Thursday, May 31, 2007

OUTSTANDING article on Matthew's Davidic Christology

Mark Goodacre has a list of articles from the Volume 3 (2006) edition of the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism that are available on-line. One of them caught my eye: Richard Van Egmond's article "The Messianic ‘Son of David’ in Matthew". Of course, Davidic Christology is one of my favorite areas of research, so the title immediately got my attention.

The article is extremely helpful--if you're interested in this area, I can't recommend it to you highly enough. Van Egmond does a great job surveying the relevant material and highlights several Davidic allusions in Matthew's narrative often overlooked, for example, the parallels between Jesus' passion and the sufferings of David [which I discussed in brief in my Good Friday post]. What I also really like about his approach is his initial examination of David's role in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition--something frequently overlooked. Again, it is a great article--there is much more, so you're going to have to read the whole thing. The following stood out to me from his conclusion:

. . .this presentation illustrates that the relationship between messianology and Christology needs to be carefully delineated. While the findings of much recent research in the area of Second Temple messianism have provided needed correctives to a straight-line, one-for-one correspondence between Second Temple messianic paradigms and early Christian claims that Jesus was ‘the Messiah’,112 a clear relationship between these two is nevertheless quite evident. While the relationship is more complex and nuanced than has been traditionally understood, it is visible and significant. Writing as a follower of Jesus the Messiah, but reappropriating a variety of traditions within the parameters of Judaism, Matthew has given a new but intelligible configuration to the messianic paradigm.
Do yourself a favor and check it out yourself....

Joel Willitts (whose Cambridge dissertation [scroll down] on Jesus' role as Davidic-Shepherd Messiah can't come out soon enough for me) makes a great point in the com-box here. Be sure to read what he says about the problem of the language of "reappropriating" traditions. I couldn't agree with him more...

Cynicism of the Cynic Theory

There is a major current in Jesus research which holds that Jesus was essentially a Cynic Philosopher. I thought I'd discuss that issue in this post. I certainly want to indicate my indebtedness to Colin Brown for his wonderful summary of this issue. Much of this post is derived from notes from Brown.

Background of Cynics
The Cynics may be traced to Antisthenes, a student of Socrates, who was followed by Diogenes of Sinope (404-325 BCE). Plato called Diogenes a “dog” because of his outrageous behavior. In fact, the very term “Cynic” was derived from the word used for "dog". He was one called, “Socrates gone mad”.
Diogenes of Sinope was known for his outrageous and uncouth behavior. Diogenes of Laertinus (3rd cent CE) reports he was the first to fold his cloak because he was obliged to sleep in it. He carried a wallet in which he kept his food. He was known for his custom of using any place for any purpose (breakfasting, sleeping, conversing). He did not lean upon a staff until he was finally too weak to go without it. Later he carried the staff everywhere, though not in the city and yet even then he would only be seen with his staff while on the road. Diogenes' customs became the trademark of the Cynic lifestyle.
His fundamental teaching consisted in the idea that happiness is found in satisfying one’s needs in the cheapest and most basic ways. Thus his approach involved both the stress on self-sufficiency and shamelessness. In fact, he often defied conventions--especially ones which he thought were unnatural. For example, he thought metropolitan life was unnatural--he believed we should all simply live a citizens of the world. Moreover, he saw nothing wrong in having multiple of wives and in having sons through different women. Above all he invoked ‘freedom’. He was a well-known critic of organized religion.

Jesus the Cynic?
The Cynics we a dominant group in the 3rd century BC and helped shape Stoic thought. Epictetus (55-135 CE) saw Diogenes as ennobled detached ascetical teacher. After going into decline the movement was revived in the 1st century A.D. In fact, it is believed that some were present in Sephoris, located 4 miles of Nazareth, Jesus' home town. Many scholars today believe Jesus was influenced by their teachings and practices.

Burton Mack sees parallels with the Cynics in Jesus’ teaching style (e.g., the use of parables, aphorisms, clever rejoinders), especially in the short teaching-style chreia. He points to similarities between Jesus and the Cynics. For example, Diogenes had a child teach him a lesson in philosophy--an event he sees mirrored in Jesus' instructions to the disciples about becoming like a child. Jesus instructions to the twelve who sent out on a missionary journey ("do not take a staff", etc., cf. Matt 10:9-10) are held up as particularly strong indications of Cynic tendencies.

According to John Dominic Crossan Jesus was an itinerant Galilean Cynic who challenged the injustices of his day by speaking of ‘unbrokered egalitarianism’. Jesus' ministry involved two aspects: magic and meal. Crossan believes that Jesus was more indebted to Jewish and rural Cynicism, not Greco-Roman and urban Cynicism.

Problems with the Theory
There are several major problems with the Cynic hypothesis of the historical Jesus:

· There were no known Cynics in Galilee in the first century. The nearest sightings were associated with Decapolis & Tyre.
· Advocates of Cynic theory give sanitized picture of Cynics and omit obscene features of their behavior, which was known to include public defecation and masturbation
· Jesus’ teaching style in parables is much closer to rabbinic styles than that of the Cynics.
· The Cynic view does not make sense of his close association with John the Baptist, who warned of the dawning of the eschatological period.
· Though according to Crossan Jesus was a figure who combined Hellenistic cynicism with Jewish magic such a view is problematic since it doesn’t seem that Cynics practiced magic or that Jewish magicians practiced Cynicism.
· Finally, Jesus' direction to the disciples to “take no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals or a staff; for laborers deserve their food” (Matt 10:10; Luke 10:4) enshrines a philosophy that is actually antithetical to that of the Cynics. While the Cynics strove for self-sufficiency (they carried their own food), Jesus wanted the disciples to trust in the Lord and not in their own means.

In fact, Jesus more closely resembles the Old Testament prophets who renounced worldly values, proclaimed God's words and announced the restoration of Israel than the Cynic philosophers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Can you Drink the Cup of Jesus? Reflections On Today's Gospel

Given that tomorrow's Gospel reading focuses on the story of the request of James and John and Jesus' words, "Can you drink from the cup that I must drink from?", I thought I might re-run the following segment from my Good Friday post, in which I analyzed the "cup" of Jesus. I also want to highlight this great article by Joel Willits. I should also mention here the very interesting article by Michael Bird on the Crucifixion of Jesus and the Kingdom of God, in which Mark's account of the episode is briefly treated.

I hope this post is helpful.


The Cup of Jesus

John 18:10-11: 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?”

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.”

[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.

