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Roots of Rabbinic Judaism: An Intellectual History, From Ezekiel to Daniel.

Roots of Rabbinic Judaism: An Intellectual History, From Ezekiel to Daniel. By Gabriele Boccaccini. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2001. xvii and 230 pages. Paper. $24.00.

Many of us were introduced to rabbinic literature through the statement in 'Abot, "Moses received Torah at Sinai and committed it to Joshua, Joshua to elders, and elders to prophets." Boccaccini challenges this idea with his intellectual history of the early Second Temple period. Roots of Rabbinic Judaism neither discusses oral strands of rabbinic traditions nor describes early rabbis during this period. There were none. His thesis is that Rabbinic Judaism was a reform movement emerging only in the late Second Temple period. Rather, the dominant theological movement from the exile down to the Maccabees was Zadokite Judaism. Along with the postexilic reconstruction of the Jerusalem temple, the Zadokite priesthood took the lead while the Davidic monarchy faded away and the prophetic tradition waned. A trajectory beginning with Ezekiel 40-48 and continuing with Ezra/Nehemiah, the Priestly document of the Pentateuch, and Chronicles paints a worldview of stability and order with God's omnipotent control, ritual life centered around the temple sacrificial system, and a notion of personal responsibility and accountability in a covenant relationship.

Two parallel trajectories challenged the Zadokite system: Sapiential Judaism (Ahiqar, Proverbs, Job, Jonah, and Qoheleth) and Enochic Judaism (Book of the Watchers, Aramaic Levi, and Astronomical Book). Both were concerned about the problem of human suffering and evil. The former sought answers in the doctrines of an omnipotent God and free will and raised questions about the predominant idea of the covenant. The latter saw the origins of evil in a heavenly rebellion that disrupted God's creative order. Boccaccini stresses that both challenges were internal, not a revolutionary lay movement.

Partly because of the economic influence of the Tobiads under Hellenism, Zadokite Judaism adapted to Sapiential concerns, especially through work of Tobit and Sirach. On the opposite side, the Enochian tradition remained separate and eventually developed into Essene Judaism at Qumran--described in his previous book, Beyond the Essene Hypothesis: The Parting of the Ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism.

So where are the roots of rabbinic thought? Boccaccini sees the book of Daniel as a "third way" which adopted the apocalyptic worldview of Enochic Judaism but rejected the idea of a heavenly rebellion in favor of retaining the focus on human responsibility. Covenantal theology continued its central place only through a distinction between corporate and individual retribution and by removing God's judgment to the resurrection. It thus has become the first "protorabbinic" text.

For the real origins of rabbinic thought--when ideas of the preexistence of Torah and oral tradition supplement themes of covenant and afterlife retribution--one must wait for a subsequent volume in which the author plans to continue this survey of intellectual history from Daniel to the Mishnah.

The study of early Second Temple Judaism is often neglected in churches, but, with popular culture fascinated with a Left Behind theology and with The Prayer of Jabez as a bestseller, church leaders would be wise to delve into this volume.

Fred Strickert

Warthurg College

Waverly, Iowa

Books reviewed in Currents can be ordered through the LSTC Book Center 1100 East 55th Street, Chicago, IL 60615 (773) 256-0753
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Author:Strickert, Fred
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 2005
Words:538
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