Norman K Gottwald por Roland Boer

Será que existe alguém aqui no Brasil que lida com Bíblia Hebraica / Antigo Testamento e/ou com História de Israel que ainda não conhece Norman K Gottwald? E sua teoria da revolta camponesa ou da retribalização, para explicar as origens de Israel? E que nunca tropeçou em seu “tijolaço” de quase mil páginas chamado The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel, 1250-1050 B.C.E. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1979 [2. ed. 1999], em português: As Tribos de Iahweh: Uma Sociologia da Religião de Israel Liberto, 1250-1050 a.C. 2. ed. São Paulo: Paulus, 2004 [1. ed. 1986]?

Roland Boer, Professor no Departamento de Teologia da Universidade Newcastle, Austrália, autor do blog Stalin’s Moustache, publicou ontem, 29/04/2011, na Monthly Review, o artigo:

Norman Gottwald: A Pioneering Marxist Biblical Scholar

Assim começa o artigo:
Norman Gottwald belongs to a rare breed — an American Marxist biblical scholar. More than one jarring juxtaposition in that epithet! Unfortunately, he is less well known outside the relative small circle of biblical scholars than he should be. In order to introduce him to a wider audience, let me say a little about his scholarly achievements and then some more concerning his activism.

Ou seja: para que Gottwald possa ser conhecido por um público mais amplo, para além do limitado círculo dos estudiosos de Bíblia, Roland Boer vai apresentar seu trabalho acadêmico, pioneiro em suas propostas, e seu engajamento político, consistente com suas pesquisas e sua visão de mundo. E isto sob a ótica do marxismo.

Destaco três pequenos trechos do artigo:
:: “In contrast to the flowering of Marxist approaches to the Bible today, Gottwald first began work in the 1950s, when the US academy was largely hostile to such approaches. After a few relatively conventional starts — an introduction to the Bible and a study of the biblical book of lamentations — Gottwald set his mind to a comprehensive study of the origins of ancient Israel. The result, after more than a decade of work, was The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel 1250-1050 B.C.E., first published in 1979 and reprinted many times after that. The content of the argument was as controversial as its method. Gottwald argued that early Israel arose out of a peasant revolution within Canaan between 1250 and 1050 BCE” (…)

:: “The lasting heritage of Gottwald’s work falls into three categories. First, the argument that Israel was indigenous to Canaan is now widely agreed among scholars. They may not have been conscious of being ‘Israel’ until quite late (after 400 BCE), but their economic, social and religious shape is distinctly Canaanite. Second, Gottwald almost single-handedly established social-scientific research on the Bible as a viable and promising enterprise. Social-scientific theory, comparative work and sophisticated sociological analysis is now well accepted and widely used. Third, Gottwald showed how productive Marxist methodology can be. He may have deployed Durkheim and Weber, but the core method is Marxist. So we find complex treatments of mode of production, means and relations of production, ideology and culture” (…)

:: “There is another, even lesser-known side to Gottwald, the long-time activist. Gottwald is at pains to point out that the various phases of his scholarship are inseparable from his experiences of activism of more than half a century. He is one of the few remaining radical biblical scholars who was immersed the heady excitement of the 1960s” (…) “Gottwald saw the importance of Marx for both his scholarly and political work”.


Lembro ainda que Roland Boer coordenou um painel em Congresso Anual da SBL (Society of Biblical Literature, USA), que foi publicado em livro com o título Tracking “The Tribes of Yahweh”: On the Trail of a Classic. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002, 216 p. – ISBN: 082646050X, no qual foi feito um balanço de “As Tribos de Iahweh”, 20 anos após sua publicação, avaliando seus impactos e implicações nos estudos bíblicos. Contribuiram para esta avaliação David Jobling, Frank Frick, Charles Carter, Carol Meyers, Jacques Berlinerblau, Itumeleng Mosala, Gerald West, Roland Boer e o próprio Norman Gottwald. Alguns trechos podem ser lidos no Google books.

Por outro lado, um balanço de “As Tribos de Iahweh”, feito pelo próprio Gottwald, pode se lido no texto Revisiting The Tribes of Yahweh.

Um belo testemunho sobre Gottwald foi escrito por Claude Mariottini em seu blog em 30 de abril de 2011. Claude é biblista brasileiro, que vive e ensina nos Estados Unidos. Estudou com Gottwald no Graduate Theological Union, em Berkeley, Califórnia. Ele diz:

Norman Gottwald was my teacher when I was doing graduate studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California in the early 1970s. One of the courses I took with Gottwald was a class on Old Testament Theology.

In preparation for class discussion, Gottwald gave the students three weeks to read Gerhard von Rad’s two volumes Old Testament Theology and Walter Eichrodt’s two volumes Old Testament Theology. Then, we spent two weeks discussing the content and methodology of these two classical works in Old Testament theology.

The rest of the quarter we spent studying the first five chapters of Gottwald’s magisterial work, The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel 1250-1050 B.C.E. It was a great experience being there when Gottwald was using his class to provide feedback on a book that made a great impact on Old Testament studies. A few years later, when I was working on my Ph.D. at The Southern Baptist Seminary, our Old Testament colloquium spent a whole semester discussing The Tribes of Yahweh. The reaction of both the faculty and the students in the colloquium to the book was mixed, but all of us knew that we were discussing a unique contribution to the social studies of the Old Testament.

Over the years I have maintained contact with Gottwald. When I finished my dissertation, I asked Gottwald to be my outside reader. He accepted my invitation, read my thesis, and provided helpful suggestions that greatly improved the content of my work.

I recently had the opportunity to write a short biography on Normal Gottwald: “Norman K. Gottwald,” The Encyclopedia of Christian Literature, George T. Icurian, ed. (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, 2010), 340-341.

I write this brief essay on Norman Gottwald in order to introduce an article on Gottwald by Roland Boer, Research Professor in Theology at the University of Newcastle, Australia. In his article, “Norman Gottwald: A Pioneering Marxist Biblical Scholar,” Boer has a good introduction on The Tribes of Yahweh, on Gottwald’s use of Marxist sociology to study the Old Testament, and the political activism that has influenced Gottwald’s scholarship.

I am very familiar with Gottwald’s political activism. The Vietnam War was going strong and Gottwald and many of the students in our class opposed Nixon’s policies. It was also the time when students were revolting at the University of California-Berkeley because of People’s Park.

Below I present two brief excerpts from Boer’s article. In the first excerpt he discusses the content of The Tribes of Yahweh. In the second excerpt, Boer discusses the lasting influence of Gottwald’s work…

Transcrevo a seguir, na íntegra, para que não sejam perdidos nas teias da web, os textos de Roland Boer e de Norman K. Gottwald.


Norman Gottwald: A Pioneering Marxist Biblical Scholar

Posted Apr 29, 2011 by Roland Boer

Norman Gottwald belongs to a rare breed — an American Marxist biblical scholar. More than one jarring juxtaposition in that epithet! Unfortunately, he is less well known outside the relative small circle of biblical scholars than he should be. In order to introduce him to a wider audience, let me say a little about his scholarly achievements and then some more concerning his activism.

Marxism and Ancient Israel

In contrast to the flowering of Marxist approaches to the Bible today, Gottwald first began work in the 1950s, when the US academy was largely hostile to such approaches. After a few relatively conventional starts — an introduction to the Bible and a study of the biblical book of lamentations1 — Gottwald set his mind to a comprehensive study of the origins of ancient Israel. The result, after more than a decade of work, was The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel 1250-1050 B.C.E., first published in 1979 and reprinted many times after that.2 The content of the argument was as controversial as its method. Gottwald argued that early Israel arose out of a peasant revolution within Canaan between 1250 and 1050 BCE. Throwing off the yoke of their Canaanite overlords, these peasants retreated to the Judean hills in order to shape a new, more collective society. Was there a conquest of Canaan (the ‘Promised Land’) by Israelites escaping from Egypt? Not really, apart from a small group of Levite priests. Was Israel ethnically distinct from other Canaanites? Not at all, for they were Canaanites too, a blend of many different groups. Is there any evidence for such an argument, especially when the biblical material tells a grand story of enslavement in Egypt, escape, wilderness wandering and then conquest of a land to which the mythical Abraham had first made dubious claim? Yes there is, but it lies in the archaeological record. At the time, settlement of the Judean hills did indeed take place, making use of new technologies in a semi-arid environment with intermittent rainfall: lime-based cisterns for water storage, iron agricultural implements and terracing the hill sides. As to whether these new settlers had any conscious notion of being a new entity, calling themselves ‘Israel’, is a question that remains open.

Gottwald did, however, make use of biblical material for a very different purpose: social structures. The Bible, especially in its first seven books (Genesis to Judges) contains stories first told among these people. And behind those stories we find traces of their social and economic structures. They eschewed kings or chieftains, preferring tribal cooperatives, with a militia for warfare and inter-clan assistance during times of famine and hardship. With a less hierarchical society, women had a relatively better place, being more integrated with daily economic and household activities. Above all, these ‘Israelites’ developed a new economic system that Gottwald dubs a ‘communitarian mode of production’: primarily agricultural, it attempted to produce a fairer, redistributive system, based on tribal relations. This mode of production stood in sharp contrast to the ‘tributary mode of production’ of the Canaanite city states, from which the people had so recently escaped.