Biblical Carnival XVIII

Deinde is hosting the next Biblical Studies Carnival. He writes...
The month is coming to a close and the May biblioblog carnival will be hosted by yours truly. Please take the time over the next 2 or 3 days to send your recommendations to biblical_studies_carnival AT, where I will receive them. And be sure to follow the submission procedure!

I have to say, I really appreciate these Carnivals--they are great! I am especially grateful to all those who have put them together. Of all the blogger carnivals these are by far my favorite. For a list of past carnivals see the right hand column here.

...And don't forget to nominate posts that you like--last month there were a shockingly low number of submissions! The process to nominate isn't really that difficult--click on over and find out how to submit a post.

I, however, know one post that will not get a mention from me. It's Chris Tilling's latest. We are all very disappointed that the biblioblogosphere has gone into such a steep decline that this now qualifies as a post.
That was mean... Chris, I hope you're feeling better soon. By the way, I've got a book suggestion for you that you may enjoy (though you've probably already got it)--it's Martin Hengel's Studies in Early Christology. You might want to check it out.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Jacob Michael on Benedict's Book

Jacob Michael is running an excellent series over at his great site Lumen Gentleman Catholic Studies on Pope Benedict's new book. He has just started blogging through the book and, if the first offering is any indication, this will be the best treatment of the book on the web.

Do yourself a favor and take a look. Here's the first post: Jesus of Nazareth: Introduction.

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (3.1.3. Restoring the Davidic Ideal: Exorcism & Healing)

Jesus’ exorcisms and healings also have Davidic implications since Solomon was regarded as a famous healer and as the exorcist par excellance.[1] This connection is confirmed by the fact that those appealing to Jesus for healing often refer to him as “son of David” (Matt 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; Mark 10:47; Luke 18:38). David is also described as having a kind of exorcistic power in 1 Samuel.
1 Sam 16:14: Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit
from the Lord tormented him. 15 And Saul’s servants said to him, ”Behold now,
an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord now command your
servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is skilful in playing the
lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you
will be well.”… 19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, “Send me
David your son, who is with the sheep.” 20 … 23 And whenever the evil spirit
from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand; so Saul
was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

Jesus' healing of the blind men on the road to Jerusalem also evokes another Davidic episode. David had pronounced a curse on the blind and lame upon his arrival into Jerusalem:
2 Samuel 5:6-9: And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, "You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off"--thinking, "David cannot come in here." 7 Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David… Therefore it is said, "The blind and the lame shall not come into the house." 9 And David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the city of David.

In an example of an "eschatological reversal” each of the Synoptics present the blind calling out to Jesus as the “Son of David” to “have mercy” on them (Matt. 20:30//Mark 10:47//Luke 18:38). As David cursed the blind as he was on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus heals them as he approaches the city. In so doing Jesus demonstrates his Davidic pedigree--he has the power to lift the curse.

[1] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:689; 3:495; Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 668.

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

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Feast of Pentecost: Fulfilling Jewish Hopes

Background: The Feast of Weeks ("Pentecost")

Seven weeks after Passover and Unleavened Bread came the Feast of Weeks, the second major Jewish festival of the year. Its observance is described in Leviticus 23:15-22 and Deuteronomy 16:9-12. It celebrated the wheat harvest. The feast lasted fifty days (Lev 23:16), although there seems to have been some debate within some Jewish circles about when the counting began. 

In Greek it was referred to as "Pentecost"—referring to the “fifty” days (πεντηκόστη, "fiftieth [day]") (cf. Tob. 2:1; II Mac. 12:32; Josephus, Ant., 3, 10, 6).

Here Israel is specifically required to bring “leavened” bread to the temple to be waved before the Lord (Lev 23:17). This bread was to be consumed by the priests of Israel (Lev 23:20). Only unleavened bread could be offered to God in sacrifice (Lev 2:11; 6:17).

The Feast of Weeks was associated with the giving of the law at Sinai, which occurred not too long after the original Passover.

The New Exodus

As Brant and I have been discussing here, themes connected to the Exodus took on eschatological significance for Israel—they were waiting for a New Exodus (e.g. Isa 40:3, Jer 23:7-8).[1] At that time, the Lord would give to his people his Law once again, only this time he would not write it on tablets but upon their hearts. Recall the prophecy from Jeremiah 31, in which the Lord tells the days of the “New Covenant.” This covenant will be greater than the covenant he made with Israel when he brought them out of Egypt: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people… I will remember their sin no more” (Jer 31:33).

Ezekiel also writes:
“For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you and I will take out of your flesh the heat of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances” (Ezek 36:24-28)
The Lord would not simply give to Israel his Law, but, in the New Exodus, his Spirit, which would enable them to keep the Law (cf. Jer 31:33; Ezek 36:26-28, 37:14).

As we shall see, this passage is crucial to understand what is happening in Acts 2.

The ingathering of the grain at this harvest festival served as an image for the ingathering of the renewed Israel. Here I cannot go into too great a detail. Suffice it to point out here the way Isaiah describes the restoration of the tribes of Israel in terms of a kind of offering to the Lord: “And they shall bring your brethren from all the nations as an offering to the Lord” (Isa 66:20).

Pentecost In Acts

Luke describes the coming of the Spirit of Pentecost as the fulfillment of God’s restoration promises—the eschatological “ingathering” of Israel has arrived. Peter cites directly from Joel’s prophecy of the restoration of Jerusalem (cf. Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-21). The restoration is not political but spiritual—literarily in the Spirit.

Luke thus paints the picture of Pentecost with the colors of the eschatological ingathering of Israel with the nations. This is evident in the following:

  • The episode is preceded by the selection of a replacement of Judas, thus restoring the apostles to the number twelve, most likely a sign of the eschatological re-gathered twelve tribes (cf. Acts 1:15-26);[2]
  • Luke’s mention of the presence of the scattered of Israelites (Acts 2:5-13)[3]
  • Peter explains that the Spirit’s coming fulfills Joel’s prophecy of the eschatological day of the Lord’s coming (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-21);[4]
  • Peter’s use of the term “house of Israel” (cf. Acts 2:36) suggests a reference to the lost northern tribes, since it was most usually used applied to them,[5] and hence may also be a reference to prophetic visions to their restoration (cf. Ezek 20:40; 36:10; 37:11, 16; 39:25; 45:6);[6]
  • Peter’s invitation to baptism, “For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him” (Acts 2:39), also draws from the Isaianic vision of the New Exodus (cf. Isa 57:19).[7]
All of this takes place in Jerusalem, thus fulfilling the hope that such an eschatological ingathering would take place there (cf. Isa 2:2). In this, Luke shows the continuity between God’s covenant with Israel and the New Covenant.[8]

