Friday, April 27, 2007

Out of town until Monday I won't be blogging over the weekend. I know I've been absent this week from the blogdom, but it's been a crazy week. I'm working up a post on Jeremiah 31, the Last Supper and nuptial imagery in the Eucharist. Tune in on Monday when I will resume posting.

And, man, isn't Brant a great addition over here! What posts!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Strauss and the Credibility of Alternative Theories to the Resurrection

Over the last few weeks, Michael and I have done several radio shows on the Resurrection, in which we spoke about the credibility of the Christian belief in the bodily Resurrection of Jesus.

One of the themes that emerged over and over again in our discussions was this: Although the bodily resurrection of Jesus cannot be empirically "proved" as if it were subject to scientific analysis, it can be historically verified on the basis of the extant evidence. (If the word "verified" here makes you tremble, check yourself in to the doctor; you are most certainly suffering froma bad case of Empiricism.) That is to say, the Christian belief in the resurrection is the most credible position because it makes the best sense of the most historical evidence. To the extent that alternative theories fail to do justice to all the historical data, they fail as credible or satisfactory hypotheses.

Although I don't have the space to go here into a full discussion of the issue (it took N. T. Wright 700 pages or so in his Resurrection of the Son of God), I was pleased and suprised to see David Friedrich Strauss--certainly no believer in the Resurrection--admit this point his work on the Life of Jesus (German orig., 1835-36). When he comes to the question of the Resurrection, Strauss admits that the Rationalist position--which does not admit the possibility of miracles--must bear the burden of proof and be able to solve the riddle of the origin of Christianity apart from the Resurrection. To the extent that it fails to do this, the entire skeptical project fails:

Strauss states: "We stand here, therefore, at the decisive point where we, in view of the reports of the miraculous resuscitation of Jesus, either confess the inadequacy of the natural-historical view for the life of Jesus, consequently retract everything said hitherto, and give up our whole undertaking, or we must pledge ourselves to render comprehensible the content of those reports--that is, the origin of the faith in the resurrection of Jesus--without a corresponding miraculous fact." (Leben Jesu fuer das deutsche Volk, 20th ed. 1:148, cited in Hilarin Felder, Christ and the Critics, 2:297).

The question I have for you is this: which alternative theory to the bodily resurrection accomplishes this? The "Swoon Theory", in which Jesus, who was not dead--despite the spear being thrust into his side--"miraculously" revived in the cool of the cave? Or the "Stolen Body" theory, in which the same cowardly disciples who fled from Gethsemane Friday night and hid in fear on Easter Sunday somehow mustered up the courage to take on the Roman guard on Saturday night? Which naturalistic explanation is able to explain all the data without explaining away the data?

Felder gives an excellent survey of them in Christ and the Critics 2:397-432. I personally find all of them far more incredible and implausible than the Resurrection itself.

And note well: I'm not talking about mere doubts that can be raised or simple possibilities. Doubts are not arguments, and one could certainly imagine a plethora of alternative possibilities, but that is not how history works. History works with evidence. So on the basis of the evidence, is there any other alternative that makes better sense of the actual data? Can Strauss and Co. really able to provide a credible explanation for the origin of Christian faith "without a corresponding miraculous fact"?

And if not, shouldn't we follow young David's advice? (As an aside, I just learned that Strauss was only 27 when he wrote the Life of Jesus!) Shouldn't we dispense with the alternative theories and accept the hypothesis that makes the best sense of the historical evidence?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Will Elijah Come Twice?

I frequently find some of my favorite pieces of information simply by pulling random books off the shelf and turning to random pages. This happened last night with one of my favorite (and most expensive) volumes on my shelf: James Scott's Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives (Brill, 2001), p. 266.
I opened to an article on restoration eschatology in Rabbinic Judaism by Chaim Milikowsky and found a fascinating quote from a Rabbinic work I've never read (or heard much discussed): Seder Olam. This text, which is attributed to Rabbi Yose ben Halaphta (2nd cent A.D.), relates an ancient Jewish tradition that Elijah will come twice: once at the time of the Messiah, and again during the final Great Tribulation. It reads:

In the second year of Azariah (King of Israel) Elijah was hidden away and is not seen until the messiah comes. In the days of the messiah he will be seen and hidden away a second time and will not be seen until Gog will arrive. At present he records the deeds of all generations. (Seder Olam, chap. 17)

This is a fascinating quote, for it suggests that there was an expectation in ancient Judaism that Elijah would not only return, but that he would come twice: once during the days of the Messiah and then a second time during the time of "Gog." This second reference is a reference to the mysterious days of Gog and Magog described in Ezekiel 38-39, after the coming of the Messiah in Ezekiel 37. As many people are aware the days of Gog and Magog are linked in Jewish eschatology and the New Testament with the Great Tribulation that will precede the Final Judgment and the resurrection of the dead (see, e.g., Rev 20:7-10).

One reason this was so interesting to me was that I had already argued in my book on Jesus and the Tribulation that Jesus held John the Baptist to be the new Elijah and that there was a link between the persecution and death of John as Elijah and the eschatological tribulation (see chapter 3 on Mark 9:11-13; Matt 11:11-15). Here this link is confirmed by a rabbinic text of which I was totally unaware when I wrote the dissertation.

