Monday, February 08, 2010

Paul and the Temple

As I mentioned previously, I'm reviewing Ruth A. Clements and Daniel R. Schwartz's book, Text, Thought, and Practice in Qumran and Early Christianity. Eyal Regev's essay, "Temple and Righteousness in Qumran and Early Christianity: Tracing the Social Difference between the Two Movements" (63–87), is the first treatment I've come across that places Paul's appeal to Jerusalem's Temple in proper perspective (though, judging from his footnotes, I just haven't been looking in the right places). That is, Regev doesn't assume that finding "Christian" analogs to the Temple ipso facto degrades the Temple as the locus of God's presence on earth. Instead, Regev proposes a four-fold typology of references to the Temple that recognizes participation, analogy, criticism, and rejection; "Only the last-named category really justifies the commonly held view that the early Christians substituted new alternatives for the Temple" (66). When it comes to Paul, specifically, Regev writes:
It seems that Temple, sacrifice, and priest are characterized in these analogies in an extremely favorable light; it would be a disgrace to draw an analogy between the most sublime Christian beliefs and an irrelevant Jewish cultic practice. . . . I suggest that since Paul used the imagery of the Temple and sacrifices as a model for sacredness and closeness to God, he had some appreciation for the Jewish cult" (68, 69).

This, I think, is a much more helpful approach to Temple imagery in Paul than, for example, that taken by James Dunn (see my related criticism here).


Anonymous said...

I would also recommend checking out Jonathan Klawans' latest book: Purity, Sacrifice, and the Temple: Symbolism and Supersessionism in the Study of Ancient Judaism.

Rafael said...

Thank you, Anonymous. I haven't read any of Klawans's work, but I have recently become aware that it's out there. I've begun tracking down some of his stuff and will check it out very soon.

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