The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 1



APPENDIX A: Relation Between Late Jewish Literature and Early Christian Fathers

(I am indebted to Dr. Earle Hilgert, professor of New Testament, of Andrews University, for suggesting this important connecting link, or bridge, between the later inter-Testament writings of the Jews and the earliest patristic Christian writings of the second century A.D. It is based upon the most recent findings, and sheds valuable light on these relationships. It was specifiically prepared by Dr. Hilgert for insertion here.—L. E. F.) CFF1 1081.1

Since the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, new light has been shed on the relation of certain patristic writings of the second century A.D. to the writings of late Judaism appearing shortly before the Christian Era. Preliminary work in this direction was done as early at 1930 by Dr. Oscar Cullmann, 1 then of Strasbourg, who saw in the “Preaching of Peter” (the earliest stratum of material in the Pseudo-Clementine literature), a Jewish-Christian document, the roots of which could be traced to a kind of Jewish Gnosticism. H. J. Schoeps, 2 writing in 1948, concluded that the Ebionites (a Jewish-Christian group in the second century A.D. who recognized Jesus as prophet or Messiah but not as Son of God) had grown out of the Essenes. CFF1 1081.2

In 1952 and 1953, after the publication of the first of the Dead Sea scrolls, the Dominican scholar jean-Paul Audet 3 demonstrated a number of important parallels between the Manual of Discipline from Qumran, on the one hand, and the early Christian Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, the Doctrina XIII. Apostolorum, 4 and the Shepherd of Hermas on the other. Audet concluded that all of these early Christian writers ultimately derived important features of their thought and expression from the Manual of Discipline. Also in 1953, M. de Jonge published a study of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. 5 CFF1 1081.3

This work, hitherto generally considered to be a pre-Christian Jewish document with Christian interpolation, was re-evaluated by De Jonge as Jewish-Christian, and dated in the second century. Subsequently a number of scholars have agreed with this conclusion, 6 particularly inasmuch as a Testament of Levi in Aramaic and a Testament of Naphtali in Hebrew have been discovered at Qumran—documents that appear to be the basis for the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs as they now stand. Thus another connection between the Dead Sea scrolls and the Christian literature of the second century seems to have been discovered. CFF1 1081.4

In 1954 Leonhard Goppelt published a study of the relations between Judaism and early Christianity, 7 in which he pointed out that Christianity, until the middle of the second century, remained essentially Jewish in its structure. This does not necessarily mean “Jewish” in the sense of the extreme legalism with which Paul contended, but Jewish in the larger sense that the Christian Church of this period continued to express itself in Jewish thought forms. 8 Goppelt notes, for instance, that both 1 and 2 Clement, and Hermas, sense no real break with Judaism; their view of Christianity is not that it has come out of Judaism; rather, they see the church as made up of the righteous both before and after Christ, so that Christianity is a continuance of Judaism. 9 CFF1 1082.1

In the same year Cullmann brought his previous study up to date in the light of the Dead Sea discoveries by proposing that the Qumran sect must have been absorbed into the type of Jewish Christianity represented in the Pseudo-Clementine literature. 10 CFF1 1082.2

Most recently the French Jesuit scholar jean Danielou has published a full-scale theology of Jewish Christianity. 11 Here he recognizes a number of works as Jewish-Christian which were thought in the past to be late Jewish: 2 (“Slavonic”) Enoch, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the Ascension of Isaiah. He notes that each of these is closely related to an authentically Jewish work—2 Enoch to 1 (“Ethiopic”) Enoch (parts of which have been found at Qumran), the Testaments to Jubilees (also found at Qumran), and the Ascension to the stories of the martyrdoms of the prophets. 12 Danielou also identifies virtually all of the Christian writers before A.D. 150 as Jewish-Christian: 1 Clement, Barnabas, Didache, Ignatius, Hermas, as well as the Pseudo-Clementine literature and a number of apocryphal gospels. CFF1 1082.3

All of this evidence suggests a new evaluation of the importance of Jewish-Christianity in early Christian history. The Church Fathers of the first half of the second century stood in close relationship to, and often under the influence of, late Jewish literature and thought patterns. The lines of rapport between them and the Dead Sea scrolls appear to be especially marked. CFF1 1082.4

In view of these apparent relationships, the fact that essentially the same view in regard to the nonimmortality of the soul occurs in a number of late Jewish works, including the Dead Sea scrolls, and in the Apostolic Fathers, would seem to have added significance. It would, of course, be too much to claim that this view was characteristic of all Jewish-Christian thought, as we have seen, for instance, that the Pseudo-Clementines and “Slavonic” Enoch look upon the question otherwise. Jewish-Christianity appears to have been no more unanimous in this regard than was Judaism. But the general trend of Jewish-Christian thought seems to have been toward the view that the soul was merely mortal. This fact may indicate one more link between the Apostolic Fathers and late Judaism, and more particularly with the Dead Sea scrolls. EARLE HILGERT CFF1 1082.5