Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Sinai and Zion

“To the victors belong the spoils.” Andrew Jackson did not tell us what he meant by the “spoils” but it is well known that the victors write the history of their victory. The Bible is remarkable in that it includes the competing traditions that did battle.

The relationship between the Sinai and Zion traditions is a complex one. One way to examine the two is to say that the Torah is represented by Sinai and the Temple is represented by Zion. When presented in this manner, the two traditions are not incompatible. However, when the complexities are introduced, the traditions are competing.

The Sinai theology includes the covenant torah traditions of Sinai with its strong belief in God’s saving role in the history of his people living in an extended family clan society. Zion theology includes the belief in the unconditional grant and promise to the royal Davidic kingdom and the centrality of Jerusalem. These two competing traditions “arrived” in Jerusalem when King David appointed two chief priests, Abiathar and Zadok. Jeremiah and Ezekiel as their “heirs” represented Sinai and Zion respectively.

Related to this is something I been thinking about for some time. Luke includes Sinai theology which I consider to be a dominant theme in his gospel as well as Zion theology as a minor theme. The question is thus presented as to why has Luke blended the two as if one? I believe the model and source for Luke may have been Micah which is a book about a small town prophet criticizing the temple establishment, and unlike all other prophets, enjoyed some success in that Sinai theology is adopted yet Micah acknowledges some of the Zion ideas as still important.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2007

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kingdom of Nabatea

During the first century BCE and CE, the Nabatean kingdom emerged as a great merchant trader ranging from Damascus in the north along the east side of the Jordan River to the Sinai and Negev deserts in the south. At its height under King Aretas IV (reigned 9 BCE–40 CE), Petra was a cosmopolitan trading center with a population of at least 25,000. Throughout this period, the kingdom remained independent. At various times the kingdom had extensive economic and social contacts (including intermarriage) with the people of Galilee and Judea. The two countries also engaged in military conflicts and wars during this period. These disputes centered on control of Perea.

Perea was “a Jewish district east of the River Jordan, extending along the Jordan Valley and the northern part of the Eastern shores of the Dead Sea, its name meaning the land ‘beyond’. On the east it bordered the city territories of Gerasa, Philadelphia (Rabbath-Ammon), Heshbon, and Medaba, and its main cities were Gadara, Abila and Libias (Bethsaida). In the Persian period this territory was ruled by the Tobiads. After the Hasmonean uprising the Maccabees protected the Jews who settled there from their Arab-Nabatean neighbors. John Hyrcanus I enlarged the territory of Perea by conquering Nabatean cities (Josephus, Antiq. XIII, 225; War I, 63). It was part of Herod’s domain and is capital was Gadara.” The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, revised edition, edited by Avraham Negev, (1986), 292.

Herod the Great was the son of Antipater and a Nabatean Princess. In 9 BCE, in a dispute involving the payment of money, Herod invaded Nabatea, seized and plundered Raepta. Caesar Augustus became involved in the dispute as result of which Caesar disciplined Herod. Josephus wrote that Caesar “had used him as his friend, he should now use him as his subject.” Herod lost favor with Caesar and no longer had the right to name his successors.

When Herod died, his son Herod Antipas became tetrarch of Galilee and Perea but its eastern portion was restored to the Nabateans. Herod Antipas married Phasaelis who was the daughter of King Aretas IV. This marriage was arranged by Herod the Great and King Aretas IV as part of the settlement of ongoing border disputes between the two countries. Josephus tells us that Herod arranged the marriages of his children.

According to the Gospel of Luke, Chuza, the steward of Herod Antipas was married to Joanna. This also was probably an arranged marriage. H. Hoehner states the name Chuza appears in two Nabatean inscriptions leading Hoehner to speculate Chuza may have been a Nabatean chief steward of Herod’s estates with his main role in Perea. After a lengthy marriage, Herod Antipas divorced his wife and married Herodias, the wife of one of his half brothers and the daughter of another of his half brothers. Herod Antipas and Herodias were condemned by John the Baptist and Josephus. King Aretas IV used the divorce as an excuse to invade Perea and defeat the army of Herod Antipas in combat. Josephus claimed that Herod Antipas lost his army “as punishment for what he did against John that was called the Baptist.” After his defeat, Herod Antipas was exiled by Rome.

