Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Waiting on tables, Part 5

The second verse of 8th chapter of Acts states: “And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea, and Samaria, except the apostles.” This verse seems to suggest that the leadership of the church in Jerusalem was as conservative as the temple establishment and likewise opposed to the Samaritans and Hellenists.

There are several clues. Until the apostles appointed the seven deacons to supervise the distribution of the food, none of the church leaders were in charge of the food distribution center. The author of Acts criticizes the appointment. In the Greek text of Acts 1:26, Luke is perhaps saying that the election was not divinely sanctioned. He says of the election of Matthias that he was "voted down along with the eleven.” The base verb means to "vote down “i.e., defeat or, more,” to condemn". Since this translation seems inconsistent with the author’s attitude toward the Twelve, Stephen C. Carlson says we should inquire whether or not there are any other passages in Acts which implies the condemnation of the Twelve.

The second strange incident is demonstrated by the juxtaposition of two passages. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus advocates what has been called servant leadership. One who wants to be leader must first be willing to serve. “For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.” In Acts, we read that the Apostles “summoned the body of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.’” In the story of appointment of the deacons, the author has placed the Apostles in a bad light.

Thus the author in two separate appointment stories has criticized the Apostles. The criticism is rather subtle but perhaps the author was resentful that he was not been selected. Or is it possible that the author has used the person who was not selected as a source for these two stories? Is it possible that the source is the unknown disciple depicted in the pericope, “On the Road to Emmaus”?

Whatever the reason for the criticism, it is likely that the criticism is a type of hidden polemics directed against the leadership because they have handled the food distribution contrary to the teachings of the Lucan Jesus. The teachings of the Lucan Jesus are exemplified, inter alia, by the stories involving Samaritans. The polemical discourse is being conducted with unidentified adversaries.

The detailed discussions of chapter 6 and 7 of Acts have revealed the extremes of exclusivity and inclusiveness and of appeals to ancient authority and contemporary experience as it also demonstrated the polarizing influence of the teacher from Galilee.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2007

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Waitng on tables, Part 4

The theory of the rationale of Luke in presenting information as he did in Luke 16 and Acts 6-7 is already recognized but to my knowledge the theory has not been applied to the writings of Luke. According to Yairah Amit, “A polemic is said to be hidden when its subject is not stated explicitly or when it is not stated in the usual or expected manner or wording.” The phenomenon of polemics is found throughout the whole corpus of biblical literature. Amit includes the “Northern Population” which would later be known as the Samaritans, one of the subject matters of hidden polemics. It may be that the hidden polemic of Waiting on Tables is intermarriage with Samaritans.

Yairah Amit argues that several biblical texts displaying “hidden polemics” can be read as a reflection of inner-Judean conflicts. In her view, the authors chose this genre because they may not have been in a position to address these polemics in the open. It is also possible that one or more of the authors may have been practicing irenical theology.

Just as there is a risk of finding allusions where none are intended, there is a risk of finding hidden polemics where none are intended. Therefore the more clues the stronger the choice. Likewise, if the subject matter of the hidden polemics is a controversial subject in other parts of the biblical literature, the identification is more likely. The subjects of intermarriage and Samaritans were controversial in the first century and earlier and a controversial subject in other parts of the biblical literature

There are numerous Samaritan clues in Stephen’s sermon giving the sermon a decidedly Samaritan viewpoint. The significance of these clues has not been understood. Luke by accurately reporting the contents of Stephen’s Sermon wants us to understand that the ministry to the Samaritans has been successful. These clues suggest the existence of hidden polemics. The following clues lend credence to a Samaritan background for the Sermon:

1) The MT says Terah lived 205 years but Stephen said 145 years in harmony with the Samaritan text. In Acts 7:4 Stephen states Abraham went to Canaan after the death of Terah. This agrees with the Samaritan Pentateuch's statement that Terah died at the age of 145 years. In contrast, the Masoretic text states that Terah died at the age of 205 (Gen 11:32) - sixty years after Abraham had left Haran.

2) Stephen says that God told Moses I am the God of your fathers; the MT reading is "father" while the Samaritan reading is "fathers".

3) Stephen in Acts 7:37 mentions a future prophet like Moses based on the Samaritan Book of Exodus as the history recited of Abraham through Moses depends on Genesis and Exodus; the MT lacks this statement in Exodus (but does have it in Deut 18:15).

4) Stephen mentions the city of Shechem which is the Samaritan counterpart of Jerusalem.

5) Stephens says that Abraham's seed shall "worship me in this place". The word "place" is standard Samaritan terminology; see John 4:20 and Acts 6:14. The Jewish cultic term is “house”.

6) Solomon's temple was not only in the wrong “place”, it was of human hands. According to the Samaritans, the tabernacle of Gerizim was not made by human hands.

7) Stephen says that the Law was given by an angel on Sinai.

Stephen included the Samaritan points in his Sermon as part of his response to anti-Samaritan polemics directed to him and the Samaritan members of the Jerusalem community.

You would think that two marginal oppressed Jewish groups excluded from the resources of the Temple “soup-kitchen” would willingly share the resources provided to them by the followers of Jesus. Even in prison, there are divisions and classes among the inmates. Apparently the Samaritans despised the Hellenists. They judged them unworthy of receiving food from the community resources just as they had been judged unworthy to receive food from the Temple resources.

Why would two groups not accepted by Judaism be unable to work together and share the resources of the kitchen ministry? Prior identification of these two groups of Hebrews and Hellenists as Jews and Greek speaking Jews has not solved the puzzle.

The ministry of meals on wheels served two separate communities, neither of which were accepted by Judaism. The seeds of these advances had been planted earlier by the Lucan Jesus and the ministry of the seventy. Josephus provides an additional clue:

8) The Samaritans called themselves Hebrews from the third century BCE as confirmed by Josephus [Ant. XI viii 6] but in the first century Jews did not call themselves Hebrews.

These two groups were the Samaritans and the Jews who had adopted Greeks ways.

The Samaritans are an ancient Jewish sect, surviving to the present, which accepts the Torah as its only canonical scripture. The relationship between the Jew and the Samaritans in the first century was one of hostility. Ecclesiasticus 50:25-26 speaks of them as “no nation” and as “the foolish people that dwell in Shechem.” The Testament of Levi also calls Shechem “a city of fools.” Ben Sira referred to the Samaritans as “the degenerate folk who dwell in Shechem.”

Although the origin of the Samaritans is strongly disputed by both sides, it may date to Ezra and Nehemiah and the return of the exiles and the rebuilding of the temple. Ezra-Nehemiah considered only the Jews who returned from Babylon to be pure and fully acceptable. Consequently they rejected the assistance of the local people in the rebuilding of the temple. These local people later became identified as the Samaritans.

In Part I, circumcision and intermarriage were mentioned as two possible reasons why the Hellenized Jews were not accepted in the Temple. These reasons would also explain why the Hellenized Jews were despised by the Samaritans who considered themselves to be Jews who lived by the Torah.

The Book of Watchers criticized the fallen angels cohabiting with the daughters of men, and labeled their gigantic offspring "mamzers" (bastards), in language which David Suter ("Fallen Angels, Fallen Priests") has shown the contained hidden polemics against improper priestly marriages. The Testament of Levi contained similar language in condemning improper priestly marriages of Levi's descendants. MMT appeared to criticize the same sort of improper priestly marriages. The historical context of these polemics is unclear but is definitely anti-Samaritan. The polemics in each instance may be against Samaritan-Jewish priest intermarriage.

