Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Rewriting Jeremiah

The word “covenant” was one word that had special importance for the followers of Jesus. Josephus recognized that in this single word a people defined its relationship with God. Josephus saw how the followers of Jesus used the words of Jeremiah to define and legitimate a new covenant relationship with God.

In Rewriting Sacred Scripture, it was noted that Josephus rewrote sacred scripture removing all mention of God’s covenant relationship with Israel. In rewriting Jeremiah, Josephus told the story of the fall of Jerusalem during the reign of Zedekiah and what happened to Zedekiah in captivity. Josephus told about the apparent disagreement between Jeremiah and Ezekiel as recorded in Jer. 32:4; 34:3 and Ezek. 12:13.

Jeremiah twice prophesied that Zedekiah would be captured and delivered to the king of Babylon who he would see eye to eye. Ezekiel prophesied that Zedekiah would be captured and delivered alive to Babylon yet he shall not see it. Josephus recorded that Zedekiah was captured and blinded and then delivered to Babylon.

You will note what Jeremiah said in 31:31 shortly before his two separate prophecies concerning Zedekiah: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, . . . .” Josephus intentionally omitted Jer. 31:31-34 in his rewriting of sacred scripture. By focusing upon the apparent contradiction between the prophecy of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Josephus sought to undermine the prophet who spoke of a new covenant and distract his readers from his blatant omission the covenants between God and Israel. Josephus also omitted all references to a messiah.

I also noted that Josephus believed in the veracity of Daniel 7-12. In fact, Josephus considered Daniel to be one of the greatest of the prophets. In his Wars of the Jews, which furnishes a full account of the struggle from his perspective on the Roman side, Josephus sees the miseries of the city as the fulfillment of an ancient oracle, which Josephus, in his later work, Antiquities of the Jews, named Daniel as the source of this oracle. However, Josephus in his rewriting of Daniel conveniently omitted chapter 7 and the “son of man” phrase while including Daniel 1-6 and 8-9. Although Josephus claimed to be aware of the prophecy of Ezekiel concerning Zedekiah, he conveniently omitted the reference to “son of man” which appears at the beginning of the prophecy. Not only did Josephus omit the “son of man” phrase appearing in Daniel 7 and Ezekiel 12, he also omitted the 104 other occurrences of this exact phrase, appearing throughout the Sacred History (OT), which he rewrote.

I again suggest that all of this rewriting was an attempt by Josephus to answer the "New Covenant" of the NT. If there is no old covenant, as evidenced by the rewritten sacred scriptures, there can be no new covenant. Bamberger suggested that the decline of Jewish nationality with the loss of the Temple in 70 led to a reorientation toward a religious rather than a political definition. Josephus participated in the reorientation by lending his support to Jewish proselytism by undermining the theological premises, of the new covenant and a messiah, relied upon by the followers of Jesus. Therefore, we can conclude that Josephus, who “speaks as a committed Jew,” rewrote sacred history in support of the cause of Jewish proselytism.

Copyrighted 2006


Blogger Michael F. Bird said...

Over at Euangelion, I've posted on the recent question on the unity of Luke-Acts. Feel free to wager in on the debate on either the comments or on your own blog and I'll happily link back to you. It's an interesting debate, esp. the 2005 issue of JSNT!

4:28 PM


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