Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Scott Hahn!

This post is not about the new book.

I just wanted to write a note wishing my dear friend a very happy birthday, which is today.

Words will fail to express the deep debt of gratitude I owe to him. Of course, Scott's work has shaped my thought more profoundly than any other contemporary scholar.

But even more importantly, Scott has taught me about the love of Christ by the witness of his life. And I learned from him about it up-close and personal. Scott and his family took me in as a graduate student and allowed me to live with them during the years I studied at Franciscan University in Ohio. It was a truly blessed time of my life and I can honestly say that I don't think a day goes by even now--many years later--that I don't thank God for them. I truly consider the Hahn family my second family.

Scott, thanks for everything--for your generosity, your wisdom, and your example. May God bless you on this day.

I know I speak for Brant and John when I say: Happy Birthday!!!

Scott Hahn's new book on Pope Benedict's Biblical Theology

The picture on the right is of Scott Hahn's brand new book, Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI (Brazos).

The book deserves a post all its own but I'm absolutely swampted and knowing I probably won't get to doing one any time soon--we've got a new baby coming any day and I'm writing the conclusion to my thesis!--I wanted to mention it here.

It's remarkable. Any serious student of the Bible should check it out. Benedict's insights are profound and Scott Hahn synthesizes them and brings them all together amazingly well.

More than that, the book is extraordinarily well-written. It is more than just a summary of Pope Benedict's thought. It's a thoughtful overview of the basic principles and issues involved in doing Biblical Theology. The chapter on Benedict's view of historical criticism is simply worth the price of the book! Benedict insists that historical-critical study is necessary but he also stresses that this must be with a hermeneutic of faith.

What does that look like? Well, you've got to read the book.

Notice by the way that the book is published by Brazos. I especially hope non-Catholic Christians interested in biblical studies and theology will check this work out. What they will find in Pope Benedict will no doubt be surprising for them. I know that because I've already heard from them!

Check out some of the endorsements:

"A superb introduction to the way in which the theology of Pope Benedict XVI has been shaped by the Bible. Hahn's crisp and clear analysis puts the reader at the very center of this remarkable pope's thought." --Gary Anderson, University of Notre Dame

"Scott Hahn offers us a lucidly written and trenchant study of the biblical theology of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict. He shows how one of the most important theologians of the twentieth century gently but firmly corrected the historical critics who dominate much of contemporary academic Scripture study. Hahn further demonstrates how, in making this correction, Ratzinger/Benedict allowed for the recovery of much of the richness of patristic biblical interpretation, including typology, an integrated understanding of the Old and New Testaments, a sense of Jesus as the interpretive key for the whole of revelation, and the deep rapport between kingdom and Church. This is a beautiful and thought-provoking text, one that will prove helpful to any serious student of the sacred page." --Robert Barron, Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith
and Culture, Mundelein Seminary, University of St. Mary of the Lake

"The increasingly painful bankruptcy of the historical-critical method in
our time has created a vacuum precisely at the point where the living Church
requires substantial nurture. Pope Benedict XVI has spoken into this crisis like
no one else, and his best expositor, Scott Hahn, has done us a tremendous
service by synthesizing Benedict's erudite and prayerful biblical theology into
a lively, readable, and intellectually reliable conspectus. This excellent
volume will be indispensable for all Christians who seek to be more maturely
grounded in Scripture."--David Lyle Jeffrey, distinguished professor of
literature and the humanities, Baylor University

Go here for many more.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pondering Psalm 1 on an Ordinary Day

The Psalm for today, Thursday of the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time, is the short and beautiful Psalm 1.

Psalm 1 serves as an introduction to the entire psalter. It is a Psalm of the "wisdom" genre--that means, it has literary ties to the wisdom literature. By introducing the psalter with a wisdom psalm, the sacred author means to suggest that the psalter is, among other things, a book of wisdom. Wisdom was a practical rather than theoretical enterprise for the ancient Israelites. Wisdom was knowing how to live rather than knowing various abstractions. However, the psalter is by and large not didactic--it's not full of instructions, like most wisdom literature. Instead it consists of prayers and songs of praise. How do these compositions teach "wisdom"?

Psalm 1 compares the righteous man to a tree planted by streams of water, which stays green and regularly yields its fruit. In the Near East, water is scarce. Many locations cannot count on rain for moisture. I tree with deep roots to a source of water, that could be counted on to produce fruit, was and is a precious thing.

The point of the analogy is fidelity. The wise, righteous man, in the view of the psalmist, is one who is consistent and faithful, one who can be counted on. It is not necessarily the person with a "flashy" spirituality, who has dramatic spiritual experiences and draws the attention of others. These things are good in themselves, but they can be counterfeit and do not necessarily indicate maturity.

On a rather dull day in the liturgical calendar, during the doldrums of the academic semester, it is good to be reminded that the man blessed in God's eyes is the faithful one, who consistently bears fruit no matter what the "weather" is.

Healing of Bartimaeus (Video and Post Sunday's Readings)

Sunday, October 25, 2009: Liturgy Reflection from JP Catholic University on Vimeo.

So much could be said about this reading it is difficult to know where to start! Here I want to highlight Jesus' role as the Davidic healer.

