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Response to SarahM32 (Reply #16)

Thu Sep 27, 2012, 05:30 PM

17. I Was Not Familiar With the Idea that Jesus Was Influenced by Hillel

I would think it comes from similarities between some of Hillel's writings and the Sermon on the Mount. (Unlike most people, I'm on the fence as to whether Jesus actually said the things in Matthew 4-6, since they resemble his later redactors more than the rest of the gospels and what we know of his life.)

The problem I have with seeing Hillel as an influence is social class and religious sect. As I understand it, Hillel was an upper-class liberal accomodationist with Rome. Not to criticize him -- a lot of the best Jewish thought has come out of similar backgrounds. But Jesus was on the lower level of society and the gospels contain a lot of veiled hatred of Rome delievered under the cover of criticism of the "Pharisees and Saducees." The high priest Ananus eventually had his brother James killed, so there was no love lost there at all.

At the same time, religious boundaries were sometimes permeable. Josephus, who was on the upper-class side of things and was eventually adopted by the Roman emperor Vespatian, writes about a purist teacher Banus (perhaps similar to John the Baptist) who he followed in his youth and retained a certain affection for. So perhaps it would work the other way as well. Religous tribes are strange things.


I have to admit, though, I'm a little off center in historical Jesus studies. One of my big influences is Robert Eisenman, who is not well liked by the mainstream despite his work on the Dead Sea Scrolls. He understands Jesus in terms of James and his very purist Judaism. I also happen to think the Epistle of James is absolutely genuine, that scholars have very strange reasons for judging it a forgery and no real idea who else might have written it, and that James provides a tremendous amount of insight into the early Jesus movement. ("Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you...."

The other big influence is a Jewish gnostic group in Texas which is hilariously nonacademic but IMO has a very compelling view of the development of the New Testament and its relationship to gnosticism. They date the gospels extremely late and believe that Paul created his own spiritual version of Jesus, after which (this is key) spiritual or allegorical passages came to be viewed as physical history as they turned into orthodoxy.

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SarahM32 Sep 2012 OP
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