Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Josephus and Luke

One in a series about the relationship between Luke and Josephus.

Luke has repeatedly noted that these events, referring to the crucifixion and the resurrection, happened pursuant to the divine plan and foreknowledge of God, and that the leaders did what God had ordained. Josephus also sees the hand of God in what has happened but according to him, “The Romans did not so much win the war as the Jews, by disobeying God, lost it.”[i]

Luke, in agreement with the rest of the New Testament, understands the salvation event to be bound up with Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. In War, the destruction of Jerusalem follows a series of portents that are reported by Josephus.[ii] There is nothing in War that suggests that the destruction of Jerusalem is the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy. In Antiquities, however, Josephus states that the destruction of Jerusalem and the rule of Rome are prophesied in the bible.[iii] This blog is a very preliminary conclusion but it is interesting to note that the New Testament does contain the prophecy of Jesus that Jerusalem will be destroyed but nowhere is it reported in the New Testament that this prophecy has been fulfilled. In Antiquities, Josephus does report the fulfillment of this prophecy. By the time Antiquities is published[iv], Josephus living in Rome has had access to the synoptic gospels containing this prophecy. Josephus in 64 CE traveled to Rome on a mission to seek the release of Jewish priests who had been shipped to Rome in chains for trial before the Emperor.[v] On this occasion he may have heard and/or read about Paul and perhaps about Luke and his writings.

There are two qualifications to this conclusion. Josephus does prophecies when he meets Vespasian that Vespasian will become the emperor. Of course, this is a matter of personal expediency of survival although Josephus does tell us God told him about Vespasian in a dream the previous night. As I read Josephus, there is no suggestion that this is the fulfillment of the prophecy, usually applied to Jesus, about a world ruler from Judaea. In another instance in War, Josephus does say that if Jewish hands defile the Temple, God will destroy the Temple. To my knowledge, this statement by Josephus is not based upon a biblical prophecy. As I am only blogging, further research is necessary.

[i] Edwards, “Surviving the Web of Roman Power,” 179-201, in Alexander, Image of Empire, (Sheffield, 1991), 191.
[ii] War 6:312-313.
[iii] Ant. 10:79, 276.
[iv] c. 93-94 CE.

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[v] Vita, 13-16.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Bishop is coming

Last Friday there was a power outage and when power was restored I had no Internet connection. It took me a while, most of the weekend, to figure out how to disconnect the modem and the router my son had installed and to reboot, all in the correct sequence. They did not teach me that in law school. In fact when I was in law school there were no computers, let alone the Internet.

Anyway, I thought about the fact that the Bishop would be visiting my church to preach and would be available after the service to answer questions about the call process since our minister had announced his retirement due to illness. I struggled with composing questions that would allow me to ask about the ELCA task force report without mentioning the words that could cause turmoil. I decided not ask any pointed questions limiting myself to how the Bishop would determine the appropriate candidate to be interviewed by our call committee.

The Bishop preached from the assigned reading in the Gospel of Matthew how Jesus with his Sermon on the Mount turned the world upside down. So I very bravely, during the question and answer period after the church service, asked the Bishop if he was going to send someone to our rural mission church who would turn our world upside down.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Kingdom of Edom

I was wondering what caused the newspaper article I mentioned yesterday. See answer below


A quarterly review of archaeology edited by Martin Carver
Current Edition Volume 78 Number 302 December 2004
this issue includes the following article:

Thomas E. Levy, Russell B. Adams, Mohammad Najjar, Andreas Hauptmann, James D. Anderson, Baruch Brandl, Mark A. Robinson & Thomas Higham

Reassessing the chronology of Biblical Edom: new excavations and 14C dates from Khirbat en-Nahas (Jordan)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Hezekiah’s Boil and the Insights of Ancient Medical Texts

The Journal for the Study of the Old Testament is searchable online now, as is its sister publication, the Journal for the Study of the New Testament. Thanks to Jacob Knee for this piece of information and to Jim West of Biblical Theology,
who first posted this news on his blog. You can download articles and I did. One such article was by Margaret Barker.[i] I mention it today as a followup to my blog yesterday on Great High Priest for several reasons. One, this article is a representative example of her writing for those who would like to read an easily accessible sample. Second, it demonstrates how someone can using biblical literature and the writings of other writers such as Josephus and the medical writers such as Galen put together an interesting diagnosis of the condition of King Hezekiah.

A similar problem was presented in a passage by Luke[ii], one which Conzelmann used to demonstrate that Luke was confused about his geography.[iii] However, using the same information, Weissenrieder located the spot being described by Luke in the Valley of Jezreel.[iv] Weissenrieder further demonstrated how climatic conditions of this area would cause many inhabitants to be afflicted with a skin condition probably erroneously diagnosed as leprosy. Finally, Weissenrieder has made findings that are consistent with the possibility that Luke was a physician.

[i] Margaret Barker, Hezekiah’s Boil, JSOT 95 (2001), 31-42.
[ii] Luke 17:11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Sama'ria and Galilee.
[iii] Conzelmann, Hans, The Theology of St. Luke, (London, ET, 1960).
[iv] Weissenrieder, Images of Illness in the Gospel of Luke: insights of ancient medical texts, Tübingen (2003).

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

This is so interesting I had to share it

Globe and Mail
Archeologist unearths biblical controversy
Artifacts from Iron Age fortress confirm Old Testament dates of Edomite kingdom

By MICHAEL VALPY Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - Page A3

Great High Priest

Margaret Barker[i] has had the audacity to suggest that we do not need to look to Hellenistic borrowings to explain the beginnings of Christianity. In her latest book, Great High Priest (2003), Barker has emphasized the importance of the Melchizedek text. The first century BCE text, found among the Dead Sea Scrolls in Cave 11, was composed of 13 fragments and focused on the end time and the coming deliverance of Melchizedek. Barker finds that the Melchizedek text at Qumran is the missing link for understanding the Melchizedek chapter in the book of Hebrews. The Old Testament does not say much about Melchizedek. Yet, in Hebrews, Melchizedek is emphasized as a great high priest, and he is associated with Jesus. Barker argues that the Qumran text put Hebrews into its contemporary perspective and helps us to see more clearly that Melchizedek represents Jesus, because Melchizedek is the great high priest in Israelite tradition. What is the main job of the High Priest? His essential assignment is that once a year he goes into the temple, into the Holy of Holies, and takes in blood of the sacrificial animal, and he spreads the blood on the altar. In Leviticus 16:21, Aaron is commanded to lay his hand on the scapegoat and 'confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel.' This confession and transference of sin to the beast is special to this occasion. This goat is then sent out laden with this sin into the wilderness [Lev. 16:7-10]. The purpose of the sacrificial blood is clearly stated: "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 [Lev. 17:11]." Barker's argument reduced to three sentences is: That blood is supposed to be his blood, so the animal is a surrogate for him as the high priest. But he himself is a surrograte for that great high priest who will finally give his own life for the redemption of his people. As a surrogate, he is allowed to use the blood of another surrogate. After sprinkling the altar, he emerges from the sanctuary and announces that the sins of the people have been forgiven.Thus, according to Barker, the high priest represents the son of God. The Epistle to the Hebrews' identification of Jesus Christ with Melchizedek helps us understand that this ritual is symbolic of the sacrifice that the Son of God would make to redeem his sinful children. The focus is on the Temple as a place where we come to understand the atonement of Jesus Christ, its potential roles in the lives of believers, and the important relationship that the Temple has to the idea of redemption from sin.

