Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Was Matthew’s genealogy artificially composed?

I have been intrigued by Matthew’s use of “son of David” as one of the titles for Jesus, particularly since Matthew who has used this phrase in seven passages in his Gospel and six of these are healing stories. This seemed odd to me but I have not been able to articulated why it seemed odd to me.

Luke traced the lineage of Jesus to David through his son Nathan while Matthew traces the lineage of Jesus to David through his son, Solomon. Last July 6th, I added a comment to my blog on Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!,, wherein I stated the tradition concerning the healing powers of Solomon may be based upon Chapter 7 of the Wisdom of Solomon. Previously on April 19th, in my blog, The Epistle of Barnabas and the Deuteronomic tradition,, I expressed surprise that that the Epistle of Barnabas denied the Davidic royal notion of messiah (12:10b, 11b).

I am now wondering if the author of the Epistle of Barnabas was aware that Matthew’s genealogy was artificially composed.

The artificial composition of the genealogy is suggested by several facts. This genealogy is ordered in three divisions with each division consisting of fourteen generations. In the third division, Matthew covers the period of more than five centuries with only fourteen generations while Luke has twenty-two generations.

It appears to me that Matthew rearranged the genealogy to support his claim that Jesus was the son of David, a descendant of David and Solomon, and like the Solomon of traditions, one blessed with the ability to heal.

Readers may be aware of the dispute among some bloggers about the need for peer review of new ideas. Consequently I need to issue a CAUTION. This article, in fact, none of my blog articles have been peer reviewed.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Prayers Rendered for Caesar?

When Jesus said, “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar and unto to God that which is God’s,” he was holding a denarius, a Roman coin, and stamped on it was the image of Augustus Caesar. Prior to Augustus, Roman coinage usually had the image of one of the gods, but Augustus in a real act of “humility” decided one day that he was godlike and therefore he put his own image on the coin.

Typically, the sermon, on Sundays when this passage is read from one of the synoptic gospel readings, reiterates the principle of separation of church and state or the concept that we should obey the established government but does it include prayers rendered for Caesar? In my church, several times a year the general prayer is given which includes petitions for the President and the Congress of the United States and all those in authority for whom we ask that they be replenished with thy grace.

The conclusion to 1st Clement contains a series of petitions for the “rulers and governors upon the earth.” Clement, at the beginning of the letter, warned the Corinthians that they risk eternal damnation if they fail to comply with the contents of this letter. This series of petitions for the “rulers and governors upon the earth” has been an enigma to all who have studied this prayer.

However, in this instance, this is not really a prayer for “rulers and governors upon the earth”, but a reminder to the Corinthians, that Clement speaks for the established authorities in the church, just as Romans 13:1-7 reminds Christians that they need to submit to the established governmental authorities. This, I suggest is the purpose of the prayer in 1st Clement. This is consistent with the analysis of prayer by G.B. Caird. He includes prayer in the category of “cohesive language” whose function it is to establish rapport, to create a sense of mutual trust and common ethos.” The repeated use of cohesive language is part of the rhetorical strategy of 1st Clement to obtain compliance with the contents of the letter.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Luke has no theology of the cross

While Loren Rosson III at busybody agrees that Luke has no atonement theology, he contends Luke shows signs of a martyrdom theology and thus has a theology of the cross. This is of course an error of logic. Rosson has redefined theology of the cross so expansively as to effectively bastardize the meaning of the theology of the cross.

Christians believe that Jesus, the anointed one, died on the cross for the sins of mankind. This is the definition of theology of the cross. Christians also believe that no further sacrifices are needed or are necessary to effectuate salvation. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews made it clear that additional sacrifices are not necessary. To equate martyrdom theology with a theology of the cross is to suggest martyrs need to die to obtain their own salvation and possibly the salvation of others.

There is one additional preliminary matter that needs to be mentioned. Hans Conzelmann was the first write to about Luke having no atonement theology although Cadbury and Dodd had mentioned it before him. Darrell Bock who contends Luke does have a theology of the cross may have been the first to say that Conzelmann and those who agree with him were wrong to say that Luke has no theology of the cross, my point being that Conzelmann and those who agree with him probably did not use the phrase, “no theology of the cross,” to describe their views. Furthermore, Martin Luther was the first to use the theology of the cross terminology. Luther certainly understood that the basic element of the theology of the cross was that Jesus, the anointed one, died on the cross for the sins of mankind. Since Luther, Conzelmann and Bock are centuries from the time Luke wrote, it is extremely important to define exacting what it is we say is not included in Luke’s theology. When we say Luke has no theology of the cross, we mean that Luke gives no redemptive significance to the death of Jesus on the cross. As Jean Danielou has indicated, early Christian theology saw in the symbolism of the cross the expression of irresistible power and divine efficacy.