According to David Suter, “The maintenance of family purity has as its primary goal the protection of the purity of the priesthood, ....” Suter states that “In order to preserve the purity of the sanctuary from pollution occasioned by inappropriate marriage, the Testament of Levi admonishes the priest to ‘Take, therefore, to thyself a wife without blemish or pollution, while yet thou art young, and not of the race of strange nations’ (T. Levi 9:10).” The Ezra Nehemiah material contained this same concern as evidenced by the list of priests and Levites with mixed marriages including members of the high priestly family and by the account of the grandson of the High Priest who was the son-in-law of the governor of Samaria. In Nehemiah 13:27-32, we read:

“Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?" And one of the sons of Jehoi'ada, the son of Eli'ashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of Sanbal'lat the Hor'onite; therefore I chased him from me. Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites. Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; and I provided for the wood offering, at appointed times, and for the first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.”

The major concern of the Damascus Document is the pollution of the temple by priests violating the marriage laws and the use of the priestly office to illegitimately obtain wealth. The author of the Psalm of Solomon 8 listed two major crimes that had been committed by the temple priests: adultery and theft from the sanctuary (Pss. Sol. 8:10-12). This is interesting because as previously noted the Lucan Jesus addressed both of these matters in the controversy sayings of Chapter 16.

Recall the following words included in Waiting on Tables, Part 2: Jesus has recognized that as a result of the corruption, including impurity caused by divorce and remarriage, the Temple no longer existed as a House of God. Jesus in effect adopted the viewpoint of the Books of Joel, Ruth, Jonah and Malachi which were a reaction to the reforms and visions of Ezra and Nehemiah of separateness of the people of Judah from the other people of the world.

Is there any evidence that the polemics in Acts 6-7 is directed against Jewish priests marrying Samaritan women?

Typically, the author of hidden polemics directed his criticism against a group for engaging in a practice prohibited by Torah. In this instance, the Luke is criticizing those who do not accept intermarriage. Stephen was stoned for waiting on tables of Jewish people who had married persons not acceptable to Judaism.

There are a number of clues. The leaders of the Hellenistic movement were members of the priestly class. Many priests joined the followers of Jesus. The Lucan Jesus told example stories wherein the Samaritan is the person seen most favorably. The ministry attracted numerous Samaritans to the movement.

The Sermon delivered by Stephen is a historical demonstration that the great events of the history of Israel occurred outside the Promised Land. This Sermon effectively undermined the rationale of a belief structure accepting as members only those Jews born in the Promised Land. The new movement promoted an inclusive view taking seriously the call to gather the “lost sheep” led astray by their shepherds. Jewish Christians recovered the Samaritans, representing ten northern tribes, as the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Acts does not report any overt hostility from Jews over this mission to the Samaritans.

Yet Stephen, who was appointed to wait on the tables of the Hebrews (Samaritans) and the Hellenists (Jews who had adopted Greeks ways), was stoned. The author of Acts has directed his hidden polemics at those who stoned Stephen because they were anti-Samaritan. Those who stoned Stephen were affiliated with the high priest. Priests marrying Samaritans would be a “hot-button” issue that would elicits strong emotional reactions from them.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Google My Memory

Sometimes when I am writing I need to google the internet to jog my memory. This tool is a real time saver. I mention this because as a result of a recent google of my memory, I realized that I already possessed the information necessary to complete the next part of Waiting on Tables. My theory of the rationale of Luke in presenting information as he did in Luke 16 and Acts 6-7 is already recognized but to my knowledge the theory has not been applied to the writings of Luke.

Copyrighted 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Judges in 2nd Temple Judaism

Last July 13th, I asked who appointed the Judges in 2nd Temple Judaism. I noted that both Micah and Jesus criticized the judges. Yesterday gospel reading on the Unjust Judge and Persistent Widow reminded me to return to this question of who appointed the judges.

In the time of the Second Temple, the High Priest was not only the religious leader of Israel and of the Temple, he came to be considered the head of the theocracy and the official representative of the nation to its Persian and later to its Roman rulers. G. Alon, The Jews In Their Land In The Talmudic Age, translated and edited by G. Levi, (Cambridge, Mass. 1989), 45. I suspected that the HP and the temple establishment appointed the judges but I am only guessing.

Since then, I have read a number of books on the legal system of Second Temple Judaism including the Criminal Jurisprudence of the Jews by Samuel Mendelsohn and Introduction to Jewish Law of the Second Commonwealth by Ze'ev W. Falk. I plan to read several others.

In 63 BCE, the Romans under Pompey took control of the region. The High Priest was authorized to serve as prostates tou etnou, head of the people, on behalf of the Roman government. This limited authority included judicial autonomy. In fact from the time of Persians to the destruction of the Temple, the conquerors confirmed the right of the Jews to live according to the laws of their ancestors. This limited autonomy included the power to appoint Jewish judges to try cases giving effect to the laws of Torah.

Copyrighted 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rule of the Community

The Qumran’s Rule of the Community (1QSa 2:5-22) lists the following people as forbidden entry into the eschatological banquet: those who are afflicted in the flesh, crushed in feet or hands, lame, blind, deaf, or dumb; those who suffer from defective eyesight or senility. The list of those forbidden entry reads like the requirements to be a priest contained in Leviticus 21:17-20 which suggest that the community considered its members to be priests.

Lev 21:16 And the LORD said to Moses,

Lev 21:17 "Say to Aaron, None of your descendants throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God.

Lev 21:18-20 For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles; no man of the descendants of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD's offerings by fire; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.

The Lucan Jesus adds the “poor” to this list-but all will be invited to the banquet! Shunning these people may change their behavior but would not cure, heal or remove their afflictions. They would still be excluded by Rule of the Community.

Copyrighted 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007


In Waiting on Tables, it was noted that Judaism and its Temple establishment excluded Jews with blemishes from participating in the rituals of the Temple. Was this exclusion a form of shunning like that practiced by the Amish? “Shunning, or meidung means expulsion from the Amish community for breaching religious guidelines -- including marrying outside the faith. The practice of shunning is the main reason that the Amish broke away from the Mennonites in 1693. When an individual is subject to meidung, it means they have to leave their friends, family and lives behind. All communication and contact is cut off, even among family members. Shunning is serious, and usually considered a last resort after repeated warnings.”

It is apparent to me from a cursory examination of the Rule of Community that the Qumran community practiced, much like the Amish today, “distance, separation and segregation” from outsiders which included a form of shunning of those in the community who had violated their rules. The stated rationale is that "They should keep apart from men of sin in order to constitute a community" (5.1-2).

The Pharisees, who were known as “the separated ones”, also
practiced “distance, separation and segregation” from those who were outsiders. Did the Pharisees shun those who violated their rules?

Was exclusion from temple rituals a form of shunning?

Copyrighted 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Legal fiction

In common law tradition, legal fiction is defined as an assumption that something is true even though it may be untrue that is created by the law in order to do justice. The most familiar legal fiction is that a corporation is a “person.” In the earliest case involving a corporation, the corporate defendant argued it could not be sued on the debt because in common law tradition only a natural person could sue or be sued. The legal fiction was no more than a means to an end to permit the corporation to sue or be sued. The statute creating corporations provided that the shareholders were not liable for the debts of the corporation. Legal fiction is necessary, as William Blackstone observed, because “legislation is never free from the iron law of unintended consequences.”

