The third day began with a recap and some reflections on major themes and important points that were made. Jason Zurawski thought the discussion of how the texts connected evil with women was particularly important, as was the diversity of views and perspectives. Kelley Coblentz Bautch drew some connections between presentations and was grateful for the attention to how women are depicted in the texts. Gabriele Boccaccini highlighted the importance of power relations and dynamics. Larry Schiffman said he often jokes that everyone thinks what they study is the most important thing in the world before zooming (pun intended) in on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Commonalities have come to light and the directions of influence and movement of ideas (when these are not just reflective of widely shared beliefs) needs to be explored. The relevant terminology needs greater attention. We have to be careful about skewed evidence as we talk of “circles” which actually often simply means we have texts and don’t really know who to associate them with. Even when we have a library it does not necessarily indicate a group’s agreement with texts in it. Albert Baumgarten picked up the thread of atonement and emphasized the need to do justice to the way many groups, even some that seem strange, are “ordinary Jews” of their time, perhaps exceptions that prove the rule, rather than odd, even if they appear thus to us. Miryam Brand highlighted how certain assumptions need to be reexamined as we move beyond the second temple period, for instance. Terminology’s nuance can change as the context changes. John Collins promised to return to the question of terminology. He emphasized that the Qumran community were not systematic theologians. They had no interest in reconciling Jubilees and 1 Enoch, for instance. They were contextual theologians with a higher tolerance for diversity and tensions than we tend to have. Baumgarten thinks that the era of Stalinist Communism during which the Dead Sea Scrolls came to light is worth thinking about, leading to the idea that there were centralized authorities imposing uniformity in ideology and expression. Collins emphasized that that goes back long before Communism. Sofanit Abebe pointed out that the inclusion of Jubilees and 1 Enoch in the canon of the Ethiopic Church provides another example of a group esteeming both texts and holding them in tension. Schiffman emphasized that in Judaism practice is often more important than ideas, to which Boccaccini pushed back that practices exist within the framework of ideas and have connection with the world of ideas within which they are practiced. Baumgarten quoted his teacher Morton Smith. Boccaccini mentioned my blogging about the conference. I drew attention to the connection between his point about practice and beliefs and the point Christine Hayes made yesterday that many authors we are talking about seem more interested in narrating than explaining the origin of evil. But why did they desire to narrate this? Perhaps the balance is to be found if we say they had no interest in explaining except in the interest of addressing. Knowing who or what causes the toothache (the “evil tooth” as it was called) is relevant to trying to relieve the pain. Daniel Boyarin said that, whereas Schiffman suggested that most people would have gone to a relative’s bar mitzvah even if they didn’t observe food rules with the same rigor, in fact some sectarians did indeed refuse to associate because of their views on such matters.
The first post-recap session was session 6, and focused on the Dead Sea Scrolls. John Collins spoke about the treatise on the two spirits. No other work explicitly says “God made two spirits” in this way, although there are some that come close. Even if one agrees that this work “explains the origin of evil,” what evil does it explain the origin of? The focus there is on truth, which includes wisdom and cosmic order (as well as the understanding of the latter). He emphasized the problem with thinking that, if one finds an explanation for an idea within a Jewish context, one needn’t look any further or anywhere else. However, there is a wider interest in good and evil/dualism that is relevant to what we find in Judaism in this era. The view that a group like the Qumran community would not have been reached by Zoroastrian influence is likewise problematic. Collins ended by proposing that the treatise on two spirits was perhaps a proposal, even if offered with some authority, and one that not everyone embraced, as the lack of this section in some copies of the Community Rule. In his response, Timothy Lim disagreed, emphasizing that the treatise should indeed be viewed as a sectarian work by this community. He proceeded to survey some of the connections of terminology with other works produced by the Yahad. Miryam Brand spokle about sin without a concern for its origin in the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is a lot of interest in sinners and both sinners (whether human or angelic) and sins are often enumerated. Everyone sins and dies, but the blame is not placed on the Watchers. The focus in the discussion of the ubiquity of sin is on beings following their own will rather than God’s will and commandments. “Sin does not start at a particular time” and thus every generation must struggle against it. Sin has an ahistorical origin, is ubiquitous, and under human control for the author of the Damascus Document. Non-members of the group are foolish, but not incapable of repentance. Elisa Uusimäki responded, emphasizing that the author of CD posit a cosmic frame for vice. Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer presented next, emphasizing how the use of sectarian and non-sectarian texts by the Qumran community provides insight into their own views on evil. Statements about the maskil’s role as well as about demonic influences and promises of protection help bring their perspective into focus. Nonetheless tensions between different works and statements in them also make clear the diverse facets of their practices, their ethical teaching and emphases, as well as the cosmological framework thereof. Benjamin Wold emphasized lived religion and brought the Book of Revelation (which Richard Bauckham has called the “Christian War Scroll”) into comparison with the Qumran material. Then respondents followed beginning with Cecilia Wassen. I appreciated how she highlighted the role of statements about evil and demonic forces in teaching how to live and emphasizing the importance of ethical effort. She also emphasized how God and Belial also seem to collaborate in misleading those outside of the community (and how unfair that sounds!) Esther Chazon highlighted some evidence (particularly from apotropaic texts) that the treatise on two spirits, which presenters had called “exceptional” among the Dead Sea Scrolls, is less so. Patrick Angiolillo drew together threads from the whole session, emphasizing that the Qumran group was neither systematic in its theology nor hermetically sealed off from others. The Songs provide an important case study as it appears to be a pre-sectarian work that becomes important to the community. John Kampen used an archaeological metaphor to ask what questions we are using to interrogate the texts. Christine Hayes suggested a need to not simply define vice as absence of virtue, and to spend more time studying the meaning and nuances of the term for “truth” used, focused as it is on fidelity and non-deviation. Oren Ableman then started the wider discussion. Everyone expressed their good wishes for Loren Stuckenbruck for a speedy recovery. He was supposed to participate in this session.