Having addressed the preliminaries, it is now necessary to address what evidence there is for a martyrdom theology in Luke, recognizing that there could be a martyrdom theology even in the absence of a theology of the cross. This evidence, however, does not provide support for the existence of a theology of the cross in Luke.

Rosson cites five examples provided by Brown and one from Seeley, Noble Death.

Consider the following, many of which are noted by Raymond Brown in Death of the Messiah, pp 31-32:

(a) Luke understands Jesus to be a prophet (Lk 4:24; 7:16; 9:8,19; 24:19), and believes that prophets are made for martyrdom (Lk 6:22-23; Acts 7:52).
(b) Luke believes that Jesus went to Jerusalem, because that’s where prophetic martyrs were supposed to die (Lk 13:33-34).

(c) Luke’s repeated theme of “innocence” invokes martyrdom, by implying that Jesus died for a holy and just cause.
(d) Luke parallels the deaths of Jesus and Stephen (the latter of whom is clearly a martyr); both die forgiving their enemies and “entrusting their spirits” to God/Jesus. Here we see a crucial aspect by which the martyr serves as a model to be followed, or copied, by others.
(e) Luke insists that the Son of Man must suffer and be rejected, before being killed and raised (Lk 9:22).
(f) Luke’s original eucharist tradition (Lk 22:15-19a; minus the editorial 22:19b-20) anticipates necessary suffering on the part of Jesus.
So Luke does have a theology of the cross. Jesus’ innocence as a crucified martyr is precisely what leads to him being raised from death.

Although Talbert sees the Lucan Jesus as an innocent martyr, Robert Karris argues the term ‘divkaio’ in Luke 23:47 should be translated ‘righteous’ and not ‘innocent.’ This would be consistent with the translation of ‘divkaio’ in Acts 7:52.

The clearest example of martyrdom theology can be found in Second and Fourth Maccabees. Stephen Farris has suggested that the hymns of Luke's infancy narratives show evidence of Maccabean influence. In addition, word studies indicate that Luke used many words common only to his writings, not appearing elsewhere in the NT, and I-IV Maccabees. This would suggest that Luke has some familiarity with these writings.

Finlan states: “The deaths of the martyrs are a momentary disciplining of the nation, but ‘he will again be reconciled with his own servants’” (2 Macc. 7:33). The deaths are instructional, and will be imitated by the next generation; Eleazar is leaving ‘to the young a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws’ (6:28). The seventh son sees his self-surrender as a way of appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation’ (7:37), and their deaths are effective; “through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty’ (7:38). The plea for deliverance ‘soon’ is answered. God responds to the ‘intercessory prayer’ of the martyrs to ‘show mercy,’ and he shortens the afflictions of the nation. The martyrs’ deaths actually made the atonement possible, so they can be described as propitiatory deaths. God became reconciled- the literal meaning, translated as ‘show mercy’ in 7:37.” Finlan, 198; Greek words and footnotes omitted.

The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is a significant event. We call this day, Palm Sunday, because on this day the crowd hailed Jesus, no doubt by waving palm branches, as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

In 2Macc10.7-8, Jacob Macc. has just cleansed the temple from Antiochus Epiphanes' desecrating acts. Verses 6-8 shows that the people celebrated by carying and waving ivy leaves and palm branches: "The celebrated [the cleansing] for eight days with rejoicing.... Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathedwands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year."

Now in Lk19.32ff, Luke's Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey. After his entrance, he cleanses the temple (vv45), which is in opposite order of Judas' acts in 2Macc. But Luke omits any "waving of palms", etc., reducing the people to merely "spread their garment on the road" (v36). It might be argued, I think, that Luke does not have such a detail because he did not mean to convey a kind of celebration that would be regarded as a national holiday

I would add to these comments by Lee Dahn that Luke is certainly familiar with 2nd Macc and may be avoiding an allusion to it with its martyrdom theology.