The legal fiction concept predates the English common law. In the Book of Judges, we read that the men of Israel had made an oath that none of them shall give their daughter in marriage to Benjamin. To circumvent the oath, the men of Benjamin were invited by the men of Israel to abduct the daughters of Shiloh dancing at the feast to make intermarriage possible. The passage in Judges 21:16-23 is an example of recourse to legal fiction to change the Torah. In the Benjamin example, the remnant of Benjamin was preserved from extinction by resort to a legal fiction.

The collectors for the Temple also used legal fiction to avoid injury to the Treasury. Equitable principles could not be applied against the Temple. For instance, “no accounts may be required in charity matters of the charity officials or in Temple property matters of the treasurers.” Thus rules created as a safeguard against embezzlement of Temple property by treasurers or trustees did not create any right to require an accounting. Furthermore, “Interest (laws apply) to the layman but not to dedicated property.”

Copyrighted 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Waiting on tables, Part 3

As I noted in my Outline, I had intended to post an article on the Dating of Stephen’s Sermon as Part 3 of my series, Waiting on tables. Instead, I have decided to refer you to one of my earliest postings on my blog which I slightly revised by adding one sentence.

Recognizing that Stephen’s Sermon has utilized Nehemiah 9 as a model and source permits us to confirm the observation of Jeremias that the Festival of Sukkot is the festival which Josephus has identified.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Jonathan, Stephen and the First Marker in Pauline Chronology

Copyrighted 2007

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Waiting on tables: Part 2

There are three other instances where intermarriage may be in view in Luke-Acts. In the 16th chapter of Acts, we learn that Paul circumcised Timothy whose father was Greek but his mother was Jewish. The question presented is not whether Paul circumcised Timothy but whether Timothy was considered Jewish because his mother was Jewish. The story is presented to demonstrate that Paul had respect for Jewish customs and therefore circumcised someone he believed to be Jewish. The evidence as to whether or not Jews of Diaspora accepted this matrilineal principle in the 1st century is inconclusive. This story demonstrates that intermarriage between Jews and Greeks who were not Jewish did occur and that it was an unresolved issue.

In the 21st chapter of Acts, Paul is arrested based on the allegation that he had brought Greeks into the Temple with him when he performed his Nazarite vows. It is considered to be a pious act to pay for the expenses of a Nazirite, which included offering the obligatory animal sacrifices at the conclusion thereof, who is not rich enough.

Many writers have noted that Luke's view of the activities of Paul is different than Paul's description of his own activities. The commentators have also said Paul could not have performed a Nazarite vow with its obligation to offer an animal for sacrifice. These writers have drawn the erroneous conclusion that Luke is inaccurate. Daniel Boyarin is one of several Talmudic scholars who have recently examined Paul's writings. Boyarin concludes “Paul lived and died convinced that he was a Jew living out Judaism,” thus lending credence to Luke's account.

Ironically, Paul is arrested for allegedly defiling the Temple while undergoing ritual purification. Luke explains that the crowd has seen Paul with Trophimus earlier in the day and thought that he had brought him into the Temple in violation of the prohibition. Foreigners were forbidden on penalty of death to enter beyond the balustrade into the two inner courts. This is confirmed by both literary (Philo, Embassy to Gaius 31 § 21; Josephus, Antiquities 12.145; War 5. 193-94) and archaeological evidence. The inscription posted in Greek and Latin reads “Let no one of another nation penetrate beyond the balustrade and into the inner precincts around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for what ensues: death.”

Although, according to the inscription those of another nation were prohibited entry, some Jews born in the Diaspora were permitted to enter the Temple precincts. This illustrate that the boundary lines defining who was permitted entry were not always clear. Although the issue of intermarriage in this pericope and that in Acts 6 is not apparent, it is undisputed that the demarcation lines of Jewish identify were in flux in the first century. This should be clarified by the final instance.

The third instance is the controversy saying in the 16th chapter wherein the Lucan Jesus states, inter alia, “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” We have demonstrated that Luke used Nehemiah 9 as a source for Stephen’s Sermon. However this instance requires us to examine Luke’s use of Ezra and its significance for the controversy saying.

Immediately preceding the controversy sayings, Luke tells the Parable of the Unjust Steward containing an allusion to the Book of Ezra. Ezra was a priest and scribe, a direct descendant of Aaron through Eleazar (Ezra 7:1-5). His father was Seraiah, the last High Priest to serve in the First Temple (2 Kings 25:8-21). What we know about Ezra is found in Ezra chapters 7 to 10, and Nehemiah chapters 8 to 10, where he led the second group of exiles that returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. Ezra is the only person in the Bible described as “skilled in the law of Moses” [Ezra 7:6 RSV].

Ezra was a man of extraordinary learning who educated his people. “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and ordinances in Israel” [Ezra 7:10]. Ezra is credited with reviving an interest in the study of scripture. Ezra led the reform of post-exilic Judaism.

The temple at Jerusalem had been rebuilt and dedicated but more priests were needed to carry on its services. There was a pressing need of men of God to act as teachers of the people. Therefore Ezra issued a second appeal to the Levites, sending them an urgent invitation to unite with his company. To emphasize the importance of quick action, he sent with his written plea several of his "chief men" and "men of understanding." Ezra 7:28; 8:16.

Ezra 8:24: Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests: Sherebi'ah, Hashabi'ah, and ten of their kinsmen with them.

25: And I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the vessels, the offering for the house of our God which the king and his counselors and his lords and all Israel there present had offered;

26: I weighed out into their hand six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels worth a hundred talents, and a hundred talents of gold,

27: twenty bowls of gold worth a thousand darics, and two vessels of fine bright bronze as precious as gold.

28: And I said to them, "You are holy to the LORD, and the vessels are holy; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the LORD, the God of your fathers.

29: Guard them and keep them until you weigh them before the chief priests and the Levites and the heads of fathers' houses in Israel at Jerusalem, within the chambers of the house of the LORD."

30: So the priests and the Levites took over the weight of the silver and the gold and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem, to the house of our God.

As a special precaution in safeguarding the treasure, Ezra "separated twelve of the chief of the priests," men whose faithfulness and fidelity had been proved “and weighed unto them the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, even the offering of the house of our God, which the king, and his counselors, and his lords, and all Israel there present, had offered.” These men were solemnly charged to act as vigilant stewards over the treasure entrusted to their care. "Ye are holy unto the Lord," Ezra declared. Ezra also stated "the vessels are holy also; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering unto the Lord God of your fathers. Watch ye, and keep them, until ye weigh them before the chief of the priests and the Levites, and chief of the fathers of Israel, at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the Lord." 8:24, 25, 28, 29. Ezra appointed faithful officers to act as stewards. These people by the first century had become known as treasurers of the temple.

There are no details provided about what happened during the five month journey of the second wave of repatriates led by Ezra. In his memoirs Ezra writes "I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way; since we had told the king 'The hand of our God is for good upon all that seek Him'..." Fasting and prayer thus secured safe passage (Ezra 8:22ff.) The contents of chapters seven and eight indicate concern for Temple cult and personnel played a primary role in the organization of the journey.

