Monday, January 29, 2007

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (1.2. Part 5: Son of Man & Melchizedekian Hopes)

Other messianic/eschatological passages revolve around a mysterious, transcendent figure such as the Son of Man in Daniel and 1 Enoch or, as in the case of some other sectarian documents found in the Dead Sea library, Melchizedek. These images also testify to the plurality of eschatological programs that circulated in the Second Temple period. However, it should be noted that some scholars believe these works have drawn on royal ideology and Canaanite mythology also used to describe the Davidide in the Psalms.[1] We might also mention that the Davidic King is clearly associated with Melchizedek in Psalm 110. In much later apocalyptic works Davidic imagery is clearly found merged with the transcendental visions. One such work, 4 Ezra, describes the Messiah as God’s son (7:28), a descendant of David (12:31-32). Much more could be said here—for example, note that Daniel himself is said to be “of the royal family and of the nobility” (Dan 1:3). Whenever the book is to be dated, it is clear that it is supposed to be read as a booking from sixth century. In light of all this, it is hard to imagine that the intended readers would not have drawn the conclusion that Daniel himself was in some sense linked with the house of David.[2]
[1] Collins, The Scepter, 36-7; Laato, A Star, 248; Strauss, Davidic Messiah, 46-47.
[2] So much more could be said here. Compare for example David’s language of the kingdom in 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 (“Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from thee, and thou rulest over all. In thy hand are power and might; and in thy hand it is to make great and to give strength to all”) to language in Daniel concerning the kingdom. See for example Daniel 2:20-21, 37: Daniel said: "Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever. to whom belong wisdom and might. [21] He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings;he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding… 37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory”
Continue to the next post in this series...
Complete outline (with links) of "Jesus and the Restoration of the Kingdom" series

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Thrill is Back!

I couldn't help it--I just had to post on this. It seems all of us blues fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

GALVESTON — Blues musician Riley “B.B.” King was smiling when he was released from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Saturday afternoon.

The 81-year-old “King of the Blues” had taken ill from an infection or flu bug Thursday night and was whisked to the hospital, where several tests on him were performed. Family and doctors had been concerned for King’s well-being because of his diabetes and high blood pressure.

Although hospital officials released King Saturday, his family had not had a chance to discuss his condition and did not feel comfortable immediately sharing any of that information with the press, said Willie King, his son and manager.
Read the rest.

Benedict's New Book on

Want to pre-order the Pope's new book? Now you can.
The book is up at (without a picture of the cover).
I've been wondering what kind of book this will be--specifically, how much will it interact with contemporary scholarship? A few details mentioned on amazon might give us some clues:
--the book is 400 pages
--it is a hard cover
--amazon discribes the book as, "Ranging from the scholarly to the deeply personal..."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Derrida the Foundationalist?

There is a popular trend in certain circles to label thinkers--especially those with whom one disagrees--as "foundationalist." The language a thinker uses is carefully sifted through in order to find "clues" of modernist tendencies. Terms such as "basis," "build upon," and, "grounded on" are seen as indications of latent modernist presuppositions.

When I see this happen, I almost get the feeling that I'm watching some unfortunate individual dragged out of bed in the middle of the night by an angry mob from a postmodern Salem, who wag their collective finger and shout in a virtual state of terror and disbelief--not "She is a witch!" but--"She [or he] is a foundationalist!"

Now, I'm not anymore of a fan of modernity than I am of witchcraft--in fact, I'm sure Moses would have said something about it in the book of Deuteronomy had he thought the Israelites would have had to deal with a Jacob Derrida. Nonetheless, I think we have to be careful that we aren't seeing modernist foundationalism where it isn't.

That said, let me point out a line I just come across in Derrida, the father of postmodernism:

It was never our wish to extend the reassuring notion of the text to a whole extra-textual realm and to transform the world into a library by doing away with all boundaries ... but ... we sought rather to work out the theoretical and practical system of these margins, these borders, once more, from the ground up.
Source: 'Living On: Border Lines', in Deconstruction and Criticism (trans. James Hulbert; London: Routledge, 1979), p. 81

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (1.2. Part 4: Re-examining the Davidide in the DSS)

Scholars generally downplay the presence of Davidic expectations in the first-century by noting that the Qumran community expected a priestly Messiah.[1] While this fact should not be overlooked, it should also not obscure the important point that Davidic hopes were indeed present. Regarding the Dead Sea community Sanders has made the stunning claim that the Davidic Messiah “does nothing.”[2] This extreme view goes against the opinion of most Qumran analysts.[3] A careful look at the sectarian literature reveals that Sanders’ claim is simply inaccurate.