There simply is no common martyrological formula or relationship between the passages in these 2 Maccabean books, cited by Finlan, and Luke-Acts. Stephen does not petition God to be merciful as do the Maccabean martyrs nor does his blood cry out.[i]

Although Rosson mentions Stephen, there is no mention of James, brother of John and James, brother of Jesus, as martyrs for the faith. If Luke had a martyrdom theology, it certainly should have been exhibited in Acts 12:2 in the description of the death of James, brother of John.

For these reasons, I conclude that not only does Luke not have any atonement theology; he also has no martyrdom theology.

[i] 4 Macc. 8:3. Luke 1:72 has a phrase that could be translated as “to do mercy” but this is the only instance.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Solomon’s Prayers at the Consecration of the Temple

The first prayer of Solomon as narrated by Josephus was uttered by him immediately following the infilling of the Temple with the cloud of glory of God. Those present believed that God had descended into this Temple. Solomon in his prayer acknowledged that God has an eternal dwelling in the heaven yet is not contained anywhere. Solomon notes that even though God may be present in the Temple He is just as accessible as before to all who ask for “good omens.” Solomon indicates that God is not the God of Israel exclusively. God is “present and not remote.” A similar sentiment is expressed in Paul’s Areopagus address in Acts 17:27 when he says, “he is not far from each one of us.”

In his second prayer, Solomon states that the Temple was built for prayer, making sacrifices and seeking omens. According to the Josephean Solomon, God is in need of nothing. For Josephus, there is no contract concept of prayer. Therefore praise is the only proper response in prayer. The idea of praise in prayer, as a form of sacrifice, is found both in Psalm 69:30-31 and Hebrews 13:15.[i] The second aspect of the prayer stresses the universal accessibility of God to all who seek him. For Josephus, God is not the exclusive God of Israel.

Following the ceremonies in the Temple and after everyone had left, Josephus reports that God had appeared to Solomon in a dream and informed him that God had heard his prayers and that He would not only preserve the Temple but also would abide in it.
In 1 Kings 8:27 we read: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!” In fact, one reading I Kings 8th chapter, comparing it with what Josephus had written, would note that Josephus had followed closely what the Bible had recorded. In the 9th chapter of first Kings, God appeared to Solomon saying, “I have heard your prayers” at which time the conditional covenant is made with Solomon. Unlike Josephus, there is no mention of God “appearing in a dream.”

[i] The words of the refrain of a popular Christian hymn states: “Christ, our Lord, to you we raise, This our sacrifice of praise.”

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Response to Loren Rosson’s blog article, Luke and the Cross

I do not recall the first time I read Conzelmann’s The Theology of Saint Luke, but for a long time I wondered why Luke has no theology of the cross. Since Conzelmann caused me to think about the subject for a long time, I will start my response to Loren Rosson, III’s article, Luke and the Cross,, which is a partial response to my article "The Cross and Atonement from Luke to Hebrews" (1999) with Conzelmann. Conzelmann says he agrees with Martin Dibelius that the martyr-motif is present in the Lucan account of the Passion but this is not an essential idea in Luke. However, Conzelmann says that the fact that Luke presents Jesus’ death as according to divine plan substantially differentiates it from a pure human martyrdom. Luke does not present the death of Jesus in expiatory terms. Luke, according to Conzelmann, understands the death as corresponding to the divine necessity (9:22; 24:26). Luke makes no clear reference to an expiatory death. In my article, I argued that by the power of God, Jesus was raised from the death; that the cross had no salvific value and that the resurrection of Jesus vindicated his ministry.Talbert likewise agrees that Jesus as a martyr but there is no linkage with the forgiveness of sins. In Luke there is no indication that Jesus died on the cross for us.

I do acknowledge that Eusebius celebrated martyrdom in his History of the Martyrs in Palestine but he did not suggest dying as a martyr had any atoning value. However there is no question that the Maccabean martyr beliefs was part of the traditions and beliefs of the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem. The belief structure of the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem included the entire corpus of Jewish scripture including the 18th chapter of Ezekiel that teaches that a righteous person cannot die vicariously for the sins of the wicked. There is one exception, the limited atoning value of the death of the High Priest, which I mentioned in my article, "The Cross and Atonement from Luke to Hebrews." The Jerusalem community of the followers of Jesus did not have a belief in the atoning value of the death of Jesus.

The common elements of the Lucan transfiguration and the stoning of Stephen only mean that Stephen at the moment of his death sees God just as the face of Moses shined when Moses talked to God. There was no atonement value to the death of Stephen yet both Jesus and Stephen are presented as martyrs. Thus the fact that we call Stephen the first Christian martyr is no support for Rosson’s position. It merely confirms that Stephen was not like Jesus. To say that Jesus died as an innocent martyr means that his death is no more significant than any other martyr.

