THE INTEGRATION INTO SCRIPTURE OF ORIGINALLY NON-JEWISH RELIGIOUS LITERATURE (ONJRL)
by John Wijngaards in “Research Seminar on Non-Biblical Scriptures”. Ed. D.S. Amalorpavadass, Bangalore, NBCLC 1975, pp. 78-98.
1/2. A. Sacred Scripture itself does not explicitly pronounce a judgement on the status of non-biblical Scriptures or reUgiots writings. Yet there are some indications from Scripture, that might throw light on the relationship between itself and other “Scriptures”, One outstanding feature of the Old Testament is the incorporation in’it of originally non-Jewish literature. The present paper is a short statement to outline the implications of this fact.
It is an incontestable fact that the Old Testament has onjrl absorbed in its narrative material, its laws, its wisdom literature and its prayers. Even granting that it is difficult to measure the exact extent of this dependence on other literatures, it cannot be denied that it has been responsible for quite a considerable part of the Old Testament.
The influence of onjrl can also be shown to have been a qualitative one. Mesopotamian legends of primordial history, Canaanitic agricultural worship, the Egyptian approach to wisdom, for instance, have had a marked influence on Jewish religious thinking and liturgy. Thus onjrl has contributed substantially to the form in which Revelation was understood and laid down in inspired writing.
What is unique and irreplaceable in the Christian scriptures?
Studying the origin of the OT writings and their relationship to contemporaneous religious literature, we come to the conclusion that their fundamental uniqueness is not to be sought in profoundly of religious thought, in aptness of religious terminology or in eminent expression of religious experience.
The element that makes the Christian scriptures (and therefore also the Old Testament) basically irreplaceable is the existential fact that God’s redemptive intervention was expressed in and through them. This ties in with the observation that the prophetic word and deed is the most characteristic feature of the OT and NT writings. The prophetic message demands a hearing not by the inherent beauty or wisdom of its contents, but by the authority of God in whose name the prophet speaks.
Moreover, onjrl was not indiscriminately taken over. It was selected and transformed before it was fully incorporated into the inspired writings. In this way it was subjected to the “prophetic” scrutiny of the biblical authors.
The actual wording of the Christian scriptures, including the OT, retains a central position in Christian devotion, worship and theology. It owes this position to the historical function which it exercised in the history of salvation. The OT and NT partake in the mystery of the Incarnation by being the historically determined expression of the process of God’s committing Himself to human history.
Implications of the present-day usage of non-Christian religious literature.
From the point of view of the above considerations, there seems to be no valid objection against the use of non-Christian literature in theology, religious instruction or worship. In fact, the modus procedendi in OT times would rather argue to the necessity of incorporating contemporary religious literature. Following the pattern set by the Old Testament, the Christian today should bring out this incorporation in such a way that it does not detract from the unique position rightly claimed by the Christian Scriptures. This would mean in concrete that the non-Christian Scriptures should be understood and presented as preparatory to the decisive acts of God’s intervention expressed in the Old Testament and New Testament. Non-Christian Scriptures, when used in the context ofv Christian faith, are subject to the prophetic word contained in the Christian Scripture. They are liable to adaptive interpretation in the light of Christian religious experience.
In the present-day Indian context of our liturgy non-Christian religious texts could and should be integrated provided a careful selection is made in harmony with the principles outlined above. The reading of non-Christiaii writings should not diminish the position of the prophetic biblical word.
As has been expressed above, the Christian scriptures owe their privileged position not to the sublimity of contents, but to their historical link with Christ. Consequently, a genuine esteem for the beauty and wisdom of religious thought expressed in non-Christian writings, or even the acknowledgment of God’s special intervention in the writing of non-Biblical Scriptures, does not detract from the specific role attributed to the Bible. Every religious scripture worthy of the name makes a contribution of its own to our knowledge of God. Undoubtedly God has spoken to man in many ways and through many religious writings, Our acceptance of Christ as the one mediator between God and man does in no way conflict with a variety’ of self-expression on the part of God.
THE CO-EXISTENCE OF THE BIBLE AND THE NON-CHRISTIAN SACRED SCRIPTURES.
Growth implies a stretching of limbs and the stretching of limbs causes uneasiness. The Indian Church has undergone a remarkable growth in self-awareness since Vatican II. The uneasiness resulting from this is a sign of healthy growth. Yet the feeling of uneasiness is there. The loss of categorical certainty, the groping for new answers, the mounting of pressures from different directions, it all adds to a feeling of discomfort which is all the more disquieting when its causes are not understood.