Thus it is apparent that the Book of Ezra has described how Ezra appointed twelve trustworthy chief priests to act in a role which could easily be described as treasurers of the temple. Is there any Second Temple literature confirming the existence of temple treasurers? Josephus told how when Ezra arrived in Jerusalem he “presented the sacred money to the treasurers, who were of the family of the priests.” Josephus also stated in describing the custody of the vestments of the high priest during a particular period: “Before that time they were kept under the seal of the high priest, and of the treasurers of the temple.”

The Talmud preserves a lamant of Abba Joseph ben Hanan, who lived during the era of Herod's temple; he conveys the plight of the common person under the high-priestly families:

Woe to me because of the house of Boethus,
woe is me because of their staves.
Woe to me because of the house of Hanan,
woe is me because of their whispering.
Woe to me because of the house of Kathros, woe is me because of their pens.
Woe to me because of the house of Ismael ben Phiabi, woe is me because of their fists.

For they are high priests, and their sons are treasurers, and their sons-in-law are trustees, and their servants beat people with staves.

Babylonian Talmud Pesahim, 57a; Tosephta Menahoth 13:21 cited by Menahem Stern, 'Aspects of Jewish Society: The Priesthood and Other Classes,' in Jewish People, ed. Safrai and Stern, 2:602-3.

The significance of this first century lament is that the sons of the High Priests were treasurers providing further proof of the existence of this temple position. Does the Greek word οκονμος in the Parable of the Unjust Steward refer to a person connected with the temple? The answer is a qualified yes. Thayer’s Lexicon notes that the word can mean “the superintendent of the city's finances, the treasurer of a city (or of treasurers or quaestors of kings)” and the entry under Strong for this word includes a fiscal agent (treasurer).

We now come to the verse which Lee Dahn believes is an allusion to a verse in the Book of Ezra. Note that in Luke 16:6-7, the owed amounts are 100 baths of oil and 100 measures/cors of wheat. In Ezra 7:22, we read “up to a hundred talents of silver, a hundred cors of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, a hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much.” The Greek words appearing in the Book of Ezra (LXX) match the Greek words in the Gospel of Luke. In verse 21, we read the King decreed these quantities of silver, wheat, wine and oil were to be turned over to Ezra as a gift for the temple in Jerusalem. Josephus describing this same gift to the temple stated, inter alia, “And that God may not be at all angry with me, or with my children, I grant all that is necessary for sacrifices to God, according to the law, as far as a hundred cori of wheat.” Thus the treasurer of the temple, translated in the parable as steward, had each debtor reduced the quantity of the item owed to the temple. In several other verses, these items, but in different quantities, are mentioned in temple transactions.

This directive to the unjust steward to “give an account” is reminiscent of the instructions of Ezra to the twelve. This directive is also comparable to the demand required prior to initiating legal proceedings in a collection case. In this instance it appears the unjust steward falsified an account which, under the modern criminal laws, is one of the elements of a theft by a fiduciary. The falsification was necessary to conceal missing funds. What is missing is that the rich man is not the real owner. The high priestly families owned and controlled a lot of real estate. In the original scheme of things, the priests were not to own any land but were supposed to be solely dependent upon contributions. What the high priests did was seize the land of persons who had defaulted on their loans obtained from the Temple. In the process the high priests took for themselves the collateral that should have been owned by the Temple. This economic fraud committed has never been fully developed within the context of the Lucan parables.

The crime of a fiduciary falsifying an account is a modern concept. When money was transferred to a person who was supposed to transfer it to a third person and the person in the middle stole the money it was not viewed as a crime but a business problem to be sorted out in civil court. In one Pennsylvania case cited by the Model Penal Code draftsmen as an example of the confusion in this area, an employer-defendant was acquitted of fraudulent conversion because his failure to pay a grocer on behalf of employees who had authorized him to deduct from their wages the amounts of their grocery bills was not seen as involving any money technically belonging to the employees. Hence, the only wrongdoing found by the Pennsylvania court was civil breach of contract. In fact it is still viewed this way when the executor of an estate or trustee steal a little bit of money. The Pennsylvania statute and the statutes of other jurisdictions adopting the Model Penal Code now criminalize conduct where the actors in question are “merely conduits for the transmission of money to persons designated by the real owner of the money.” With this background it easy to understand why first century people did not consider the steward of the Parable of the Unjust steward to be walking away with the temple treasury since he was stealing it from the people making the donations and or stealing the sums being used to pay rent or to pay off the temple loans made from the sacred money.

There was a surprising response to the conduct of the unjust steward in falsifying his account. The verb παινω expresses praise for the manager’s prudence. It also reflects the official act of approval or ratification of the account. We are shocked that the master in the words of the RSV “commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness.” The approval of the account makes sense if the “steward” was really the one of treasurers of the temple and the goods belonged to the temple. The Lucan Jesus understood and perhaps the phrase “and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much” is best understood in this context.

This parable may in fact represent one of the strongest attacks on the temple establishment issued by the Lucan Jesus. However, it is not until we reach the Lucan Parable of the Wicked Tenants do we appreciate against whom the attack is directed. It is, like the original Song of the Vineyard, directed against those who have accumulated excessive wealth at the expense of the peasants. These individuals are identified by Luke as the chief priests and scribes, the religious aristocracy of the Temple.

Luke seems to emphasize contrasts, such as the thankful vs. thankless lepers, the repentant and unrepentant thieves, the Samaritan and the Pharisees, and the rich man and Lazarus. The author also contrasts high and low, proud and humble, and the rich and poor. This is a characteristic of the wisdom literature. If Luke is using wisdom literature as a model or source, one should expect to see parallelism, vivid words, and examples from life, metaphors, comparisons and contrasts.

Contrasts are presented in a number of different forms and methods. For instance, Luke may place two words, phrases, concepts, incidents and/or individuals in juxtaposition to create comparisons and contrasts. When the outline is set forth in this manner, it is easy to see how the Book of Ezra could be a source.

After Ezra and his company arrived in Jerusalem, Ezra was informed that some of the Jerusalem priests have married foreigners. Ezra directed that a genealogy be prepared of everyone. Apparently approximately 100 priest and 10 laymen had married foreigners. Ezra assembled the community, read the Book to them and directed that the 110 priests and laymen divorce their spouses forthwith. Ezra and his community believed that intermarriage resulting in children constituted a defilement of the “holy seed” that corrupted the holy land and had to be eliminated to protect the land of Israel.

Ezra and the “men of understanding” were scribes and teachers of the law. By the time of the Maccabees, they were linked to the Hasideans. The Hasideans as advocates of Torah and covenant led Jewish resistance to Hellenism. Kampen concluded that it may be that the origin of Pharisaism is within the scribal circle of Hasidim. The Pharisees, like the pre-Maccabean party of scribes, assiduously cultivated a strictly legalistic piety, holding themselves aloof from the world. Josephus considered the Pharisees to be the most accurate interpreters of the laws. The name, Pharisees, means “separated ones.”

Before discussing the controversy sayings, it should be stated that Luke has contrasted the “men of understanding” of Ezra 8:16 with the lack of understanding in Luke 2:50; 8:10; 18:34 and 24:45; Acts 7:25; 28:26-27. There are several other examples in Luke-Acts that may be allusions to the Book of Ezra that have been overlooked. The following words, phrases and concepts appearing in the chapters of the Book of Ezra describing Ezra and his accomplishments can be found in Luke-Acts: “law of Moses”, Luke 2:22; 24:44; “set his face” may allude to “set his heart” and “chosen vessel,” Act 9:15 may allude to “You are holy to the LORD, and the vessels are holy.” The fact that there are a number of allusions in Luke-Acts to the Book of Ezra is confirmation that the allusions are intended as part of a common theme.