Rosson cites six reasons related to prophets, martyrs, dying in Jerusalem, suffering, innocence and example to support his statement that Luke has a theology of the cross. It is not enough to show that Luke viewed Jesus as an innocent, suffering prophet who dies as a martyr in Jerusalem as an example for others. None of the six reasons advanced by Rosson shows that Luke has an atonement theology. Martyrdom does not constitute a theology of the cross nor does the death of an innocent, suffering prophet who dies as a martyr in Jerusalem constitute a theology of the cross.

Rosson mentions two points in support of my argument, neither of which were included in my article, one advanced by him, that Luke omits the scapegoat allusion and my comment on crosstalk, that Bart Ehrman has concluded that Lk. 19b-20 is a second century addition. However, Rosson did not discuss my theory that Luke wrote to Theophilus the High Priest. Any suggestion that the death of Jesus had any atoning value, a thought that never occurred to Luke, would have been offensive to the High Priest because he viewed his own death as having a limited atoning value. In my article, I stated: “The death of the High Priest was regarded as atonement for the innocent blood that had been shed” with footnote 10 citing Jacob Milgrom’s JPS Commentary on Numbers with his reasoning in support thereof included. This belief structure of the limited atoning value of the death of the High Priest is the true origin of the Christian doctrine of atonement.

I mention my theory that Luke wrote to the High Priest because it explains in part my belief that Luke was the earliest gospel published in Greek. Rosson merely states, that Luke having no atonement theology, is not evidence that supports early dating of Luke. Since I consider Luke having no atonement theology a piece of the evidence for early dating, I respectfully disagree.

I do want to publicly thank Loren Rosson, III, for taking the time to read my article and discuss it on busybody. It is nice to know that at least one person has read my article. Thank you, Loren.

copyrighted 2005

More Than A Walk Than In The Woods

I took a walk in the woods last week. My son and I hiked a 28-mile section of the Appalachian Trail in the vicinity of Wawayanda State Park in New Jersey near the New York State line.[i] We slept under the stars, with bats demonstrating their acrobatic skills while devouring bugs that bite hikers mercilessly, on two separate nights on rock ledges on top of Wawayanda Mountain the first night and Hamburg Mountain the second night overlooking two different gorgeous views of the valleys below. We saw deer, geese, bats, one snake, monarch butterflies and the Milky Way. Although we were hiking in the same area where a bear attacked a hiker sleeping in an AT shelter, we did not see any bears. Our strategy was simply to not sleep where we eat and avoid shelters where bears frequent in search of food.

We hiked sixty miles on the AT last year on two separate trips from the Mason Dixon line to Route 30 and from Route 30 to just south of Boiling Springs PA. I was pleasantly surprised when my 21 year son suggested that we go again this year but to another state with fewer rocks. I can say that when people call New Jersey the Garden State, they are not referring to the rough rocky terrain of the AT in New Jersey. The elevation gains and losses still wrecked havoc on our knees. Next year, we may use hiking poles to take the pressure off our knees.
However, the protected wild lands of the AT are certainly quiet and peaceful. It is, as Benton MacKaye said, an escape from “the high-powered tension of the economic scramble.” I can actually live on the AT without coffee. I can’t wait to go hiking again on the AT in search of the elusive shelter with hot water showers.

[i] The AT is a 2100-mile mountain hiking trail, maintained by volunteers, along the crests of the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States. It was designated a national scenic trail park in 1968.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Hiking the AT

As a college freshman at Penn State I was required to take a public speaking course. I decided to deliver a series of speeches, one of each type of speech, all on the theme of travel, drawing upon my experiences crossing the USA and hitchhiking from Philadelphia to Niagara Falls and back. Since college I have had the opportunity to travel extensively. On my vacation this year, I have decided to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail, beginning tomorrow after court.

Just as the Lucan Jesus retreated from the crowded world for solitude and prayer, I plan to take a needed vacation to enjoy what I consider to be one of the wonders of the world: The Appalachian Trail. Needless to say, I will not be blogging on my vacation. My wife and I will take our vacation together sometime this Fall.