Before I say a word on why this is a Marxist argument, let me ask how the argument has fared. Initially, critics attacked its supposed lack of evidence, especially in biblical material. Now, however, biblical scholars are more willing to regard the early narratives of the Bible as mythical and legendary. Far from factual historical records, they function more as political myths. Others were quick to point out that the new ‘Israel’ was a little too much like a hippie commune from the 60s or 70s, and that the evidence of ‘revolution’ is thin. Yes, some Canaanite cities seem to have been destroyed around that time, but we have no way of knowing who destroyed them (it may just as easily have been an invading army). Today, Gottwald’s confidence concerning the historical reconstruction of early Israel seems decidedly optimistic, given arguments that everything before 400 BCE is dubious (including the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, David and Solomon, the Babylonian exile).

Details aside, the lasting heritage of Gottwald’s work falls into three categories. First, the argument that Israel was indigenous to Canaan is now widely agreed among scholars. They may not have been conscious of being ‘Israel’ until quite late (after 400 BCE), but their economic, social and religious shape is distinctly Canaanite. Second, Gottwald almost single-handedly established social-scientific research on the Bible as a viable and promising enterprise. Social-scientific theory, comparative work and sophisticated sociological analysis is now well accepted and widely used. Third, Gottwald showed how productive Marxist methodology can be. He may have deployed Durkheim and Weber, but the core method is Marxist. So we find complex treatments of mode of production, means and relations of production, ideology and culture. Indeed, the two proposed modes of production — tributary and communitarian — still set the parameters of debate. Alternative proposals may be made, such as household or domestic, for ‘communitarian’;3 one may find the Asiatic mode of production re-entering discussions over against the tributary mode. (Marxist scholars have later developed the concept of a tributary mode of production without knowledge of Gottwald.4) But the sense that two different economic systems are playing out against one another remains a staple. My own argument is that one does not need two modes of production, for the two systems, one exploitative and the other redistributive, are part and parcel of the same mode of production.5 Indeed, since Gottwald’s work, Marxist biblical scholarship has increasingly found a place in the academy.6

Political Activism

However, there is another, even lesser-known side to Gottwald, the long-time activist.7 Gottwald is at pains to point out that the various phases of his scholarship are inseparable from his experiences of activism of more than half a century. He is one of the few remaining radical biblical scholars who was immersed the heady excitement of the 1960s. But even before then Gottwald had become involved as a young seminary lecturer in the fledgling anti-nuclear movement, in the late 1950s, which fed into the Vietnam War protests, as well as the first stirrings that were to explode into the civil rights movement of the sixties. Already with an interest from earlier work on the prophetic literature of the Bible, he and his students began to see the way those texts spoke to their own situation: exploitation, abuse of power, grinding down of the weak and poor, these and more were the targets of prophetic invective. Time and place may have differed, but the situations were sufficiently analogous to see that the prophetic texts were more than relevant.

During the critical mass and urgency of the sixties, with free speech, Vietnam, nuclear issues, feminism and racial discrimination all coming together, with myriad groups forming, reforming and coalescing into popular fronts, with calls to ‘speak truth to power’, Marx too was in the air. So Gottwald read Marx and read some more, discovering — or perhaps it would be better to say re-discovering — the way prophetic and Marxist critiques overlapped with one another. Note well: this pipe-smoking, pock-faced seminary professor with shaggy hair and a serious look did not resort primarily to the sayings of Jesus in the gospels. No, he saw the connections with the Hebrew prophets. A moment ago, I wrote ‘re-discovery’, since Gottwald was by no means the first to see that prophetic criticisms of wealth, latifundia, debt-bondage and exploitation of the vulnerable applied to his own time. To cull two examples from a very long list, Gerrard Winstanley and Thomas Müntzer had done it many centuries before. And since the nineteenth century Christian socialists had also made the connection between Marx and the prophets, Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) — Old Testament scholar, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and then bishop of Durham (UK) — being but one of the most notable.8

The difference for Gottwald, however, was the way his political commitments and activism informed his scholarship and vice versa. Unlike Westcott, who carried on his impeccable scholarly work in Hebrew linguistics in strict separation from his political convictions (although I wonder whether he was really able to do so, for the two must have influenced one another, even if indirectly), Gottwald saw the importance of Marx for both his scholarly and political work. It is difficult for those who were not involved at the time to gain a sense of the sheer excitement and novelty of Marx, whose work had lain dormant for too long, the preserve of much-maligned communists and the atheistic totalitarianism of the Soviet Union. For Gottwald, in the same way that Marxism provides a way to overcome the splintering of politics into interest groups, it also provides the means for moving past the Taylorisation of academic work and thereby seeing social, political, economic and ideological issues as part of a larger whole. The Radical Religion journal came into being, edited by a collective in the late sixties and early seventies, and then Tribes of Yahweh, followed by the widely used The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction with its explicit focus on political matters and sustained critique of class dynamics in the reception and interpretation of the Hebrew Bible.9

Political involvement remained a continuous part of Gottwald’s life — local elections in Berkeley, campaigns to turn electricity production and distribution over to public ownership, opting for a teaching post in New York on the wrong side of tracks (is that not most of New York?), and then in retirement becoming involved with the Democratic Socialists of America, working on immigration, globalisation, health care and labour relations. In the meantime, Gottwald’s scholarly work has been taken up by radical religious groups around the world, including Korea, the Philippines, South Africa and South America. Indeed, I would suggest that the point of unity in Gottwald’s work may actually be found in his political activism, for his scholarly and religious activities are inseparable from a sense that a better world is possible.

1 Norman Gottwald, A Light to the Nations: An Introduction to the Old Testament (New York: Harper & Row, 1959); Studies in the Book of Lamentations (rev. ed.; London: SCM Press, 1962).

2 A corrected edition was published in 1981 by Orbis Press, in Maryknoll, New York (where many works of liberation theology were published) and then again in 1999 by Sheffield Academic Press with a new preface.

3 See David Jobling, 1 Samuel (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998); Carol Meyers, Discovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); Gale A. Yee, Poor Banished Children of Eve: Woman as Evil in the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2003).

4 John Haldon, The State and the Tributary Mode of Production (London: Verso, 1993); Jairus Banerji, Theory as History: Essays on Modes of Production and Exploitation (Historical Materialism Book Series 25; Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 17-23. Neither Haldon nor Banerji is even aware of Gottwald’s much earlier work.

5 See Roland Boer, In The Vale of Tears: On Marxism and Theology V. (Leiden: Brill, in press).

6 See the comprehensive survey in Roland Boer, ‘Twenty Five Years of Marxist Biblical Criticism’. Currents in Biblical Research 5.3 (2007): 298-321.

7 What follows is drawn from an interview I conducted with Gottwald in Amherst, Massachusetts, at the Rethinking Marxism Conference of 2000. See Roland Boer, ‘Political Activism and Biblical Scholarship: An Interview with Norman Gottwald’. Tracking ‘The Tribes of Yahweh’: On the Trail of a Classic (Ed. Roland Boer. London: Continuum/Sheffield Academic Press, 2002) pp. 161-76.

8 See Westcott’s speech, simply called ‘Socialism’, delivered to the Christian Social Union (of which he was president) in 1890 at Project Canterbury ( Westcott was one of the most significant biblical scholars of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. See more generally on Victorian Christian socialism the study by Norman 2002.

9 Norman Gottwald, The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985).

Revisiting The Tribes of Yahweh[1]


The year 1999 was the 20th anniversary of the publication of The Tribes of Yahweh. The occasion was recognized at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (USA) by a panel of scholars “re-reading” Tribes and its place in biblical studies. The organizer of the panel described Tribes as a “classic”, by which he meant that it belonged “to that rare collection of critical texts that have not been superseded or fallen by the wayside of criticism”[2].

He went on to say that “classics take on new roles in different situations, answering and responding to new sets of questions. Thus, the classic is never the same as in the moment of its emergence, for it is seen in different ways in varying situations”[3].

The seemingly extravagant claim that Tribes is a classic is based, I judge, on the far-reaching challenges that it has posed to traditional biblical scholarship, challenges that are as pertinent today as thirty years ago. These challenges were not delivered in the abstract but as part of a large scale re-conceptualization of early Israel that “shook up” dominant assumptions about its formation and identity. To be sure, many of the particular claims and hypotheses about early Israel mounted in Tribes were, and continue to be, controversial and problematic. What has outweighed the controversial status of those arguments, distinguishing Tribes as a seminal contribution to biblical studies, is that the framework in which the inquiry was pursued and methods employed have helped to open pathways to multiple fruitful ways of using social scientific lenses to enrich our understanding of the Bible.

