You have probably forgotten our earlier conversation but if it suits you, I’d like to revive it! I had to sit law exams over the past two months, so had no time to write replies to your points. Fortunately, I do now.
Firstly, if I can get the issue of the Septuagint out of the way:
There was no Septuagint as we know it in the first century. That’s why the scholarly nomenclature for this period is “the old Greek”. And where are the unique beliefs of the deuterocanon found in the New Testament? Where are the books even cited? You’ve referred to one citation of part of the books of Enoch (nothing to do with the soul), and that’s it.
I agree with you inasmuch as there are no two Septuagint codicils I could point to which have the exact same deuterocanon, as evidenced by the three earliest manuscripts of the LXX (with the earliest Greek versions of OT books other than the Pentateuch (3rd-1st century BC) being called “Old Greek”, as you note). The ‘Septuagint’ were not translated as a set, their corporate and codified nature is largely a later construct of canonization. I’m not trying to dispute this historical fact.
But the Hebrew Canon itself appears not to have been decisively set either: the Dead Sea Scrolls , for instance, lack any manuscripts for the Book of Esther from the Ketuvim while four of the deuterocanonical books included in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles were found: that is Tobit, Sirach, Baruch 6 (also known as the Letter or Epistle of Jeremiah), and Psalm 151. Likewise in the much earlier canonical-type listing provided in the aforementioned Ben Sira (200 - 175 BCE), we find that this most primitive of witnesses to a “canon” identifies, whether directly or indirectly, each of the books of the Tanakh that would eventually become scriptural, with the notable exception of Ezra, Daniel, Ruth, Esther, and Chronicles.
Simply put, for Jews there was no universally agreed upon canon to include or exclude the “deuterocanonical” books in the first century CE.
I’m not interested per se in what ancient Jewish texts were regarded, or ultimately became regarded, as “canon”. No, what I’m concerned with is which books exerted a profound and discernible influence upon the first century CE equivalent of “popular culture” - which is why I’ve been referring to texts like 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra/2 Esdras that no major Christian denomination (other than the Ethiopian Orthodox and as a non-scriptural appendage to the Latin Vulgate for Catholics) regards as being sacred writ. Again this is not a discussion about the canon, and nor did I intend it to be such.
What do we know about the reception of these deuterocanonical and apocryphal texts? (I get the impression that you think these texts weren’t well-read among first century Jews).
Well, we know that Josephus clearly relied upon 1 Maccabees and freely used the deuterocanonical portions of Esther. The Talmudic writers, likewise, reference Baruch; the Book of Wisdom and quote repeatedly from Sirach. Philo of Alexandria had a particular reliance on Wisdom according to the prolific scholar of ancient religious studies Peter Schafer. Most importantly for our discussion, both Philo and Wisdom teach practically identical doctrines concerning the immortality of the soul, and in over two pages of cross-references David Winston has helpfully elucidated the very apparent affinity between the two authors in regard to “divine wisdom, creation, immortality and ethics, not to mention linguistic parallels”. Consider how Philo notes that “incorruption is akin to eternality” (De Arb. 55) and compare it with “God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity” (Wisdom 2:23).
The Book of Hebrews in the New Testament, which shares elements of Middle Platonist influence with Philo among other things, makes more than 30 allusions to the Book of Wisdom, Ben Sira and 2 Maccabees according to Craig A. Evans; such that one other scholar has concluded that the prologue to Hebrews (1:1-4) betrays “conscious dependence upon Wisdom while sketching the Son’s portrait, on its lexical elements and ideas”. There is also the “extensive verbal overlap between the author of Hebrews and 2 Maccabees, the latter of which records the story of the Maccabean martyrs, and the three details in Hebrews 11:35b about the specific form of torture, the martyrs’ resolve to refuse any compromises that could have spared their lives and the belief in the resurrection as a reward for martyrdom” which are recorded in 2 Maccabees and moreover “as the description continues in Heb. 11:36, there are further echoes of the martyrdom of the seven brothers and their mother in 2 Maccabees”.
This is just a brief overview: I could cite many, many other instances specifying the influential and widespread appeal of these texts to first century authors - texts which, in terms of the Wisdom of Solomon, 2 Maccabees, Enoch and 4 Ezra, advocate belief in post-mortem but pre-judgement existence outside the body in some manner of intermediate state. The Enochic literature was very popular too, as Peter H. Davids pointed out: “What we do know is, first, that other Jewish groups, most notably those living in Qumran near the Dead Sea, also used and valued 1 Enoch .” (This is in addition to its usage by New Testament authors).
