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Catherine Hezser

The Jesus Movement as a Popular Judaism for the Unlearned

Gerd Theissen has devoted a large amount of his scholarly career to the exploration of the Jesus movement, and his hypothesis of itinerant charismatics (Wandercharismatiker) as the earliest followers of Jesus has been a major scholarly breakthrough.1 On the basis of Theissens work we shall argue that Jesus and the early Jesus movement constituted a form of Judaism which popularized biblical beliefs and practices and reinterpreted them for the uneducated and largely illiterate masses, in contrast to the scholarly-oriented Pharisaic and rabbinic forms of Judaism which would have attracted a literate, educated, and mostly urban intellectual elite. Not much is known about popular Judaism, that is, the religious life of the mostly rural Jews of Roman Palestine in the first centuries CE, who were not Torah scholars and would have been categorized as unlearned by Pharisees, scribes, and rabbis. The gospels and Josephus give the impression that the religiosity propagated by Jesus and disseminated by the early itinerant preachers of his movement constituted one particular type of popular Judaism. Despite a certain overlap with other Jewish groups (e.g., the Essenes), Jesus and his followers behaviour and teachings would have been sufficiently different to distinguish them from other self-proclaimed Jewish religious authorities. Many books and articles have been written about the Judaisms of the late Second Temple period and the emergence of the rabbinic movement after 70 CE.2 While the Temple was still standing, the sacrificial service conducted by the Temple priests would have constituted the official
1 G. Theissen, The First Followers of Jesus: A Sociological Analysis of the Earliest Christianity (London: SCM, 1978); idem, Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity (Augsburg: Fortress, 1978). 2 See, for example, L.H. Schiffman, Understanding Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, 2003), esp. 5: Judaism is understood here as a broad term taking in a variety of ideologies and approaches that coexisted with and influenced one another. The term common Judaism seems misleading because it suggests a certain homogeneity in beliefs and practices, even if this meaning is not intended by the editors, see W.O. McCready/A. Reinhartz (eds.), Common Judaism: Explorations in Second Temple Judaism (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2011).

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religion, which few Jews would have rejected entirely.3 Yet the Temple service would have rarely affected ordinary Jews daily lives. It would have formed the background for a variety of supplementary beliefs and practices, which brought Judaism closer to peoples homes, families, and everyday concerns. The Jesus movement seems to have been a form of popular Judaism which offered personal salvation to people irrespective of their scholarly proficiency. In the following we shall juxtapose Jesus popular Judaism with the scholastic model of Pharisees and rabbis and view both in the context of widespread illiteracy in ancient Judaism of the first centuries CE.

1. John the Baptist as a Model for Salvation without Torah Study


The gospels associate Jesus with John the Baptist, whose popular preaching seems to have focused on the atonement of personal sins through immersion in water (cf. Mark 1:4-11 par.). The priestly Jerusalem- and Temple-based religion was community-oriented, that is, most sacrifices were brought on behalf of all Israel. Individual Jews must have been concerned about the personal sins and transgressions they committed in their daily lives. John would have recognised this problem and offered immersion as a way to allay such anxieties. Neither the gospels nor the book of Acts or Josephus provide information about his Torah knowledge, although he must have been familiar with at least some biblical figures and ideas.4 Mark describes his unusual attire, eating habits, and desert location instead. John is presented as a holy man who had distanced himself from ordinary life.5 Johns preaching in the desert and immersion in the Jordan must have offered something to his adherents that Jerusalem Temple service lacked, namely, atonement and salvation on a personal scale. Catherine M. Murphy has recently described John the Baptists activities as a purification

3 For attitudes towards the Temple see K.S. Han, Han, Jerusalem and the Early Jesus Movement: The Q Communitys Attitude Towards the Temple (London and New York:Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), 91: Much of the literature written during the Second Temple period explicitly or implicitly underlines the significance of the Temple, showing that the temple [sic!] held the allegiance of the Jewish people. 4 Josephus, Ant. 18.2.2 (117), says that John urged the Jews to practice virtue and justice toward one another and piety toward God, but he does not specify what this teaching was based on. Like the gospels, Josephus emphasizes Johns baptism practice as pardon for some sins and purification of the body. According to Acts 13:24, he preached a baptism of repentance. 5 On late antique holy men see P. Brown, The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity, Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971) 80-101.

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movement amongst others in first-century Judaea.6 In contrast to the Qumran community and the Pharisees, however, his purification through baptism did not require prior study and knowledge of the Torah.7 In fact, the salvation he offered seems to have come without preconditions, except for repentance, that is, an awareness of ones sins (towards other human beings and God) and the wish to rid oneself of them.8 According to the gospels, Jesus was attracted to John and visited him at the Jordan to subject himself to the immersion ritual. Whether he became his disciple and lived with him for some time remains unknown.9 We are not told what exactly he learned from John, but his own sojourn in the desert (Mark 1:12), if historically trustworthy, and his belief in the imminent onset of the end of times (Mark 1:15) may have been inspired by John. Unlike the upperclass youth Josephus, who seems to have received both a Jewish and Greek education,10 Jesus is not known to have made the rounds of the more conventional first-century philosophies of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes (cf. Josephus, Vita 10-12) but was attracted to a weird desert outlaw instead, whose strange clothes and behaviour must have evoked both criticism and fascination amongst the populace.

6 C.M. Murphy, John the Baptist: Prophet of Purity for a New Age (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003), 109-56. 7 As C.M. Robbins, The Testing of Jesus in Q (Studies in Biblical Literature 108, New York: Peter Lang, 2007), 30, points out: Perhaps the fruits of repentance of which John speaks had little or no scribal basis in the Torah. There is certainly no evidence that he was a rabbi in the technical sense of that term. The reference to the law of Moses in the speech attributed to John the Baptist in John 1:17 has no basis in the synoptic gospels and is almost certainly redactional. 8 The practice of immersion and purification through water had a long tradition in Judaism by the first century already, but we do not know whether and to what extent Johns baptism recapitulated earlier forms. On this issue see J.E. Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist Within Second Temple Judaism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 77, who stresses that there were numerous kinds of ablutions and immersions in Second Temple Judaism as a whole and among the Essenes in particular. 9 See also D.S. Dapaah, The Relationship Between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth: A Critical Study (Lanham, ML: University Press of America, 2005), 96. 10 We do not know the exact scope of Josephus education. S. Schwartz, Josephus and Judaean Politics (Leiden: Brill, 1990), 56-7 believes that despite his upper class origin and claim to be an expert in Jewish law (Vita 9) Josephus education apparently did not include careful study of the biblical text, which he undertook only after the publication of Bellum. The Greek education he had received in Jerusalem seems to have been inadequate as well, see ibid., 209. On Josephus education see also S.J.D. Cohen, Josephus in Galilee and Rome: His Vita and Development as a Historian (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 106 and 129.

