complex.  II Baruch, for instance, is usually anti-Gentile (but 82:3-9 says that all except proselytes will be eternally punished or destroyed), but chapters 53-74 are more pro-Gentile, and Donaldson says that these chapters are a pre-70 unit incorporated into II Baruch.  The idea here may be that the pre-70 unit was more positive about Gentiles because the catastrophes of 70 C.E. had not yet occurred, and 70 C.E. gave many Jews a desire for God’s punishment of Israel’s Gentile oppressors.

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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