Vatican II opened new, previously undreamed of perspectives for the apostolate. It stated that the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in non-Christian religions. It boldly proclaimed that the teachings of these religions often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. It imposed upon all Christian leaders the duty to recognize, preserve and promote the spiritual, moral, and socio-cultural values found among their non-Christian brethren. One logical consequence of this re-affirmation of the principle of true catholicity has been a thorough re-appraisal of the sacred scriptures traditionally revered all over India. With ever greater clarity the realization has been growing that familiarity with these writings is not to be considered an obstacle, but rather a help in finding Christ. However, uneasiness has grown with it too.
The re-evaluation of the non-Christian scriptures has created a new tension between them and the Christian Bible. Are the books of the Old and New Testaments not all-sufficient? What inspiration can be accorded to the sacred writings of other religions? Will it not weaken the belief in the decisive intervention of God in history through Jesus Christ? Can to non-Christian writings a place be given in Christian liturgy, and if so, what place? Uneasiness and bewilderment dominate the scene. The thinking Christian of today feels caught between two loyalties: the loyalty to his national religious heritage and to the specific claim of Christ.
This paper is not an attempt to resolve the whole conflict. The purpose of this study is to clarify one aspect of the issues involved, namely the tension itself between non-Christian writings and the Bible. Is such a tension abnormal and undesirable? Evidence from Scripture itself rather suggests that such a tension can be expected. What is more, the implications are that the non-Christian writings should not be considered an obstacle, but rather a pre-requisite to the Bible itself.
To illustrate this thought two separate cases will be considered. The Old Testament law books were authoritative in conjuction with non-Jewish codes of law. They depended on these codes, they presupposed them as valid and existent, they complemented them. Paul’s preaching to Hellenistic communities presupposed the validity and availability of Alexandrian exegetical writings. Paul accepted them and applied them to Christ. Both examples illustrate a harmonious co-existence of non-biblical and biblical writings.
In the book of Deuteronomy we find the following law:
“You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which Yahweh, your God, gives you according to your tribes.
They should judge the people with a correct norm of judgment.
You shall not pervert a norm of judgment. You shall not show partiality.
You shall not take a bribe.”
Dt. 16, 18-19a.
The first question that arises is: Who were the judges referred to in this and other laws? (Dt. 17,9.12; 19,17-18; 21, 2; 25,2 ) . How were they related to the “elders” who were also competent to judge? (Dt 19,12; 21,19; 22,15; 25,7). What task had the “priests” in the administration of justice? (Dt 17, 9, 12; 19, 17; 21, 5). How is this law of Dt. related to the appointment of judges in all cities attributed to King Jehoshaphat (870-848 B.C.) in the book of Chronicles (2 Chr; 19, 4-11)? What was the function of the “supreme court” which is mentioned both by Dt 17,8-13 and 2 Chr. 19, 8-11? Commentators give most divergent answers to these questions.
Quite a few authors maintain that the “judges” of Dt 16, 18 were officials of the king, Originally, it is said, the-whole community administered justice in the persons of the “elders” of the family or clan. Pronouncing judgment was not a profession. No mention is made of professional judges in court- cases such as the one concerning the raped and murdered women (Judg 20,4-6), the levirat of Boaz (Ruth 4,1-12) or the condemnation of Naboth (TKg 21,8-14). The first professional judges we hear about are levites serving under David (1 Chr. 23,4; 26,9). The reform of jurisprudence under Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 19,4-11) agrees in many particulars with Dt 16, 18 and 17, 8-13. From all this it is often deduced that the “judges” of Dt 16,18 were royal judges appointed under the early kings.2 Some authors even prefer that they be called “governors”, pointing out that the function of ruling and governing was not clearly distinguished in early Israelite times (Hos 13,10; Am 2,3; Judg 3,10; etc.).3
I do not want to enter too deeply into the discussion. Let it suffice to point out that there are good arguments to hold a much earlier dating for Dt 16,18-20. In Jehoshaphat’s time the judges were appointed by the king (2 Chr. 19, 5.8) but Dt 16,18 says dearly that the community itself should “appoint for itself” the judge. The chronicler portrays Jehoshaphat as a reformer who brought the people back to “Jahweh, the God of their fathers”, therefore as a person who restored ancient religious practices. The appointment of judges may well be one of them. Last* not least, considering the late date of 2 Chr 19,4-11, it is not impossible that the author in describing Jehoshaphat was influenced by Dt 16,18 and 17,8-13 or by post-exilic practice.4
There is much to say for a pre-royal institution of judges in Israel. A. Alt has convincingly demonstrated the dependence of Israelitic civil jurisprudence from Canaanitic civilization. His arguments rest on the style of casuistic law, on the agreement in content of these laws with other ancient Middle Eastern law books, and on the typically non-Israeli- tic, humanistic nature of these laws. Alt assumes that a uniform jurisprudence had been imposed on the whole of Palestine under the Hyksos dynasty with its effective administrational control (1720-1560 B.C.).5 In the 14th Century B.C. Pharao Horemheb proclaimed a decree that has much resemblance with Dt 16,8-9; it concerns the appointment of judges in all cities, the erection of a central court for priests and magistrates and demands impartiality and strict justice.6 This decree may not have affected Palestine directly. It proves though that in the Canaanitic cities too, which were governed under heavy Egyptian control, there must have existed a well-organized system of jurisprudence with appointed judges. What was more natural than that Israel, with the take over of the administrational organization of Canaanitic city-states, would also take over its jurisprudence?
