Thursday, July 30, 2009

Video for Sunday's Lectionary Readings

Liturgy Reflection: Sunday, August 2, 2009 from JP Catholic University on Vimeo.

Why Jesus Multiplied Loaves AND fish

In the new series of videos on the Sunday readings we've been making at JP Catholic, we've been focusing on the Feeding of the Five Thousand and John 6. If you haven't seen it you can find the latest one here. Here I want to go a little deeper than I'm able to go in the videos.

Feeding of the Multitudes and Elisha
Scholars generally recognize that Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish evokes the story of Elisha’s miracle of the loaves in 2 Kings 4:
2 Kings 2:42–44: A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley, and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” 43 But his servant said, “How am I to set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” 44 So he set it before them. And they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.
There are many parallels between the two stories:
―As bread (ἄρτους) plus another item is brought (ἤνεγκεν) to Elisha (cf. 2 Kgs 4:22; 2 Kdmgs 4:22), so too the bread (ἄρτους) plus the fish (cf. Matt 14:17-18; Mark 6:38; Luke 9:13) are to be brought to Jesus (φέρετέ only Matt 14:18).
―As Elisha instructs his servant to give the men the bread: “Give to the people and let them eat”: (Δότε τῷ λαῷ καὶ ἐσθιέτωσαν) (cf. 2 Kgs 4:22; 4 Kgdms 4:42), Jesus instructs the disciples to give the bread (and fish) to the crowds (δότε αὐτοῖς ὑμεῖς φαγεῖν) (Matt 14:19; Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16).
―As the servant of Elisha protests because there is not enough for everyone (cf. 2 Kgs 4:23; 4 Kgdms 4:43), the disciples inform Jesus that there is not enough food protest because there is not enough for everyone (cf. Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13-14; implied in Matt 14:15).
―As in 2 Kings 4 where the men eat and food is left over (2 Kgs 4:24), the people eat and food left over (cf. Matt 14:20; Mark 6:43; Luke 9:17).

Feeding of the Multitudes and Israel in the Wilderness
But scholars also recognize that the story of Jesus’ miracle seems to evoke Exodus traditions, in particular, the episode of God feeding the Israelites in the wilderness with the manna and quail. In his recent monograph, Peter-Ben Smit, explains “. . . the intertextual connections of the feedings and the Exodus traditions are so strong that they should be assumed to be of significance. A narration of a miraculous abundance of bread in a lonely place in the context of a prophetic movement is hard not to associate with the Exodus.” [1] Indeed, the allusion to the manna story in the account of the feeding of the multitudes is widely recognized.[2]

Note the elements common to both stories: language of “wilderness” (ἔρημός; cf. Exod 16:1, 3, 10, 14; Matt 14:13, 15; Mark 6:32. 35; Luke 9:12); the description of the need for food (cf. Exod 16:2-3; Matt 14:15; Mark 6:35; Luke 9:12); the giving of miraculous “bread” (ἄρτους; cf. Exod 16:3, 4, 8, 12, 15, 22; Matt 14:17-18; Mark 6:38; Luke 9:13)[3] is provided with another item (cf. the quail in Exodus 16; the fish in the Gospels); the food is gathered up into receptacles (cf. Exod 16:17; cf. Matt 14:20; Mark 6:43; Luke 9:17). In addition, as in the Gospel story, we find that no matter how much or how little manna the people gathered they never ran out (cf. Exod 16:18). The major difference here is that in the wilderness there was no manna left over as in the narrative of the feeding of the five thousand.

Indeed, by evoking Exodus Jesus likely signifies eschatological hopes, which were frequently linked with New Exodus imagery.[4] Josephus reports that a number of “imposters” (go/hv; cf. Ant. 20.97; 20.160) arose who apparently made claims that they would bring about the eschatological victory of Israel. He tells us that many were led astray by them because of their promises of “marvels and signs” (Ant. 20.168; cf. B. J. 2.258-60; 6.286-87)―terminology Josephus elsewhere associates with the Exodus (cf. Ant. 2.327).[5] In fact, the term "signs" is used primarily to describe those miracles Moses performed to authenticate his prophetic identity before the people of Israel. These figures would often perform signs reminiscent of Moses and Joshua. For example, Josephus tells us about a man named Theudas, who gathered the people to the Jordan River, promising to make it part (Ant. 20.97-99). There was also a figure known as “the Egyptian,”―remember, Moses was raised in the house of Pharaoh!―who stood on the Mt. of Olives promising to bring down the walls of the city and then led followers out to the desert with promise of the performance of signs and wonders (Ant. 20.167-68), e.g., like Joshua. Such actions evoking such traditions were clearly meant to signal eschatological hopes―e.g., the “New Exodus”.

