6. Ancient Judaisms
Philip R. Davies† [+]
University of Sheffield, (Emeritus)
We have seen how ‘Israel’ is an identity with several claimants, each with its own story. In the case of the New Testament, we have a multiplicity of ‘Jesuses’. There is more than one memory of a historical figure and more than one understanding of what followers of Jesus Christ, as he becomes, should believe and do. The New Testament exposes these identities, ending in a highly vivid climax: Jesus Christ returns to defeat his enemies, gather the righteous to himself and bring creation and history to an end. The stories begin in Palestine with a Jewish teacher and healer understood by his followers as the culmination of all that the scriptures mean. They move beyond Palestine and beyond Judaism, and what begins as a confrontation with Jewish authorities ends as a confrontation with the Roman Empire. But they give only hints of the eventful history of their time and little explanation of the culture of first century ce Palestinian Judaism. The original readers, of course, did not need telling, but two thousand years later, some explanation is necessary.