Without any doubt there were “judges” in the ancient Israel of pre-monarchical times. “Pronouncing judgement” and “ruling” were not always clearly distinguished. Yet the function of the “judges”: Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon (Judg 10,1-5; 12,8-15; cf. 12-7) must have consisted mainly in “pronouncing judgment”. Also Deborah (Judg 4,4-5) and Samuel (1 Sam 1,16-17) are said to have presided over court cases. Such persons apparently held a position of authority to which anyone could refer his grievances. The existence of these “supreme judges” (Dt 17, 9; 19, 17) indicates that there must have been local judges too. Dt 25,1-3 refers to such a local court in which a judge could impose the punishment of 40 stripes.
It is true that in ancient Israel jurisprudence was within the competence of the elders and the deuteronomistic law accepts this fact unquestioningly (Dt 19,12; 21,19; 22,15; 25,7). The existence of special judges certainly did not conflict with this. Among the elders, who could be numerous in many a city (in Succoth there were 77, Judg 8,14), certain individuals were appointed for daily court business. Many factors may have contributed to the selection: the charismatic gifts of certain elders on account of which they were approached more frequently; the Canaanitic practice of appointing judges; established privileges of certain families (cf. 1 Sam 8,1). The deuteronomistic law presupposes this kind of situation. Dt 16,18 should, therefore, be seen as an admonition to appoint specific elders in all cities. In Dt 21,2 the explanatory addition of “and your elders and your judges shall came forth, and they shall measure the distance to the cities” should be seen in the same light. The stress on the function of the judges in the central sanctuary (Dt 17, 9-12; 19,17-18) also points to a renewed interest of the law in re-affirming the position of the judges.
Established norms of judgement
There is an important distinction between huqqim and mishpat in Israelite law. The huqqim are laws which impose a direct obligation on the subject (as in Dt 14, 3-20; 16,18-20). The mishpatim on the other hand are norms of jurisprudence. They lay down principles according to which future court cases should be decided.7 They can easily be recognized by their form. Usually they open with a conditional phrase introducing an event requiring the intervention of justice, e.g. “if anyone is found murdered”…(Dt 21,1). The decision is given in objective terms. The mishpatim deal with all the disorders of human society, murder, rape, theft, damage, inheritance, marriage, divorce, etc.
In the deuteronomic law-books (Dt 12-26) there are 20 mishpatim which can be shown to have parallels in other ancient Near Eastern codes of law. Four concern slavery (Dt 15,12-18; 21,10-14; 23,16-17; 24,7). Seven regulate property (Dt 19,14; 22,1-4; 22,8; 23,20-21; 24,10-13; 24,14-15; 24,17-18). Another seven lay down decisions in family and marriage quarrels (Dt 21,15-17; 21,18-21; 22,13-21; 22,22- 29; 24,1-4; 25,5-10; 25,11-12). Two laws deal with murder and manslaughter (Dt 19,1-13; 21,l-9).8 With minor variations these mishpatim are related in contents, and frequently in formulation, to the norms of judgment found in the Lipit-Ishtar code (1800-1750 B.C.), the code of Hammurabi (1728-1686 B.C.), the Middle Assyrian laws (1500- 1400 B.C.) and the Hittite laws (1400-1300 B.C.). The Canaanitic law books which the Israelites took over in the 12th and 11th Centuries B.C. must have derived for a great part from these more ancient codes.9
The individual mishpat shows an amazing tenacity of formulation through the centuries. If an unmarried woman is raped, she is presumed to be guilty if she was assaulted in the city (Dt 22, 23-24), but presumed innocent if it happened outside the city (Dt 22,25-27). The same legal distinction is upheld by the Middle Assyrian laws (MAL 12-13) and the Hittite code (HC 197).10 The raising of a slave-girl or a concubine to the position of a “wife” (Dt 21,10-14) foreshadowed in mishpatim of the Lipit-Ishtar code and the Middle Assyrian code, has recently been shown to have a close parallel in a text from Mari.11 The mishpat of widows and orphans is a recurring theme in Egyptian and Ugaritic literature. In fact, it is logical that the very nature of the mishpat as “norm of justice” required that it be fixed and unchangeable. Hammurabi declares that by decreeing the mishpatim of his code he “established law and justice in the language of the land” (ANET 165 ). At the conclusion he invokes a blessing on the man who “does not distort my words which I wrote on my stela” (ANET 178).12 As in Jos 24,25-26; the fixing o£ the mishpatim and the writing them down are connected. Once written they are unchangeable (unless the written text itself be demolished) and they derive their value from being unchangeable.
