Monday, June 30, 2008

Milgrom vs. Gane: What Did the Old Testament Sacrifices Do?

A seriuous contribution to the study of the Old Testament sacrificial cult has just been made. Let me explain.

Anyone doing work in Leviticus these days know that there is a major debate regarding the theological rationale behind the rituals of atonement, particular those of Yom Kippur and the hatta’t (the “sin-offering”).

In particular, Jacob Milgrom has argued that, contrary to what many have thought of such atonement rituals, their primary focus is not purging the individual of impurity, but the maintenance of the ritual purity of the sanctuary. In his magisterial commentary on Leviticus he writes:
“Whom or what does the [hattā’t] purge? Herein lies the first surprise: it is not the offerer of the sacrifice.”[1]

Thus Milgrom has argued that "sin-offering" is a misleading translation of the hatta’t, which he argues is best understood as a “purification offering.” Indeed, a survey of the recent secondary literature reveals his influence―most scholars now refer to the “purification-offering” rather than the “sin-offering.”

In essence, Milgrom wants to move us away from the idea that the offering cleanses the offerer himself--it is the sanctuary that is primarily in view. He compares the theology of Leviticus to the Portrait of Dorian Gray. The fundamental idea is that transgressions against the Lord are borne by the sanctuary. The sacrifices effectively purify the sanctuary from the resulting impurity incurred by Israel.

I've been closely following the debate about Milgrom's theory with great interest. It has especially important theological implications, which should be obvious (i.e., as an antecedent to Christian atonement theology). In fact, a number of scholars have argued that while Milgrom is right in showing that scholarship has generally neglected the purity concerns of the cult to assert the sacrifices do nothing for the individual overstates the case. For example, Steven Finlan sums up the view of many others well when he writes:
“Milgrom has correctly exposed a (former) scholarly neglect of purity concerns
in Leviticus, but he has tried to impose a new hegemony of meaning upon actions
that were really understood in a dual sense, as cleansing both the symbols (the
sancta) and the things symbolized (the priests and the people).”[2]
The fact is, however, most of those who have taken Milgrom on are Christians who clearly have theological reasons for opposing his view. Of course, that's not to say that an anti-Christian polemic may be at work in Milgrom's view. Nonetheless, most of the critiques of Milgrom's work come in the form of sections of works dealing with Christian atonement theology. An in-depth, comprehensive treatment of the Levitical law code has been sorely needed.

Enter Roy E. Gane, a student of Milgrom. Gane has offered what is clearly the most balanced and well-argued critique of Milgrom’s work in Cult and Character: Purification Offerings, Day of Atonement and Theodicy (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2005). In fact, the back cover features a blurb from Milgrom himself:
“[Gane’s] book is a marvel of close reading and impeccable logic…. [It] is the first major critique of my work, and I am immensely happy and proud that it was done by my student and that my contribution is so comprehensively acknowledged…. It is a major work and will be the standard for a long time.”
Gane points out that, contrary to Milgrom’s view, the text indicates that the offerings are made for (the Hebrew is מן) the offerer―not simply the sanctuary. See for example Leviticus 4:26: “so the priest shall make atonement for him for (מן) his sin, and he shall be forgiven.”

In fact, Milgrom wrote a response to Gane’s work, “The preposition מן in the חטאת Pericopes,” in the Journal of Biblical Literature 126 (2007):161-63. There Milgrom offers a respectful response to Gane’s argument.

For example, Gane looks at the use of the preposition in Leviticus 15:15b, which describes the case of a person who has contracted ritual impurity because of a discharge: “the priest shall offer [two turtledoves or pigeons], one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord [מן = for, from, or on behalf of?] his discharge.” Here Gane argues that the preposition Nm should be translated as indicating that the priest is to effect purgation on behalf of (=for the benefit of) the offerer from his discharge―in other words, the sacrifice is meant to remove residual impurity from him.

But Milgrom believes this is “simply incomprehensible. Purgation (כפר) is not offered ‘from’ but ‘for, because of’― ‘his flow’ (15:15)…”[3] In other words, Milgrom believes the sanctuary is what has been defiled because of the person’s sin―the offering therefore is made to atone/purge it. Thus, the offering is made on behalf of the impurity caused by the discharge.