Just a thought from Colin Fletcher:
"I knew now that I had left behind the man-constructed world. Had already escaped from a world in which the days are consumed by clocks and dollars and traffic and other people. Had crossed over into a world that was governed by the sun and the wind and the lie of the land. A world in which the things that mattered were the pack on your back and sunlight on rough rock and the look of the way ahead. A world in which you relied, always, on yourself." Colin Fletcher in "The Man Who Walked Through Time."

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Joshua’s Prayer

The fourth prayer narrated by Josephus is the prayer of Joshua after the Israelites were defeated at Ai. 3000 Israelites were driven back with thirty-six losing their lives. This totally unexpected defeat occurred shortly after the tremendous victory at Jericho when the walls came down.

The Bible tells us that Joshua rent his clothes and fell to the ground upon his face in front of the ark and said: “Alas, O Lord GOD, why hast thou brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and will surround us, and cut off our name from the earth; and what wilt thou do for thy great name?” Josh. 7:6-9. We later learn that one of the men had stolen sacred property and placed it among his possessions.

The prayer narrated by Josephus and translated by Whiston states: “We are not come thus far out of any rashness of our own, as though we thought ourselves able to subdue this land with our own weapons, but at the instigation of Moses thy servant for this purpose, because thou hast promised us, by many signs, that thou wouldst give us this land for a possession, and that thou wouldst make our army always superior in war to our enemies, and accordingly some success has already attended upon us agreeably to thy promises; but because we have now unexpectedly been foiled, and have lost some men out of our army, we are grieved at it, as fearing what thou hast promised us, and what Moses foretold us, cannot be depended on by us; and our future expectation troubles us the more, because we have met with such a disaster in this our first attempt. But do thou, O Lord, free us from these suspicions, for thou art able to find a cure for these disorders, by giving us victory, which will both take away the grief we are in at present, and prevent our distrust as to what is to come."

Josephus omits Joshua’s question (Josh. 7:9) as to what God might do for his great name if the Canaanites were to defeat Israel. Josephus adds Joshua’s fears that the Mosaic legacy will not be fulfilled while the Biblical Joshua fears this event is a threat to the fulfillment of the promises God made to Moses and the patriarchs. Josephus thus elevates Moses and downplays the promises of God.

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Mercy seat

Finlan devotes an entire chapter, The Sacrificial Metaphor in Roman 3:25, to a detailed analysis of a single word, hilasterion, meaning [to be] a propitiation. For Finlan, hilasterion, that also means ‘mercy seat,’ is a cultic atonement metaphor designed by Paul to be an allusion to the act of the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement and sprinkling blood on the mercy seat. Neither Paul nor Finlan mention that it is the High Priest who is the actor in the cultic setting. Every NT writer had to deal with the question: what do we do with the High Priest and the related belief structure? We know from Philo that the ceremonial robes of the High Priest repeatedly vaunted in Hellenistic literature and interpreted in terms of cosmic symbolism endowed him with transcendent glory. The High Priest possessed by sanction of scripture the supreme power to interpret the law.[i] Furthermore, particularly Jews in the Diaspora viewed the religious duties of the High Priest in the cult as a universal saving event.[ii] Since the High Priest was viewed as “the captain of their salvation,”[iii] even a cynical Jew would want to treat the High Priest with the utmost respect. Paul treads carefully. Paul does not explicitly state that Jesus is the new High Priest.

Finlan recognizes the importance of sacrifice in understanding Paul. Finlan’s ideas need now to be supplemented by a consideration of Margaret Barker's thesis that the goat 'lyhwh' on the Day of Atonement is a substitute for the high priest (who plays the role of YHWH) in the cultic drama. It is the blood of this goat that makes the atonement (in the pre-eminent act of atonement) as a substitute for the life (i.e. Death) of the high priest/yhwh. (See e.g. M. Barker, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2000); The Great High Priest, The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy (London: T. & T. Clark, 2003), chapter 3). In both books, Barker has fascinating interpretative observations on a number of late Second Temple texts to support her thesis.

For further texts relating the suffering of the high priesthood and the Day of Atonement - supportive of Barker's thesis, though not explicitly referring to atoning suffering, see C. H. T. Fletcher-Louis, "The Revelation of the Sacral Son of Man: The Genre, History of Religions Context and the Meaning of the Transfiguration," Auferstehung - Resurrection. The Fourth Durham-Tübingen-Symposium: Resurrection, Exaltation, and Transformation in Old Testament, Ancient Judaism, and Early Christianity (eds. F. Avemarie and H. Lichtenberger; WUNT 135; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2001) 247-298 (pp. 286-88).