After lunch Darrell Bock looked at evil in the activity of Jesus in the Gospels of Luke and John, situated within the framework of three categories: generic evil, cosmic battle, and refusal to submit to God. There are discussions of Satan (such as whether Satan can cast out Satan), and prayer for protection from Satan/the Evil One/evil, but the origin of Satan/evil is not narrated or explained in any of the Gospels. There is also a focus on “what resides in a person” as it pertains to defilement and wrongdoing. Leslie Baynes offered a comparison between the Synoptic Gospels and the Parables of Enoch, first taking the time to note how all these texts focus most on people and their actions, evil manifested in the deeds of sinners. There is a focus on iniquity in connection with kings as well as angels. There are several texts connected with this theme that express ideas that also appear in the Gospels, such as the reversal of situations (the last will be first and vice versa) and the bringing down of the powerful from their thrones (1 Enoch 46:3). The parable of the weeds blames Satan for evil. Gabriele Boccaccini says these works share common traits and assumptions: angels rebelled, humans are responsible, this world is a place of iniquity, and there is no remedy until God provides one at the end of times. That final remedy includes forgiveness and mercy as well as punishment. The timing of those things hoped for eschatologically differs, however. Jim Davila was the first respondent and compared John and the Synoptics with respect to their interest in demons and evil angels. He noted the presence of Baalzebul in the Gospels which is absent from the Parables of Enoch. It might come from 2 Kings, but Baalzebub there does not naturally lead one to promote him to ruler of demons. There is evidence of persistence of Canaanite tradition in later Israelite literature, such as when Isaiah 27:1 shows knowledge of Tablet 4 of the Ba’al Cycle. Is it a coincidence that Jesus focuses on Ba’al(zebul)’s house and conflict over control of his territory, precisely what one finds in mythology about Ba’al? I got really excited listening to this, since it connects with my own presentation on the last day of the conference. Not only Mandaean texts but also the Gospels show evidence of the persistence of pre-exilic figures and stories into the Christian era. See the fuller details Davila has shared on his blog. Erik Noffke spoke next about those figures who are said to be righteous in the New Testament, including Elizabeth and Cornelius. In the latter case, the fact that he is said to be righteous and yet is still lacking something is noteworthy. Being righteous is not the same thing as being saved from evil. He also asked why Elizabeth is said to be righteous but not Mary. Ben Reynolds helpfully drew connections between the presentations, including the way the works relate broader questions about evil to the specific contexts of their time. In the chat on Zoom there was a lot of interesting discussion that brought still further connections with Ugaritic literature, leading Miryam Brand to mention parallels between the Ugaritic “Book of the Gracious God” and the Enochic Book of the Watchers. Isaac de Oliviera expressed his interest in “iffiness.” John Kampen questioned the usefulness of lumping the Synoptic Gospels together when it comes to their treatment of topics such as “righteousness.” Darrell Bock suggested a future conference focused on the nature of the “good” as a follow-up to this one about “evil.” Leslie Baynes thanked John Kampen for pointing out the issues with lumping the Synoptics together, before proceeding to note how there is a lack of opportunity for forgiveness for the rich and powerful in the Parables. Boccaccini agreed that future exploration of goodness would be useful.
