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Book Published Concerning
First-Century Jewish Text

Posted October 12, 1998

          HOLLAND -- A Jewish text contemporary to the early
  days of Christianity is the focus of a new book by Dr.
  Phillip Munoa III, associate professor of religion at Hope
  College.
          Munoa's book is "Four Powers in Heaven:  The
  Interpretation of Daniel 7 in the Testament of Abraham."  It
  was published earlier this year by Sheffield Academic Press
  of the University of Sheffield in England, as part of an
  international series titled "Studies in the Pseudepigrapha."
          Munoa's work is part of a field of study devoted
  to the subject of beliefs about Jewish mediators or
  deliverers held by Jews living in "Second Temple Judaism," a
  period that runs from the sixth century B.C. to the first
  century A.D. and slightly beyond.
          The non-canonical books of the period, like the
  first-century "Testament of Abraham," are called
  "Pseudepigrapha."  Scholars of the works are interested in
  how Jewish writers understood the role that human figures
  would play in God's salvation of Israel and the world.
          "This is significant for the Christian community
  because early Christianity began within the Jewish community
  of the Second Temple period and preached that Jesus of
  Nazareth was being used by God to save the world," Munoa
  said.
          Chapter Seven in the Old Testament Book of Daniel
  focuses on a dream of Daniel's in which a being described as
  "ancient of days" sits in judgment.  As the dream unfolds,
  "one like a son of man" is presented to the ancient figure
  and given dominion over the earth.
          The testament's author, he notes, comes to
  different conclusions concerning the biblical passage than
  did the early Christians who were his contemporaries.  While
  early Christians identified Daniel 7's "ancient of days" as
  God and the "one like a son of man" as Jesus, "The Testament
  of Abraham" interprets them as Adam and Abel respectively.
          "This use of Daniel 7 testifies to the different
  ways that Jewish communities envisioned God's salvation and
  judgment," Munoa said.  "Some Jews gave a prominent role to
  Adam and Abel, some like Jesus' followers, saw Jesus as the
  savior, but both groups used Daniel 7 to make their case."
          According to Munoa, scholars overlooked the
  Pseudepigrapha for many years because of the texts'
  sometimes-peculiar teaching and non-canonical status.  He
  noted that they are now valued, however, for the promise
  they hold for understanding early Judaism and Christianity.
          "My book, along with others, argues that the best
  sources for understanding early Christian views of Jesus are
  the Jewish writings of that era," he said.  "Scholars have
  discovered that the Jews had many ideas about how God would
  save the world and through whom he would save it."
          Munoa's book is a revised and updated account of
  his doctoral dissertation research, carried out at the
  University of Michigan.  In addition to his doctorate, he
  holds a bachelor's degree from Grace Bible College and
  master's degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary and the
  University of Michigan.  He joined the Hope faculty in 1993.
                                 -30-
  


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