The first thing we realize about the controversy sayings of is that the response is directed to the Pharisees who had scoffed at Jesus. In Ezra 10:11, we read “separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” In the four verses preceding the reaction of the Pharisees to what Jesus said in commenting on the Parable of the Unjust Steward, we read: “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” The word “faithful” appears four times.

In Ezra 9:2, we read “For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons; so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” Thus it appears that Luke has compared the “faithlessness of the officials and chief men” with the unjust steward and contrasted them with the faithful steward of Luke 12:42. Luke has also contrasted the 12 appointed by Ezra who weighted-in with the steward who was directed to give an account because of allegations of dishonesty. This word steward οκονμος in the Parable of the Unjust Steward should probably be translated as “treasurer of the temple.”

When the Pharisees scoffed at the sayings of Jesus he responded with 4 verses: “But he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void. Every one who divorces his wife and marries commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

The last verse talks about divorce which is most interesting for this article because Ezra had directed about 110 Jewish men to divorce their wives. Jesus is addressing his comments to the Pharisees who like Ezra are skilled in the law and Jesus sees a dilemma that Ezra also faced. When two prohibitions seemingly conflict, which controls? Ezra said the prohibition on intermarriage controls. Jesus said the divorce and subsequent remarriage was tantamount to adultery. The penalty for adultery was death by stoning. Therefore Jesus addressed it differently and in so doing followed Malachi who rebukes Israel for profaning the Mosaic covenant (Mal 2:10-16). One example is the breaking of the marriage covenant by divorcing ("breaking faith with") the wives "of their youth" (v. 14).

In Ezra 9-10, intermarriage with foreigners is viewed as a defilement of the holy race and as unfaithfulness to God (9:2; 10:2, 10). Thus the Lucan Jesus has again contrasted the “unfaithfulness to God” with “breaking faith.” The Lucan Jesus talks about the faithful steward in Chapter 12 and says in effect, by the way unfaithful also means when an unfaithful husband commits adultery when he divorce and marries another.

The Pharisees, being skilled in the law, were certainly well versed in scripture and would recognize when Jesus used a rare word such as βτους [Lk 16:6] and that it only appeared in Ezra 7:22. This is purpose of the description of the two quantities of wheat and oil using the word βτους and κρους copied in Greek from Ezra with the same exact quantities. A κρους was a Hebrew dry measure for grain of between 10-12 bushels. 100 cors of wheat was a large amount of wheat, representing the yield of about 100 acres. In Luke, these items represent either rent owed to the Temple or payment on loans made from the Temple. Luke alludes to Ezra because he wants us to realize that in both instances the intended recipient is the Temple. The second occurrence of an unusual word form in Luke 16:12 must have caused a reaction in that Luke used the word λλοτρίῳ translated in Luke as belonging to another. Ezra used this same word translated in Ezra as “alien” seven times in Chapter 10 in addressing the problem of intermarriage. Thus the scene is set for the use of the word βδλυγμα translated in Ezra and Luke 16:15 as abomination.

In Lk 16:15, Luke is using the same Greek word Ezra used in describing the intermarriage, “abomination.” In Ezra 9:1 we read, inter alia, “The people of Israel and their priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites.” In using the word, abominations, Ezra was asserting that intermarriage was absolutely the worst thing that the people could do. Luke has equated intermarriage with unspecified certain conduct of the Pharisees using the same Greek word, βδλυγμα . Actually Ezra has a compound word containing this word with letters added at the end translated as “their abominations.” Neither Plummer, Marshall nor Bock have recognized that βδλυγμα is used in Ezra 9:1. This word is usually used to denote detestation amounting to idolatry and nothing has indicated that idolatry is in issue in the Gospel of Luke but Acts does have a minor idolatry theme. However, Ezra uses this word in conjunction with intermarriage. This would not be significant but for the last verse in the four verse response to the Pharisees.

The divorce verse now has new significant. What is it?

The Lucan Jesus has implicitly criticized the Ezran concept of exclusiveness instituted by a mass divorce and by a direction to live apart within the land. This is also an implied criticism of the Pharisees, the “separated ones.”

"That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." Position, wealth, education, popularity, religiosity, the esteem of men -- these are abomination in the sight of God. However this list is not conclusive as can be seen from reviewing the various passages: Lev 18:18-30; Lev 20; Deut 24:1-4; 25:13-16; Proverbs 3:31-32; 6:16-9; 11:1; 17:15; 20:10; 24:9 and 28:9.

Each of these examples of allusions to Ezra depends on a single word. Birger Gerhardsson discussed the use of a catch-word as a memory device where the use of the word would allude to a passage of scripture. He gives the example of the “thorn-bush” periscope in Exodus 3:1 and Luke 20:37 implying Luke was aware of this memory technique and used it in his gospel. These examples seem to suggest that Gerhardsson is correct. Those in the audience had followed in the traditions of the men of learning and knew their scripture so well they knew that Jesus had alluded by word and concept to the Book of Ezra.

In my study of Luke 3:8, I recognized that Luke may be alluding to Ezekiel 33:24, where the prophet contends with the self-confidence of those Israelites who dwelt among the ruins of the land by citing their pride in being heirs of Abraham. Ezekiel then asks a series of rhetorical questions. One such question is whether when they commit abominations such as adultery becoming impure thereby, do they presume to inherit the land? Consequently, I am convinced that Luke has equated the Ezran intermarriages and the adultery of Ezekiel’s day with the Pharisees of Luke’s day by using the word βδλυγμα to link the them together, much like preachers used to cite the multiple marriages of the Hollywood stars as equivalent to adultery. I suspect only Ezra, Ezekiel and Malachi use this word βδλυγμα in this manner. All the other writers are talking about idolatry.

Lee Dahn speculated that the abominations may relate to the widows. With this thought in mind, I read the 44th chapter of Ezekiel where the various priestly regulations are set forth. Ezekiel tells the priest they may not marry Israelite widows or divorcees but may marry Israelite virgins. The priests shall instruct the people regarding the differences between the sacred and the profane and the pure and impure. The priests are not to receive a landed inheritance. Ezekiel 44:22 permits the priests to marry widows of priests. Ezekiel is a restatement of the priestly regulations of Lev 21:7. It contains no provision about priests marrying the widows of priests.

Since Ezra, Ezekiel and Malachi all use abomination in the same sense, that is, not in a cultic sense as in idolatry, is the Lucan Jesus criticizing this aspect of Ezekiel so that in the controversy sayings of chapter 16 he is criticizing both Ezra and Ezekiel?

After Jesus made his comments on the unjust dishonest steward and the importance of being faithful, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they scoffed at him.” In response, Jesus in 5 verses made a number of controversy sayings ending with "Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Lk. 16:18). Jesus is in fact saying that the Pharisees, who perhaps are offended by the allegations against the temple priests, have also deviated from right or moral principles or conduct.

In Judaism, sin was viewed as an impurity. There are two kinds of impurity: ritual or moral. Klawans has shown that the concern of Ezra about Gentiles was moral impurity. I do mean to suggest that Jesus is in fact saying that the Pharisees, who perhaps are offended by the allegations against the temple priests, have also deviated from right or moral principles by their conduct and/or teachings on divorce. This is perhaps the only way to understand the parables about the corrupt temple establishment and the seemingly out of place sayings between the parables in Chapter 16. Lee Dahn has suggested that the divorce saying of Jesus is to be contrasted with the directive of Ezra.