But that is not all. This ponderous academic tome has had unforeseen impact on the interpretation of the Bible in ecclesial and para-ecclesial circles, and even in some secular quarters, far beyond the audience of professional biblical scholars for which it was explicitly written. The “afterlife” of Tribes has flowed into and merged with new literary, cultural, ideological, and feminist studies and with liberation and political theologies, to open up the Bible as a resource for engagement with the social, political, and religious issues and conflicts of our time.

Thus it may be said that there are “two Tribes”, or more precisely, “two faces of Tribes”, the one turned inward toward biblical studies and the other turned outward toward the wider world and the social mission of the church and synagogue.

The Inward Face of Tribes

The single most significant impact of Tribes within biblical studies has been to encourage and promote social scientific theories and methods, contending not only for their legitimacy but also for their indispensability in achieving a well-rounded view of ancient Israel and the Hebrew Bible. Increased familiarity with the range of methodological and theoretical options in the social sciences has prompted biblical scholars to employ a plethora of social scientific strategies for accessing and processing the biblical data. One can now speak of an ongoing sub-discipline of social critical biblical study that is building agreed upon practices and protocols within the framework of a community of discourse. The most quoted sentence in Tribes declares that “only as the full materiality of ancient Israel is more securely grasped will we be able to make proper sense of its spirituality”[4]. The aim of most of these social critical inquiries is to grasp the “materiality” of ancient Israel, namely, to visualize its people in all the dimensions of their lives and not simply in the religious and political spheres which were the primary scope of previous studies. One might even speak of an Israelite “material spirituality”, or “earthy/mundane spirituality”.

As for the substantive argument of Tribes, a number of its claims have gained widespread credence among scholars. Especially persuasive has been the contention that early Israel was indigenous to Canaan and that its cultural and religious identity is not adequately explained by an invasion or infiltration of pastoral nomads from without. The emphasis of Tribes on the agrarian roots of Israel has been greatly elaborated in subsequent studies, drawing in particular on archaeology and studies of peasant societies. The insistence in Tribes that early Israel was not marked by an initial cohesive ethnic identity, but was in the process of developing slowly toward such an identity. has won a sympathetic hearing. Likewise, many scholars now agree with my insistence that a simplistic polarization of Canaanite vs. Israelite does not do justice either to the biblical data or to the archeological data and the probabilities suggested by social and political anthropology. In other words, what we see in the tribal period is Israel-in-the-making, as Canaanite peasants in the highland begin to distinguish themselves as “proto-Israelites”. The matrix for the emergence of Israel was a combination of socio-economic and religio-cultural elements, including the cult of Yahweh. This emergence of Israel out of a Canaanite milieu is analogous in some ways to the continuities and discontinuities evident in the emergence of early Christianity out of proto-Judaism and to the development of Protestantism out of Roman Catholicism.

To be sure, certain arguments in Tribes remain problematic or have acquired new formulations. My argument for the social equality of Israelites was muddled and imprecise, since there is evidence of status and wealth differentials, but the society was clearly less hierarchical than in the surrounding states and it provided extended family and clan-based “social safety nets” for those in greatest need. I have since come to speak of Israel’s tribal society as “communitarian”. Setting aside the mistaken notion that a peasant revolution is a dramatic one-shot event that succeeds or fails in one stroke, it may be reaffirmed that Israel was a peasant movement cast in opposition to city-state hierarchy and struggling for independence from outside control. The extent to which the social and political difference between Israel and it city-state neighbors can be called “revolutionary” depends, I believe, on how intentional the Israelite peasants were in pursuing and exploiting their independent manner of life. A great deal hinges on the extent to which the tribes of Israel were simply the haphazard result of a breakdown in dominant Canaanite institutions and the extent to which the tribes of Israel were consciously formed or shaped as an alternative to oppressive social and political institutions. My own belief is that there was both a breakdown and an intentional movement of peasants in the midst of that breakdown. Alternatively, the tribal system of early Israel may be conceived as a “devolution” from hierarchic society, facing backwards to a pre-state mode of life, or it can be conceived as both an “evolution” and a “revolution,” facing forwards in anticipation of modes of social and political freedom that were not yet realizable or sustainable under the conditions of antiquity.

Presently the greatest challenges to any hypothesis about the origins of Israel is twofold, the one literary and the other religious. Many biblical scholars date the textual sources about early Israel late in the exilic and post-exilic ages and dismiss the likelihood of forming any reasonably accurate notion of Israelite beginnings. The grounds for believing that we can grasp the socio-political contours of pre-state Israel have to be argued anew, as I have tried to do in my most recent book, The Politics of Ancient Israel[5]. Also, it is now abundantly clear that the cult of Yahweh in preexilic times embraced beliefs and practices deemed “heterodox” from the point of view of the postexilic compilers of the Hebrew Bible. Archaeological and textual studies have revealed beliefs and practices in preexilic Yahwism that were later ruled out of bounds in the developing monotheism in restored Judah. Among these eventually forbidden elements were ancestor veneration, necromancy, divination, iconography, fertility rites at local shrines, and even a likely consort for Yahweh. These religious features, once thought of as Canaanite “corruptions” of true Yahweh worship, are now seen as having been accepted among many, if not all Yahwists, in preexilic times. So it looks as though the cult of Yahweh was only one form of early Israelite worship, that it took diverse forms, and that it was an uphill battle for Yahwism to supplant other forms of worship as the primary basis for the ideological unity of the Israelite tribes.

The argument of Tribes denies a conquest as described in Joshua and, although it allows for the possibility of a small group of Israelite refugees from Egypt; it does not depend on an exodus of any sort. It remains the case that, apart from the biblical text, we possess no evidence whatsoever for an exodus from Egypt. Nevertheless, it must be asked: if the exodus lacked historical basis, why did the tradition arise and why does it bulk so large as the fountainhead of Israel’s existence? I believe the answer lies in the intimate bond between the Egyptian overlordship of Canaan at the moment of Israel’s emergence and the struggle of the Israelite hill people to be free of foreign hegemony. The Merneptah stela, dating ca. 1207 b.c.e., reports that in the course of trying to maintain control over its Asiatic empire, the Egyptian army defeated an opponent in Canaan called Israel. Without implying that this Israel was identical with any particular textual construct of Israel, the stela does attest to Egypt as the ultimate threat to Israel, standing behind the Canaanite city-state princes who were the immediate threat to Israel according to Joshua and Judges.

In time, the Egyptian-Canaanite mantle of dominion passed to the Philistines. Thus, in the late 13th and the 12th-11th centuries, Israelites faced a hegemonic threat that they visualized as embracing Egyptian, Canaanite, and Philistine components. In the formation of Israelite tradition, what seems to have happened is that all these hostile relations with Egypt and with Egyptian surrogates in Canaan were caught up into the paradigm of a single mass captivity in Egypt, and similarly, all the successes of Israelites in eluding or checking Egyptian-Canaanite-Philistine control were bundled into the paradigm of a single mass deliverance from Egypt. In this manner, any and all of the actual defeats and victories of Israelites could be symbolized by the group-reinforcing bondage-exodus scenario. This scenario served as a root metaphor designed to bond together tribes of diverse origins and traditions. This tradition would have functioned in much the same way as the motifs of “exodus” from the “bondage” of European monarchies served to strengthen the notion of a single American peoplehood among colonies with differing origins and self-images. This symbolizing genesis of the bondage-exodus scenario allows of course that there may have been some group of Egyptian refugees who joined Israel in Canaan, even as the vast majority of Israelites experienced the heavy hand of Egypt in Canaan, either directly or through the aegis of Canaanite or Philistine rulers[6].

The Outward Face of Tribes

The second face of Tribes is its extraordinary reception in sectors of church and society committed to social justice Traditional academic study of the Bible had explained the motifs of social justice in early Israel either as a function of its culturally undeveloped pastoral nomadism or as the miraculous “spin off” of its revealed religion. With theology put to one side, an actual Israelite society could be seen embarked on an intentional quest for corporate justice, a project to which its innovative religious “ideology” lent critical support. Biblical notions of social justice were no longer simply rootless “ideals” but beliefs and practices “at home” and “at work” within actual communities. In sum, Tribes encouraged left-oriented Christians and Jews to reclaim biblical tradition as a relevant resource for their own hopes and endeavors for positive social change. Particularly liberating was the claim of Tribes that not only did early Israel not annihilate Canaanites en masse, it never even sought to do so. Israel’s quarrel was with the ruling classes of Canaan and not with Canaanites at large, for after all Israelites were themselves Canaanites of a marginal socio- cultural stratum. So if Tribes is correct on this point – and I continue to believe that it is – the conflicts in early Israel were much more a matter of inner-societal strife or peasant resistance than they were a conquest and subjugation of one people by another.