Healing and the Eschatological/Messianic Age

The story of the healing of Bartimaeus clearly links Jesus’ role as healer to his identity as the Son of David. In fact, all of the Gospels link Jesus’ ability to heal to his role as the Davidic messiah (cf. Matt 9:27; 20:31; Mark 10:48; Luke 18:38–39). Indeed, a number of prophetic texts, Second Temple sources and later rabbinic writings specifically associate the arrival of the eschatological age with the idea of healing.[1] Here I will only list a few:

Isa 29:18: “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.”

Isa 35:5: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy.”

Numerous other biblical texts could also be cited (cf. Isa 19:22; 30:26; 53:5; 57:18–19; 58:7; Jer 30:17; 33:6; Ezek 47:12; Hos 6:1; 7:1; Mal 4:2). In addition, the eschatological age is also linked with healing in non-biblical Second Temple sources.

Jubilees 23:29–30: “And all of their days they will be complete and live in peace and rejoicing and there will be not Satan and no evil (one) who will destroy, because all of their days will be days of blessing and healing. And then the Lord will heal his servants, and they will rise up and see great peace.”

1 Enoch 96:3: “But you, who have experienced pain, fear not, for there shall be a healing medicine for you.”

One particular text is worth mentioning here. One of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 4Q521, which draws from the passage from Isaiah 35 cited above and links it with Isaiah 61, reveals that the Messiah will be a healer. The fragment begins: “1 [for the heav]ens and the earth will listen to his anointed one, 2 [and all th]at is in them will not turn away from the precepts of the holy ones. . .” The fragment then continues to explain that the Lord

“will honour the pious upon the throne of an eternal kingdom, freeing prisoners, giving sight to the blind, straightening out the twis[ted.]… And the Lord will perform marellous acts such as have not existed just as he sa[id,] [for] he will heal the badly wounded and will make the dead live, he will proclaim good news to the poor and […]…[…] he will lead […] … and enrich the hungry.” (4Q521 2 II, 7 and 11-13).

Jesus' Role as the Healer Messiah

The tradition linking healing to the eschatological age is especially present in Matthew and Luke, where Jesus appeals to his ability to heal lepers as evidence that he is the Messiah. One particularly important passage is found in both Matthew and Luke. When John the Baptist’s disciples come asking him whether he is “the one to come,” Jesus states, “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matt 11:5//Luke 7:22). As is well-known, in this saying Jesus conflates Isaiah 35 and 61, mirroring 4Q521. Strikingly, both the Qumran text and Jesus insert a statement about raising the dead prior to the task of preaching to the poor.[2]

Jesus' Role As the Davidic Healer

Of course, the Gospels link Jesus’ role as healer precisely to his role as the Davidic messiah. What is interesting about this is that there really is no clear pre-Christian text describing the Davidic messiah as a healer. There is at least one text that should be mentioned here: Ezekiel 34. There the Lord promises to help the sheep who are weak and crippled (cf. Ezek 34:4, 16) within the same context in which he promises to send a Davidic Messiah (cf. Ezek 34:23–24).[3] But even here the connection is rather ambiguous.

So how did Jesus’ role as healer come to be associated with his role as the eschatological Son of David? Well, certainly given the fact that the messiah was already linked with healing in 4Q521 it is not surprising that Jesus’ role as the Davidic Messiah would be connected with his healing. Yet we might also point out that the ink could have been established in connection with the fact that David was remembered for having exorcistic and healing abilities (cf. 1 Sam 16:14–23; Josephus, A.J. 166–68; 11QPsa XI, 2–11; L. A. B. 60:1). Even more descriptive are the numerous texts relating Solomon’s abilities as an exorcist and healer (cf. Josephus, A.J. 8:42–49; Apoc. Adam 7:13; cf. also Wis 7:20).[4] It is therefore easy to see how Jesus’ healing abilities could have been linked with his exorcistic powers and how these together could be have been linked with his role as the eschatological “Son of David.”

In fact, as Meier explains, that a Solomonic reference is present here is strongly suggested by the fact that, with the exception of one occurrence where it is linked with Absalom (cf. 2 Sam 13:1), the term “Son of David” is normally used as a referent to Solomon (cf. 1 Chron. 28:22; 2 Chron 1:1; 13:6; 30:26; 35:3; Prov 1:1; Eccl 1:1). [5] In light of this Bartimaeus cry is not at all surprising―“Have mercy on me, Son of David!”