The Missing Mishpatim
A comparison with the ancient codes of law and an inner analysis of the laws found in the Old Testament, leads to the conclusion that the mishpatim mentioned in Scripture are only a small portion of those actually made use of by Israelite courts in daily practice. The social mishpatim mentioned in Scripture number hardly 50. The code of Hammurabi lists 282, the Hittite laws 200. The Israelite laws show obvious lacunae. Dt 19,14 reminds the Israelites of the ancient principle that a boundary stone may not be moved (see also Prov 22,28; 23,10). The Middle Assyrian laws illustrate what the original mishpat may have looked like:
“If a citizen has encroached on the more important boundary property of his neighbour (that is, property inherited by him as the eldest son), when they have prosecuted him and convicted him, he shall give up one third as much field as he encroached on; they shall cut off one finger of his; they shall flog him 100 times with staves and he shall do the work of the king for one full month.”
“If a citizen infringed upon the less important boundary property from allotment, when they have prosecuted him and convicted him, he shall pay one talent of lead and give up one-third as much field as he encroached on; they shall flog him 50 times with staves and he shall do the work of the king for one full month.”
The Hittite laws had the mishpat in this form:
“If anyone violates the boundary of a field and takes one furrow off the neighbour’s field, the owner of the field shall cut one cubit of field from the other’s land and take it for himself. He who violated the boundary shall give one sheep, 10 loaves and 1 jug of strong beer and purify die field again (with a sacrifice).” (ANET 195)14
The law in Dt 19,14′ presupposes a mishpat of this nature which is not recorded. Dt 24,124 mentions in passing the possibility of divorce (see also Dt 22,13-19; 22,28-29). But nowhere do we find precise prescriptions as to how the divorce was to be done. In the light of the existing ancient Middle Eastern practice this is an unintelligible omission. The code of Hammurabi has more than 1-8 mishpatim dealing with situations arising from divorce. Surely there must have been similar provisions in Israelite practice. Hos 2,4 makes us suspect that the legal formula of divorce was “she is no longer my wife, I am no longer her husband”. Other elements of early Israelite practice can be deduced from later Jewish customs. At any rate, the Jews too must have had many mishpatim according to which they regulated their divorces.15
The Extra-biblical Code
The point I want to make is that in pronouncing judgment the Hebrew judges were guided, not only by covenantal texts such as we find in the Old Testament but also by collections of mishpatim which have not been formally integrated into Scripture. We know that these mishpatim must have, been largely of Canaanitic origin, that they existed in written form and that they must have been embedded in the religious framework of Prayer invoking the protector gods to. guard the Codes. The passage from which we took our initial discussion, Dt 16,18-19, can now be seen to have wider implication. The judges are told: “You shall not pervert a mishpat (a norm of justice)”. Nothing in the text suggests that this instruction is restricted to the mishpatim mentioned in the Bible. The judge is rather given the responsibility of upholding every norm of justice accepted in his community.
These norms of justice were included in Canaanitic writings: or more likely, stood engraved on Canaanitic stelae. The Hebrew judge was, therefore, expected to administer justice both in the light of this existing Canaanitic code and
in the light of the revealed covenantal decisions. If any conflict arose between any one mishpat and another mishpat (Dt 17,8), he should refer the matter to the supreme court at the sanctuary which would give an authentic explanation of the mishpat to be followed (Dt 17,9-11). It is quite likely that some laws found expression in the Old Testament collections precisely because they had undergone a further clarification by the supreme court. The prescription that two witnesses are required in convicting an idolator (Dt 17,2-7) is a further correction of Dt 13,6-10 in the light of Dt 19,15. The principles that “the fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children for their fathers” (Dt 24,16) may well have become necessary in the light of Dt 5,9 and other covenantal practices (see Jos 7,24).
We may thus conclude to a remarkable co-existence of a Canaanitic written code with collections of laws formulated in covenantal context. The Covenant was the final word.16 It contained the definitive word of God. But it presupposed the active existence of the earlier codes.
HELLENISTIC WRITINGS AND ST. PAUL’S LETTERS
Before his conversion Paul had been a Jewish theologian. “A Pharisee, son of Pharisees” (Acts 23,6) he had been thoroughly trained in the theology of his own days. Although he had been born at Tarsus in Cilicia or Asia Minor, he had been sent to Jerusalem to study “at the feet of Gamaliel” to be educated according to the “strict law of the fathers” (Acts 22,3).