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2. The Scholastic Model: Torah Knowledge as the Basis for Observance


We do not know whether Pharisees (and Sadducees) actually visited John the Baptist and asked for his ritual ablution, as is claimed in Matt 3:7. In Luke 3:7 Johns speech is addressed to the people instead. While it is imaginable that individual members of the Pharisaic movement would have approached charismatics and holy men to underpin their aspirations for salvation, they adhered to an altogether different model of Jewish religiosity which was based on Torah study and observance.11 Josephus, who claims to have been a Pharisee himself (cf. Vita 12),12 expresses their basic view in a succinct way when saying that the Torah orders that they [children] shall be taught letters, and shall learn both the laws and the deeds of the forefathers, in order that they may imitate the latter and, being grounded in the former, may neither transgress nor have any excuse for being ignorant of them (C. Ap. 2.25, 204). Similarly, in the Testament of Levi Levi admonishes his sons: Teach your children letters also, so that they might have understanding throughout all their lives as they ceaselessly read the Law of God (13:2). What these texts emphasize is that Torah observance must be based on knowledge of the Torah, which can be acquired only through diligent Torah study. Therefore young (male) children should be taught to read the Torah in Hebrew, even if their everyday language was Aramaic or Greek.13 Even though we do not have first-hand knowledge about Pharisaic practices and beliefs in Second Temple times,14 what is certain is that Pharisees stressed the importance of Torah study, of familiarising oneself with Torah law, as a prerequisite for proper observance of precepts which they considered divinely inspired, that is, given by God to Moses at Sinai. They believed that one could live a God-pleasing life only if one knew Gods will in detail. To know how to please God through ones behaviour in
11 See also Taylor, The Immerser, 199-201, who points to an additional reference in the Ps.-Clementines claiming that scribes and Pharisees were baptized by John (Recognitions 1.54). Nevertheless, we do not need to assume that Pharisees in general felt that way. 12 On Josephus claim that he was personally affiliated with the Pharisees see S. Mason, Flavius Josephus and the Pharisees: A Composition-Critical Study (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 309-41. 13 On Hebrew as the holy language of the Torah and Temple see S. Schwartz, Language, Power and Identity in Ancient Palestine, Past and Present 148 (1995), 3-47. 14 Post-70 rabbis were not the direct successors of the Pharisees and rabbinic views expressed in rabbinic documents cannot be taken as evidence of Pharisaic Judaism. See S.J.D. Cohen, The Significance of Yavneh: Pharisees, Rabbis, and the End of Jewish Sectarianism, Hebrew Union College Annual 55 (1984) 27-53; P. Schfer, Der vorrabbinische Pharisismus in M. Hengel (ed.), Paulus und das antike Judentum (Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1991), 125-75.

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everyday life, a detailed knowledge and interpretation of His precepts was necessary. Baumgarten believes that members of the three Jewish schools of thought mentioned by Josephus stemmed from an educated intellectual elite:
... members of these groups [i.e., the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes] were likelier to come from the economic, social and educational elite - the middling sort (to the extent that there was such a class in antiquity) and better who could afford the luxury of indulgence in affairs of the spirit, and who had sufficient background to become sensitive to and interested in issues of a certain character, appropriate to their status.15

The Pharisees and Essenes emphasis on Torah study would have presupposed literacy, at least as far as the ability to read the Torah in Hebrew was concerned.16 Only those parents who were (a) reasonably well off and did not require their sons participation in agriculture or other types of work, and (b) pious, valuing Torah study above other, more worldly skills, would have sent their sons to elementary teachers to learn Torah reading.17 Only those young male Jews who had a good foundation in Torah reading would have been able to engage in more advanced Torah studies and in learned discussions of the text. At least the core members of the Pharisaic and Essene groups, that is, those who provided the ideological outlook and the behavioural parameters for these movements, must have been welleducated in the biblical tradition, that is, they must have been intellectuals. Since they upheld textual study as an ideal, the religiosity they proposed was mainly geared at literate urban circles. Even if they propagated Torah study amongst ordinary people and urged them to become more learned, their ideals were hard to follow and their practices would have been difficult for the uneducated masses to imitate, since they lacked the necessary leisure time and perhaps also the interest in acquiring Torah learning. Later rabbinic sources occasionally express scholars attitudes of superiority towards the unlearned, even if they were wealthy. For example, a story in Midrash Leviticus Rabbah relates that a wealthy householder invited R. Yannai to his house (Lev. R. 9:3). The rabbi began to examine his knowledge of Torah, rabbinic traditions, and prayer formulas during the meal. When he found the householder deficient in learning, he called him a dog. The host reacted by becoming angry with the rabbi, who allegedly
15 A.I. Baumgarten, The Flourishing of Jewish Sects in the Maccabean Era: An Interpretation (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 47. 16 See Baumgarten, Flourishing of Jewish Sects, 114-36. On the Essenes as a studying community see S.D. Fraade, Interpretive Authority in the Studying Community at Qumran, JJS 44 (1993) 46-69. 17 On this issue see C. Hezser, Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine (TSAJ 81, Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck 2001), 40-89.

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claimed a monopoly on a religious heritage which belonged to all Israel and not to scholars only. When R. Yannai became aware of the householders good moral conduct, he eventually made peace with him. The story indicates that later rabbis were aware of the gulf of learning that divided them from the majority of their co-religionists, even if the latter had a high social status and standing within the local communities. Although they continued to uphold their scholarly ideals, they devised means to enable ordinary people to partake of their scholarship.18 It is likely that Pharisees maintained a similar attitude of superiority towards the unlearned. Such an attitude was also held by Hellenistic philosophers, who were keen to distinguish themselves from the unlearned masses, the so-called , , or indocti.19 Like the Pharisees and later rabbis, Stoics, Cynics, and Epicureans held up a scholarly ideal in which the study and practice of wisdom became the most or even the only acceptable way of life. What is important is that just as in Josephus statement above, knowledge and practice were closely interlinked with knowledge forming the basis of the right practice, as it was defined differently by each group.20 Those who did not subscribe to this ideal, irrespective of whether or not they had a high socio-economic status in society, were considered inferior to the intellectual elite. Palestinian Jewish sages of the first centuries CE need to be understood within this Hellenistic context of scholarly self-awareness and self-distinction from the foolish masses.21

3. Was Jesus Illiterate?


Not much is known about Jesus educational background. What is certain, though, is that he was not a Pharisee and did not stress Torah study as a religious ideal. According to Mark, he went and gathered his own disciples immediately after Johns imprisonment (Mark 1:14-15); that is, the only religious education Mark mentions, before Jesus started his own preaching, was his association with John. Shortly afterwards, however, Mark claims that they went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the
18 For example, by providing hospitality to sages or by listening to their sermons. 19 See U. Wilckens/G. Fohrer, , , , TDNT 7 (1970), 465-526, esp. 472-3. E.g., Cicero, De nat. deor. 1.2.5 distinguishes between the unlearned (indocti) and educated men. 20 See, for example, Cicero, On Goals 3.24: And we do not think that wisdom is like navigation or medicine, but rather like the craft of acting or dancing...; thus its goal, i.e. the [proper] execution of the craft, depends on it itself and is not sought outside itself. 21 On this issue see also C. Hezser, The Social Structure of the Rabbinic Movement in Roman Palestine (Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 130-7.