By performing a sign reminiscent of Israel’s desert wanderings Jesus thus likely signals his intention to fulfill eschatological hopes. Here we might add one further detail: Jesus’ instruction to the disciples to have the crowds sit in groups―a detail only present in Mark and Luke (Mark 6:39//Luke 9:15). This element also seems to evoke Exodus traditions. Moses had arranged the people into groups of a thousand, five hundred, one hundred and ten in Exodus 18:25 and Numbers 31:14. Indeed, that the Qumranites were also concerned with such groupings, associating it them with the organization of Israel in the eschatological age (cf. 1QS 2:21-22; CD 13:1; 1QM 4:1–5:17; 1QSa 1:14–15, 28–29), further supports the idea that the reference in the Gospels relates to New Exodus imagery.

The Fish and the Manna
But what of the fish? Is there any significance to their presence in the story?

The appearance of the fish may also be seen as an allusion to the story of the manna. Fish are closely linked with the gift of the quail in Numbers 11. The account begins with people complaining about not having the fish they ate in Egypt (cf. Num 11:5). In Numbers 11:22, Moses tells the Lord,
“The people among whom I number six hundred thousand on foot; and thou hast said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!’  Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to suffice them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?”
In response to this, the Lord, “…brought quails from the sea” (Num 11:31). In connection with this it is worth noting that Wisdom 19:12 describes the Lord providing the quail, which “came up from the sea” (ἐκ θαλάσσης).[6] The quails then are described almost as sea creatures, i.e., fish.[7] The giving of fish to the Israelites is also associated with the wilderness traditions in Sipre Num. 11:22, where they are said to have come from Miriam’s well.

One other note about the fish. Scholars have recognized that, as in other places where table-fellowship figures prominent in Jesus’ ministry, the miracle of the feeding of the multitude seems to evoke imagery of the eschatological banquet.[8] Some scholars have noted that the eschatological banquet itself may be modeled on the covenant meal celebrated at Mt. Sinai after the Exodus (cf. Exod 24:9-11).[9] Indeed, there is other evidence that traditions relating to the eschatological banquet were tied to Exodus hopes. We have already noted that the organization of the people into groups in Mark and Luke evoke the wilderness traditions. Strikingly, these groupings were specifically used by the Dead Sea Community to describe the messianic banquet (cf. 1QSa 2:11–22). Furthermore, other texts relate that the people of God will receive manna in the eschatological age (cf. 2 Bar. 29:8[10]; Eccl. Rab. 1:9[11]; Tg. on Song of Songs 4:5[12]).

The emphasis on the abundance of food provided by Jesus (e.g., twelve baskets of leftovers), evokes texts closely associated with the tradition of the messianic banquet in which the eschatological age is linked with the Lord’s provision of an abundance of food (Isa 23:18; 62:8; Jer 31:10-14; Ezek 36:29; Joel 2:19; 2 Baruch 29:3-30:1).[13]

Given the presence of fish in the miracle it is interesting to note that that later sources preserve traditions describe the meal of the eschatological banquet as consisting of the sea monster Leviathan (cf. 2 Bar. 29.3-8; cf. 4 Ezra 6.49-52; b. B Bat. 74b-75a). In light of this it is possible that Jesus’ act of providing not only loaves but fish alludes to these traditions.[14] In fact, Marcus who points out that the prophecy in 2 Baruch not only envisions the eating of the Leviathan but also the manna (2 Bar. 29.3–8).[15] He goes on to point out, “This passage has several other noteworthy parallels to our story: the revelation of the Messiah, the marvelous fruitfulness of the ground… and the statement near the end that ‘those who are hungry will enjoy themselves.”