We should also notice how Luke describes the event in terms similar to the giving of the Law at Sinai. In Exodus 19:16-19 we read about the Lord’s coming to Sinai, which occurs with a loud sound (v. 16, 19, like a “trumpet blast”), the Lord’s “descent” in fire (v. 18) and miraculous but unintelligible speech (v. 19, God speaks “in thunder”). Likewise, in Acts 2, we read about the Lord’s coming in a “sound” like mighty wind (2:2), a vision of fire (2:3), and miraculous speech (2:4). As the Lord descended in fire on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19, the Lord descends on Mt. Zion in fire here. Luke also tells us that on Pentecost “three thousand souls” accepted the word of Peter and were added to the early Christian community. Here again we have imagery taken from Exodus— three thousand fell at the hands of the Levites after they worshipped the golden calf (Exod 32:28).

The Lord has fulfilled the promise he made to Ezekiel: he has begun the ingathering of his people and he has given them his Spirit. Furthermore, as Ezekiel described the future cleansing of Israel and their reception of the spirit as taking place through the sprinkling of water, Peter tells the people what they must do to be saved: “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). The restoration takes place not through a political decree or action but through a sacramental act.

Finally, we should point out Paul’s concern to bring an offering to Jerusalem from the Gentile Christians at Pentecost (Acts 20:16; 1 Cor 16:18). Paul understood his ministry to the Gentiles in connection with the eschatological ingathering of the tribes of Israel (cf. Rom 9-11; Acts 26:7).[9] The offering he took up from them to bring to Jerusalem at Pentecost may have been in some way connected with Isaiah’s description of the restoration of Israel we mentioned above (cf. Rom 15:16, 25-29).

[1] For a good introduction to New Exodus themes and their use in the New Testament, see Rikki Watts, Isaiah’s New Exodus and Mark (Tubingen, Mohr Siebeck, 1997).
[2] That the selection of twelve apostles should be understood in light of restoration hopes see Paula Fredricksen, From Jesus to Christ (New Haven: Yale Nota Bene, 2000), 98: “… if Jesus indeed taught that ultimately these twelve would judge the twelve tribes, then he was thinking eschatologically. To assemble the twelve tribes… would take a miracle. But that, I think, is what Jesus was expecting.” See also John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (vol. 3 of The Roots of the Problem and Person; ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 2001), 148-154; Sanders, , Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 98; B. F. Meyer, The Aims of Jesus (London: SCM, 1979), 154. Also see Max Turner, Power from on High: The Spirit in Israel’s Restoration and Witness in Luke–Acts (Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series 9; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 300–1.
[3] See Luke describes that those present included “Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven” (Acts 1:5), a clear reference to diaspora Jews. Likewise, “Medes” and residents of “Mesopotamia” are probably to be understood as descendants of northern Israelites. See Richard Bauckham, “The Restoration of Israel in Luke-Acts,” in Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives (vol. 72 in Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism; ed., J. M. Scott; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 471. Also see Jacob Jervell, Luke ad the People of God: A New Look at Luke-Acts (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1972), 57-8 who argues that Peter’s speech is directed to Jews of the diaspora.
[4] Darrell L. Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern: Lucan Old Testament Christology (JSOT Supplement Series 12; Sheffield, JSOT Press, 1987), 167-71; 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), 132-34; John J. Kilgallen, A Brief Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), 17; etc. There is a well known textual issue here (i.e., the substitution of "in the latter days") that we cannot delve into here given the constraints of this essay. Here we simply note that Peter understands the coming of the Spirit as a fulfillment of eschatological hopes.
[5] For a comprehensive look at the use of the term “Israel” in Jewish writings see, James M. Scott, "'And then all Israel will be saved' (Rom 11:26),'" in Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives (vol. 72 in Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism; ed., James M. Scott; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 500-15.
[6] Bauckham, “The Restoration in Luke-Acts,” 473.
[7] Bauckham, “The Restoration in Luke-Acts,” 474; Frans Neirynck, “Luke 4, 16-30 and the Unity of Luke-Acts” in The Unity of Luke-Acts (J. Verheyden, ed.; Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1999), 377 n. 90; Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The Acts of the Apostles (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 22). Whether or not Peter is referring specifically to lost Israelites or Gentiles here is a matter we cannot examine here. Suffice it to say, he is clearly referring to restoration hopes which involved the inclusion of both.
[8] This is clearly a major part of Luke’s agenda. See Fitzmyer, Luke I-IX (AB 28; New York: Doubleday, 1970), 188-92; Raymond Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 271-3.
[9] Here I cannot go into great detail. For a fuller discussion see the epilogue of my book, Singing In The Reign: The Psalms and the Liturgy of God’s Kingdom (Steubenville: Emmaus Road, 2001).

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Seventh Generation

Any New Testament scholar knows how important it is to read the New Testament in light of the Old. However, reading the Old Testament in light of the New can also be quite profitable. This week I had another confirmation of that dictum.

Whenever I teach OT, I like to emphasize that genealogies have a purpose--they virtually always have some deep significance. The generations of Adam in Genesis 4 and 5 are a good case in point. From Adam emerges two lines of descent--a wicked line through Cain and a righteous line through Seth. Read Genesis 4 and 5 carefully and you'll discover that the full flowering of wickedness or righteousness becomes apparent in the seventh generation from Adam in each respective line. One might make a few observations.

Through Cain's line, the name of his son--a family name--is promiment (Gen. 4:17). This line is associated with building cities (civilization) and learning music (leisure) (cf. Gen. 4:21-22). In the seventh generation from Adam in Cain's line emerges Lamech, a vengeful murderer (Gen 4:19-24.

However, in the seventh generation from Adam in Seth's line emerges Enoch, who "walked with God... and God took him" (Gen 5:21-24). This line is associated with men who call on the name of the Lord (Gen 4:26). In contrast to the Cainites, the Sethites are linked with those who are described as living the life of toil--bearing one of the curses of Adam and Eve's sin (Gen. 3:17; Gen 4:29).

Now, whenever I explain all this I always have to point out that Genesis never explicit mentions the significance of the seventh generation--it is only evident after a close literary analysis.

However, as I was covering Jude this week in my Into to NT class, I noticed something interesting in Jude 14: "It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied..." Seems that Jude was counting the generations as well...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

He who sings...