Recognizing the possibility the High Priest believed that as high priest he was a son of God provides possible context and meaning to the dialogue, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And the reply of Jesus “that the son of God has power on earth to forgive sins.” It is also significant to the proper understanding of the role of the temple. Therefore it is significant that the Lucan Jesus did not condemn the animal sacrificial system. Only those who felt an attachment and connection to the animal sacrificial system could appreciate the identification of Jesus Christ with Melchizedek and the role of Jesus as the new High Priest.

[i] Margaret Barker has written a number of other books including The great angel: a study of Israel's second god; The lost prophet: the Book of Enoch and its influence on Christianity; The older testament: the survival of themes from the ancient royal cult in sectarian Judaism and early Christianity; On earth as it is in heaven: temple symbolism in the New Testament; and The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

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The Style and Technique of Luke-Acts

Gerhardsson noted that "Luke is very much dependent upon Palestinian tradition."[i] Adolf Schatter concluded that the text's character[ii] together with other indicators point to the author's provenance from the Jewish church.[iii] Johannes Weiss in 1892 made what was then considered a radical statement. “Weiss recognized that ideas have to be expressed in terms that are intelligible to their audience.”[iv]

Consequently, we must infer that ideas were expressed in terms intelligible to most excellent Theophilus who was most certainly a Jewish man of rank and wealth.

Bertil Gartner concludes the writings of Luke most resembles the 1st two books of Maccabees which “. . . have certain features in common with Hellenistic historical writings; though regarded as a whole as part of a typically Jewish tradition."[v]

“The view of history which is presented is stamped by the belief in God's intervention, punishment, restitution and help. The authors are not so much concerned with the principles of cause and effect (as, for example, is clearly noticeable in Josephus) as with God's acting through the Maccabean heroes. But they also desire to teach and publish abroad the faith that is based on the maintenance of the law, sanctity of the Temple, and trust in God, and this is the primary function of the speeches. Their style does not obey the rhetorical ideal but belongs, rather, to the Old Testament tradition.”[vi]

Luke-Acts has been shaped by the style and technique of the "Deuteronomistic School"[vii], historical works of the Old Testament and post Old Testament Jewish histories such as 1 and 2 Maccabees. "Luke adopted the language and themes of Scripture that are used in Jewish writings of the period. . . ."[viii] Trebilco also notes that Luke used "interpretative alterations or expansions within Old Testament quotations, which is a form of implicit midrash found in Jewish texts" citing Acts 4:11 as example.[ix] Thus Luke-Acts was written in a format familiar to the High Priest.

[i] Birger Gerhardsson, Memory and Manuscripts, (Lund, 1961, ET 1998), 21l.
[ii] Adolf Schatter, Theology of the Apostles, (1992, ET Grand Rapids, 1999), 327.
[iii] supra, 330. Luke presupposes a knowledge of the Old Testament and Jewish history (1:7; 4:38; 9:9-10 & 9:28-36.
[iv] Riches, John K., A Century of New Testament Study, (Valley Forge, 1993), 14.

[v] The Areopagus Speech and Natural Revelation, (Uppsala, 1955)(ET by Carolyn Hannay King), 18.
[vi] Gartner, 22-23.
[vii] ömer, Thomas R., and Macchi, Jean-Daniel, "Luke, disciple of the Deuteronomistic school" in Tuckett, 178-187, C. M., editor, Luke's Literary Achievement: collected essays, (Sheffield, 1995).
[viii] Trebilco, Paul R., "Jewish backgrounds" in Porter, Stanley E., editor, Handbook to Exegesis of the New Testament, (Leiden / New York, 1997), 385.
[ix] Trebilco, 385-6.

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Monday, January 24, 2005

Many Shall Come In My Name

Matthew 24:5; Mark 13:6; Luke 21:8

Mason notes that Josephus has a problem of “conflicting loyalties.” “He resolves the problem deftly, by developing an interpretation of the Jewish war that allows him both to remain loyal to his patrons and to speak as a committed Jew. His essential thesis (War 1.9-12) is that the revolt was caused by only a few trouble makers among the Jews--power-hungry tyrants and marauders who drove the people to rebel against their will. The vast majority of Jews, he contends, have always been peace-loving, devoted to the Roman virtues of order and harmony. Those who fomented revolt were aberrations from true Judaism. They introduced innovations in the ancestral customs and polluted God’s temple by their actions. So in destroying Jerusalem and its temple the Romans were acting as God’s agents, bringing divine punishment for the outrageous actions of a few rebels.”[i]

The following are the persons, groups and movements mentioned by Josephus in War:

Judas son of Ezekiel (Ant. 17:271-272; War 2:56).
Simon of Peraea (Ant. 17:273-276; War 2:57-59).
A movement similar to the group led by Simon of Peraea (Ant. 17:277; War 2:59).
Athronges (Ant. 17:278-285; War 2:60-65).
Judas of Galilee (Ant. 18:4-9, 23-25; War 2:117-118)[Acts 5:37].
The Egyptian false prophet (Ant. 20:169-172; War 2:261-263)[Acts 21:38].
The religious enthusiasts who led their followers into the wilderness (Ant. 20:167-168; War 2:258-260).
Manaemos (Menahem), son of Judas the Galilee (War 2:433-440).
Simon bar Giora (War 4:514-544, 556ff, 763ff and elsewhere).
John of Gischala (War 4:389ff and elsewhere).
Jonathan the Weaver (War 7:437-450; Life 424-424).
Rome-hating imposters (War 2:264-265).
A false prophet in Jerusalem who prophesied God’s salavation even after the burning of the Temple (War 6:285).

The following are the persons, groups and movements not mentioned by Josephus in War but in other works he wrote:

Theudas (Ant. 20:97-98)[Acts 5:36].
The imposter (Ant. 20:188).
The Samaritan Messiah (Ant. 18:85-87).

Josephus has described sixteen persons, groups or movements that could be included in the category of “power-hungry tyrants and marauders who drove the people to rebel against their will.” Josephus has transferred the blame for the war from the temple establishment, of which he was a ranking member and one who was selected to be one of the generals in the war against Rome, to what might be called a group of messianic pretenders. Since Josephus relied heavily on sources, there is reason to believe that even his idea for resolving his problem had its origin in a document Josephus found circulating in Rome when he arrived there after the war. Furthermore, and this needs to be developed, this document contained the phrase, “many shall come in my name.”

The plan is to create a kind of synposis that may also include the writings used by Josephus as his sources. It is my intention to make comments on the similarities between the works of Josephus and the writings of Luke and the significance for Lucan studies if any. Since this is a work in progress, the blog will record my ideas in the drafting stage.

[i] Steve Mason, Josephus and the New Testament, (Peabody, 1992), 60-61.