During a brief revival of Nabataean rule in Damascus under Aretas IV, Paul made his exit from the city. The Bible tells us that this was when “the governor under King Aretas guarded the city... in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:32-33).

Copyrighted 2007

Monday, March 26, 2007

Is Matthew a pyromaniac?

As noted, Matthew alone among the NT writers uses the word ἐνέπρησεν. Matthew also uses the word κατακαύσει in the story of John Baptist when he informed his audience that “the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Luke likewise uses this word for burn and includes this phrase. Matthew also uses κατακαύσει in his telling of the Parable of the Weeds and in its interpretation which are unique to his gospel. Matthew has clearly indicated that the weeds are the evildoers who are to be collected at the end and bind into bundles to be thrown into the fire. Consequently, we should understand the Parable of the Wedding Feast in the same way as the Parable of the Weeds and recognize that Matthew believed that the burning of the Temple represented God’s judgment against the Temple and the temple establishment for its iniquity and wickedness thus revealing his knowledge of the destruction of the city of the city and the Temple.

Copyrighted 2007

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Burned their city

Matthew 22:7 reads: The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and ἐνέπρησεν their city. This Greek word for “burned” appears only in Matthew in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet and nowhere else in the New Testament. None of the New Testament accounts note the separate fates of the city and the Temple. In 70 CE, the Roman general Titus destroyed the city of Jerusalem and his legion burned the Temple.

Does Matthew reveal his knowledge of the destruction with his Parable of the Wedding Banquet?

Copyrighted 2007

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hill Country

I previously noted my bewilderment at Luke’s use of the term “hill country.” In an effort to create search parameters, I considered three possibilities:

1) that the expression hill country of Judah must equate with the name of place well known to the first audience;
2) God's possession is sometimes described in the OT as the hill country; and
3) Zachariah as a priest and Elizabeth a daughter of Aaron may be residing in an area set apart for priest.

In the 20th chapter of the Book of Joshua, we read:

1: Then the LORD said to Joshua,

2: "Say to the people of Israel, `Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses,

3: that the manslayer who kills any person without intent or unwittingly may flee there; they shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood.

4: He shall flee to one of these cities and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city, and explain his case to the elders of that city; then they shall take him into the city, and give him a place, and he shall remain with them.

5: And if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not give up the slayer into his hand; because he killed his neighbor unwittingly, having had no enmity against him in times past.

6: And he shall remain in that city until he has stood before the congregation for judgment, until the death of him who is high priest at the time: then the slayer may go again to his own town and his own home, to the town from which he fled.'"

7: So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naph'tali, and Shechem in the hill country of E'phraim, and Kir'iath-ar'ba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah.

8: And beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, they appointed Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland, from the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead, from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan, from the tribe of Manas'seh.

9: These were the cities designated for all the people of Israel, and for the stranger sojourning among them, that any one who killed a person without intent could flee there, so that he might not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, till he stood before the congregation.

I plan to return to this as I do not know what to make of Zechariah serving in Hebron as the priest of a city of refuge.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2007

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Source and Significance of the Centrality Theme in Luke

It is undisputed that Luke has adopted the theme of the centrality of the city and that undoubtedly he used Isaiah as one of his sources. This article asks the question, what is the source of the idea that Jerusalem is the center of the world? Secondly, is there any significance in Luke using this particular idea and source?

Book of Jubilees asserts that Jerusalem is “the center of the navel of the world.” Ezekiel 38:12 also uses the word ὀμφαλὸν in declaring that Jerusalem is the navel of the world. Philo in his Legatio ad Gaium also claimed that Jerusalem is “situated in the center of the world.” That Jubilees, Ezekiel and Philo each can assert in their own words that Jerusalem is the center of the world certainly is a statement that the idea was generally accepted by the people of Second Temple Judaism. Luke has certainly utilized Ezekiel and Jubilees as well as Isaiah as a source.

