The reason that the issue of the canon places us squarely into the age of Con-stantine is very simple. That issue addressed to the Mishnah, joined by the doctrine of the dual media of revelation, first surfaces in the writings of the late fourth century. Specifically, it was in the Talmud of the Land of Israel that the conception of the dual Torah, one in writing, the other preserved in memory and handed on orally, first served to explain the status of the Mishnah. Documents that reached closure earlier than that Talmud know nothing of the Mishnah as part of the Torah or as enjoying the status of Torah (a distinction I shall explain in a moment). Only in passages of the Talmud of the Land of Israel does the Mishnah clearly enter the status of part of the Torah of Moses—namely, the oral part. One might, therefore, find appealing the theory that the conception of the dual Torah, specifically encompassing the Mishnah, served to counter the position of Christian critics of the Judaism of the sages that the Mishnah is nothing more than a human and late mode of revelation, not part of the Scriptures of Israel.10 Christians, including Jerome, so regarded the Mishnah (Simon 1964, 116-17). But, as we shall now see, the conception of the dual Torah, explaining, specifically, the standing and the status of the Mishnah, took shape along lines dictated by the internal problems facing the sages in the unfolding of their own canon. The issues proved particular to that canon and distinctive to their task of accounting for the source of their own doctrines and writings. Just as we found that the critical tension of the compilers of Sifre to Numbers, generated by the issue of the conflicting roles of logic and exegesis in making laws, took up a concern rather private to sages, so the framing of the problem of the Judaic canon and the solution to that problem concentrated on issues quite remote from the confrontation with Christian thinkers or with issues shared with them.
Indeed, the very conception of "canon" when I use the word for the unfolding of the writings of sages, and the sense of the word when Childs and von Campenhausen use it for the identification of the authoritative Scriptures of the Church, are hardly the same. As we have noted, when scholars of the formation of the canon of Christianity use the word "canon," they mean, first, the recognition of Sacred Scripture, over and beyond the (received) Hebrew Scriptures; second, the identification of writings revered within the Church as canonical, hence authoritative; third, the recognition of these accepted writings as forming a Scripture; fourth, the role of this Scripture as the counterpart to the Hebrew Scriptures; and hence, fifth, the formation of the Bible as the Old and New Testaments. Now, as a matter of fact, none of these categories, stage by stage, corresponds in any way to the processes in the unfolding of the holy books of the sages, which I shall now describe in terms of Torah.
10. I would be disingenuous if I denied entertaining that theory. But it does not work, for reasons I shall explain.
But the word "Torah" in the context of the writings of the sages in no way forms that counterpart to the word "canon" as used (quite correctly) by Childs, von Campenhausen, and others; moreover the word "Bible" and the word "Torah" in no way speak of the same thing, that is, they do not refer to the same category or classification.
The Judaism of the sages, as portrayed in the fourth-century documents, is not a canonical system at all. For revelation does not close or reach conclusion. God speaks all the time, through the sages. Torah speaks of God's revelation of God's will to Moses, our rabbi. The Scriptures fall into the category of Torah, but they do not fill that category up. Other writings, and, more important, other things besides books, fall into that same category. This usage of Torah as an essentially taxonomic category exhibits no traits parallel to the conception of canon as the authoritative collection of holy books. Canon and Torah, in the present setting, simply have nothing in common. Canon refers to particular books that enjoy a distinctive standing; Torah refers to various things that fall into a particular classification. So as we follow the story of the unfolding of the Torah, from the Mishnah forward, and, in particular, review the meanings of the word "Torah" as these occur in the canonical writings of sages from the Mishnah forward, we shall see nothing to suggest that sages and theologians pursued a single program, defined an issue in one and the same way, appealed to the same set of facts, and employed the same modes of thought. In Christianity the canon reaches closure, but Judaism in the sages' definition yielded no canon, for Torah remained open-ended, a category in which diverse matters, persons, teachings, actions, writings found an ample place. The Christian canon reached closure with the Bible: Old and New Testaments. The Judaic Torah never closed: revelation of Torah continued, as I shall now explain.