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Finger of God

In Luke 11.20, Jesus uses the phrase, “the finger of God.”[i] Woods explains the Jewish meaning of “the finger of God” in these words:

"Behind the Beelzebub pericope (Lk. 11:14-26) remains the issue of whether Jesus is a ‘true or false prophet.’ The true test is found at Deut. 13:1-5. It is not an issue of ‘signs or wonders’ being performed, for Jesus’ exorcisms were not denied. The true test was a theological one. It related to the revelation of God at the Exodus. Against this background, Jesus’ reference to the ‘finger of God’ at Lk. 11:20 was very appropriate, because it also answered the charge of Deut. 13:1-5 by stating that his exorcisms were performed by none other than the God of the Exodus. This established him as the true prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22), mighty in word and deed (Lk. 24:19; Acts 7:22). At this point Luke engages a pesher ‘This is that’ argument before a Jewish audience. Such an audience would have regarded God as the true author of miracle (Acts 2:22), in a typical Jewish fashion."[ii]

[i] Woods, Edward J., The 'finger of God' and pneumatology in Luke-Acts, (Sheffield, 2001), takes 261 pages to explain as the Jewish meaning of “the finger of God” within Luke 11.14-26.
[ii] Woods at 250.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Several days ago I blogged on the census and whether or not this was an issue during the ministry of Jesus as asserted by Nikos Kokkinos and Hugh Schonfield based on passages cited by them found in the Gospel of Luke. I stated, inter alia, “there is no evidence that the census was an issue during the ministry of Jesus.” Kokkinos, as well as Schonfield, and I have overlooked something.

A cursory review of the word “tribute” has interesting results, one that I can share with you because I can show you using Greek fonts the actual words used by the synoptic writers. Kokkinos and Schonfield both cited Lk. 20:22 and in particular the question, “Is it lawful to pay tribute to the Caesar?” This verse also appears in Matthew at 22:18 and Mark at 12:14. Only Luke includes after “lawful” the phrase “for us.”

Matthew and Mark use the Greek word khnson which is translated as tribute or taxes in most translations. However, Luke uses the Greek word foron which is also translated as tribute or taxes in most translations. foron appears in Lk 20:22; 23:2 and Rom. 13:6, 7 while khnson can be found in Matt. 17:25; 22:17; 22:19 and Mark 12:14. The more interesting observation is that khnson is a Latin loan word used for the Roman census system whereby individuals register and their property is evaluated so that a poll tax can be imposed for the benefit of the emperor. foron is an annual tax levied upon houses, land and persons. Luke has either looked to Neh. 5:4 (LXX) or 1 Macc. 8:4,7 although admittedly the word is also used by Herodotus, Plato, Strabo, Paul and Josephus.

The NT writers also use several other words that may be relevant to a thorough investigation of whether the census was an issue during the ministry of Jesus asserted by Kokkinos and Schonfield.

Luke does not use khnson as does Matthew and Mark. More research is necessary to determine the significance of this word usage.

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Biblical Chronology

Biblical Chronology

Scholars encounter a number of problems in constructing accurate biblical chronologies. Jonathan Goldstein included this pertinent comment in his I Maccabees: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary:

“It may seem strange that our author could use dates on two different bases. Stranger still, our author appears to have been led into error by the inconsistency of his two sets of dates, as if he himself was unaware of the difference between them. Bickerman saw the solution: similar inconsistencies are found in many ancient writers of history, when they draw on two sources which use different systems of chronology. Our author would thus be shown to have drawn on at least two sources, on a non-Jewish work dealing with Seleucid history which dated according to the Macedonian Selecuid era, and on Jewish records or traditions which dated according to the Babylonian Seleucid era.”[i]

Goldstein’s comment is equally applicable to Josephus.

[i] Goldstein, (Garden City, 1976), 25.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Crop-food Relationship and Sabbatical Year Dating

The Crop-food Relationship and Sabbatical Year Dating

Don Blosser explains:

“During the seventh year, the people are to eat food which was stored from the sixth year crop. This stored food was to be supplemented by the volunteer grpwth from the fields. But it should be noted that this volunteer growth was no to be harvested or sold commercially. It was to be made available to the poor, the widow, the sojorner, etc.

The people were expressing what appears to be a very legitimate concern. If we have no crop during the seventh year, what do we eat? Thus Josephus (reflecting the common assumption) refers to the seventh year as the year of the hardship.[i] But during the seventh year, the people are eating food derived from the crop harvested in the sixth year; just as in every year this year’s food comes from last year’s harvest. The criticial food problems developed during the eighth year (or the first year of the new sabbath cycle) when there was no seventh year crop to be used for food. Thus it was during the eighth year and not the seventh year that the people experienced real hardship.

A proper application of the year of hardship to the eighth year and no to the sabbath year itself helps in clearing up much of the chronology problems of the period.”[ii]

Blosser’s careful study clarifies the confusion about the crop-food relationship. It also illustrates how Josephus has contributed to the problem.

[i] Blosser cites Ant. XIII.240; XIII.378; XIV.475; XV.7; and War V.420-442. Loeb Classical Library editions.
[ii] Don Blosser, The Sabbath Year Cycle in Josephus, Hebrew Union College Annual 52 (1981), 130-131.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Knowledge of Theophilus of the LXX

The following paragraph is being posted today to determine how well I can follow the instructions of Jim West, Biblical Theology, on how to use Greek fonts in my blog. You can see the results below. Thank you Jim West.

Luke relies upon the knowledge of Theophilus of the LXX.[i] Roth has provided several examples demonstrating that the first audience would have to be familiar with the LXX. Acts 7:51 “uncircumcised in hearts and ears” is from the LXX: Lev. 26:41; Jer. 6:10; Ezek. 44:4,7.[ii] His second example is based upon a comparison of Josephus and Luke.

"For an illustration of Septuagint language evident in Lukan vocabulary, consider batoV (batouV) . To read this as a unit of liquid (Lk. 16:6) and not as a fish or a bush requires LXX competence (2 Esdr. 7:22). Since our interest in constructing an authorial audience, it is worth noting how Luke and Josephus handle the word differently. Josephus also mention this word as a unit of liquid, but in contrast to Luke, Josephus then explains it in terms of Roman measure (Ant. 8:57). Luke assumes his audience will understand batoV without explanation. Josephus’s handing of the word does not imply that he expects his audience to be familiar with the LXX. Luke’s handling does. (citations omitted)."[iii]

There is a second reason. Not only am I interested in the writings of Luke as contained in the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, I am also interested in the possible relationship if any of Josephus and Luke. That is to say, is one writer dependent upon the other? As part of my research I am looking for more examples like the one provided by Roth.

[i] S. John Roth, The Blind, the Lame and the Poor: Character Types in Luke-Acts, (Sheffield, 1997), 84.
[ii] Roth, 86.
[iii] Roth, 87.

