13 May 2009

Jesus movement: essene or pharisee?

The chart above (which refuses to be enlarged in blogger for some reason) draws attention to the complexities of Second Temple Judaism. Admittedly, when introducing students to this period I simply cover basic overviews of Pharisees-Sadducees-Essenes-Zealots and do not go into the variations of each. But it is helpful to know that there is a lot more going on than is simply assumed when reading the text. I'll admit: I like this chart - it is a good snapshot of the world of Judaism at this time.

I have one challenge.

My contention with Boccaccini's chart comes down to the emergence of the Jesus Movement. The author's contention is that it emerges out of the Essene group alone. While I am becoming increasingly open to the notion that the Jesus movement looked a lot like Essene Judaism (from delving into Enochic Judaism), I cannot deny that Jesus resembles Pharisaic Judaism as well. In fact, I have heard for many years that "Jesus was a Pharisee" and have myself said that the Pharisees and Jesus were often after the same objectives. (For the record, I cannot hold that Jesus would have been a blanket 'Pharisee' either in card-holding-membership or basic ideology.)

In my estimation (which isn't the most comforting place to theologize, I grant you), the Jesus movement appears to be somewhere between Pharisaic and Essene Judaism of this time period. This is a characterization of theology. Socially, it is much harder to define Jesus - he is somewhere between the Essenes and the Zealots, which doesn't help answer the question at all! But the most significant piece to be gained from this chart is the complexities of Second Temple Judaism and their influence on history and culture - especially Jesus and his followers.


Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,

I stop by your blog on occasion and really enjoy what you write. I noticed that you have read a lot on the issues related to the restoration of Israel and how that relates to Christ. And i was wondering if you could recommend any Luke or Act commentaries that expound this idea.


dan chen

:mic said...

Off the top of my head (for specifically L-A):

1. M. Turner, Power from on High2. D. Pao, Acts and the Isaianic New Exodus3. M. Fuller, The Restoration of israel4. P. Mallen, The Reading and Transformation of Isaiah in Luke-ActsThere are others which would address restoration, though not specifically Luke-Acts (e.g., B. Pitre's work - which you can access my review of in the sidebar).