[1] See also Apocalypse of Moses 2:275. For an excellent overview of biblical texts dealing with healing, see Michael L. Brown, Israel’s Divine Healer (SOTBT; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995); Lidija Novakovic, Messiah, the Healer of the Sick: A Study of Jesus as the Son of David in the Gospel of Matthew (WUNT 2.170; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 152–83.
[2] Novakovic (Messiah, the Healer of the Sick, 180) writes: “In contrast to the Jewish texts which are only thematically related to 4Q521, the Q passage preserved in Matt 11:2–6 and Luke 7:18–23 contains the closest known parallel to this document, because both texts go beyond their common scriptural basis in Isa 61:1 by adding the reference to the resurrection of the dead in front of the reference to preaching good news to the poor.” Likewise see M. O. Wise and J. Tabor, “4Q521 ‘On Resurrection’ and the Synoptic Gospel Tradition: A Preliminary Study,” JSP 10 (1992) 161 [149–62]: “Although it is unlikely that Luke knew the Qumran text directly, it seems that he shares with its author a common set of messianic expectations.”
[3] Puesch has argued that the messianic figure in 4Q521 is a royal messianic figure, finding a reference to a “scepter” in 4Q521 2 III, 6. However, the text is unclear. See Émile Puech, “Une apocalypse messianique (4Q521),” RQ 15/60 (1992): [475-522]; Collins, “The Works of the Messiah,” 103. See also David Aune, “The Problem of the Messianic Secret,” NovT 11 (1969): 39 [1–31]. We might also mention L.A.B. 60:3, where the exorcistic song sung by David has him telling the evil spirit, “But let the new womb from which I was born rebuke you, from which after a time one born from my loins will rule over you”. The passage is admittedly obscure. In favor of a messianic reading is the fact that the language bears close similarities to 2 Sam 7:11 (LXX), which is cited as a messianic prophecy in 4Q174. The passage also echoes Psalm 132:11 (LXX) and T. Levi 18:12, which may also signal messianic hopes. For those who advocate such an approach see Dennis C. Duling, “Solomon, Exorcism, and the Son of David,” HTR 68 (1975): 240; Paul Riessler, Altjüdisches Schrifttum ausserhalb der Bibel, übersetzt und erläutert (2d ed; Darmstadt; Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1966), 1318; Marc Philonenko, “Remarques sur un hymne essénien de caractère gnostique,” Sem 11 (1961): 52 [43–53].
[4] Especially important is the combination in Josephus’ account of Solomon’s exorcistic abilities with his role as healer (cf. A.J. 8.45: “[He was enabled] to help and heal human beings”). See also the discussion in Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:689. In addition, see the exorcistic connections made with Solomon in the Aramaic magical texts discussed by Loren Fisher, “Can This Be the Son of David?,” in Jesus and the Historian: Written in Honor of Ernest Cadman Colwell (ed. F. T. Trotter; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968), 82–97; J. A. Montgomery, Aramaic Incantation Texts from Nippur (Philadelphia: The University Musueum, 1913), 232; Cyrus H. Gordon, “Aramaic Magical Bowls in the Instanbul and Baghdad Museums,” ArOr 6 (1934): 319–34, 466–74; C. D. Isbell, Corpus of the Aramaic Incantation Bowls (SBLDS 17; Missoula, Mont.; Scholars Press, 1975), 108-111, 114-115.
[5] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:737 n. 47. explains that a Solomonic reference is strongly suggested by the fact that, with the exception of one occurrence where it is linked with Absalom (cf. 2 Sam 13:1), the term “Son of David” was regularly used for Solomon (cf. 1 Chron. 28:22; 2 Chron 1:1; 13:6; 30:26; 35:3; Prov 1:1; Eccl 1:1; cf. also Fisher, “Can This Be the Son of David?,” 90). See the discussion in Duling, “Solomon, Exorcism, and the Son of David,”235–52; idem., “The Therepeutic Son of David: An Element in Matthew’s Christological Apologetic,” NTS 24 (1977-78): 392–410.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

O Happy Day: SBL Paper on "H" and "D" Finished

And there is much rejoicing at the Bergsma household because Daddy has finished his "big paper" for the November SBL Conference, entitled "The Manumission Laws: Has the Dependence of H on D been Demonstrated?" Sounds fun, huh? I knew you'd think so. Anyway, now Daddy can play--well, at least after he finishes grading seventy more midterms.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Request of James and John and the Ransom Saying (Video on Sunday's Readings)

Sunday, October 18, 2009: Liturgy Reflection from JP Catholic University on Vimeo.

Here I want to tease out a few themes related to the request and the ransom saying. Once again, a huge word of thanks goes out to Nate--this was a long video (sorry again, Nate!). So much could be said, but here’s just a little further scholarship on the material in the video. One thing I especially wanted to touch upon, given that this is the Year for Priests, is the priestly language implied in Jesus' allusion to Isaiah 53 (see below). Of course, I will be drawing a lot from my earlier video and post on Jesus' role as the Suffering Son of Man.

The Apostles’ Sitting With Jesus
The request of James and John in fact seems to reflect their understanding that Jesus was coming to establish the kingdom of God. In fact, elsewhere Jesus makes it clear that the apostles will share in his reign―the image of them “sitting” (καθίζω) on “thrones” as judges over the tribes of Israel is attested in both Matthew and Luke (Matt 19:28; Luke 22:28–29)―in Matthew the saying comes shortly before this episode! The idea is mirrored in the Dead Sea Scrolls which associates the eschatological age with the institution of “twelve chiefs” who will govern over the twelve tribes of Israel (e.g., 1Q33 2:1–3). Especially interesting is one of the fragments in the Dead Sea Scrolls, 11Q19 57:12–13, which describes how the future royal figure will be joined with twelve princes, twelve priests and twelve Levites “who shall sit together with him for judgment.”

The Danielic Imagery
In the last line Jesus identifies himself as the Son of Man. As I have already explained, Jesus’ passion prediction in Mark 9:31 seems to evoke Danielic imagery―in fact, there he also identifies himself as the “Son of Man”. It is not surprising then that Jesus links the idea of his “giving his life” with “Son of Man” terminology.