As we saw earlier, the passage in 4Q252 5:1-4 identifies the “messiah of justice” as “the branch of David.” In 4Q285 5:2-3 this Davidic figure is called the “Prince of the Congregation.” It is most likely he who leads God’s people in the eschatological war (4Q285 4-5; 4Q376 3; 1Q28b 5:20-29). 1Q28b describes how this prince will defeat the enemy “by the breath of his lips,” evoking the Davidic figure of Is. 11:4. While there are two messianic figures—one cannot deny the important role of the Davidic figure.[4] In fact, it is widely accepted that Davidic expectations were especially high in the sect’s later period (4 B.C. to A.D. 68).[5]
[1] CD 7:10-21 interpreting Balaam’s prophecy in Nm 24:13 in terms of the “Interpreter of the law” (= “the star) and the “Prince of the whole congregation” (= “the scepter”); 1QS 9:11-12: “the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel”; 4Q174 1:11-12: “the branch of David” and the “Interpreter of the law”.
[2] Sanders, Historical Jesus, 241.
[3] Laato, A Star¸294, cf. n. 17; For example, see Frank Moore Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran (3rd ed.; Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 1995). Cross writes that the Davidic figure “would be lay head of the New Israel, commander of the troops in the Final War, and universal king” (159).
[4] Collins, The Scepter, 60: “The Dead Sea sect did indeed have its own distinctive attitude to messianism and indeed did look for supernatural deliverance in the final war, but the Davidic king had a well-established place in their expectations.”
[5] Mark Strauss, The Davidic Messiah in Luke-Acts: The Promise and its Fulfillment in Luke Christology (JSNT Supplement Series 110: Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 43, cf. n. 3 for further sources.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pope Peruses Key Ancient Manuscript

One of the perks of being both the Pope and a world class biblical theologian...

A donation to the Vatican by a U.S. businessman enabled Pope Benedict XVI to peruse a few pages of the oldest existing copy of the Gospel of St. Luke and one of the oldest copies of the Gospel of St. John...

The Catholic businessman, Frank J. Hanna III, and his family were present in the pope's library Jan. 22 when Pope Benedict got his first look at pages from the famous Bodmer Papyrus XIV-XV...

The Bodmer Papyrus XIV-XV, handwritten in Greek around the year 200, contains "about half of each of the Gospels of Luke and John," Cardinal Tauran explained.

"With this new precious papyrus, the library of the pope possesses the most ancient witness of the Gospel of Luke and among the most ancient of the Gospel of John," he said.

For the presentation, Cardinal Tauran and his staff brought only a few pages of the papyrus to the papal apartment.

He invited the pope to "come in person to the library to meditate, if I may say so, in front of that which can be considered a true relic, given that the church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord."

Claudio Piazzoni, vice prefect of the Vatican Library, told Catholic News Service Jan. 23 that the new acquisition includes the oldest existing copy of the Lord's Prayer, which is found in Luke 11:1-4.

The new acquisitions join the Bodmer Papyrus VIII, a copy of the First and Second Letters of St. Peter, which Martin Bodmer personally gave to Pope Paul VI in 1969.

Bodmer died in 1971, entrusting his vast library to a foundation he established. The Gospel texts were acquired from the Bodmer Foundation in Cologny, Switzerland...

Before the Bodmer documents were discovered in Egypt in 1952, it said, biblical scholars relied on references to the Gospels in the writings of the early church theologians to assert that by the year 100 the Christian community had accepted only four Gospels as inspired texts.

The Bodmer Papyrus XIV-XV, containing the last two Gospels, the newspaper said, provides concrete evidence that the four Gospels were circulating among Christian communities as a complete set by the year 200, although the twin papyrus containing the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark has not been found.

The Vatican took possession of the papyrus in late November and already new discoveries about it have been made, the Vatican newspaper said.

The Bodmer Foundation commissioned a transcription and facsimile of the text in 1961, and 13 years later researchers discovered that at least one fragment had not been transcribed and reproduced.

In the last few months, the Vatican Library's experts have been working to restore the rough binding, which they believe was placed as a protective covering around the papyrus in the early 300s, when the text was already too fragile to use in the liturgy.

The binding was made of layers of parchment and paste and, in restoring it, the newspaper said, new fragments from the external pages of the text itself were discovered...

Anti-Post-, or Post-Anti-

Wesley J. Wildman wrote a dual review of Nancey Murphy's Anglo-American Postmodernity (Westview Press, 1997) and J. Wentzel van Huyssteen's Essays in Postfoundationalist Theology (William B. Eerdmans, 1997) in Journal of the American Academy of Religion 67/3 (1999). This is his hilarious opening:

There are a lot of "posts" in these two books: post-structuralist, post-foundationalist, post-modernist, post-liberal. There are a lot of "antis" too: anti-individualist, anti-reductivist, anti-foundationalist, anti-rationalist, anti-naturalist, anti-realist, anti-relativist. These two authors are saying what a lot of people are saying, namely, that we are post-something, and either anti the things we are post or anti the antis that are also post. For my part, I used to be post-anti, but now I am anti-post and trying hard to be post-anti-post. I need all the help I can get, and so I am glad to have read Murphy and van Huyssteen.