Today I received the latest edition of the Journal of Biblical Literature and..., lo and behold, the first article is written by Gane: “Privative Preposition מן in Purification Offering Pericopes and the Changing Face of 'Dorian Gray.'"

Suffice it to say, I think Gane is absolutely right on. Gane strengthens his case and answers Milgrom’s response to his critique. In regard to Leviticus 15:15b he points out that Milgrom himself is inconsistent. Particularly instructive is his analysis of what Milgrom does with Leviticus 12:7. In this passage we read about the case of a woman who is ritually impure because she has just given birth. The passage reads: “[the priest] shall offer [the sin-offering] before the Lord, and make atonement for her; then she shall be clean from [מן = for, from, on behalf of] the flow of her blood.” In this case Gane points out that Milgrom translates מן as “from”--in other words, he translates the preposition differently in this case. He writers,

“[W]hy does Milgrom render ‘from’ rather than the causative sense of Nm in 12:7, ‘from her source of blood,’ also referring to residual impurity in terms of its physical origin…? The fact is, only ‘from’ is comprehensible in 12:7, and a consistent rendering of ‘from’ elsewhere is only incomprehensible if one approaches the purification-offering goal formulas with an a priori assumption.”[4]
There’s much more, but I can’t discuss it all here. To sum it up though, Gane’s piece is so clear I believe it will represent the standard view. Milgrom has made a tremendous contribution by refocusing us on the purity concerns of the Old Testament cult, but he is wrong to deny that it is also related to the individual offerer. Gane is absolutely correct: the sacrifices effected something for the offerer―not merely the sanctuary.

I think Gane just closed the door on that debate in this article.

[1] See Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, 254. In addition, see Jacob Milgrom, “Studies in the Temple Scroll,” JBL 97 (1978): 501-523; idem., “Israel’s Sanctuary: The Priestly ‘Picture of Dorian Gray,’” RB 83 (1976): 390-99.
[2] Stephen Finlan, The Background and Context of Paul’s Cultic Atonement Metaphors (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004), 33.
[3] Milgrom, “The preposition,” 162.
[4] Gane, “Privative Preposition,” 220.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hahn on Liturgy, Law and Church Authority

Given that today is the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul I thought this clip appropriate. (Sorry, I don't have a video of his presentation on Romans 9-11!).

Today the lectionary readings include Jesus' exchange with Peter in Matthew 16. However, oftentimes, the discussion of Church's authority is reduced to law. Hahn's treatment is actually much more balanced--and frankly, much more consistent with authentic Catholic teaching.

Prepare to try to take a sip from a fire hydrant.

By the way, this is Part 1 of "Letter and Spirit - The Authority of the Church of Christ". You can find the rest of the discussion over there.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How "All" Israel Will Be Saved

Chris Tilling has a post up on the meaning of "all" in Romans in which he shows that "all" does not always mean "all".

Of course, a key passage is Romans 11:25-26:
Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, 26 and so all Israel [πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ] will be saved...
The key question here is whether Paul believed every single Israelite would be saved.

I do not have the time to write an extensive essay on this--I've got to get back to finishing my dissertation. In fact, Scott Hahn presented a paper at the International Meeting of SBL a few years ago which looks at this passage in great detail--and let me tell you, to fully treat this subject would take another dissertation! Nonetheless, I want to piggy-back off Tilling's post and say a few things about this passage.

The key here is identifying how "all Israel" [πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ] is used in the Old Testament and non-canonical Jewish literature. For that I recommend an excellent article by James M. Scott [“All Israel Will Be Saved,” in Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish & Christian Perspectives (ed. J. M. Scott; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 489-526]. Scott shows that the phrase is typically used to describe all twelve tribes. In other words, the term is typically used to identify the inclusion of the northern tribes.

2 Samuel 2:8-10: Now Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul's army, had taken Ish-bo'sheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahana'im; and he made him king over Gilead and the Ash'urites and Jezreel and E'phraim and Benjamin and all Israel. Ish-bo'sheth, Saul's son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David”

2 Samuel 5:3, 5: So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel… At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years

2 Samuel 19:11: And King David sent this message to Zadok and Abi'athar the priests, "Say to the elders of Judah, 'Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his house, when the word of all Israel has come to the king?”

