Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Thesis proposal

搞咁耐, 終於到今日要交 thesis proposal, 剛好七頁紙, 講多一句都o吾得. 我其中一個 advisor 話: This is not a strong statement. 不過佢都比我兩個星期後去 defend. 有興趣o既朋友不妨睇下, 比下意見, 問下問題, 對我練習 oral defense 會有幫助. 不過o係呢度減晒 d footnotes.

Jewish Perceptions of Heaven and the Destruction of the Second Temple

Research Question
Through a literary and historical-critical inquiry into depictions of heaven in early Jewish literature, the proposed dissertation investigates whether the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. significantly affected Jewish representations of heaven. If so, how? If not, why? If not shortly after the catastrophe, when? Could a major shift in Jewish representations of heaven have occurred during the Second Temple period, whether due to reflection on the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E. and/or due to widespread dissatisfaction with the purity and priesthood of the Second Temple? In the process of addressing these questions, this dissertation will contribute to research on early Jewish attitudes towards the Temple, the history of reflections on heaven, and the effects of the destruction of the Second Temple on early Judaism.

Contexts of the Research Question
The word "heaven(s)" occurs over 400 times in the Hebrew Bible. The heavenly realm is imagined as a place somewhere high above the earth (Isa 55.9; Ps 139.8), reserved for God and spiritual beings (Job 1; 1 Kgs 22) , but it is never described in specific terms in pre-exilic and exilic literature. Some early biblical materials hint at the possibility that a few people gained glimpses of heaven. For instance, in 1 Kgs 22.19–22, Micaiah claims that he "saw YHWH" in heaven, and in Gen 5.22–24, Enoch is said to "have walked" with God and to have been "taken" from earth, presumably to heaven. These traditions, however, offer very few details regarding heaven itself. The first elaborate depictions of heaven appear in the centuries after the Babylonian destruction of the First Temple, Exile, and Return. For instance, a third-century B.C.E. apocalypse, the Book of the Watchers, describes in detail what Enoch sees in heaven (1 En. 14). In writings from between the third century B.C.E. and second century C.E., we find more detailed descriptions of heaven (e.g., 1 En. 71), of a heavenly Jerusalem/Temple (e.g., 2 Bar 4), and of the activities carried out therein (e.g., Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice).

Especially relevant to my inquiry is the notion that the ancient Israelites pictured heaven as akin to the Temple and/or traced the origin of the earthly Temple back to a heavenly prototype, much like their ancient Near Eastern neighbors. For example, in Exodus, Moses is said to have built the tabernacle based on a "pattern" that God made him "see" on a mountain higher than the cloud (Exod 24.18; 25.9, 40), thus suggesting that a proto-Tabernacle/Temple exists in heaven. Similarly, in Ps 11.4, the two places are paralleled: it is claimed that God can be found in the "holy Temple" and "heaven." In Isa 6, it is in the Temple that God and the heavenly creatures revealed themselves to Isaiah the prophet. The connection between heaven and Temple is explored more intensely in writings from the Second Temple period and onward. Some writings depict a heavenly liturgy with angels performing priestly tasks (e.g., 1 En. 39.13; Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice), while others explicitly identify heaven as the "holy of holies" or the "Temple" (e.g., T.Levi 3.4, 5.1; Ap.Zeph A).

In light of this temple-heaven association, scholars have found it rewarding to learn about Jewish perceptions of the Temple through their depictions of heaven, and vice versa. For example, several studies have shown that the depiction of a heavenly temple in the Book of the Watchers reflects a polemic against the Jerusalem Temple. Studies of Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice have similarly suggested that depiction of a celestial worship signal a dim view of the Temple as the Songs promote a legitimate cultic life to replace what the Temple has to offer. Second Baruch also depicts a heavenly temple that far surpasses the earthly one in every aspect (ch. 4), so a Temple on earth is no longer needed.

For the close association between heaven and Temple in early Jewish tradition, it stands to reason that a devastating event like the destruction of the Second Temple might have influenced how Jews imagined and described heaven. This has been suggested, most recently and extensively, by Elior. She compares the views of heaven in Second Temple and Hekhalot literature, and argues that although they share a similar interest in heavenly matters and exhibit some remarkable continuities in their depictions of heaven, the two sets of texts are inherently different: whereas the interest in heaven in Hekhalot literature was inspired by the trauma of the loss of the Temple, the same cannot be said for Second Temple texts because the Temple was still standing at the time of their composition.