He ends with this:

... reading them has convinced me that it is harder to stay above the fray as a cool post-anti-post when post and anti-post arguments are flying through the air all around me. Ah, maybe next time.

John Paul's Secret Ski Trips

A Life With Karol, the memoirs former Pope's secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, are being published later this month. We have learned the following about the former Pontiff from an excerpt released this week.
This is a GREAT story...

Pope John Paul II made more than 100 clandestine trips to ski or hike in the Italian mountains and was rarely recognized by others on the slopes, his former secretary said. Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz described the secret outings in a book of memoirs, "A Life With Karol," which was being published in late January. An excerpt appeared Jan. 23 in the Rome newspaper Il Messaggero.

The cardinal, who was Pope John Paul's personal secretary for 38 years, wrote that the pope, an avid skier and hiker in his youth, often felt pent up inside the Vatican.

In the winter of 1981, the pope, his secretary and two of his Polish aides decided to make a "getaway" to the mountains from the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo. They packed into a car owned by one of the priests, in order not to raise suspicions, and when they passed the Swiss Guard post one prelate opened wide a newspaper to hide the pontiff in the back seat. Then they drove to the central Italian ski town of Ovindoli without an escort, winding through mountain towns and carefully respecting the speed limits.

Once they arrived, they chose a deserted slope and the pope was able to ski all day long. On the way back, the pope smiled and said, "We did it!" It was the first of many such escapes, the papal secretary said.

In the beginning, no one -- including journalists and other Vatican officials -- knew about the mountain excursions.

And the odd thing was that, for a long time, no one recognized the pope, Cardinal Dziwisz said. He would dress as other skiers, with a ski jacket, beret and sunglasses, taking his place in line at the lifts with the rest.

One of the first people to recognize the pope was a young cross-country skier, a boy no more than 10 years old, who was lagging behind the rest of his family when he came upon the papal party. He asked them if they had seen his family go by, and one of the priests pointed to the trail.

At that moment, the pope arrived at the bottom of the slope. The boy looked astonished, pointed to the pontiff and began yelling, "The pope! The pope!"

One of the pope's aides intervened quickly: "What are you saying, silly! You'd better think instead about hurrying up, you're going to lose your group."

The boy skied away, and the pope and his friends quickly returned to their car and headed for Rome before the word got out.


Another picture of the Pope on the slopes.

Catechism on the Destruction of the Temple

The following are taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

CCC 585 On the threshold of his Passion Jesus announced the coming destruction of this splendid building, of which there would not remain "one stone upon another" [Cf. Mt 24:1-2]. By doing so, he announced a sign of the last days, which were to begin with his own Passover [Cf. Mt 24:3; Lk 13:35] [emphasis added]. But this prophecy would be distorted in its telling by false witnesses during his interrogation at the high priest's house, and would be thrown back at him as an insult when he was nailed to the cross [Cf Mk 14:57-58; Mt 27 39-40].

CCC 586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church [Cf. Mt 8:4; 16:18; 17:24-27; Lk 17:14; Jn 4:22; 18:20]. He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God's definitive dwelling-place among men [Cf. Jn 2:21; Mt 12:6]. Therefore his being put to bodily death [Cf. Jn 2:18-22] presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation [emphasis added]: "The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father" [Jn 4:21; cf. 4:23-24; Mt 27:5; Heb 9:11; Rev 21:22].

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (1.2. Part 3: Psalms of Solomon)

Another significant witness is the Psalms of Solomon.[1] This book contains strong anti-Hasmonean tendencies, describing the Hasmonean rulers as “sinners” who tried to usurp God’s design, having “despoiled the throne of David with arrogant shouting” (Pss. Sol. 17:4-10).[2] Later, it describes the coming of a Davidic messiah: “See, Lord, and raise up for them their king, the son of David, to rule over your servant Israel in the time known to you, O God” (Pss. Sol. 17:21).