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synagogue [or: congregation] and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority [], and not as the scribes (Mark 1:21-22). This passage is interesting in a number of respects. Firstly, we know very little about synagogues and their functions in the first century CE. Almost all buildings that can be identified as synagogues in Roman Palestine are nowadays dated to the fourth to sixth centuries CE.22 Earlier excavation sites that were identified as synagogues in the past (e.g., Gamla, Massada, Herodium) do not show any specific features that would indicate a religious use.23 They may rather have been gathering places for various functions, which could but need not necessarily have included Torah reading or other kinds of religious practices. The Palestinian synagogue as the central religious place of the local community is an early Byzantine phenomenon.24 This does not exclude the possibility that Torah reading, study, and interpretation as a communal ritual took place at various locales in earlier times already.25 Mark does not say that Jesus read from the Torah or that the Torah was read by others when he entered the synagogue.26 He merely states in a very general way that Jesus taught, without specifying the content of the teaching. What he emphasizes, though, is that he taught as one having authority and distinguished himself in this regard from scribes teaching practices. It is unlikely that Torah exegesis as it was practiced by Pharisees and Torah scholars is associated with Jesus here. That he taught with probably refers to direct inspiration from God, like prophetic teaching, in contrast to teaching that was text-based. That Jesus had Torah learning or that his teaching consisted of his Torah interpretation in dispute with Jewish Torah scholars is not suggested here. On the contrary, Jesus knowledge is said to have been of an entirely different origin and nature than that of Torah sages. Matthew, who multiplies Jesus synagogue teaching activity (Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, 4:23) states that he proclaimed the good news () of the kingdom, an idea which Mark already tells us he took over from John (cf. Mark 1:14). The content of
22 See D. Milson, Art and Architecture of the Synagogue in Late Antique Palestine (Leiden: Brill, 2007). 23 My former doctoral student, Lidia Matassa, has recently finished a Ph.D. thesis on this subject, which was submitted to Trinity College Dublin in 2010. 24 See especially S. Schwartz, Imperialism and Jewish Society, 200 B.C.E. to 640 C.E. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004) 215-39. 25 The practice is mentioned by Philo and Josephus as well as in the so-called Theodotus inscription from first century CE Jerusalem. See Schwartz, Imperialism and Jewish Society, 221-5, for references. 26 The Torah is also not mentioned in Mark 6:2, where another occasion of teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath is related.

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his initial teaching, as stated by Mark and Matthew, consisted in the proclamation of the nearness of the end of times and perhaps not much else, except for urging others to prepare themselves. The urgency of this eschatology would not have left much time for close textual study and discussion. The Pharisees and later rabbis, on the other hand, studied the Torah to provide guidance in the longue dure of human existence, that is, to their contemporaries as well as later generations of Jews. Only one passage in Luke presents Jesus as opening a biblical scroll and perhaps also reading from it aloud.27 According to Luke 4:17, he was handed a scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue of Nazareth on the Sabbath. Passages from prophetic books would be read as part of the so-called Haftarah (additional readings from the prophets) after the main Torah reading.28 Jesus is said to have pointed to a messianic prophesy (Isa. 61:1), subsequently presenting his own interpretation by identifying himself with the text (Luke 4:21). The parallels in Mark and Matthew (cf. Mark 6:2 par. Matt 13:54) lack this reference to the scroll, however, and point to Jesus special powers and miracles instead. Luke seems to have been familiar with Jewish liturgical practices of his own time and place and associated them with Jesus. From the perspective of a literate person who lived in a Hellenistic milieu at the end of the first or beginning of the second century CE, Jesus is presented as a person with reading skills and knowledge in the prophetic books of the Bible here. The connection between prophesy and fulfillment (cf. v. 21) clearly points to a redactional construction of this unit. Scholars have already stressed that at least a large proportion of the gospels scriptural quotations and the connections drawn between Jesus teachings and the Hebrew Bible must be seen as indications of the gospel authors or editors own learning rather than that of Jesus and his early

27 For references to books and scrolls in the New Testament in general and the gospels in particular see H. Hearon, The Interplay Between Written and Spoken Word in the Second Testament as Background to the Emergence of Written Gospels, Oral Tradition 25 (2010), 57-74, on pp. 62-3. 28 It is uncertain when and where the practice of Haftarah originated. The passages in Luke 4:16-17 and Acts 13:15 (Paul in the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia) constitute the earliest references to it. Perhaps the practice originated in Hellenistic Jewish communities of the Diaspora. Rabbis of the Mishnah seem to have known the ritual (cf. m. Meg. ch. 4). On the obscure origins of the Haftarah see M. Fishbane, Haftarah, in J. Blumenthal/J.L. Liss (eds.), Etz Hayim Study Companion (New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2005) 376-84, esp. 380; on traditional theories concerning the origins of Haftarah see S.N. Koenig, Haftarah - Sidrah: Mirror Images, in M.A. Shmidman (ed.), Turim: Studies in Jewish History and Literature, presented to Dr. Bernard Lander, vol. 1 (Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Publishing House and Touro College Press, 2007) 57-68, on pp. 57-62. In Jewish-Christian synagogues the prophetic reading may have replaced the Torah reading altogether.

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followers themselves.29 In Jesus and his early followers case, knowledge of Scripture may have been gained primarily or even exclusively through oral means of communication rather than through textual study, and it is likely to have been limited.30 Thus, James Dunn writes: It is certainly quite likely that a disciple such as Matthew, the toll collector, could read and write. But the only other profession or trade that we hear of in connection with the other close disciples of Jesus was fishing. And if Jesus disciples were typical of the peasants, tradesmen and fishermen of Galilee, we can safely assume that the great majority of the disciples were functionally illiterate. We cannot exclude the possibility that Jesus himself was illiterate, or only semiliterate....31 Werner Kelber has correctly stressed the fundamental difference between the Essenes as a studying community and the early Jesus movement: Qumrans Teacher of Righteousness was presumably of Zadokite lineage and an accomplished student of Scripture, as was the core group of his original followers. By contrast, neither the founding figure of the Christian movement nor the nucleus of his early followers enjoyed the educational privileges that the members of the Essene community possessed.32 The implications of mass illiteracy amongst Palestinian Jews of the first centuries CE and the oral cultural context of the early Jesus movement will be explored in the next section.

