Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How Important Was My Dissertation Topic? Rabbi Jochanan Speaks

As some of you may know, I wrote my dissertation on Jesus and the ancient Jewish hope for the return of the lost tribes of Israel. It focused on Jesus' expectation of the eschatological ingathering of the exiled Israelites and the Gentiles to a new Jerusalem, under the headship of the Messiah. In this book, I argued that this was one of--if not the--central hopes of ancient Jewish eschatology.

Obviously, I chose this topic because I thought it was important; but I had no idea how important the Rabbis themselves thought it was. While studying this morning, I found this reference in the Babylonian Talmud:

Rabbi Jochanan said: The reunion of the Exiles is as important as the day when heaven and earth were created, for it is said, "And the children of Judah [2 tribes] and the children of Israel [10 tribes] shall be gathered together, and they shall apoint for themselves one head [the Messiah], and shall go up out of the land; for great shall be the day of Jezreel" [Hos 2:2]; and it is written, "And there was evening and there was morning, one day" [Gen 1:4]. (Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 88a; ed. Epstein).

Wow! How many doctoral students can say their dissertation topic was as important as the creation of the world!?

I wonder if Rabbi Jochanan would be willing to write a blurb for my next book.


Dan Chen said...

Dr. Pitre,

I really enjoyed your book but I was left with questions on how you thought the ingathering of exiles would be accomplished. I believe you criticize Wright for spiritualizing the idea of the ingathering, but I am not sure if you directly gave an answer or maybe I am not reading closely enough. Is your thinking similar to Dr. Barber's thoughts in his book on Revelation where there seems to be an "already but not yet" dimensions to the ingathering with the "already" being the (144,000) and the "not yet" during the "the new heavens and new earth"? Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.



Brant Pitre said...

Dear Dan,
Thanks for the comments (and for reading the book).
My actual critique of Wright was not that he spritualized the ingathering but that he neglected the historical reality of the continuing exile of the tribes of Israel who had been scattered by the Assyrians and remained in exile during Jesus' day.

As for how the ingathering is ultimately accomplished, you were quite right to be left with questions because I didn't answer that issue in the book. I'm currently working on another book on Jesus and the Last Supper where I will explain how exactly how I think Jesus conceptualized the ingathering (hint: it will be tied to the Last Supper!). But since this is one of the main points of the book I'm still working out the ideas. (Please also see a previous post I did on this topic).

My thoughts are quite similar to Michael's thoughts on Revelation, although they will approach the question more from what Jesus thought was going to happen and how his thought was signaled in his deeds and words. As Michael shows, though, it will be tied to the cult and the liturgy.

Keep tuning in and I'll throw out texts that will begin constructing a picture of how I see the solution to this problem.

Anonymous said...


You're right...that is the dream of all of our dissertations. I know mine isn't as crucial, though someday important???

Anonymous said...

Your "next book"?

Brant, dissertations bound by a cover and glue do not equate into a book. You know this already.

Enjoying the blog reading...

Your pal,

Anonymous said...

As for the blurb, why not?

In his book The Last Roman: Romulus Augustulus and the Decline of the West, my friend Adrian Murdoch featured blurbs by St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, and Salvian. I was green with envy.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Pitre,

Do you know if Bishop Wright has responded to your criticism yet?

Brant Pitre said...

Dear Kepha,

No, I don't know of any response from Wright. From everything I know, he is immersed in writing on another first century Jew right now--St. Paul, so his attention may be turned from the moment from Jesus studies.