Taking a break for a second on restoration eschatology in Scripture and historical Jesus studies, I want to mention something we talked about in class today at JP Catholic.

First, let me give some background. I am currently teaching a class on early Christian literature, art and music.
It's a blast. The students are really great here at JP Catholic. Among other selections from the Fathers of the Church, the students are reading the entirety of Augustine's Confessions. The class discussion is great because we have a brilliant group here.

They are also each writing a research paper on some early Christian piece of art from the first 1000 years of the Church--usually one of the early icons, such as the Pantocrater. We're having a lot fun discussing all of that as well.

Today we started talking about early Christian chant and the rise of Gregorian chant. I'm really learning to really love this ancient style of music--which at first was a bit of a stretch for a guy who has played guitar and sung lead vocals in rock bands. But I'm discovering the great contemplative value of chant.

What really took me by surprise--and what I brought out in class today--was the following quote from Vatican II:
Sacrosanctum Concilium 112: The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.
The words here regarding the value the Church places on the ancient music of the Church--and within context this is talking above all about Gregorian Chant--is stunning. It is greater than even that of any other art. If one thinks of all the works in the Vatican churches and museums--the works of all the great artists--and then considers this line, it is truly remarkable.

Just food for thought...

Of course, the importance of Gregorian chant has been emphasized just recently by Pope Benedict in his letter, Sacramentum Caritatis, 42:
The People of God assembled for the liturgy sings the praises of God. In the course of her two-thousand-year history, the Church has created, and still creates, music and songs which represent a rich patrimony of faith and love. This heritage must not be lost. Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration. Consequently everything – texts, music, execution – ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons. Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy [emphasis added].

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Matthew 4: Restoration of the Kingdom and Fishers of Men

We've been talking a great deal about Jewish hopes relating to the restoration and the land here. I just thought I'd point out something often overlooked. Jesus' description of the apostles as "fishers of men" probably also relates to restoration promises. To do that, let's take a closer look at Matthew 4.

Matthew 4 describes Jesus' Galilean ministry in terms of the fulfillment of the restoration prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2:"In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined."

The prophecy goes on to describe a coming Davidide, through whom restoration will take place: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called 'Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace'; Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore" (Isa 9:6-7). There are a number of Solomonic allusions here, the clearest being, "Prince of Peace".

Is it any suprise, then, that immediately after Matthew cites from Isaiah 9, Jesus is therefore described next as announcing: "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand"? As I've explained before on this blog, according to the Old Testament, the Davidic kingdom is "the kingdom of the Lord":

1 Chronicles 28:5: "“[The Lord] has chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the Kingdom of the Lord over Israel.”

2 Chronicles 13:8: "And now you think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord in the hand of the sons of David"
Jesus goes on to proclaim the "gospel of the kingdom" (Matt 4:17). The phrase encapsulates two things: (1) the "good tidings" (ὁ εὐαγγελιζόμενος, Isa 40:9) of the New Exodus proclaimed in Isa 40 and (2) the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom promised, for example, in Isaiah 9. Jesus is the true Son of David, through whom the Kingdom of David and the tribes of Israel will be restored. As both (and only) David and Solomon reigned over all twelve tribes--the northern and southern tribes--Jesus' ministry begins in Galilee. The restoration commences where the exile began.

Jesus then encounters Simon and Andrew. We read:

Matthew 4:18-19: As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 
The language here recalls Jeremiah 16. There the prophet describes the restoration of the exiles in the land:
Jeremiah 16:14-15: "Therefore, behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land which I gave to their fathers.
The next verse describes how this will take place: “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, says the Lord, and they shall catch them" (Jer 16:16).

It is through the apostles that Jesus, the true Son of David, will restore Israel. They are the "fishers" spoken of by Jeremiah. As I will explain in greater detail in future posts, it is through their ministry that this is accomplished. Again, I will develop this more fully in future posts, but until then, note that how their "sending out", their "fishing", is finally described by Jesus at the end of the Gospel: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).

They aren't leading people to the land, they are leading people to Christ. And they bring them to Him through baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. What's going on here? Well, Brant and I will be going into much greater detail as time goes by... not just in his next book and in my dissertation (which, God willing, will also be a book!), but right here on this blog, so keep tuning in.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Did Moses Ascend Into Heaven?

Given the fact that yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension, I decided to post something on Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. (Yes, I know it’s supposed to be Ascension Thursday, not Ascension Thursday-Sunday—an utter absurdity—but that’s the subject of another post.)

After reading Geza Vermes’ scathing (non-)review of Pope Benedict’s new book on Jesus (more to come on that anon), I picked up Geza Vermes’ first book on Jesus, Jesus the Jew (1973) off my shelf and was thumbing through it. My initial reason for looking at the book was that I’m currently working on my state-of-the-question chapter for my book on Jesus and the Last Supper and was cataloguing scholars who totally ignore the Last Supper in their reconstructions of Jesus’ life and mission (of which, Vermes is one). To my surprise—in another one of those providential take-the-random-book-off-the-shelf-and-find-something-cool-moments—I found an utterly fascinating excursus by Vermes on the significance of the “cloud” as a means of “heavenly transport” that shed some interesting Jewish light on the Ascension.
The long and short of it is that there was an ancient Jewish tradition that Moses was assumed into heaven at the end of his life, and that he—like Jesus—ascended into heaven on a cloud:
Moses ascended in the cloud, was hidden by the cloud, and was sanctified by the cloud. (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 4a)

When Moses was to ascend, a cloud descended and lay before him... And the cloud covered Moses and carried him up. (Pesikta Rabbati 20:4)
Apparently, this tradition goes back to the first century A.D., at least as far as the time of Josephus, who describes the end of Moses’ life as follows:
Now as soon as they [Moses, Joshua, Eleazar the high priest, and the seventy elders] were come to the mountain called Abarim, he dismissed the senate; and as he was going to embrace Eleazar and Joshua, and was still discoursing with them, a cloud stood over him on the sudden, and he disappeared in a certain valley, although he wrote in the holy books that he died [cf. Deut 34:6-7], which was done out of fear, lest they should venture to say that, because of his extraordinary virtue, he went to God (Josephus, Antiquities 4.325-26).
The typological and Christological significance of this fascinating tradition, is, of course, that it shows that Jesus acts as a New Moses not only during his life, but in his death, Resurrection, and Ascension. The entire “Paschal Mystery” is tied up in the inauguration of the new “exodus” that Jesus accomplishes in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). One could put this in a schema that might prove helpful, drawing on several New Testament texts (cf. Mark 14:22-26; 10:35-45; Luke 12:50-51; Acts 1:3, 9):

Moses / New Moses (Jesus)
Passover / Last Supper (Passover)
Crossing of Red Sea / Crucifixion (His "Baptism")
40 Years in Desert / 40 Days with Disciples (Acts 1)
Carried Up to Heaven in a Cloud / Ascension into Heaven in a Cloud

By the way, notice that Moses’ ascension takes place on the eve of Israel’s entry into the Promised Land, while Jesus’ ascension is focused entirely on his entry into Heaven. This provides a clue to the answer I am working up for David on the question regarding God’s promise of restoration to “the Land.” But more of that to come (I’m still unpacking boxes from moving, so it’s going slow around here.)