Moreover, the passage also is intriguing because it illuminates another quite baffling text in the book of Revelation, which describes the coming of two witnesses during a time of tribulation and persecution. One of these witnesses is described as an Eljiah figure, who "shuts the sky" so that "no rain may fall" just as Elijah did in the Old Testament (Rev 11:4-7). Unfortunately, the beast ascends from the bottomless pit and kills this new Elijah, along with his Moses-like counterpart. Clearly this is a time of tribulation...
Finally, and perhaps most intriguingly, it is a well known fact that many orthodox Jews today are still waiting for the (first) coming of Elijah. This is particularly expressed through the tradition of the Jewish Passover seder, where a cup of wine is left for Elijah to drink when he comes. For Christians, Jesus declares that "Elijah has come" in the figure of John the Baptist (Mark 8:13). But perhaps there is room for agreement here, if we both somehow await Elijah's "Second Coming"? Just a thought, just speculation, but interesting nonetheless...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

On the Radio...

Tomorrow is Friday, which means I'll be doing my radio show Reasons for Faith Live from 2-3pm Eastern Time (11am-12pm Pacific).

This week's topic: the meaning of the resurrection.
Synopsis: Many people often say, "Jesus died for my sins." Yet, for St. Paul, Jesus' resurrection was also necessary for our salvation: "[Jesus] was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Rom 4:25). Wasn't it enough for Jesus to die for our sins? How does the Resurrection lead to our "justification"? Tune in tomorrow.
Listen on-line: Click here and go to the "Radio" tab (you'll figure it out from there).

Listen on a local AM/FM station: To find a radio station in your area go here.

Listen on SIRIUS Satellite Radio [channel 160]

Listen on shortwave.

To be part of the show, call 1-888-526-2151

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Chesterton on Impartiality

When it comes to certain key academic debates it seems that many scholars are rather hesitant to take a stand. Take for example the question of the genre of the Gospels, a crucial issue for historical Jesus work. The answer to this question has HUGE implications for Jesus research. Yet how many historical Jesus scholars engage this issue in their works and come to a decision about it? Not many.

I was thinking about this today when I came across this quote from G. K. Chesterton: "Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance." - The Speaker

Monday, April 16, 2007

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (2.2.4. Restoring the Davidic Ideal: Zion / Restored Temple)

4. Zion / Restored Temple.[1] Finally, restoration hopes almost always revolve around Jerusalem / Zion and a restored temple. Aune writes, “The sanctity and unity of Jerusalem and the Temple was a central theme of Jewish eschatological speculation…”[2] Not only is this theme frequently found in the Old Testament texts (Isa 52:1-2; 54:11-14; 60:10-14; Zech 2:6-12; Ezek 48:30-35), it is also present in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q554; 11Q20). In the last section, we saw how Jerusalem/Zion—“the city of David”— and the temple were closely associated with God’s covenant with David. A restored Jerusalem/Zion and a new temple fit neatly into a restored Davidic kingdom paradigm. After all, it was David and Solomon who were responsible for its construction and dedication in the first place.

Here have considered how the “restoration of Israel” was often understood within the larger context of the “restoration of the Davidic kingdom.” Specifically, we have looked the role of the Son of David, the pan-Israelite hope, the inclusion of the Gentiles and the renewal of Jerusalem/Zion and the temple. Now we shall return to the issue of the historical Jesus and see how these findings may shed light on Jesus’ ministry and his message of both the Kingdom and the restoration.
[1] “Jerusalem and the temple were so closely associated that the mention of one often implicitly entails the other and the sanctity of the former was though an extension of the latter.” Aune, “Restoration in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature,” 163.
[2] Aune, “Restoration in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature,” 176.

Continue to the next post in this series...

Complete outline (with links) of first two parts of "Jesus and the Restoration of the Kingdom" series

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Best Biblical Studies Blogs--We Made The List!!!

Once again I've learned something interesting from Chris Tilling.

Apparently UnSpun--a site associated with (which is frequented by this blogger several times each week)--has run a list of the Top 50 Best Biblical Studies Blogs. These are generally scholarly blogs--not popular/apologetic sites.

Singing In The Reign is currently #11 out of 50! I don't really know if that means anything--but it was nice to be mentioned! Mark Goodacre's New Testament Gateway and Chris Tilling's Chrisendom come in at #1 & #2. Kudos to them--they deserve it.

I've discovered a couple of new blogs because of this list--I'm eager to start reading them.

There's something else I should mention--Singing In The Reign is the only blog written by Catholics on the list!

If you'd like to help us out--please cast your vote by going here.

I was wrong above to say that there were only 50 blogs on the list--there are actually more than 60. I have also learned of one other Catholic blog on the list--Airton José da Silva's site Observatório Bíblico. In fact, it was he who started the list!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Happy Birthday Pope Benedict!

This Sunday the Pope becomes an octogenerian! In honor of this auspicious occassion and in honor of his new book on the historical Jesus, I thought I'd post this great quote from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Behold the Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology (G. Harrison, trans.; San Francisco: Ignatius, 1986 [1984]), 44-5:

"From a purely scientific point of view, the legitimacy of an interpretation depends on its power to explain things. In other words, the less it needs to interfere with the sources, the more it respects the corpus as given and is able to show it to be intelligible from within, by its own logic, the more apposite such an interpretation is. Conversely, the more it interferes with the sources, the more it feels obliged to excise and throw doubt on things found there, the more alien to the subject it is. To that extent, its explanatory power is also its ability to maintain the inner unity of the corpus in question. It involves the ability to unify, to achieve a synthesis, which is the reverse of superficial harmonization. Indeed, only faith’s hermeneutic is sufficient to measure up to these criteria."