After Ezra and his company arrived in Jerusalem, Ezra was informed that some of the Jerusalem priests have married foreigners. Ezra directed that a genealogy be prepared of everyone. Apparently approximately 100 priest and 10 laymen had married foreigners. Ezra assembled the community, read the Book to them and directed that the 110 priests and laymen divorce their spouses forthwith. In Ezra 9-10, intermarriage with foreigners is viewed as a defilement of the holy race and as unfaithfulness to God (9:2; 10:2, 10). Ezra and his community believed that intermarriage constituted a defilement of the “holy seed” that corrupted the holy land and had to be eliminated to protect the land of Israel.

Linnemann has asserted that “a firmly established result of recent parable interpretation is that the parables of Jesus refer to the historical situation in which they are told.” After Jesus made his comments on the unjust dishonest steward and the importance of being faithful, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they scoffed at him.” Consequently in response, Jesus must have been aware that some of the Pharisees in his audience were urging those who had married foreigners to divorce their spouse but unlike Ezra he said: "Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Lk. 16:18). I say must be aware because the only way one can compare the corruption of the temple priests to the corruption of the Pharisees is to point out that their advocacy of divorce of those married to foreigners is just as bad as stealing from the Temple. No group in Judaism had ever suggested that divorce or divorce and remarriage created an impurity that corrupted the holy land. Yet, this is the sense of the radical statement made by the Lucan Jesus.

When two prohibitions seemingly conflict, which controls? Ezra said the prohibition on intermarriage controls. Malachi rebukes Israel for profaning the Mosaic covenant (Mal 2:10-16). One example is the breaking of the marriage covenant by divorcing the wife of their youth. The MT translates the 14th verse as: “Because the Lord was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” The Septuagint has “whom you abandoned.” Jesus said the divorce and remarriage was tantamount to adultery. The penalty for adultery was death by stoning.

Jesus was able to make this statement in Luke 16:18 using a pesher “This directly stands for that” argument before a Jewish audience, which we find elsewhere in Luke with the “finger of God,” because he had already commented on the faithful steward in chapter 12. Jesus was now suggesting that the faithful unfaithful analogy can also be applied to the unfaithful husband (MT) who divorces his wife and marries another thus committing adultery.

The pesher argument is possible if one understands the comparison using the MT text. Several verses later the famous passage from Malachi (MT), “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face” appears in Luke 7:27. Therefore it seems reasonable to base the pesher argument on the MT text of Malachi 2:14. Not only does the Book of Ezra solve a translation problem in the Parable of the Unjust Steward, it also assists us in understanding the pesher argument utilized by Jesus.

Jesus has recognized that as a result of the corruption, including impurity caused by divorce and remarriage, the Temple no longer existed as a House of God. Jesus in effect adopted the viewpoint of the Books of Joel, Ruth, Jonah and Malachi which were a reaction to the reforms and visions of Ezra and Nehemiah of separateness of the people of Judah from the other people of the world.

As Krodel stated “Luke never says everything at once, but expands and unfolds earlier themes as he moves step by step from one episode to another.” Consequently we need to recognize that the dispute in Acts 6 is merely one step in the step progression utilized by Luke. Waiting on tables has demonstrated the accuracy of Krodel’s observation by discussing other instances in Luke-Acts where intermarriage is in view.

In the 1st century, Judaism and its Temple establishment excluded Jews with blemishes from participating in the rituals of the Temple. These blemishes constituted impurities that polluted the land and the Temple. Ezran ideology condemned intermarriage. The Lucan Jesus demonstrated, using accepted methods of Jewish hermeneutics, that divorce was an impurity and remarriage constituted adultery. They, the audience in Chapter 16, were unfaithful with respect to temple goods and the wives of their youth. The compelling logic of the argument crushed the opposition. It is no wonder they crucified Jesus and stoned Stephen. If the longest speech in Acts is the most important and it has used Nehemiah 9 as a model and source and if the controversy saying alludes to Ezran ideology, then intermarriage must be the provocative issue that provoked the reaction.

Copyrighted 2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

Waiting on tables: Outline and Rewrite

In preparing the outline for Waiting on tables I realized that the material being assembled was too voluminous for a single blog article. The first draft which I posted on October 1st was seven pages. The current version is now nine pages since I added the information necessary to support the argument that Luke used Nehemiah 9 as a source.

There are a number of additional reasons supporting the argument that the dispute in Acts 6 is about intermarriage. As Krodel stated “Luke never says everything at once, but expands and unfolds earlier themes as he moves step by step from one episode to another.” Consequently we need to recognize that the dispute in Acts 6 is merely one step in the step progression utilized by Luke. The extended version of Waiting on tables will demonstrate the accuracy of Krodel’s observation by discussing other instances in Luke-Acts where intermarriage is in view.

The final version will also include information on the criticism of the apostles in their handling of the incident and the dating of Stephen’s sermon.

copyrighted 2007

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Waiting on tables

It is not about the food. It is about the people. It is about including in your ministry all of the people of the community including those who are so downtrodden that they obtain their meals at the neighborhood soup kitchen. The Apostles conducted their own neighborhood soup kitchen available to their members.

The description of the event is clear that the widows were being neglected in the distribution of food being dispensed to the members of the community. When their spouses were alive, they did not need community support but now that they were merely surviving spouses they were neglected when they came to the neighborhood soup kitchen.

In Book of Deuteronomy, the people of God are required to be charitable to the stranger, the fatherless and the widow in their midst. These provisions are reiterated throughout the biblical writings and were probably ubiquitous throughout the Ancient Near East. In Jewish society, widows were viewed as particularly needy and dependent. Yet in Acts, we read that the widows were being neglected because they are not Hebrew!

“Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.”

Typically, the problem is defined as related to the rapid growth of the community of the followers of Jesus. There is no suggestion at this point in time that the growth is due to the influx of Gentiles. If the Hellenists and the Hebrews and their spouses are “Jewish”, why then were the Greek widows, who may also be strangers, being neglected?

In Jerusalem there were two kinds of Jews: those who were born and raised locally and whose mother-tongue was Hebrew or Aramaic; and those who were born and raised abroad and whose mother-tongue was Greek or who were born and raised locally and whose mother-tongue was Greek. Therefore the community in Jerusalem was divided into two main ethnic groups, one Aramaic-speaking, the other Greek.

It is possible some of these Greek Jews were descendents of the Hellenizers who were despised by Palestinian Jews because they had compromised their religion. They could not speak Hebrew nor could they understand the Law of Moses when read in Hebrew. When Hellenized Jews came to Jerusalem they formed Greek speaking synagogues so they could hear and understand Moses being read. They were not accepted in the Temple. This prejudice found its way into the primitive church - Hellenized widows were being neglected.

This neglect in the serving of food may speak to a problem between the Hebrews and the Hellenists. The Hebrews were not especially fond of the Hellenists. Although the food distribution problem was solved by appointing Greek speaking individuals to assist in the distribution of food, the problem between the Hebrews and the Hellenists did not disappear. Consequently it is necessary to determine the nature of the problem between the Hebrews and the Hellenists and it ultimate resolution. There are a number of possible reasons why the Hellenized Jews were not accepted in the Temple. Circumcision and intermarriage represent two such reasons.

