I finished E.P. Sanders' Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah. I have two items.
I read the endnotes, and Sanders was further discussing what he
considered to be problems in some of Jacob Neusner's books. Neusner
regards the Mishnah as a-historical and non-eschatological, and also as a
philosophical organization of the world (but, as Sanders notes, Neusner
backtracks slightly from some of this in other writings). For Neusner,
the Mishnah is depicting a structure that it considers timeless.
Sanders, however, does not think that the dearth of history or
eschatology in the Mishnah entails that the makers of the Mishnah and
the rabbis cited therein lacked a conception of history or eschatology,
or even were attempting to do philosophy in the Mishnah. After all, our
law codes do not explicitly talk about history, but their authors most
likely believed in it.
2. On page 353, Sanders says, "In the
Bible neither purity nor impurity travels, though some impurities can be
conveyed by touching (Lev. 15)." This appears to be different from
Jacob Milgrom's conception of the purity system, for Milgrom thought it
existed to keep the sanctuary clean, and Milgrom presumed that the
purity system holds that impurity can travel from the impure person to
the sanctuary, which was why the impure person needed to wash. Milgrom
may have been on to something, for the goal of the purity system was
probably to keep God's presence in Israel by protecting God from things
that were contrary to God, such as death. But, as far as I know,
there's no explicit statement in the written Torah that impurity
Did early Judaism hold that the purity system was somehow
connected with the sanctuary and keeping God's presence therein? I do
not know entirely. But Sanders notes on page 333 that, in Dialogue with Trypho
46, Justin Martyr presents Trypho the Jew saying that some laws about
washing can be observed after 70, which was when the Temple was
destroyed. The interaction, in the translation here, says the following:
Tell [me] then yourself, I pray, some things which can be observed; for
you will be persuaded that, though a man does not keep or has not
performed the eternal decrees, he may assuredly be saved.
To keep the Sabbath, to be circumcised, to observe months, and to be
washed if you touch anything prohibited by Moses, or after sexual
That evil Bible, again.
9 hours ago