Friday, April 13, 2007

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (2.2.3. Restoring the Davidic Ideal: Inclusion of Gentiles)

Picture: Solomon with the Queen of Sheba; attributed to Bolognese Giuseppe Marchesi

3. The inclusion of the Gentiles. Eschatological programs of Israel’s restoration also, perhaps surprisingly, involved the Gentiles (e.g., Amos 11:12; Isa 11:10). Yet, once we recognize that restoration hopes were based on the ideal of the unified kingdom of David and Solomon, the participation of the other nations is predictable. For, as we saw earlier in this series, the Davidic covenant was international in scope. David and Solomon not only reigned over all Israel, they also reigned over other nations. In this connection, Ps 72, “a Psalm of Solomon” according to the superscription, was understood to describe the international eschatological vision of the restored kingdom.[1] The notion of Gentile inclusion thus may also be seen as part of the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom.
[1] David C. Mitchell, The Message of the Psalter (JSOT Supplement Series 252; Sheffield: Sheffield Press, 1997), 66-69.

Continue to the next post in this series...

Complete outline (with links) of first two parts of "Jesus and the Restoration of the Kingdom" series

On the Radio--Friday, 11am Pacific Coast Time (2pm ECT)

Just a reminder...

I will be on the air today doing my radio show Reasons for Faith Live (as every Friday) from 2-3pm Eastern Time (11am-12pm Pacific).


This week's topic: the truth of the Resurrection.
(What else?!)

How to hear the show:
Listen on-line: Click here and go to the "Radio" tab (you'll figure it out from there).

Listen on a local AM/FM station: To find a radio station in your area go here.

Listen on SIRIUS Satellite Radio [channel 160]

Listen on shortwave.

Be a part of the show:
To call in to the show dial 1-888-526-2151.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Congratulations to Joel Willitts!!!

Scot McKnight is reporting some great news concerning one of my favorite bloggers, New Testament scholar, Joel Willitts. Apparently Joel is familiar with Jesus' words that he did not come to abolish the Old Testament (Matt 5:17), because he and wife are doing their very best to follow the first divine command recorded in the book of Genesis, "Be fruitful and multiply". Joel and his wife Karla have just welcomed twins into the world--a boy named "Zion" and a girl named "Mary".

May God continue to pour out his graces upon them and richly bless their family. Congratulations!

Harold of Movie News & Reviews

Martin Harold, a colleague of mine at John Paul the Great Catholic University, has just started his own blog. I think his blog fills an important lacuna in the Catholic blogosphere--Catholicism and film criticism. This isn't just another blog about film and faith--this is film criticism from someone who really knows his stuff. His first post deals with expressionism in film and the new flick 300.

Check out his new endeavor, "Fides and Film," here.

Pitre & Barber Podcast

Yesterday Brant and I appeared on Catholic Answers Radio and talked for two hours about the resurrection of Jesus. The first hour was devoted to the historical debates concerning the resurrection, while the second hour focused on the theological implications of Jesus' rising from the dead.

In addition to clicking on the hyperlinks above, you can download the show onto your iPod for free by opening iTunes, going to the store and entering "Catholic Answers" into the search box. The podcast will then come up and you can "subscribe".

If anyone is reading this in Rome, please let the Holy Father know he can hear us on his iPod.
I'm hoping to have Brant come on my Friday radio show sometime this month (perhaps this Friday!), for an encore... stay posted.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bock on Ankerberg's Show

New Testament scholar, Darrell Bock, has appeared with John Ankerberg, discussing the Talpiot "Jesus Family Tomb". Bock does an excellent job outlining the problems of the theory. You can watch it here.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Aquinas' 5 Reasons for the Resurrection

[From Summa Theologica, III, Q. 53, Art. 1]

It behooved Christ to rise again, for five reasons. First of all; for the commendation of Divine Justice, to which it belongs to exalt them who humble themselves for God's sake, according to Lk. 1:52: "He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble." Consequently, because Christ humbled Himself even to the death of the Cross, from love and obedience to God, it behooved Him to be uplifted by God to a glorious resurrection; hence it is said in His Person (Psalm 138:2): "Thou hast known," i.e. approved, "my sitting down," i.e. My humiliation and Passion, "and my rising up," i.e. My glorification in the resurrection; as the gloss expounds.
Secondly, for our instruction in the faith, since our belief in Christ's Godhead is confirmed by His rising again, because, according to 2 Cor. 13:4, "although He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God." And therefore it is written (1 Corinthians 15:14): "If Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and our [Vulg.: 'your'] faith is also vain": and (Psalm 29:10): "What profit is there in my blood?" that is, in the shedding of My blood, "while I go down," as by various degrees of evils, "into corruption?" As though He were to answer: "None. 'For if I do not at once rise again but My body be corrupted, I shall preach to no one, I shall gain no one,'" as the gloss expounds.
Thirdly, for the raising of our hope, since through seeing Christ, who is our head, rise again, we hope that we likewise shall rise again. Hence it is written (1 Corinthians 15:12): "Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead?" And (Job 19:25,27): "I know," that is with certainty of faith, "that my Redeemer," i.e. Christ, "liveth," having risen from the dead; "and" therefore "in the last day I shall rise out of the earth . . . this my hope is laid up in my bosom."
Fourthly, to set in order the lives of the faithful: according to Rm. 6:4: "As Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life": and further on; "Christ rising from the dead dieth now no more; so do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive to God."
Fifthly, in order to complete the work of our salvation: because, just as for this reason did He endure evil things in dying that He might deliver us from evil, so was He glorified in rising again in order to advance us towards good things; according to Rm. 4:25: "He was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification."

Friday, April 06, 2007

Two Good Friday Posts

Below you will find two Good Friday posts--one written by Dr. Pitre, and one written by myself. Have a blessed Easter...