Moreover, the characterization of early Israel as a peasant society seeking relief from economic and political domination was felt to resonate profoundly with the socially and politically oppressive conditions of many “third world” countries in which many of the most engaged readers of Tribes lived and worked. For readers in such baldly oppressive conditions, there was often an instantaneous grasp of the plausibility of the depiction of early Israel set forth in Tribes. I treasure some especially vivid memories of such encounters with Tribes. There was the Catholic nun working with base communities in Colombia who made flip charts of Tribes for Bible instruction and reported that “even quiet people spoke up” when she used them. I have heard much the same from justice seekers in places such as India, Korea, the Philippines, New Zealand, South Africa and from many parts of Latin America, not to neglect sites of social resistance in the United States and Canada. I even know of instances where Tribes was read and pondered by people imprisoned for their audacity in opposing unjust power. I attribute this extraordinary impact of a heavy scholarly tome on ordinary Christians, not to the skill of its author, but to the intrinsic power of the biblical text when it is liberated from the strictures of tradition and reaction.

Now amidst all the praise that has been heaped upon Tribes and all the rejection it has experienced from others, there is one development that I believe must be recognized and vigorously resisted. It is a perfectly understandable tendency that one of the scholars in the 1999 panel identified as “the reification of Tribes,” its “thing-ification”, hardening its concepts and claims into fixed and unchanging objects of adulation or of scorn. In some ways, the tendency to take Tribes, not only as a finished work, but as a work that “finishes off” the issues it raises, is the biggest problematic haunting the reception of the volume because that attitude of “closure” threatens the ongoing fruitfulness of its accomplishments by undercutting or abandoning efforts to correct its errors and shortcomings in the pursuit of the critical issues Tribes addressed. This reifying urge to isolate and fixate on the argument of Tribes is at work both among those who praise it and those who dismiss it. On the one hand, there is the temptation for advocates to canonize Tribes and the portrait of early Israel that it hypothesizes but to their own theoretical and practical detriment. On the other hand, its detractors may accept some of the book’s methods and topics as scientifically valid for “normal” biblical studies, while insisting that the factual errors and blinding ideology of Tribes invalidate the social critical project as a whole and thus eliminate the need for ongoing research and theorizing in a social critical fashion.

Advocates, detractors, and uncommitted readers alike may thus miss the link between theory and praxis that is the driving force of Tribes and a large part of the subsequent work I and others have done in a social critical mode. Instead of a highly instructive but fallible beginning in the theorizing of Israel’s social history as a resource for the church’s social mission, Tribes is vulnerable to being displayed as a quaint museum piece or venerated as a near sacred text, which in either case is no longer likely to be read in all seriousness since its message, true or false, has been delivered with finality.

In his book Specters of Marx, Jacques Derrida, who is often accused of being an unhistorical and socially indifferent postmodernist, speaks of Marx as the founder of an entire discourse absolutely tied to a praxis. Derrida describes this discourse as “a day of justice in history”, and as a praxis “ seeking this day of justice”[7]. At the moment, this discourse and praxis of justice-seeking are institutionally and intellectually suppressed or derided throughout Europe, North America, and elsewhere among those in commanding positions of political and economic power.

Since I have been repeatedly charged with an excessive idealism and unreality in my evocation of ancient Israel, I would like to reflect on the day of justice as a historical possibility, specifically in the case of early Israel. Commenting on my account of early Israel in Tribes, one of my graduate students made the following poignant remark. “It was satisfying to have a historical reconstruction well explained that I actually desire to have existed, an ‘elsewhere’ that I like!”

So I ask: where is this “elsewhere” of the day of justice to be located? Is it a “utopia” that is literally “no place” at all, or is it an “elsewhere”, a time and place that is “not yet” but “has been” and “could yet be”? This hoped and longed for day of justice is in my view ever present as the hidden possibility of every moment. It is first and foremost in the hearts and minds of people, in their hopes and aspirations, and it is concretely present in their multiple life struggles. But the vision of a day of justice is not restricted to any single lifetime or any single era. Because we have curiosity and memory and the capacity to reason across time, this elsewhere, this day of justice lies “behind” us as well as “within” us and “ahead” of us. It is not a mere specter. It has tangible embodiment that did not begin with Marx, or even with the Bible, or with anyone in the course of recorded history. We can trace the site of this day of justice back to the millennia of human social life that preceded the rise of the state and of civilization five thousand years ago.

In his work, The Sources of Social Power, Michael Mann points out that there is ample prehistoric archaeological evidence that human communities repeatedly developed social organization up to a ranking level, with strong redistributive chiefdoms, but time and again refused the further plunge into centralized political power. No general social evolution took place beyond that neolithic horizon of dispersed social power. In other words, the state did no arise as a “natural” growth out of ranked societies. It appeared at a few select points in space-time and then spread through imposition and imitation[8]. The ultimate hope is that this “iron prison” of state and social class will be transcended in the long run. This is the source of the “quiet optimism” that some readers find in Tribes.

Even today there are remnants of that less hierarchical pre-state phase of the human story. These remnants constitute “the others”, derisively labeled as “primitives,” people who lack our civilizational history but have a coherent culture and ethos of their own. In some cases we know a fair amount about the social structure and history of these prestate or substate societies. I have surveyed a number of these societies myself, including the Hopi and Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico, the Sioux Nation of the Dakotas, and in Europe, the Swiss Confederacy. Two of them I have studied in greater detail: the Icelandic Commonwealth[9]. and the Iroquois Five Nations of New York State[10]. I need to emphasize that I study these societies without any illusion that they provide blueprints of early Israel. I view them rather as comparative evidence for the likelihood that roughly analogous societies or sub-societies were present in the ancient Near East, largely overlaid by state organization, but attested to in early Israel through the happenstance of its preservation in the Hebrew Bible.. Furthermore, I study them for clues about the preconditions and circumstances for such societies to take shape and thrive, even in adverse circumstances, not only to illuminate early Israel and its transition to statehood, but also to provide one resource for understanding the preconditions and structural arrangements conducive to our current quest for the day of justice.

Finally, was early Israel actually an instance of elsewhere and the day of justice, or in thinking so, are we deluding ourselves with wishful thinking? It is my judgment that such an elsewhere, such a day of justice, was approximated in early Israel, whatever social organizational label we wish to give it. We know it less well in its details than we know the Hopis, the Iroquois, or the Icelanders. But we do know it, artifactually through archaeology and imaginatively through literary texts that are vivid and eccentric departures from what Persian-age Jewish monotheists might have contrived. This approximation of the day of justice in early Israel can be appreciated without idealizing it as a lost golden age., or without thinking that Israel was alone in cultivating such a society. The standard of living in early Israel was low, the technology rudimentary, the cultural options minimal, the artisitic creations modest, and the internecine bickering and bloodshed considerable.

When David Clines introduced the concluding session at the British Society of Old Testament Studies in 1996, he asked what we thought about the quality of life in early Israel. Somewhat to my own surprise I replied, “I would not have wanted to live there!”. My reply was shorthand not only for the impossibility of resuscitating the life style of early Israel, or of any other past elsewhere for that matter, but because it would be undesirable if we could do so! We look backward in order to look forward with a clearer sense of direction, drawing on the early Israelite and other similar pasts as a resource for asking and answering what peace and justice require of us in a situation of technological and social complexity where outmoded and injurious political organization and rampant economic greed are despoiling humanity materially and spiritually. Because these partial manifestations of the day of justice are an actual part of our past, and especially because early Israel lies at the historical roots of our religious traditions and moral consciousness, these elsewheres and days of justice are not dismissible as idle dreams but weigh upon us as open-ended historical possibilities.

[1] Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, CA, Estados Unidos.

[2] Roland BOER, «Introduction: On Re-Reading THE TRIBES OF YAHWEH» in Tracking “The Tribes of Yahweh” On the Trail of a Classic”, ed. Roland Boer. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002, p. 1.

[3] BOER, Tracking, p. 2.

[4] Norman K. GOTTWALD, The Tribes of Yahweh. A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel, 1250-1050 BCE, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999 reprint, p. xxv.

[5] Norman K. GOTTWALD, The Politics of Ancient Israel, Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001, pp.39-45, 159-172.

[6] GOTTWALD, Tribes, pp. 214-15, 417, 508-9; «The Exodus as Event and Process: A Test Case in the Biblical Grounding of Liberation Theology», in The Future of Liberation Theology. Essays in Honor of Gustavo Gutiérrez, ed. M. H. ELLIS and O. MADURO, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1989, 250-60; and The Politics of Ancient Israel, pp. 166-67, 298-90 nn. 21-23.

[7] Jacques DERRIDA, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International. New York/London: Routledge, 1994, 21, cited in David Jobling, “Specters of Tribes: On the ‘Revenance’ of a Classic,’ in Tracking, pp. 10-11.

[8] Michael MANN, The Sources of Social Power. Vol. 1, A History of Power from the Beginning to 1760, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, pp. 34-72.