4. First-Century CE Judaism and Illiteracy


The large majority, that is, more than ninety percent of Jewish men and almost all Jewish women who lived in Roman Palestine in the first centuries CE would have been illiterate, that is, unable to read and write. For various
29 R.N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1999) 41 points to divergent scholarly positions concerning quotations and scriptural allusions in the gospels: one might consider scriptural quotes attributed to Jesus as reflections of the scriptural interpretations of the writers respective communities (or of the writers/editors themselves); others might see the gospels as credible reports of Jesus and his preaching and the quotes as reflections of his own use of Scripture. Obviously, each passage needs close and detailed analysis to determine the use of Scripture at the redactional and preredactional levels. Even if a pre-redactional use can be determined, it does not necessarily reflect Jesus own scriptural knowledge. 30 For emphasis on the mnemonic nature of Scriptural knowledge in Mark and Paul see W.H. Kelber, The Oral and the Written Gospel: The Hermeneutics of Speaking and Writing in the Synoptic Tradition, Mark, Paul, and Q (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2 1997), 12 and 197. 31 J.D.G. Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2011), 22. 32 Kelber, The Oral and the Written Gospel, 16.

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reasons, illiteracy would have been higher amongst the Jewish provincial population than amongst Romans, who had a much larger administrative system and a greater need for literacy skills.33 The large majority of Palestinian Jews worked in agriculture, which did not require such skills. In both Jewish and Graeco-Roman society writing was a technical skill accomplished by trained scribes. There is also no evidence that Hebrew reading skills were widespread in Jewish society. We do not have evidence of an organised elementary school system in Roman and early Byzantine Palestine.34 Josephus and Pharisees insistence that fathers should teach their sons Torah reading would have been heeded by the pious and economically well-off sectors of the population only. Torah reading, reciting, and memorisation required special training and had no economic benefits. In the early first century CE those few Jewish males who could recite the Torah in public probably belonged to the Pharisaic movement or were professional scribes who wrote Torah manuscripts. Such scribes are mentioned as elementary teachers in later rabbinic sources.35 Throughout the Roman and early Byzantine period the main responsibility to teach their children rested with parents, most of whom would not have considered Torah reading skills necessary, unless they were Pharisees or rabbis themselves. What does this widespread illiteracy mean with regard to Jewish religiosity? At the time when the Temple still existed, illiteracy would not have constituted a grave problem, since collective atonement was achieved through sacrifices brought by priests on behalf of all Israel. Few people would have felt the need to familiarise themselves with the Torah themselves in order to live a religious life. Whatever religious knowledge they had would have been transmitted orally and through practice within the family and local community. We do not know much about the popular Judaism of the first centuries CE. It is possible that it mainly consisted of the observance of the Sabbath, festivals, circumcision, food laws, and certain purity rituals,36 all of which would have been performed in accordance with family habits and local customs, that is, in rather diverse ways. Half a century ago Goodenough claimed that the use of images and symbols characterised the popular Judaism of the masses in contrast to the aniconic, text-oriented Judaism of
33 On this issue see Hezser, Jewish Literacy, 496-504. 34 On Jewish education in antiquity see C. Hezser, Private and Public Education in C. Hezser (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 465-81, esp. 469-71. 35 On scribes see Hezser, Jewish Literacy, 48, 118-26. 36 These are the practices which are most often mentioned by Greek and Roman authors on Jews and Judaism, see S.J.D. Cohen, Respect for Judaism by Gentiles According to Josephus in idem, The Significance of Yavneh and Other Essays in Hellenistic Judaism (Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 187-209, on pp. 206-7.

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the (Pharisees and) rabbis.37 He maintained that the most fundamental beliefs of the Jews revolved around the ideas of mysticism and salvation, issues which were also addressed by Greek and Roman religions.38 While Jewish art with its mixture of biblical and pagan images evolved in late antiquity only and the main Jewish mystical works were written in the Middle Ages, a popular Jewish interest in personal salvation and in the various charismatics, mystics, and healers who advertised it, seems entirely plausible.39 Such individuals would have filled the gap left by the rather distant and abstract Temple service on the one hand and the intellectual aspirations of scholars and sages on the other.40 In this context the early Jesus movement can be seen as a form of popular Judaism geared towards the unlearned, illiterate masses, especially the rural population of the Galilee.41 It offered them a way to gain personal salvation without Torah learning. It emphasised healing and explained basic moral ideas in an illustrative and easily understandable way. Whereas the Pharisees maintained that the Torah could be properly followed only after it had been carefully studied, interpreted, and applied to everyday life situations, Jesus and his followers claimed that the gist of the Jewish religious tradition was evident and understandable by everyone. They obviously emphasised whatever they considered most important, stressing morality, belief, and salvation, rather than aiming at comprehensiveness and complexity, as the later rabbis did. Throughout the gospels, Jesus is said to have preached orally to whoever was ready to listen.42 With the exception of one probably redactional text (Luke 4:17, see above), the gospels do not contain scenes in which he opens a Torah scroll and expounds a text passage. What he knew of the Hebrew Bible would have been heard, memorized, and readapted to his audiences circumstances. According to John 7:15, when Jesus taught in the Temple, the audience said: How does this man know letters, having never learned? John obviously wanted to stress Jesus spiritual authority, similarly to the
37 See E.R. Goodenoughs seminal work, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period (8 vols, Princeton: Princeton University Press,1953-68), referred to by L.I. Levine, Judaism and Hellenism in Antiquity: Conflict or Confluence? (Washington, DC: University of Washington Press, 1998), 8. 38 Levine, Judaism and Hellenism, 8. 39 On various popular movements in the first-century see R.A. Horsley/J.S. Hanson, Bandits, Prophets & Messiahs: Popular Movements in the Time of Jesus (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press, 1999), esp. the chapters on prophets and messianic pretenders. 40 As a third movement one might point to the zealots and rebels who were economically and politically motivated. There is not much reference to an anti-Roman political stance or protest in the gospels. 41 See also Horsley/Hansen, Bandits, Prophets, xxv and 92. 42 See C. Hezser, Oral and Written Communication and Transmission of Knowledge in Ancient Judaism and Christianity, Oral Tradition 25 (2010) 75-92, esp. 78.

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accentuated by Mark. Yet this may also be a reminiscence of the lack of text study that was turned from a deficiency into an ideal by Jesus and his followers. His adherents probably had some acquaintance with biblical stories and images.43 The wandering charismatics of the early Jesus movement would have memorized and transmitted various versions of stories about Jesus and sayings attributed to him.