[correction made to the citation to Josephus]

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Sabbatical Year Chronology Method

There is a more fundamental reason why sabbatical year chronology is difficult to employ in biblical studies. The Sabbatical Year began on the first day of Tishri and ended on the last day of Elul. Thus the Shemitah year which began in the Fall differed from the civil and religious year which, in preexilic and postexilic times, began on the first day of Nisan in the Spring. During the Second temple period, the Shemitah cycle was not employed for reckoning time except in sectarian circles. Thus a number of chronology studies are flawed in that Tishri is said to be the first month of the year during the Second Temple period.

Yet we need to recognize that the influence of the institution of Shemitah played a major role in the gradual shifting of the beginning of the Jewish New Year from Nisan to Tishri. This shift explains why one cannot create actable of the sabbatical year cycle by beginning with the year of the most recent sabbatical year (5761) and working backwards. This would be an exercise in futility.

In addition, as shown by Don Blosser, “The confusion over Sabbath year dating comes from the difficulty in properly understanding the terminology to describe the crop-food relationship.”[i] Biblical chronology is a fascinating subject that will be addressed in greater detail in future comments.

[i] Don Blosser, The Sabbath Year Cycle in Josephus, Hebrew Union College Annual 52 (1981), 129-139.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Sabbatical Years and the Date of the Crucifixion

Nikos Kokkinos and Hugh Schonfield have attempted to demonstrate, using evidence based on the sabbatical year cycle, that the date of the crucifixion was in 36 CE.[i] Kokkinos asserts that “this is the only chronological framework that may canonically verify that Jesus was active when a sabbatical year overlapped with a Roman census year; all other theories fail to do this.[ii] Although this is superficially attractive, there is no evidence that the census was an issue during the ministry of Jesus. Both Kokkinos and Schonfield cite these pericopes as support: the census is alleged to be the reason for the hostility toward the tax collector Zacchaeus[iii], the question put to Jesus in Jerusalem, “Shall we pay tribute to Caesar?”[iv] and the unfairness of the system as reflected in Jesus’ words.[v] However, there is nothing in these passages suggesting that the census, rather than the oppressive tax system, is in view. On the contrary, Luke presents Mary and Joseph as obedient subjects who hurry to Bethlehem to register in accordance with Roman law.

[i] Robin Lane Fox, Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible, (New York, 1991), also dates the crucifixion to 36 CE but I do know if he based his argument on the sabbatical year cycle.
[ii] Kokkinos in “Crucifixion in A.D. 36,” Chronos, Kairos, Christos edited by Jerry Vardaman and Edwin M. Yamauchi, (1989), 138, citing H.J. Schonfield, The Pentecostal Revolution, (London, 1974), 54.
[iii] Lk. 19:1-10.
[iv] Lk. 20:21-25.
[v] Lk. 8:18; 19:26.

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Monday, January 17, 2005

Sabbatical Year Appointment

A number of scholars have suggested that one or more events recited by Luke are related to the sabbatical year. Some have asserted that both John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries during a sabbatical year. It has been said that Luke utilized inclusive reckoning of time. The “plucking of the grain” verse[i] is said to occur during a sabbatical year. The famine relief effort and the collection for the poor is a response related to the crisis of the sabbatical year. It is therefore possible that the appointment of the seven is also a response to the crisis of the sabbatical year. The Roman census also coincides with the sabbatical year.

Every seventh year the Israelites were to let the land keep a "sabbath of rest" by not sowing their crops.[ii] This sabbatical year was called "the year of shemitah" or "release"[iii], since all debts were remitted that year. Sabbatical years began with the seventh Jewish month in the fall, commonly called Tishri, corresponding roughly with our month of October.[iv]
Mention is made of sabbatical year chronology because some scholars have used this methodology to set the date of the crucifixion. Zuckerman[v] represents the standard position. In 1973, Ben Zion Wacholder[vi] published a table of sabbatical years being one year later than Zuckerman’s.

Today is 7 Shvat 5765 on the Jewish calendar. The last occurrence of the sabbatical year was in 5761.

[i] Lk. 6:1.
[ii] Lev. 25:2-7.
[iii] Deut. 15:9; 31:10.
[iv] Lev. 25:9.
[v] Benedict Zuckerman published a table of sabbatical years in ancient times about 1856.
[vi] Hebrew Union College Annual 1973 “The Calendar of Sabbatical Cycles during the Second Temple and Early Rabbinical Period, 183-196; Hebrew Union College Annual 1975 The Timing of Messianic Movements and the Calendar of Sabbatical Cycles, 201-218.

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Astronomy Pictue of the Day
is an inpressive view of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, made possible because a manmade spacecraft launched from earth in 1997 traveled one billion miles to be able to take this picture.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Lukan Priority

Robert Lindsey explains how he became a Lukan priorist in Four Keys for Better Understanding Jesus which is available at Jerusalem Pespective Online:

Moon turned to blood

“In the days of Herod”, it was noted that the mention of a lunar eclipse by Josephus has been used as a means of dating the death of Herod. Since this eclipse was the only eclipse mentioned by Josephus, it was suggested that this eclipse was particularly memorable because the moon had turned to red. Humphreys and Waddington state: “‘The moon turned to blood’ is a graphic description of a lunar eclipse.”[i] Their article also demonstrated that there was a lunar eclipse on Friday April 3, 33 CE that was visible from Jerusalem. This finding makes it possible to fix the date of the crucifixion[ii] because Luke described the occurrence of an eclipse at the time of the crucifixion. “The crowd on the day of Pentecost would undoubtedly understand Peter’s words, the moon turning to blood[iii], as referring to this eclipse which they had see.”[iv]

Gerald Hawkins, the American astronomer who 'decoded' Stonehenge, explains in simple terms what happens to the Earth's moon when it is totally eclipsed:
"As totality approaches, the moon moves further into the curved edge of the Earth's shadow. The sunlight is obscured and the moon appears to be swallowed in the darkness, but it does not disappear completely. During the total phase, the moon shines very faintly in a copper color, or sometimes, a blood-red hue. Poets have often referred to this coloration as a portent of disaster. The moon is shining by sunlight that has passed through the atmosphere of the Earth. Refraction bends the pale light into the dark shadow cone. The dust in the atmosphere of the Earth scatters away the blue light, letting only the red rays pass through. Because of the dust we see a red sun at sunset and a red moon during a total eclipse."

[i] Humphreys and Waddington, The Date of the Crucifixion, JASA 37 (March 1985), 2-10.
[ii] According to Finegan’s Handbook of biblical chronology: principles of time reckoning in the ancient world and problems of chronology in the Bible, (Princeton, 1964), there are only two possible dates for the crucifixion, viz. AD 30 and AD 33. Finegan was unable to decide conclusively between them.
[iii] Act 2:20 RSV the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day.
[iv] Humphreys and Waddington.

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Thursday, January 13, 2005

In the days of Herod

Luke is criticized for asserting that Jesus was born "in the days of Herod."[i] Josephus records that Herod died shortly after an eclipse of the Moon seen at Jericho, at the time of a fast and sometime before the Feast of Passover.[ii] This eclipse of the moon is the only eclipse mentioned by Josephus in any of his writings. It has become an important chronological benchmark in reckoning the year of Herod's death. Thus the determination of its exact date is critical. The German scholar Emil Schurer favored the eclipse of March 13, 4 BCE.[iii] The evidence of astronomy seemed to support this date. If Herod died in 4 BCE, there is said to be another inconsistency with respect to the census conducted by Quirenius.