In 1 Maccabees, we read about some Jews who built a gymnasium in Jerusalem and "made themselves uncircumcised." Thus it is evident that there were many Jewish men in the Hellenistic period who were uncircumcised, never having been circumcised, or underwent a surgical procedure to reverse the sign of their circumcision. Therefore we must assume that there was a wide variety of Jewish views on circumcision in the First Century. The evidence for uncircumcised yet practicing Jews is indirect but unequivocal. The Jewish followers of Jesus attracted to their movements many Jews who had ceased to practice Judaism, some because they had been excluded by Jewish society and other because their occupation or their conduct had made them pariahs. The movement probably also attracted Jews who shared the Greek and Roman abhorrence of circumcision. The Circumcision Party objected to the inclusions of these Jewish males as full members of Jewish society quoting Genesis: "Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised on the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."

Christine Hayes, Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities: Intermarriage and Conversion from the Bible to the Talmud, viewed the inevitable break between Jews and Christians as aided by Ezran ideologies that denied Jewish identity to non-native Jews and converts:

"... for the first time, the Jewish community was confronted with persons who met none of the requirements of Jewish identity: neither the sufficient condition of genealogical filiation nor the condition of moral-religious conversion as signalled by circumcision and observance of Jewish law. By no definition, then, could such persons lay claim to Jewish identity -- certainly not by those espousing an Ezran concern for genealogy and not even by tannaitic rabbis, who required, at the very least, the adoption of Jewish religious practices. And so, a new religion was born."

The Church in Antioch was founded by Hellenists who left Jerusalem after the persecution that arose over Stephen (11:19). The Church at Antioch did not consider them as bound by the Jewish law. For instance, they did not observe the Jewish dietary laws (Gal. 2:12). Was this idea in practice in Jerusalem among the Hellenists?

It is apparent that the Jews of the Diaspora were stricter, more conservative in their observance of Jewish laws than the Hellenists. This strictness has been explained by their physical distance from Jerusalem; that the Jews in Jerusalem were, relatively speaking, complacent because they had access to the temple.

What about the Hellenists? Are their views traceable to the "liberal" views of community espoused by the writers of Joel, Ruth and Jonah? Did the conflict that erupted when Stephen preached his last sermon arise out of the devout Jews and proselytes from every nation coming into contact/conflict with the many priests who became Christians? We have four clues whose significance becomes apparent after reviewing evidence from the Dead Sea Scroll. 1) Acts 2:5 "Now there were living in Jerusalem devout Jews drawn from every nation under heaven . . . ." Is the text variation "devout men" of any significance? 2) Acts 2:11 "visitors from Rome, both jews and proselytes." 3) Acts 6:5 Nicolaus, one of the Seven who was chosen to serve in the Jerusalem was a proselyte. 4) Acts 6:7 "and very many of the priests adhered to the Faith."

Schiffman in his discussion of the Book of Jubilee (Second Century B.C.E.) indicated that the author placed certain of his teachings in the mouths of the patriarchs using the example of the prohibition of intermarriage:

“And if there is any man in Israel who wishes to give his daughter or his sister to any man who is from the seed of the gentiles, let him surely die. . . . And also the woman will be burned with fire because she has defiled the name of her father's house. . . . (Jubilee 30:7)”

Schiffman states: "The author strong stand against intermarriage should be seen in the context of extreme Hellenization going on in contemporary times. Nonetheless the author is echoing the traditional Jewish prohibition of mixed marriages, to which he has added extremely harsh penalties, as is his tendency throughout."

According to Schiffman, the text of the Halakhic letter reconstructed by Qimron from six fragmentary copies concern laws, inter alia, condemnation of mixed marriages. Schiffman in his discussion of "Other Laws in the Temple Scroll" indicates passages in the Temple Scroll seem to indicate that all marriages between Jews and gentiles were prohibited (Temple Scroll 57:15-17).

"No doubt non-Jews would have been prohibited from entering the temple since even proselytes were forbidden entry into the middle Court until the fourth generation (Temple Scroll 39:5-7). Indeed, in the End of Days, non-Jews as well as proselytes were to be excluded from the sanctuary described in Florigium."

Paul's views on marriages and sex have produced an outpouring of writings. His theory of status quo said that if you are married, you were to remain married even to a heathen but that divorce desired by the heathen partner was permitted. If you were not married, you should remain single. These views were based on Paul's belief in the imminent return of Jesus Christ. For our purposes, we are interested in his rather liberal view regarding marriage to non-Christians. There has always been a conflict in Israel concerning intermarriage presumably with the proponents thereof citing the examples of Moses marrying Zipporah, Joseph the daughter of the Pharaoh and the story of Ruth. The bottom line is that intermarriage was a prominent issue in first century Judaism and it would be surprising if the issue did not surface in the early Christian community in Jerusalem.

The Book of Jonah provides another clue. The Book of Jonah is usually cited as the source for that passage in Matt. 12:39-41 as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days so Jesus was in the belly of the earth for three days before He was raised from the dead. The story of Jonah has a larger significance for our understanding of the Lucan (and Pauline) vision of a universal church.

The Book of Jonah was written in the post‑Nehemiah period (fourth century B.C.E.) after the return of Jewish leaders from the exile into which they had been cast by the Babylonian conquest of Palestine in the early sixth century. This book was a gentle satire on a type of self‑righteous Jewish religious exclusivism that had arisen after the return.

The Book of Ruth demonstrated the compassion of Yahweh to those foreigners who had been drawn into the community through marriage. The Book of Joel provided bold new expression to the eschatological dimensions of Yahweh's presence in the world.

The Books of Joel, Ruth and Jonah were a reaction to the reforms and visions of Ezra and Nehemiah of separateness of the people of Judah from the other people of the world. This different vision of God as the compassionate and righteous Lord of all people was the biblical legacy to the Lucan and Pauline communities. It included the notions of Israel as a "light to the nations" (Isa. 49:6), of the temple as a "house of prayer for all peoples" (Isa. 56:7), of all nations of the world contributing their children to the priesthood of Yahweh (Isa. 66:18-21), of offerings being made to Yahweh "from rising of the sun to its setting" (Mal. 1:11), of a Moabite woman being adopted and protected by the Yahwistic community (Ruth), of a pagan king repenting and appealing to the mercy of Yahweh (Jonah 4:6-9), and of Assyria and Egypt joining Israel in becoming "a blessing in the midst of the earth" (Isa. 19:24).

In the years after the return of the exiles, there developed another vision of community among some of the Jewish groups that ethnic membership in the elect in the absence of good moral behavior was insufficient for salvation. This message espoused in the story of Jonah and the whale as well as in the Books of Joel and Ruth provided biblical support for Luke's universalism. It is also provides insight to the events of Acts 6 and why Stephen's last sermon provoked such a reaction.

This discussion suggests that the conflict in the sixth chapter of Acts may deal with intermarriage. This excursion into the Dead Sea Scroll community is intended to show the beliefs of the members of the early Jerusalem Church regarding intermarriage; and to establish that these ideas, that had to have time to develop for Luke to write about them, in fact had existed in the community for a long time. When these clues are combined with Stephen's attack on the Temple, and the different vision of Jonah and Ruth, it becomes apparent that the devout Jews and proselytes of Acts 6 have been excluded from the Temple. Among such excluded people, the status of the Temple is downgraded. When Stephen suggested that the very existence of the Temple is idolatrous he echoed the sentiments of many devout Jews and proselytes from many nations who were excluded from the Temple because of intermarriage. This trouble was created by the breaking of the boundary lines that defined Judaism.