This restoration entails several important elements.[3] First, though the Messiah shall reign, the kingship of God is emphasized, framing the chapter (Pss. of Sol. 17:1, 46). Second, the hope of the Davidic messiah is rooted in God’s sworn oath to David (Pss. of Sol. 17:4; alluding to 2 Sam 7).[4] Third, sinners and Gentiles will be defeated (Pss. of Sol. 17:21-42), though Gentiles will share in the restored kingdom (Pss. Sol. 17:31, 34). Fourth, the Messiah conquers through his holiness, being free from sin (Pss. of Sol. 17:36) and establishing a holy people (Pss. of Sol. 17:26-27, 30, 32, 41, 43). Fifth, this restoration is connected with Jerusalem, which he will cleanse from sin (Pss. of Sol. 17:30). Sixth, the vision describes the restoration of the exiles (Pss. of Sol. 17:31) and the gathering of “the tribes of the people made holy by the Lord,” whom he shall apportion tribal territories for (Pss. of Sol. 17:26, 28).[5] Finally, we should mention that the Messiah is referred to as xristov kuriov. Whether or not this represents a Christian interpolation is a matter of debate. However, Laato makes a convincing case that it is authentic.[6]
[1] For a discussion on the issues regarding the background of this book see R. B. Wright, “Psalms of Solomon” in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (vol. 2; ed., James Charlesworth; ABRL; New York, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1985), 639-50.
[2] John J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature (ABRL; New York, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1995), 53.
[3] Here we draw from Laato’s analysis, A Star, 281-4.
[4] Collins, The Scepter, 51.
[5] It is not clear the “tribes” refer to the twelve tribes of Israel. However, there is a distinction made between Israel and the “alien and the foreigner” (Pss. of Sol. 17: 28). The chapter also refers to the “good fortune of Israel” (17:44-45). It seems at least possible that the “tribes” could be understood to include the tribes of Israel while also including the presence of other Gentile tribes.
[6] See Laato, A Star, 283-4.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Ancient Interpretations of Daniel

Josephus, Antiquities, 10.7: “[Daniel] wrote about the empire of the Romans and that [Jerusalem]… would be desolated…by them.”

Augustine, Epistle, 199:31: “For let us not suppose that the computation of Daniel’s weeks was interfered with… or that they were not complete, but had to be completed afterward in the end of all things, for Luke most plainly testifies that the prophecy of Daniel was accomplished at the time when Jerusalem was overthrown.”

Eusebius, Chronicle: “...after our Lord’s Passion, the sacrifice and offering ceased in the middle of the week. For whatever took place in the Temple after that date was not a valid sacrifice to God.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (1.2. Part 2: Qumran)

We know that these prophetic passages and others like them continued to inspire hopes for the restoration of the Davidic kingdom in the first-century. The Amos prophecy played an important role in the eschatological expectations of the Qumran community. Amos 9:11 is found in both CD 7:18-21 and 4Q174 1:10-13, in the later instance it is mentioned along with 2 Sam 7:11-14 and a reference to Isaianic image of “the branch”:

And YHWH de[clares] to you that he will build you a house. I will raise up your seed after you and establish the throne of his kingdom [forev]er. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me’ [2 Sam 7:12-14]. This (refers to the) ‘branch of David’ who will arise with the Interpreter of the law who [will rise up] in Zi[on in] in the last days, as it is written: ‘I will raise up the hut of David which has fallen.’ [Amos 9:11] This (refers to) the ‘hut of David which has fallen,’ who will arise to save Israel.

We should also note the appearance of the Davidic messiah in 4Q252 5:1-5, which also describes “the branch of David.” There we read that “there will [not] lack someone who sits on the throne of David. For the ‘staff’ is the covenant of royalty…Until the messiah of justice comes, the branch of David” (4Q252 5:2).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


The Theology of Groundhog Day

One of my favorite movies, Groundhog Day (1993), apparently has a lot more to it than I had previously thought. I ran across a fascinating article, "Phil's Shadow", written by Michael P. Foley, which appeared in Touchstone Magazine. You can find it on-line here.

The movie stars Bill Murray as Phil--a weatherman who finds himself re-living a single day of his life--Groundhog Day. If you haven't seen the movie, you can watch the trailer above. The movie beautifully illustrates the emptiness of Nietzsche's nihilistic philosophy and depicts the way Bill Murray discovers true happiness in the pursuit of Aristotle's virtuous "good life".

Foley explains:

Once Phil realizes that in his Nietzschean quagmire there are no consequences to his actions, he also experiences modern philosophy’s liberation from any sense of eternal justice. “I am not going to play by their rules any longer,” he gleefully announces. His reaction epitomizes Glaucon’s argument in Plato’s Republic. Remove the fear of punishment, Glaucon argued, and the righteous will behave no differently than the wicked.

Nineteen hundred years later, Machiavelli, arguably the father of modern philosophy, elevated this view to a philosophical principle. And Phil embodies it perfectly: Once he learns that he can get away with anything he wants, he becomes Machiavelli’s prince. He unhesitatingly steals money from a bank, cold-cocks a life insurance agent, and seduces an attractive woman.

To Phil’s surprise, however, this life of instant gratification proves unfulfilling, leading him to set his sights on Rita, his beautiful and wholesome co-worker. The name “Rita,” I contend, tells us something about the role she plays in Phil’s life. Rita is short for Margarita, the Latin word for “pearl.” To Phil, Rita is the pearl of grea price. We know from Matthew’s Gospel that this pearl is the kingdom of Heaven, but it may also be appropriate to think of it as happiness, since, according to Aristotle, happiness is that towards which everything in our life is ordered.