Paradise is God’s abode. Thus Jubilees 8:19 states that Noah “knew that the Garden of Eden was the holy of holies and the dwelling of the Lord.” The translators of the Septuagint called the Garden of Eden planted by God himself, with a river running through it, παραδείσῳ. Ezekiel 31:8 also uses this word in the same context. Therefore it is remarkable and significant that the Luke uses this Greek word when Jesus on the cross tells the criminal, “Today, you will be with me in παραδείσῳ.”

The Book of Jubilees makes Pentecost the most important of the annual festivals on the Jewish liturgical calendar. According to Jubilees, the Feast of Pentecost was instituted in connection with Noah and was to be celebrated annually in perpetuity. Of further interest Luke, but not Matthew, includes Noah in the genealogy of Jesus.

The Book of Jubilees, as confirmed by Christiansen, is an important example of Palestinian Jewish writing. Christiansen notes that the Book of Jubilees introduces the angel of presence as the writer of the tablets received by Moses on Sinai. Stephen’s last sermon includes the idea that the laws were promulgated through angels. Secondly, “... Israel’s identity depends on Jerusalem as its geographical centre of holiness.” The third reason is Jubilees has elevated the importance of the rite of circumcision from a sign of obedience “by adding eternal validity in making it a law written on heavenly tablets (Jub 15:25-34).” Finally, “It is noteworthy that Jubilees lacks criticism of contemporary religious structures. The established cult is accepted; the present temple is a valid means for atonement and moreover serves as an important centre for holiness and for social and religious identity. Because Jerusalem is a centre of shared identity, it unites the nation and helps to maintain the social structure, and as such it is not questioned.” Luke is the only New Testament writer to tell us about the circumcision of the Messiah and the only New Testament writer to defend the covenant of circumcision. He also has not condemned the Temple or the animal sacrificial system.

According to Talbert, “The echoes are unmistakable. Sound, fire, and speech understood by all people were characteristic of the Sinai theophany. The same ingredients are found in the Pentecost events.” The Book of Jubilees connects Pentecost to the covenant of Noah. The Book of Jubilees also connects Pentecost in book 1:1 to the giving of the laws during the Sinai theophany. Therefore, it is clear that Luke is alluding to the Sinai theophany of the Book of Jubilees as well as paradise, the importance of circumcision and the centrality of Jerusalem.

In chapter 38 of Ezekiel where Jerusalem is described as the navel of the world, we also read “Son of man, set your face toward.” Luke uses the “son of man” phrase 25 times in his gospel including in verses 22, 26 and 43 of chapter 9. At verse 35, we read: “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’” The Lucan Jesus has been unmistakably identified as the son of man and the son of God. Consequently when Luke states: “When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem,” the Ezekian allusion is strong.

The author of the Book of Jubilees, who wrote his scroll in Hebrew, was probably a Palestinian Jew. He was also probably a priest, given his detailed knowledge of priestly matters (3:27; 6:3; 13:25–27; 16:21–24; 21:7–17; 32:4–16) and the prominence that he gives to Levi (31:15; 45:15). Ezekiel was a priest living with the Jewish exiles in Babylon after the taking of Judah and Jerusalem by Babylon, around 580-600 BCE. The Prophet Isaiah was also a priest. Therefore, the question can be asked, was the centrality of Jerusalem a sacerdotal concern?

In the Book of Jubilees, we read "And he (Noah) knew that the Garden of Eden is the holy of holies and the Lord's dwelling place, and Mount Sinai the center of the desert, and Mount Zion the center of the navel of the earth: these three were created as holy places facing each other."

