Boyarin’s “The Jewish Gospels”: Were Second Temple Jews Binitarian?

To inaugurate my blog, I am taking a close look at The Jewish Gospels, Daniel Boyarin’s latest book on the intersection of early Christianity with the Judaism of the first few centuries CE. As I noted in my first post, I like Boyarin. He distrusts religious borders. He likes to mix things up. He’s controversial.

He also drives me crazy. Boyarin is a terrific scholar and an original thinker who (in my view) tends to take his scholarship and thinking to places beyond what the available evidence will support.

For an example, let’s examine his argument in The Jewish Gospels that “[m]any Israelites at the time of Jesus were expecting a Messiah who would be divine and come to earth in the form of a human.” (p. 6) By “divine”, Boyarin goes beyond the conventional idea that the Jewish Messiah would be a human “begotten” son of God, like the king of Zion in Psalms 2 (p. 28). No, by “divine” Boyarin means that in Jesus’ time some Jews were expecting the Messiah to be a “divinity”, “a God who looks like a human being” (p. 33), part of a “doubled godhead” (p. 34), the second person in a kind of “Jewish binitarianism” (p. 51).

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