And so the overriding question of the story becomes clear: What will it take to attain true happiness? What will it take to buy the pearl? Phil’s initial attempts to win Rita again betray his Machiavellian instincts. Machiavelli contended that it is better for a prince to appear to be virtuous—which fosters in others a gullible trust—than to be virtuous, which hamstrings his actions. And so Phil goes to extraordinary lengths to learn about Rita’s aspirations and then to feign the same. (The logic here is also Hegelian: Injustice is justified in the name of historical progress.) Yet the ruse never
works; each night ends with Phil receiving a slap in the face rather than acquiescence to his overtures. The pearl of happiness, it turns out, cannot be bought with counterfeit money.

Phil’s failures lead to despair. At the end of his rope, he now commits suicide—over and over. Yet no matter how often he jumps off buildings or electrocutes himself, he stills wakes up to another Groundhog Day. His poignant awareness of his emptiness recalls the chilling line from St. Augustine’s Confessions: “I went far from you, my God, and I became to myself a wasteland.” Liberation from the divine law initially sounds thrilling, but such freedom proves to be not only hollow, but self-squandering annihilation. As Phil says, “I’ve killed myself so many times, I don’t even exist anymore.”

And so Phil, with nowhere else to go, unconsciously turns from modern philosophy, with its “concentred” individualism, to ancient philosophy, with its praise of the just life as the best way to live. Phil begins pursuing excellence (which in Greek is the same word as virtue), not for any ulterior motive but because he enjoys it. In good Aristotelian fashion, he cultivates moral virtues (e.g., saving a choking victim), intellectual virtues (reading Chekhov), and a proficiency in the arts (playing the piano). And thus Phil starts to become happy, for he is now fulfilling the conditions of happiness identified by the moralists of antiquity: knowing, doing, and loving the good.

Of course, the movie clearly has theological implications, as Foley goes on to explain.

One can also argue that there is a theological dimension to Phil’s transformation. Part of his conversion involves recognizing that there is a God and he is not it. Like most moderns, Phil thinks of himself as (in Freud’s immortal phrasing) “a prosthetic god,” someone who “makes the weather” through his mastery of science. Later, after his unsuccessful suicides, he tries to convince Rita that he is a god, a claim she rejects on account of her “twelve years of Catholic school” (this is the only time in the movie a religion is explicitly mentioned).

But Phil’s conviction evaporates once he is forced to acknowledge the inevitable death of an old beggar whose life he repeatedly tries to save. In the final scene of this subplot, he is kneeling down, vainly administering CPR to the man, when he stops and plaintively looks heavenward. And in an unrelated moment, he indirectly acknowledges God as Creator by reciting the verse, “Only God can make a tree.” God alone, Phil learns, is the Lord of life and death.

The article goes on to find references to Augustine and significance to the liturgical feast celebrated on February 2nd (Groundhog Day). Read the rest here.

Foley is not alone--others have discussed the significance of this movie. For more check out this article as well as Joseph H. Kupfer's chapter on the movie in Visions of Virtue in Popular Film (Boulder: Westview Press, 1999), 35-60.

Monday, January 15, 2007

David Currie in California

For those in California...

Nationally known Catholic speaker David Currie will be speaking in Temecula this Thursday and Friday. Currie was raised in a devout Fundamentalist family. Both of his parents taught at the Moody Bible Institute. He received a degree from Trinity International University and studied in the Masters of Divinity program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

On Thursday, January 18th, Currie will explain his conversion to the Catholic faith. On Friday, January 19th, he will speak on the Protestant idea of the Rapture and how he was drawn to the Catholic interpretation of Scripture's teaching on the last days.

St. Jeanne de Lestonnac School
32650 Avenida Lestonnac Temecula, CA 92592

Exit Rancho California in Temecula, head east to
Butterfield Stage, turn right on Butterfield Stage first left
to the school.

In particular, I want to mention his book, Rapture: The End-Times Error That Leaves the Bible Behind. While the book's title may not indicate it (not to mention its cover), the book is actually a great explication of Daniel, Zechariah, the Apocalyptic discourses of Jesus and the book of Revelation. It is incredibly well-researched--in fact, I know of no better book that deals with the early Christian interpretation of Daniel. Make no mistake, this is no ordinary popular book. In fact, Currie's analysis of the New Testament's use of the book of Daniel is quite excellent.

I hate to say it, but the book is unfortunately titled--a publisher's attempt to appeal to a larger readership. A better title would have been something like, The Last Days According to Scripture: How the New Testament and the Early Church Read the Old Testament Prophets.

For more information on this event, go here.

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (1.2. Part 1: The Prophetic Hope)

1.2. David: A Neglected Element of First-Century Expectations
While Third Quest scholars have come to recognize the importance of the restoration within Second Temple eschatological expectations, they are more reticent about Davidic messianism. This is due in large part to the growing tendency to stress a plurality of eschatological frameworks in first-century works. Here we cannot discuss all of the various sources. Here I simply want to make the case that in seeking to stress the diversity of thought reflected in second-temple hopes, scholars have often neglected the prevalence and influence that Davidic expectations had in Jewish eschatological programs.