The word "Torah" bears a broad range of meanings. Before we can appreciate what is fresh in the treatment, in the Talmud of the Land of Israel, of the: Mishnah as part of the Torah, we have to review these possible meanings andt discover the one that would encompass even so recent a document as the: Mishnah. The meaning of the several categories requires only brief explanation. When the Torah refers to a particular thing, it is to a scroll containing; divinely revealed words. The Torah may further refer to revelation, not as an object but as a corpus of doctrine. When one "does Torah," the disciple "studies" or "learns," and the master "teaches," Torah. Hence, while "Torah" never appears as a verb, it does refer to an act. The word also bears a quite separate sense, torah as category or classification or corpus of rules, e.g., "the torah of driving a car" is a usage entirely acceptable to some documents. This generic usage of the word does occur.
The word "Torah" very commonly refers to a status, distinct from andl above another status, as "teachings of Torah" as against "teachings of scribes." Obviously, no account of the meaning of the word can ignore the distinction between the two Torahs, written and oral. Finally, the word refers to a source:
of salvation, often fully worked out in stories about how the individual and the nation will be saved through Torah. In general, the sense of the word "salvation" is not complicated. It is simply salvation in the way in which Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic historians understand it: kings who do what God wants win battles; those who do not, lose. So too here, people who study and do Torah are saved from sickness and death, and the way Israel can save itself from its condition of degradation also is through Torah.
Within those categories, we ask, where is there a place for the Mishnah? The one thing that is clear, alas, is negative. The framers of the Mishnah nowhere in their document claim, implicitly or explicitly, that what they have written forms part of the Torah, enjoys the status of God's revelation to Moses at Sinai, or even systematically carries forward secondary exposition and application of what Moses wrote down in the wilderness. Later on, two hundred years beyond the closure of the Mishnah, the need to explain its standing and origin led some to posit two things. First, God's revelation of the Torah at Sinai encompassed the Mishnah as much as Scripture. Second, the Mishnah was handed on through oral formulation and oral transmission from Sinai to the framers of the document as we have it. These two convictions in fact emerge from the references of both Talmuds to the dual Torah. One part is in writing; the other was oral and now is in the Mishnah. As for the Mishnah itself, however, we find not a hint that anyone has heard any such tale. The earliest apologists for the Mishnah, represented in Abot and the Tosefta alike, know nothing of the fully realized myth of the dual Torah of Sinai. It may be that the authors of those documents stood too close to the Mishnah to see its standing as a problem or to recognize the task of accounting for its origins. Certainly they never refer to the Mishnah as something "out there," nor do they speak of the document as autonomous and complete. Only the two Talmuds, which serve the Mishnah as systematic commentaries to passages, taken one by one and episodically, reveal that conception. This treatment of the Mishnah as a whole and as a separate document, demanding explanation, proves congruent with the perspective of the authors of the Talmuds. They see it as a document to be cut into bits and pieces and explained, just as, in the same period, others would see Scripture in the same way and compose for it the same sort of commentary. The two Talmuds, beginning of course with the Talmud of the Land of Israel, find it necessary to provide a mythic explanation of where the document came from and why it should be obeyed. In any event, the absence of explicit expression of such a claim of status in behalf of the Mishnah as Torah requires little specification. It is just not there.
But the absence of an implicit claim demands explanation. When ancient Jews wanted to gain for their writings the status of revelation, of torah, or at least to link what they thought to what the Torah had said, they could do one of four things. They could sign the name of a holy man of old, for instance, Adam, Enoch, Ezra. They could imitate the Hebrew style of Scripture. They could claim that God had spoken to them. They could, at the very least, cite a verse of Scripture and impute to the cited passage their own opinion. These four methods—pseudepigraphy, stylistic imitation (hence, forgery), claim of direct revelation from God, and eisegesis—found no favor with the Mishnah's framers. To the contrary, they signed no name to their book. Their Hebrew was new in its syntax and morphology, completely unlike that of the Mosaic writings of the Pentateuch. They never claimed that God had anything to do with their opinions. They rarely cited a verse of Scripture as authority. It follows that, whatever the authors of the Mishnah said about their document, the implicit character of the book tells us that they did not claim God had dictated or even approved what they had to say. The framers simply ignored all the validating conventions of the world in which they lived. And, as I said, they failed to make explicit use of any others. It follows that we do not know whether the Mishnah was supposed to be part of the Torah or to enjoy a clearly defined relationship to the existing Torah. We also do not know what else, if not the Torah, was meant to endow the Mishnah's laws with heavenly sanction. To state matters simply, we do not know what the framers of the Mishnah said they had made, nor do we know what the people who received and were supposed to obey the Mishnah thought they possessed.