However, it should be pointed out that imagery from the Son of Man vision in Daniel 7 actually dominates the passage. The point is especially underscored by my good friend and co-blogger Brant Pitre (Happy Birthday, buddy!) in his marvelous book on the historical Jesus and the tribulation.[1] Here I want to draw upon Brant’s excellent treatment.

The language of the request (“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory”) bears marked similarities to Daniel 7, which in fact describes the Son of Man’s coming and his reception of “glory” (v. 14) in connection with “thrones” being set up (v. 9) and a court “sitting” (καθίζω) in “judgment” (v. 10). Imagery from Daniel 7 can also be found in Jesus’ response. First, Jesus’ reference to his “cup” depicts his suffering in terms of the sharing in the eschatological tribulation[2]―something we have already seen described by Daniel 7 (especially v. 23–25). Moreover, Jesus’ language in Matthew 20:25–27//Mark 10:42–44 referring to the rulers as “the great” (οἱ μεγάλοι) among the “Gentiles” (τῶν ἐθνῶν) who “lord it over” (κατακυριεύουσιν) those under them, reminds the reader of Daniel 7 where four Gentile kings are represented by “great (μεγάλα) beasts” (cf. Dan 7:17) who “lord it over many” (κατακυριεύσει αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ πολὺ; LXX Dan 7:3-11; 11:39 Theod.).[3] Furthermore, Jesus’ emphasis on “service,” particularly his insistence in the final verse that the “Son of Man has come not to be served but to serve (διακονῆσαι)” would seem an attempt to adjust the vision of glory the disciples likely inferred from Daniel 7, where all peoples serve (δουλεύσουσιν) the Son of Man (v. 14).[4] The use of the term “Son of Man” in verse 45 thus rounds out the Danielic which has permeated the discussion throughout the episode―it is not simply a saying haphazardly tacked on as an ending. Indeed, these overlapping themes strongly supports seeing the pericope as a single literary unit.[5]

The Motivation Behind the Request

Of course, the basic motivation behind the request is not hard to grasp. As Hooker explains, “No sooner is the end in sight, than the disciples begin to ask for a share in Jesus’ future kingly power.”[6] Specifically, it appears significant that the request appears just prior to Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. As others have noticed, it seems to indicate that the disciples expected that Jesus would somehow usher in the eschatological kingdom there.[7] By asking to sit on his right and left however the disciples are asking not merely for a participation in Jesus’ messianic reign but for the status of most exalted in the kingdom.[8] That Jesus has to go on to contrast the way Gentile rulers govern with a teaching to the other disciples that “it shall not be so among you” also probably implies that their vision of the kingdom also was in error.[9] Where James and John have gone critically wrong is imagining that Jesus’ eschatological kingdom will consist in a merely triumphalistic vision. For Jesus, the kingdom is not merely about reigning over one’s enemies from an exalted position―the kingdom is also linked with his death.[10]

The Ransom Saying
Jesus teaching that “the Son of Man has come not to be served but serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” seems to draw from the Suffering Servant song of Isaiah 53. Indeed the teaching has numerous points of contact with this prophecy, particularly as it stands in the MT [Masoretic Text, e.g., Modern Hebrew Bible]. Davies and Allison[11] list a number of parallels:
1. The terminology of “the many” (רבים) plays an especially important role in Isaiah 53:11–12. 2. The language of “for many” (ἀντὶ πολλῶν) evokes Isaiah 53:11, where the Servant is said to “make many [לרבים] to be accounted righteous.”
3. Jesus’ words about “giving his life as a ransom” (δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον) is similar to the language in Isaiah 53:10, “when he makes himself an offering for sin” (אם־תשים אשם נפשו) in Isaiah 53:10 (cf. 53:12).[12]
4. Jesus explanation that he has come “to serve” (διακονῆσαι) evokes the imagery of the “servant” (עבד; Isa 52:13; 53:11).
In fact, Davies and Allison point out that Romans 4:25 reveals that the connection between Jesus’ death and Isaiah 53 was forged early on. Page puts it well:

“The link between the πολλῶν ("many") and rabbîm ("many"), which appears in Isa. 52:14, 15 and 53:11, 12, has often been pointed out, but it has not always been appreciated that what makes it significant is the occurrence in both Mark 10:45 and Isaih 53 is the notion of one dying in the place of the ‘many’. The similarities of detail, along with the fact that the general ideas of service and vicarious death are held in common, lead us to the conclusion that the ransom saying was formed in conscious dependence upon the Isaianic picture of the Suffering Servant.”[13]

Thus, while other Isaianic texts also seem to have connections with Jesus’ teaching,[14] the connection with Isaiah 53 therefore appears quite strong.[15]

Although it may at first seem strange that Jesus’ links his role as the Danielic Son of Man with imagery from the Isaianic Suffering Servant passage, it should be noted that elsewhere the book of Daniel itself appears to specifically describe the righteous of the eschatological age with imagery drawn from Isaiah 52–53 (cf. Dan 11:33; 12:1).[16] In addition, 1 Enoch also appears to link Isaianic imagery to the “Son of Man” figure.[17] The connection between “Son of Man” language and the Isaianic Servant is thus not lacking precedent.

Priestly Imagery
Given that this is the Year for Priests, I thought I also ought to highlight the priestly dimension of the saying.