[1] See Smit, Fellowship and Food in the Kingdom (WUNT 2/234; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2008): 69–71.
[2] See Green, The Gospel of Luke, 363; Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, 191-96; Collins, Mark, 322; Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 402-5; Joel Marcus, Mark 1:417; France, Gospel of Mark, 262; Nolland, Luke 1―9:20, 442; Ludger Schenke, Die wunderbare Brotvermehrung: Die neutestamentlichen in Erzählungen und ihre Bedeutung (Würzburg: Echter, 1983), 104–107. Such allusions were also caught be ancient interpreters (cf. Cyril of Alendarida, Comm. On Luke 48).
[3] The connection between the manna and the bread is, of course, underscored in the Johannine account (cf. John 6:25-34).
[4] The term has now become part of the academic vocabulary. See Pitre, Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile, 139, who writes that in the prophetic literature, “the future return from exile is ividly depicted in terms of a New Exodus”. He cites numerous examples (Hos 2:14-23; Isa 40:1-11; Isa 52:1-12; Jer 3:15-24; 16:14-15; 23:5-8; 30-31). Likewise, see Andrew C. Brunson, Psalm 118 in the Gospel of John: An Intertextual Study on the New Exodus (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 154: “The widespread and general hope of deliverance and restoration can be divided into three distinct yet interlinked categories which account for all of the expectations: the return from exile; the defeat of Israel’s enemies; and the return of Yahweh to live and reign among his people. I will refer to this complex of restoration hope as the New Exodus, a phrase which although not specifically found in the ancient texts yet adequately describes the eschatological program presented by the Prophets and also ties these longings to the paradigmatic deliverance in Israel’s past.”
[5] In fact, the term shmeĩa is used primarily to describe those miracles Moses performed to authenticate his prophetic identity before the people of Israel. See the discussion in Rebecca Gray, Prophetic Figures in Late Scond Temple Judaism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 125-130.
[6] See Farrer, A Study in St. Mark, 291; Richardson, “The Feeding of the Five Thousand,” 145; Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, 591 n 69.
[7] This is pointed out by Marcus, Mark, 1:411; Nolland, Luke, 1:442.
[8] See, e.g., Nineham, Mark, 178: “Here perhaps we come near the original significance of the incident; it may have been intended by Jesus as an anticipation, more or less sacramental in character, of the Messianic Banquet, designed to communication his conviction that he was the one men would soon see presiding over the Messianic Banquet, and also perhaps to consecrate those who shared the food as partakers in the coming messianic feast, as to given them a guarantee that they who had shared his table in the time of his obscurity would share it in the time of his glory.” See also, e.g., Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 402–3; Collins, Mark, 322–23; Fenton, Gospel of Matthew, 242; Healy, Gospel of Mark, 128; etc.
[9] A connection that seems to have been established in Jewish tradition.
[10]“And it will happen at that time that the treasury of manna will come down again from on high, and they will eat of it in those years because these are they who will have arrived at the consummation of time.”
[11] “As the former redeemer caused manna to descend, as it is stated, Behold, I will cause to rain bread from heaven for you (Ex. XVI, 4), so will the latter Redeemer cause manna to descend, as it is stated. May he be as a rich cornfield [tsp is read as ttp ‘pieces of bread] (Ps. LXXII, 16).” Cited from A. Cohen, trans., Midrash Rabbah: Ecclesiastes (vol. 8 of 10; London/New York: The Soncino Press, 1983), 33.
[12] “Your two deliverers, who will deliver you, the Messiah son of David and the Messiah son of Ephraim, are like Moses and Aaron, the sons of Jochebed, who are compared to two fawns, twins of a gazelle. In virtue of their meritorious deeds they were feeding the people of the House of Israel for forty years in the wilderness with manna, plump fowl, and water from Miriam’s well.” Cited from Philip S. Alexander, The Targum of Canticles: Translated, with a Critical Introduction, Apparatus, and Notes (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2003), 135.
[13] Boring, Mark, 187: “That so much food was not only left over, but left behind is another indication of eschatological extravagance. The disciples gathering the fragments is a counter-picture of the Mosaic manna, which could not be preserved (Exod 16:4–5; 13–21...), and portrays the messianic times, when hunger will be replaced not merely by adequacy but by extravagance (cf., e.g., 2 Bar. 29.5).”
[14] Marcus (Mark, 1:410) who points out that the prophecy in 2 Baruch not only envisions the eating of the Leviathan but also the manna (2 Bar 29.3–8). He goes on to point out, “This passage has several other noteworthy parallels to our story: the revelation of the Messiah, the marvelous fruitfulness of the ground… and the statement near the end that ‘those who are hungry will enjoy themselves.” In addition, see Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, 591 n 69; Davies and Allison, Matthew, 481.
[15] Mark, 1:410.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Video on Sunday's Readings (17th Sunday Ordinary Time)

Nate really did a great video for this Sunday's readings. Check it out:

Liturgy Reflection: Sunday, July 26, 2009 from JP Catholic University on Vimeo.

Please, help us spread the word about these videos! Feel free to embed them on your site! You can also subscribe to the RSS feed for the video series here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Momentous New Publication