1 Chronicles 21:5: And Jo'ab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who drew the sword, and in Judah four hundred and seventy thousand who drew the sword.

1 Kings 4:7: Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household; each man had to make provision for one month in the year.

In eschatological contexts, the term is especially focused on the restoration of the northern tribes with the southern house of Judah. Thus, "all Israel" means "all the tribes" of Israel--even the so-called "lost tribes". This is probably most clear in Testament of Benjamin 10:11:

4Q521 2 iii 1-5: and the law of your favor. And I will free them with [...] 2 its is su[re:] 'The fathers will return to the sons' (Mal 3:24). [...] 3 which the blessing of the Lord in his goodwill [...] 4 May the [ea]rth rejoice in all the pla[ces] 5 fo[r] all Israel in the rejoicing [...]. [NOTE: compare with Sir 48:10 where Mal 3:24 is used to describe the restoration of the tribes of Israel]

4Q164 1:1-8: [he will mak]e all Israel like eye-paint around the eye. 'And I will found you in sapphi[res' (Isa 54:11). Its interpretation:] 2 They will found the council of the community, [the] priests and the peo[ple...] 3 the assembly of their elect, like a sapphire stone in the midst of the stones. 'I will make] 4 all your battlements [of rubies]' (Isa 54:12). Its interpretation comes the twelve [chiefs of the the priests who] 5 illuminate with the judgments of the Urim and the Thummim [...without] 6 any from among them missing, like the sun in all its light. 'And a[ll your gates of glittering stones' (Isa 54:12).] 7 Its interpretation concerns the chiefs of the tribes of
Israel in the l[ast days... of] 8 its lost, their posts.

T. Ben. 10:11: Therefore, my children, if you live in holiness, in accord with the Lord's commands, you shall again dwell with me in hope; all Israel will be gathered to the Lord."

For a detailed survey see James Scott's article (especially 500-514).

The upshot of the analysis is that the term was related to Israel's tribal configuration. Scott states in his conclusion of the survey of Old Testament texts: "Although the term 'all Israel' can be used to denote a representative selection from the full complement of the tribes, it is never used to refer specifically to all individuals within the nation" (507).

Likewise, after looking at the texts from the Second Temple period, he concludes:
"The expression occurs most frequently in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs and in the (sectarian) writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls. "All Israel" is used less frequently with reference to historical Israel (cf. T. Jos. 20:5; Ps-Philo, Bib. Ant. 22:1; 23:1; CD 3, 14), unless the emphasis is on the continuity of Israel through the ages to the present and beyond. Otherwise, the term is used to stress either the (often idealized) present reality or the future hope. As in the OT usage, 'all Israel' does not denote each and every individual, but rather a collective whole or some subset of the whole. The expression normally preserves an element of the twelve-tribe system of ancient Israel, and thus can be understood as deliberate archaism or
restorationism when it is used of the post-Monarchic situation. This tendency is particularly clear in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs" (515).
So now let's return to Romans 11:225-26. When Paul speaks about the salvation of "all Israel" what is he referring to?

It seems Paul is speaking of the pan-Israelite restoration hope. In fact, as Hahn pointed out in his SBL paper, a close look at Romans 9-11 reveals that, whereas up to now Paul has spoken about the "Jew" (Ἰουδαῖος), in these chapters there is a subtle shift in focus to "Israel". Moreover, Hahn showed many of Paul's Old Testament citations throughout this section are drawn from passages which speak of the northern tribes. For example, in Romans 9:25 Paul cites Hosea:
“'Those who were not my people
I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved
I will call ‘my beloved’ [cf. Hos 2:23].
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God’ [Hos. 1:10].”