Of course, that Jesus appears to allude to Isaiah’s Suffering Servant is especially significant for our purposes since the Isaianic figure is specifically linked with cultic imagery. The Servant serves as a cultic sacrifice, offering his life as a guilt offering (cf. Isa 53:10). Of course, implicit in this is a priestly role―he is the one who presents a sacrifice for sin.[18] Indeed, other cultic imagery also occurs within the passage. In particular, the Servant is said to “bear” (נשא) the iniquities of the people―an image not only linked with the scapegoat of Yom Kippur (cf. Lev 16:22) but also connected with the priests (cf. Lev 10:17: “that you may bear [נשא] the iniquity of the congregation”). That Jesus associates himself with the Suffering Servant would thus seem to imply that he perceives himself as in someway taking upon a priestly role.

In fact, that Jesus specifically identifies himself with the language of "ransom" (λύτρον) would also seem to point in the direction of some sort of priestly self-identification. What is virtually universally ignored by scholars is the fact that the only instance in Jewish literature in which humans are described as functioning as a "ransom" (λύτρον) is Numbers 3 and 8 where Moses is told to “present” the Levites before the Lord in the place of the first-born. Thus one can make the case that the idea of a human serving as a “ransom” is a priestly one.[19]

[1] Brant Pitre, Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 384–455. See also Brant’s article, “The ‘Ransom for Many,’ the New Exodus and the End of the Exile: Redemption as the Restoration of All Israel,” Letter and Spirit 1 (2005):41–68
[2] The image of drinking from the “cup” is used an a metaphor for suffering the eschatological judgment of God (cf. Isa 51:17; Jer 25:15–29; Ezek 23:31–34; Zech 12:2; Ps 11:6; 75:8; Lam 4:21). Noteworthy is also the fact that the Targums speak of drinking of the cup of death (cf. Tg. on Gen 40:23; Deut 32:1). There is a fascinating parallel in the Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah, where prior to being sawed in half the prophet tells his disciples, “for me alone the Lord has mixed this cup” (Mart. Ascen. 5:13). Davies and Allison, Matthew, 3:90 write, “So the cup that Jesus will drink (cf. 26.39), and that his disciples should be prepared to drink (cf. Mk 9.49; Gos. Thom. 82), is the cup of eschatological sorrow, which will be first poured out upon the people of God (cf. Jer 25.15–29).”
[3] The four beasts are said to not only be four kingdoms but four kings (Dan 7:17:מלכין). The idea of an individual tyrannical king is especially present in Daniel 7:24–25.
[4] See Pitre, “The ‘Ransom for Many,’” 49: “Indeed, Jesus appears not only to be overturning the expectations of James and John regarding the messianic kingdom, but conclusions that could be drawn straight from the visions of the ‘one like a son of man’ in Daniel itself. In so doing, he is directly tying his (and possibly) the disciples’ imminent suffering to the eschatological tribulation described in Daniel 7.”
[5] See the extensive discussion in Pitre, Jesus, the Tribulation and the End of the Exile, 386–90. In addition, we should note that Ched Myers (Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story about Jesus [Maryknoll: Orbis, 1988], 279) suggests that the language of the request of James and John stems from Psalm 110. However, this is unclear. See the critique in Gundry, Mark, 583.
[6] Hooker, Gospel of Mark, 247.
[7] See Collins, Mark, 495: “The saying probably presupposes that Jesus will be enthroned as the king and judge of the new age as God’s agent.” In addition, see Nolland, Gospel of Matthew, 818: “. . . what is being related to is not the anticipation of suffering, but the prospect of divine vindication and establishment of Jesus as messianic king.” Still also see Lane, Gospel of Mark, 378; Morris, Gospel According to Matthew, 509. Furthermore, it can also be noted that Matthew has the woman coming to Jesus and “worshipping” (προσκυνοῦσα) him. For more on this language see the discussion above in n. 126 in chapter 3.
[8] Of course, such a self-seeking petition clearly runs counter to Jesus’ earlier teaching in Matthew 18:1–4 and Mark 8:33–35 that to be the greatest in the kingdom one ought to humble oneself.
[9] This is recognized by most commentators, e.g., Davies and Allison, Matthew, 3:92; Luz, Matthew, 544; Nolland, Matthew, 8:22; Lane, Gospel of Mark, 382-83; France, Gospel of Mark, 418; etc.
[10] For further discussion between the relationship between the cross and Jesus’ coming as the Son of Man see Michael F. Bird, “The Crucifixion of Jesus as the Fulfillment of Mark 9:1,” Trinity Journal 24/1 (2003): 23–36; Kent Brower, “Mark 9:1-Seeing the Kingdom in Power,” JSNT 6 (1980): 17–41; Paul Barnett, The Servant King (Sydney, NSW: AIO, 2000), 171–74; Ched Myers, Binding the Strongman: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1994), 248, 391–92; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 650–51.
[11] See the discussion in Davies and Allison, Matthew, 3:95–97.
[12] Here Davies and Allison cite Jeremias, New Testament Theology, 292 n. 3: “the further definition of the phrase ‘give’ or ‘take life’ by a predicative accusative is only evidenced in Isa 53:10 MT [ʾāśām], IV Macc 6.29 [ἀντὶψυχον] and Mark 10.45 [λύτρον].”
[13] Sydney H. T. Page, “The Authenticity of the Ransom Logion (Mark 10:45b),” in Gospel Perspectives: Studies of History and Tradition in the Four Gospels (eds. R. T. France et al; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1980), 140 [137–61].
[14] See, for example, the articles by Morna Hooker, Rikki E. Watts and N. T. Wright in William H. Bellinger, Jr. and William R. Farmer, ed., Jesus and the Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 and Christian Origins (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1998). In particular Isaiah 43 appears related given that it uses ransom language (cf. Isa 43:3). Some have argued that it is primarily this passage and not Isaiah 53 which accounts for the language in Matt 20:28//Mark 10:45. See, e.g., Volker Hampel, Menschensohn und historischer Jesus: Ein Rätselwort als Schlüssel zum messianischen Selbstverständnis Jesu. (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1990), 326–33. However, the problem with such a view is that the “ransom” that is paid in Isaiah 43:3 is Gentile nations, not a figure who was likely understood as messianic. For an excellent critique of this view, see Gundry, Mark, 592. See also J. B. Higgins, Jesus and the Son of Man (London: Lutterworth, 1964), 56–57; France, Jesus and the Old Testament, 117–121; W. J. Moulder, “The Old Testament and the Interpretation of Mark x.45,” NTS 24 (1977): 121–23.