Happy feast of the Ascension!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Robert Koons Comes Into The Catholic Church

Robert Koons, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas, has just announced on Right Reason that, after years of careful study, he will be following Francis Beckwith into the Catholic Church. He outlines his view in a post and, in much greater detail, in this 94 page essay, "A Lutheran's Case for Roman Catholicism".

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (3.1.2. Restoring the Davidic Ideal: The Twelve)

We have already seen that Jesus’ election of the twelve symbolizes an eschatological pan-Israelite hope.[1] His ministry in Galilee (and, as we shall see later, Samaria) may be understood within the larger context of the restoration of the united kingdom of David and Solomon. As the son of David, Jesus’ is depicted as restoring the united kingdom of David and Solomon, which was originally composed of all Israel— the northern tribes and those in the southern kingdom of “Judah” (the “Jews”).[2] David Ravens writes, “This restoration did not just entail the Jews alone but something altogether grander: nothing less than a return to the unity that had once existed under David.”[3] Finally, though Jesus’ openness to Gentiles has also been understood within the overall motif of national restoration,[4] as we have seen, the Davidic kingdom’s glory days provide the precedent for this vision. Interestingly, Solomon also chose twelve officers (1 Kgs 4:7).
[1] Paula Fredricksen, Jesus of Nazareth: King of the Jews (New York: Vintage, 1999), 98: “… if Jesus indeed taught that ultimately these twelve would judge the twelve tribes, then he was thinking eschatologically. To assemble the twelve tribes… would take a miracle. But that, I think, is what Jesus was expecting.” See also Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:148-154; Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 98. The Apostles' role as "fishers of men" (Matt 4:19) may also be linked to restoration hopes (e.g., cf. Jer 16:14-15). For more on that see this post.
[2] Sean Freyne notes that the Galileans were Israelites of non-Jewish stock. See Sean Freyne, Galilee, Jesus and the Gospels: Literary Approaches and Historical Investigations (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), 170-71. In addition, see pages 130-31.
[3] Ravens, Luke and the Restoration of Israel, 99.
[4] Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 323.

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

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom Updated Links


1.1 . Third Quest Scholarship & the "Kingdom of God" (Survey)

Third Quest Scholarship & the "Kingdom of God" (Geza Vermes)

Third Quest Scholarship & the "Kingdom of God" (Ben Meyer)

Third Quest Scholarship & the "Kingdom of God" (Harvey)

Third Quest Scholarship & the "Kingdom of God" (Sanders)

Third Quest Scholarship & the "Kingdom of God" (Chilton)

Third Quest Scholarship & the "Kingdom of God" (N. T. Wright)

Third Quest Scholarship & the "Kingdom of God" (Meier)

Third Quest Scholarship & the "Kingdom of God" (Conclusion to Survey)

1.2. David & First Century Restoration Expectations

David & First Century Restoration Expectations: The Prophetic Hope

David & First Century Restoration Expectations: Qumran

David & First Century Restoration Expectations: Psalms of Solomon

David & First Century Expectations: Re-Examining the Davidide in the DSS

David & First Century Expectations: Son of Man & Melchizedekian Hopes

David & First Century Expectations: Conclusion

2. The Davidic Covenant

2.1. The Davidic Covenant as Fulfillment of God's Covenant Promises

David & Abraham

David, Israel & the Temple

David & Israel's Vocation

David & Adam

2.2. The Rise of Expectations: Restoring the Davidic Ideal

A Davidic King

The Pan-Israelite Restoration (The Ingathering of the Twelve Tribes)

Inclusion of the Gentiles

A Restored Zion (Jerusalem) and a New Temple

3. "The Kingdom of God is at Hand"

3.1. Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom

Jesus' Triumphal Entry and Temple Action

The Appointment of the Twelve

Jesus as Exorcist and Healer

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (3.1.1. Restoring the Davidic Ideal: The Triumphal Entry & Temple Action)

3.1. Jesus’ Message in Light of Davidic Expectations
As we saw in the first part of this paper, N. T. Wright believes that the overarching theme of Jesus’ ministry is restoration from exile. According to Wright, Jesus believed the restoration had come in the form of God’s Reign. Dunn has countered by responding that this seems to overlook a number of other motifs, including the inclusion of the Gentiles, healing, a feasting, an eschatological pilgrimage of the nations, and victory over Satan.[1] It is our proposal that Wright (and Dunn) have neglected the central role of David in Jewish restoration hopes. This is not to say that all eschatological frameworks of the time involved a Davidic element. Expectations certainly took a variety of forms. However, this should not obscure the fact that restoration was frequently linked to God’s covenant with David. Here we will show how the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom, was central to Jesus’ ministry.

There are several episodes in the Gospels which make it clear that Jesus understood his mission against Davidic expectations. Here will name just a few of the most obvious ones. It is widely accepted that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem evoked royal imagery (Matt 21:1-11//Mark 11:1-10//Luke 19:29-38).[2] The picture of Jesus riding on a colt into a city full of a shouting crowd clearly resembles Solomon’s coronation (1 Kgs 1:33, 38). It also evokes Zecheriah’s eschatological prophecy: “Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem, Lo, your king comes to you… humble and riding on an ass” (Zech 9:9).