Paul and Alexandrian Theology
It would be wrong to conclude from the fact that Paul was educated at Jerusalem that he had not been under the influence of Hellenistic literature. On the contrary, there is much evidence to show that Paul was in spirit a student of the Alexandrian school of thought. It is significant that Paul is introduced to us as a spokesman of the so-called synagogue of the freedom, i.e. the synagogue in Jerusalem frequented by the Jews from Cyrene in North Africa, Alexandria, and Asia Minor (Acts 6,9). The findings at Qumran also confirm that writings from Alexandria were known in Palestine itself.17 It is possible that Gamaliel himself was an exponent of Alexandrian theology.
For Paul the Alexandrian Septuagint translation was the ordinary text for reference. Of the 81 explicit Bible quotations found in his letters, 59 are directly from the Septuagint, 18 seem to derive from other Greek translations or are freely cited from memory, and only 4 follow the original Hebrew.18 The theology underlying this translation had a demonstrable influence on Paul. It can be traced in St. Paul’s applying Deutero-Isaiah to the Gentiles (cf. Rom 10,20); in his concept of “law” as “ethical”; in his stress on forgiveness of sin rather than on cult; in his use of the term “propitiation”; in his concept that the law and the prophets have the function of educating towards the coming of the Messiah (Gal 3,24; Rom 15,4) and in much of his redemptive terminology.19 Paul was no doubt familiar with Aramaic writings, but his day-to-day thinking was heavily influenced by Alexandria.
This can also be illustrated by Paul’s heavy dependence on words and ideas found in the Book of Wisdom, an outstanding Alexandrian production. Many of Paul’s statements reflect passages in this book. The resurrected body will enjoy “immortality and incorruption” (Wis 2,23; 1 Cor 15,53). The saints in heaven will “judge the world” (Wis 3,8; 1 Cor 6,2). Christ has His “inheritance among the saints” (Wis 5,5; Eph 1,18). The soul is oppressed by the body (Wis 9,15; 2 Cor 5,4; Rom 7,5 ff). God’s mercy leads to repentance (Wis 11,23; Rom 2,4; 3,25). No one can know God’s design (Wis 9,13.17; 1 Cor 2,11.16; Rom 11,34). No one can say to God “What you are doing?” (Wis 12,12.20; Rom 9,19-23). In describing the conseqences of idolatry (Wis 14,12.22 ff; Rom 1,24-32), in his proof for God’s existence (Wis 13,1 ff; Rom 1,19-20) and in his concept of the divine armour God’s children wear (Wis 5,17-18; Eph 6,11), Paul manifestly is inspired by the ideas found in the book of Wisdom. Scholars are not agreed on the question whether Paul actually knew the Book of Wisdom itself. But parallels are so striking that they show beyond doubt that Paul was steeped in Alexandrian rabbinism.20
The Two Adams
Most of the Hellenistic writings of those times have been lost to us. It is not easy, therefore, to reconstruct Pauf’s. dependence on writings of his time. On the other hand, it is quite clear that such a dependence actually exists. I will limit myself here to one outstanding example. Speaking on the resurrection of the body, Paul says: ;
“If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.
Thus it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being;
the last Adam (man) became a life-giving spirit’.
But it is not the spiritual man which is first but the physical,
and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth,
a man of dust; the second man is from heaven!
As was the man of dust, so are those who are of dust;
and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven!
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust,
we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven!”
(1 Cor 15,44-49).
It is clear that Paul is quoting from a written source. Moreover, the expression “Thus it is written” or its equivalent always refers to a quotation from sacred scripture according to rabbinic usage (Rom 1,17; Gal 3,13; Rom 15,9; etc.). Paul’s words are often interpreted to refer exclusively to Gen 2,7; “and Adam became a living being”. But the Greek of Paul’s text does not allow such a distinction. The last phrase, viz. “the last Adam a life-giving spirit” does not contain a verb in the Greek text. It should therefore be read jointly with the first half of the phrase: “The first man Adam became a living being”. Consequently, it may well be that Paul is referring to some source in which he found the expression “The first man Adam became a living being, the last man Adam a life-giving spirit”.
An additional reason for suspecting a written source other than the O.T. text is found in one of the statements of Paul following on, where he refers to “the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15,54). This statement is not found anywhere in sacred scripture. Commentators point out that the next word “Oh death, where is thy sting” is a free quotation from Hos 13,14, but this does not provide a satisfactory solution to Paul’s form of quoting. Evidently he was referring to some text considered authoritative among the Jews in which something more was explicitly stated than what was found in Genesis or Hosea.
This is also required from the inner dynamics of Paul’s argument. The very point that Paul wants to make is that there is a double creation. There is a “first man” and a “second man”. He introduces this thought in a way that presumes they were known to his audience. No, more: he argues with it and seems to invert a popularly accepted order: “It is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual” (1 Cor 15,46). An analysis of the text itself then makes us already suspect that Paul used a certain theological text in which there was discussion on a first and second Adam.