I just received a free copy in the mail (thanks Doubleday!) of what is truly a momentous publication: the new Catholic Bible Dictionary, edited by Scott Hahn (Doubleday, 2009), and running at almost 1000 double-columned pages. It's fantastic. From this day forward, I will be making this volume the first book that all of my students purchase. In addition to having everything you usually expect from a Bible dictionary (names, places, maps, definitions, etc.) here are just a few of the reasons everyone--both Catholic and Protestant Bible students--should consider this a must-own.
  1. It's Catholic. There are literally dozens of Protestant and ecumenical Bible dictionaries, but this is the first uniquely Catholic Bible dictionary to be published in almost 50 years! (In English, at least). The last was written by the Jesuit John L. McKenzie in 1965, compiled on 3-by-5 notecards! (I knew one of his students.) This one has Scott Hahn as its general editor, and Scott's unique mastery of Scripture and theology shows on every page. As such, it is a unique compendium of treatments of biblical topics from a distinctively Catholic perspective, in a concise format packed with data. If you're a Catholic or Protestant whose ever wondered about the biblical bases for distinctively Catholic beliefs, then this Bible Dictionary is a one-stop-shop that contains references and arguments you simply won't find in any other Bible dictionary in print (including McKenzie). See, e.g., the articles on "Mary," which goes through the biblical evidence for Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant, Queen Mother of the Davidic Kingdom, the New Eve, and a Type of the Church. Other examples are the articles on the biblical bases of "Papal Primacy," "The Eucharist," "Purgatory," the "Canon," etc.
  2. It's Packed with Information, including Long Articles on Major Subjects. This is no tiny pocket dictionary; again, it runs almost 1000 pages, double columns. One of the frustrations I have with many Bible dictionaries is that there's either too little information or more than you want (e.g., sometimes the ABD). This one's just right. It's meaty without being intimidating. I especially love the long articles on major subjects; they really are extremely well done and allow a person to dive in deep without being overwhelmed with data. This is a sign of a great editor--knowing when to keep short what needs to be kept short and when to give space to issues that need a fuller discussion. See, for example, the fantastic articles on "Biblical Criticism," "Inspiration", "Interpretation of the Bible," "Sacrifice," "Temple." The articles on "Covenant" and "Inspiration" are phenomenal, and worth the price of the whole book.
  3. It Successfully Integrates Scripture and Theology. In the biblical guild, there's a whole lot of talk about "bridging the great divide" between biblical studies and dogmatic/systematic theology. But we still tend to keep producing Bible dictionaries without much theology and Theological dictionaries without much Scripture. Not so with the Catholic Bible Dictionary: it integrates the two seamlessly and authentically, in a way that is both refreshing and (in my humble opinion) way ahead of its time.  Again, check out the articles on "Inspiration," "Jesus Christ," "Temple," and "Typology" for a taste of this.
I could go on and on here, but I've got to go to bed. I hope this little bit whets your appetite for purchasing the Catholic Bible Dictionary. I haven't been this excited about a resource that I could both learn from myself and use with my students in years. God bless Scott Hahn for putting this thing together.
Oh, and one final plus: it's got a stinking gorgeous cover (kudos to the Doubleday cover art team!) and a great layout--it's 1 and 1/2 spaced, so no eye-headaches like most Bible dictionaries. It's actually pleasant to read this thing, which I can't say about most of my Bible dictionaries, which go right back on the shelf as soon as I'm done with them.

If you've ever wanted to understand what the Catholic Church really teaches about Sacred Scripture and what a truly Catholic biblical theology really looks like, then this is the Bible Dictionary for you.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Goodacre's "Dating Game" 6: The Historicity of the Cornerstone Saying

***UPDATE***: As Mark Goodacre pointed out in the comment-box, the title of this post may be taken as inferring that he does not accept the historicity of the stone-saying. In fact, he has not dismissed its authenticity. In no way do I want to attribute to him a position that he does not take. The reason I address it here is that I believe it has crucial significance for our understanding of the historical Jesus, which, in turn, has ramifications for our understanding of the purpose of the temple-theme in Mark's Gospel--a matter that ulimately has significance for dating of the Gospel as a whole.

The Cornerstone Saying (Psalm 118:22-23)
Having examined Jesus’ Parable of the Vineyard an its authenticity we now turn our attention to the key allusion to Psalm 118:22–23 in Mark 12:10–11:

“‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
The major arguments against the authenticity of the saying can be summed up quite easily:
1. This passage is used in Christological statements in early Christian works (e.g., Acts 4:11; Eph 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-8; Barn. 6:2-4; Justin, Dial. 36.1). In sum, the saying fails to meet the criterion of dissimilarity to Christianity. Thus this passage appears more likely to be the product of the community’s reflection than the teaching of the historical Jesus.
2. The quotation’s agrees with the LXX. This seems to point to a setting in the early Church.

These arguments however can be easily countered.
1. The criteria of authenticity cannot simply be used negatively. In fact, it is possible that the Church’s use of Scripture represents the historical effect of Jesus.
2. The second argument ignores possibility that an original quotation has come to be assimilated to the LXX, as has happened in, e.g., the allusion to Isaiah 6:9-10 in Matthew 13:10-17 (cf. Mark 4:12).

In fact, notwithstanding the early Christian use of the psalm, a number of scholars have explained that there are good reasons to believe the saying may be authentic.[1]

Multiple attestation. Not only does the logion appear in all three Synoptic Gospels, it also appears in Thomas―in all cases it appears at the end of the Parable of the Vineyard. It therefore appears deeply embedded in the tradition.

Dissimilar to Christian usage. The most common reason the saying’s authenticity is dismissed is that Psalm 118:22 was often used by the early Christians. But it should be pointed out that there is no explicit mention of the resurrection. What the psalm primarily points to is vindication. Indeed, nothing in the saying precludes the possibility of a dominical origin. In fact, the Psalm was well-known to ancient Jews, who frequently linked it to eschatological hopes.[2] In the Targumim it even links David to the “stone”.[3] The language of “builders” was also connected to the Jewish leadership (cf. 1QIsaa 54:13; CD 4:19; 8:12; b. Šabbat 114a; b. Berakot 64a; Song Rab. 1.5-3; Exod. Rab. 33.10; Targum Pss. 118:22-28; cf. also Acts 4:11), to whom Jesus is presented as speaking against in the immediate context.[4] Its use here is therefore entirely historically plausible.

In fact, we would propose that it is difficult to believe that Jesus only spoke of his coming death―the authenticity of which we discussed in our last post in this series―without some sort of word about final vindication. Are we really to believe that Jesus foretold his own death simply in terms of ultimate defeat? This picture is not only improbable, it would seem absurd. In light of this we can say the following: if Jesus expected to die―and as we have seen, this seems probable―it is also likely that he anticipated being vindicated in some sort of way, as the allusion to Psalm 118:22 indicates. In this then the saying is also coherent, particularly with other sayings which speak about future vindication.