That the compositors of materials in the Talmud of the Land of Israel treated the Mishnah as if it was part of the Torah is evident not solely from what they say about the Mishnah or about the concept of an oral Torah. It is also evident from how they treat the Mishnah. Specifically, in the Talmud of the Land of Israel, sages treat the Mishnah precisely as they do the written Torah. They subject both to exactly the same methods of exegesis, for one thing. They cite both and explain, in much the same modes of thought, the meanings they find. This equivalence of Mishnah and Scripture, moreover, emerges not only in implicit but also in explicit ways. We find sayings that weigh the merit of studying the Torah against the merit of studying the Mishnah—something without parallel in the documents surveyed above. In these same sayings, discourse takes up such other categories as laws (halakhot). Whether or not people reached the conclusion that, since the Mishnah enjoyed the status of the (written) Torah, therefore the Mishnah constituted part of the (one whole) Torah revealed to Moses, our rabbi, makes no difference. The most subtle, yet most consequential, step is the first one. Once something is perceived as like the Torah, or at the level of the Torah, things will move in the direction in which we know they ultimately did. What is like the Torah enters the status of, and ultimately becomes, Torah. If, then, we survey the treatment of the Mishnah in the Talmud of the Land of Israel, what do we find? The Mishnah is held equivalent to Scripture (Y. Hor. 3:5). But the Mishnah is not called Torah. Still, as I have pointed out, once the Mishnah entered the status of Scripture, it needed but a short step to reach a theory of the Mishnah as part of the revelation at Sinai—hence, oral Torah.
In the Talmud at hand, we find the first glimmerings of an effort to theorize in general, not merely in detail, about how specific teachings of Mishnah re late to specific teachings of Scripture." The citing of scriptural proof-texts for mishnaic propositions would not have caused much surprise to the framers of the Mishnah; they themselves included such passages, though not often. But what conception of the Torah underlies such initiatives, and how do sages in the Talmud of the Land of Israel propose to explain the phenomenon of the Mishnah as a whole? The following passage gives us one statement. It refers to the assertion at M. Hag. 1: 8D that the laws on cultic cleanness presented in the Mishnah rest on deep and solid foundations in Scripture.
[A] The laws of the Sabbath [M. Hagigah 1:8B]: R. Jonah said R. Hama bar Uqba raised the question [in reference to M. Hag. l:8D's view that there are many verses of Scripture on cleanness], "And lo, it is written only, 'Nevertheless a spring or a cistern holding water shall be clean; but whatever touches their carcass shall be unclean' (Lev. 11:36). And from this verse you derive many laws. [So how can M. 1:8D say what it does about many verses for laws of cultic cleanness?]"
[B] R. Zeira in the name of R. Yohanan: "If a law comes to hand and you do not know its nature, do not discard it for another one, for lo, many laws were stated to Moses at Sinai, and all of them have been embedded in the Mishnah."
The truly striking assertion appears at B. The Mishnah now is claimed to contain statements made by God to Moses. Just how these statements found their way into the Mishnah, and which passages of the Mishnah contain them, we do not know. That is hardly important, given the fundamental assertion.
The next passage proceeds to a further, and far more consequential, proposition. It asserts that part of the Torah was written down and part was preserved in memory and transmitted orally. In context, moreover, that distinction must encompass the Mishnah, thus explaining its origin as part of the Torah. Here I believe we have clear and unmistakable expression of the distinction between two forms in which a single Torah was revealed and handed on at Mount Sinai, part in writing, part orally. While the passage below does not make use of the language, Torah-in-writing and Torah-by-memory, it does refer to "the written" and "the oral." I believe myself fully justified in supplying the word "Torah" in square brackets. The reader will note, however, that the word "Torah" likewise does not occur at K, L. Only when the passage reaches its climax, at M, does it break down into a number of categories— Scripture, Mishnah, Talmud, laws, lore. It there makes the additional point that everything comes from Moses at Sinai. So the fully articulated theory of
11. We have noted the same issue preoccupied the framers of Sifra, on Leviticus, and Sifre to Numbers.
two Torahs (not merely one Torah in two forms) does not reach final expression in this passage. But short of explicit allusion to Torah-in-writing and Torah-by-memory, which (so far as I am able to discern) we find mainly in the Talmud of Babylonia, the ultimate theory of Torah of formative Judaism is at hand in what follows.