Philo and the two kinds of Adam
The question has been elucidated by a parallel reading found in Philo of Alexandria (25 B.C.-40 A.D.).21 This contemporary of Paul’s, who clearly cannot have been dependent on Paul’s theology, shows familiarity with the line of thinking apparent also in 1 Cor 15,44-49. When commenting on the early chapters of Genesis, Philo repeatedly compares God’s creature of Chapter 1: “the man created after God’s image” with God’s creature in Chapter 2: “the man moulded from clay”. Philo sees in these original men characterizations of the earthly and spiritual men inhabiting the earth.
“There are two kinds of man; one is a heavenly man, the other earthly. The heavenly one, born as he is according to God’s likeness, has no share in a corrupted and earthly nature. But the earthly one comes forth from matter, which he called clay”. (Leg. Alleg. 1,12)
“Whenever you hear ‘Adam’, realize that he is earthly and corruptible. For the man made according to the image, is not earthly but heavenly”. (Leg. Alleg. 1,29)
“So that we conclude to a twofold kind of man: the one kind lives by
the divine spirit and by reasoning, the other kind by the pleasure
of flesh and by blood. The latter image is the mould of clay, but
the former bears the imprint of a divine likeness”. (Q.R.D.H. 12)
“There is an immense difference between the man who is moulded
now and the former one who came about after God’s likeness. For this one which was moulded is already full of shame, sharing weakness, consisting of body and a lower soul… But he who was made after the likeness (an idea, or a king, or a seal),
is intellectual, without body, neither male nor female, incorruptible in his nature”. (De Mund. Opif 46).
It is obvious that Philo’s way of thinking comes very close to Paul’s comparing the heavenly with the earthly man. A careful analysis of all the passages excludes a direct mutual dependence, but points to the existence of other writings now lost, containing the allegorical interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 which were known to both Philo and Paul.22 Clearly these writings were also known to the Corinthians, as Paul refers to them without further explanation. Moreover, these writings must have been authoritative, almost considered equal to scripture in value, since Paul refers to them with an official quotation formula “Thus it is written”.
The importance for our specific topic is not so much the subject matter discussed by Paul in 1 Cor 15,44-49 but the way in which Paul uses a Hellenistic writing to support his thinking. The contrast between the first Adam and Christ is a fundamental notion to Paul. For Paul it supports the whole mystery of original sin and universal salvation (Rom 5,12-21; 1 Cor 15,21-22). It also provides a substratum for his understanding of the risen body (1 Cor 15,44-49). The allegorical interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 is no peripheral question, but a decisive framework for Paul’s theological thinking.
The same may probably be said about other aspects of Paul’s theology. Paul’s concept of Christ as both the fulness of God and the first-born of creation (cf. Col 1,15- 20) presupposes the theology of the demi-urge worked out in Alexandria. Paul’s systematical interpretation of Christ’s ascent and descent based on Dt 30,11-14 presupposes a then well-known allegorical interpretation which is lost to us (Rom 10.5-9).23 The specific use of the “kurios”—title and especially of the “kenosis-kurios” hymn in Phil 2,5-11, probably derive from Hellenistic exegetical writings adopted by Christians even before Paul’s time.24 In the light of this and other evidence we may rightly state that Paul’s inspired theology depends on the pre-existence of some definite Hellenistic theological writings.
Co-existence of Hellenistic and Christian tradition
It is indisputable that the early Christians, with Paul as one inspired spokesman, expressed their faith in the incarnation and redemption in terms and thought-patterns derived from Hellenistic writings. It is undeniable too that this process of finding a new theological expression for faith was a selective and transforming one. Much Hellenistic thinking was discarded as irrelevant. Only those fundamental lines of thought that could be integrated with an understanding of what had happened in Jesus, were accepted and purified. The early believers from the Hellenistic world transformed some major insights of their religious traditions into an authentic profession of faith in Christ.
For our purpose it is useful to note that making this synthesis could only come about by a familiarity with both elements that needed to be integrated: the Hellenistic theological writings as well as the kerygma of the risen Christ.
It may well be that in our usual reconstruction of early Christian eucharistic gatherings we are oversimplifying the proceedings. To win prominent converts in Ephesus, Philippi, Corinth and other Hellenistic centres, Paul and his companions had to do more than proclaim the bare facts of the kerygma. It is true that in 1 Corinthians Paul affirms that he did not come to preach “with eloquent wisdom” (1 Cor 1,11; etc.), but in the very passages in which he contrasts the Cross with Greek wisdom (1 Cor 2,1-13) he handles so many truly Hellenistic terms, such as “mystery”, “gnosis”, the rulers of this age, etc. that it is not Hellenistic thought but a reliance on human reason that he decries.