5. Popular versus Scholastic Literary Forms


One of the greatest differences between post-70 rabbinic literature and the gospels is that the latter are written for lay people and contain popular literary forms whereas the former are scholarly works written for fellowscholars: even the smaller literary forms that are integrated in these documents are, for the most part, scholarly, transmitted by generations of rabbinical scholars and students. The thematic units of the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Palestinian Talmud consist of scholarly discussions of particular halakhic issues. With their allusions to biblical texts and concise formulation the halakhic statements, case stories, and disputes would have been understandable by fellow-scholars only. Even the exegetical and homiletical Midrash collections do not contain sermons that could be recited in synagogues. They are much too dense and allusive to have been useful to a general audience or readership. They may ultimately be based on public sermons, and scholars may have used them to construct public speeches, but they cannot be considered transcripts of the sermons themselves.44 A lot of embellishing, restructuring, and reformulation would have been necessary before certain parts of a Midrash could have been presented in front of a non-scholarly audience. As David Kraemer has argued with regard to the Babylonian Talmud, the intended reader is the fellow-scholar with a comprehensive knowledge of the
43 Horsley/Hansen, Bandits, Prophets, 92. 44 On the relationship between homiletical Midrash and sermons see especially D. Stern, Midrash and Theory: Ancient Jewish Exegesis and Contemporary Literary Studies (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1998), 55-63. Stern argues that the chapters of a homiletical Midrash such as Lev. R. possess literary coherence based on shared exegetical strategies (see p. 57). Yet we do not know what practical purposes or functions these collections served. If they were meant to be handbooks or sourcebooks for preachers, the redactor may have wished to give his professional readers a choice of petihtaot from which they could select one as the basis for their Saturday-morning sermon (62). On the necessary distinction between Midrash and sermon see also J. Townsend, The Significance of Midrash in L.M. Teugels et al (eds.), Recent Developments in Midrash Research: Proceedings of the 2002 and 2003 SBL Consultation on Midrash (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2005) 17-52, on p. 17.

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Torah and an understanding of rabbinic traditions and argumentation. Only such a reader can make the necessary connections and fill in the blanks in order to ultimately continue the discussion: The Bavlis authorship fashioned a work that constantly demands the readers contribution to its final communication. The Talmud is replete with ellipses and other gaps, its arguments often based on unstated logical associations or contrasts....45 Therefore the intended reader was clearly a member of a schooled elite who understood Scripture in its original language, committed much of Scripture to memory, and was able to apply certain specialized methods to its interpretation.46 The intended audiences of the gospels, on the other hand, would have been the local (house) communities, lay people whose literate members would read out or perform the texts in front of their friends.47 Most of these lay people would have been familiar with some sayings and characters of both the Old Testament and the Jesus tradition, but they would not have studied the texts themselves.48 With regard to the smaller units integrated into the larger genres, the gospels contain more popular traditions in contrast to the mostly scholarly rabbinic traditions. The term tradition is used instead of form here, because we have to assume that these units were mostly transmitted orally. Rabbinic traditions were based on oral teaching sessions and discussions with colleagues, rabbinic practices observed in daily life, and oral advice given to lay people.49 In the case of Jesus and the early leaders of the Jesus movement, they were based on the observation of healings and moral instruction and preaching to lay people.
45 D. Kraemer, The Intended Reader As a Key to Interpreting the Bavli, Prooftexts 13 (1993), 125-40, on p. 127. 46 Kraemer, Intended Reader, 128. 47 On the New Testament as performance literature see D. Rhoads, Biblical Performance Criticism, Oral Tradition 25 (2010), 157-98. Rhoads stresses that the gospels would have been presented orally in front of assembled audiences, probably in their entirety in one performance. They may have been read aloud or recited from memory, perhaps with variations and different emphases, depending on the social composition of the audience. On this issue see also the articles in R.A. Horsley/J.A. Draper/ J.M. Foley (eds.), Performing the Gospel: Orality, Memory, and Mark (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2011). 48 For a reconstruction of the intended reader of the gospel of John see R.A. Culpepper, Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 224. 49 On this issue see M.S. Jaffee, The Oral-Cultural Context of the Talmud Yerushalmi. Greco-Roman Rhetorical Paideia, Discipleship, and the Concept of Oral Torah in P. Schfer (ed.), The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman Culture, vol. 1 (TSAJ 71, Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998) 27-61. Jaffee argues for an oral-written continuum in which oral traditions were eventually committed to writing and then re-used and re-shaped orally (p. 45); he provides examples of rabbinic oral instruction underlying the amoraic texts (pp. 46-53). See also idem, How Much Orality in Oral Torah? New Perspectives on the Composition and Transmission of Early Rabbinic Tradition, Shofar 10 (1992), 53-72.

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In the various oral contexts one and the same rhetorical form could have had quite different functions. Even if the later rabbis used forms that also appeared in popular contexts, such as parables and apophthegmata, they seem to have used them mainly for scholarly instruction and collegial discussion rather than for popular edification.50 Rabbinic documents mainly contain halakhic traditions, though, that is, legal rulings, case stories, and disputes, which would have interested and been understood by scholars only. These traditions would have been memorized and transmitted by rabbis own students, who would have used and adapted them in their own educational practice, in collegial discussions, and legal advice to clients. The traditions would have been transmitted from one generation of scholars to the next, a phenomenon which the attributions indicate, even if they cannot be considered historically reliable.51 While the gospels also contain traditions and speeches which may have been directed primarily at professionals, that is, the itinerant charismatics of the Jesus movement who lived a life of poverty and homelessness (cf., e.g., the speech to the apostles in Matt 10:5-41),52 most of the traditions seem to be directed at the general public. Jesus is repeatedly said to have taught before the people, to whoever came to listen to him (see, e.g., Mark 2:2, 2:13, 3:7, 3:20 etc.). Although the gospel editors would have constructed these bridging statements in order to connect individual traditions and collections of traditions and to give the impression that Jesus had a large popular following, it is clear that Jesus and the leaders of the early Jesus movement mostly talked to hoi polloi rather than to a scholarly elite.
50 On the midrashic use of parables see D. Stern, Parables in Midrash: Narrative and Exegesis in Rabbinic Literature (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 21994) esp. 4647 on the occasions in which parables may have been used. While these occasions may have included sermons and contacts with lay-people and non-Jews, the literary sources suggest that they were also widely used in scholarly contexts, whether eulogies for fellow-sages, exegetical illustrations for students, or reminiscences about certain practices. On the apophthegmata see C. Hezser, Die Verwendung der Hellenistischen Gattung Chrie im frhen Christentum und Judentum, Frankfurter Judaistische Beitrge 27 (1996), 371-439; eadem, Apophthegmata Patrum and Apophthegmata of the Rabbis in La Narrativa Cristiana Antica. Codici Narrativi, Strutture Formali, Schemi Retorici (Rome: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 1996), 45364. 51 On the (un)reliability of attributions see D. Kraemer, On the Reliability of Attributions in the Babylonian Talmud, Hebrew Union College Annual 60 (1989), 175-90; J. Neusner, Why We Cannot Assume the Historical Reliability of Attributions: The Case of the Houses in Mishnah-Tosefta Makhshirin, in A.J. Avery Peck/J. Neusner (eds.), The Mishnah in Contemporary Perspective, vol. 2 (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 190-212. 52 On the itinerant charismatics see G. Theissen, Wir haben alles verlassen (Mc. X. 28). Nachfolge und soziale Entwurzelung in der jdisch-palstinischen Gesellschaft des 1. Jahrhunderts n. Ch. in idem, Studien zur Soziologie des Urchristentums (WUNT 19, Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1983), 106-141. Theissen points out that these early followers of Jesus formed certain circles (zusammenhngende Kreise) of independent missionaries (p. 109).

