A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume 4

A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume 4: Law and Love

John P. Meier
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 736
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  • Book Info
    A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume 4
    Book Description:

    John Meier's previous volumes in the acclaimed seriesA Marginal Jeware founded upon the notion that while solid historical information about Jesus is quite limited, people of different faiths can nevertheless arrive at a consensus on fundamental historical facts of his life. In this eagerly anticipated fourth volume in the series, Meier approaches a fresh topic-the teachings of the historical Jesus concerning Mosaic Law and morality-with the same rigor, thoroughness, accuracy, and insightfulness on display in his earlier works.

    After correcting misconceptions about Mosaic Law in Jesus' time, this volume addresses the teachings of Jesus on major legal topics like divorce, oaths, the Sabbath, purity rules, and the various love commandments in the Gospels. What emerges from Meier's research is a profile of a complicated first-century Palestinian Jew who, far from seeking to abolish the Law, was deeply engaged in debates about its observance. Only by embracing this portrait of the historical Jesus grappling with questions of the Torah do we avoid the common mistake of constructing Christian moral theology under the guise of studying "Jesus and the Law," the author concludes.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15602-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME FOUR The Historical Jesus Is the Halakic Jesus
    (pp. 1-25)

    Now begins the hard part. As often happens in negotiations for a Mideast peace accord or a labor union contract, the most difficult issues have purposely been left till last. At the end of Volume Three ofA Marginal Jew, I listed, with a bow to Sir Edward Elgar’sEnigma Variations, the four final enigmas that remained to be pondered in our quest for the historical Jesus. These four questions, which seem to pose intractable problems for any quester, are the riddle of Jesus and the Law, the riddle-speech of Jesus’ parables, the riddle-speech of Jesus’ self-designations (or “titles”), and...

  5. CHAPTER 31 Jesus and the Law—but What Is the Law?
    (pp. 26-73)

    Some scholars approach the problem of Jesus and the Law with the same naiveté with which they approach the problem of Jesus and the Pharisees. In each case, the presupposition is that we understand a known quantity, be it the Pharisees or the Mosaic Law. Therefore, the reasoning goes, we can use this known quantity to understand a lesser-known quantity, namely, the historical Jesus.

    As we have seen to our sorrow in Volume Three ofA Marginal Jew,¹ the quest for the historical Pharisee can at times prove more difficult than the quest for the historical Jesus. Indeed, alongside Josephus...

  6. CHAPTER 32 Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce
    (pp. 74-181)

    If we choose to start our investigation of Jesus’ sayings on legal matters with those that enjoy multiple attestation, then the first candidate is naturally Jesus’ sayings on divorce.¹ Appearing as they do in more than one source—Mark, Q (Matthew/Luke), and Paul (1 Corinthians)—and in more than one literary form, the sayings on divorce enjoy a remarkable abundance of attestation when compared to most other sayings on the Law. Still, one approaches the sayings on divorce with a certain trepidation, since the question of divorce leads us into a confusing morass of historical, exegetical, and theological problems. A...

  7. CHAPTER 33 The Prohibition of Oaths
    (pp. 182-234)

    In the previous chapter, we ran into a puzzling phenomenon. On the one hand, Jesus was a 1st-century Jew who, like any other religious Jew, lived under and embraced the value of the Mosaic Law. As we shall see in subsequent chapters, he accepted central institutions and teachings of the Law (e.g., observance of the sabbath)—although, like many of his coreligionists, he argued over the precise way one should observe the Law. On the other hand, as we saw in the last chapter, Jesus also prohibited the use of an important institution accepted and regulated by the Law: divorce....

  8. CHAPTER 34 Jesus and the Sabbath
    (pp. 235-341)

    After the problems posed by Jesus’ pronouncements on divorce and oaths, the most obvious halakic question demanding our attention is Jesus’ teaching on the observance of the sabbath.¹ If nothing else, Gospel traditions dealing with Jesus’ attitude toward the sabbath enjoy multiple attestation of sources and forms. These traditions are found in either narratives or sayings in Mark, special Matthean material (M), special Lucan material (L), and John. Adding impetus and animus to the argument over Jesus and the sabbath is the claim by some Christian exegetes that, by violating the sabbath, Jesus was in effect, if not in intention,...

  9. CHAPTER 35 Jesus and Purity Laws
    (pp. 342-477)

    After the problems of divorce, oaths, and sabbath, perhaps the most difficult question concerning Jesus and the Law is the topic of Jewish purity rules.¹ The topic is daunting because it involves not just one bundle of problems but several:

    (1) The origin, meaning, and actual practice of Jewish purity rules constitute a subject of lively debate among present-day scholars, both Jewish and Christian, with the same scholar sometimes changing his or her mind over a period of time.²

    (2) The most important Gospel text that enunciates Jesus’ attitude toward purity rules is Mark 7:1–23, which combines within one...

  10. CHAPTER 36 Widening the Focus: The Love Commandments of Jesus
    (pp. 478-646)

    At the end of Chapter 31, which treated the general problem of Jesus and the Law, I explained the reason for the order of topics in this volume. Put simply, the nature of the Gospel material does not allow us to suppose a priori that Jesus’ teaching on Torah flows in a smooth, logical progression from one grand principle to various moral conclusions. As we saw, Matt 5:17 (“Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the prophets; I have come not to destroy but to fulfill”), so often cited as the clearest summary of Jesus’...

  11. Conclusion to Volume Four
    (pp. 647-663)

    As I come to write the conclusion to this volume, the temptation is to take the easy way out. All I need do is gather together and repeat my opinions about each of the legal questions that we have explored chapter by chapter. If it is to be simply a laundry list of findings, the conclusion writes itself. The problem is that such an approach would be of no great help to the readers of this volume. They are more than capable of going back and reading the summary statement at the end of each chapter for themselves. Such a...

  12. Map of Palestine in the Time of Jesus
    (pp. 664-664)
  13. Map of the Galilee of Jesus’ Ministry
    (pp. 665-665)
  14. Chart of the Family of Herod the Great
    (pp. 666-666)
  15. Chart of the Regnal Years of the Roman Principes (Emperors)
    (pp. 667-667)
  16. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 668-686)
  17. Scripture and Other Ancient Writings Index
    (pp. 687-703)
  18. Author Index
    (pp. 704-718)
  19. Subject Index
    (pp. 719-735)