B.1 Sorting For Difference
Presiding: James Walters, Boston University
David H. Sick, Rhodes College, Memphis
Zacchaeus as the Rich Host of Classical Satire
In a 1988 article in JBL, Dennis Hamm noted thematic similarities between the story of Zacchaeus at Luke 19:1-10 and two other episodes in the gospel where dining is indicated more explicitly. Mikeal Parsons has commented extensively on the cultural implications of the short stature of the tax collector (NTS 2001). As a rich host of a banquet with an unusual appearance, Zacchaeus resembles infamous hosts from classical satire and related genres, such Nasidienus from Horace’s Satire 2.8 and Trimalchio from Petronius’ Satyricon. In addition to his height, Zacchaeus may be ridiculed for his hurried movements and his tree-climbing. The humor is amplified because of his status as a local official. In this reading, the grammatically problematic and contextually difficult statement of Zacchaeus in verse eight may be interpreted by comparison to malaprops of other satirized hosts. (Mitchell, Bib 1990, Ravens, JSNT 1991, and Tichý, Bib 2011, have recently reviewed the problems with verse eight.) Those who grumble (γογγύζειν) about Jesus’ table fellowship should be understood as his fellow dining companions and the anonymous hangers-on standing around the tables. Such complaints are in keeping with the conduct of the guests at the satirical feasts of classical literature who whisper their criticisms of the host. The moralizing voice of the satirist is represented by these guests whose harping is similar to that of the Pharisees. According to recent literary theory, the voice of the satirist, in this case a Pharisaic one, is undermined by its own harshness. Moreover, in noting common human faults, such as those attributed to Zacchaeus, satire may effect social leveling. By presenting this episode as a type of satire, Luke encourages identification with the sinner Zacchaeus (19:7) and thus fosters the gospel’s general objective of redemption.
The paper includes an appendix of passages from classical literature that ridicule or mock a rich but socially inept host.
Paul Robertson, Brown University
Specifying the Universal: Paul’s Claims in a Greco-Roman Conceptual Paradigm
Scholars have long struggled to decide whether Paul’s letters sought to usher in a new universal paradigm (Alain Badiou, 2003) or whether he was narrowly focused on his specific Christian communities (the paradigm of “Pauline communities” informing many commentaries and social-scientific works). Given that the historical and archaeological record of Pauline communities is spare, we are forced to attempt to reconcile these two approaches, both of which have generated plausible readings from the Pauline corpus. This paper argues that the dichotomy between sweeping universalism and targeted community advice is one that was common to a certain strain of Greco-Roman philosophical works, specifically those concerned with ethics such as Epictetus’ Discourses and Philodemus’ On Death and On Piety.
It is my contention that this tension in Paul is one of which he was well aware and that was shared with other philosophical works contemporary and previous to Paul’s time. Thinkers such as Epictetus and Philodemus likewise made universal claims that they paired alongside ethical advice targeted only to specific groups. By showing how these two authors confronted a similar conceptual issue, I can then fruitfully compare their rhetorical strategies used to solve this universal/specific tension with what we find in Paul’s letters. A close reading of the different texts’ structures reveals a close match in how they frame issues, their audience, and their claims.
Christopher Stroup, Boston University
Judeans from Every “Nation”? Acts 2:5-13 and the Construction of Judean Identity
The relationship between the early Jesus movement and “the Jews” in Acts has been described as oppositional, conciliatory, ambivalent, and even slippery. The first use of the Greek term Ioudaios (“Judean”) in Acts sets the stage for this variety of interpretations. Acts 2:5 makes the seemingly pedantic observation that Judeans from every “nation” gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. The verses that follow list the specific ethnē (“people groups”) of which these Judeans were members.
With the modern bifurcation of national and ethnic identities, this passage appears unremarkable. In Greco-Roman world, however, there were neither “nations” nor an analogous separation between geographic and ethnic identities. The inhabited world was populated by ethnē that were threaded together by cult, myth, culture, geography, and lineage. Luke’s uses of Ioudaios in Acts 2:5-13 strains the threads of geography and lineage in a remarkable way. Scholars have made sense of this strain by comparing Luke’s list with ancient astrological catalogues (Weinstock), the “table of nations” tradition from Genesis 10 (Scott), lists of conquered people groups found in Roman era propaganda (Gilbert), and Philo’s list of Judean communities throughout the known world (Baker). Each of these comparisons rightly highlights the universalizing power of such ethnē lists.
In this presentation, I argue that Luke uses the description of Ioudaioi in Acts 2:5 and the list of ethnē in 2:9-13 to construct Ioudaios as both a universal and an imminently unstable ethnic category. Luke’s list offers competing presentations of ethnic boundaries and centers of Judean identity in order to realign them in a way that is more conducive for the inclusion of non-Judeans in the Judean ethnos. This, in turn, establishes a precedent for the way the fluidity and stability of Judean identity is developed with reference to non-Judean members of the Jesus movement throughout the rest of Acts.