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Neither the wandering charismatics nor the audience to whom Jesus preached are presented as scholars. Therefore rhetorical forms and images are used which illustrate morals and ideas in an easily understandable, narrative and proverbial way, with examples from daily life and from the experiences of a mostly rural Galilean population. Gerd Theissen has already pointed out that the legend about John the Baptists death is not the only popular tradition in the Gospels; miracle stories contain direct indications that they were widely told, that is, transmitted by a wide range of people not limited to the early leaders and followers of the Jesus movement:53 ... the Markan community found traditions about Jesus circulating beyond its own circle, among all the people.54 Rumours about Jesus would have spread amongst the general population and various versions of stories would have circulated. This transmission of miracle stories and other narratives about Jesus stands in contrast to the rabbinic transmission of rabbis (halakhic) practices. Rabbinic example stories address issues which would have interested rabbis students and colleagues only. Healing and miracle stories, on the other hand, are very rare in rabbinic documents.55 Stories about charismatics were subjected to an editorial process in which the supernatural powers of such individuals were suppressed, criticised, or ridiculed.56 Such traditions stood in conflict with the notion that rabbis authority was based on text study rather than on visions, prophecy, and healings, and that each rabbi was equally close to God. The parables of the gospels can be considered another rhetorical form that would have been transmitted orally and spoke directly to the unlearned, even if the present written form would have been the result of literary editing. As B.B. Scott has emphasised, We have no parable of Jesus as he performed it. All extant parables ascribed to Jesus show the traces of performances by others.57 A certain basic structure would have been retold in different forms
53 See G. Theissen, The Gospels in Context. Social and Political History in the Synoptic Tradition (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1991) 97. 54 Theissen, Gospels in Context, 102. 55 H.M. Zellentin, Rabbinic Parodies of Jewish and Christian Literature (TSAJ 139, Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck 2011), 216-225 discusses a long rabbinic passage in y. Moed Qatan 3:1, 81c-d which contains two miracles, of an uprooted carob tree and burning wheat, which he sees as rabbinic reactions to analogous Christian miracle stories used in doctrinal arguments ... characteristic of late antique Christianity (p. 219), that is, the stories may have been told as a satirical parody (p. 216) of the Christian (use of such) stories, for internal scholarly reasons. At an earlier stage, the stories about Eliezers miracles may have been transmitted by his students or were based on rumours that circulated more broadly. 56 On this process of rabbinisation see, e.g., B.M. Bokser, Wonder-Working and Rabbinic Tradition: The Case of Hanina ben Dosa, JSJ 16 (1985), 42-92. 57 B.B. Scott, Hear then the Parable: A Commentary on the Parables of Jesus (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1990) 40. See also M.C. Moeser, The Anecdote in Mark, the

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and settings. The storytellers reshaped and adapted their narratives for each individual performance, probably using details from their environments.58 The meaning and function of the parables would have changed in accordance with the respective audiences.59 Parables use images and characters from daily life and are a part of folklore. They are concrete rather than theoretical, entertaining rather than scholarly. Yet a certain ambiguity remains: on the one hand, parables, a primitive communicatory force, invoke elementary passions and short-circuit the path to understanding; on the other hand, they baffle the mind with their allusive meanings.60 The other sphere remains mysterious and cannot be fully circumscribed by scenes based on thisworldly reality. While rabbinic parables serve to explain the rabbinic understanding of the Torah,61 the parables of the gospels are meant to reveal much more general theological and moral truths. In contrast to the popular forms of the miracle stories and parables, apophthegms may reflect discussions amongst leadership figures themselves. Rabbinic apophthegms can be considered part of school traditions in that they focus on a particular rabbis poignant saying or striking practice and would have been transmitted by rabbis students. The apophthegms of the gospels would have been transmitted by Jesus early followers and reflect their controversies with other self-declared authorities. Theissen has already pointed to the confrontational aspects of some of these narratives: they reflect a controversy between Jesus and Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees.62 He assumes that they were handed on ... by teachers, preachers, missionaries, and itinerant charismatics, confirming (Jewish-)Christian group identity within the various Jewish groups of the late first and early second centuries CE.63

Classical World and the Rabbis (London and New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002) 44. 58 See Scott, Hear then the Parable, 40-41. 59 A Jewish-Christian audience would have understood a parable differently than a gentile audience and readers of the later written gospels. See also G. Carey, Luke and the Rhetorics of Discipleship: The L Parables as Case Study, in J.D. Hester/D. Hester (eds.), Rhetorics and Hermeneutics: Wilhelm Wuellner and His Influence (New York: T & T Clark International, 2004) 145-74, on p. 160. 60 G. Safran Naveh, Biblical Parables and Their Modern Re-Creations: from Apples of Gold in Silver Settings to Imperial Messages (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2000) 7. See also ibid. 5 on the wide use of parables in the oral tradition of many different cultures. 61 C. Thoma, Literary and Theological Aspects of the Rabbinic Parables, in C. Thoma/M. Wyschogrod (eds), Parable and Story in Judaism and Christianity (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1989) 26-41, on p. 27. 62 Theissen, Gospels in Context, 114. 63 Theissen, Gospels in Context, 114-5. After their integration into the gospel of Mark they would have been used to distinguish Christian groups from Judaism as a whole (p. 116).

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6. The Role of Intermediaries


The populace lacked an immediate access to the vestiges of the holy, whether it was found in a particular space, such as the Jerusalem Temple, in a traditional text, such as the Torah, or in particular human beings, such as charismatics or holy men. Priests, text scholars, and early Christian missionaries served as intermediaries who enabled their contemporaries access to the holy by, at the same time, claiming a monopoly on their function as doorkeepers. Before 70 CE the Jerusalem Temple was the official centre of the holy and the priests were its administrators. Except for those who outrightly rejected the Temple priests authority, other means of access to the Divine were supplementary. Neither the Pharisees nor Jesus and his early followers abrogated the validity of the Temple and sacrifices.64 Yet they claimed that there was another way to know and fulfill Gods will, namely through Torah study and observance (Pharisees) or through an ascetic life of healing and supporting others (Jesus and his early followers). In both cases, the requirements were so rigorous that they could only be practiced by a few individuals: only few wealthy and educated male Jews would have been able to read, memorize, and discuss the Torah; only a few (probably exclusively male)65 Jews would have voluntarily chosen a life of poverty, homelessness, and itinerancy.66 Although only a few lived the ideal, others sympathised with them and sought their instruction and counsel. Pharisees (and later rabbis) gave advice on the basis of their Torah knowledge; the itinerant charismatics of the early Jesus movement told stories about Jesus, performed healings, and provided moral and theological instruction through parables, proverbs, and other
64 Criticism of Temple practices and the priesthood, attributed to Jesus in the gospels, does not necessarily imply rejection of the institution as such. For a detailed analysis of the respective passages see C.A. Evans, Jesus Action in the Temple: Cleansing or Portent of Destruction? in B. Chilton/C.A. Evans, Jesus in Context. Temple, Purity & Restoration (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 395-440. 65 Although some women may have been sympathisers of Jesus during his lifetime, they did not belong to his group of disciples and are unlikely to have led an itinerant lifestyle. 66 For associating asceticism with Jesus and the early Jesus movement see S.J. Patterson, Askesis and the Early Jesus Tradition in L.E. Vaage/V.L. Wimbush (eds.), Asceticism and the New Testament (New York and London: Routledge, 1999), 49-70. He suggests that asceticism is an appropriate framework for understanding what the early Jesus movement was all about (p. 50) and discusses Gerd Theissens work on Wanderradikalismus (pp. 52-56). An interpretation which combines asceticism with gender issues is presented by H. Moxnes, Putting Jesus in His Place: A Radical Vision of Household and Kingdom (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 73, who sees the asceticism of Jesus, his call to leave male space, as a challenge of the standards of masculinity in antiquity.