Why was Herod's eclipse the only eclipse mentioned by Josephus in his lengthy histories? A partial answer is that it occurred on the night after the execution of some Jewish patriots, and would probably have been interpreted as a sign in heaven related to their death.[iv] Often during a total lunar eclipse, the moon looks red because of the same phenomenon that produces sunsets. The sunlight refracting through the edges of the Earth's atmosphere absorbs bluer light and allows redder light to filter through. Thus, the blood-red color of the total eclipse would have been far more dramatic and foreboding[v] than a partial lunar eclipse. However the lunar eclipse on March 13 of 4 BCE was a partial eclipse. Dating the death of Herod to a partial (40%) eclipse does not satisfy the tradition the moon was red that night[vi] nor explains why Josephus would mention a partial eclipse.

[i]. Lk 1:5.
[ii]. Ant.17.6.4
[iii] Geschichte des Judiscen Volkes (1901).
[iv] "But Herod deprived this Matthias of the high priesthood, and burnt the other Matthias, who had raised the sedition, with his companions. And that very night there was an eclipse of the Moon.” Ant. 17:6,4.
[v]. "I will show portents in the sky and on earth,
blood and fire and columns of smoke;
the sun shall be turned into darkness
and the moon into blood
before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes."
Joel 2:30-31.
[vi]. A partial (40%) eclipse would not have turned the moon red.

copyrighted 2005

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Sacred Time and Luke

Sacred Time and Luke

Southeastern Pennsylvania and Northern Delaware were without Internet connection on January 12, 2005 during business hours. I suppose we will soon read what the economic cost of this downtime was. The expression “time is money” is a statement about the values of our society. Was there any notion of time in the first century or any means of measurement of that time? Two groups of people did in fact measure time: astronomers and priests. “Ancient priests kept track of it as a way of serving God. For them time was sacred.”

After the prologue, Luke states: “In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a certain priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah . . .”
[ii] Luke mentions the division of Abijah without any explanation, but Theophilus the High Priest would need none. Did Luke also provide us with a time marker in telling us that Zechariah was of the division of Abijah?

As a priest, Zechariah served five weeks in the Temple, two one week periods and during the pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot, also known as Pentecost and Sukkoth, when all Jews were enjoined to travel to Jerusalem to perform the necessary sacrifices and rites at the Temple.
[iii] Josephus proudly tells us that he was a member of a family belonging to the first of twenty-four courses of priests or divisions.[iv] The priestly division of Abijah would have been the 8th weekly course in the priest service cycle. If this calendrical cycle could be correlated to a known date, and if it were known to be continuous, then the cycle could potentially be used to establish other historical dates. Plummer concluded his discussion of the twenty-four courses with these words: “but we know far too little about the details of the arrangement to derive any sure chronology from the statement made by Lk.”[v]

According to John Pratt, the Dead Sea calendar scrolls make it clear that for a period of seven years, the 24-Week Priest Cycle of courses constituted one uninterrupted cycle, with each family serving for one week, beginning about midday each Saturday. Moreover, the precise week in which they served can be determined.
[vi] The course of Abijah appears in the Synchronistic Calendars (3Q320-321a) as well as other calendar texts found at Qumran. Furthermore, accepting rabbinic tradition as summarized by Finegan,[vii] that the Temple was destroyed during the weekly service of the course of Jehoiarib, on the calendar date of the ninth day of Ab equivalent in the year 70 CE to Aug 5 means that a fixed end point has been established.

Pratt believes that he has solved the puzzle but other individuals, such as Roger Beckwith, studying the same data have come to different conclusions. Although Plummer’s conclusion that we do not have enough information may no longer be true, more analysis is required. However, Pratt has vindicated Augustine in establishing the sacerdotal concerns of Luke.

[i] Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Edward Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls, A New Translation (New York: Harper-Collins, 1996), 297.
[ii] Luke 1:5.
[iii] Bock (1996), 76; Plummer (1896), 8-9.
[iv] Life 1 §2; Ant.7.14.7 §§363-67; Against Apion 2.8 §108; (1 Chronicles 24:7-19; 2 Chronicles 23:8).
[v] Plummer, 9.
[vi] "Dead Sea Scrolls May Solve Mystery," Meridian Magazine (12 Mar 2003).
[vii] Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1998), 275.

copyrighted 2005

Artifacts Israel Says Were Forged

The Guardian Unlimited (link provided to me by David Meadows),1280,-4700427,00.html

Summary: Artifacts Israel Says Were Forged
Wednesday December 29, 2004 10:16 PM
By The Associated Press
A list of some of the archaeological objects the Israeli authorities say were forged by a sophisticated criminal ring:
- The James ossuary, a burial box bearing the inscription ``James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.''
- The Yoash inscription, a tablet from about the 9th century B.C., inscribed with 15 lines of ancient Hebrew with instructions for maintaining the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The tablet was offered for sale for $4.5 million.
- Shards of clay pots bearing inscriptions linking them to biblical sites and the biblical temples. Some of them sold to private collectors for up to $100,000 each.
-A stone menorah inscribed with depictions of plants and said to belong to the temple High Priest, offered to private collectors for $100,000.
-A gold and stone royal seal said to be that of Menashe, King of Judah, offered to a private collector for $1 million.
-A quartz bowl, bearing an inscription in an ancient Egyptian script, claiming that Egyptian forces destroyed the ancient town of Megiddo, a subject of intense academic debate.
-An ivory pomegranate thought to be that of the temple high priest. The Israel Museum bought the pomegranate from an anonymous collector for $550,000 in the 1980s, with the money deposited into a secret Swiss bank account.
-An ancient clay vase with an inscription said to be part of an offering at the temple.
-Numerous wax seals, said to belong to biblical figures. Some selling for $90,000.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Luke and the Census

Over on Hypotyposeis,, Stephen C. Carlson did a detailed study of Luke 2:2 and the census. Focusing on the census may be misplaced.[i] Luke may be directing our attention to Quirinius rather than the census because Quirinius appointed Annas as High Priest. Luke uses the step-progression method. Thus prior to mentioning Annas in Lk. 3:2, he mentions Quirinius, the person who appointed him, in Lk. 2:2. Luke likewise does this in Acts 4:6, mentioning Jonathan (Western text) who is the High Priest before whom Stephen appears in Acts 7:1. This is particularly important to Luke who wants the first reader to know he knows the players without explicitly associating them with the events that make them notorious. See my post on the High Priest of Luke-Acts posted 1-8-2005.