These words are spoken to the northern tribes. In chapter 1 Hosea explains that in sending these tribes into exile God is punishing them for the infidelity--he will say, "You are not my people" (cf. Hos 1:10). This is clear if one reads the prophecy in context:
Hos 1:10-11: 10 Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Sons of the living God.” 11 And the people of Judah and the people of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head; and they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
The northern Israelites were sent into exile but they were not forgotten. Though they were dissolved into the nations through intermarriage God did not forget about them--he still knew where they were, much like God told Elijah he knew where the faithful remnant of his people was in his day (cf. Rom 11:2-6).

Paul thus sees his Gentile mission in terms of the pan-Israelite hope. The northern tribes must be restored to fulfill the promises made by the Lord through the prophets. Where are they? Among the Gentiles. To bring Israel home means to bring in the Gentiles. This is the mystery. God allowed Israel to be exiled so that he could use them to eventually bring the nations home as well--as their relatives.

Paul's opponents accuse him of rejecting his people. Paul doesn't see it that way. By neglecting the Gentiles--where the northern tribes were sent--his opponents are the ones who have rejected Israel.

Thus: "Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, 26 and so all Israel [πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ] will be saved..." (Rom 11:25-26).

For more see the treatment in Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: Romans (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003).

In the com-box I got a great question from t.c. williams. Speaking of my conclusion, he writes,
"You have provide Scripture for all your other conclusion but not for this one. Why? This seems like quite a hermeneutical leap. Where in Paul are Gentiles understood as the lost Northern tribes?"

Thanks for the question. I'm sorry I added didn't make the conclusion more exegetical. I was just trying to save time by summing it up. Let me be a little more clear here.

First, go back again and look at the logic in Hosea. The Israelites are sent off into exile and become "not my people". But God will restore them again, and, on that day, they "will be called sons of the living God" (cf. Rom 9:26).

With that in mind, let's return to Paul. Let's look at Paul's logic in 9:22ff:
"What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?"
Paul then applies the Hosea passage to those called from the Gentiles! Look at the next verse:
"As indeed he says in Hosea, 'Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'my beloved.' And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people', they will be called
'sons of the living God'" (cf. Romans 9:25-26; Hos 2:23; 1:10).
Is Paul wrenching this passage from Hosea out of context? Some think so. Some think Paul is randomly applying this passage which originally spoke of the northern tribes to the Gentiles in a kind of "replacement" theology. For example, see E. Elizabeth Johnson, The Function of Apocalyptic and Wisdom Traditions in Romans 9-11 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989), 150: “Paul appears to wrench Hos 2:25 and 2:1 from their historical contexts to apply them to Gentiles rather than to Israel..."

I think that misunderstands Paul. As Richard Hays and others have shown, to understand Paul one must see how the contexts of the passages he cites forms part of his argument. For example, consider the argument above in Romans 9:6ff. There Paul's point is that biological descent from Abraham does not secure salvation. He writes,
"For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are
children of Abraham because they are his descendants; but 'Through Isaac shall
your descendants be named'" (Romans 9:6-7).
He Paul cites Genesis 21:12, which contains the word spoken by the Lord to Abraham. The context of this passage is hugely signficant for Paul's argument. In Genesis 21 Abraham is told that his descendants will be named through Isaac--and not Ishmael. Paul's point is simple: If Jews are going to assert that biological descent from Abraham secures salvation, ask them about Ishmael. The same kind of narrowing of the promised line occurs in the selection of Jacob over Esau--which, of course, is the point of the following verses (cf. Rom 9:10-13).

Now let's return to Paul's use of the Hosea passage in 9:25-26. Paul knows what Hosea prophesied--the Israelites who had been sent to Gentiles, who became "not my people" would one day be restored. On that day their status as God's people would be restored--"they will be called 'sons of the living God.'" That is how Paul can use this passage in reference to the Gentiles. He is NOT wrenching Hosea out of context.

I would also refer you to Acts, which I think is aware of Paul's program to bring the lost tribes home.

Why is Paul arrested in the Temple? It is clearly because of his association with the Gentiles (cf. Acts 26:28). Before King Agrippa Paul even explains his mission as a mission to the Gentiles. Relating his vision of the Lord, he explains:
"The Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles—to whom I send you" (Acts 26:15-17).

At the end of the book we read Paul preaching: "Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (Acts 28:28).

