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Rivka Nir
Rivka Nir

Rivka Nir has been teaching in the Department of History, Philosophy and Judaic Studies in the Open University of Israel.

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The First Christian Believer: In Search of John the Baptist

Published: May 2019
£65.00
Current research on John the Baptist is fixated on reconstructing the historical John against the religious, social and ideological environment of first-century CE Judaism. The consensus is that this John originally lived and operated within Jewish society without any connection with the fledgling Christian community and was made the Messiah's forerunner only in later Christian tradition. In this study, Nir radically changes the focus for John the Baptist research. All our sources about John, she argues, tell us not about a historical person but lead us invariably to a character who exists essentially in early Christian literature. The Gospels are sources for Christian theology's world of beliefs, ideas and messianic perception in the first century, and its materials about John the Baptist are inevitably the handiwork of Christian tradition and its theological tendencies. Whatever we are told about John, how he looked, the baptism he instituted, the geographical arena of his activity, the speeches he made, his birth and death, is understandable — whether as isolated details or in their integration into a whole picture — only against the background of Christian theology and its Christology. As against prevailing research on John the Baptist, which aims to break through the Gospel tradition and expose his original Jewishness, Nir challenges us to draw lines of separation between John and Judaism, affirming his difference from Judaism. This Christian John, whom we can rightfully call the first Christian believer, is the only John the Baptist we can access.
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The First Christian Believer: In Search of John the Baptist

£65.00
Current research on John the Baptist is fixated on reconstructing the historical John against the religious, social and ideological environment of first-century CE Judaism. The consensus is that this John originally lived and operated within Jewish society without any connection with the fledgling Christian community and was made the Messiah's forerunner only in later Christian tradition. In this study, Nir radically changes the focus for John the Baptist research. All our sources about John, she argues, tell us not about a historical person but lead us invariably to a character who exists essentially in early Christian literature. The Gospels are sources for Christian theology's world of beliefs, ideas and messianic perception in the first century, and its materials about John the Baptist are inevitably the handiwork of Christian tradition and its theological tendencies. Whatever we are told about John, how he looked, the baptism he instituted, the geographical arena of his activity, the speeches he made, his birth and death, is understandable — whether as isolated details or in their integration into a whole picture — only against the background of Christian theology and its Christology. As against prevailing research on John the Baptist, which aims to break through the Gospel tradition and expose his original Jewishness, Nir challenges us to draw lines of separation between John and Judaism, affirming his difference from Judaism. This Christian John, whom we can rightfully call the first Christian believer, is the only John the Baptist we can access.
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Joseph and Aseneth: A Christian Book

Published: Feb 2012
£55.00
Joseph and Aseneth , a book of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, is a love story about the biblical Joseph and his Egyptian wife Aseneth which, in richly symbolic language, tells how the idol worshipper Aseneth was converted to belief in the one God. In recent decades, it has featured prominently in discussions of Second Temple Judaism as a testimony to a Hellenistic diaspora Judaism that neither observed the rules of conversion to Judaism ( giyyur ) nor cared much for the laws of the Torah. Rivka Nir offers a completely different understanding. Joseph and Aseneth , she argues, teaches us nothing about Second Temple Judaism. Rather, its vocabulary, ideas, symbols and structure become fully comprehensible only when viewed against the background of Syriac Christianity of the third and fourth century. In this setting, Aseneth and Joseph are symbolic and typological images: Aseneth symbolizes the church, Joseph is a prototype of Christ, and their marriage is a symbolic representation of the eternal marriage between Christ and the church. Aseneth's religious transformation should be understood as conversion to Christianity, an example for polytheists to follow. Turning our attention to the central role virginity plays in the story, Nir addresses the problematic scene of the honeycomb and the bees, reading it as a call to those joining the church to take a vow of virginity and resolve to lead a life of sexual abstinence. Through Nir's detailed analysis of the symbols and metaphors of Joseph and Aseneth in a Christian context, the book coalesces into a tightly integrated and meaningful whole, on both the theological and the symbolic levels.
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Joseph and Aseneth: A Christian Book

£55.00
Joseph and Aseneth , a book of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, is a love story about the biblical Joseph and his Egyptian wife Aseneth which, in richly symbolic language, tells how the idol worshipper Aseneth was converted to belief in the one God. In recent decades, it has featured prominently in discussions of Second Temple Judaism as a testimony to a Hellenistic diaspora Judaism that neither observed the rules of conversion to Judaism ( giyyur ) nor cared much for the laws of the Torah. Rivka Nir offers a completely different understanding. Joseph and Aseneth , she argues, teaches us nothing about Second Temple Judaism. Rather, its vocabulary, ideas, symbols and structure become fully comprehensible only when viewed against the background of Syriac Christianity of the third and fourth century. In this setting, Aseneth and Joseph are symbolic and typological images: Aseneth symbolizes the church, Joseph is a prototype of Christ, and their marriage is a symbolic representation of the eternal marriage between Christ and the church. Aseneth's religious transformation should be understood as conversion to Christianity, an example for polytheists to follow. Turning our attention to the central role virginity plays in the story, Nir addresses the problematic scene of the honeycomb and the bees, reading it as a call to those joining the church to take a vow of virginity and resolve to lead a life of sexual abstinence. Through Nir's detailed analysis of the symbols and metaphors of Joseph and Aseneth in a Christian context, the book coalesces into a tightly integrated and meaningful whole, on both the theological and the symbolic levels.
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