Dating the origins of Davidic expectations is a notoriously controversial endeavor. The issue is further complicated by the question of the rise of “messianism”.[1] Some like Fitzmeyer haved argued that the explicit concern for a future eschatological messiach is a later development of an ancient tradition which was principally oriented—not specifically on a single ideal figure—but on the permanence of the Davidic kingdom.[2] Regardless of whenever scholars date the beginnings of “messianism,” it seems clear that the prophetic hope of restoration was originally linked to the belief that God had sworn a covenant oath to give David’s descendants the throne. John Goldingay writes that God’s promise to David, “…encourages the conviction that the deposing of the last Davidic king in 587 cannot be the end of the story. The drive of messianic expectation in Israel issues from Yhwh’s promise to David.”[3]

Here therefore we will bracket the question of “messianism” per se. The fact is, one cannot ingore the early prophetic tradition which linked the return from exile with the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom. In fact, although historical-critics suspect later additions, it is noteworthy that every prophetic book bearing the name of an eighth-century prophet contains a vision for the restoration of Israel under a Davidic king.[4] Whenever scholars date these books, it is clear that first-century readers accepted them as authentic. We will only look at a few passages here.
One of the most influential prophecies in first-century hopes is contained in Amos 9. In Amos 9:11 the Lord promises: “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches.” This restored kingdom will include the Gentiles (v. 12) and the re-gathering of Israel in the land (v. 14-15). It is important to note that this book primarily addresses the exile of the northern Israelites.[5]

Do to its popularity in the first century, we might also highlight the book of Isaiah, which also contains many references to a future Davidic King through whom Israel would be re-gathered from exile. Isaiah 9 describes a future return from exile with the coming of one who will be “upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom” (9:7; cf. 16:5). Likewise, Isaiah 11:1 describes a future descendant of David with the imagery of a “branch” growing from the stump of Jesse—a motif picked up in other prophetic visions of restoration (cf. Jer 23:5-8; 33:14-26; Zech 3:8; 6:11-13). The reign of this king will be accompanied with the return and reunion of all the tribes of Israel: “He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah… Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah and Judah shall not harass Ephraim” (11:12, 13b). The reign of this Davidic king will also extend to the Gentiles (“him shall all the nations seek,” 11:10).[6]

[1] Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins (Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 73-82.
[2] Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls, 78.
[3] John Goldingay, Israel’s Gospel (vol. 1 in Old Testament Theology; Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 560. Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls, 73-82.
[4] Amos 9:11; Hos. 3:5; Mic. 5:2-3; Antti Laato, A Star is Rising: The Historical Development of the Old Testament Royal Ideology and the Rise of the Jewish Messianic Expectations (University of South Florida, International Studies in Formative Christianity and Judaism; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 109.
[5] Laato, A Star, 114: “The only possibility for the northern kingdom to have a future is to join to the Davidic dynasty and return to Zion. The Zion and David traditions have divine legitimation (1:2; 9:11-12).” See also Joseph Blenkinsopp, A History of Prophecy in Israel: From the Settlement in the Land to the Hellenistic Period (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983), 117-8: “Isaiah himself thought of the monarchy as an institution through which God mediated salvation to his people.”
[6] Due to the limited scope of this paper we cannot detail every example of Davidic expectations and restoration hopes in the prophets. Ezekiel’s vision, for example, also connects “restoration” with Davidic aspirations, cf. Ezek. 34:11-16 (deliverance from exile) and 34:24 (“I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them”). One might also mention Jeremiah 23:5-8: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: `The LORD is our righteousness.' "Therefore, behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when men shall no longer say, `As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,' but `As the LORD lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.' Then they shall dwell in their own land."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Catholic Blog Awards

It's that time again...

Nominations for this year's Catholic blog awards will be Feb. 4 - Feb. 9, 2006.

Voting will be held the week of Feb. 12 - Feb. 16, 2006.

Please send any comments / suggestions to

Of course, I would be ever-so grateful for your help.

Take A Seat

I don't have time for a long post--just consider this:

Ps 122:5: There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.

Rev 20:4: Then I saw thrones, and seated on them those to whom judgment was committed.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (Part 9: Conclusion to Survey)

It is clear that scholars of the Third Quest generally recognize that the restoration was a major part of Jewish expectations and that Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom was somehow related to it.[1] Though the Kingdom may well have evoked the image of God’s spiritual reign, it seems clear that first-century Jews also attached to this notion the hope that this divine rule would somehow be made manifest in the ingathering of all Israel.

Furthermore, it seems apparent that, though there were divergent opinions of how exactly this would occur, restoration eschatology was related to Davidic expectations. We will propose that this hope played a central role for Jesus’ “restoration” agenda.

