Carr- the crystalization of the Bible

I am blogging about David M. Carr’s book, Holy Resilience.

Carr says that the Hasmonean monarchy

. . .though it only existed for a few decades–was the only Jewish institution of the time with the power to enforce the selection of certain biblical books as authoritative and the standardization of the manuscripts of those books.  There was no comparable Jewish institution either before or after it (p. 147).

Carr recounted how the Davidic monarchy fell to the Babylonians.  After that the Jewish state went away and was replaced during and after the exile by religious institutions alone.  But  literary works from around -200 (the Dead Sea Scriptures and the Enoch literature) show that there was no unified Judaism.

Now for biblical studies this period has become the focus of scholars who have taken the postmodern turn.  They are skeptical of the history of Israel as told in the Bible. They often claim that the Primary History from Genesis through 2 Kings is a construction or invention of the Jews in Hellenistic times.  This has never been at all convincing to me.  There are lots of details in the Hebrew Bible that could not have been constructed that late.  Just one example is the existence of the Philistines.  Why would anybody in -200 or so construct the Philistines who turn out to have actually existed in about -1000?

Also, works like 1 and 2 Chronicles and Daniel, which we are pretty sure did come late, show tell-tale differences from the books of the Primary History.

What Carr says is that in the Hellenistic period the Jews did not invent their scriptures, but crystallized them.

Alexander the Great had defeated the Persians and introduced a Hellenistic period. This was favorable to the residents of Jerusalem for a while, although the high priesthood was often compromised and corrupt.  The government of Alexander morphed into the Seleucid Empire as Rome came to control the west.

Eventually Antiochus IV, a Seleucid king, came to power.  He was irrationally anti-Semitic, and he poured out fury on the Jews.  He required them to eat pork.  He executed mothers who circumcised their children.   He even set up a pagan cult in the Temple.  All this was sometime around -167.  (The trauma experienced at this time sets the stage for some of the attitudes about circumcision and food laws we see in the New Testament).

In response, the Jews broke free and established their independent, Hasmonean state.

Carr thinks this trauma led to the canonization of Hebrew Scriptures.  Jews reacted to their traumatization by vilifying Greek culture.  This was ironic, since 1 and 2 Maccabees and other writings of the time were in Greek and followed a Greek literary pattern.  Nevertheless, the scriptures deemed authentic were those that had existed before the Hellenization of Palestine.

Canonization means the adoption of a specific list of authoritative books.  It often causes certain valued contemporary books to get projected back on a time that might allow for their authenticity.  The Book of Daniel is probably an example of this.

At any rate, Carr says that the thing the Hasmoneans did was to introduce “the idea that the truly inspired Hebrew scriptures were a fixed collection of Torah and pre-Hellenistic prophetic works” (p. 154).  This sealed and made specific the Hebrew Bible.

The Jewish trauma, resistance, and eventual victory over the Greekish, Seleucid folks is told in 1 and 2 Maccabees and celebrated at Hanukkah.  The Jews remembered Hellenism as the major opponent of Judaism for a long time; and, according to Carr, set up the Hebrew Bible as a counter-cultural marker of their opposition.

About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
This entry was posted in Ancient Israel, Bible and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Carr- the crystalization of the Bible

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

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