At first sight, Elior's interpretation seems to make good sense. Closer analysis of the Second Temple Jewish materials, however, shows that the situation is more complicated. Recent research has demonstrated that some Jews in the Second Temple period saw the Temple and/or its priesthood as failing to function properly. If so, the Second Temple’s destruction might not have led to as dramatic a shift of perceptions of heaven as Elior proposes, because for some Jews of the Second Temple period, the Temple was already effectively absent, long before its destruction by the Romans. Recently, for instance, Suter has argued that Second Temple literature reflects a similar sense of the loss of the Temple as would Hekhalot literature. This view can find support in, for example, the Epistle of Enoch, which divides the course of history into ten weeks and places the Babylonian Exile within the sixth (1 En. 93.8). This second-century B.C.E. text, however, never mentions a return from the Exile nor the rebuilding of the Temple. Some scholars take this silence as evidence for the author's scorn for the Second Temple, which is here dismissed entirely.

Did the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. and its physical absence thereafter significantly alter how Jews imagined and depicted heaven? Or did early Jewish perceptions of heaven change relatively little, due to widespread dissatisfaction with the Second Temple and its priesthood? Had some Jews already adjusted to the trauma of living a religious life without a functioning Temple? At present, these questions remain unresolved, and it is the aim of the proposed research to try to answer them.

Anticipated Contributions of the Research
The proposed dissertation will be the first book-length investigation on the question of the impact of the destruction of the Second Temple on Jewish perceptions of heaven. This topic has been touched on in a number of recent studies, such as the books of Elior, Himmelfarb, and Wright. These books, however, raise this issue in the course of investigating other related issues, rather than focusing on the question of how the Second Temple’s destruction might have affected Jewish images of heaven. Considering the wealth of relevant textual evidence, spanning centuries, a dissertation-length study is timely and warranted.

Such a study will also require me to reconsider the notion of Temple-imagery in specific descriptions of heaven. I agree with the prevailing opinion that Second Temple Jews often imagined and described heaven in terms of the Temple. In my view, however, some of the arguments commonly invoked in favor of this viewpoint are problematic. For example, it is argued that heaven in 1 En. 14 is depicted on the model of the Temple because both constructions exhibit a tripartite structure. But the Temple was not the only building in antiquity that is known to contain multiple large courts. Another popular line of argumentation identifies angels in heaven with priests on earth, because angels are said to intercede for sinful humans (e.g., 1 En. 15.2), sing praise to God (e.g., Ap.Zeph 3.3–4), and worship as a group (e.g., 1 En. 39.12–14). But these are not exclusively priestly traits. To identify angels with priests simply on the basis of such flimsy connections is therefore not convincing. I am not alone in seeing this problem, as Fletcher-Louis has recently challenged the theory that the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice presupposes a heavenly Temple. Although his innovative interpretation has not been widely accepted, it has led a number of scholars to rethink and refine their views of the Songs. His advice not to assume a heavenly Temple in Jewish texts is well taken. In this light, I think it is now an apt time to reassess our views of the notion of a heavenly Temple in Jewish writings. It is necessary to anchor an important conclusion (i.e., that Jews described heaven in Temple imagery) on solid arguments. Only then can we fully appreciate how Jews highlighted the temple-heaven connection in their literary representations of heaven.

In addition, this dissertation will consider materials that Elior overlooked. It was not Elior’s intention to provide a comprehensive treatment of images of heaven in early Jewish literature; her aim, rather, was to compare views on heaven before and after 70 C.E., with an eye to later developments in Jewish mysticism. As a result, however, Elior skips over some important and relevant source materials. For instance, in her The Three Temples, she compares views of heaven and Temple in the Hebrew Bible, Second Temple Jewish literature, and the Hekhalot literature. Yet she mostly neglects sources, such as 2 Enoch, 2 Baruch, 4 Ezra, 3 Baruch, Apocalypse of Abraham, and Apocalypse of Zephaniah, that date from the time between the Temple's destruction and the Rabbinic literature. To compare views of heaven before and after 70 C.E., in my view, writings from the first two centuries of the Common Era provide a better comparison with Second Temple literature than do late antique and early medieval sources like the Hekhalot literature.