[9] Norman K. GOTTWALD, “Icelandic and Israelite Beginnings: A Comparative Probe,” in The Labour of Reading: Desire, Alienation, and Biblical Interpretation: Essays in Honour of Robert C. Culley, ed. F. C. Black et al., Semeia Studies. Atlanta: Scholars Press, pp. 209-24.

[10] Norman K. GOTTWALD, “Structure and Origins of the Early Israelite and Iroquois Confederacy”. Paper to be presented in the program unit, “Hebrew Bible and Political Theory,” at the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting, Washington D.C., Nov. 18-21, 2006.

Resenhas na RBL – 28.04.2011

As seguintes resenhas foram recentemente publicadas pela Review of Biblical Literature:

Francesco Cocco
Sulla Cattedra di Mosè: La legitimazione del potere nell’Israele post-esilico (Nm 11; 16)
Reviewed by Donatella Scaiola

Joel B. Green, ed.
Methods for Luke
Reviewed by Robert M. Fowler

Knut Holder and Louis C. Jonker, eds.
Global Hermeneutics? Reflections and Consequences
Reviewed by Susanne Scholz
Reviewed by Gerrie Snyman

Niko Huttunen
Paul and Epictetus on Law: A Comparison
Reviewed by Gitte Buch-Hansen

Rolf A. Jacobson, ed.
Soundings in the Theology of Psalms: Perspectives and Methods in Contemporary Scholarship
Reviewed by Beat Weber

Henning Graf Reventlow and Yair Hoffman, eds.
The Decalogue in Jewish and Christian Tradition
Reviewed by Michael Tilly

Christopher D. Stanley
The Hebrew Bible: A Comparative Approach
Reviewed by Bradford A. Anderson

Shemaryahu Talmon
Text and Canon of the Hebrew Bible
Reviewed by James A. Sanders

Hans-Friedrich Weiss
Frühes Christentum und Gnosis: Eine rezeptionsgeschichtliche Studie
Reviewed by Ismo Dunderberg

>> Visite: Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Última Ceia na quarta e não na quinta-feira?

A Última Ceia teria acontecido na quarta, e não na quinta-feiraFrance Presse: 18/04/2011

A Última Ceia que Jesus Cristo compartilhou com seus 12 apóstolos na noite da Quinta-feira Santa aconteceu, na realidade, numa quarta-feira, afirma um especialista britânico em livro publicado pela Universidade de Cambridge.

“Descobri que ‘A Última Ceia’ aconteceu numa quarta-feira, em 1º de abril do ano 33”, declarou ao jornal “The Times” o professor Colin Humphreys, da Universidade de Cambridge.

No livro, intitulado “The Mystery of the Last Supper” (“O Mistério da Última Ceia”), o catedrático acrescenta mais uma tese a um tema que divide teólogos e historiadores.

“Esse é o problema: os especialistas em Bíblia e os cristãos acreditam que a última ceia começou depois do pôr do sol de quinta-feira, e a crucificação foi realizada no dia seguinte, às 9h. O processo de julgamento de Jesus aconteceu em várias áreas de Jerusalém. Os especialistas percorreram a cidade com um cronômetro para ver como podiam ocorrer todos os acontecimentos entre a noite de quinta-feira e a manhã de sexta-feira: a maioria concluiu que era impossível”, enfatizou o professor, segundo trechos do livro.

Os discípulos Mateus, Marcos e Lucas dizem que a última ceia foi uma refeição pascoal, enquanto João afirma que aconteceu antes da Páscoa judaica.

“A solução que encontrei é que todos têm razão, mas que se referem a dois calendários diferentes”, explica o pesquisador.

Reconciliando os dois calendários, o professor concluiu que a última ceia aconteceu, na verdade, na véspera da Quinta-feira Santa.

Pesquisador afirma que Última Ceia ocorreu em uma quarta-feiraBBC Brasil: 18 de abril, 2011

Um professor da Universidade de Cambridge, na Inglaterra, afirma em um livro que a Última Ceia, a última refeição realizada por Jesus Cristo com seus doze apóstolos, ocorreu na quarta-feira anterior à sua Crucificação e não na quinta-feira, como vinha se acreditando até agora.

O professor Colin Humphreys afirma que os Evangelhos de Mateus, Marcos e Lucas usaram um calendário mais antigo do que o de João, causando discrepâncias sobre a data da refeição.

Ainda segundo o acadêmico, Jesus não poderia ter sido preso, interrogado e julgado em apenas uma noite.

Enquanto Mateus, Marcos e Lucas afirmam que a Última Ceia coincidiu com o início do Pessach (Páscoa Judaica), João escreveu que ela ocorreu antes desta data.

“Isto tem confundido estudiosos da Bíblia por séculos. Na verdade, alguém disse que este era ‘o assunto mais espinhoso’ no Novo Testamento”, disse o professor à BBC.


Humphreys publicou o livro The Mystery Of The Last Supper (em tradução livre, “O Mistério da Última Ceia”), no qual utiliza pesquisas bíblicas, históricas e até astronômicas para apresentar o que considera “inconsistências fundamentais” sobre o evento.

“Se você olhar para todos os eventos registrados no Evangelho – entre a Última Ceia e a Crucificação – existe um grande número deles. É impossível encaixá-los todos entre a noite de quinta-feira e a manhã de sexta-feira”, afirmou.

“Mas eu descobri que dois calendários diferentes foram usados. Na verdade, os quatro Evangelhos concordam perfeitamente”.

Ele sugere que Mateus, Marcos e Lucas usaram um calendário antiquado – adaptado do que era utilizado no Egito nos tempos de Moisés – em vez do calendário lunar que era largamente adotado pelos judeus em sua época.

“No Evangelho de João, ele está correto ao dizer que a Última Ceia ocorreu antes da refeição do Pessach, mas Jesus optou por fazer a sua Última Ceia como uma refeição de Pessach de acordo com um calendário judeu mais antigo”, afirma o professor.

Com isto, Humphreys sustenta que a Ceia teria ocorrido em 1º de abril de 33, de acordo com o Calendário Juliano utilizado pelos historiadores.

O professor, que é especializado em metalurgia e materiais, acredita que a sua hipótese pode servir como argumento para fixar a Páscoa no primeiro domingo de abril.

O artigo de Colin J. Humphreys, o autor da proposta, foi publicado na revista The Bible and Interpretation em abril de 2011 [onde há também um link para o livro]:

The Mystery of the Last Supper: Reconstructing the Final Days of Jesus

Bible scholars have puzzled for centuries over apparent discrepancies in the Gospel accounts of the last week of Jesus, and this often leads people to question the Bible’s veracity entirely. For example, Matthew, Mark and Luke all state the Last Supper was a Passover meal. John, by contrast, says that it took place before the Passover began. Whatever you think about the Bible, the fact is that Jewish people would never mistake the Passover meal for another meal, so for the Gospels to contradict themselves about this is really hard to understand. The eminent biblical scholar, F. F. Bruce, once described this problem as “the thorniest problem in the New Testament.”

The Gospels also do not seem to allow enough time for all the events they record between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, whilst indicating that Wednesday was a “missing day” on which Jesus did nothing. Scholars have literally rushed around Jerusalem with a stop-watch to see how the large number of events recorded in the Gospels could have occurred between the Last Supper on Thursday night and the Crucifixion on Friday morning. Most conclude that it is impossible. In addition, the Mishnah (a compendium of regulations attributed to about 150 rabbis who lived from about 50 BC to about AD 200) states that the Jewish Court called the Sanhedrin, which tried Jesus, must not meet at night, on a feast day or on the eve of a feast day, and in capital cases a verdict of conviction must be reached the day after the main trial. If these rules applied at the time of Jesus then the trials reported in the Gospels blatantly flout Jewish legal proceedings, yet although the gospels claim there were many false witnesses they implicitly accept the legality of the trials. However, it turns out that there is a very simple solution to these problems: if you move the Last Supper to Wednesday, instead of Thursday, the Gospels are actually in remarkable agreement. In addition, the Bible nowhere states that the Last Supper was on the evening before the Crucifixion, contrary to the claims in many biblical commentaries that it does!

What Really Happened in Jesus’ Last Week?

In my new book, The Mystery of the Last Supper (Cambridge University Press, 2011), I use science and historical reconstruction to take a closer look at the apparent inconsistencies in the Gospel accounts of the final days of Jesus. Essential to this task was the use of different calendars. The Dead Sea Scrolls reveal that there were a number of different Jewish calendars in use in Israel in the first century AD, and so different Jewish groups celebrated Passover on different days. We have a similar situation today with the date of Easter: Catholics and Protestants celebrate Easter on a different date from Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians, because they calculate the date of Easter using different calendars (Gregorian and Julian, respectively). In his description of the Last Supper, John uses the official Jewish calendar, in which the Last Supper was before the date of the official Passover. However, I suggest that Jesus chose to hold his Last Supper on the date of Passover in a different Jewish calendar, which is what Matthew, Mark and Luke report. So all four Gospels in fact agree!