It is not surprising, therefore, to find Josephus describing how both the Pharisees and Essenes held beliefs which assumed the immortality of the soul, while the Sadducees rejected such views in Antiquities XVIII, 11-17:
> The Jews had for a great while three schools of philosophy peculiar to themselves- the Essenes, the Sadducees, and the third was that of those called Pharisees. . . .
> (12) Now, for the Pharisees…They also believe that souls have an immortal power in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, depending on whether they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life. The latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but the former shall have power to revive and live again. (15) On account of these doctrines, they are very influential among the body of the people, and whatever they do about divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices, they perform them according to their direction. In this way, the inhabitants of the cities gave great tribute to the Pharisees by conducting themselves virtuously, both in their way of life and their discourses as well.
> (16) But the doctrine of the Sadducees is that souls die with the bodies. Nor do they regard as obligatory the observance of anything besides what the law enjoins them. For they think it an instance of virtue to dispute with those teachers of philosophy whom they frequent. (17) This doctrine is accepted only by a few…
His statements here are corroborated by the New Testament, namely the Book of Acts:
Acts 23: 6-9: “…_****6Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee"…When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees’ group stood up and contended, “We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”_**…”
Like Josephus in his Antiquities, Acts refers to the Pharisees’ belief in disembodied spirits and angels, pared with the Sadducees rejection of these concepts. From Josephus, we learn that the Pharisees and their doctrines were “very influential among the body of the people”, something that the New Testament and the later Talmudic authors both attest to as well.
The prevalence of this theological presumption regarding the existence of disembodied human souls after death was such that the American scholar and Emeritus Professor of the Hebrew Bible, Lester L. Grabbe, could write: “It was a view of the soul similar to that in Platonism which became widespread in Judaism in the last century or so BCE” (Wisdom of Solomon p.54).
Basically, populist first century Judaism had inherited notions of an intermediate disembodied state in Hades (“Abraham’s Bosom” for the righteous and punishment for the wicked), immortality of the soul, disembodied spirits and the resurrection of the dead from influential earlier texts (i.e. the Book of Daniel, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra etc.) that had become very widespread among the Pharisees, Essenes and others such as Philo. This forms an important backdrop to the popular culture of the New Testament authors, with St. Paul having actually been a Pharisee and Jesus himself having had much in common with this school (certainly over against the Sadducees).
After all, Paul was educated as a Pharisee and still claimed to be a Pharisee in Acts, so it is not surprising to find him admitting belief in the possibility of out-of-body revelatory experiences in 2 Corinthians 12:2:
“I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3 And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows”
Pharisees believed in disembodied spirits, as evidenced by Josephus and Acts. Paul did too. An advocate of soul sleep or Sadducee-like mortalism could not have admitted this as being even a theoretical possibility, let alone a plausible one.
Luke, who also authored Acts, assumes this pre-existent framework for his Parable of Dives and Lazarus. Consider for a moment the standard definition of parabolic literature. Dr. Kenneth Boa states that:
“Parables are extended figures of comparison that often use short stories to teach a truth or answer a question. While the story in a parable is not historical, it is true to life, not a fairy tale. As a form of oral literature, the parable exploits realistic situations but makes effective use of the imagination”
We have no other examples of a parable being attributed to Jesus that employs anything beyond “normal”, universally accepted “everyday” things. This is precisely why Jesus’s parables involve situations like a woman baking bread (parable of the Leaven), a man knocking on his neighbor’s door at night (parable of the Friend at Night), or the aftermath of a roadside mugging (parable of the Good Samaritan).
They are meant to be stories with realistic, true to life situations. In that vein, we should interpret the assumed background of an afterlife intermediate existence in Hades prior to the Last Judgement, as an instance of Jesus taking and presupposing a situation that seemed perfectly normal, realistic and expected to the Jews of his day.
As much as the idea of a man dying and his spirit being carried away by angels to the abode of the dead to enjoy happiness with the Patriarch Abraham might seem otherworldly and unrealistic to our modern sensibilities, it wouldn’t have seemed so to Jesus’s original audience.
Parables are not fairy tales set in magical situations. Jesus did not tell fairy tales involving wholly fictional and purely abstract metaphysical doctrines that bear no relation to the reality already assumed by both he and his listeners.
So, as I said earlier on in my last post, Jesus’ audience in the Lukan parable of Lazarus already assumed the actual existence of this intermediate, disembodied state in Hades (described in the Book of Enoch and in 4 Ezra), where the souls of the righteous are with Abraham in a “blessed” quarter and the ungodly dwell in suffering in another quarter.
Luke does not question this belief but assumes it as part of the background for Jesus’ parable about the wealthy neglecting the poor, just like he assumes a background of highway robbers and Samaritans familiar to his audience in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
The intertestamental texts were popular during the lifetime of Jesus and formed part of the intellectual currents.