But here's what's fascinating. Paul's also understands his mission in terms of the pan-Israelite restoration. Note what Paul says to Agrippa in Acts 26:6-7:
"And now I stand here on trial for hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king!"

Note: Paul's arrest for his Gentile association is ultimately wrapped up in his ministry to the twelve tribes. Wow! Also see Acts 9:15, where Paul's ministry is described in this way: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel..." Paul is going to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and the sons of Israel.

So much more could be said. Paul goes on to talk about the fact that he has been arrested because of his belief in the resurrection. Clearly this is a reference to Jesus' resurrection. But do not forget that for ancient Jews resurrection was also an image frequently used to describe the restoration of the twelve tribes (e.g., cf. Ezek 37:1-14; Hos 6:1-2). In fact, as James Scott observes, in the ancient literature, the Greek term diaspora was not first used as a reference to "scattered" Israel. It primarily has the meaning of "decomposition" of a body after death. [See James Scott, “Exile and the Self-Understanding of Diaspora Jews,” in Exile: Old Testament, Jewish and Christian Conceptions (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 178-179. So Jesus' resurrection would likely have carried the further restoration implications.

Wish I had more time, but I've got to get back to the dissertation.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mt. Sinai, the Temple and the Lord's Supper

I highly recommend John Davies, A Royal Priesthood: Literary and Intertextual Perspectives on an Image of Israel in Exodus 19:6 (JSOTSup, 395; London: T & T Clark, 2004)--an excellent treatment of the Exodus material.

Among other things, I love what he says on page 137: “The events of Exodus 19-24 seem to serve as a paradigm for that cult, or to put it another way, the sanctuary cult models what it means for Israel to be a royal priesthood.”
He's right on. In fact, a close analysis of Exodus' account of the Sinai experience reveals something ancient Jews made more explicit in later works, namely, that Sinai was a proto-Temple.
Let me explain.
The graded holiness of the Tabernacle (i.e., the holy of holies [=most holy], the holy place, and the outer court [=least holy] reflects the Sinai experience. Most of the Israelites remained at the foot of the mountain (Exod 19:12, 23). The leaders were permitted to ascend upwards (Exod 19:22). However, Moses alone was allowed access into the cloud at the top (Exod 24:2). See Mary Douglas, Leviticus as Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 59:
“Both Sinai and the Tabernacle evidence a tripartite division. The summit corresponds to the inner sanctum, or Holy of Holies. The second zone, partway up the mountain, is the equivalent of the Tabernacle’s outer sanctum, or Holy Place. The third zone, at the foot of the mountain, is analogous to the outer court. As with the Tabernacle, the three distinct zones of Sinai feature three gradations of holiness in descending order. Just as Moses alone may ascend to the peak of the mountain, so all but one are barred from the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle.
(Of course, implicit in this is another idea made explicit in later Jewish literature--Moses’ priesthood!)
Likewise, see Göran Larsson, Bound for Freedom: The Book of Exodus in Jewish and Christian Traditions (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1999), 134:
“Just as here at Sinai, there came to be an area to which all of Israel had access, another reserved for the priests, and finally an inner ‘holy of holies’ into which only the high priest could enter… The model for this division is found already here, and the tabernacle becomes an important way of carrying the Sinai experience forward during the subsequent wanderings…”
Key to all of this is the covenant ratification ceremony of Exodus 24--a passage Jesus' likely alludes to at the Last Supper:
Mark 14:23: "And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (cf. Matt 26:28).

Exod 24:8:
"And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” [Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on this verse reads, "This is the blood of the covenant"].
Much could be said here [wait for my dissertation!], but suffice it to say, if Jesus is linking the Eucharist with Exodus 24 the implications are huge.
If the Sinai experience was a Temple experience in which God's presence came to be with His people, how much more real is God's presence with His people in the Eucharistic celebration?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rediscovering the Priesthood of Jesus

“The priestly aspect of Jesus’ teaching, largely ignored by ‘critical scholarship’ and its Protestant bent, offensive to that Christianity which wishes Jesus to be done with Jewish forms, and invisible to that Judaism which relies on the Rabbis for its vocabulary, is a network of meanings. That network, once recognized, will establish its own coordinates of significance.”
--Bruce Chilton, The Temple of Jesus: His Sacrificial Program within a Cultural History of Sacrifice (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992), x.

