Karl Barth once said that the Jews are the older brothers and sisters of Christianity, but how much older?
I’ve always thought that in the gospels, when Jesus challenges traditions held by some, such as challenging the Pharisees’ understandings of Sabbath keeping or ritual purity, that these were long-established customs and traditions. In fact, Judaism as it is presented in the gospels (admittedly not a reliable source) may not have been more than a century older than the Jesus movement. At least, that’s the thesis of a new book by a Jewish archaeologist named Yonatan Adler.
Adler’s thesis is basically that Judaism didn’t take on its essential character until the Hasmonean dynasty in the 2nd century BCE, when Israel began to emerge from Hellenistic dominance.
I lack the knowledge to form a quick judgement on Adler’s thesis, but the scholarly reaction in this Smithsonian article is not hostile. However, today, comments like this are leaving me slightly disoriented.
“Konrad Schmid, a biblical scholar at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, agrees that “before the Hellenistic period,” knowledge of the sacred text “was probably limited to small scribal circles centered in Jerusalem.” He speculates that the Hebrew Bible’s rules could have been conceived not as laws but as “a document depicting an ideal community.” He is unsure, however, if the text remained obscure to most Judeans as late as the second century B.C.E.”