The above point is so powerful it needs to be restated to underscore its weight. As we have explained, it is difficult to hold that Jesus expected to die but did not envision some sort of vindication. Given that reality, supposing Jesus actually did expect to be killed and later vindicated, we might ask another question: which other Gospel saying relating such expectations would one point to as being more likely authentic than this one? Here we can point out that among all the sayings in the Synoptics regarding Jesus’ future vindication, the well-attested saying about the stone has arguably the strongest claim to authenticity since it lacks any explicit reference to the resurrection. If this saying is rejected then one is left to defend the highly implausible view that while Jesus likely expected to be vindicated in some way the Gospels preserve no sayings of his which point to ultimate victory after his rejection.

Nonetheless, while Jesus’ resurrection is never explicitly mentioned, it does seem hard to believe that the saying is not to be related to this idea. After all, if Jesus’ rejection is to be understood in terms of death, one wonders how Jesus would have expected to be vindicated apart from a resurrection. Yet even if the resurrection is in view, such a recognition would not necessarily signal a Christian context. Clearly the hope of the resurrection of the dead preceded Christianity in Judaism.[5] In fact Jesus speaks of the resurrection in other sayings, widely regarded as authentic, which do not even speak of his own fate directly, such as the logion in Matthew 8:11-12//Luke 13:28-29[6] and his response to the question posed by the Sadducees (cf. Mark 12:18-27 and par.).[7]

Indeed, there are still other reasons to see the saying as authentic.

A Semitic wordplay. The saying comes on the heels of the story of the Parable of the Vineyard where the “son” is killed by the wicked tenants. By alluding to the “stone” saying there is a well-known semitic wordplay on words for “son” and “stone”. That the wordplay derives from a Hebraic linguistic tradition speaks strongly against the idea that it originated later in the Church.[8] In addition, the argument used by some that the wordplay would have been incoherent to an Aramaic-speaking audience is simply not sustainable since it is attested in the Greek text of Josephus’ work, which was first written in Aramaic.[9]

Continued cultic allusion. As mentioned in the exegesis of this passage, the saying can be seen as flowing naturally from the story; it is not unrelated. For one thing, the “stone” in Psalm 118 likely had cultic associations as did Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the vineyard. In fact, without the allusion it is hard to understand how the parable would have been understood as being directed at the Jewish leaders.[10]

Jesus and the Temple
The sayings’ authenticity fits well also with Jesus’ larger restoration project. As we have noted, by linking himself to the imagery of the cornerstone Jesus appears to associating himself with cultic imagery. In fact, as we have noted the concept of the eschatological temple played a key role in Jewish restoration hopes. It was to the temple that the tribes would be gathered. Indeed, it would seem that a restoration without a temple is inconceivable in Jewish literature. Moreover, such hopes were also connected to Davidic messianic hopes (e.g., Ezek 37:24-28; Zech 6:11; Amos 9:11; 4Q174 I 1:21:2).

More specifically, we should recall our treatment of Jesus’ temple action above. There we noted the presence of both eschatological temple hopes (=Isa 56:7) and an apparent allusion to the Jerusalem temple’s destruction (=Jer 7:11). This juxtaposition of imagery is odd: Jesus seems to be indicating that the temple would be destroyed while at the same time alluding to a passage which clearly placed the sanctuary at the center of the restoration.

This leaves the reader with one burning question: if the Herodian temple is not the eschatological temple, what is? The stone saying―which in all three Synoptic Gospels occurs after a parable told in the temple in the immediate aftermath of this demonstration―thus provides the answer to this critical question. In identifying himself with the cornerstone of Psalm 118 Jesus seems to link temple-building imagery in some way to his future vindication, most likely understood as in some way indicating his resurrection.

It seems then historically plausible to imagine that Jesus’ vision included the idea that he himself would in some way be associated with the eschatological temple.

This is hugely significant―as I will explain in the next post in this series.

