Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Most High Priest

R.H. Charles, in his Introduction to the Book of Jubilees, discussing the date of the original text states: in part,

“Jubilees was written between 153 B.C. and the year of Hyrcanus' breach with the Pharisees. (1) It was written during the pontificate of the Maccabean family, and not earlier than 155 B.C., when this office was assumed by Jonathan the Maccabee. For in xxxii. 1, Levi is called a 'priest of the Most High God.' Now the only Jewish high-priests who bore this title were the Maccabean, who appear to have assumed it as reviving the order of Melchizedek when they displaced the Zadokite order of Aaron.”

In discussing the Priesthood of Melchizedek, R.H. Charles demonstrated that the Maccabean high-priests deliberately adopted the title applied to Melchizedek in Gen. 14 and noted, that despite the objections of the Pharisees, it was used by the Maccabean princes down to Hyrcanus II (Jos. Ant. xvi. 6.2).

The Pharisees objected to the use of the phrase referring to Hyrcanus as the high priest of the Almighty God (or as the high priest of the Most High God)[i]. Why did the Pharisees find this to be objectionable?

In the New Testament, we find we find several uses of this phrase:

Mark 5:7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, [thou] Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.

Lk. 8:28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, [thou] Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.

Acts 16:17 She followed Paul and us, crying, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation."

Heb. 7:1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; . . . .

Darrell Bock, in his comment on Luke 8:28, states that this title is the Gentile way to refer to the God of the Jews citing Josephus and Plummer.[ii] In Luke 8:28 and Acts 16:17, the person making the address is a Gentile. However, I have noted in this blog that the author of the Book of Jubilees in xxxii. 1, calls Levi a 'priest of the Most High God.' In Gen. 14:18, Melchizedek is identified as a priest of the most high God.

Was the use of this title in connection with the high priest an objectionable form of worship of the high priest?[iii] Crispin Fletcher-Louis, in his discussion of the worship of the high priest, cites Jos. Ant. 11.331 [11.8.5] but in this passage Alexander is quoted as saying the title is a mark of respect, not to the high priest but, to the God he worships. The hymn in praise of Simon the High Priest in Sirach 50 would appear to be a more likely example of offensive worship of the high priest.

Thus the question remains, why did the Pharisees find this phrase to be objectionable?

[i] In Daniel 3:26, Nebuchadnezzar called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the most high God.
[ii] Luke, Vol. 1: 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Moises Silva, (Grand Rapids, Vol. 3a 1994), fn 11, 772.
[iii] See Ant. 11.331 [11.8.5].

copyrighted 2005


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