For those following the outline I laid out in the first post of this series, we are now moving from our initial survey (section 1.1.) into section 1.2. of this essay, "David: A Neglected Element of First-Century Expectations." For clarity sake, I will title the next section as "Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (1.2: Part 1)," etc.

[1] Ben Meyer, “Jesus’ Ministry and Self-Understanding” in Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research (ed., B. Chilton and C. Evans; NTTS 19; Leiden: Brill, 1994): 345
Continue to the next post in this series...
Complete outline (with links) of "Jesus and the Restoration of the Kingdom" series

Best Posts List

I want to thank Dr. Tyler F. Williams, Chair of the Religion & Theology Department and Assistant Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at Taylor University College, for mentioning my series of posts, "Loose Canons: The Development of the Old Testament Canon" on his wonderful blog Codex.

I encourage you to see his entire post--a very good overview of the year.

Thanks again, Dr. Williams!

Scott Hahn: Eucharistic Kingdom

Scott Hahn explains Scripture's liturgical cosmology--God makes us for worship.

For much more, pick up Scott's book, Letter and Spirit: From Written Text to Living Word (Doubleday).

Friday, January 05, 2007

Jeff Cavins' Site

I was so happy to see that Jeff Cavins now has a blog. I encourage you to head over to his site.

Jeff's program, The Great Adventure, has helped lay Catholics all over the world learn Scripture. If you want more information on that click here.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (Part 8: Meier)

Of all the major works on Jesus in the Third Quest, John P. Meier provides one of the most extensive surveys of the Kingdom in Jewish literature in A Marginal Jew, volume 2 (1994).[1]After looking at biblical and non-biblical material, Meier concludes that the phrase most often refers to “the notion of God powerfully ruling over his creation, over his people, and over the history of both.”[2] In most cases, the term carries an eschatological dimension, which most frequently is associated with the restoration (and improvement) of the Davidic kingdom.[3] Other eschatological visions include a return to paradise on earth, or an otherworldly, heavenly realm.”[4]

Meier offers a critique of Chilton’s work on the Targums. He explains that Chilton’s assertion that the Targums describe the Kingdom as God’s dynamic rule flies in the face of the obvious meaning of many of the prophetic passages and seems dictated by [his] own theological program, which includes removing apocalyptic traits from Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom.[5] He notes that even Targum Jonathan, especially singled out by Chilton, “often does carry an eschatological tone.”[6] The Targumic tradition do preserve older traditions though—the prophetic vision of restoration.[7] Chilton’s use of the Targums is further complicated by the fact their final form is to be dated to a much later period.[8]
Meier concludes that Jesus’ use of the term “Kingdom” included an eschatological element.
If. . . Jesus did not want his use of the symbol to embody eschatological hopes for the future, it would have been absolutely necessary for him—unless he did not care about being misunderstood—to make clear that he did not intend an eschatological dimension when he employed the symbol.[9]
At the same time, Meier thinks that Jesus believed the Kingdom was already present somehow in his ministry.[10] Meier does not believe the paradox of how the Kingdom is present and future can be readily solved.[11] Jesus’ image of the Kingdom should simply be recognized as a “tensive” symbol, whose primary purpose is to “tell a story.”[12]
In A Marginal Jew, volume 3 (2001),[13] Meier does an extensive survey of the biblical and non-biblical sources which describe the restoration of the twelve tribes from exile.[14] He explains that Jesus’ selection of the “twelve” should be seen within the larger context of the eschatological hope of re-gathering the twelve tribes of Israel from exile. In addition to the appointment of the twelve he points out that Jesus’ fasting, his meals with sinners, his exorcising of demons, his ‘triumphal entry’ into Jerusalem, and his cleansing of the temple all show that Jesus was acting within the larger eschatological prophetic tradition.[15]
Meier goes on to say that although he did not encourage speculations that he was the Davidic Messiah, Jesus’ actions likely fueled them. In exorcising demons he evoked the image of the son of David, Solomon, who was believed to have been the greatest exorcist of all.[16] Furthermore, Jesus’ “triumphal entry” and “cleansing of the temple” evokes images of the son of David, the original builder of the temple.[17] In fact, Jesus was ultimately killed on the very charge of claiming be king.[18]
[1] John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (vol. 2 of The Roots of the Problem and Person; ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1994).
[2] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:240.
[3] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:240.
[4] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:241, 243-70.
[5] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:264.
[6] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:264.
[7] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:264.
[8] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 264. In addition, we may mention Saucy’s critique: “[T]he potential for his success in this venture raises questions as to why the other rabbinic genres of Midrash and Mishnah are not just as likely to preserve older traditions. A second critical point for Chilton concerns the stages of Targumic development…. surely the insults to Jewish pride, the nationalistic, and the messianic ideas do predate a. d. 70, as seen in the Old Testament, the Apocrypha and Pseudipigrapha, Qumran, the New Testament, and Josephus.” Also see George Wesley Buchanan, Jesus: The King and his Kingdom (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1984), 32.
[9] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:270.
[10] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:398-54.
[11] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:451.
[12] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:242.
[13] John Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (vol. 3 of The Roots of the Problem and Person; ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 2001).
[14] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:148-53; 176 n. 53.
[15] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:153.
[16] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:495.
[17] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:495-96.
[18] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:496.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Rambo's Conversion Story

I've been following the news about Stallone's return to the faith here on this blog. According to Stallone, the next Rambo movie will involve a story where Rambo has a kind of conversion to Christianity.