I do agree that Luke is making a distinction between the census presided over by Quirinius and the census that caused Joseph and Mary to register. I disagree as the date of the first census. I accept the argument that this census (or registration) in 3/2 BCE was actually an oath of allegiance demanded by Augustus Caesar. Since both Joseph and Mary were descendants of David, and could both be considered legitimate claimants of the throne of Israel, both could be required to make the trip to Bethlehem. On February 5, 2 BCE, Augustus was given the title Pater Patriae[ii] by decree of the Senate and the people of Rome. The festivities coincided with his 25th jubilee year of being emperor of Rome and the 750th year of the founding of Rome. Josephus substantiates that an oath of obedience was required in Judea in this time period.[iii] Ernest Martin concludes that the oath of Josephus, the Paphlagonian inscription and Orosius and the census mentioned by Luke, Orosius and Moses of Khoren were one and the same event.[iv]

[i] Carlson seems to accept McLaren’s argument set forth in “Would the Real Judas the Galilean Please Stand Up?” dating Judas the Gaililean “to the years of Domitian’s reign.” To Carlson, the census is relevant because “Josephus emphasized that census as an ultimate cause of the war” and this implicitly was known by Luke’s audience.
[ii] Res Gestae, 35.
[iii] Antiquities 17:41-45 states “Accordingly, when all the people of the Jews gave assurance of their good will to Caesar, and to the king’s government.”
[iv] Martin, 89-90.

copyrighted 2005

Monday, January 10, 2005

Presentation of Verifiable Facts

Michael Coogan, The History of the Biblical World in Recent Scholarship, “addressing the recent scholarly debate on the historical value of the Bible, challenges the biblical minimalists, scholars who reject the Bible as a viable source of history. Demonstrating how archaeological evidence can inform the biblical text, Coogan maintains that the Bible, in conjunction with archaeological evidence, should still be considered part of history, and that despite the ideological slant of the biblical authors, the Bible does contain verifiable historical data.” According to Clare K. Rothschild “what distinguishes these works as history is an abiding focus on the presentation of verifiable facts.”[i] The unmistakable role of the placement of the name of Johanna in the vertex of the chiastic structure is to draw attention to the one eyewitness to the resurrection known personally to the first reader, most excellent Theophilus. This demonstrates that Luke has employed chiastic structures as one of his rhetorical tools in “the presentation of verifiable facts.”

According to Dillon, “Lk accentuates what is more important matter for him: these are the women who ‘have come up from Galilee’ with Jesus, hence they are members of that stable gallery of ‘witnesses’ who provide a crucial continuity-factor in the whole story of Luke-Acts.”[ii] Rothschild notes, “The apostles refuse to believe the testimony, not because the testimony is from women, but as in the Rhoda pericope, because it is hearsay in need of eyewitness corroboration.”[iii] Dillon states: “verification of the women’s story by prominent disciples”[iv] is an important Lucan addition. However, neither Dillon nor Rothschild discussed the existence of a chiastic structure in Lk. 24: 8-11 with the name of Johanna in the vertex.

What connects these stray thoughts together? Unbeknownst to Coogan, Rothschild and Dillon, there is archeological evidence in the form of an ossuary confirming the historical existence of Theophilus the High Priest and Johanna, his granddaughter.[v]

[i] Luke-Acts and the Rhetoric of History, (Tubingen, 2004), 98.
[ii] Dillon, Richard J., From eye-witnesses to ministers of the Word: tradition and composition in Luke 24, (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1978), 8-9.
[iii] Rothschild, Clare K., Luke-Acts and the rhetoric of history: an investigation of early Christian historiography, (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 252.
[iv] Dillon, 5.
[v] D. Barag and D. Flusser, The Ossuary of Yehohanah Granddaughter of the High Priest Theophilus, Israel Exploration Journal, 36 (1986), 39-44.

copyrighted 2005

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Codex Bezae and the Da Vinci Code

In Codex Bezae and the Da Vinci Code,
Wieland Willker looks A textcritical look at the Rennes-le-Chateau hoax.

High Priests of Luke-Acts

Luke tells us the names of certain important persons who served as high priests during the period of time covered by his accounts. What is interesting about the collective identity of these individuals is that all of them with one exception are members of the same family. This, in itself, should have been an important clue about the identity of most excellent Theophilus. Second, the names are not explicitly associated with the events that we today would say would make them notorious. Annas and Caiaphas are identified as high priests in Lk. 3:2 but are not identified by name in the passion accounts. Jonathan is identified in Acts 4:6 but not as the high priest before whom Stephen appeared. The letters are addressed to Theophilus but he is not identified as the high priest who issued letters to Saul. Recognizing that Luke has made an irenical presentation explains the anonymous status Luke has attached to them. After all, Theophilus knew who they were.

This a small point but one that is important to make.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Jonathan, Stephen and the First Marker in Pauline Chronology

I write to suggest a new way to view Pauline Chronology.

The easiest way to establish the historicity of Acts of the Apostles is to demonstrate that all of the data contained therein can be utilized to create an accurate chronology of the first generation of the followers of Jesus. In Acts 4:5-6, we read:

On the morrow their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high priestly family. RSV

Luke does not mean to say that Annas was the reigning High Priest; rather Annas is named as the High Priest by Luke because 1) he is considered by Jewish society to still be the High Priest, as High Priest for life; 2) because he is the power behind the throne; 3) as a mark of respect due the former High Priest; and 4) as part of the irenical presentation that Luke is making to Theophilus the High Priest, son of Annas. This is not to say that Annas was the reigning High Priest when Jesus appeared before him or when Stephen was stoned. This is consistent with Luke’s usage in Lk. 3:2 and also consistent with Josephus’ usage in identifying a former High Priest as High Priest.

This John in Acts 4:5-6 should be correctly identified as Jonathan. In fact, the Western text[i] has the name correctly as Jonathan, which would be consistent with Josephus[ii] who identifies Jonathan as the high priest who follows Caiaphas. One commentator notes “This sort of inconsequential detail, the mentioning of names that do not really play a role in the narrative, is characteristic of Luke and suggest his use of sources.”[iii] On the contrary, “this sort of inconsequential detail” is a hint of the greater involvement of Jonathan in a subsequent event consistent with Luke’s step-progression method. Krodel claims “Luke never says everything at once, but expands and unfolds earlier themes as he moves step by step from one episode to another.”[iv]

Most of the commentators do not discuss the identity of the unnamed high priest who addressed Stephen: “Is this so?” [7:1]. The reason Luke does not explicitly name the high priest concerns the irenical purpose of his message.[v] On my view, the stoning of Stephen occurs during the high priesthood of Jonathan. This proposal causes problems for most if not all Pauline chronology schemes except possibly Robin Lane Fox. The high priesthood of Jonathan can be precisely dated using the information from Josephus. For Josephus, there are three great holidays: the pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot, also known as Pentecost and Sukkot, when all Jews were enjoined to travel to Jerusalem to perform the necessary sacrifices and rites at the Temple. Since Josephus mentions that Jonathan is appointed High Priest at the time of Passover[vi], his removal either occurred at the time of Shavuot, seven weeks later or Sukkot, five months later. The Hebrew feast of Shavuos, the Festival of Weeks, appears five times in the works of Josephus, who calls it by its Greek name Pentecost. Josephus identifies the removal event as follows: Vitellius “went up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God, an ancient festival of the Jews then approaching.” In agreement with Jeremias, Sukkot is the more likely ancient festival being identified by Josephus. Stephen used Nehemiah 9 as the model and source for his sermon perhaps because the events described therein immediately followed the Festival of Sukkot.