The Cross and Our Reditus to God

The following passage is one of my favorite pieces by Pope Benedict. In it, he describes creation as a great exitus (going forth) from God and redemption as our reditus (return) to God, and how in the Crucifixion, Christ comes and does what we were unable to do on our own power: bridge the infinite gap that sin places between us and God. It is one of the most profound interpretations of the parable of the Lost Sheep that I've found, so I thought I'd share it with you:
As we have said, Christian though has taken up the schema of exitus and reditus... The exitus, or rather God's free act of creation, is indeed ordered toward the reditus, but that does not now mean the rescinding of created being, but rather... the creature, existing in its own right, comes home to itself, and this act is an answer in freedom to God's love.

But everything is bound up with freedom, and the creature has the freedom to turn the positive exitus of its creation around, as it were, to rupture it in the Fall: this is the refusal to be dependent, saying No to the reditus. Love is seen as dependence and is rejected... The arch from exitus to reditus is broken. The return is no longer desired, and ascent by one's powers proves to be impossible.

If "sacrifice" in its essence is simply returning to love and therefore divinization, worship now has a new aspect: the healing of wounded freedom, atonement, purification, deliverance from estrangement... Worship is directed to the Other in himself, to his all-sufficiency, but now it refers itself to the Other who alone can extricate me from the knot that I myself cannot untie. Redemption now needs the Redeemer.

The Fathers saw this expressed in the parable of the Lost Sheep. For them, the sheep caught in the thorn bush and unable to find its way home is a metaphor for man in general. He cannot get out of the thicket and find his way back to God. The shepherd who rescues him and takes him home is the Logos himself, the eternal Word, the eternal Meaning of the universe dwelling in the Son. He it is who makes his way to us and takes the sheep onto his shoulders, that is, he assumes human nature, and as the God-Man he carries man the creature home to God. And so the reditus becomes possible. Man is given a homecoming.

But now sacrifice takes the form of the Cross of Christ, of the love that in dying makes a gift of itself. Such sacrifice has nothing to do with destruction. It is an act of new creation, the restoration of creation to its true identity. All worship is now a participation in the "Pasch" of Christ, in his "passing over" from divine to human, from death to life, to the unity of God and man. Thus Christian worship is the practical application and fulfillment of the words that Jesus proclaimed on the first day of Holy Week, Palm Sunday, in the Temple in Jerusalem:

"I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32).
Amen. So be it.

[Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2000), 32-34]

Reflections on the Passion Narrative (John 18-19)

Since in today’s Good Friday liturgy the lectionary turns our attention to the Johannine Passion narrative, I thought I’d lay out some thoughts on John 18-19 here. Upfront I should say that this is by no means an exhaustive commentary. Nonetheless, as a kind of spiritual exercise I thought it would be a good idea to take a closer exegetical look at the text we read today.

The Passion of David & the Passion of Jesus
John 18 begins by telling us “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered” (18:1). Here there may be an allusion to what we might call the “passion” of David. Most people associate David with conquest and royal triumph. What is often forgotten is that the second half of David’s life involved a great deal of suffering.[1] As Jesus was betrayed by Judas, David was likewise betrayed by someone close to him―Ahithophel. Ahithophel is called “David’s counselor” in 2 Samuel 15:12. We read about David’s flight in 2 Samuel 15:
And all the country wept aloud as all the people passed by, and the king crossed the brook Kidron, and all the people passed on toward the wilderness. But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered; and all the people who were with him covered their heads, and they went up, weeping as they went… And it was told David, "Ahith'ophel is among the conspirators with Ab'salom." (2 Sam 15:23, 31).
Here we see many parallels with the passion narratives found in John as well as the other Gospels: both cross the Kidron (2 Sam 15:23; John 18:1); both go to the Mount of Olives (2 Sam 15:23; Matt 26:30); both are followed on their way out of Jerusalem by people who weep for them (2 Sam 15:23; Luke 23:27). Later in John’s narrative Jesus will quote from a psalm attributed to David, in which the king described his suffering: “they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots” (Ps 22:18). This is the same psalm evoked in the statement of Jesus from the cross quoted by Matthew and Mark: “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me” (Ps 22:1; Matt 27:46; Mark 15:44). Jesus is a king like David, not in his triumphant military conquests, but through his suffering.

The Arrest of Jesus
John 18:2-12: "Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, procuring a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to befall him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When he said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he; so, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfil the word which he had spoken, “Of those whom thou gavest me I lost not one.” 

Scholars debate the identity of the soldiers who arrested Jesus were. Some think that they were simply members of the Jewish guard, others believe the group included Roman soldiers. The word used to describe them, σπεῖρα (cohort), was usually used to describe a squadron of 600 Roman soldiers. Some scholars, however, think it unlikely that Roman soldiers would have been involved with such an arrest. Yet, the book of Acts relates that Paul was guarded by 270 men after an uprising almost occurred during his “trial” (Acts 23:23). Moreover, given the apparent understanding of Jesus’ royal claims (cf. 18:23, the question posed at his trial, “Are you the King of the Jews?”), I do not think it would be unlikely that Roman soldiers would be employed. This is especially true during a climate in which there were concerns about possible insurrectionist uprisings, such as the one in which Barabbas participated (cf. Mark 15:7).

Throughout this scene, John shows Jesus to be in control of the situation. This will be a major theme throughout his passion narrative. John tells us that Jesus already knows all that will happen (cf. 18:4). He does not try to escape from the clutches of the guards. Nor does he hide. Instead, once the arresting party comes, he makes the first move. Before they are even able to say anything, Jesus asks whom they are seeking. When they say “Jesus of Nazareth,” he replies, “I am.”

