Thursday, March 18, 2010

more on placing NT texts

As I continue to read Ruth A. Clement and Daniel R. Schwartz's edited volume, Text, Thought, and Practice in Qumran and Early Christianity (Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 84; Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2009), I find more information relevant to the point I made in my previous post, "placing NT texts." Hermann Licthenberger, in his essay, Last night I finished Serge Ruzer's essay, "Demonology in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament" (267–80), cites Lawrence Shiffman's programmatic announcement, at the beginning of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls: "This book aims to correct a fundamental misreading of the Dead Sea Scrolls. For some forty-five years, the scholars publishing and interpreting the scrolls have focused almost single-mindedly on the scrolls' significance for our understanding of early Christianity. This is the first book ever written to explain their significance in understanding the history of Judaism" (xiii; Lichtenberger 2009: 268). Schiffman is right, of course, to place the DSS in the history of Judaism. My point (and, I think, Ruzer's and Kister's) is that the NT itself is also a part of that history!

So I was happy to read Lichtenberger's appreciative appropriation of Schiffman's reclamation of the DSS:
But in my opinion we have to go one step further. Since early Christianity in the Land of Israel was, in its beginnings, nothing other than a Jewish group, we have not only to interrelate the New Testament and early Christianity to other Jewish groups of the time—and there were more than the three or four we know from Josephus—but we have also to ask whether and how the New Testament and early Christianity contribute to our understanding of early Judaism in general, and of the Qumran-Essene community in particular. This is not to be understood as another New Testament-centered approach to Jewish texts and Judaism, but as an integration of the New Testament and early Christianity into their Jewish contexts. Or in other words: we read the New Testament as a Jewish text and as a source for our understanding of Judaism. (269; my emphases)

I hope this signals the development—at whatever stage of maturity—in the future of NT scholarship.

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