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Theological Notebook: The Jewish Roots Seminar with Young and Najman on 4 Ezra

Today featured – along with repenting my criminal behaviour – an unusually early meeting of our ongoing Seminar on the Jewish Roots of Eastern Christian Mysticism, one of the chief gems of my time here at Marquette. (Usually we meet in the late afternoon, which is much happier for my late-night schedule.) There are so many people here involved at some level with this "cutting edge" field of research today, by which I particularly mean this first century world and mindset where Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism have not yet settled as two separate and new religions that both arose from Second Temple Judaism. We used to describe Christianity as an offshoot of Judaism, but we are more coming to realize that it's more accurate to describe Second Temple Judaism (the Judaism of Jesus) as something very distinct which came to an end with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of God by the Romans in 70 AD. With the destruction of the Temple came the destruction of the common worship location of those Jews who believed in Jesus as the Messiah/Christ and those who rejected identifying Jesus so.

As friend and professor Andrei Orlov (with his journal, which I suspect is a rich Russian Orthodox resource, at aorlov) put it in his announcement to us,
In their lecture on Wednesday, February 14, 10 am, (AMU 252) , a Jewish scholar Dr. HINDY NAJMAN (University of Toronto) and a Catholic scholar Dr. ROBIN DARLING YOUNG (University of Notre Dame) will talk about their work on the commentary on 4 Ezra, forthcoming in the new Walter de Gruyter commentary series. One of the issues that Dr. Najman and Dr. Young will be discussing during their lecture is the question of the fruitful dialogue between Jewish and Christian scholars working on an important messianic text. As you know, 4 Ezra is one of the Jewish texts which gives the description of the messianic figure of the Son of Man.
We had a pretty good crowd, including people from all the disciplines, even a few contemporary/Systematics folks like me. I had only read 4 Ezra once myself, for Andrei's seminar on Apocalyptic Literature in Fall 2004, while I was dealing with all the infection fallout from my surgery. I was rather distracted and sick, and so a review last night was useful. It's an interesting text, from around the year 100 AD, and used by both Christians and Jews in various forms over the centuries, and it is certainly understandable that its passage in Chapter 13 on the Son was able to catch Christian attention. For those who've never heard of it, here's what seems to be (in my hasty once-over) a reasonable introduction to the text by a Cambridge doctoral student.

It was interesting. Some of it too specialized for me to follow all its details without more reading or immediate familiarity with the text, but it was another one of those opportunities to just learn by hearing two leading scholars simply talk their speciality. In particular, it seemed to illustrate that "state of flux" of the first century, as though the author were trying to write so that the text could be acceptable by both Jews who were followers of Jesus and those who were not. It comes in that time of fading opportunity, before the new Judaism of the Rabbis defined itself as not Christian, and Christianity among the Gentiles alienated itself from its Jewish roots and members.
Tags: apocalyptic literature, books, historical, jewish mysticism, patristics, theological notebook

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