“In general, priesthood has been marginalized in modern biblical studies. In the Old Testament the priesthood—its ordination, clothing, sacrificial and other responsibilities—is described with considerable detail; within the Pentateuch (Exodus-Numbers), in the works of the Chronicler and in other texts (e.g. Ezekiel, Zechariah 3–6, Malachi, Joel). But Old Testament scholarship has sometimes judged such material a lamentable decline in Israelite religion from the pure faith of the prophets and the Deuteronomist into a post-exilic obsession with cultic order and institutional religiosity… That antipathy has, until the postmodern resurgence of interest in metaphor, story, drama and sacrament, been validated by the modern fear of mystery, allegory and ritual (a.k.a. ‘magic’) and myth. Happily, Old Testament scholarship is now more attentive to these aspects of biblical religion and, thanks in particular to the leavening influence of Jewish members of the academy, the vital contribution of the priesthood and priestly theology for biblical religion is at last receiving the attention it deserves.”
--Crispin H. T. Fletcher-Louis, “Jesus as the High Priestly Messiah: Part 1,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 4/2 (2006): 156.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Why Was Jesus Blindfolded?

This was a post I wanted to write during Holy Week but never got around to it.

It's often overlooked because there's so much else in the Passion narrative to think about, but there's a reference to the fact that Jesus was blindfolded by the guards. Here's what Luke says:
Luke 22:63-65: Now the men who were holding Jesus mocked him and beat him; 64 they also blindfolded him and asked him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65 And they spoke many other words against him, reviling him.
Why did they blindfold Jesus and mock him about prophesying?

I would like to suggest that it had to do with an ancient interpretation of Isaiah's description of the messiah.

In Isaiah 11 we read a description of a coming Davidic king whom ancient Jews understood as the Messiah, as, for example, the Dead Sea Scrolls attest (cf. e.g., 1Q28b 5).
Isa 11:1-4: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
The prophecy is very clear that the Messiah will not judge by what he sees or by what he hears. It also describes the Messiah as having powerful breath--it slays the wicked.

That this passage played a key role in ancient Jewish expectations about the coming Messiah is clear from the accounts of Simon bar Kokhba, a Jewish revolutionary of the early second century. Simon convinced many that he was the Messiah and drew quite a following. The Temple had been destroyed, but Simon seems to have promised that he would liberate Jerusalem from the Romans and even get it rebuilt. In fact, the famous Rabbi Aqiba was even counted as one of his followers.

Why was he so popular?

Well, for one thing, according to rabbinic tradition, the famous Aqiba held Simon to be the messiah because he believed Bar Kohkba was able to perform miraculous signs (cf. y. Ta‘an. 68d; also cf. Mishneh Torah, Melakhim 11:3).

Like what?

Jerome would later testimony that Simon “fanned a lighted blade of straw in his mouth with puffs of breath so as to give the impression that he was spewing out flames” (Rufinus 3.31; PL 23.480). This certainly seems to tap into Isaiah's vision of a Messiah with powerful breath.
What happened to Bar Kohkba? Well, he was eventually revealed as a fraud. Here's the story:
“Bar [Kokhba] reigned two and a half years, and then said to the Rabbis, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They answered, ‘Of Messiah it is written that he smells and judges: let us see whether he [Bar Kokhba] can do so.’ When they saw that he was unable to judge by the scent, they slew him” (cf. also m. Ta‘an. 4:6; b. Git. 57a-b; Lam. Rab. 2:2 §4).
Where did the rabbis get the idea that the Messiah would judge by scent and not by seeing or hearing? The most likely answer is that this idea emerged out of Isaiah's prophecy: "he shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear… .”

