This dissertation considers the strategies through which Second Temple Jews connected their unredeemed present with a glorious national past. The two works that serve as case studies, the Wisdom of Ben Sira and the book of Jubilees, located the origins of Jewish history in the divine act of creation rather than in the forging of covenants. Both works also carried forward the promises of the past by rewriting biblical history down to their own day, thereby situating themselves in the expanse of covenantal history. By tracing God's relationship with the Israelites back to creation and forward to the second century B.C.E., these authors indicated that the broken covenants, the exile, and the end of self-governance did not signal a decisive rupture in their relationship with God but, on the contrary, underscored the fact that God's primordial intentions for Israel had not yet been fulfilled.
In these ways, the disappointments of the present shaped a new ordering of time. The historical consciousness apparent in the Pentateuch, according to which history is divided into a pre-covenantal past and a covenantal present, allowed for the possibility of a post-covenantal future. Jubilees and Ben Sira therefore replaced the temporal divisions of past, present, and future with a temporal model of cosmic past and ultimate future. Accordingly, the disappointments of historical time simply delayed the inevitable fulfillment of God's primordial intentions.
While the similarities between these two very different works suggest that the tendency to compartmentalize Second Temple works as representing distinct “Judaisms” overlooks shared theological concerns and responses, the differences between Jubilees and Ben Sira are equally illuminating. For the author of Jubilees, God has yet to fulfill his primordial intentions for his people, while, for Ben Sira, the second century B.C.E. constitutes the climax of universal history, with the high priest Simon the final destination for Wisdom's wanderings. In contrast to Ben Sira, who remains confident that God maintains his fidelity to the covenant, Jubilees assumes that the covenant with the Israelites has been broken, and that God and his children will only be reconciled following a thorough re-creation of man's nature.
|Advisor:||Schiffman, Lawrence H.|
|Commitee:||Bernstein, Moshe J., Fleming, Daniel E.|
|School:||New York University|
|Department:||Hebrew and Judaic Studies|
|School Location:||United States -- New York|
|Source:||DAI-A 72/11, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Religious history, Biblical studies, Judaic studies|
|Keywords:||Ben Sira, Covenant, Creation, Hebrew Bible, Jubilees, Second Temple Judaism, Wisdom of Ben Sira|
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