I am not the first person to suggest that Jesus might have been using a different calendar. Most recently, the Pope proposed in 2007 that Jesus might have used the solar calendar of the Qumran community, who were probably a Jewish sect called the Essenes. However, I have shown that when the date of Passover is calculated using this calendar, it would have fallen a week later, after both Jesus’death and resurrection.

I have worked with an expert astronomer to investigate, for the first time, the possibility that a third Jewish calendar was in use in the first century AD. The official Jewish calendar at the time of Jesus’death was that still used by Jews today; a lunar system in which days run from sunset to sunset. This was developed during the Jewish exile in Babylon in the sixth century BC. Before that, however, the Jews had a different system. This is referred to in the Book of Exodus, which describes God instructing Moses and Aaron to start their year at the time of the Exodus from Egypt. In my book I argue that this pre-exilic Jewish calendar was based on the Egyptian lunar calendar (their calendar used for religious feasts and festivals, as distinct from the Egyptian solar calendar used for civil purposes).

There is extensive evidence that this original Jewish calendar survived to Jesus’ time. Not all Jews were exiled to Babylon. Those who remained retained the pre-exilic calendar and by the first century AD groups such as the Samaritans, Zealots, some Galileans and some Essenes were still using the original Jewish calendar. Under this pre-exilic calendar, Passover always fell a few days earlier than in the official Jewish calendar, and the days were marked from sunrise to sunrise, not sunset to sunset.

According to our reconstruction of the pre-exilic calendar, in AD 33, the year of the Crucifixion, the Passover meal in this calendar was on the Wednesday of Holy Week. From the clues they give, it’s clear that Matthew, Mark and Luke all used the pre-exilic calendar in their description of the Last Supper as a Passover meal, whereas John uses the official calendar in which the Last Supper was before the Passover.

What does this mean for our celebration of Easter?

Holy Thursday (sometimes called Maundy Thursday) is the well-known day on which Christians annually commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus. But my research shows that we should really be celebrating this on the Wednesday of Holy Week. This resolves the apparent contradictions in the Gospels on the date and nature of the Last Supper, it also gives just the right amount of time to fit in all the events the Gospels record between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion and it means that the trials of Jesus were in accordance with Jewish law.

Today, about half of the churches in the world use unleavened bread in their weekly or monthly celebration of the Last Supper, because they believe it was a Passover meal, and half use leavened bread, because they believe it was before the Passover meal. I have shown that everyone is right! The Last Supper was before the Passover meal in the official Jewish calendar (used by John), but it was the Passover meal in the earlier original Jewish calendar that Jesus chose to use for his Last Supper (described by Matthew, Mark and Luke).

We celebrate Christmas on a fixed date each year: December 25. However, Easter is a moveable feast: the date of Easter Sunday changes every year, according to a complicated formula, and can range from March 23 to April 25. Many people would prefer to have a more fixed date for Easter. I have shown that the Crucifixion was on Friday, April 3, AD 33, with the Resurrection on Sunday, April 5, AD 33. For those who would like a more fixed date for Easter, my research suggests the date: Easter Sunday should be the first Sunday in April.

Finally, why did Jesus choose to hold his Last Supper at Passover time according to the pre-exilic calendar? I suggest it was because this original Jewish calendar was the one the Old Testament says was used by Moses to celebrate the very first Passover in Egypt. The Gospels are full of examples of Jesus presenting himself as the new Moses. Jesus was therefore holding his Last Supper on the exact anniversary of the first Passover of Moses, as described in the book of Exodus, thus proclaiming that he was the new Moses, instituting a new covenant (a direct reference to the original covenant made between God and the Jewish people through Moses, according to Exodus) and leading his people out of slavery into a new life. Jesus then died just as the Passover lambs were being slain, according to the official Jewish calendar. These are deep, powerful symbolisms, which are based on objective, historical evidence. Far from being incompatible, as many scholars make them out to be, here science and the Bible work hand-in-hand to show that all four Gospels are in remarkable agreement about Jesus’ final days.

Transcrevo, por último, as considerações sobre o assunto de um especialista em Novo Testamento, Mark Goodacre, publicadas em seu NT Blog – Friday, April 22, 2011:

Dating the Last Supper a Day Early?

BBC News reported earlier this week on an interesting seasonal story about the date of the Last Supper:

Jesus Christ’s Last Supper ‘was on a Wednesday’

The gist of the story is that Colin Humphreys, a metallurgist and materials scientist at the University of Cambridge, claims that Jesus and the Synoptics were working with one (older) calendar, according to which Passover fell that year on the Wednesday, while John was working with the standard calendar, according to which Passover fell that year on the Friday evening / Sabbath.

The story made it into the L.A. Times (link courtesy of Jim Davila, who also reports an email comment from Geza Vermes) and there are fuller versions at Cambridge University’s research pages, The Penultimate Supper? and in an article written by Humphreys himself in Bible and Interpretation, The Mystery of the Last Supper: Reconstructing the Last Days of Jesus. These articles are all advertising Humphreys’s new book, The Mystery of the Last Supper, now out from Cambridge University Press.

This is an ingenious proposal that attempts to squeeze every element in the Gospel Passion chronology into a harmonized whole. If I have understand the case properly, and I have not yet had a chance to read the book, the effective timetable, on Humphreys’s scheme, looks like this:

Wednesday evening: Last Supper (Old Passover: Synoptics; before the Official Passover: John)
Thursday: Trial before the Sanhedrin
Friday: Trial before Pilate and Crucifixion
Sabbath: “Official” Passover (John)

This scheme of contrasting Passovers attempts to resolve the conflict over the date of the crucifixion. It attempts to harmonize all the varying statements in the Gospels. When the Synoptics talk about Jesus eating the Passover, they are talking about Passover on an old calendar. When John talks about events before Passover , he is talking about Passover on the “official” calendar. So both types of statements, eating the meal before the Passover and during the Passover, can be harmonized.

It is a neat solution and I’ll have to read the book to get the detail but on the basis of the sketch, let me outline my problems with the proposal:

(1) One of Humphreys’s primary concerns is to avoid the idea that the Gospels “contradict themselves”. The concern is one that characterizes apologetic works and it is not a concern that I share. Nevertheless, if it is to be a concern, then it needs to be reiterated that as they stand, the Gospels do “contradict themselves” and this proposal does not succeed in avoiding the contradiction. What the Synoptics are calling “the Passover” is set on a different day from what John is calling “the Passover”. The Synoptics do not distinguish the Passover that Jesus is celebrating from the Passover that everyone else was celebrating (e.g. Mark 14.1-2) and John shows no awareness of an alternative Passover date. What Humphreys’s proposal does is to try to explain the contradiction in the light of a proposed underlying history; it does not remove the contradiction.

(2) It is not just Jesus and his disciples in the Synoptics who think that it is Passover. It is Pilate and the crowds too (Mark 15.6,8).

(3) Proposals that attempts to harmonize discrepant accounts usually end up placing strain on the narrative(s) at other points. This proposal is no exception. The pay-off, for Humphreys, in the Wednesday evening Last Supper is that this allows more time for the trials to take place. But according to Mark, the trial before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin took place on the same night as the Last Supper and not the next day. It receives a marked emphasis:

Mark 14.30: καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ἀμὴν λέγω σοι ὅτι σὺ σήμερον αύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ πρὶν ἢ δὶς ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι τρίς με ἀπαρνήσῃ

Mark 14.30: Amen I say to you: Today, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.

Peter’s denial in Mark is famously intertwined with the trial before the High Priest — it is taking place at night, that night, before the cock crows (Mark 14.53-72).

(4) The clear indication is that the events of Mark 15 follow straight on from the end of Mark 14, beginning “Early” (πρωΐ,15.1) without an additional unmentioned day intervening.

(5) Humphreys is concerned that a night trial before the Sanhedrin would be illegal. It is true that this concern is often repeated in the literature, but the basis for it is weak. The authoritative work on Mishnah Tractate Sanhedrin by Jacob Neusner concludes that that tractate is not a useful guide to what obtained in Jerusalem in the pre-70 period. It is an idealized re-imagination of what went on before 70.

(6) Humphreys is also concerned about the rushed timetable that is implied. I don’t share this concern for two reasons, historical and liturgical. The historical concern: we should be wary of importing our own ideas of what a “trial” ought to include. In the ancient world, these “trials” were often summary, ad hoc, ruthless affairs. The liturgical issue: If early Christians were remembering the Passion as they celebrated Passover, it is easy to imagine how the retelling compressed the narrative. The apparently tight timetable is more about liturgical remembering than historical memory.

Now it may be that some of my concerns are dealt with in the book, which I hope to read in due course. But on the basis of the press releases and summary articles, I think the proposal is flawed for these reasons.