So why was it that Jesus was blindfolded? I would suggest that the Jewish guards were likely mocking Jesus, who refused to give them a spectacle of his power for their amusement. Note by the way that the blindfolded beating of Jesus is closely associated with his standing before Caiaphas who asks him about his messianic identity, which follows next in Luke 22:66-71.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Passover and the Domestic Temple

According to the Old Testament prescriptions one had to eat the Passover in the Temple. This is clear from Deuteronomy16:2-7:
"And you shall offer the passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock or the herd, at the place which the Lord will choose, to make his name dwell there . . . 7 And you shall boil it and eat it at the place which the Lord your God will choose; and in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents.
The language here regarding "the place which the Lord will choose" is clearly a reference to the future Temple. Prescriptions for this Temple are found earlier in the book of Deuteronomy:
"But when you go over the Jordan, and live in the land which the Lord your God gives you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you live in safety, 11 then to the place which the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, thither you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the offering that you present, and all your votive offerings which you vow to the Lord" (Deut 12:10-11)
In fact, that Deuteronomy 16 was interpreted as indicating that one must eat the Passover at the Temple is confirmed by a number of other ancient texts.

Jub. 49:16-17: “And it is not fitting to eat [the Passover] outside of the sanctuary of the Lord, but facing the sanctuary of the Lord. And all the people of the congregation of Israel will observe it in its (appointed) time.

11Q19 17:8-9: [Concerning the Passover Meal]: And they shall consume it [atnight] 9 in the courtyards of [the] sanctuary

However, this would mean that the Temple would be absolutely packed at Passover. Josephus tells us that hundreds of thousands come for Passover (cf. Deut 16:16; Jub. 49:21; Josephus, Ant. 17. 214). And in rabbinic tradition, one of the great miracles associated with the Temple was that it was never overcrowded, so that all Israel could worship with plenty of room to bow their heads in prayer (cf. m. Abot. 5:5).

Yet, as is abundantly clear from other texts we know in fact that the Passover was not eaten by Jews in the Temple.
Indeed, the the rabbinic laws simply stipulate that it must simply eaten within Jerusalem (cf. Sipre Num. 9:10 (69), m. Pesah 7:9). The boundaries were extended--thus if the paschal lamb taken outside of the city it had to be burned (m. Pesah. 7:9). One had to remain in Jerusalem during Passover night (Sipre Deut. 16:7 [134]; Sipre Num. 151; t. Pesah. 8:8 ) though one was allowed to retire to a sleeping place outside the city after midnight, the hour the Israelites had left Egypt (t. Pesah. 8:17) [1]
Here then we have a great example of how the holiness of the Temple was extended to the entire city--though it seems that most texts that relate to the idea seem to talk about the eschatological age (e.g., Zech 14:20-21).
Moreover, according the rabbinic writing one would simply eat the Passover as part of a haburah, a designated group which functioned as a “household” (cf. Mek. 12:46). The amazing thing is that the household seems to function as a kind of micro-temple.
Interestingly enough it seems that on Passover then the family or the haburah was turned into a domestic Temple, since the rules outlined in Deuteronomy became applied to the household.
Something analogous to this is found in Philo, where Passover is linked not only with the idea of the domestic temple but also with the idea of Israel's common priesthood.
Philo, Special Laws, 2.146, 147-149: [in the first Passover] they sacrificed at that time themselves out of their exceeding joy, without waiting for priests… (147) But those who are in the habit of turning plain stories into allegory, argue that the passover figuratively represents the purification of the soul... (148) And each house is at that time invested with the character and dignity of a temple, the victim being sacrificed so as to make a suitable feast for the man who has provided it and of those who are collected to share in the feast, being all duly purified with holy ablutions…
It is no wonder than that the early Jewish Christians understood what Christ had come to do--he had come to make the Church His Temple and its members part of the royal priesthoood (cf. 1 Pet 2:4-10).
[1] Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus (3d ed.; London: SCM, 1966) 43, n. 2;55, 75; idem., Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus (rev. ed.; London: SCM, 1969), 115-16.; Gustaf Dalman, Jesus-Jeshua (London: S.P.C.K., 1929) 93-95. This, of course, has huge implications for understanding the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, where Jesus very clearly eats a meal within the city, though he apparently retires to a place outside of it (Bethany prior to feast, cf. John 12:1; cf. Mark 11:11 and the Mount of Olives afterwards, cf. Jn 18:1; Matt 26:30). Such actions only make sense if Jesus was eating the Passover. But I digress...