The Prophet Ezekiel acknowledged the destruction of the temple even as he wrote to reassure his people that God would conquer the foes from the north in the next battle soon to occur. Ezekiel placed Jerusalem at the center of the world and in the same chapter separated by a few verses he uses the expression "he set his face towards" that we find in Lk 9:51. Luke undoubtedly was influenced by Ezekiel and proclaimed the centrality of Jerusalem making Jerusalem the center to which everyone returns. This Luke could not do if Jerusalem had already been destroyed.

Matthew and Mark have not adopted the motif of the centrality of Jerusalem. Their Jesus instructs his disciples to wait for him in Galilee. The animal sacrificial system having been condemned by them and the city and temple having been destroyed by the Romans, Jerusalem was no longer significant for them.

Copyrighted 2007

Friday, March 16, 2007

Centrality of Jerusalem in Luke

A striking theme of the book of Isaiah is the motif of the city. According to Motyer, “Four Isaianic strands are woven together in the use of the city motif in which Jerusalem, Zion, mount/mountain and city are broadly interchangeable terms: divine judgment, preservation and restoration, the security of Zion (14:32; 28:16) and the centrality of the city in the divine thought and plan (footnotes omitted).”[i] For Luke, Jerusalem is and remains throughout Luke-Acts the center of the action.

The phrase, “returned to Jerusalem,” recurs throughout Luke-Acts: Lk 2:45; 24:33,52; Acts 1:12; 8:25; 12:25; 13:13; and 22:17. For Luke, Jerusalem is and remains throughout Luke-Acts the center of the action. Jesus tells his disciples to remain in Jerusalem. The spread of the gospel is directed from Jerusalem by the Holy Spirit. When there is a dispute the church in Antioch sends a delegation to Jerusalem for a resolution of the problem and decision as to the proper course of action. Throughout Luke-Acts, Jerusalem is the focal point and centrality of location to which Jesus and Paul return.

The centrality of Jerusalem is revealed in the missionary enterprise in Acts (1:4,8; 8:14-15; 11:1-2; 11:22 and 15:20). This includes the Jerusalem frame of reference for Paul's entire ministry in Acts (9:27-29; 11:25-26; 13:1-13; 15:2; 16:5; 18:22 and 21:17). The council's decision to send two of its own people with Paul and Barnabas reflects an element of control Jerusalem tried to impose upon Paul's activity and teaching.[ii] Indeed, Luke three times mentions the status of Judas and Silas as the official representatives of Jerusalem.[iii] Judas and Silas are the "men from James" in Galatians 2:12. Jerusalem control of the missions in Acts is also closely tied to the fact that, for Luke, Jerusalem is the place where the twelve reside (8:1; 9:28; 11:1-2; 15:2,4; and 16:4).

Matthew and Mark have not adopted the motif of the city. Their Jesus instructs his disciples to wait for him in Galilee. The animal sacrificial system having been condemned by them and the city and temple having been destroyed by the Romans, Jerusalem was no longer significant for them.

[i]. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, 17-18.

[ii]. Acts 15:22-41; Gal. 2:11-14.

[iii]. Acts 15:22, 27 and 32.

Copyrighted 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

In the shadow of the temple

I also teach. I am presently leading an adult forum series at my church on the Gospel of Luke which will focus on the sermon in Nazareth, Joanna and the Road to Emmaus. I wish I could say that in preparing my material, I gained new insight that I could share with you. However in thinking about some of the things that I did not include in my lectures, I realized that we do need to emphasize that the NT writings were prepared in the shadow of the temple even if the temple structure was not still standing. There are simply too many clues, what I call temple language, that have influences the NT writings.

Jesus was anointed but how was he anointed and what is the significance of his anointment. In Luke and John, the woman anointed his feet with oil but in Matthew and Mark, the woman anointed his head with oil.

In addition to the cultic significance of the temple, the building also served other important social and economic functions. Today we have a puliferation of alphabet agencies to fulfill these functions.