[i] Deut. 17:11-12; 33:10; Malachi 2:8.
[ii] Philo Spec. I.197; II 162, 165f.
[iii] Josephus, Bell. 4.318.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

Cultic Atonement Metaphors

On August 9, 2005, Loren Rosson, at busybody, as I mentioned earlier, prepared an excellent review of Stephen Finlan’s new book, The Background and Content of Paul's Cultic Atonement Metaphors. In his first paragraph he states: “I've wondered about the theological roots of it all. How was Christ's death thought to be salvific by the New Testament writers, and Paul especially?” In his last sentence of his book review, he states: “Cultic atonement, bloody sacrifice, was part and parcel of Paul's view, integrated into a martyrdom theology.” In my opinion, Stephen Finlan has properly placed the focus of the investigation of the origin of the Christian doctrine of atonement on cultic atonement metaphors.

I found this paragraph of the book review most interesting:

“Finlan devotes an entire chapter to distinguishing sacrifices from scapegoats, showing why their fusion in the Christian tradition is so radical. Scapegoats were not sacrifices, a point too often misunderstood. They were expulsion victims, and opposite in every way. Sacrifices were pure and offered reverently to God; scapegoats impure and driven out harshly to a wilderness demon. The former were spotless, and their blood a cleansing agent; the latter were sin carriers, vile and corrupt (see pp 81-93). To portray an individual as a sacrifice and scapegoat at the same time, as Paul did, would have been a bewildering oxymoron.”

Perhaps, another explanation would be helpful for understanding the role of the scapegoat and why Paul was able “To portray an individual as a sacrifice and scapegoat at the same time.” As I wrote on April 30, 2005:

Transference, according to Dino Felluga, “is the displacement one’s unresolved conflicts, dependencies, and aggressions onto a substitute object.”[i] I recognize that that the use of terms of psychoanalysis would appear to be out of place in a blog dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke addressed to most excellent Theophilus. But, in fact, it is not.

Luke wrote to the High Priest, who on the Day of Atonement, engaged in certain rituals we barely understand. I suggest you that the Day of Atonement completes the transference of sins that began in every village throughout Israel when the people told their problems to the village priest who placed their problems on his shoulders. Once a year the village priest traveled to Jerusalem and participated in the temple ceremonies on the Day of Atonement. By the time of Theophlius, the priests were so numerous that the village priests only participated in the temple ceremonies five times a year and even on those occasions they drew lots for the privilege of participation.

The village priests bore the sins of the people and transferred those sins from their shoulders to the shoulders of the High Priest. On the Day of Atonement, two goats were offered for sacrifice but an arbitrary decision was made regarding them. The one goat was sacrificed in the Temple for Israel's sin and its blood taken into the Holy of Holies itself. 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.[ii] This goat is then sent out laden with this sin into the wilderness.[iii] 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.[iv]

Following the slaughter and the blood-rite, and the burning of the fat portions on the altar, the rest of the flesh is consumed by the priests in the sacred precincts.[v]

The scapegoat ritual is best understood by the use of the term, transference. Only in this way, can we understand what Loren Rosson has called “a bewildering oxymoron.”

As I said earlier, I plan to return to this subject that I have come to realize is an important part of understanding the theology of the Gospel of Luke and the origin of the NT doctrine of atonement.

[i] Felluga, Dino, "Terms Used by Psychoanalysis," Introductory Guide to Critical Theory, Purdue University (2005).
[ii] Two other verses command confession as part of the process of atonement for sin: Lev. 5:5; Num. 5:6f.
[iii] Lev. 16:7-10.
[iv] Lev. 17:11.
[v] Lev. 6:24-30.

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Funeral Luncheon

The Funeral-Food Connection
By Trusts EstatesProf on Death Event Planning
After a funeral, it is common for grieving family members and friends to gather for a feast, often at the decedent's home.
In He Would've Wanted Everyone to Eat, NY Times, Aug. 10, 2005, Abe Opincar explains the reasons behind this custom:
Funeral meals have always meant to assuage grief and to honor the dead and their beliefs about the hereafter. In America these meals also reflect ethnicity, health trends, state law and contemporary funeral practices. * * *

What is the origin of the funeral feast? Was it originally a cultic practice?

“Eat my body, drink my blood.”