[D] R. Zeirah in the name of R. Eleazar: " 'Were I to write for him my laws by ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing' (Hos. 8:12). Now is the greater part of the Torah written down? [Surely not. The oral part is much greater.] But more abundant are the matters which are derived by exegesis from the written [Torah] than those derived by exegesis from the oral [Torah]."
[F] But more cherished are those matters which rest upon the written [Torah] than those which rest upon the oral [Torah]
[J] R. Haggai in the name of R. Samuel bar Nahman, "Some teachings were handed on orally, and some things were handed on in writing, and we do not know which of them is the more precious. But on the basis of that which is written, 'And the Lord said to Moses, Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel' (Ex. 34:27), [we conclude] that the ones which are handed on orally are the more precious." [K] R. Yohanan and R. Yudan b. R. Simeon—One said, "If you have kept what is preserved orally and also kept what is in writing, I shall make a covenant with you, and if not, I shall not make a covenant with you." [L] The other said, "If you have kept what is preserved orally and you have kept what is preserved in writing, you shall receive a reward, and if not, you shall not receive a reward." [M] [With reference to Deut. 9:10: "And on them was written according to all the words which the Lord spoke with you in the mount,"] said R. Joshua b. Levi, "He could have written, 'On them,' but wrote, 'And on them.' He could have written, 'All,' but wrote, 'According to all.' He could have written, 'Words,' but wrote, 'The words.' [These then serve as three encompassing clauses, serving to include] Scripture, Mishnah, Talmud, laws, and lore. Even what an experienced student in the future is going to teach before his master already has been stated to Moses at Sinai."
[N] What is the Scriptural basis for this view?
[O] "There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to happen among those who come after" (Qoh. 1:10).
[P] If someone says, "See, this is a new thing," his fellow will answer him, saying to him, "This has been around before us for a long time."
Here we have absolutely explicit evidence that people believed part of the Torah had been preserved not in writing but orally. Linking that part to the Mishnah remains a matter of implication. But it surely comes fairly close to the surface, when we are told that the Mishnah contains Torah traditions revealed at Sinai. From that view it requires only a small step to the allegation that the Mishnah is part of the Torah, the oral part.
At the risk of repetitiousness, let us consider yet another example in which the same notion occurs. The following passage moves from the matter of translating from the written Torah into Aramaic, so that the congregation may understand the passage, to a distinction between two forms of the Torah. The same discourse then goes over the ground we have just reviewed. The importance of the issue to the larger argument justifies our reviewing the whole. The first point is that when the Torah (the written Scripture) is read in the synagogue, the original revelation is reenacted. God used Moses as intermediary. So the one who proclaims the Torah (in the place of God) must not be the one who then repeats Torah to the congregation (in the place of Moses). This further leads, at J, to the explicit statement that parts of the Torah were stated orally and parts in writing. Here, however, the part that is oral clearly means the Aramaic translation (Targum). In context, we need not invoke the conception of two kinds of one Torah, let alone of two Torahs constituting the one whole Torah of Moses, our rabbi. That does not appear. Then, with Kff., comes the familiar discussion about two modes of one Torah. This passage precipitates a statement of what constitutes that whole Torah, written and oral. Here, as before, "Mishnah, Talmud, and lore" join Scripture. The main point again is the assertion that whatever a sage teaches falls into the category of the Torahs of Sinai. That point, of course, is familiar and conventional. First, what the sage says is Torah. Second, the sage cites Mishnah. Third, Mishnah is Torah.
Y. Megillah 4:1.11
[G] R. Samuel bar R. Isaac went to a synagogue. He saw someone standing and serving as translator, leaning on a post. He said to him, "It is forbidden to you [to lean while standing]. For just as the Torah was given, originally, in fear and trembling, so we have to treat it with fear and trembling."
[H] R. Haggai said R. Samuel bar R. Isaac went to a synagogue. He saw Hunah standing and serving as translator, and he had not set up anyone else in his stead [so he was both reading and translating himself]. He said to him, "It is forbidden to you, for just as it was given through an intermediary [namely, Moses] so we have to follow the custom of having an intermediary [so that the same person may not both read from the Torah and translate]."