Exegetes debate whether or not Jesus is here alluding to God’s name, I AM, e.g., “Yahweh”. The Greek phrase ἐγώ εἰμι (ego eimi) would seem to evoke the name of God found in the Greek version Exodus 3:14. While the term may simply mean “I am he,” the response of those in the garden implies that Jesus is saying something more than, “That’s me”: “…they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6). In fact, Jesus had already used the term once before in a context in which he clearly identifies himself with the God of the Exodus:

John 8:56-59: [56] Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad." [57] The Jews then said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" [58] Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." [59] So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
Here the response to Jesus’ statement (e.g., an attempt to stone him), confirms the recognition of Jesus’ intent to evoke the divine name. Once again, then, here in the garden Jesus is described as having authority over the situation―he is to be identified with the God who appeared with Moses at the burning bush.

Here we recall what Jesus states in John 10:17-18: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.” Jesus is in control. In fact, no one other than himself is arrested, confirming what he had said earlier (cf. 18:7). No one is taking his life from him―he is laying it down himself. He is the sacrificial victim, but, as we shall see, he is also the priest.

The Cup of Jesus
John 18:10-12: Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?” 12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him.

Here John fills in details missing from Luke’s account. Luke tells us that one of Jesus’ disciples struck the ear of the high priest’s servant, however, he does not tell us the identity of the disciple or servant involved. John reveals that the disciple was Peter and the servant was Malchus.

Jesus’ reference to the “cup” evokes the prayer the Synoptics relate Jesus had prayed as he prepared to be arrested: “remove this cup from me” (e.g., Mark 10:36). In fact, in Matthew’s account, Jesus prays this prayer three times (Matt 26:39, 42, 44). Of course, Jesus also links drinking the cup to his passion in Mark 10:38-39, in his response to the request of James and John to sit at his right and left in the coming kingdom:

“You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized…”
In the Old Testament the image of the cup is used to symbolize suffering (Ps 75:8) and judgment (Isa 51:17, 22; Jer 25:15-29; 49:12; Lam 4:21; Ezek 23:31-34; Hab 2:16). Yet, given the Passover context[2] and the account of Jesus’ words over the “cup” in the Synoptics at the Last Supper, another connection may be found.

Scott Hahn and others have made the case that the backdrop of the “cup” is the Passover seder, which, according to ancient Jewish sources, involved the drinking of four cups (cf. m. Pesahim 10:1). Many have identified the third cup with the cup which Jesus pronounced the words of institution (“This is my blood…”) over.[3] This is supported by a number of observations. First, the third cup was apparently drunk after the main meal.[4] The earliest account of the Last Supper, which is found in 1 Corinthians 11:23ff, tells us that Jesus took the cup “after supper” and pronounced the Eucharistic words over it. Secondly, the third cup was associated with a blessing and was even referred to as the “cup of blessing”.[5] Thirdly, prior to the meal, a blessing would be pronounced. The “blessing” said over the bread by Jesus at the Last Supper may likely allude to this.[6] Finally, after the supper and the drinking of the third cup, the Hallel psalms were sung. This is probably what is alluded to in Mark 14:26: “ And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (cf. Matt 26:30).[7]

What is nowhere mentioned is the drinking of the fourth cup. Matthew and Mark both make it clear that they sang the hymn, but both also leave the distinct impression that the meal ended at exactly that point.[8] In fact, Jesus seems insistent after the third cup that he will not drink again of the fruit of the vine. While some have suggested that Jesus simply forgot to properly conclude the Passover seder, it would seem obvious from his repeated prayer in the garden concerning the “cup” that he has not forgotten it.

It is only once he is about to die on the cross that Jesus utters the words, “I thirst” (John 19:28). After drinking from the sour wine[9] on the hyssop branch, Jesus exclaims, “It is finished” (John 19:30).[10] G. Feeley-Harnik writes, “When [Jesus] finally cries out in agony, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’… they offer him vinegar…. He drinks the fourth cup and dies the accursed death….”[11]

Jesus’ drinking of the third cup of the Eucharist therefore is intimately connected to his death on the cross. He completes on the cross what he began in the Upper Room. There Jesus made the promise that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine until he drank it in the restored kingdom. Through his death the kingdom comes and he drinks of the final cup as he enters it. Hahn says it better than anyone:

“Ironically, the hour of his crucifixion and death constituted no defeat; it was rather ‘the day and the hour’ of Jesus’ entrance into the glory of his kingdom, whe he’d drink of the vine anew, just as he had said. But it isn’t his will to drink alone; for Jesus calls us as his disciples, to partake not only of the ‘third cup,’ that is, the ‘cup of blessing’ which we share in the Eucharist (1 Cor 10:16), but also of the ‘fourth cup’ by dying for him (Mk 10:38-39). Only then is the paschal mystery truly fulfilled in us.”[12]
This is why Jesus links the drinking of his cup with martyrdom in his response to James and John’s request. Receiving the Eucharist means entering into the mystery of the cross. This is why Jesus tells James and John—who ask to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in the Kingdom—“are you able to drink the cup which I must drink”. By receiving the cup of the Eucharist, we unite ourselves to Christ. We say, in effect, “Lord I want to die with you. I want to drink from your cup.”

Jesus’ Trial and Peter’s Denial
John goes on to describe how they led away Jesus to the high priest. However, interjected into the trial narrative is the betrayal by Peter of Jesus. The following section is structured in this way:
18:12-14: Jesus is led away to be questioned.
18:15-18: Peter’s first denial.
18:19-24: Jesus is questioned by Annas.
18:25-27: Peter’s second and third denials.

A number of things could be pointed out here. The link between the witness (or lack thereof) by the disciples to Jesus is underscored by John’s account of the trial before Annas. After reading about Peter’s first denial, the very first thing Jesus is asked about is “his disciples and his teaching” (John 18:19). Jesus refuses to answer questions about his teaching, telling his interrogators to ask “those who have heard me” (John 18:21). (This, of course, fits well within the larger theme of John’s Gospel of “witnessing” to Christ.)