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Cultic Atonement

Loren Rosson has done an excellent job at busybody discussing The Background and Content of Paul’s Cultic Atonement Metaphors by Stephen Finlan.

I plan to address many of these issues in a blog article I am preparing while I read the many books my wife has noticed scattered throughout the house. Lately she has been making piles.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

During the Fourth Watch

Both Matthew and Mark add the walking on the sea pericope to their narrative that Luke does not include. Both Matthew and Mark also note that the the sea walking epiphany occurred in “the fourth watch.” I had assumed that the Romans introduced this method of time keeping and the Jewish people adopted this terminology from the Romans. However, while I was preparing my blog for last Sunday wherein “Moses called upon God to be their helper,” I could not help but notice that in Exodus 14:24, the verse reads:
“And it came to pass, that in the morning watch.” In Judges 7:19, we read: “in the beginning of the middle watch” and in I Samuel, we read, “in the morning watch.”

Being curious I checked to see if Luke uses the terminology, and I found one reference in Luke 12:38 that reads: “If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those servants!”

The Blue Letter Bible explains: “As the earlier Greeks divided the night commonly into three parts, so, previous to the exile, the Israelites also had three watches in a night; subsequently, however, after they became subject to the Romans, they adopted the Roman custom of dividing the night into four watches.”

Is there any evidence that everyone in first century Palestine adopted the Roman custom? Or did some, perhaps Luke retained the three watch system of dividing the night.

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Prayers against the Rebellions

In this account, Korah and the multitude rebelled against Moses and his brother concerning the priesthood.

The first difference one notices in comparing the lengthy prayer account in Josephus with the account in Numbers 16 is that Josephus begins by having Moses stand and lift up his arms in prayer. However, in Numbers 16:4, Moses fell on his face.

In his prayer, Moses recites the experience of divine rescue at the sea and in the wilderness. Moses prays for another act of divine mercy in the present emergency as a demonstration of the power of God. Moses indicates his faithful service and asks God to inflict his wrath on him if he be more deserving of divine punishment than Korah and the multitude.

Although Numbers 16:15 tells us of the anger of Moses on this occasion, Josephus also rewrites this part of the biblical account to present Moses as a statesman. Since Josephus presents Korah and the multitude as rebels against “the ordered beauty of their constitution,” one wonders if Josephus has suggested that those who participated in the revolt against Rome were also guilty of sedition against Moses and the Law.

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Moses called upon God to be their helper; Ant. 2.355-37

When Moses and the people reached the sea, he took his rod and said "Thou art not ignorant, O Lord, that it is beyond human strength and human contrivance to avoid the difficulties we are now under; but it must be thy work altogether to procure deliverance to this army, which has left Egypt at thy appointment. We despair of any other assistance or contrivance, and have recourse only to that hope we have in thee; and if there be any method that can promise us an escape by thy providence, we look up to thee for it. And let it come quickly, and manifest thy power to us; and do thou raise up this people unto good courage and hope of deliverance, who are deeply sunk into a disconsolate state of mind. We are in a helpless place, but still it is a place that thou possesses; still the sea is thine, the mountains also that enclose us are thine; so that these mountains will open themselves if thou commandest them, and the sea also, if thou commandest it, will become dry land. Nay, we might escape by a flight through the air, if thou should determine we should have that way of salvation."

Most scholars agree that the invocation, o despota, is an interpolation. However there are two examples of prayer by Moses in Exod. 17:3-4 and Num. 16:15 where the invocation is missing. It does seem unusual.

There is no claim for divine help on the basis of services rendered or vowed. That is to say, there is no contract in this prayer or the first example of Josephus provided yesterday. Moses acknowledges that they are dependent upon God and that they look to God for salvation. This pattern of prayer can be found in the Psalm 124, 84:9 and 119:153. Moses prays that God might manifest his power: Ps. 77:14 and 90:16.

Lucan writings emphasize the power of God. Luke uses this terminology more often than any other New Testament writer.[i] He does so to demonstrate the truthfulness of the information Theophilus, the High Priest, has heard about God's recent intervention in human history. God's power is evident in the miracles performed by his representatives and is a validation of their role.[ii]

[i]. Luke's interest in power is illustrated by the fact that he uses the noun 15 times in the gospel, 10 times in Acts; the verb 26 times in the gospel, 21 times in Acts; and the adjective 4 times in the gospel, 6 times in Acts. Luke's focus on the power of God is a strong re-affirmation of traditional Jewish monotheism. Perhaps this strong re-affirmation is a response to Jewish allegation that the followers of Jesus had forsaken Judaism by breaching the boundary markers with respect to monotheism.
[ii]. Acts 14:3; 14:8-11.