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forms of folklore wherever they went.67 Unlike the Pharisees, they did not ask their fellow-Jews to become Torah scholars themselves. All they required of them was belief in Jesus special power and a morally responsible lifestyle. In both cases the lay sympathizers were dependent on the self-proclaimed religious authorities to provide them with guidance on how to live their lives in holiness.

7. Was the Jesus Movement an Anti-Scholastic Form of Judaism?


Obviously, scriptural study and adherence to charismatic individuals were not mutually exclusive practices in ancient Judaism, as the example of certain Diaspora Jews such as Paul (from Tarsus, Acts 9:1) and Apollos (from Alexandria, Acts 18:24-25) shows. These individuals came from a learned Hellenistic Jewish background which would have differed from the Palestine-centred Pharisaic (and later rabbinic) movements, even though Paul, like Josephus (Vita 12), claims to have sympathised with Pharisaism (Phil. 3:5: as to the law, a Pharisee). As Saldarini has already pointed out, Paul is the only diaspora Jew identified as a Pharisee.68 As in the case of Josephus, his self-identification with Pharisaism may serve rhetorical purposes, indicating his (pre-Christian) Torah observance here.69 Unlike Pharisees, he would have studied the Bible in Greek rather than in Hebrew and he would have been familiar with Hellenistic modes of interpretation. He came from an entirely different milieu than the itinerant charismatics of the early Jesus movement, which explains the lack of references to miracle stories and parables in his letters to local Christian communities. Connections between Torah scholars and charismatics or messianic pretenders also occasionally appear in the later rabbinic texts, but they are generally judged negatively. In some traditions R. Aqiva may be presented as
67 I include here both the disciples of Jesus who followed him during his lifetime and itinerant charismatics who missionised on his behalf after his death and before 70 CE. For distinguishing between different groups of followers see E.W. Stegemann/W. Stegemann, The Jesus Movement: A Social History of Its First Century (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1999), 187. 68 A.J. Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society: A Sociological Approach (Wilmington, DE: M. Glazier, 1988), 134-5. 69 The reference to Jesus being born under the law in Gal. 4:4 does not refer to his upbringing in the Jewish Law, as C.L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 441 maintains. Paul rather emphasizes Jesus birth in a Palestinian Jewish society for which the Torah and Torah observance was important. He may merely refer to Jesus Jewish origin. The text (Gal 4:4-5) is complicated and has received many different interpretations which cannot be reviewed in detail here.

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an adherent of Bar Kokhba.70 As Peter Schfer has shown, however, rabbinic literature generally reflects the negative attitude of the Rabbis towards both Bar Kokhba himself and his activities.71 Similarly, a certain R. Eliezer is presented in a rabbinic story as a sympathiser of Jesus, but the storytellers clearly condemned Christian ideas as heresy.72 While there may have been a certain overlap between popular-charismatic and scholarly forms of Judaism in the first centuries CE, the respective emphases would have been different. As the later rabbinisation of charismatic figures such as Honi the circle drawer and Hanina b. Dosa indicates, sages were generally opposed to those who claimed direct inspiration independent of Torah study. Such individuals may have had a more or less large popular following, however, and rabbis therefore tried to integrate them into their own ranks by domesticating them.73 Jesus does not seem to have chosen his disciples on the basis of their learning and he preached before an indiscriminate group of people, that is, anyone who was willing to listen to him.74 Most of the traditional material, even in its later edited and reworked form, is geared towards a popular audience with people from different socio-economic strata (the rich were not necessarily more learned than the poor), rather than being specifically targeted at scholars. Reading skills and a large amount of Torah knowledge are not necessary to understand the sayings, stories, and parables transmitted in Jesus name. In the early Jesus tradition a lot of emphasis is put on actions - healings, miracles, exorcisms - rather than words. These actions are supposed to show Jesus special powers and distinguish him from other teachers and holy men.75 Whether or not Jesus intention was to reach the illiterate and
70 We do not know whether R. Aqiva actually was a follower of Bar Kokhba. For a discussion of the relevant texts see P. Schfer, Bar Kokhba and the Rabbis in P. Schfer (ed.), The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered: New Perspectives on the Second Jewish Revolt (TSAJ 100; Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 1-22. 71 Schfer, Bar Kokhba and the Rabbis, 7. 72 On this story which is transmitted in T. Hul. 2:24 see Hezser, Social Structure, 76. Again, the historicity of the story is doubtful. On the later rabbinic debate with Christian ideas and practices see especially P. Schfer, Jesus in the Talmud (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009). 73 On Hanina see S. Freyne, Hanina Ben Dosa, A Galilean Charismatic in idem, Galilee and Gospel: Collected Essays (WUNT 125; Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000), 132-59. On Honi see J.L. Rubenstein, Honi the Circle-Drawer: The Holy Man and Rain in idem, Rabbinic Stories (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2002), 128-32. On both of them see also Stegemann/Stegemann, Jesus Movement, 164-5. 74 This is sometimes explicitly said, e.g. Luke 6:27: But I say to you that listen. Usually the audience remains an unanimous crowd, e.g. Mark 2:13, Matt 19:2, Luke 7:11 etc. 75 Josephus (Ant. 18.3.3, 63-64) presents Jesus as a doer of wonderful works and a teacher of truth. He mentions him alongside other holy men such as John the Baptist (Ant.