Out in the garden, however, Peter is doing a poor job of relating Jesus' teaching. In fact, there are a number of parallels between Peter and Judas in the story. Judas had come with the "officers" (ὑπηρέτης) of the Jewish leaders (John 18:3), and (at least one of) the high priest’s "slave(s)" (δοῦλος)--we read how one of them was attacked by Peter (18:20). Judas is described as having “stood” (εἱστήκει) “with them” (μετʼ αὐτῶν) (cf. John 18:5). Now in the high priest’s courtyard we read about a charcoal fire, around which are "officers" (ὑπηρέτης) and "slaves" (δοῦλος)(John 18:18). In fact, we are likely to conclude that many of these were those who came with to arrest Jesus, since one of them says to Peter, "Did I not see you in the garden with him?” (John 18:26). Yet, Peter is now no longer with him (μετʼ αὐτοῦ). Like Judas, Peter is described as having "stood” (εἱστήκει) “with them” (μετʼ αὐτῶν) (cf. John 18:18). Peter has essentially sided with Jesus' opponents. In effect, Jesus is condemned in part because he has no witnesses. There is a strong pastoral message in this.

Another lesson we should learn from this concerns reconciliation. While Judas despaired of forgiveness, Peter accepted it. The point is that God is always willing to forgive us. We are never so far away from God that his arm is too short to reach us and bring us back to him. By the way, there is only one other place in the New Testament where we read about a “charcoal fire” (ἀνθρακιά). In John 21, the risen Jesus appears to the apostles on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Peter rushes to greet him. When comes ashore to Jesus what does he find? A charcoal fire (John 21:9). And what does Jesus do? He asks him—3x (the same number of times Peter denied Jesus)—“Do you love me?” In this Peter is finally rehabilitated and reconciled to Christ (cf. John 21:15-19).

Jesus before Pilate and the Choice of Barabbas
Jesus is next led before Pilate. Not surprisingly Pilate's questioning of Jesus revolves around the issue of Jesus’ kingship and kingdom. Jesus explains that his kingdom will not be established through violence; he will not be saved through fighting. “My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36). This, of course, is consistent with what we saw in the garden where Jesus told Peter to sheath his sword. There Jesus explained that he must drink the cup (John 18:11). Here he speaks of his kingdom. The kingdom is not ushered in through violence, but, as we have seen, through the drinking of the fourth cup on the cross.

Pilate, of course, gives the crowd the choice between Jesus and Barabbas, whom John simply identifies as a “robber” (λῃστής; or a “revolutionary,”18:40). Matthew tells us that he was a “notorious” criminal (Matt 27:16). We learn more about Barabbas from the Passion narrative of Mark: “And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas” (Mark 15:7). Although it is not clear who Barabbas murdered, due to the fact that he was being held by the Romans for an insurrection it may very well be that he had killed a Roman soldier. Interestingly, Josephus describes John of Grichala, a leader of a band of militant bandits, with the same word the Gospels use to describe Barabbas (War 2.585).

Barrabas is like the zealots, if not one of the zealots. These zealots wanted to lead a revolution. Many of the zealots expected to see the realization of the kingdom of God and the fulfillment of the prophetic hope for restoration through violence. The contrast between Jesus and Barabbas could not be starker. Barabbas' name, I think, is also significant: it is literally, bar ["son of"], abbas ["father"; think of Jesus’ use of “Abba”], the “son of the Father.” Barabbas is a kind of counterfeit son of the Father. Jesus is the true “King of the Jews”. Yet that title is only finally clear for all to see once it is raised above his head on the cross. Through his death, Jesus conquers the enemies of God’s people—which are not ultimately political powers but the powers of the devil.

In the ensuing back-and-forth with the crowd, the Jewish leaders reveal their true allegiance: "Pilate said to the Jews, 'Behold your King!'  They cried out, 'Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?' The chief priests answered, 'We have no king but Caesar' (John 19:14-15).

Jesus’ Seamless Garment
Jesus wears a seamless linen garment—which was what the Jewish high priest wears according to Leviticus 16:4. Moreover, in Leviticus 21:10 we read that the high priest’s garment could not be torn. Of course, we know from the other Gospels that the high priest tore his own robe once Jesus described his ultimate victory as the Son of Man.

“…the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments, and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death” (Mark 14:61-64 ).
While the high priest tore his robe, Jesus’ garment is not torn. In this, Jesus’ identity as the true high priest is revealed. Again, no one takes Jesus life from him. He offers it up. He is the true sacrifice for sin―the Lamb of God (see Brant’s post below). At the same time, he is also the true high priest, offering himself as the sacrifice.

The quotation, “They parted my garments among them…” is from a Psalm which is also quoted by Jesus on the cross in Matthew and Mark: “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Matt 27:46; Mark 14:34). By the way, this was a Psalm attributed to David--it is presented as describing David’s suffering. Jesus is the true high priest and the true son of David, who establishes the kingdom of God. So much more could be said about that but we’ve got to move on.

Jesus Gives the Beloved Disciple His Mother
The very last thing Jesus does before drinking the from the hyssop branch and dying, is he gives his mother to be the mother of the “beloved disciple”.