[I] R. Judah bar Pazzi went in and treated the matter as a question: " 'The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain . . . while I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord'" (Deut. 5:4-5). [J] R. Haggai said R. Samuel bar R. Isaac went into a synagogue. He saw a teacher [reading from] a translation spread out, presenting the materials from the book. He said to him, "It is forbidden to do it that way. Things which were stated orally must be presented orally. Things which were stated in writing must be prepared in writing." [K] R. Haggai in the name of R. Samuel bar Nahman: "Some teachings were stated orally, and some teachings were stated in writing, and we do not know which of the two is more precious. [L] "But on the basis of that which is written, 'And the Lord said to Moses, Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel' (Ex. 34:27), that is to say that the ones which are handed on orally are more precious." [M] R. Yohanan and R. Judah b. R. Simeon—one said, "[The meaning of the verse is this:] 'If you have kept what is handed on orally and if you have kept what is handed on in writing, then I shall make a covenant with you, and if not, I shall not make a covenant with you.'" [N] The other one said, " 'If you have kept what is handed on orally, and if you have kept what is handed on in writing, then you will receive a reward, and if not, you will not receive a reward.'" [O] [With reference to the following verse: "And the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God; and on them were all the words which the Lord had spoken with you on the mountain of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly (Deut. 9:10),] said R. Joshua b. Levi, "[It is written,] 'on them,' 'and on them,' 'words,' 'the words,' 'all,' 'with all.' [These additional usages serve what purpose?] [P] "The reference is to Scripture, Mishnah, Talmud, and lore—and even what an experienced disciple is destined to teach in the future before his master has already been stated to Moses at Sinai." [Q] That is in line with the following verse of Scripture: "Is there a thing of which it is said, 'See, this is new'? He and his fellow will reply to him, 'It has been already in the ages before us'" (Qoh.l: 10).
Here again, the penultimate statement of the theory of the Torah of formative Judaism lies at hand. The final step is not taken here, but it is a short step indeed.
Let me briefly review the stages in the unfolding of the meanings of the word "Torah" as these pertain to the case at hand. For I wish to show that the identification of the Mishnah as part of the Torah would have taken place even if Constantine had not converted to Christianity. The reason is that the processes of thought, with special reference to symbolization, that ultimately led to that identification had long been underway. And the precipitating force derived wholly from the place and function of the Mishnah within the circles of sages and within their administration of the Jewish nation's affairs, both in the Land of Israel and in Babylonia.
The word "Torah" reached the apologists for the Mishnah in its long-established meanings: Torah-scroll, contents of the Torah-scroll. But even in the Mishnah itself, these meanings provoked a secondary development, the status of Torah as distinct from other (lower) status, hence, Torah-teaching in contradistinction to scribal-teaching. With that small and simple step, the Torah ceased to denote only a concrete and material thing—a scroll and its contents. It now connotated an abstract matter of status. And once made abstract, the symbol entered a secondary history beyond all limits imposed by the concrete object, including its specific teachings, the Torah-scroll. I believe that Pirqe Abot stands at the beginning of this process. In the history of the word "Torah" as abstract symbol, a metaphor serving to sort out one abstract status from another regained concrete and material reality of a new order entirely.
For the message of Abot was that the Torah served the sage. How so? The Torah indicated who was a sage and who was not. Accordingly, the apology of Abot for the Mishnah was that the Mishnah contained things sages had said— and these are explicitily identified as "Torah" that "Moses received from God at Sinai and handed on" to named authorities, down to sages of the generation of the closure of the Mishnah itself. And what each sage "said" in the chain of tradition from Sinai is something other than a citation of a verse from Scripture. So this is Torah, but it is not in Scripture, hence it is not written Torah but Torah that is received and handed on not in writing, hence by memory, thus: Oral Torah. The situation could not have been stated with greater force. What sages said formed a chain of tradition extending back to Sinai. Hence it was equivalent to the Torah. The upshot is that words of sages enjoyed the status of the Torah. The small step beyond, I think, was to claim that what sages said was Torah, as much as what Scripture said was Torah. And, a further, equally small step (and the steps need not have been taken separately or in the order here suggested) moved matters to the position that there were two forms in which the Torah reached Israel: one (Torah) in writing, the other (Torah) handed on orally, that is, in memory. Now to return to the exercise of falsification and verification that has led us into the byways of the history of Judaism.