[1] See, e.g., M. Black, “The Christological Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament,” NTS 18 (1971-72): 1-14; Snodgrass, Parable of the Wicked Tenants, 63-65; idem., Stories with Intent, 289-90; Hans Friedrich Bayer, Jesus’ Predictions of Vindication and Resurrection: The Provenance, Meaning and Correlation of the Synoptic Predictions (WUNT 2/20; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1986), 105; Charles A. Kimball, “Jesus’ Exposition of Scripture in Luke (20:9-19): An Inquiry in Light of Jewish Hermeneutics,” BBR (1993): 89-92 [77-92]; Gundry, Mark, 689; Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables, 251; Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 497-501; Brooke, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament, 256-58.; Bock, Luke, 2:1245; Kim, “Jesus―The Son of God, the Stone, the Son of Man, and the Servant,” 135-38; Evans, Mark 8:27―16:20, 228-30; Bird, Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission, 158-59.
[2] The first line of Psalm 118 repeats the words of the song sung by those who come offering the todah in the eschatological ingathering in Jeremiah 33:10-11. The eschatological interpretation of the Hallel is also found in the Talmud: “The prophets among them enacted that the Israelites should recite [the Hallel] at every epoch and at every trouble―may it not come to them!―and when they are redeemed, the will recite it for their deliverance” (b. Pes. 117a). See also Midr. Ps. 118. For further examples and discussion see Brunson, Psalm 118 in the Gospel of John, 76-82.
[3] See the Targum of Psalm 118:22-23 which reads, “The architects forsook the youth among the sons of Jesse, but he was worthy to be appointed king and ruler. ‘This has been said from before the Lord,’ said the architects. ‘It is wonderful in our presence,’ said the sons of Jesse.” Of course, as we have seen, Jesus likely saw himself as the eschatological Davidide. The association therefore inferred between himself and the stone not necessarily imply a Christian setting―ancient Jews were perfectly capable of linking the psalm to Davidic traditions. See Kim, “Jesus―The Son of God, the Stone, the Son of Man, and the Servant,” 136 who cites B. Gärtner, “tali’a als Messiasbezeichnung,” STK 18/19 (1953-54): 99-104. See also Snodgrass, The Parable of the Wicked Tenants, 98-99.
[4] See n. 12 above for primary sources.
[5] See, for example, Isa 26:19; Dan 12:1-3; 2 Macc 7:14, 23, 29; 1 En. 22–27; 92–105; Jub. 23:11; 4 Macc 7:3; 4 Ezra 7:26-42; 2 Bar. 21:23; 30:2-5; Josephus, B.J. 2.154, 165-66; Ant. 18.14, 16, 18; 4 Macc 8-17.
[6] For arguments for the passage’s authenticity see, e.g., Meier, Marginal Jew, 2:311-317.
[7] For an argument for the episode’s authenticity see Davies and Allison, Matthew, 3:223.
[8] See Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, 290.
[9] The world play appears in Josephus, B.J. 5.272. See Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, 277.
[10] See Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, 290: “…the parable needs the quotation. Far from being an early church addition, the quotation is the key to understanding the parable. The problem, unnoticed by most, is that we read the parable and quotation with the knowledge of post-resurrection history, but how would the parable have been heard by Jesus’ Jewish hearers? How do the hearers suddenly discern that the parable is about them… Even without the allusion to Isaiah 5 the listeners would know that the parable was about God and his people, but no Jewish listener would identify himself or herself with the tenants. Rather, the tenants would be evil people, possibly the Romans, who were violating God’s vineyard, his people, or at least the purposes of God with his people. Not until the stone quotation is the impact of the parable made clear, and two features of the quotation are the revealing agents: the well-attested worldplay between ’eben (‘stone’) and ben (‘son’) and the use of ‘builders’ to refer to the religious leaders.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

Reflections on this Sunday's Readings

So here is a new feature you can expect to see each week. This was entirely produced by a student at JP Catholic, Nate Sjogren, a Sophmore. Nate was welcomed into the Catholic Church at the Easter vigil and is very much on fire for his faith. And, yes, at the end of the video you'll note that our school is launching a M.A. program in Biblical Theology. Go to the to learn more!

Liturgy Reflection: Sunday, July 12, 2009 from JP Catholic University on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Worst Book Review Ever. . .

Recently Michael Bird wrote about his soon to be published new book, Are You the One Who Is To Come? (Baker Academic), which I am eagerly looking forward to having on my shelf. It will be a must-read for any scholar doing work on the historical Jesus.

Michael writes,
"But now comes the hard bit, praying that my new baby doesn't get bullied in the book reviews!"

Shortly after reading this I discovered what has to be one of the most devastating book reviews ever.

Let me give you some context.

Last week I was working on the authenticity of the Last Supper. One key article disputing the historicity of the Eucharistic words appeared in a rather prestigious academic journal, New Testament Studies. The article was written by Hyam Maccoby and is entitled “Paul and the Eucharist” [NTS 37 (1991): 260–62].

The article resurrects the old theory from the history of religions school that the Eucharistic words were introduced to the Church by Paul, who formulated the words "This is my body. . . This is my blood. . . " using language from the pagan mystery-cults.

The article was not persuasive to me in the least. For one thing, Maccoby (like all those who appeal to mystery-cults) can furnish very little evidence from Paul's day showing that the Eucharist resembled these pagan practices. Practically all of the information we have about such rites come from a later period.

However, I thought I ought to give Maccoby a fair hearing, after all the journal article format is limited. So I went to check out Maccoby's larger book, The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity (New York: Harper and Row, 1986). Essentially, Maccoby argues here that Paul, not Jesus, should be seen as the primary founder of Christianity. However, the book was even less persuasive than the article. In fact, in the book he asserts that "Lord's Supper" was terminology which was taken directly from the mystery cults. How he knows this he never says. He simply states it without offering any support. Indeed, I set out to research the issue and I could find absolutely no support to support this.

