Rewriting Elijah 2
Last Sunday, I blogged on this subject with the feeling that I should have written more. So, I would like to add some additional random thoughts. Elijah is the fourth most mentioned OT character in the New Testament, after Moses, Abraham and David. The majority of these references occur in the Gospels.
In Luke 4:25-27 Jesus uses the account of Elijah being sent to the widow in Zarephath to illustrate his argument that the Lord had always acted in ways that his people did not expect and have found offensive. In this case, his audience expected the Messiah to vanquish the Gentile oppressors, and not include them in the blessings they thought should be reserved for Israel alone.
Elijah and his disciple Elisha are not ordinary prophets. Jack Poirier writing in Jerusalem Perspective[i] notes they are the only two prophets mentioned in the Old Testament as having been anointed and they are the only two who fit the description of the Isaiah 61 passage Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth.
On February 20, 2005, I blogged on the High Priest as a Divine Mediator. Crispin Fletcher-Louis sees the Lucan Jesus as the eschatological high priest. Fletcher-Louis did not discuss Elijah, the anointed priest. It seems to me that Poirier’s suggestion strengthens Fletcher-Louis’ argument and I suppose strengthens my argument that Luke’s presentation is the first class use of irony as a tool of rhetoric because Jesus by the power of God is raised from the dead and does appear at the right hand of the power of God.
To the extent, Matthew and Mark present Jesus as the eschatological high priest, I see this as a later theological development. I developed this position in “The Cross and Atonement from Luke to Hebrews.”[ii] Reducing my argument to a brief paragraph, I would merely note that the anointment at Bethany[iii] is an example where Mark has added High Priestly imagery to the passion narrative. According to Leviticus 8, Moses poured some of the anointing oil onto Aaron's head to consecrate him. In Mark, an unknown woman poured anointing oil onto Jesus' head. Aus say this event took place to represent Jesus as the High Priest.[iv] Thus it is significant that the head of Jesus is not anointed in Luke. Luke tells the story of the woman who poured oil on the feet of Jesus during his Galilean ministry.[v] The High Priestly imagery is missing from this account. Luke avoids presenting Jesus as a prophet greater than Moses. He also avoids any hints that Jesus is anointed the High Priest or that Jesus has replaced the High Priest.
I still have that same feeling about writing more but both Poirier and Fletcher-Louis have given me food for thought. I will be reading the sources cited by them and I will be returning to Rewriting Elijah.
[i] Jesus and Elijah in Luke 4:16-30; Jerusalem Perspective,
[ii] Evangelical Quarterly, 71:2, (1999), 127-149. I. Howard Marshall, Editor.
[iii] Mk. 14:3-9; cf. Mt. 26:6-13; Jn. 12:1-8.
[iv] Roger David Aus, The Wicked Tenants and Gethsemane (Atlanta 1996), 112.
[v] Lk. 7:36-50.