Observo que:

. Quando se tenta explicar cientificamente um acontecimento narrado em um texto bíblico – seja ele o Êxodo do Egito ou a Última Ceia de Jesus – partindo do próprio texto e não de conclusões resultantes de múltiplas análises exegéticas do texto, os resultados costumam ser frágeis ou mesmo desastrosos. Mesmo fecundado com recursos da mais avançada ciência, o texto dá à luz não a uma explicação científica, mas a uma apologia [que, em grego, significa ‘defesa’, ‘justificação’]

. Não se pode saltar diretamente da leitura de um texto bíblico para o acontecimento narrado por ele: texto bíblico não é reportagem

. Além do que, é péssimo hábito ler mal o texto, vendo o que está em nossa cabeça – pressupostos não discutidos – e não o que o texto diz…

. Para se entender um texto bíblico deve-se levar em conta, pelo menos, quatro elementos na sua leitura: o texto e seu contexto, de um lado; nós e o nosso contexto, de outro lado. É estabelecida assim a seguinte correlação: o texto está para o seu contexto, assim como nós estamos para o nosso contexto. Deste modo, a identidade do sentido não é procurada no contexto ou na mensagem, mas na relação entre contexto e mensagem

. Como explico aqui e aqui.

Finkelstein: sobre a arqueologia da Cidade de Davi

In the Eye of Jerusalem’s Archaeological Storm [No olho do furacão arqueológico de Jerusalém]

The City of David, Beyond the Politics and Propaganda

By Israel Finkelstein

Forward – April 26, 2011

Archaeological activity in Jerusalem has been sucked into a whirlwind of conflicting political agendas, and the site commonly referred to as “the City of David” is in the eye of the storm. At issue is a place of seminal importance for the Jewish people and indeed for anyone who cherishes the heritage of Western civilization. When dealing with archaeology in Jerusalem, one must first know the facts. Otherwise it is easy to be led astray by unfounded historical interpretations or to succumb to misinformation from those pursuing their own political agendas. The City of David is a long and narrow six-hectare ridge that stretches to the south of the Temple Mount, outside the Old City of Jerusalem. It is the subject of an explosive mix of territorial disputes, political propaganda and conspiracy theories. But it is first and foremost a remarkable archaeological site that has been intensively explored by British, French, German and Israeli archaeologists starting as far back as the mid-19th century (…) From the outset of modern exploration, the City of David produced exciting discoveries. Truly thrilling finds include the Siloam Inscription, a late-8th-century BCE Hebrew inscription that commemorates the hewing of a water tunnel under the ridge. Other important recent discoveries are the Pool of Siloam, dating from the Roman period, and the monumental street that connected it with the Temple Mount — places that were frequented by thousands during the three pilgrimage festivals each year. But is the ridge south of the Temple Mount the location of the actual city of King David? This is one of the most excavated spots on the face of the earth, but so far fieldwork has not yielded any monuments from the 10th century BCE, the time of King David. Recent claims by an archaeologist working at the site regarding the supposed discovery of the palace of King David and the city-wall built by King Solomon are based on literal, simplistic readings of the biblical text and are not supported by archaeological facts. The supposed “palace” features walls from different periods, none dating — as far as I can judge — from the 10th century BCE. And the “wall” of Solomon cannot be considered a true fortification and cannot be dated as early as the 10th century BCE. In light of this context, some scholars think that the remains of the Jerusalem of King David’s time are located under the surface of today’s Temple Mount. This, however, does not diminish the tremendous importance of the City of David ridge. Scholars agree that starting in the late 8th century BCE, it was part of the enlarged city of Jerusalem. Illustrious biblical figures, such as Kings Hezekiah and Josiah and the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, probably strolled here at that time. Monuments unearthed here include impressive fortifications from the Bronze Age, the Kingdom of Judah and the period of the Hasmoneans, as well as water installations associated with the nearby Gihon Spring, ancient Jerusalem’s main water source. The Pool of Siloam is associated with the New Testament story of Jesus’ healing of a man who was blind from birth. This site should be revered as one of humanity’s great landmarks. Were it not for the political controversy surrounding the site, it would doubtless be high on the list of world heritage sites. Allegations are sometimes heard in the media that work in the City of David is unlawful and not executed to the standards of modern archaeology. This is untrue. Fieldwork there is carried out according to law and — taking into account the difficulties of excavating in a built-up area — using sound field methods. All excavation projects are directed by seasoned archaeologists and inspected by the Israel Antiquities Authority (…) The City of David’s monuments and antiquities — some yet to be discovered — are too important to be allowed to fall victim to politics or neglect. Whatever our political views, we need to be vigilant in maintaining this place as a tangible link to a rich past and as a site of honest historical inquiry.

Leia o texto completo.

Resenhas na RBL – 20.04.2011

As seguintes resenhas foram recentemente publicadas pela Review of Biblical Literature:

Ehud Ben Zvi and James D. Nogalski
Two Sides of a Coin: Juxtaposing Views on Interpreting the Book of the Twelve/the Twelve Prophetic Books
Reviewed by Marvin A. Sweeney

Katell Berthelot, Thierry Legrand, and André Paul, eds.
Torah: Genèse
Reviewed by Kristin De Troyer

Gitte Buch-Hansen
“It Is the Spirit That Gives Life”: A Stoic Understanding of Pneuma in John’s Gospel
Reviewed by Cornelis Bennema

Terence L. Donaldson
Jews and Anti-Judaism in the New Testament: Decision Points and Divergent Interpretations
Reviewed by Jeffrey S. Siker

Susan E. Hylen
Imperfect Believers: Ambiguous Characters in the Gospel of John
Reviewed by R. Alan Culpepper

Paul D. Korchin
Markedness in Canaanite and Hebrew Verbs
Reviewed by John Lubbe

Michael Lakey
Image and Glory of God: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 as a Case Study in Bible, Gender and Hermeneutics
Reviewed by William O. Walker Jr.

Anthony Le Donne
The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David
Reviewed by Alan Kirk

Jürg Luchsinger
Poetik der alttestamentlichen Spruchweisheit
Reviewed by James Alfred Loader

Michael W. Martin
Judas and the Rhetoric of Comparison in the Fourth Gospel
Reviewed by Tom Thatcher

>> Visite: Review of Biblical Literature Blog

A saga de Thompson: de Tübingen a Copenhague

Sobre a impressionante saga pessoal e intelectual de Thomas L. Thompson, já contei alguma coisa em meu artigo sobre o debate atual nas áreas de Pentateuco e de História de Israel. Recomendo a leitura, em dois diferentes artigos, dos itens Patriarcas? Que Patriarcas e Thomas L. Thompson (Dinamarca). Thomas L. Thompson é hoje Professor Emérito da Universidade de Copenhague, Dinamarca.

Feito isso, gostaria de chamar a atenção para dois textos recentes sobre Thomas L. Thompson:

:: Uma entrevista que Thompson deu a Thomas Verenna, do blog The Musings of Thomas Verenna e que foi dividida em 4 partes. Duas já foram publicadas [atualização em 08.05.2013: infelizmente a entrevista, partes 1 e 2, desapareceu do blog de Thomas Verenna, mas pode ser recuperada na WayBackMachine]:

. An Interview With Thomas L. Thompson: Part 1 of 4 – Personal Life and Beliefs: April 11, 2011

. An Interview With Thomas L. Thompson: Part 2 of 4 – Thoughts on Scholarship: April 13, 2011

:: Um artigo escrito por Thomas Thompson para a revista The Bible and Interpretation, publicado agora em abril, On the Problem of Critical Scholarship: A Memoire, no qual ele relata as controvérsias provocadas por sua tese sobre a (não) historicidade de Abraão.

Alguns dos personagens que aparecem no artigo de Thompson, uns pouco conhecidos por aqui, outros bastante conhecidos: Herbert Haag, Kurt Galling, Abraham Malamat, Shalom Paul, William Dever, Joseph Fitzmeyer, James Ross, Georg Fohrer, Hans Küng, Joseph Ratzinger, Leonard Swidler, Robert Wright, John Huesman, Dean McBride, Jeff Tigay, James Ross, John Van Seters, Jack Sasson, Matityahu Tsevat, William Thompson, Sara Japhet, Gösta Ahlström, Philip Davies, Niels Peter Lemche…

Os lugares onde Thompson estudou ou lecionou: Tübingen, Alemanha; Jerusalém, Israel; Philadelphia, Estados Unidos; Chapel Hill, Estados Unidos; Chicago, Estados Unidos; Milwaukee, Estados Unidos; Copenhague, Dinamarca.

Devo dizer que este relato me toca de um modo curioso. Os acontecimentos narrados por Thompson cobrem o período de 1971 a 1993. Mas, entre 1971, quando completou sua tese de doutorado, e 1975, quando, sem ter permissão para defendê-la, deixou Tübingen, na Alemanha, eu passava de dois a três meses por ano bem pertinho dali, em Böblingen.

Estudante de graduação em Teologia e depois de pós em Bíblia, em Roma, ia, com outros colegas brasileiros, para a Alemanha, para trabalhar na Daimler durante as férias de verão, fabricando carros Mercedes Benz em Sindelfingen. Fui à famosa cidade universitária de Tübingen a passeio apenas. Não conhecia pessoalmente ninguém de lá. Sabia que Hans Küng, cuja eclesiologia estudara bastante na Gregoriana, lecionava ali…

O que Casey nos conta sobre Jesus de Nazaré?