Paula Fredriksen started off the next session by focusing on “bad guys” rather than abstract metaphysical evil in Paul. She reminded us that people share a geocentric view of the universe, in which ethnic and/or family ties bind heaven and earth together. Divinity is a category of power that exists on a graded continuum. She notes the problems with translating daimonia as “demons” since sometimes these are more like viruses are to us, causes of illness, while occasionally they are more powerful overarching forces. She noted a parallel to Paul’s language in Livy, making clear that the non-human knees that will bow to the exalted Christ are those of gods. She spoke of the “pacific” Jesus being “Davidized” in the infancy narratives and in Paul, where he is the God of Israel’s “lieutenant” that defeats the gods of other nations. As the mission spread to Diaspora synagogues, Paul asked non-Jews to cut their ties with the gods of their cities. Ultimately, when it comes to the overcoming of evil, gods play a necessary role at Jesus’ Parousia for Paul. What sets Jews apart from their “pagan” neighbors was behavior, not belief. They didn’t deny the existence of gods, but refused to participate in sacrifices to other gods. (Note that this is my argument in The Only True God!) Adele Reinhartz prefaced her talk by saying she had ignored the question in following a trail down a Johannine rabbit hole. She views the Gospel of John as a cosmological tale and a historical tale with a happy ending. The Devil is the villain of the cosmological tale, while “the Jews” fill that role in the historical tale. The term “Satan” appears only once in John, in reference to Judas. The prayer that Jesus’ followers be protected from the Evil One presupposes that Jesus’ death is not the final victory of good over evil. The author may be tempering an earlier apocalypticism. Reinhartz doesn’t see an ethical focus in John. She said the point in John is that it is possible through Jesus to climb the ladder that connects heaven and earth, and to encourage people to do so. Edmondo Lupieri presented next, his first time presenting in the Enoch Seminar. He suggests that the big crisis in second temple Judaism is the Ezra-Nehemiah reform, which focused on the purity of the nation’s men in opposition to their marrying of foreign women. He also noted the connection between sin’s origin being attributed to the angelic realm and a corresponding inability of humans to save the world. Lupieri emphasized the connections with trajectories, in particular Gnostic ones, that continue for centuries afterwards. Lupieri highlighted where Paul seems to say that all death and sin enters the cosmos as a result of one man, Adam, a very different outlook from the majority of apocalyptic texts. Matthew Thiessen asked whether the worldview may have been that demonic “footsoldiers” focus on causing physical harm, which can be addressed through exorcism, while the “generals” have a different role. He also asked why John lacks exorcisms and concern with lepers and other forms of uncleanness, emphasizing corpses instead. Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer then shared some thoughts, followed by Craig Koester, who focused on evil as part of early Christian explanation for the execution of Jesus and their own ongoing experience of opposition. He also noted that the Devil does not speak in John as he does in the Synoptics’ temptation narratives. Karen King was the first discussant and thanked Fredriksen for bringing wider Roman/Gentile considerations into the discussion. Charlotte Hempel suggested that the creation of the Qumran community is more like little particles coming together than a “Big Bang,” and perhaps the same is true of evil’s origins in this ancient literature, making a comparison with bacteria as well. Paul Anderson mentioned “motivational dualism” and “explanatory dualism.” The terminology of “ruler of the world” highlights structures of oppression and domination. It is also important that sometimes references to evil and the Devil or devils are rhetorical tropes and should not be made to bear a heavy theological-cosmological weight. Anderson views John as cosmopolitan rather than sectarian. Catrin Williams chimed in next, followed by Matthew Goff, who made an analogy with churches that may have been renovated and expanded over time so that there are parts that reflect different architectural styles from different times periods. Systems of thought can also be like this. Gabriele Boccaccini said that he thinks Paul is more Enochic even than the Synoptics, something he’ll explore further in a future book. Fredriksen emphasized the need to read more Classics, as the gods studied in that field are the neighbors of Hellenistic Jews. Reinhartz noted the language of casting out in John, which is interesting in connection with the absence of exorcisms from the work. She also warned against returning to the idea of Judaism as exclusivistic while Christianity is inclusive, the Johannine literature being one good example of why this dichotomy does not work.
There was a last smaller discussion in which people raved about how well the online format has worked and asked for it to at least be hybrid going forward to allow a larger group to participate, and for there to be regular fully online ones on occasion. Magdalena Araujo drew attention to the greater access this would afford to scholars in parts of the world such as Latin America, that are not able to attend in person in most instances. Possible future topics were discussed, proposals including John the Baptist, apokatastasis, divinization, and early Christology (the latter being one that Larry Hurtado had been involved in planning before he died).