In this context the position of Apollos is an instructive one. Apollos was “a native of Alexandria, an eloquent man, well-versed in scriptures” (Acts 18,24). Apollos taught both in Corinth and Ephesus. The inference from Paul’s remark on Apollos is that Apollos elaborated the kerygma with theology: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor 3,6). At Ephesus Paul and Apollos worked together at least for three months (Acts 19,8) and surely they worked in collaboration. Being a trained Alexandrian theologian, Apollos will surely have made use of the Alexandrian writings most popular at his time.
It is true that the early Christians based their use of Old Testament texts on principles of their own selection rather than on rabbinic preference. On the other hand, the context of persuading Hellenistic thinkers to embrace Christ necessitated a constant referring to and elaboration of accepted Hellenistic exegesis. The process of instructing Hellenistic catechumens involved the skilful handling of three sets of writings: the Old Testament scriptures, Alexandrian treatises, and words and deeds of Jesus. It is highly probable that all three kinds of writings were not only referred to, but actually read in assemblies convoked for this purpose.
The co-existence of the Bible and Hindu Scriptures
Every historical situation is necessarily unique. So is the present-day situation of the Church in India. Yet from ages gone by we can learn patterns and models that help us solve our specific problems. These patterns are all the more authoritative if they find support in the Bible.
I believe that the co-existence of God’s word of revelation with previously existing religious writings is such a pattern. We find that the previously existing religious writing is considered operative and valid. It is present. It helps in providing the setting. It forms the background and the foundation. The revealed word of God selects from it, completes it, interprets it, transforms it. God’s definitive word of revelation does not abolish the previous religious text. Both are present, but each with its specific function.
The Hebrew judges exercised jurisprudence on the strength of God’s covenant. The ten commandments and other stipulations laid down by their divine “overlord” (Dt 10,17) and His mandate (Dt 1,9-18; 16,18-20), bestowed authority on their pronouncements. But, as has been illustrated in section one above, in the justice they dispensed they relied almost entirely on existing Canaanitic juridical texts. The co-existence of both the older lawbooks and God’s revealed word was the basis of their juridical practice.
Paul relied on Alexandrian exegetical writings when proclaiming Christ to the Hellenists. His theology makes no sense if not seen in the light of those writings. His letters presuppose these writings so much that we may presume that the Hellenistic writings were read at Christian gatherings. Again we find the same pattern of a previous religious text forming the starting point and framework for the preaching of God’s revealed word.
Other parallels from Scripture could be worked out. Some of the historical books almost form one continuum with ancient religious myths, hagiographies, temple documents and sermon material from which they were composed. The Psalms are an almost haphazard collection within the sum total of Jewish and non-Jewish religious songs composed in Israel. The Wisdom books are not isolated wells of instruction, but canals branching from the vast river of wisdom studies both in Israel itself and all over the ancient Middle East (cf. Sir. 24,30). In all these instances I am far from denying the distinctive status of the texts now included in the Bible. They have become in a special way the expression of God’s revealed word. The point is that they presupposed and co-existed with other, and frequently non-Jewish, religious literature.
The history of the Church also offers parallels that illustrate the same pattern. Classical Greek and Latin thought exercised an enormous influence on the Christian Middle Ages. Literature was greatly controlled and shaped by it.25 So was theology. So were hymns, antiphons and prayers in the liturgy.26 So were the style and contents of the contemporary sermon.27 The co-existence of Greek and Latin literature with the Bible and Christian tradition even gave rise to theoretical discussions. Greek and Latin writings, it was said, should be integrated and perfected by a process of “translatio— imitatio—aemulatio”. The Christian should translate them, imitate them (whenever they present a model worthy of imitation) and then transcend them (with the help of Scripture and Christian tradition).28
In India too there are many arguments in favour of accepting the pattern of co-existence outlined above. The unique message of Christ can only become relevant to the Indian mind within the context of, and against the background of, indigenous spiritual traditions. The Hindu writings are a living reality that need to be faced and taken account of if any serious proclamation of the kerygma is to be done. The dynamics of bringing India to Christ would seem to require that proper relief is given not only to the universal salvific message, but also to the particular religious heritage of the nation.
But if any practical ways will be suggested to work out this “co-existence”, the distinctive and final authority of the word of Christ should be clearly marked. Our preaching should take its beginning from “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and honourable” (Phil 4,8) in the non-Christian scriptures to pass on to “Christ Jesus, the one mediator between God and men, who sacrificed himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2,5-6a).
1. Vatican II, Declaration on non-Christian Religions, no. 2; W.M. ABBOTT, The Documents of Vatican II, Guild Press, New York 1966, pg. 662.