There is additional circumstantial evidence supporting the identification of Jonathan and the time period as the time period of the stoning of Stephen. Another son of Annas served for a brief time during the sixties as high priest and during his high priesthood the stoning of James occurred. The following similarities should be noted:

Jonathan + Ananus

son of Annas + son of Annas
5 months, 37 C.E. + 3 months, 62 C.E.
Vitellius in Antioch + Albinius out of town
stoning of Stephen + stoning of James
removal + removal

These two events occurred during a period of time when the Sanhedrin was unable to impose a death sentence without Roman approval. This should serve as a clue as to what happened in 37 C.E. In the case of James, the reigning high priest was removed as soon as Albinius arrived in Jerusalem. Festus died in office in 62 C.E. The Emperor Nero sends Albinius to replace Festus. At the same time, King Agrippa II who had been granted control over the high priesthood bestows it on Ananus. Josephus describes Ananus as rash and impertinent. Josephus further states that he “followed the school of the Sadducees, who, when it comes to judgments, are savage beyond all other Jews as I have explained.” Josephus then relates the stoning of James, brother of Jesus. Before Albinius can act, King Agrippa removes Ananus as High Priest. The account in Josephus can be interpreted to mean that the High Priest was responsible for maintaining order and perhaps seek approval of the Romans prior to the imposition of the death sentence.

With respect to Stephen, we know that Jonathan served as High Priest for about 5 months before he was removed and replaced by his brother. Josephus does not tell us the reason for this unusual change of high priest after a brief period of service in that Jonathan did not die in office and we are left to speculate as to the reason for his removal. We do know that according to Acts, Stephen was stoned and the High Priest was involved. This High Priest was Jonathan. Just prior to the removal of the High Priest, there was vacuum in power as the top Roman official assigned to Judea was out of town. Pilate was on his way to Rome, probably in chains and Vitellius was in Antioch.

In both situations, perhaps the reigning High Priest took advantage of the situation. Jonathan was removed as High Priest was because the stoning of Stephen took place on his watch and the Roman official took offense because he considered it to be a usurpation of his power. The stoning either was considered a lost of control of the crowds or failure to seek Roman approval of the death sentence. Josephus mentions another instance where the High Priest was removed because an event occurred for which he was held responsible: the removal of the eagle at the Temple in the last days of Herod the Great when Matthias was the High Priest.[vii]

In both instances, it would fair to infer that the stoning occurred because both Stephen and James had been publicly blaming the Temple establishment for the death of Jesus. As noted this identification is problematical, not for any logical reason but solely because it interferes with the pet theories about Pauline chronology. All Pauline chronologies, with the exception of Robin Lane Fox, start with Paul’s conversion in 33/34 C.E.

Josephus does not tell us the reason why Jonathan only served five months. The reason is easy to understand. For Josephus, Jonathan is one of the good guys. There is simply no event prior to the high priesthood of Jonathan that can serve as the setting for the stoning of Stephen.

Based on the above, the date of Paul's conversion cannot be earlier than 37 C.E.

© copyrighted 2005, 10-9-07; comment about Nehemiah 9 added.

[i] See Metzger, Textual Commentary, 317.
[ii] Ant.18.4.3
[iii] Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, (Grand Rapids, 1998), 191.
[iv] G.A. Krodel, Acts (Minneapolis, 1986), 281.
[v] For the same reason, Luke does not explicitly identify Caiaphas as the name of the High Priest before Jesus appeared.
[vi] So Vitellius . . . ordered Pilate to go to Rome to answer before the emperor to the accusations of the Jews; but before he could get to Rome, Tiberius was dead. [The Emperor, Tiberius Claudius Nero, (42 BCE-37 CE) died March 16, 37 CE. A Dictionary of The Roman Empire.]
But Vitellius came into Judea, and went up to Jerusalem; it was at the time of that festival, which is called the Passover.
[vii] See VanderKam, From Joshua to Caiaphas: High Priests after the Exile, (Fortress Press, 2004), 412.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Johanna, witness to the resurrection

Witness to the Resurrection

Layman, at Christian Cadre,
has some interesting comments on women witnesses. I think these comments merely reinforce the importance of Johanna as a witness to the resurrection.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Theophilus the High Priest

The Theophilus Proposal identifies most excellent Theophilus as the High Priest and the person to whom Luke addressed what we now call the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.[i] Luke does not connect forgiveness of sins with the death of Jesus because such a notion would have offended the High Priest and destroy any chance that the irenical presentation Luke was making would be effective.

This identification of “most excellent Theophilus” as the High Priest offers a possible explanation for Luke's lack of atoning view of the cross. Luke is thoroughly Jewish and the earliest Christians considered themselves to be Jews. Clearly such a lack of atoning view represents primitive Christianity.[ii] More importantly, Luke, in my opinion, rejected and/or did not develop an atoning significance for the death of Jesus because Luke did not want to equate Jesus with the High Priest. Luke, ever the diplomat, was very careful in his Gospel not to describe Jesus as a prophet greater than Moses. Such a notion would have been very offensive to the High Priest. Three examples should illustrate this point. In describing the Transfiguration only Luke indicates that Jesus, Moses and Elijah appeared together in glory.[iii] The Lucan Jesus does not walk on water nor does he curse the fig tree causing it to wilt and die. Luke, as part of his irenical presentation certainly, did not want to offend the High Priest. For this reason, Luke does not develop the substitutionary importance of the cross. The Jews believed that the death of the High Priest had atoning significance. Persons charged with accidental homicide who had fled to a city of refuge were permitted to return home after the death of the High Priest without facing prosecution.[iv] The death of the High Priest was regarded as atonement for the innocent blood that had been shed.[v]

Jacob Milgrom in his JPS Torah Commentary on Numbers with respect to Num 35:25 states 'As the High Priest atones for Israel's sins through his cultic service in his lifetime (Exod. 28:36; Lev. 16:16,21), so he atones for homicide through his death. Since the blood of the slain, although spilled accidentally, cannot be avenged through the death of the slayer, it is ransomed through the death of the High Priest which releases all homicides from their cities of refuge. That it is not the exile of the manslaughter but the death of the High Priest that expiates his crime is confirmed by the Mishnah: "If, after the slayer has been sentenced as an accidental homicide, the High Priest dies, he need not go into exile." The Talmud, in turn comments thereon "But it is not the exile that expiates? It is not the exile that expiates, but the death of the high priest."' [footnotes omitted].

The doctrine of the theology of the cross replaced both the High Priest and the Day of Atonement.

