Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Christine Hayes, Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities: Intermarriage and Conversion from the Bible to the Talmud, viewed the inevitable break between Jews and Christians as aided by Ezran ideologies that denied Jewish identity to non-native Jews and converts:

"... for the first time, the Jewish community was confronted with persons who met none of the requirements of Jewish identity: neither the sufficient condition of genealogical filiation nor the condition of moral-religious conversion as signalled by circumcision and observance of Jewish law. By no definition, then, could such persons lay claim to Jewish identity -- certainly not by those espousing an Ezran concern for genealogy and not even by tannaitic rabbis, who required, at the very least, the adoption of Jewish religious practices. And so, a new religion was born (p. 198)."

It was Ezra and Nehemiah who first prohibited intermarriage for all Jews. Jubilees and Miqsat Ma'aseh Torah (4QMMT) are two texts which, in Hayes’ view, prohibited intermarriage as a result of Ezran influence. Hayes also indicated that in her reading of Paul, mixed marriages are identified as a sexual sin, as porneia. Paul instructed his followers: “Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

Consequently, we can say that different groups in the first century of the Common Era had strong opinions about intermarriage. We can also say that Luke was familiar with Nehemiah 9 having used it as his outline for Stephen's sermon and was also familiar with Jubilees. Book of Jubilees makes Pentecost the most important of the annual festivals on the Jewish liturgical calendar. According to Jubilees, the Feast of Pentecost was instituted in connection with Noah and was to be celebrated annually in perpetuity. Of further interest Luke, but not Matthew, includes Noah in the genealogy of Jesus. Since Luke has emphasized Noah and the Noachic decree, he may have used the Book of Jubilees as a source. Paul was familiar with Nehemiah and with 4QMMT since he used the phrase "words of the law" five times in Romans and Galatians and this phrase appears nowhere else except in 4QMMT. Thus Luke and Paul were familiar with the writings about the prohibition of mixed marriages.

It is now apparent to me that Stephen's sermon alluded to Nehemiah 9 because both situations related to mixed marriages. It is consistent with the step progression used by Luke. Krodel claims that “Luke never says everything at once, but expands and unfolds earlier themes as he moves step by step from one episode to another.”

“Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.”

Luke wants us to understand that there are two groups of people with different cultural and/or ethnic backgrounds sharing community resources resulting in some discontent. Intermarriage occurs between people of different backgrounds, languages and culture because of opportunity to meet and interact. Children are born of such relationships and some children may be denied access to benefits because they are different and not accepted. Spouses die and surviving spouses may be treated as outsiders and denied access to benefits.

The Apostles had to appoint seven elders to care for widows in a mixed community due to intermarriage although this reason admittedly is unstated. Stephen, in particular, developed a successful ministry among a segment of the community that had been excluded from participation in the Temple worship. [cf. the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate; the Eunuch returning to Ethiopia; Cornelius the centurion with the non-Jewish widows being the first step]. The ministry of Stephen threatened the boundary markers of Judaism because it recognized outcasts due to intermarriage as members of the community of God. It was the first outreach program initiated by the followers of Jesus.

Scholars have suggested that the Sermon was temple critical and/or temple establishment critical. Stephen responds to the practice of exclusion from temple participation by emphasizing the greatness and transcendence of God, a God so great it does not reside in a temple made with hands. By inference God has no desire or need to exclude anyone from temple participation. Furthermore, the sermon makes the point that God performed “wonders and signs” but the response was to build a calf demonstrating that the temple establishment was a “wicked tenant” from the beginning. The prophets called the people to repentance but they responded by killing the prophets.

God invites participation by all his people; the temple establishment excludes animals and people with blemishes.

Copyrighted 2006


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