Jewish and Christian cultic discipline to the middle of the second century
Mignard, James Edwin
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The recent discovery of documents at Qumran has provoked renewed interest in the possibility of Jewish influence on primitive Christianity in several areas. The purpose of this dissertation is to describe historically Jewish and Christian disciplinary procedures, particularly excommunication, in order to determine whether the practice of the church indicates indebtedness to pre-Christian Judaism. Since an important excursus, der Synagogenbann, in the Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch by H. Strack and P. Billerbeck is frequently referred to in works on church discipline, a secondary purpose of the dissertation is to examine the methodology and results of the excursus. The investigation covers the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the Manual of Discipline, the Damascus Document, rabbinic literature, the New Testament, and the Apostolic Fathers. The curses alah, arar, qalal, and especially herem, were used (often by intimidation)in the Old Testament to maintain moral and spiritual standards. Since anathema is the usual translation in the Septuagint for berem, its use in its classical setting is examined. In addition to the curse, the threat of immediate punishment or future divine judgment was employed to guard the purity of the worship of Yahweh. In the literature of the Intertestamental period, all traces of punishment have disappeared from the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha, except for the mention of the curse in a few poetic passages. However, an elaborate system of punishment is found in the Qumran literature. Further evidence of the practice of excommunication in this period is revealed in the rabbinic material. In IQS and CD the punishment for sins generally depended on whether the sins were considered to be against an individual or the community as a whole. Mild punishment was reserved for social infractions against one's neighbor, but irrevocable expulsion was the sentence for sins thought to have been prompted by an attitude that was not sympathetic with the ideals of the group. The conclusions of the excursus, der Synagogenbann, must be revised by giving closer attention to the problem of chronology. The synagogue at the time of Jesus knew of only one ban, the niddui. The shammatha, as a disciplinary measure, was an interchangeable term with niddui, but was confined to the Babylonian Jews. Herem probably did not appear as a term for excommunication in the synagogue until the third century. The principal reason for the pronouncing of the niddui was to safeguard the halakhah. The practice of excommunication in the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers scarcely appears, and the use of the curse as a means of discipline does not occur at all. The first Gospel shows that even though Matthew conceived of the church as a corpus mixtum, judgment was properly a (divine) matter for the future. The mark of a Christian in the church was a readiness to forgive an offending brother. In the crucial Pauline passages excommunication has no prominent place. Paul's use of anathema bore little relationship to church discipline. In the remainder of the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers a spirit of restraint with regard to excommunication characterized the early Christian movement. Thus, members in good standing were to take note of offenders, rebuke them, pray for them, invite and receive them back if they repented. Despite the conclusion that Judaism and the church exercised considerable restraint in the matter of discipline, one cannot claim with certainty the dependence of the church on known Jewish disciplinary practices.
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