I was just thinking... this is just what we need.

I would love to see Saint Joseph's Communications put out a Rambo conversion story talk:

I've got some ideas for the title.
--Rambo: Guided Missal
--Rambo: Deploying the Roman Canon
--Rambo: Knives of the Saints
--How God Healed The Wound I Couldn't Stitch On My Own

It would also be interesting to see Rambo learn apologetics. I would love to hear, in Rambo's distinctive voice: "Adelphos in Greek does not always refer to brothers from the same mother--it can also refer to other close relatives." Or, "Heos does not always imply that the state of things changes after a certain point in time."

Perhaps his style of apologetics would be more direct--"Apologetics? I ain't apologizing. Now, you tell me--why are you sorry for saying that about Mother Church?"

Of course, Rambo won the cold war--perhaps he could also effect some other momentous events.
--He could bring about a reunification with the Greek Orthodox. We've been going about this all wrong. I say the Pope sends Rambo in.
--Does the Pope have a problem with a bishop somewhere? Forget the nuncios, send Rambo.
--What? Someone is not following Liturgiam Authenticam? One name can settle the liturgy wars: Rambo.
--I read the Pope wants to reform the Roman Curia. There's an answer... his name, "Rambo."
--Also, Hagia Sophia still looked beautiful from the pictures I saw during the Pope's visit. I'm just saying...

Curt Jester Reviews Coming Soon

A word of thanks to Jeff Miller at Curt Jester for the very nice review of my commentary on the Apocalypse, Coming Soon: Unlocking the Book of Revelation and Applying Its Lessons Today.

You can read his review here. I was a little apprehensive about reading it--Jeff usually finds a funny angle to everything and you never know what he might come up with! Fortunately, the substance of my book was spared from his wit, though he did have this humorous bit:
Throughout the book there are also plenty of verse comparison tables. It really is interesting all the comparisons of prophesies in for example, Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, etc and the Book of Revelation. You could almost accuse St. John of plagiarism if the Holy Spirit wasn't the author of those other books also.
If you are a blogger with a good size readership, you should contact me for a review copy (see the email link to my yahoo account on the sidebar).

Thanks again Jeff.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Stallone Returns To Catholicism

A couple of week ago I mentioned that Sylvester Stallone had had a spiritual conversion. What I didn't know was that it was a conversion back to Catholicism. Here's a story a friend of this site sent me:

Sylvester Stallone grew up Catholic, stopped going to church after he tasted fame and fortune, but now considers himself a churchgoing Catholic again.

Stallone's shift back to church started when his daughter Sophia was "born sick," Stallone told Catholic News Service in a Dec. 7 telephone interview from Dallas to promote his new movie, "Rocky Balboa."

In November 1996, at age 2 months, Sophia underwent open-heart surgery at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center.

The operation went well, and Sophia, now 10, is doing "great," Stallone said. "She's the No. 1 athlete in her class."

Stallone tried to find the words to describe what brought about his
self-imposed exile from Catholicism.

"I don't know. Life," he said. "Your career is going, you're not communicating with your family."

The weight of celebrity was "very heavy," he added. "I didn't have any strong foundation behind me of people that would keep my feet on the ground. I was extremely seduced by the newfound freedom."

Things started turning around for Stallone, he said, before his marriage in 1997 to his third and current wife, Jennifer Flavin.

"When I got married everything changed," he said. "When my daughter was born sick, and I realized I really needed some help here, I started putting everything in God's hands, his omnipotence, his all-forgivingness."

Stallone added that being Catholic "puts me where I should be. I was alone
in the world. I thought I would have to handle things in my own way."

But then "I thought if I put myself in Jesus' hands and asked for insight and
guidance I am basically taking the yoke off of me and using his intelligence and
wisdom to make the proper decision," he said.

If that wasn't cool enough, listen to what he has to say next. I talked about the spiritual themes in the new Rocky movie. Apparently he has similar ideas for his next project. Listen to how he describes the plot for the next Rambo movie.

"Rambo is a borderline atheist. He doesn't believe in anything anymore. His job is to bring a group of Christians upriver into a very hostile territory, and they're there to bring the word of God and medicine and dentistry to these natives. He has conversations with some of these Christians and he doesn't see it their way. They get captured, and ... he starts getting influenced by their faith in the face of such incredible odds."

"I think it may work," he added.

Read the whole story here.