I Attended the Plenary Session tonight on Social Identity based on Texts and Archaeology: The Jews. Gary Knoppers, from Penn State University, presented a paper entitled 'Social Identity Based on Texts and Archaeology: The Jews of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian Periods'. Since I am writing a commentary on Ezra, I was most interested in this paper. He looked at recent archaeological evidence dealing with the 'town of Judah' and discussed the implications of vertical alliances and Artaxerxes' juridical charge to Ezra (Ez. 7.25-26). The Priestly linage of Ezra was discussed, his argument here is based an essay in his book, Community Identity in Judean Historiography (Eisenbrauns, 2009). He concluded with the role of the Temple in Jerusalem in the development of Judean identity (Ez. 7. 13-24). Overall it was a good paper, though, I am hesitant to use archaeology to determine specific nodes of social identity. However, he is right to note that there is a discernible diasporic Jewish identity during this period.
David Rudolph's paper was entitled 'Jesus-Believing Jews and Kol Yisrael: Rethinking Long-Held Assumptions'. David's paper felt like a summary of recent post-supersession reading of the NT. Furthermore, it was a nice summary of key arguments from his dissertation, which will be out next year, its entitled A Jew to the Jews: Jewish Contours of Pauline Flexibility in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck). David is interested in understanding how Jewish Christ-followers understood themselves in relation to others. He focused on the parting of the ways, which he explains should be dated to the 4th century CE. Next he looked at how Jesus-believing Jews understood themselves, he built on Paul Foster's work on Matthew. Finally, he discussed halakhic interpretations within the early Christ-movement. David concludes that Paul understood the Christ-movement as two segments (Jews and gentiles) united by faith in Christ.
Carol Bakhos of UCLA presented a paper entitled 'The World of the Rabbis: Fact and/or Fiction'. She started out by saying that she would not be discussing Jewish social identity during the Rabbinic period because she is not convinced that we can discern this from the extant texts. Her approach reminded of Judith Lieu's but she is right in noting that there is a need for an awareness of narrative discourse, attention to the way others discuss the same communities, and that there needs to be a rubric of categories in which these texts can be organized into meaning artifacts for the analysis of identity (a taxonomy of identity? someone should write one, maybe I will?). She looked at how Arabs are depicted in the Talmud as a case study for her approach. She also mentioned that the Iranian context of the Talmud is an area of emerging research. I found her presentation quite interesting and thought provoking.