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unlearned masses who could not fulfill Pharisaic standards of Torah learning and observance, it is likely that he gained most of his followers from those segments of society. The itinerant preachers of the early Jesus movement probably followed in his footsteps, telling miracle stories and parables and adapting them to their audiences particular interests and needs. According to Schwartz, this was a movement in which the Torah was not ignored (it could not possibly have been) but was definitely of secondary importance.76 The written gospels must be seen as reflections of a later stage, when local communities in Syria-Palestine and the Diaspora had solidified and were composed of unlearned and learned, poor and rich, Jewish and gentile individuals.77 The antitheses of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:17-44), although based on earlier material, probably belonged to this stage.78 Some house communities would have engaged in the study of the Bible, whether in Hebrew or Greek.79 Perhaps literate hosts, who must have been rather welloff to accommodate even small groups of correligionists in their houses, read or recited the texts in front of their fellow-Christians. The structure of the gospels with biblical quotations, paraphrases, allusions, and interpretations would have been the outcome of this later stage in which Jesus teaching and activity was linked to the Jewish Bible and presented as the fulfillment of its prophesies. This connection served early Christians to define their own identity in continuation of and distinction from the Judaism Jesus came from. The ascetic miracle worker Jesus, who had believed in the closeness of the end of times and attracted a popular audience with his folkloristic teachings, was turned into a Torah teacher who competed with Pharisees and scribes. The latter probably represented the rabbis of the post-70 CE gospel writers own times. A reflection of this development is also evident in the much later Babylonian Talmud, where there is an indirect

18.5.2, 116-119), who taught virtue and righteousness, and Theudas (Ant. 20.5, 97-99). On these see Schwartz, Imperialism and Jewish Society, 89. 76 Schwartz, Imperialism and Jewish Society, 91. 77 See also Theissen, Gospels in Context, 282 and 289. 78 On this text see H.D. Betz, The Sermon on the Mount: A Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, Including the Sermon on the Plain (Matthew 5:3-7:27 and Luke 6:20-49) (ed. A. Yarbro Collins; Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995) ad loc.; H.W.M. Van der Sandt, Matthew and the Didache: Two Documents from the Same Jewish-Christian Milieu? (Assen: Van Gorcum, 2005) 100 calls the Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5-7 the Matthean masterpiece of redaction. Matthew seems to have combined Q material with material from other pre-redactional collections here to construct a speech which reflected his own communitys value system. The antitheses which juxtapose biblical verses with new interpretations would be based on the editor(s) own scriptural learning. 79 On Christian scriptural study from the mid-first c. CE onwards see A. Hilhorst, Biblical Scholarship in the Early Church in J. den Boeft/M.L. van Poll-van de Lisdonk (eds.), The Impact of Scripture in Early Christianity (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 1-19.

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reference to Jesus as a Torah teacher disputing halakhic issues with rabbis.80 Babylonian rabbis of late antiquity may have been aware of Christian attempts to project their own literacy and knowledge onto Jesus and the early church.

Bibliography
Baumgarten, A.I., The Flourishing of Jewish Sects in the Maccabean Era: An Interpretation (Leiden: Brill, 1997). Betz, H.D., The Sermon on the Mount: A Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, Including the Sermon on the Plain (Matthew 5:3-7:27 and Luke 6:2049) (ed. A. Yarbro Collins, Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995). Blomberg, C.L., Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009). Bokser, B.M., Wonder-Working and Rabbinic Tradition: The Case of Hanina ben Dosa, JSJ 16 (1985) 42-92. Brown, P., The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity, JRS 61 (1971) 80-101. Carey, G., Luke and the Rhetorics of Discipleship: The L Parables as Case Study, in J.D. Hester/D. Hester (eds.), Rhetorics and Hermeneutics: Wilhelm Wuellner and His Influence (New York: T & T Clark International, 2004) 145-74. Cohen, S.J.D., The Significance of Yavneh: Pharisees, Rabbis, and the End of Jewish Sectarianism, Hebrew Union College Annual 55 (1984) 27-53. , Josephus in Galilee and Rome: His Vita and Development as a Historian (2nd ed. Leiden: Brill, 2002). , Respect for Judaism by Gentiles According to Josephus in idem, The Significance of Yavneh and Other Essays in Hellenistic Judaism (TSAJ 136, Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010) 187-209. Culpepper, R.A., Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987). Dapaah, D.S., The Relationship Between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth: A Critical Study (Lanham, ML: University Press of America, 2005). Dunn, J.D.G., Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2011). Evans, C.A., Jesus Action in the Temple: Cleansing or Portent of Destruction?
80 For a discussion of this text (b. A.Z. 16b-17a) see Schfer, Jesus in the Talmud, 4151. The Bavli story is a variant of the tannaitic story about R. Eliezers association with heresy, mentioned above. Whereas the tannaitic version does not specify the content of the teaching, the Bavli version has filled this gap and indirectly attributes a halakhic opinion to Jesus.

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in B. Chilton/C.A. Evans, Jesus in Context. Temple, Purity & Restoration (Leiden: Brill, 1997) 395-440. Fishbane, M., Haftarah, in J. Blumenthal/J.L. Liss (eds.), Etz Hayim Study Companion (New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2005) 376-84. Fraade, S.D., Interpretive Authority in the Studying Community at Qumran, JJS 44 (1993) 46-69. Freyne, S., Hanina Ben Dosa, A Galilean Charismatic in idem, Galilee and Gospel: Collected Essays (WUNT 125, Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000) 13259. Goodenough, E.R., Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period (8 vols, Princeton: Princeton University Press,1953-68). Han, K.S., Jerusalem and the Early Jesus Movement: The Q Communitys Attitude Towards the Temple (London and New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002). Hearon, H., The Interplay Between Written and Spoken Word in the Second Testament as Background to the Emergence of Written Gospels, Oral Tradition 25 (2010) 57-74. Hezser, C., Die Verwendung der Hellenistischen Gattung Chrie im frhen Christentum und Judentum, Frankfurter Judaistische Beitrge 27 (1996) 371-439. , Apophthegmata Patrum and Apophthegmata of the Rabbis in La Narrativa Cristiana Antica. Codici Narrativi, Strutture Formali, Schemi Retorici (Rome: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 1996) 453-64. , The Social Structure of the Rabbinic Movement in Roman Palestine (TSAJ 66, Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997). , Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine (TSAJ 81, Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck 2001). , Oral and Written Communication and Transmission of Knowledge in Ancient Judaism and Christianity, Oral Tradition 25 (2010) 75-92. , Private and Public Education in C. Hezser (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 465-81. Hilhorst, A., Biblical Scholarship in the Early Church in J. den Boeft/M.L. van Poll-van de Lisdonk (eds.), The Impact of Scripture in Early Christianity (Leiden: Brill, 1999) 1-19. Horsley, R.A./Hanson, J.S., Bandits, Prophets & Messiahs: Popular Movements in the Time of Jesus (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press, 1999). Horsley, R.A./Draper, J.A./Foley, J.M. (eds.), Performing the Gospel: Orality, Memory, and Mark (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2011). Jaffee, M.S., How Much Orality in Oral Torah? New Perspectives on the Composition and Transmission of Early Rabbinic Tradition, Shofar 10 (1992) 53-72. , The Oral-Cultural Context of the Talmud Yerushalmi. Greco-Roman

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