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Isaac blesses Jacob, Ant. 1.272-273; cf. Gen. 27:27-29

Isaac not realizing his wife Rebecca and his son had deceived him, Jacob, ate the meal prepared for him by Jacob and offered his prayers to God. Isaac prayed: “"O Lord of all ages, and Creator of all substance; for it was thou that didst propose to my father great plenty of good things, and hast vouchsafed to bestow on me what I have; and hast promised to my posterity to be their kind supporter, and to bestow on them still greater blessings; do thou therefore confirm these thy promises, and do not overlook me, because of my present weak condition, on account of which I most earnestly pray to thee. Be gracious to this my son; and preserve him and keep him from every thing that is evil. Give him a happy life, and the possession of as many good things as thy power is able to bestow. Make him terrible to his enemies, and honorable and beloved among his friends."

Someone reading Whiston’s translation would not realize that Josephus begins this prayer, and most of his prayer, with an invocation to God as “master” (despotes). The use of this term can be found in the NT in Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Peter 2:1; and Rev. 6:10. Likewise, someone reading, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel" would not realize that Luke begins this prayer with an invocation to God as “master” (despotes). I can tell you that this finding surprise me and I need to think about its significance.

The benediction of Isaac in Antiquities concludes with the petition “make him terrible to his enemies, and honorable and beloved among his friends." Compare this with the conclusion recorded in Genesis: “Cursed be every one who curses you, and blessed be every one who blesses you!"

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Friday, August 05, 2005

Josephus’ Theology of Prayer

I have been doing a series on the prayer life of Jesus as recorded in Luke. It is my intention to complete the series with a blog on Luke’s Theology of Prayer but my thoughts have not yet crystallized. Earlier this year, I completed a series on Rewriting Sacred Scripture wherein I directed attention to the rewrites that Josephus performed demonstrating that Josephus was in fact responding to the writings of Luke. I am not now suggesting that there is any relationship between Josephus’ Theology of Prayer and Luke’s Theology of Prayer because both remain unwritten.

In one instance, Josephus records himself praying in a synagogue but he does not reveal the contents of his own prayer.[1] I am still counting but I find 25 instances in Antiquities wherein Josephus notes that a particular person was praying without providing us the contents of the prayers. However, there are at least six instances, wherein he tells us a person was praying and provides us with the content of the prayer. These six instances all in Antiquities are: 1.272-273, Isaac’s benediction; 2.335-37, Moses’ prayer; 4.40-50, Moses’ appeal to God on the occasion of the revolt; 5.38-41, Joshua’s supplication to God after the defeat at Ai; and two prayers offered by Solomon at the consecration of the Temple, 8.107-8 and 8.111-17. In most of these instances, I have not checked every one; there is no biblical parallel. Thus these examples are further evidence of Josephus rewriting of sacred scripture. Josephus also provided several comments that can be considered.

[1] Life, 293.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

What I am reading

I know some bloggers periodically list the books they are reading. My wife counts the 5 or 10 books lying around the house and wants to know if I am reading all of them at the same time?

I do have a habit of starting a book, reading a chapter and digesting it while I am reading another book.

Loren Rosson, the busybody,, mentioned Stephen Finlan's The Background and Content of Paul's Cultic Metaphors, on the discussion group, XTalk (Historical Jesus). So I am now reading this book along with the others my wife has noted that are not on the shelves where they belong.

This book emphasizes the Judaic cultic background of NT atonement language rather than Hellenistic cultural setting and background. Finlan has also published Problems with Atonement: the Origins of, and Controversy about, the Atonement Doctrine [Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, c2005] but this book is not yet available at my library. You can read the pre-publication information at

So I close by thanking Loren Rossen for bringing this author and his published writings to my attention.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Prayer for Peter

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren." Luke 22:31-32

These two verses are unique to Luke. Why Matthew and Mark omitted these verses is not known.

According to Darrell Bock, the double direct use of Simon indicates the seriousness of the situation. Therefore the prayer of Jesus is for priestly intercession for Peter and all the disciples. This intercessory prayer enables Peter to be involved in the ministry after the resurrection. Luke tells us that Peter has been given the responsibility after his temporary failing to strengthen the faith of the brethren.

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