Each of the Synoptic accounts record the crowd mentioning something relating to David or royalty (Matt 21:9: “Hosanna to the Son of David”//Mark 11:10: “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming!”//Luke 19:38: “Blessed is the King!”). Although some scholars question whether Jesus actually intended this impression,[3] to think that he was not aware of what this action would evoke stretches the imagination—especially given the fact that others apparently readily made the connection. Even E. P. Sanders, who often downplays Jesus’ Davidic claims, recognizes royal imagery here.[4]

In the Synoptic tradition Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem is followed by his act of “cleansing” the temple (Matt 21:12-13//Mark 11:15-17//Luke 19:45-46). Here again, historical Jesus scholars have recognized royal imagery,[5] though Sanders understands this action primarily within the larger context of the restoration of Israel.[6] Yet, as we have seen, there is a deep connection between the temple and the Davidic covenant. Meier writes,

[T]he two symbolic actions he performed as he came to Jerusalem for his last
Passover—the ‘triumphal entry’ and the ‘cleansing of the temple—may have been
intended as an expression of a royal messianic claim over David’s ancient
capital and the temple first built by Solomon, the Son of David.”[7]

By acting as he does—coming to Jerusalem/Zion and symbolically cleansing the temple— Jesus evokes the larger picture of the eschatological restored Davidic kingdom. Meyer notes that “here the motif of messianic acclamation was followed by eschatological restoration of the cult.”[8]
[1] James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 475.
[2] Wright, Jesus and the Victory, 490-493; Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:496; Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 306-307; Witherington, The Christology of Jesus (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 113-115.
[3] Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazereth: King of the Jews (New York: Vintage Books, 1999), 247.
[4] Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 306
[5] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:496; Wright, Jesus and the Victory, 491; Meyer, Aims of Jesus, 179-202; Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 307.
[6] Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 335, 340.
[7] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:496.
[8] Meyer, Christus Faber, 264.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

JP Catholic Video Wins Prestigious Telly Award

Congratulations to Tom Dunn, who won a coveted Telly Award for the JP Catholic "University Overview" Video which he produced. Tom is a remarkably gifted individual and JP Catholic is very blessed to have him. He has worked in the industry for over 17 years, doing just about everything you can do--he has been a director, a producer, a camera man, and an editor. He brings tremendous experience to the school, having worked for local cable, independent and affiliate broadcast TV stations and national cable networks.

Tom is such a holy and humble guy that I only just learned that he received the award. It was awarded over a month ago and we work in offices that are immediately next to one another!

Here's the full notice with more information about the Telly Awards, which will hopefully be appearing on JP Catholic's website soon.

JP Catholic's "University Overview" video has just won a 28th Annual Telly Award. The video, produced by Tom Dunn, JP Catholic's Director of Digital Media Production, showcases the university's vision of molding Christ-centered students into future innovators and creators, leaders and entrepreneurs in the culture impacting fields of business and media.

The Telly Awards is the premier award honoring outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions. The Telly Awards is a widely known and highly respected national and international competition and receives over 13,000 entries annually from all 50 states and many foreign countries.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Congratulations to the Harolds

I just want to congratulate my good friends Martin and Sara Harold, who are also colleagues at John Paul the Great Catholic University, on the birth of their first child, Peter Martin (8lbs. 4 oz.).

May God richly bless your growing family!!!

Stop on over at Martin's excellent blog and drop him a note.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Promise of the Land

I got this excellent question in the combox for the last post from David (...what a great name!). I thought I should address it here. I won't provide the whole comment--you can read that below--let me just get straight to the question at hand:
"...If the restoration has to be sacramental, how do we reconcile that with God promising to restore Israel's land?"
In other words, in the Old Testament the "return from exile" involved the promise of returning to a geographic location. Isn't a sacramental reading merely spiritualizing the Old Testament?
Well, I will eventually post a long series on that whole question. Actually that's on deck after the series on the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom series. It is a key issue that I know I'm really going to need to address. Suffice it to say, I have thought long and hard about this question and I will address this much more fully in a dissertation and later on this blog. (So stay tuned in the future!)

Here I just want to point out something you see from canonical reading of the Old Testament. Let me start with Israel--hang in there with me.
Consider the fact that in the Old Testament Israel's original vocation was to be a "kingdom of priests" (Exod 19:6). That's what God was ultimately caling them to be. Of course, with the sin of the golden calf, Israel failed to realize that calling. With that sin came a new development. That which was originally intended for all the tribes of Israel--the priesthood--was now given only to the Levites. The Levites thus serve as a kind of model to Israel--they get what Israel was ultimately called to and lost.
Later on, when Moses portions out the land to Israel we note something rather interesting--even rather surprising: every tribe gets a portion of the land except the Levites. Do the Levites get cheated? Does God give them something less because of their righteousness? As Paul might say, "By no means!" Moses explains, "Therefore Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brothers; the Lord is his inheritance, as the Lord your God said to him" (Deut 10:9).
The ultimate gift is not the land--it is God Himself.
If the Levites serve as a kind of model to Israel of what was lost as a result of the golden calf, what does this reveal to us? Just something to think about...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Wedding Feast of the Lamb & the Blood of the New Covenant (Part 2 of 2)

Matthew 26:28 / Mark 14:24
In both Matthew and Mark’s account of Jesus’ words over the cup at the Last Supper we read, τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης (“this is my blood of the covenant”; RSVCE). It is generally recognized that the backdrop to Jesus’ words here is the covenant ratification ceremony of Exodus 24. There we read about Moses ratifying the covenant God made with Israel in similar language as that found in the Last Supper narrative. Moses takes the blood (Exod 24:8 LXX:  λαβὼν…τὸ αἷμα), and says (εἶπον), “Behold, the blood of the covenant” (Exod 24:8 LXX: Ἰδοὺ τὸ αἷμα τῆς διαθήκης). This of course mirrors Jesus’ actions, who takes the cup (λαβὼν ποτήριον, Mark 14:24), and says (εἶπεν), τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης (“this is my blood of the covenant”). In all of this, it seems clear that Jesus is describing himself as a New Moses, who ratifies a New Covenant.[1] In fact, the covenant was sealed at Sinai with a meal―an appropriate backdrop for the Last Supper.

Of course, it should also be noted that the backdrop for the Last Supper is clearly the Passover in Matthew and Mark’s account. As we noted above, the Exodus and Passover were more than past events for first century Jews—they were tied up with future hopes. Indeed, there is a growing recognition that such hopes played a key role in the teaching of Jesus.[2] It is generally accepted among scholars that Jesus’ selection of the twelve apostles was linked to pan-Israelite tribal reconstitution hope.[3] Jesus’ Galilean ministry also seems to evoke these hopes, since it had been the home of the northern tribes.[4] In addition to all of this, of course, there are also various sayings of Jesus concerning the eschatological of the “twelve tribes” (τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, Matt 19:28; Luke 22:30) and his mission to τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ (Matt 10:6; 15:24).