[15] For further arguments in favor of the Isaianic backdrop of the ransom saying see Rikki Watts, “Jesus’ Death, Isaiah 53 and Mark 10:45,” in Jesus and the Suffering Servant, 136–47; Peter Stuhlmacher, Reconciliation, Law, and Righteousness (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), 19–20; Davies and Allison, Matthew, 3:95-97. See also Craig Evans (Mark, 123) who is probably right to see Jesus combining both Isaiah 53 and Daniel 7 imagery: “[T]he Danielic elements do not necessarily compete with or contradict the underlying elements from Isaiah. The two scriptural traditions complement each other, with the Suffering Servant of Isa 53 redefining the mission and destiny of the ‘son of man’ of Dan 7. Indeed, the ‘son of man’ will someday ‘be served,’ but he first must serve, even suffer and die, as the Servant of the Lord.”
[16] For example, scholars have argued that the use of the terminology in Daniel 11:33 and 12:13 seems to draw on the language used in the Suffering Servant prophecy of Isaiah 53. See John J. Collins, Daniel (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 385, who, commenting on Daniel 11:33 [“ And those among the people who are wise [ומשכלי] shall make many understand, though they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder, for some days”], wrties, “The designation משכילים is taken from the ‘suffering servant’ of Isa 52:13 (הנה ישכיל עבדי יָרום), who is said to ‘justify’ the רבים (Isa 53:11; cf. Dan 12:3).” Later, commenting on Daniel 12:3, Collins goes on to state, “As noted in the Commentary above, at 11:32, the maskîlîm take their name from the servant in Isaiah 52―53. The allusion is made all the clearer here when they are called מצדיקי הרבים (cf. Isa 53:11). The motif of exaltation is found in Isa 52:13. It is notworthy here the wise make the common people righteous, whereas in 11:33 they made them understand. The two notions are evidently closely related, if not equivalent.” See also Harold L. Ginsberg, “The Oldest Interpretation of the Suffering Servant,” VT 3 (1953): 400–404; Geroge W.E. Nickelsberg, Resurrection, Immortality, and Eternal Life in Intertestamental Judaism (HTS 26; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972), 24; Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 589 n. 190.
[17] For example, the language of the “Chosen One”, which is associated with the Son of Man figure is clearly taken from Isaiah 42:1. See George Nickelsburg, in Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era (eds. J. Neusner, W. S. Green and E. Frerichs; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 61, who, after citing 1 Enoch 49:4 [“He is the Chosen One before the Lord of the Spirits”] states, “Here the allusion is to the presentation of the Servant in Isaiah: ‘Behold my Servant, whom I uphold, my Chosen One in whom my soul delights. . .’” See also Black, Book of Enoch, 189: “The term ‘the Elect One’ points as unequivocally to the elect Servant of Second Isaiah, as does the term Son of Man to Dan. 7.”
[18] In addition, see 4Q541 (4QApocryphon of Levib) IX 1:2, which describes a coming figure who will “atone for all the children of his generation.” Scholars have seen allusions to Isaiah 53 here. This is of course significant since there the servant “makes himself an offering [אָשָׁם] for sin” (Isa 53:10). The word here is used for a sacrificial offering elsewhere (cf. Lev 5, 6:10; 7, 14, 19:21, 22 Num 6:12; 18:9; Ezek 40:39; 42:13; 44:29; 46:20; Ezra 10:19). Though the text in 4Q541 (4QApocryphon of Levib) contains no trace of the idea of an expiatory self-offering of the priest, it is nonetheless significant that here the figure of Isaiah 53 is linked with a priestly figure. For a fuller discussion see Émile Puech, “Fragments d’um apocryphe de Lévi et le personnage eschatologique: 4QTestLévic-d(?) et 4QAJa,” in The Madrid Qumran Congress: Proceedings of the International Congress on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Madrid 18–21 March, 1991 (eds. J. T. Berrera and L. V. Montaner; Leiden: Brill, 1992), 467–70; George J. Brooke, “4QTestament of Levid(?) and the Messianic Servant High Priest,” in From Jesus to John: Essays on Jesus and New Testament Christology in Honour of Marinus de Jonge (ed. M. C. De Boer; JSNTSup 84; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), 83–100; idem., The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 144–57; Collins, The Scepter and the Star, 123–26; Chester, Messiah and Exaltation, 257.
[19] LXX Numbers 3:12 reads: Καὶ ἐγὼ ἰδοὺ εἴληφα τοὺς Λευίτας ἐκ μέσου τῶν υἱῶν Ισραηλ ἀντὶ παντὸς πρωτοτόκου διανοίγοντος μήτραν παρὰ τῶν υἱῶν Ισραηλ, λύτρα αὐτῶν ἔσονται καὶ ἔσονται ἐμοὶ οἱ Λευῖται. See Jacob Milgrom, Numbers (JPSTC; Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1990), 18, who notes that the LXX relates the imagery here with “ransom” language. In light of this Fletcher-Louis writes, “That the Son of Man should act as a lu/tron is therefore fitting if he is of priestly (or Levitical) pedigree” (Crispin H. T. Fletcher-Louis, “Jesus as the High Priestly Messiah: Part 2,” JSHJ 5/1 [2006]: 60 [57–79)]. “Jesus as High Priestly Messiah: Part 2,” 60). In addition, see the closely related passage in Numbers 8:19 which describes the giving of the Levites for the purpose of making atonement: “And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the people of Israel, to do the service for the people of Israel at the tent of meeting, and to make atonement for the people of Israel. . .” Here the giving of the Levites is closely related to their role in making atonement for the people.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Do Atheists Really Want a Fair Debate?