John 19:26-27: "When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' 27 Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home."
Of course, in a historical sense, the historical figure called the "beloved disciple" was most likely the author (I believe, John the Apostle; see this post and this post). Yet, throughout the Gospel the "beloved disciple" / author merges his identity with the “we” of the community of faith. This is clear at the outset of his Gospel: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:12). Likewise, in John 21 we read, “This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.”[13]

The use of the term “woman” evokes Genesis imagery. Of course, John uses new creation at the very start of his Gospel. John 1-2 makes several allusions to Genesis 1-2: both begin, “In the beginning” (John 1:1; Gen 1:1); both speak of “life,” “light” and “darkness” (John 1:1-4; Gen. 1:3-5, 20-22); as Genesis describes God’s Spirit moving over the waters, John recounts how the Spirit hovered over Jesus in the waters of the Jordan (John 1:33; Gen 1:2). In Genesis 2, Adam calls his wife “Eve” because she is “the mother of all living” (Gen 3:20). In the Gospel of John, Jesus explains that he has come “that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Mary is a new Eve―the mother of all those who have life in Christ. Something similar to this is found in the Revelation 12, where the mother of the Messiah is said to have other offspring―“those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev 12:17).

The Blood & Water from the Side of Christ
John goes on to describe how after Jesus is pierced with a lance, blood and water flow out (John 19:26-35). Two things, should be pointed out here. First, John may be alluding here to Jesus’ role as the new temple. Of course, John 2 explicitly states that Jesus understood his body in terms of the true temple (cf. John 2:19-21). In fact, from the outset, the fourth Gospel reveals Jesus’ role as the true tabernacle and temple of the Lord. In John 1, Jesus is described as the Word who “dwelt among us” (1:14). In Greek, the verb used for "dwelt" can literally be translated as “he tabernacled.” As God “tabernacled” with Israel, so in Jesus God is “tabernacling” among his people again. In fact, the word was used not only in association with God dwelling in the tabernacle, but also in connection with the Lord’s “dwelling” in the temple (cf. 1 Kings 6:13).

The same imagery is found in John 7. There the backdrop of the chapter is the feast of Tabernacles, which celebrated the dedication of the temple. In John 7:37-39 we read,

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, ‘If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive…”
Jesus seems to be drawing on new temple imagery—as Ezekiel saw waters flowing from the new temple, so the Spirit will flow from him, the true temple. The imagery here seems to be linked with what we find in John 19 where we read about Jesus giving forth his Spirit in death and water (and blood) flowing out of his heart from his pierced side.

Interestingly, in relating the piercing of Jesus, John cites Zechariah 12:10. It should be pointed out that the Zechariah goes on to describe the eschatological Jerusalem, out of which, as in Ezekiel’s vision of the new temple, water will flow: “On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter” (Zech 14:9). One might also see here allusions to Rabbinic traditions about the rock in the wilderness (cf. 1 Cor 10:4), which stated that both blood and water flowed from it.[14]

Secondly, in the Gospel of John both the elements of water and blood have been associated with sacramental imagery. In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to enter into the kingdom, one must be born with “water and Spirit” (John 3:5). That this is to be linked with Baptism is confirmed by the fact that immediately after his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus goes out to baptize with his disciples (John 3:22-23)―the only such reference in any of the Gospels. In John 6, Jesus explains that one must eat his flesh and drink his blood. I have discussed the reasons for seeing Eucharistic connections here.

I will close these reflections by citing from John Chrysostom’s Catechesis which is used in the Good Friday Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours...
If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish”, commanded Moses, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors”. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.

If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.“There flowed from his side water and blood”.

Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit”, and from the holy eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.
[1] It would seem that the later conspiracies against David were understood as a punishment for the affair with Bathsheba. See 2 Samuel 12:10-12; 16:20-23.
[2] Here we cannot discuss all of the details relating to the dating of the Last Supper. Suffice it to say, the Passover forms the context of the Last Supper and the Passion narrative.
[3] John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 1077:
[4] See Scot McKnight, Jesus and His Death (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2005), 256.
[5] H. L. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrash (Munchen: 1928), IV/2, 628. John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 1077: “On the basis of the indication in Lk 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25 that the cup intended came after the meal, the cup is normally identified as the third cup, but occasionally the fourth cup is preferred.” Nolland goes on to explain that the reason one might identify the Eucharistic cup as the fourth cup is due to the fact that no cup comes after the Eucharistic one. We will address this problem below.
[6] See Norman Theiss, “The Passover Feast of the New Covenant,” in Interpretation 48 (1994): 17-35; Craig Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20 (WBC 34b; Columbia: Thomas Nelson, 2001), 389.
[7] Also see Jonathan D. Brumberg-Kraus, "Not by bread alone...": The Ritualization of Food and Table Talk in the Passover Seder and in the Last Supper,” in Semeia 86 (1999), 165 n. 1.
[8] D. Daube, The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (Peabody: Hendricksen, 1995), 331: “The implication is that they go out directly after the ‘hymn’ without drinking the fourth cup.”
[9] That the vinegar was sour wine, see Josef Blinzler, Trial of Jesus: The Jewish and Roman Proceedings against Jesus Christ Described and Assessed from the Oldest Accounts (I. McHugh & F. McHugh, trans.; Westminster: Newman, 1959), 255; Raymond Brown, The Gospel According to John (AB 29A; New York: Doubleday, 1970)), 2: 909.
[10] See Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 2:1007: “In 18:11 Jesus said that he wanted to drink the cup the Father had given him; when Jesus drinks the offered wine, he has finished this commitment made at the beginning of the P[assion] N[arrative].”
[11] The Lord’s Table: Eucharist and Passover in Early Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1981), 145; cited in Scott Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises (Ann Arbor: Servant, 1998), 291-292 n. 4.
[12] Hahn, A Father, 233.
[13] For an argument for the authenticity of John 21 see this post.
[14] Exod. Rab. 122a (citing Ps 78:20); Palestinian Targum on Num 20:11. Cited by Craig Keener, John (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2003), 1153-4.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Thursday, the Eschatological Passover, and the Flesh of the Lamb