With that in mind, Jesus’ words at the Last Supper evoking Exodus 24 should probably be interpreted against this restoration backdrop. The Eucharistic celebration associated with the restoration of Israel―the eschatological ingathering. This is even more clearly seen in the Lukan / Pauline version of the institution narrative.

Luke 22:20 / 1 Cor 11:25
One of the most noteworthy additions in the account of the words of institution in Luke 22:20 / 1 Cor 11:25 is the modifier “new” to the word “covenant”: τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ ἐμῷ αἵματι (“This cup is the new covenant in my blood”). With this addition another Old Testament context comes in to focus. Since the phrase “new covenant” appears in only one place in the Old Testament, it is clear that, in addition to Exodus 24, another passage likely stands in the backdrop―Jeremiah 31:31.[5]

Jeremiah 31 is a prophecy concerning the future restoration of Israel. The prophet describes how the Lord will save a remnant of Israel and “bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth” (Jer 31:8; cf. v. 10). In Jeremiah 31:31 this ingathering is described in terms of a “new covenant”― “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah”. This covenant is contrasted with the covenant made with Israel at Mt. Sinai―the covenant ratified in Exodus 24: “not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke” (Jer 31:32).

What is interesting is that Jeremiah links this ingathering to the flourishing of crops and vineyards, specifically mentioning how the redeemed will rejoice over “grain, the wine and the oil” (Jer 31:12). The prophecy of the New Covenant also seems to include nuptial imagery. The first covenant is described in terms of a marriage covenant―“I was their husband, says the Lord” (Jer 31:32). For more on that see the following footnote [6].

Our interpretation of Revelation 19 at the beginning of this essay would seem to confirm the conviction that Jesus saw the Institution of the Eucharist in terms of the eschatological restoration of Israel. The tradition found in the Apocalypse―although more clearly developed―could be traced back into the Upper Room. There on the night he was killed Jesus explained that the eschatological ingathering of Israel would be fulfilled, not in the restoration of a political dynasty, but through something else. Restoration is inextricably linked with the cult of the new covenant community.

Such an interpretation may at first sound less like first-century Judaism than twentieth century sacramental theology. However, a close examination of the Qumran literature indicates some striking similarities. It is now generally agreed that in 1QS 6:2-5 the common communal meal is described in such a way as to link it with the eschatological banquet of 1QSa 2:1-22. In addition, it is noteworthy in connection with this that 1QS 8:4-10 describes the community in terms of the eschatological temple.[7] Aune concludes: “The fact that aspects of final eschatological salvation were realized within a cultic and communal setting by members of the Qumran community supplies us with a basic approach to the problem of the significance of realized eschatology…”[8]

Much more needs to be said―a great deal more in fact!. As I’ve explained in previous posts, this is in large part my dissertation project. However, I put this out here now in hopes of stimulating a discussion and learning from your thoughts and comments. So keep them coming.

For a much more articulate and in-depth examination along these lines check out Scott Hahn’s article on Luke 22:

Scott Hahn, “Kingdom and Church in Luke-Acts: From Davidic Christology to Kingdom Ecclesiology,” in Reading Luke: Interpretation, Reflection, Formation (C. G. Bartholomew, J. Green and A. Thiselton, eds; Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2005).

[1] W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Matthew19-28 (ICC; London: T & T Clark, 1997), 475: “One wonders whether the sequence in Exod 24:8-11 does not underlie vv. 28-29. In Exodus the establishing of the covenant through blood is followed by eating and drinking and seeing God. In Matthew the proclamation of the eschatological covenant through blood prefaces the promise of the eschatological banquet.”
[2] For restoration expectations in historical Jesus research see Ben Meyer, The Aims of Jesus (London: SCM, 1979) and E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985). Also see specialized works such as Scot McKnight, A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999); Steven M. Bryan, “Excurses: Jesus and the end of the exile,” in Jesus and Israel’s Traditions of Judgment and Restoration (SNTSMS 117; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 2002), 12-20; Craig Evans, “Aspects of Exile and Restoration in the Proclamation of Jesus and the Gospels,” in Jesus in Context: Temple, Purity, and Restoration (AGJU 39; B. Chilton and C. A. Evans, eds.; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 263-93; F. G. Downing, “Exile in Formative Judaism,” in Making Sense in (and of) First Chrstian Century (JSNTSup 197; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 148-68); Michael Knibb, “The Exile in the Literature of the Intertestamental Period,” HeyJ 17 (1976): 253-72; Pitre, Jesus, the Tribulation and the End of the Exile (cited above). Also see the essays in James M. Scott, ed., Exile: Old Testament, Jewish and Christian Conceptions (JSJSup 56; Leiden: Brill, 1997); idem, Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish and Christian Perspectives (JSJSup 72: Leiden: Brill, 2001); David J. Bryan, “Exile and Return from Jerusalem,” in Apocalyptic in History and Tradition (JSPSup 43; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), 60-18. Other scholars have analyzed the importance of restoration theology in specialized studies such as David Ravens, Luke and the Restoration of Israel (JSOT Supplement Series 119; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995); Rikki Watts, Isaiah’s New Exodus and Mark (WUZNT2 88; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997); Mark L. Strauss, The Davidic Messiah in Luke-Acts: The Promise and its Fulfillment in Lukan Christology (JSNTSup 110; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995); Michael E. Fuller, The Restoration of Israel. Israel's Re-gathering and the Fate of the Nations in Early Jewish Literature and Luke-Acts (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2006); David W. Pao, Acts and the New Exodus (WUZNT2 130; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000).
[3] E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 98-106. Though Sanders is skeptical regarding the details of the identity of the twelve or what they did, he argues “…we can see that Jesus fitted his own work into Jewish eschatological expectation if we know only that he thought of there being twelve around him” (104). Also see Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 300: “The very existence of the twelve speaks, of course, of the reconstitution of Israel; Israel had not had twelve visible tribes since the Assyrian invasion in 734 BC, and for Jesus to give twelve followers a place of prominence…indicates pretty clearly that he was thinking in terms of the eschatological restoration of Israel.” Still also see, Paula Fredricksen, Jesus of Nazareth: King of the Jews (New York: Vintage, 1999), 98; John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (vol. 3 of The Roots of the Problem and Person; ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 2001), 148-54; idem, “Jesus, the Twelve and Restoration,” in Restoration, 365-404; Ben Meyer, The Aims of Jesus, 154.
[4] That the Galileans were Israelites of non-Jewish stock, see Sean Freyne, Galilee, Jesus and the Gospels: Literary Approaches and Historical Investigations (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), 130-31, 170-71. Also see David Ravens who comments that Jesus’ ministry in northern Israel should be viewed in terms of the restoration of the Davidic idealic kingdom of the united two houses of Israel. Ravens, Luke and the Restoration of Israel, 99.
[5] See John Nolland, Luke 18:35-24:53 (WBC 35c; Dallas: Word Books, 1993); Ben Meyer, “The Expiation Motif in the Eucharistic Words,” in One Loaf, One Cup: Ecumenical Studies of 1 Cor 11 and other Eucharistic Texts (The Cambridge Conference on the Eucharist August 1988; New Gospel Studies 6; B. F. Meyer, ed.; Macon: Mercer, 1993) 33.
[6] The word here translated “husband” is בעל (bā∙˓ǎl ) might also be translated “master”. It can have the connotation of oppression. The other word for husband is אישׁ (˒yš), which can have the sense of a more loving husband. The two words are contrasted in Hosea 2:16. There we read that in the restoration the Lord will no longer be Israel’s “master” (bā∙˓ǎl ), but her “husband” אישׁ (˒yš). Interestingly within that context we also read that the Lord will make for Israel an abundance of “the grain, the wine and the oil”.
[7] See John J. Collins, “Powers in Heaven,” in Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature (J. J. Collins and R. A. Kugler, eds.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 11-14, who concludes, “The community in effect was a substitute temple” (13).
[8] Aune, The Cultic Setting, 44.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Herod's Tomb Found