Perhaps that's why he left that claim out of his later journal article on the topic.

So I wondered: Am I just missing the boat here? Is this guy offering really compelling arguments that I'm missing?

Then I read the book reviews. In particular, the review written by John Gager was, well, direct:
“There is a grave, if largely unrecognized, danger in all new departures, for they can take us in either of two directions―forward or backward. This book, I fear, moves us backward in virtually every area. Maccoby’s treatment reads like a (surely unintentional) summary of nineteenth century polemical-apologetic ‘scholarship’ of a liberal Christian variety: Jesus against Paul; Paul as the second (and real) founder of Christianity; Paul as the opponent and falsifier of Judaism; the predominance of influence from Hellenistic mystery cults on Pauline thought. Still, the book might have been redeemed with an ever so slight shift in its self-description. If, instead of representing it as a work of historical scholarship, the author had described it as a piece of historical romance. . . we might have been able to enjoy it as fiction.” [John G. Gager, review of H. Maccoby, The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity, JQR, 79/2-3 (1988-1989): 248 [248-250]:

Phew! Tell us what you really think!

Michael Bird I think can rest easy. He'll never get a review like this.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Why the Government Bailout Failed

Since Jim posted on the mess in Washington, I thought I'd post a link to an especially good special on ABC's news program 20/20: The Big, Bad Bailout.

My wife and I watched it the other night and were blown away--particularly by the first segment. This should be required viewing for all American voters and anyone interested in American politics should watch it. I don't agree with everything Stossel does, but he makes some very good points here.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Last Supper, Targums and "Blood of the Covenant" (2 of 2)

As I mentioned in the last post in this series, the Targumim [--there you go Jim!] of Exodus 24 link the covenant-making sacrifices with “atonement”. Why? Here I am going to “think out loud” a bit, drawing from J. H. Kurtz[1]. Just bear with me.

Of course, scholars usually refrain from posting items such as these because they are worried their ideas will get stolen before they can publish them in an academic journal--but I trust you. . .

Leviticus 17
The connection between the sacrifices of Exodus 24 and atonement language in the Targumim appears to flow naturally from the logic of Leviticus.

To begin with, let us point out that the sacrifices in Exodus from which Moses takes the “blood of the covenant” are explicitly identified as “peace offerings” (שׁלם) (cf. Exod 24:5).

Now, in Leviticus 17 it is said that such sacrifices are to be taken to the Tabernacle. Israelites are not to offer them elsewhere. They must bring them to the Tabernacle for a specific purpose: so that the priest can sprinkle the blood from the victims at the door of the sanctuary. Notice that it is specifically "peace-offerings" (also known as "well-being" offerings) which are explicitly mentioned:
This is to the end that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they slay in the open field, that they may bring them to the Lord, to the priest at the door of the tent of meeting, and slay them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the Lord; 6 and the priest shall sprinkle the blood on the altar of the Lord at the door of the tent of meeting, and burn the fat for a pleasing odor to the Lord. 7 So they shall no more slay their sacrifices for satyrs, after whom they play the harlot. This shall be a statute for ever to them throughout their generations (Lev 17:5–7).
Leviticus 17 then goes on to explain that anyone who does not bring their burnt offerings or sacrifices to the Tabernacle will be cut off from Israel.

And you shall say to them, Any man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice [זבח] and does not bring it to the door of the tent of meeting, to sacrifice it to the Lord; that man shall be cut off from his people (Lev 17:8–9).
Two offerings are specifically mentioned now: the burnt offering and the zebah [זבח]. Has the peace-offering fallen out of the picture? I don't think so. Kurtz points out that within the Pentateuch the term zebah is exclusively used to describe the peace-offering. This suggests that the peace-offering is therefore still in view.

So why is God so insistent that sacrifices be brought to the Tent so that the blood from the victims can be sprinkled? Well, from the following verses it would seem that―at least in part―the command has to do with concern that Israelites not consume the blood of the offering.

If any man of the house of Israel or of the strangers that sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people (Lev 17:10).
With this we've at last reached the critical verse. Here the Lord explains the precise reason for the injunction against drinking blood:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life. 12 Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood” (Lev 17:11–12).
Now here’s my question: given the context, which kind of sacrificial offering is in view here? I would submit that it is possible that since peace-offerings have been in view throughout the chapter the passage was read in connection with those specific sacrifices. Indeed, the concern would make sense: peace-offerings are eaten thus there you have the concern for the blood. So even though peace-offerings are not specifically attached to atonement elsewhere the readers of the Targums could make the connection between them.

In Exodus 24:5 then Israelites offer peace offerings at the covenant ceremony at Sinai. The authors of Targumim made the connection between them and atonement―a connection which could possibly be made in Leviticus 17. In fact, since in Exodus 24 it is the blood (“the blood of the covenant”) that is specifically in view and since in Leviticus 17 blood is specifically tied with atonement (“it is the blood that makes atonement”), the connection was easy to make.

The Last Supper and Atonement Language
How does this relate to the Last Supper? Well, notice that Jesus seems to speak of his blood having an atoning value. This is seen in multiple ways.

