Prof. Eric Noffke - 1st March/7th June 2017 - New perspectives on first century CE Judaism
First century Judaism has been considered for almost two millennia as a time of theological and spiritual stagnation, marked by a legalistic faith. Jesus alone had shone as a bright star in those arid and shadowy years. Only a few apocalyptic writers were considered worthy of attention, because they seemed to prelude some Christian ideas. The mainline picture was that of a time of struggle between Jesus and his followers against the Pharisees, to bring to life again the true Israelite faith of the ancient prophets.
According to contemporary scholarship, this reading of the first century Judaism was heavily biased by the need of legitimation both of Christianity and of Rabbinic Judaism, in order to support their claims on the Israelite heritage after the destruction of Jerusalem by the hands of the Romans. Thanks to the Qumran discoveries (1947) and to a new reading of the Old Testament Pseudoepigrapha, we now know that in the decades in which Jesus and his apostles were preaching, Judaism was theologically well alive and multifaceted. It’s now clear that as Christians we are heavily indebted toward that theology, maybe much more than we would like to admit. The purpose of this course is to picture the theological variety of Judaism in the first century, with an eye open also on contemporary pagan culture.