Here's one tomb news story that is noteworthy:

JERUSALEM - An Israeli archaeologist on Tuesday said he has found remnants of the tomb of King Herod, the legendary builder of ancient Jerusalem, on a flattened hilltop in the Judean Desert where the biblical monarch built a palace.

Hebrew University archaeologist Ehud Netzer said the tomb was found at Herodium, a site where he has been exploring since the 1970s.

Netzer said a team of researchers found pieces of a limestone sarcophagus believed to belong to the ancient king. Although there were no bones in the container, he said the sarcophagus' location and ornate appearance indicated it is Herod's.
Read the rest. Tip of the hat to Jim West and Chris Tilling. By the way, if you haven't seen Chris' post on the seven seals of the Apocalypse, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Photo: AP

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Beckwith Posts on His Conversion

Francis Beckwith has spoken of his conversion on his blog, Right Reason. He has stepped down from the Evangelical Theological Society since he doubts he would have been elected had he been Catholic. When you read his post you can't help but admire his integrity and courage to follow his conscience no matter what the cost.

He explains some of his reasoning:
" January, at the suggestion of a dear friend, I began reading the Early Church Fathers as well as some of the more sophisticated works on justification by Catholic authors. I became convinced that the Early Church is more Catholic than Protestant and that the Catholic view of justification, correctly understood, is biblically and historically defensible. Even though I also believe that the Reformed view is biblically and historically defensible, I think the Catholic view has more explanatory power to account for both all the biblical texts on justification as well as the church’s historical understanding of salvation prior to the Reformation all the way back to the ancient church of the first few centuries."
Of course, Dr. Beckwith is going to take a lot of heat for this--claiming that the Catholic view of justification is "biblical" is going to shock a lot of people. The fact is, and I say this as a Catholic who did undergraduate and now Ph.D. work at Protestant institutions, while there are many substantial disagreements among Catholics and Protestants, in my experience there is also a huge amount of misinformation --and that is something you find on both sides of the aisle. We need to stop building up straw man arguments and really listen to one another. That doesn't mean we will always agree, but it does mean that I think we will find more common ground than we expected to be there.

In that spirit, I want to highlight Richard White's article on the Catholic teaching regarding justification, entitled, "Sola Gratia, Solo Christo: The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Justification." I mentioned the article in the comment box over at Beckwith's site and I just wanted to provide a link here to it. It is a fantastic overview of Trent's teaching.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Bible Study on Matthew

For those of you in Southern California, I want to let you know about two in-depth Bible studies on Matthew I'll be leading starting next week. They are being sponsored by John Paul the Great Catholic University and the Catholic Resource Center. Please help me spread the word! This study will be much like a Pope Benedict style approach to Scripture, combining in-depth historical methodology with devotional and pastoral applications. Email me for a flyer

In-Depth Bible Study on the Gospel of Matthew

with Michael Barber, Professor of Theology, Scripture and Catholic Thought at John Paul the Great Catholic University

Come and Learn the Answers to such questions as…
● Is the Gospel of Matthew historical?
● Why are scholars beginning to read the Gospel as a form of ancient biography and as the product of eye-witness testimony?
● What is its relationship to the other Gospels?
● Is the Gospel story undermined by the discovery of other ancient works such as the Gospel of Judas?
● Is the Christmas story true?
● What did Jesus mean by the "Kingdom of God?" Where do we find it today?
● What did Jesus teach about prayer and discipleship?
● Why do Catholics believe Mary remained a Virgin when we read about other "brothers and sisters of Jesus"? What's the big deal for Catholics?
● What did Jesus say about His Second Coming? Is He coming soon?
● Why did Jesus choose the Passover as the backdrop for the Eucharist and His death?
● How is Jesus the New Temple?
And much, much more…

Now in Two Locations: Covina, CA & San Diego, CA

In Covina …
Location: The Sacred Heart Chapel
When: Tuesdays @ 7pm, Beginning May 8th (6 weeks)
● Exit 10 FWY @ Citrus St. and head north (toward the mountains)
● Continue north, crossing Workman St. , Roland Ave. & Puente St.
● Turn Left on Center (the second street after Puente St .)
● Continue on Center until you see the Chapel on your right side
Address: 381 W Center St . / Covina , CA 91723
Tel. (877) 526-2151 / Website:

In San Diego …
Location: John Paul the Great Catholic University
When: Wednesdays @ 7pm Beginning May 9 (6 weeks)
● Exit 15 FWY @ Carroll Canyon Road and head East (pass a Carl's Jr. on the right)
● Turn Right on Business Park Ave
● Turn Left on Willow Creek Road
● Turn Right on Old Grove Road
● Turn Right into the first driveway on the right
Address: 10174 Old Grove Road / Suite 200 / San Diego, CA 92131
Tel. (858) 653-6740 / Website:
Bring a friend to the JP Catholic session and get a free Catholic DVD (a $20 value)!!!

Recommended Texts for the Bible Study:
RSV Catholic Edition Bible (
Scepter Edition or Ignatius Edition)
Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch,
The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000).