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An Apocryphal God

An Apocryphal God: Beyond Divine Maturity

Mark McEntire
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    An Apocryphal God
    Book Description:

    In Portraits of a Mature God, Mark McEntire traced the narrative development of the divine character in the Old Testament, placing the God portrayed at the end of that long story at the center of theological discussion. He showed that Israel’s understanding of God had developed into a complex, multipurpose being who could work within a new reality, a world that included a semiautonomous province of Yehud and a burgeoning Mesopotamian-Mediterranean world in which the Jewish people lived and moved in a growing diversity of ways. Now, McEntire continues that story beyond the narrative end of the Hebrew Bible as Israel and Israel’s God moved into the Hellenistic world. The “narrative” McEntire perceives in the apocryphal literature describes a God protecting and guiding the scattered and persecuted, a God responding to suffering in revolt, and a God disclosing mysteries, yet also hidden in the symbolism of dreams and visions. McEntire here provides a coherent and compelling account of theological perspectives in the apocryphal writings and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-7238-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 God Moves On
    (pp. 1-30)

    When the narrative plot of the Tanak and the Protestant Old Testament comes to a close, the divine being readers have followed through the long story that began at the creation of the world has become a complex, multifaceted character. The setting of the end of the story is the ancient Near East, which was politically controlled and culturally influenced by the Persian and Greek empires. The Jewish people, whose legendary origins had begun with a single family, and who eventually became a small nation, were scattered about these empires that overran them, living in a wide variety of social...

  6. 2 God of the Defeated and Scattered, Part I
    (pp. 31-66)

    There is a significant overlap between the body of literature contained within the Tanak/Protestant Old Testament and the literature in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. This is made most obvious by the presence of the expanded Greek versions of Daniel and Esther in the Apocrypha and expanded Christian Old Testament canons. Another point of overlap, which receives less attention, is the mysterious existence of the books called Jubilees, 1 Enoch, and 1 Esdras, which are canonical only in some Orthodox Christian traditions. Jubilees falls into the category sometimes called rewritten Bible, and because it presents much of the plot of Genesis...

  7. 3 God of the Defeated and Scattered, Part II
    (pp. 67-94)

    The books within the Apocrypha that have the earliest narrative setting may be Tobit and Judith. The reason it is difficult to make a definitive statement is that Judith has what seems to be a deliberately confused historical context. The first verse of the book establishes the setting of the story during the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in the early sixth century bce, but it identifies Nebuchadnezzar incorrectly as the ruler of the Assyrian Empire, centered in Nineveh, which had been destroyed by his father a few decades earlier. The situation is further complicated when Jth. 4:3 places...

  8. 4 God of the Defeated and Scattered, Part III
    (pp. 95-124)

    Chapter 2 examined works of literature from the Hellenistic period that reached into Israel’s past to reformulate it and develop new points of emphasis. In many cases this involved a reformulating of the stories of the past so they could address the needs of new contexts. The wisdom literature in the Tanak is famously unattached to Israel’s story, and the situation was apparently already a recognized problem in the Hellenistic period because later wisdom writers sought to fix it. The two major representatives of the literature, Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon, both connect wisdom explicitly to the story of...

  9. 5 God of Revolt
    (pp. 125-160)

    The narrative books that chapter 3 treated are primarily set in the diaspora, reporting the actions of Israel’s God on behalf of Jews living outside of the homeland. The wisdom books that chapter 4 explored do not have such a definite sense of setting. Wisdom literature typically has an international sense about it, but Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon also seek to link wisdom traditions to the religious institutions of Israel, pulling wisdom back toward geographic Israel. The movement back to Israel and its geographic identity and the Jews living there becomes more pronounced in the books called 1...

  10. 6 God of Dreams and Visions
    (pp. 161-192)

    It has been impossible to ignore entirely the phenomenon known as apocalyptic literature up to this point, because some of the books I have already examined have an apocalyptic backdrop shaping the entire work. This is particularly true of Daniel and 1 Enoch, parts of which are the subject of chapters 2 and 3. The remainder of those two books will be the starting point for this chapter, which will focus on 1 Enoch 72–108, the three most prominent sections of which are most often labeled the Astronomical Book (72–82), the Dream Visions (83–90), and the Epistle...

  11. 7 God of the Future
    (pp. 193-224)

    The development of God’s character in the literature used in chapter 6 has left a space that can now be filled in, to some degree. Apocalyptic literature removed the divine presence from the space occupied by human beings through the use of a spatial dualism. The accompanying temporal dualism, which separated the present time of these writings from the time when the spatial dualism would collapse and the two worlds would be rejoined in the distant future, left a middle time, the near future, in which divine presence and activity lacked description. Apocalyptic literature itself was one way of filling...

  12. 8 Where Do We Go from Here?
    (pp. 225-238)

    The portrayal of the divine character described in this book may be as fragmented as the literature in which it is found. There have been some recognizable trends, but one of the reasons Second Temple Judaism became a religion made up of sectarian groups in conflict with one another is that there were different ways of understanding and portraying the divine character. Among the theological issues dividing these groups were the degree of God’s removal from the world, the ways God is related to human choices and behavior, and the ways God’s care for and relation to human beings and...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-254)
  14. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 255-264)
  15. Index of Authors
    (pp. 265-268)
  16. Index of Ancient Texts
    (pp. 269-283)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 284-284)