1. Jesus' language of his blood being "poured out"--something found in all three Synoptic accounts of the Last Supper evokes the Levitical law code. Not only does it evoke the language of Leviticus 17, but also the fact that the blood of the sacrificial animals brought for atonement had to be "poured out" (cf. Lev 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34).

2. The ritual of pouring out blood is also linked with the Day of Atonement in the Dead Sea Scrolls (cf. 11Q19 15:3; 23:13). These texts provide strong support for the antiquity of the traditions found in the Mishna which also link the pouring out of blood to the Yom Kippur liturgy (cf. m. Yoma 5:4, 7; cf. also b. Yoma 56b). The Talmud explains that the blood was poured from cups (cf. b. Yoma 57b). This may be significant. There is a particularly striking parallel between Jesus’ words and Sirach 50:15, which explain that on the Day of Atonement the duties of the high priest apparently involved “pouring out” (ἐξέχεεν) the “blood of the grape” (αἵματος σταφυλῆς) from a “cup” (σπονδείου) (cf. Sir 50:15). That Jesus has spoken of his “blood” being “poured out” in connection with the wine in the “cup” is strikingly evocative of this text.

3. In Isaiah 53 we read about the Suffering Servant who “poured out his soul to death. . . he bore the sin of many” (Isa 53:12). That atonement imagery is linked to the Suffering Servant is clear. He is explicitly described as a “sin-offering,” who, like the scapegoat of Yom Kippur, is said to “bear iniquities" and "he bore the sin of many" (Isa 53:10, 12). Of course, it is widely accepted that Jesus' saying about his blood being "poured out for many" in Matthew and Mark (cf. Matt 26:27//Mark 14:24) is drawing on this prophecy.

4. In the account of the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul does not mention Jesus’ blood being “poured out.” But this does not mean that he does not see it as having atoning value. It is possible that the very image of Jesus' "blood" would have evoked such imagery for Paul. Expiation is typically associated with Jesus' blood throughout the New Testament books, including in other Pauline letters (cf. Rom 3:25; 5:9; Eph 1:7; 2:13; Col 1:20; Heb 9:12, 14; 10:19, 29, 12:24; 13:12; 1 Pet 1:2, 19; 1 John 1:7; 5:6, 8; Rev 1:5; 5:9; 7:14; 12:11). Confirmation that Paul has this in mind may be seen in the following.

5. That Jesus’ dies for others is explicitly stated in the Lukan version of the bread-saying: "This is my body which is given for you" (τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διδόμενον; Luke 22:19). While Paul simply has "for you" (ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν), omitting "given" (διδόμενον), most commentators rightly note that he probably intends the same meaning―Jesus is giving his life for others. Indeed, elsewhere Paul uses the preposition ὑπὲρ (="for") to describe Christ’s death as an expiatory sacrifice (e.g., 1 Cor 15:3; Rom 5:6, 8). An allusion to atonement imagery is thus likely present in his account.

6. Of course, Matthew specifically has Jesus' describing his blood being poured out "for the forgiveness of sins". Some have seen here a reference to Isaiah 53, others to Jeremiah 31, and still others think both are in mind.

7. It may be significant that Jesus describes himself not only as a sacrifice but also as an edible offering (i.e., he gives his “body” to be eaten). In this scholars we might have an allusion to the Passover sacrifice, which was a kind of peace-offering. That would be significant because Jesus' sacrifice would then be linked with the same kinds of sacrifice offered in Exodus 24--a passage clearly evoked by his words which link his "blood" to "covenant".

However, there is another kind of offering which might also be mentioned: the sin-offering. Leviticus 10:17 seems to suggest that the priest's eating of the sin-offering was intrisically linked to atonement. After Aaron and the priests fail to eat of the sacrifices, Moses states: "Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord?" (Lev 10:17). That eating of the sacrifice was an essential part of making atonement is thus recognized by many scholars of Israel's cultic laws [e.g., Milgrom (Leviticus 1-16, 638), Gane (Cult and Character, 96), and Levine (Leviticus, 62)]. By themselves imagery of “blood” being “poured out” and the eating of the sacrifice are merely possible points of contact with atonement terminology. However their appearance alongside each other within a passage containing allusions to the Suffering Servant (=a sin-offering) and the “covenant” ceremony of Exodus 24 makes an allusion to the eating of sin-offerings highly probable.

In closing. . .
Obviously, I realize that Jesus' language of "new covenant" may also have carried atonement implications--prophecies of God establishing/renewing an eschatological covenant with his people were almost always associated with the idea of reconciliation with God (i.e., the former covenant had been broken) so atonement imagery might have simply been suggested by that connection.

Either way, it seems atonement is in view in a passage in which Jesus cites from Exodus 24--a passage the Targums also linked with atonement.

Much more could be said. You'll have to read my thesis to get more.

But keep in mind, I’m just thinking out loud here.

[1] For the following see J. H. Kurtz, Sacrificial Worship of the Old Testament (trans. J. Martin; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1863; repr., Grand Rapids: Baker House,1980), 365.