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Revelation and Mystery in Ancient Judaism and Pauline Christianity.

This book develops a doctoral dissertation submitted to the University of Cambridge: "A Theological Study of Ancient Jewish and Pauline Views of the Revelation of Heavenly Mysteries." It investigates "revelation," i.e., divine disclosures communicated by visionary or prophetic means, or the manifestation of heavenly realities in a historical context. This process makes itself known to humanity through prophets, the written Torah, and the exegesis of it. Closely related to revelation is "mystery," a reality of heavenly origin that is hidden or secret. Whereas revelation has often been studied, the two ideas have rarely been analyzed in tandem. Hence the value of Bockmuehl's study of mysteria revelata or revelanda: "The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may observe all the words of this law" (Deut. 29:28). The survey of ancient Jewish data on these related topics provides the backdrop for the assessment of them in Pauline usage.

After a brief introduction explaining the problem and his methodology, Bockmuehl's discussion falls into two parts. The first is devoted to the study of "secret things and things revealed" in Qumran literature, wisdom literature, Philo, Josephus, ancient versions, and early rabbinic literature. The second part studies the same ideas in Pauline writings, where they are given a christological nuance. The proper understanding of Scripture has been sealed until the time of its prophetic realization in Christ and his gospel: revelation in the Torah must now be read in the light of the revelation in Christ. An overview of the Pauline writings is first given, followed by a discussion of the topics in the letters to Corinth and Rome, in the letter to the Colossians, and in a "Postscript to Paul", dealing with passages in 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, the Pastorals, and early patristic writings (Didache, Letters of Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Ep. of Diognetus). Finally, a conclusion evaluates previous research and summarizes the results of this investigation. In general, Bockmuehl's treatment of the relation of mystery and revelation in the Jewish and Pauline writings is well done, but one aspect of it raises a serious question. Since his aim is to present the Pauline use of these topics in their proper Jewish context, and since he regards the latter as "the period bounded . . . by the Maccabean uprising and the collapse of the revolt under Hadrian", he has not justified his use of all the Jewish material introduced into his discussion. He states that he is mainly interested in the "Tannaitic period (ca. A.D. 70-220)". Yet his notes in the pages that follow in chap. 7 are replete with references to the Palestinian Talmud, the Babylonian Talmud, and parts of the Midrash Rabbah. Such writings, however, date at the earliest from A.D. 450. How, then, can they be counted among "early rabbinic" literature? He realizes that his "sources will include a variety of documents clearly dating from a later period", but that admission does not help. He benignly neglects the fact that even Tannaitic teachings come to us from the codification of R. Judah the Prince (ca. A.D. 200), from a post-Hadrianic period. Whereas they may record recollections attributed to early Tannaites, how authentic are such ascriptions? We have finally got some Christians to realize that not all the sayings put on the lips of Jesus by later evangelists were uttered by him. Now we have to get users of rabbinic writings to cope with an analogous problem, and the time lag between the Tannaim and the ascribed recollections is greater than that between Jesus and the evangelists. Similarly, one will query Bockmuehl's classifying Pirqe Abot with other examples of wisdom literature belonging to an early period (Sirach, Wisdom, Letter of Aristeas, Baruch, Tobit, 4 Maccabees, and the Testaments of Issachar and Judah). Hence the discerning reader of Bockmuehl's treatment of the "early rabbinic" material will have to scrutinize the pertinence of his data to the context in which he uses it. It would have been better had he limited the Jewish evidence to wisdom literature, the Septuagint, Qumran writings, Philo, and Josephus.

Bockmuehl may be right to regard Colossians as an authentic Pauline composition; in this he is not alone, even though many interpreters today regard it as Deutero-Pauline. But does not much of the data amassed from Colossians about his topic reveal its closer relationship to Ephesians than to the uncontested Pauline writings?

In discussing "the mystery of lawlessness" (2 Thess. 2:7), Bockmuehl considers it a distinctive Pauline way of speaking about Satan's "clandestine" present activity in the world. Although he compares the Qumran raze pesa, he makes no mention of the striking Qumran parallel, raz ris a (1QapGen 1:2).

The book closes with an extensive bibliography, a tribute to Bockmuehl's thorough work. In sum, one can learn much from his treatment of this interesting topic, if one reads it with discernment and sorts out the relevant from the irrelevant.

J. A. F.
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Author:Fitzmyer, Joseph A.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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