Let me cite the language used above: when they read the shared Scriptures— the Old Testament/Written Torah—did the two sides work on the same agendum or on different agenda? They worked on different agenda. Sages asked questions provoked by issues within their circles, on the relative value of reason as against exegesis in the formation of the law. Jerome pursued questions of a different order altogether. Whatever he wished to find out in Scripture or tell people about Scripture, it had nothing to do with the philosophical program paramount in the generative literary structures of Sifre to Numbers. Does that fact matter, or is it just how things were? The answer becomes clear when we recall that sages and theologians did deal with the same issue, in the same terms. They could, after all, compose intersecting arguments, so achieving a clear confrontation, on the meaning of history from creation forward, on the claim of Jesus to be the Messiah (with all that that entailed), and on the identity of Israel and the issue of the salvation of the Jewish people, Israel after the flesh. Did they ask the same questions, adduce the same facts in evidence, work out the same logic, or did they ask different questions, deal with different evidence, and think in different logical patterns? In these three matters, the questions seem to me essentially uniform. The evidence derives from the same set of historical facts. The mode of argument—appeal to what has happened, as Scripture records it—of each side coheres with that of the other.
We come finally to the issue of the canon. The effort to compare the Old Testament and the New Testament as the Bible to the Written Torah and the Oral Torah as the one whole Torah of Moses, our rabbi, yields results I can regard only as derisive. Once the comparison gets under way, we discover that the categories in no way cohere. The Torah is not the Bible, and the Bible is not the Torah. The Bible emerges from the larger process of establishing Church order and doctrine. I cannot pretend to know whether or not von Campenhausen's arguments about the emergence of the New Testament in response to Montanism prove valid. I can flatly state that the issue—providing a basis to sort out the claims of living prophets, with direct access to divine teachings—bears no point of intersection, let alone comparison and contrast, with anything known to me in the entire corpus of rabbinic writing of late antiquity. The Torah (Oral and Written) for its part derives from the larger process of working out, within the political life of the Jewish nation, the authority and standing of two critical components of that life: the sage and the Mishnah. We deal with matters of public policy and political status. Neither the Bible nor the Torah emerged in the time of Constantine or in response to the political revolution that took place at that time. With respect to neither scriptural exegesis nor the determination of the canon of Scripture do Christian theologians and Judaic sages ever confront the same issue.
Since the answer to our original question is one-sidedly negative, we must further ask why the confrontation with Scripture did not provoke for Judaic sages and Christian theologians, a confrontation over Scripture, in the way in which the confrontation with the categories of history, Messiah, and Israel clearly produced a confrontation over those categories. When, in 325, Constantine called a worldwide assembly of Church authorities to take up urgent questions of doctrine and Church order, conspicuous by its absence from the agendum was the program of issues on which we have constructed our imaginary debate between Judaic sages and Christian theologians. A sage who by some odd chance wandered into the meeting would probably have understood not a word of the discussion, even though he may have known Greek. For at issue were matters of Christology in no way pertinent to outsiders, including Jews. These issues demanded attention as the Church grew and changed, since the task at hand was to produce a cogent and acceptable protocol of faith to hold matters together. It was, in part, a political problem, but not one to attract Judaic sages' attention.
And, to continue the story, if we were to compose an imaginary debate within a sages' assembly, basing our dialogue on arguments in the Talmud of the Land of Israel of the same time, we should in vain try to explain to a Basil of Caesarea or a Eusebius or a Jerome what the Judaic sages found worthy of so much heated debate. For the things on which religious thinkers focus concern the religious community at hand. The outsider takes a place on the edges of thought, not at the center, and debate with the outsider ordinarily proceeds along lines that radiate from the center. So, for instance, Luther thought the depraved condition of the Church, as it appeared to him, kept the Jews from converting; when reformed, the Church would present an irresistible attraction to them. But that, to his exasperation, did not happen.
The real question is not why religious intellectuals of one circle do not intersect with those of another. To that question the answer is clear: issues well up from within the springs of the faith. The more difficult question is why religious intellectuals of one side ever discuss issues that engage religious intellectuals of the other side, as I believe I have shown, in the age of Con-stantine, on some few matters, they did. When the issues are defined by both groups in a single way, the facts are not at issue, and the modes of argument are common to the two parties, then we have a situation requiring explanation in a way in which the absence of confrontation does not demand attention. When different people talk about different things to different people, we have no reason to wonder why. When different people talk about the same things to different people, we do.