2. W.F. ALBRIGHT. “The Judicial Reform of Jehoshaphat,>, in Alexander Mare Jubilee Volume, New York 1950.
G. von RAD, Das Fuenfie Buck Moset ATD 8, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Goettingen 1964, pgs. 81-82.
3. P. BUIS and J. LECLERCQ, he Deuteronome, Gabalda, Paris 1963, pgs. 127-129.
4. Cf. J.N.M. WIJNGAARDS, Deuteronomium, Romen en Zonen, Roermond 1971, pgs. 173-175; also pgs. 108-110.
5. A. ALT, “Die Urspruenge des Israelitischen Rechts” (BVSAW 1934), in Kleine Schriften zur Geschichte des Volkes Israel, Beck, Munich 1959, pgs. 278-332; here pgs. 285-300.
6. R. DE VAUX, Les Institutions de TAncient Testament, vol. I, Du Cerf, Paris 1961, pg. 237.
7. A. ALT, l.c. esp. pg. 289.
8. J.N.M. WIJNGAARDS, l.c.; for a survey, see pg. 110; detailed discussions undo: each law.
9. Extensive comparative material can be found in B. MAAR- SINGH, Onderzoek naar de Ethiek van de wetten in Deuteronomium (Inquiry into the Ethics of the Laws in Dt), Van Amstel, Winterswijk 1961 (summary in English, pgs. 150-155).
10. J.B. PRITCHARD, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, Princeton New Jersey; MAL 12-13: pg. 181, HC 197: pg. 196.
11. M. DU BUIT, “Quelques Contacts bibliques dans les archives royales de Mari”, Revue Biblique 66 (1959) pgs. 576-577.
12. J.B. PRITCHARD, oc., pgs. 165, 178. On the importance of the “writing” of such ordinances, cf. K. BALTZER, Das Bundesformular, Neukirchen 1960, pgs. 26-27,50.
13. J.B. PRITCHARD, o.c., pg. 186; MAL, tablet B-30, no. 8-9.
14. J.B. PRITCHARD, o.c, pg. 195; HC no. 168.
15. To obtain an idea of the norms required in an established order the later Mishnah is instructive with its many treatises on marriage cases: Yebamoth, Ketuboth, Gittin, Kedushin, Sootah, etc. The treatise Gittin (on Divorce) lists 74 norms in 9 chapters.
16. Cf. A. WEISER, Glaube und Geschichte im Alien Testament,
Goettingen 1931, pgs. 101-102; W. EICHART, “Offenbahrung und Gesichichte im Alten Testament”, Theologisches Zeitschrift 4 (1948) pg. 322; –
G.E. WRIGHT, The Old Testament against its Environment, London 1950, pgs. 14-16 God Who Acts, London 1943, pg. 43; etc.
17. Fragments of both Tobit and Sirach (in Hebrew) have been found. R.E. BROWN, “The Dead Sea Scrolls”, in The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Chapman, London 1968, vol. II, pgs. 546-555. It is difficult to assess the full significance of these and other findings. They seem to suggest that the clear-cut separation between Palestinian and Alexandrian writings introduced at Jamnia did not exist in earlier days (cf. A. RAHLFS, “History of the Septuagint Text”, in Sep- tuaginta Vtiv. Wiirtt. Bib., Stuttgart 1966, pgs. xxii-xxiii.
18. F. PRAT, The Theology of St. Paul, London 1957 (6), pgs. 411-417.
19. H.J. SCHOEPS, Paul, The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of ,Jewish Religious History, London 1959, pgs. 28ff.
20. W.L. KNOX, St. Paul and the Church of Jerusalem, Cambridge 1925, pgs. 126ff.
21. Philo’s texts are quoted after W.L. KNOX, oc., pgs. 133ff.
22. W.L. KNOX, oc., pg. 135.
23. S. LYONNETT, Quaestiones in Epistolam ad Romanos, Series Altera, Rome 1962, P.I.B., pgs. 94-106.
24. Cf. L. CERFAUX, Christ in the Theology of St. Paul, New York, 1953, pgs. 461-479.
25. E.R. CURTIUS, Europaische Literature und Lateinisches Mittelalter, Bern 1948.
26. The old Latin hymns had many references to Greek and Latin Mythology: cf. “Alto ex Olympi vertice,, (Liber Usualis, Desclee Tournai 1949, pg. 1242), a reference to the Olympus, the mountain of the gods.
27. K. PORTEMAN, “Van Poeten en Predikanten”, in Liber Alumnorum Prof. Rombouts, Louvain 1968, pgs. 79-94.
28. JT.D.F. WARNERS, “Translatio—Imitatio—Aemulatio”, in De Nieuwe Taalgids 50 (1968) pgs. 82-89: 51 (1969) pgs. 193-201.