I while ago I posted about the aftermath of the New Orleans Word of God conference, and various actions by the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association that could be interpreted as indications that they are not serious about a debate with a well-prepared proponent of a different perspective.

Apparently this is not a unique phenomena within the neo-atheist movement. It now comes to light that Richard Dawkins, über-atheist across the pond, is refusing to debate Stephen Meyer, a philosopher of science who has recently published a major contribution to origins research called Signature in the Cell. This is not the first time Dawkins has refused to debate. Christian apologist D'nesh D'Souza long ago issued a standing invitation to debate with him, but was refused. Eventually Dawkins accepted--but just once, and it was only covered by Al-Jazeera, ensuring that no one in the Western world would see it.

Why won't Dawkins debate Stephen Meyer. He says he won't debate "creationists" because it gives them "respectability" they don't deserve.

Stephen Meyer is not a "creationist," a term commonly reserved for those who believe in a young earth and a literal six-day creation. Dawkins knows this, but is engaging in name-calling.

Secondly, when you trounce someone in a debate, it humiliates them, not lends them respectability. Folks only gain respectability in a debate when they win or at least hold their own.

Therefore, what Dawkins means is, he won't debate Meyer because he thinks Meyer will win the debate or at least do well.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Monday, October 05, 2009

First Steps!

Yesterday was a huge day for my little boy, Michael Jr.--he took his first few steps! I'm sorry I don't have pictures or video of that, but in honor of the big accomplishment here are some pictures of him with his mom and dad.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

An Atheist at the Cajun Catholic Bible Conference: The Epilogue

As I posted here before, back in August we had a visit from an officer of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association to our Word of God conference in Cajun country, who was evidently confused by our advertising campaign. Although we billed the conference as an educational event for Catholics concerning the sacraments of marriage and priesthood, some evidently received the impression that it was going to be a value-neutral free exchange of alternative worldviews. Our friend from NOSHA was disappointed when Michael, Brant, and I began to consistently argue for a Catholic and biblical approach to various human realities. In particular he challenged me to a debate in a NOSHA-sponsored venue on the topic of marriage. I declined, as I am primarily a (unfrozen caveman) bible scholar, not a marriage-and-public-policy guy, but I offered to get him in contact with Brian Brown, one of the leaders of the National Organization for Marriage. Brian immediately jumped on the offer to debate and contacted NOSHA. Unfortunately, NOSHA wanted him to come and debate, but would not pay for any of his expenses, neither travel nor lodging.

For those who don't do public speaking professionally, let me make clear that no one pays their own way to come and speak. If you're serious about having a speaker--especially a nationally-recognized one--you pay expenses plus stipend. Would Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, or Daniel Dennett pay their own way to come to Franciscan University to debate with us? That's an easy question to answer.

Everyone can draw their own conclusions about how serious the interest in debate really was.

(For those who don't recognize him, the headshot is everyone's favorite British atheist, Richard Dawkins)

Saturday, October 03, 2009

For Your Hardness of Heart: Understanding Jesus' Teaching on Divorce

In the video I posted for this Sunday's readings, I mentioned that some ancient writers believed that the concession for divorce was made by Moses out of the desire to prevent wife-murder.[1] I want to explore yet another avenue which might help us further understand Jesus’ teaching here. Specifically, I want to highlight the fact that the so-called commandment for divorce is only found in Deuteronomy. Now, in his new volume, Meier has actually shown that the widespread acceptance of divorce in Second Judaism seemed to make more out of the Deuteronomic legislation than is actually there. Here I want to focus on a slightly different issue.