O livro de Maurice Casey sobre Jesus de Nazaré está fazendo barulho desde o fim do ano passado. Há reações como: é uma obra-prima, é um livro de leitura obrigatória… E muito mais.

As resenhas estão aparecendo, além de um colóquio com o autor na lista de discussão Biblical Studies. Aqui aponto algumas das resenhas que li.

O livro é um relato de um historiador independente sobre a vida e os ensinamentos de Jesus de Nazaré. O britânico Maurice Casey é Professor Emérito de Línguas e Literatura do Novo Testamento na Universidade de Nottingham, Reino Unido. Outro livro recente de Casey também foi muito comentado: The Solution to the ‘Son of Man’ Problem. London: T & T Clark, 2009, 416 p. – ISBN 9780567030702 (Paperback). Hardcover: 2007, xiv + 359 p. – ISBN 9780567030696.

CASEY, M. Jesus of Nazareth: An independent historian’s account of his life and teaching. London: T & T Clark, 2010, 576 p. – ISBN 9780567645173.

Michael Kok on Casey – Sheffield Biblical Studies: November 5, 2010

The OOs has been much quieter compared to the heyday for the study of the historical Jesus in the 80s/90s (Sanders, Horsley, Wright, Crossan, Borg, collectively Jesus Seminar, etc) and recently William Arnal questioned the academic legitimacy of the quest (cf. Symbolic Jesus, 73-78), so time will tell if Maurice Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth or Dale Allison’s Constructing Jesus (see Loren Rosson’s review) help revitalize this area. I approach this review of select chapters with a fellow postgraduate with a bit of trepidation, knowing Prof. Casey’s expertise on the subject far exceeds my own. This book is a must-read, especially Casey’s proficiency in reconstructing the underlying Aramaic of the sayings material (close to the ipsissima verba?), detailed knowledge of the Jewish background and unrivalled expertise on the Son of Man debate.

Christopher Markou On Casey, Ch. 2 – Sheffield Biblical Studies: November 14, 2010

It is my task to offer my thoughts on the second chapter of Maurice Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth. First however, it would be prudent of me to offer some general comments about the book and some of my opinions on it. Casey’s latest work is nothing short of a magnum opus, the sort of work a scholar can produce only at the culmination of a distinguished career of scholarship. It seems unfitting for someone such as myself who has yet to begin their own career to have the task of critiquing such a work, but I can confess to being daunted by Professor Casey’s mastery of the subject matter and can only hope that within my own career I am able to produce a monograph of such quality and argumentation. Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of His Life and Teaching is both comprehensive and commanding in its scope and argumentation and should certainly take its place as the most important work on the life of the historical Jesus since Sanders’ The Historical Figure of Jesus.

Mike Kok on Casey ch. 3 – Sheffield Biblical Studies: December 1, 2010

Here Casey covers the standard methodology in the study of the HJ: multiple attestation, double dissimilarity, embarrassment, plausibility, Aramaic, and so on.

Mike Kok: concluding thoughts on Casey and the historical Jesus – Sheffield Biblical Studies: January 2, 2011

This will be my last review of Casey’s magnus opus before I retire back to the world outside of blogdom J. I skip sections on upbringing, baptism, monotheism or ethics, for though I differ on an interpretation here or there, overall I agree with Casey’s portrait of a pious eschatological prophet. I would further like to wed Casey’s reconstruction with the social implications noted by a Horsley or a Crossan, such as how Jesus’ reign of God or ethics confronted social or economic disparities in first century Galilee/Judaea or Roman imperialism mediated through the native aristocracy and temple elites (…) So to turn to Ch. 9, Casey introduces Scribes, Pharisees, or Priests.

Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? Casey on Jesus: 1234567 (de 7 partes, publicadas durante esta Semana Santa) – Deane Galbraith: Bulletin for the Study of Religion – 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 e 23 de abril de 2011 [também aqui]

Released late in 2010, Maurice Casey’s historical reconstruction of the life and teachings of Jesus has become the major reference work in the controversial New Testament subdiscipline of historical Jesus studies. This seven-part review of Jesus of Nazareth will engage especially with the twelfth and final chapter of the book (“Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?”) – each part to appear daily over ”Holy Week”. One of the great benefits of Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth for contemporary Jesus scholarship is the way it has taken a great big broom to the accumulated rubbish and detritus which has recently cluttered the field. Casey is never afraid to challenge head-on – often abrasively; always decisively – some of the more blatantly apologetic arguments and conclusions issued recently by more conservative scholars, in a field which has, in these latter days, become dominated by conservative reactionism. This particular quality of Jesus of Nazareth may very well be, if I dare to predict it, the major benefit of the book for critical posterity. Given the sheer volume of quasi-academic, faith-based approaches to the person of Jesus, Casey has arguably cleared the field – for a little while at least – allowing more critical scholars (whether Christian or otherwise) to offer genuine criticism without being bogged down with the sheer weight of defences of the faith presented in the guise of scholarship. At least… here’s hoping that will be the case!

A (pen)última polêmica de Jacobovici: cravos da cruz

Simcha Jacobovici – aquele do Sepulcro Esquecido de Jesus, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, ou Tumba de Talpiot, de 2007 – afirma que dois cravos encontrados em um tumba em Jerusalém podem ter sido usados na crucificação de Cristo, hipótese que foi criticada e causou polêmica entre especialistas em arqueologia. Há consenso entre os biblioblogueiros de que este é mais um “achado” pseudoarqueológico, talvez comprado ali no ferro-velho da esquina… It is the consensus amongst expert bloggers is that Simcha Jacobovici’s claims about “The Nails of the Cross” are dubious…

Joe Zias- ‘More Amazing Dis-Grace- The JESUS NAILS: The Naked Truth vs. The Naked Archaeologist’ – Jim West: Zwinglius Redivivus 19/04/2011 · 06:41

Protestantismo e catolicismo no Brasil: Paul Freston

Em entrevista à IHU On-Line, publicada em 16/04/2011, o cientista social Paul Charles Freston fala sobre

Protestantismo e catolicismo na América Latina: desafios da democracia e do pluralismo religioso

“Pesquisas recentes indicam o crescimento do pentecostalismo no Brasil. Há, portanto, e isso é inegável, uma mudança no status religioso nacional. Segundo o sociólogo Paul Freston, o motivo deste declínio da Igreja Católica se dá porque o pluralismo e a democracia se apresentam como os grandes desafios para a religião. ‘É difícil manter a hegemonia na sociedade civil porque ela é cada vez mais independente, autônoma e plural. Assim, as ditaduras, mesmo aquelas que perseguiram a Igreja, eram situações mais favoráveis para a manutenção da posição social da Igreja’, explicou durante a entrevista que concedeu à IHU On-Line, por telefone. Paul Charles Freston nasceu na Inglaterra e é brasileiro naturalizado. Graduou-se em História e Antropologia Social pela University of Cambridge (Inglaterra) e fez mestrado em Latin American Studies pela University of Liverpool. Também é mestre em Christian Studies pela Regent College. Já no Brasil, fez doutorado em Ciências Sociais pela Universidade Estadual de Campinas. Recebeu o título de pós-doutor pela University of Oxford. Atualmente, é pesquisador sênior da Baylor University (EUA) e professor na Universidade Federal de São Carlos (SP)”.

Um trecho:

[No contexto atual] o que ocorre é uma mudança no status público da Igreja Católica, mas também de uma transição protestante que é o fato de que muito dificilmente o protestantismo vai chegar a ser maioria em algum país latino-americano. Certamente, no Brasil a perspectiva não é essa. Prevejo que nas próximas décadas o crescimento protestante vai estabilizar, vai chegar num patamar e se estabilizar. Ficaremos entre 20 e 35%. Quando estabilizar aí tudo muda. Essa é a questão. Teremos um quadro religioso totalmente transformado nesse país; teremos um protestantismo que já não cresce como hoje. Não vai haver o mesmo triunfalismo e o mesmo jeito aguerrido. Vão ser produzidos outros tipos de líderes, outras relações entre as diferentes religiões e com a política. Vai ser muito diferente do que é hoje. Ao mesmo tempo, a Igreja Católica vai estabilizar. Porém, de uma forma diferente do que sempre foi. Pode até ser minoria; é possível que o censo do ano passado já dê uma minoria católica no estado do Rio de Janeiro, não no país todo. E quando estabilizar os “fiéis” da Igreja serão descritos como mais praticantes, identificados, compromissados. As relações entre católicos e protestantes serão bem diferentes e, além disso, teremos um setor razoavelmente grande de pessoas adeptas a outras religiões ou “sem religião”. Essa situação pluralista vai ser mais difusa e não vai haver uma protestantização.

Leia a entrevista.