One of the most fascinating “discoveries” I made during the course of writing my dissertation on Jesus (now published as Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile) was that there is a strong link between the eschatological tribulation—the suffering that many Jews expected to precede the coming of the Kingdom of God—and the eschatological Passover—the time of trial that was expected to set in motion the New Exodus. Indeed, one could even argue that the two are identical; just as the eschatological tribulation would set in motion the coming of the Kingdom, so too the eschatological Passover would inaugurate the coming of the New Exodus. In this New Exodus, so the prophets foretold, God would once again save his people in ways that paralleled the salvation he had brought to Israel in their liberation from Egypt, in the days of Moses (see Isa 11; Jer 3, 31; Ezek 36-37, etc). The key difference is that it would not be Moses, but the Messiah, who inaugurated the New Exodus, a messianic Exodus.

After making finding this, I was quite excited—and quite in awe of my own brilliance and originality—when one day I was reading one of the sections on eschatology in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 668-82) This fascinating section deals with such topics as the Parousia, the conversion of all Israel, the coming of the Antichrist, and the great tribulation that will precede the Second Coming. In the midst of reading, I was stunned to find that yet another of my “discoveries” had been preempted by the Church:

“Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers... [goes on to describe the eschatological tribulation] The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.” (CCC 675-76)
I just about fell on the floor when I read this; what had taken me two years of meticulous research and reading of the Bible and ancient Jewish sources to discover was right here in the Church’s teaching. What had hit me like a lightning bolt was mentioned here, almost in passing, in the Catechism.

But I was not to be outdone. For my second major “discovery” was to link this eschatological Passover not only with Jesus’ suffering and death but with his actions at the Last Supper. The reason the link between tribulation and Passover is important is that it helps to explain why Jesus had to celebrate the Passover meal of the Last Supper with his disciples before his passion and death, which he had taught would inaugurate both the New Exodus and the coming of the Kingdom of God. The reason: just as the first Exodus was set in motion by the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, so too would the New Exodus be set in motion by a New Passover, the eschatological Passover sacrifice of Jesus himself. It was this sacrifice that he celebrated and set in motion at the Last Supper (Matt 26; Mark 14; Luke 22, etc.) Pretty cool, huh?

Well, the Church has this one in the bag, too. During morning prayer today, I was praying the Scriptures for the feast of Holy Thursday. In my particular missal (the Daily Roman Missal, ed. by James Socias), the Scripture readings are prefaced by quotes from the Catechism. In the quote for today’s readings, I found a paragraph I have read many times over, but never noticed in quite this way:

By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus’ passing over to his father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom (CCC 1340).
Foiled again! I’m starting to think that the only “original” insights I’ve ever had about Scripture are the ones that are wrong. But that’s okay; maybe one day it will actually help me become humble.

Anyway, there are at least three reasons all of this is significant for today’s feast, the feast of the Lord’s Supper.

First, the connection between the new Passover and the Last Supper shows the eschatological significance of the first Eucharist. For it was the Last Supper—as the New Passover—that fulfilled the Jewish Passover, inaugurated the New Exodus, and anticipated the eschatological Passover of the Church into the glory of the Kingdom of God. This was no mere “farewell meal”; it was the eschatological turning point of the ages, the typological and eschatological event that inaugurated the coming of the age of salvation.

Second, it shows the true link between the sacrifice of Jesus and the coming of the Kingdom. Albert Schweitzer once (in)famously stated that Jesus threw himself on the wheel of history in order to force it to turn and bring in the Kingdom, but instead it crushed him. Balderdash. He threw himself on no wheel. Rather, he laid his body on the wooden table of the Upper Room and on the wooden altar of the Cross, and through these acts showed the world the only signs of God’s love that will ever suffice to move it one inch. This is why the Church can teach that “The Kingdom of God has come in Christ’s death and Resurrection”; indeed, “the Kingdom of God has been coming since the Last Supper, and, in the Eucharist, it is in our midst” (CCC 2816).

Third and finally, if Jesus is the eschatological Passover lamb of the New Exodus, then what are we called to do? How did the Israelites of the first Exodus respond? Well, first and foremost, they kept the feast of Passover each year in “remembrance” of what the Lord had done for them (Exod 12:14). We do this at every Eucharist, but today, on Holy Thursday, in a special way. But even more to the point: the sacrifice of the Passover was not completed simply by the death of the victim. That was not ultimately what God wanted. No, what he wanted was a covenant. Hence, the Israelites were commanded not only to kill the lamb, but to “eat the flesh” of the lamb (Exod 12:8). The sacrifice of the first Passover was not completed by the death of the victim, but by communion through the very flesh which had delivered them from death. So too today; we eat “the flesh of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” just as he commanded us (John 1:29; 6:55). And, we rejoice, as John said so many centuries ago: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9).

Many blessings on all of you during this Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Hahn on Easter & Mystagogy

Scott's latest is up at the St. Paul Center site. I love this quote:

". . . mystagogy describes all our work here at the St. Paul Center. We encourage the study of Scripture everywhere by everyone—through scholarship, devotional readings, Bible study groups, on-line programs. At the center of all of our programs is mystagogy. We read the Bible from the heart of the Church, and the heart of the Church—its source and summit—is the Church’s sacramental liturgy."
I am so proud that this blog is connected with the St. Paul Center, which continues to do great work. Of course, both Brant Pitre and I are associated with the SPC. In fact, we will both be speaking with Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins at the Fullness of Truth Conference in Texas in June (June 23-24). For more information go here. I can't wait to get some time in with these guys!

Read the rest of Scott's article here.