When political change affects everyone, then a single program of thought superimposes its issues on the inner-facing concerns of diverse groups. At that point both sides will end up talking about one thing—but only that one thing that politics has forced upon the attention of each, in the same way, in the same terms. The one thing no one in 300 expected is what the world of 400 produced: a Christian Rome, firmly in command of the state. That constituted a change in the politics, not of the Church alone, but of all the peoples of the Empire. Mediated into the language of self-understanding supplied by Scripture to both Judaic sages and Christian theologians, the political change provoked thought on what were, fundamentally, political issues. That same change did not require public, therefore shared, discourse on issues that were not matters of public policy. The explanation of the epochs of history, from the beginning to the present, bore immediate consequences for public policy. Every biographer of Eusebius has noted how his high evaluation of Con-
stantine constituted a political, not merely a theological, judgment. The resort to proof from politics that Jesus really was, and is, the Christ, the demonstration of convictions of faith through facts of political change—that is what made the Messiah issue urgent as well. The creation of the Christian state, claiming to carry forward the ancient Israelite state and to appeal to its precedents, brought to a critical stage the long-term Christian claim that Christians formed the New Israel.12
But what of the twin issues of exegesis and canon? The ambiguities strike us with force. First, I cannot show the temporal coincidence of the processes of the canonization of the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament, with the processes of the "canonization" of the Torah of the two media. The one process—the Christian process of canon—seems to have reached its final stages before the other process got under way. The issues hardly coincided. The precipitating causes within the Church bore no resemblance to those that raised counterpart issues among Judaic sages. Second, while recognizing episodic points of intersecting comments, I cannot demonstrate that the overall exegetical program of an important commentary of sages pursued the issues important to the overall exegetical program of an important Christian exe-gete. I do not even know that, at the time of Jerome, equivalent exercises among sages to produce systematic, word-for-word commentaries of the same sort went forward.13 So here too I cannot find evidence of the temporal coincidence of the labor, and, furthermore, I also do not know that the labor of the one party intersected, in its definition of the issues at hand, with the labor of the other. The difference from the points of intersection in exercises of definition of Israel, Messiah, and the meaning and end of history hardly requires specification. There, as chapters 2, 3, and 4 showed us, we do find the same program in writings of the same period, namely, the fourth century. The twin issues of exegesis and canon hardly brought the two sides together into an equivalent confluence, a genuine debate. I do not believe that the one side meant by exegesis what the other did, nor do the processes that led to the canonization of "the Bible" for Christianity in any way correspond to those that yielded "the one whole Torah of Moses, our rabbi, oral and written" for Judaism.
The difference between debate and mere confrontation, the reason to expect the one and not the other, is easy to discern: Nicaea once more calls us. For when we listen to the arguments at Nicaea, we understand why shared discourse on a single topic, unpacked in the same way, formulated on the basis of the same logic, and settled by appeal to the same verses of Scripture or other facts, requires external, political motivation—indeed, provocation. For from
12. I have repeatedly pointed to the political dimensions of these theological issues, and the consequences, for public policy for Israel as well as for Rome (the unequal counterparts in sages' political fantasy) hardly require reiteration.
13. My problem here is that Onqelos, the one Targum that all parties concede falls within the sages' sector, cannot be definitively dated to the century at hand.
Nicaea we hear what can only have been nonsense-talk to Jews, which of course was also discourse on profound and holy truth to Christians. To state the question clearly: Why did a Judaic position on the issue of the nature of Christ not come to the fore? Because the debate made no difference to Jews. And why no common program of debate on canon and exegesis (except, again, at odd and anecdotal points)? For the same reason, on both sides. I doubt that Christians cared about Jews' exegetical program and canonical doctrine, except as the relationship to Judaism made a difference. Christians may well have claimed that the Mishnah came from man, not God. But the theory of the dual Torah cannot be shown to derive from, or to respond in a pointed way to, that allegation as Christians made it. It seems to me beyond argument that Christians found as interesting the debates on the role of logic and exegesis in the study of the law as did Jews on the nature of Christ: like God, not like God, how like God, how God. There is mutual indifference because, to begin with, what mattered to Christian theologians ordinarily made no difference to Judaic sages, and vice versa; and, second, what would matter to both was made to matter by issues neither could evade and both had to sort out and settle. And the state, for its reasons, would define those issues and render them acute. When it did, the intellectuals of Christianity and Judaism took note. Otherwise, neither side had much reason to bother.
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