It is noteworthy that the concession for divorce is found only in the Deuteronomic legislation. In fact, the book makes other concessions not found in the laws of Exodus–Numbers. Indeed, it seems that Ezekiel himself referred to this book when he spoke of how God had given Israel “laws that were not good”. That Ezekiel had the Deuteronomic legislation in mind has been persuasively argued by Scott Hahn and, my co-blogger, John Sietze Bergsma.[2]

“Laws that Were Not Good”
The Ezekiel passage in question is found in Ezekiel 20. The chapter contains three panels (20:5–9; 20:10–17; 20:18–26), which each contain five common elements: “I lifted my hand” (20:5: ואשׂא ידי ; 20:15, 23: נשׂאתי ידי); “I am the Lord” (20:7, 12, 20: אני יהוה); an account of Israel rebelling against God (20:8, 13, 21); the threat of divine wrath being unleashed (20:8, 13, 21); God’s explanation that he withheld judgment because “I acted for the sake of my name” (20:9, 14, 22; וָאעשׂ למען שׁמי [14: ואעשׂה]. Clearly, the three panels are meant to describe the experience of the Exodus and Israel’s wilderness experience.

In the first panel, Ezekiel 20:1–9, we have a description of Israel in Egypt. The second panel, which begins in 20:10, begins with an account of how the Lord led the Israelites out to the wilderness. This is followed by a description of God giving his law to Israel in the wilderness, which is almost certainly meant to be taken as a reference to Sinai (20:11-12). The revolt that is described next and the following account of how God threatened to pour out his wrath upon the people should therefore be linked to the episode of the sin of the Golden Calf (20:13–15; cf. Exod 32–33). The final panel then, which describes the revolt of the second generation in the wilderness, should thus be linked with the disobedience associated with them in Numbers 22–36. The laws described as “not good” then are most likely a reference to those given to them in Deuteronomy.

That Deuteronomy is in view in the latter panel is further evident from a close examination of the words used for the divine legislation in 20:25. Significantly, the word used here for the “laws” that were “not good” in 20:25 is חקים, a male plural. A different form of the word, the feminine plural form, חקות, is used everywhere else in the chapter to refer to divine legislation (e.g., 20:24). The male plural is especially associated with the Deuteronomic laws. It is the male plural which introduces the Deuteronomic laws in Deuteronomy 12:1. In fact, the male plural form dominates the book of Deuteronomy. Significantly, the male plural appears only twice in all of Leviticus (10:11; 26:46), while the female plural occurs eleven times (18:4–5, 26; 19:19, 37; 20:8, 22; 25:18; 26:3, 15, 43). In addition, Ezekiel 20:25 also uses the term משׁפטים, which occurs only in Deuteronomy.

Distinguishing between the legislation at Sinai and that given in Deuteronomy is thus key to understanding the reference to these “laws that were not good” and the difficult statement in 20:26: “I defiled them through their very gifts, in their offering up all their firstborn, in order that I might horrify them, so that they might know that I am the Lord.” While some have interpreted this last verse as a reference to Molech worship due to the fact that the word העביר appears here, a word which is elsewhere associated with the Molech cult (cf. Ezek 20:31), it should be noted that the word was also frequently used for offerings which had no association with Molech at all (cf. 5:1; 14:15; 20:37; 37:2; 46:21; 47:3-4; 48:14). It should also be noted that Molech worship was never linked to the offering of firstborn children. Rather, the “defiling” nature of the sacrifices appears related to the priestly perspective of the author of Ezekiel. The Deuteronomic laws permitted something which was expressly condemned by the Levitical legislation: the killing and spilling of blood of animals in the land. While Leviticus requires one to bring all animals to be killed to the central sanctuary (cf. Lev 17:1–8), Deuteronomy only requires an annual sacrifice of the firstlings (cf. Deut 12:6, 17; 15:19, 20). It seems that it is this “defiling concession” to which 20:26 refers. See the article by Hahn and Bergsma for further arguments in favor of this interpretation and further interaction with other approaches.

Understanding Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce
I believe that Ezekiel’s prophetic explanation of the Deuteronomic laws as “laws that were not good” is helpful for understanding Jesus’ teaching on divorce. Of course, though Ezekiel seems to attribute God’s allowance of the Deuternomic “defiling concessions” to Israel’s sinfulness, there divorce is not specifically mentioned. Yet it is also important to note that nowhere in Deuteronomy is Israel’s “hard heartedness” explicitly stated as the cause for the concession to divorce. Where does Jesus’ teaching come from then? Well, first it is clear that divorce is criticized in other prophetic traditions. In Malachi, for example, the Lord does state “I hate divorce” (Mal 2:16). When combined with the recognition that Deuteronomy made defiling concessions―something clearly recognized by at least Ezekiel―we can begin to form a backdrop for understanding the prophetic matrix out of which Jesus’ teaching flows.

[1] Early Christian writers suggested that Moses allowed for divorce because he was concerned to prevent a greater evil―the murder of unwanted wives (cf. John Chrysostom, De virginitate 41.1; idem., Hom. 17 Matt. 4; Theodore of Mopsuestia, Comm. Mal. 2:14-16; Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Interp. Mal. 2:14-16;[Anonymous] Opus imperfectum in Matt. 19:8; Jerome, In Math. 3 (19:8).
[2] “What Laws Were ‘Not Good’? A Canonical Approach to the Theological Problem of Ezekekiel 20:25-26,” JBL 123/2 (2004): 201–218