Carr-synagogue, scripture and the Hasmonean spin

David M. Carr has a chapter in Writing on the Tablet of the Heart about the broadening of textuality in late second Temple Judaism due to the synagogue.   Philo, Josephus,  4 Ezra, and New Testament all testify to importance of the synagogue and its educational aspects.

Carr points out that the use of books besides the Torah became accepted at some time in this period.  Josephus and 4 Ezra witness to there having been a list of more than twenty books used in the synagogues.

In 1996 Carr wrote a paper arguing that the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. caused the Jews to make this compilation of acceptable books.  Now he has changed his mind and proposes that both the broad use of Hebrew studies outside the Temple and the solidifying of a body of scriptural writings goes back earlier.

After Greek rule the Hasmonean dynasty ruled Israel until 63 B.C.E.  Even the Herods of the New Testament connected to the Hasmonean dynasty by marriage. Carr now believes it was the Hasmoneans who instituted a program of anti-Hellenistic and pro-Jewish culture.  A textual education system and its development in the synagogue was central to that program.  That we have so many anti-Hasmonean texts due to the discoveries at Qumran has perhaps skewed our understanding.

There has been a trend to play down how anti-Hellenistic the Hasmoneans were.  But Carr cites evidence that there are two levels to the Hasmonean attitude toward Hellenism.  There was a willingness to use Greek texts and Greek culture.  But this is complicated by their presentation of themselves to the people as anti-Hellenistic.

This goes along with the notion of “hybridization” that Carr gets from post-colonialist thought.   Even when a culture adopts the culture of a conqueror, it incorporates it in a way that allows for a counter colonial drive toward liberation from that culture.  In this case, the Hasmoneans encouraged textualization and the collection of writings–features of Greek culture–in order to establish an alternative Hebrew culture.  The promoted several features of Greek culture at the same time that they engaged in anti-Hellenistic propaganda.

He shows how this dual attitude toward Hellenism reveals itself especially in 2 Maccabees and Jubilees.  So he thinks that the emergence of Hebrew Scriptures–the Law and the Prophets– as a form of Hebrew-language nationalism belongs to this period.

I am not competent to judge whether Carr’s view here is correct.  I do see the Law and the Prophets already assumed by the New Testament as a reality before the destruction of the Temple.

Carr also talks about the Book of Daniel as useful for dating the hardening of the writings into a compilation.  He says that it comes from the time just before the founding of the Hasmonean dynasty.   It stands out because it is partly in Greek and partly in Hebrew/Aramaic and because only some accepted it.  But the Hasmoneans promoted Daniel because it was a prophecy steeped in their own ideology.

 

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About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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