Three priestly examples in Luke-Acts require further investigation: The “second first Sabbath” phrase in Luke 6:1; “he set his face” and a great many priests joined the faith. Luke has an interest in showing that Jesus and the Jerusalem community are following the teachings and traditions of the Priestly Narrative as interpreted by Ezekiel, Sirach, et al. The priestly writers were interested in temple rituals, the ordering of the priesthood, the sacred holidays, the rite of circumcision, and worship at the Jerusalem shrine. I suspect the connection is stronger than we will ever realize.

Copyrighted 2007

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The kingdom has come near to you

Bekken has shown that Paul has used Deuteronomy 30:14 in Romans 10:8. Compare Deu 30:14 and Rom 10:8: “But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it” with “But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach);”

But I have wondered if Luke also utilized this verse from Deuteronomy in presenting his concept of the kingdom of God is near.

The key Greek word is ἐγγὺς which appears in Deuteronomy 30:14 LXX and Luke translated as “near.” Normally one word would not an allusion make but this Greek word includes as one of its definitions “those who are near access to God.” This Greek word is used three times in two pericopes during the Lucan ministry in Jerusalem where the people accompanying Jesus believed the kingdom of God was close at hand.

I plan to discuss the occurrence of this Greek word in the parable of the pounds and the lesson of the fig tree.

Copyrighted 2007

Friday, March 02, 2007

Hope of Israel

Is a first century writing about the “hope of Israel” apocalyptic and/or eschatological? It is probably apocalyptic but not necessarily eschatological!

Since the time of Albert Schweitzer, Jesus has been recognized as an apocalyptic preacher and the books of the New Testament as apocalyptic literature. Apocalypticism offers hope. It is a form of language enabling the meek to hear good tidings.

David C. Sim in Apocalyptic eschatology in the Gospel of Matthew wrote: “There is widespread agreement that a direct correlation exists between the desperate situation of the author and his group and the embracement of the apocalyptic-eschatological perspective. Apocalyptic eschatology which emphasizes the imminent reversal of present circumstances, the vindication of the suffering righteous and the punishment of their perceived oppressors, serves to strengthen, comfort and offer hope to the group which is experiencing the crisis.”

Luke sets out to demonstrate that Jesus is the fulfillment of the hope of Israel in both the religious and national sense and that the followers of Jesus are in continuity with the sacred history of the people of Israel. This eschatological message is meaningful only if three conditions exist at the time this gospel is proclaimed to its first audience: the audience is Jewish, the message is early and Theophilus is a member of a “marginal” group or of a group which believed it was oppressed. Theophilus does not have to be a member of the same group as the author and the group the author represents.

The title is a quotation from Acts 28:20 where Paul makes an effort to win over the Roman Jews with these words: “For the hope of Israel I am bound by this chain.” By the “hope of Israel,” Luke meant the resurrection of the dead, of both the righteous and unrighteous, and the fulfillment of the promises made to the fathers. Theology of salvation begins with the understanding of the hope of Israel, which needs to be further developed, which Luke and Paul taught, that the God of the exodus is the God of the resurrection and that hope for the future for the coming Kingdom of God is ultimately based on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus the Righteous One.

Without hope there is no eschatology. This is probably something Moltmann said. The Greek word for hope ἐλπίδος does not appear in any of the gospels. However ἐλπίδος does appear in Acts 23:6; 26:7 and of course Acts 28:20 and in the Pauline epistles, Hebrews and 1 Peter. The phrase “to hope” ἐλπίζων appears in Acts 24:26 and Timothy 3:14.

Even though Luke does not use either the word ἐλπίδος or ἐλπίζων in his gospel that does not mean that the people depicted in his gospel were not waiting for the hope of Israel. I noted earlier that Joseph of Arimathea “lived in expectation of the kingdom” as did Simon waiting for the consolation of Israel and Anna for the redemption of Israel. We also see the idea in Luke 3:15 where the people are living in expectation; Luke 7:19-20 where they ask Jesus, shall we look for another? and Luke 24:21 where the two men had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel.

Is there any expression of hope in the other gospels?

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2007