Dating Dos and Don’ts

P52, the John Rylands fragment,

I’m sorry for my absence from this blog! There’s just been too much to do so far this month/year: work, school, all my other writing, life in general …

Enough excuses. I want to write a series of posts this year on the Jewish side of the Bible, those books we call the Old Testament, or the Hebrew Bible, or the Tanakh … they’ve got lots of titles. I’d also like to conclude the series I started last year, on the roots of Christian anti-Judaism and what we can know about the trial and death of Jesus.

But as usual, I’m distracted. It turns out that archaeologists may have discovered the earliest known Gospel fragment, from the Gospel of Mark. We don’t know much about this find … not yet. But from the little information we have so far, it appears that the fragment has been dated to the 80s CE, which would make the fragment 40 to 50 years older than the previously accepted oldest Gospel fragment (the P52 fragment of the Gospel of John, commonly dated to around 130 CE–this is the fragment pictured above).

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downloadNow that we’re past New Year’s, it’s high time I finished up my series on Christmas and Hanukkah!

Last time, I left you with a question. I pointed out that as best as we can tell, the original celebration of Hanukkah was a Temple festival celebration: more specifically, it was a celebration of the rededication of the Temple altar in Jerusalem, after the Temple had been defiled by pagan practices during the reign of the Seleucid King Antiochus IV.

What was this first celebration like? Well, we might look to the book of First Maccabees to find out. This books was written by one or more Jewish authors after the successful revolt against Antiochus IV, probably in Hebrew, and it covers the period from the conquest of Israel by Alexander the Great through the first 30 years following the revolt. This book is not part of the Hebrew Bible (it is included in the Catholic and Orthodox Christian Bibles, but not in the Protestant Bible), but it is nevertheless a book that most Jews today consider to be historically trustworthy. And as I described in the last post, the book describes the first Hanukkah as an eight-day celebration of the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple:

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