It was Ezra and Nehemiah who first prohibited intermarriage for all Jews. Jubilees and Miqsat Ma'aseh Torah (4QMMT) are two texts which, in Hayes’ view, prohibited intermarriage as a result of Ezran influence. Hayes also indicated that in her reading of Paul, mixed marriages are identified as a sexual sin, as porneia. Paul instructed his followers: “Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

Stephen’s Sermon is based upon the Levites’ Prayer in Nehemiah 9. Newman provides a summary for the prayer:

9:5 Levitical exhortation and introductory blessing;
v.6 affirmation of God as creator;
7-8 God’s choice of Abraham and covenantal grant of land;
9-12 account of Exodus from Egypt;
13-14 gift of Torah at Sinai;
15-21 wilderness wandering, Israelite disobedience with molten calf incident;
22-25 conquest and settlement of the land;
26-31 disobedience during period of judges and monarchy leading to exile;
32-37 present circumstances of slavery in their land leads them to confess their sinfulness in the present as in the past.

The prayer in Nehemiah 9 in its introduction includes the phrase “The host of heavens worships before you.” Newman believes this is an allusion to angelic liturgy and the priestly account of creation. Stephen begins his sermon, “Brethren and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham . . . .” Although the reference to “The God of glory” may allude to angelic liturgy, there is no question that Luke states that the law was delivered to Moses by angels. Later in his sermon, Stephen says: “But God turned and gave them over to worship the host of heaven.” This statement immediately follows “they made a calf in those days.”

Just as there are two parts to the prayer in Nehemiah, the historical recital (9:6-31) and the prayer proper (9:32-37), there are likewise two parts to Stephen’s sermon, the historical recital and the prayer proper. In this prayer, Exodus is a principle of faith and testimony to God’s greatness, a view that Stephen also shares. The Levites’ prayer and Stephen’s sermon are characterized predominantly by the greatness and transcendence of God and the failure of the Israelites to uphold the covenant and the resulting need for repentance. In a manner that is decidedly more deuteronomistic in language and theme than priestly, Nehemiah ties Israelite obedience or disobedience to possession or loss of the land. Not only does Luke follow the general outline of the prayer in Nehemiah, he includes some of its themes and exact phrases, which reveals his awareness of the prayer.

Just before Nehemiah mentioned the molten calf, he said, “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey thy commandments.” Nehemiah also stated: "Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against thee and cast thy law behind their back and killed thy prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to thee, and they committed great blasphemies.

Stephen’s sermon included: "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it." Although in the preceding quotation, the polemical phrase “your fathers” appears, the sermon includes eight “our fathers.” Nehemiah included the phrase, “our fathers” five times. Since “our fathers” appears a total of fourteen times in Acts, the polemic use of “your fathers” in this instance is probably an indictment of the audience listening to Stephen.

This concluded the historical recital, which is unusual in that, there is no statement about the taking of the land which is the standard terminus in the other summary accounts of biblical history. Of course, unlike the standard accounts, this account was interrupted because the people became so enraged they stoned Stephen. Yet Stephen’s introduction of moral failure was not a novelty in the standard accounts. Nehemiah did the same in verses 16, 18, 26 and 29. Luke included in verse 37 a remarkable quotation from Deut 18:15: “This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, 'God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up.'”

There is one more interesting similarity. “The sweep of the recital in Nehemiah from creation to life in the land,” according to Newman, “reflects a view of history consonant with the priestly composer.” The composer of Nehemiah 9 rewrote scripture changing the maker of the molten calf from Aaron to the people. Luke in agreement says, “They made a calf in those days.”

Why does Luke use the prayer of Nehemiah as his outline?

Because Stephen’s sermon is the longest speech in Acts, it may also be the most important. Numerous scholars have studied the speech and attempted to make sense of it. To my knowledge, no one has suggested that Luke used Nehemiah 9 as his outline. Soards does note “Comparable biblical summaries of history are found in the Septuagint in Deut 6:20-24; 26:5-9; Josh 24:2-13; Neh 9:6-31; Psalms 77; 104; 105; 135; Wisdom 10; Sirach 44-50; Jdt 5:6-18.”

In verses 36 and 37, Nehemiah presents the belief in the continuing exilic status of the people of God and that the exilic status did not end with the return of the exiles. Although Stephen does not mention the exile, he does proclaim that the deliverance, yet to come in the time of Nehemiah, has arrived. He introduces the deliverance with these words previously quoted: “God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up.”

Consequently, we can say that different groups in the first century of the Common Era had strong opinions about intermarriage. We can also say that Luke was familiar with Nehemiah 9 having used it as his outline for Stephen's sermon and was also familiar with Jubilees. 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. Since Luke has emphasized Noah and the Noachic decree, he may have used the Book of Jubilees as a source. Paul was familiar with Nehemiah and with 4QMMT since he used the phrase "works of the law" five times in Romans and Galatians and this phrase appears nowhere else except in 4QMMT. Thus Luke and Paul were familiar with the writings about the prohibition of mixed marriages. It is now apparent that Stephen's sermon alluded to Nehemiah 9 because both situations related to mixed marriages.

Luke wants us to understand that there are two groups of people with different cultural and/or ethnic backgrounds sharing community resources resulting in some discontent. Intermarriage occurs between people of different backgrounds, languages and culture because of opportunity to meet and interact. Children are born of such relationships and some children may be denied access to benefits because they are different and not accepted. Spouses die and surviving spouses may be treated as outsiders and denied access to benefits.

Scholars have suggested that the Sermon was temple critical and/or temple establishment critical. Stephen responds to the practice of exclusion from temple participation by emphasizing the greatness and transcendence of God, a God so great it does not reside in a temple made with hands. By inference God has no desire or need to exclude anyone from temple participation. Furthermore, the sermon makes the point that God performed “wonders and signs” but the response was to build a calf demonstrating that the temple establishment was a “wicked tenant” from the beginning. The prophets called the people to repentance but they responded by killing the prophets. God invites participation by all his people; the temple establishment excluded people and animals with blemishes.

In Nehemiah 9, intermarriage is the sin which is the context for the prayer yet there is no mention of this particular sin anywhere in the entire prayer which was delivered shortly after Sukkoth. Intermarriage separates one from the covenant community and makes one a permanent exile, a person unable to participate in the ingathering of the exiles.

In verses 36 and 37, Nehemiah presents the belief in the continuing exilic status of the people of God and that the exilic status did not end with the return of the exiles. Although Stephen does not mention the exile, he does proclaim that the deliverance, yet to come in the time of Nehemiah, has arrived. He introduces the deliverance with these words previously quoted: “God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up.”

In Nehemiah 9, according to Mark Throntveit, the prayer serves to motivate the people into making the proper response so lacking in the historical survey. Stephen, in using Nehemiah as his outline, also sought to obtain the proper response. It was not meant to be.

However Stephen makes a remarkable request. Although there had been no call for repentance and forgiveness, this final appeal to the “Lord” is for the forgiveness of those who rejected Jesus for eating with sinners and are now killing Stephen for waiting on tables for sinners.

Copyrighted 2007