[i] Theophilus: A Proposal, Evangelical Quarterly, 69:3 (1997), 195-215; available at my website.
[ii] W. Heitmuller, 'Hellenistic Christianity before Paul,' Writings of St. Paul, ed. by Wayne Meeks (New York London, 1972), 314, ET of 'Zum Problem Paulus und Jesus,' Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenscraft 13 (1912) 320-37.
[iii]. Lk. 9:28-36; cf. Mt. 17:1-8 and Mk. 9:2-13.
[iv]. Num. 35: 11, 25, 28, 32.
[v]. According to Philo, the High Priest is the expiator of sins and the mediator and advocate for men. See internet article on “The pneumatology of Philo” at

Economy of the Kingdom

"Several Lucan parables give clear indications both of the precarious situation of tenants and of the built-up antagonisms and criticism against landlords (16:1-8; 19:12-27; 20:9-16)."[i] “Some of Josephus’ stories indicate the hugh accumulations of wealth involved (e.g. Life, 66-68, 126-128).”[ii] Gerd Theissen makes this comment: “A progressive concentration of possession probably heightened the struggle over the distribution of wealth in the first century A.D.”[iii] Sean Freyne stated: “The Galilian Jewish peasant found himself in the rather strange position that those very people to whom he felt bound by ties of national and religious loyalty, the priestly aristocracy, were in fact his social oppressors."[iv]

The vineyard parables presuppose the absence of the landlord[v] but was the landlord a foreigner? Halvor Moxnes analyzed the economic relationships of the landlord in The Economy of the Kingdom.[vi] The trusted servant acted as a messenger on his behalf (Lk. 14:17-24; 20:9-14). The absentee landlord employed a steward (oikonomos) who is in charge of the estate while the landlord is away (Lk. 12:41-48). Moxnes stated “It was primarily the large absentee landowners who needed agents. The owner of the vineyard in the parable 20:9-19 lives close enough to deal with his tenants directly through a servant messenger (doulos) who could not act independently of the master.”[vii] These observations may contradict the conclusion that the owner of the vineyard was an absentee foreign landlord. The phrase, “went into another country”, may be the derogatory comment of a Galilean preacher identifying 'Judea' with “another country.” At the time of Jesus, Galilee had only been subject to Jerusalem authority for about 100 years beginning when the Hasmonean High Priests came to power during the Maccabean revolt.

[i] Moxnes, The Economy of the Kingdom: Social Conflicts and Economic Relations in Luke's Gospel, (Philadelphia 1988), 73.
[ii]. Andrew Chester, “The Jews of Judaea and Gaililee” in Early Christian though in its Jewish Context edited by Barclay and Sweet, (Cambridge, 1996), 12.
[iii] Gerd Theissen, Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity, (Philadelphia 1978), 41.

[iv] Sean Freyne, Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian, 323 B.C.E - 135 C.E.: A Study of Second Temple Judaism, (Philadelphia, 1980), 199.

[v]. Lk. 16:1ff; 13:6ff; 19:1ff; Matt. 21:33-44; Mark 12:1.
[vi]. Moxnes, 62-64.
[vii]. Moxnes, 63.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Acts 7:36, Tsunami and Exodus

Stephen as he recounts the history of the Israelites in his last sermon notes that God “led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years.” This recalls the wonders and signs, inter alia, in Exodus 14:21-29. The tragic event, just days ago in Southeast Asia, when a tsunami wrecked horrible havoc and caused the loss of innumerable lives, also recalls other similar tsunami related events. In particular, the eruption of Thera (Santorini) may have caused a tsunami that pushed back the Red Sea.

Why bad things happen to good people is something beyond my ability to explain. Fortunately good people everywhere are being extremely generous in their individual and collective responses to the most devastating tsunami in history.

Support tsunami relief efforts

For your convenience, here are addresses of two excellent organizations for making donations in support of the relief efforts in South Asia:

ELCA International Disaster Response
PO Box 71764
Chicago, IL 60694-1764
Online credit card donations can be made at:

Lutheran World Relief
South Asia Tsunami/Wave of Giving
PO Box 17061
Baltimore, MD 21298-9832
Telephone credit card donations: 800-LWR-LWR-2 (800-597-5972)
Online credit card donations can be made at:

Luke uses the phrase “wonders and signs” and also “signs and wonders” more frequently than any other NT writer. But I need to return to this subject on another day.

Redaction Criticism and Luke

Redaction criticism[i] is the study of the theological perspective of a biblical text evident in its collection, arrangement, editing and modification of sources. H. Conzelmann undertook the first and still best known redaction-critical study of the Gospel of Luke. His 1952 article "Zur Lukasanalyse" was later expanded into a book (ET The Theology of St. Luke). Since Conzelmann, Lucan scholars have had to address the question of whether Luke was a historian or theologian.

Since Conzelmann concluded that Luke does not connect forgiveness of sins with the death of Jesus,[ii] it is remarkable that scholars have not asked the question why is it that Luke does not have this theological theme. Bart D. Ehrman[iii] has explained why the Revised Standard Version with Lk. 22:19b-20 omitted should be the preferred reading. Thus the conclusion reached by Conzelmann stands.

Identifying most excellent Theophilus as the High Priest permits us to focus upon what in reality was the most important question facing the followers of Jesus in the Second Temple post resurrection era. Each Jewish follower of Jesus had to answer the question, what do we do with the High Priest? As each follower and each community formulated their answer, each NT writer following Luke likewise answered the question. Traces of those deliberations can be seen throughout the NT. The unknown author to the Epistle to Hebrews provided the ultimate answer. We no longer recognize what a problem this question was to the first followers of Jesus.

[i] The term Redaction Criticism (Redaktionsgeschichte) was coined by W. Marxen, Mark the Evangelist, 1956, 21.
[ii]. Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke, (London 1960), 201.
[iii]. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, (New York and Oxford, 1993), 197-209.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Purpose of Acts II

As noted in Friday’s post, Anananias and the elders filed charges against Paul that were to be heard by Felix. During the time Paul remained in the custody of Felix, Ananias was replaced as High Priest by Ismael, son of Phiabi[i] and Felix was replaced as governor by Festus.[ii] Fitzmyer assigns 58 CE as the year of Paul’s trial before the Sanhedrin since Felix’s term probably ended in 60 CE when the Empereor Nero recalled him. Festus sent Paul to Rome when he asserted his right as a Roman citizen for a hearing before the emperor. According to Acts Paul remained in custody in Rome for two years. Thus the Acts ends in 62 CE.

Did Ananias and the elders ever appear in Rome to continue the prosecution of Paul? The evidence suggests that Ananias was actively involved in the affairs and events occuring in Jerusalem from the end of his reign as High Priest until his death in 66 CE.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia summarizes these events as follow: “He was deposed shortly before Felix left the province, but continued to wield great influence, which he used in a lawless and violent way. He was a typical Sadducee, wealthy, haughty, unscrupulous, filling his sacred office for purely selfish and political ends, anti-nationalist in his relation to the Jews, friendly to the Romans. He died an ignominious death, being assassinated by the popular zealots (sicarii) at the beginning of the last Jewish war.”

These facts recorded by Josephus as summarized above indicate Ananias continued to exercise influence although he was no longer high priest. It is unlikely Ananias ever appeared in Rome to continue the prosecution of Paul or that Paul ever faced trial in Rome on the charges filed by Ananias.

[i] Ant. xx. 8, 9 [§ 179].
[ii] Acts 24:27; Josephus, Ant. xx. 8, 9.

copyrighted 2005