Heresy, Forgery, Novelty: Condemning, Denying, and Asserting Innovation in Ancient Judaism

ISBN : 9780190062507

Jonathan Klawans
240 Pages
156 x 156 mm
Pub date
Dec 2019
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It is commonly asserted that heresy is a Christian invention that emerged in late antiquity as Christianity distinguished itself from Judaism. Heresy, Forgery, Novelty probes ancient Jewish disputes regarding religious innovation and argues that Christianity's heresiological impulse is in fact indebted to Jewish precedents. In this book, Jonathan Klawans demonstrates that ancient Jewish literature displays a profound unease regarding religious innovation. The historian Josephus condemned religious innovation outright, and later rabbis valorize the antiquity of their traditions. The Dead Sea sectarians spoke occasionally-and perhaps secretly-of a "new covenant," but more frequently masked newer ideas in rhetorics of renewal or recovery. Other ancient Jews engaged in pseudepigraphy-the false attribution of recent works to prophets of old. The flourishing of such religious forgeries further underscores the dangers associated with religious innovation. As Christianity emerged, the discourse surrounding religious novelty shifted dramatically. On the one hand, Christians came to believe that Jesus had inaugurated a "new covenant," replacing what came prior. On the other hand, Christian writers followed their Jewish predecessors in condemning heretics as dangerous innovators, and concealing new works in pseudepigraphic garb. In its open, unabashed embrace of new things, Christianity parts from Judaism. Christianity's heresiological condemnation of novelty, however, displays continuity with prior Jewish traditions. Heresy, Forgery, Novelty reconsiders and offers a new interpretation of the dynamics of the split between Judaism and Christianity.


Chapter 1: Heresies, Forgeries, Novelties
What is New? Anxieties of Innovation, Then and Now
A Tradition of Condemning What is New
A Tradition of Denial: The Constructed Absence of Jewish Heresy
Authoritative Innovation: Prophecy and Scripture
Innovation Revealed and Concealed: Interpretation, Scribes, and Pseudepigraphy
Pseudepigraphy and Forging Antiquity
Heresy, Forgery, Novelty
Chapter 2: Heresy Without Orthodoxy: Josephus and the Rabbis on Dangerous Beliefs
Josephus on the Afterlife: A Possibly Dangerous Hope
Josephus on the Epicureans: Dangerous Denial
Josephus and Jewish Innovation 1: General Denials and Justifications
Constructing and Condemning the Fourth Philosophy
Heresy and Consensus (not Orthodoxy)
Josephus and Jewish Innovation 2: Denials and Falsifications
Heretics in the Mishnah
The Consensus of Pirkei Avot
Chapter 3: Secret Supersessionism? Intimations of Novelty Concealed at Qumran
The New Covenant of the Damascus Document
Novelty, Restoration, and Renewal
Masking Innovation: Remarriage after Divorce and Other New Laws
Covenant Renewal in Jubilees and Qumran
Denying Innovation: The Timelessness of the Two Ways
Secret Supersessionism? A Mysterious Possibility
In the Absence of the Old
Excursus: The New Covenant Inscribed on an Old Stone?
Chapter 4: Innovation Asserted: The Novelties of Early Christianity
Christians, Covenants, and Testaments
A New Covenant in the Gospels and Paul
Innovation and the Teachings of Jesus
The New and Old Covenants in Hebrews
Prophecy and Innovation among the Followers of Jesus
Prophecy, Novelty, and Scripture
An Alternate Discourse: The Timeless Two Ways
Conclusions, Hypotheses and Reflections

About the author: 

Jonathan Klawans is Professor of Religion at Boston University. He is the author of Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism (OUP 2000), Purity, Sacrifice, and the Temple (OUP 2005), and Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism (OUP 2012). He is also co-editor of the forthcoming Jewish Annotated Apocrypha.

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