The motif of angelification might further exemplify the significance of post-70 accounts of heaven. In post-70 Jewish literature, in particular, there appears to be an increased emphasis on the transformation of humankind into an angelic existence in heaven. Some pre-70 writings call Israel the “holy ones” of God (e.g., Dan 7.18–24), and “companions of the host of heaven” (e.g. 1 En. 104.6). Yet it is in post-70 texts that we find the most elaborate details of human angelification in heaven: individuals are said to be given permission to put on a special garment of priestly angels and to join them in a liturgy in heaven (e.g., Ap.Abra 13.15; 17.1–6; Ap.Zeph 3.3–4). Could this increase of interest in angelification be an attempt to cope with the absence of the Temple, to counter the sentiment of isolation between human on earth and God in heaven? Only a detailed exegetical investigation and careful comparison of the aforementioned literature can adequately address this question.

Primary Texts
The primary data for my research are Jewish writings penned during the time when the Second Temple was standing and in the two centuries immediately following its destruction. I will focus on texts that contain detailed information about heaven and/or activities carried out in heaven. Pre-70 sources will include the Book of the Watchers (1 En. 12–16), the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, the Aramaic Levi Document (4.1–5), the Self-Glorification Hymn, and the Similitudes (1 En. 39¬–71). Post-70 sources will include 4 Ezra (9.26–10.59), 2 Baruch (ch. 4), 3 Baruch (chs. 2–16), 2 Enoch (chs. 3–37), Apocalypse of Abraham (chs. 15–20), and Apocalypse of Zephaniah (A; chs. 3–12). I will also consider some texts of disputed provenance (i.e., Jewish or Christian?) and/or date (i.e., before or after 70 C.E.?), such as Testament of Abraham (chs. 11–14; 20.12–15) and the Testament of Levi (3.4–5.2). Also worth noting is a group of texts that describe an ideal and/or eschatological Temple which is not in heaven (e.g., New Jerusalem; Temple Scroll); although these texts provide limited direct information regarding heaven, they are a source of inspiration for texts that do describe heaven in detail. This list of sources is preliminary, and I remain open to include other important sources of data as I further my research.

Method of Approach
The proposed dissertation will be based on literary analysis of the source materials with a historical-critical approach. My analysis will be oriented towards trying to uncover the meaning of a text in its original context, that is, what it meant when it was composed and/or redacted. For each of the texts under investigation, I will try to answer four questions: (1) How does it depict heaven? (2) How does it depict the earthly Temple and/or the priesthood? (3) How does it describe the connection between heaven and the Temple? (4) How might its author(s)/redactor(s)’ view of the Temple influence the text’s description of heaven?

By noting the dominant concerns reflected and expressed in the texts, I will also try to gain a glimpse at the problems and crises that their authors/redactors and readers faced in the context of their specific social settings. My main concern, however, is with broader trends across different social groups and movements. I will thus compare pre-70 C.E. depictions of heaven with those from thereafter, so as to highlight the continuities and differences in order to determine the possible effects of the Second Temple’s destruction on Jewish perceptions of heaven. Since the Temple’s destruction is not the only possible explanation for the differences, it will be important to pursue an in-depth exegetical investigation of each relevant passage in context. Since my focus is on tracing the main shifts in Jewish images of heaven, this project is also one of intellectual history and aims to contribute to our broader understanding of the history of ideas about heaven.

Procedure
The dissertation will contain an introduction, four chapters, and a conclusion. The introduction will define important terms, explain research questions, discuss my approach, and survey the relevant past scholarship. The first chapter will survey descriptions of heaven in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern traditions, thus laying the groundwork for my analysis of Jewish literature between the third century B.C.E. and second century C.E. The second chapter will focus on perceptions of heaven in Second Temple literature, to observe how heaven is depicted after such significant events as the First Temple's destruction, the rebuilding of the Temple, or the rise of the Hasmonean priests. The third chapter will consider post-70 writings, with the aim of identifying the continuities and differences compared with depictions of heaven before the Second Temple's destruction. The fourth will focus on texts of disputed provenance or date of composition; though this last group of texts will not be used as primary evidence, they may contain information regarding early Jewish views of heaven that can supplement the results of the preceding chapters. The conclusion, at last, will summarize and synthesize what my research can and/or cannot establish.

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