Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Wallingford Pennsylvania

Bibliobloggers love to create lists. One list not posted is the list of ideal communities in which bibliobloggers live. What would be the criteria? Would this criteria also describe the location of the ideal religious meeting place? It might be easier to make Money Magazine’s list of America’s Best Places To Live than to create the criteria for utopia. My town did make the list as the 9th best place in America to live. Wallingford is located near Springfield. It is certainly a nice community that loves to collect trophies.

Copyrighted 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Great Famine

Luke uses the Greek phrase for “great famine” on two occasions, the Greek phrase for “strong famine” once and the Greek word for “famine” on one occasion in the same sense as “great famine.” This usage is distinctive. In the Sermon in Nazareth, Jesus describes the “great famine” that resulted when there was no rain for three years and six months. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus mentions the “strong famine in that country.” Stephen in his last sermon described the famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan and the great afflictions resulting. In the fourth instance, Agabus predicted a “great famine over all the world.”

According to Joel Kaminsky, “one of the usual punishments for a covenantal violation is a famine, especially because a famine can function as an omen that would force the guilty party to see his error and repent. The notion that a famine can function as a type of alarm to notify the population of a covenantal breach is an idea that occurs several times in the Hebrew Bible (Lev. 26:18-20; Deut. 11:17; Amos 4:6-9).” The purpose of the famine is to cause the people to correct the covenantal breach and turn back to God. Although the Parable of the Prodigal Son does not explicitly state that the famine occurred for this reason and had this effect, the prodigal son nevertheless vowed to return to his father and seek his forgiveness.

Is the Lucan Jesus in twice mentioning the great famine warning his audience that they can expect a “great famine” if changes do not occur? The great famine predicted by Agabus did occur!

What role does the mention of the four severe famines play in the writings of Luke?

Copyrighted 2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Corporate Responsibility in Sacred Scripture

“The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place; but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, until the Lord’s wrath against his people became irreversible.”

The idea of persistent obduracy as an explanation for corporate responsibility appears throughout Hebrew scripture beginning with the Golden Calf episode. The conception of divine wrath, so typical of deuteronomistic history, as an explanation for disproportionate punishment warrants separate treatment. However, it is accurate, but perhaps simplistic, to state corporate responsibility is an extension of divine wrath as the corporate dimension of punishment. Holiness violations have also been offered as an explanation of corporate responsibility.

Although there are numerous passages stating the King caused the people to sin, the exile was not solely attributable to the heinous behavior of Manasseh. Manasseh and kings like him ruled as they did because it is what the people expected as the people were also participants in covenant disobedience. It is a rare person who can lead people in a direction they do not want to go. King Josiah was such a person. This motif of the inevitability of exilic punishment as an expression of corporate responsibility is found throughout the Sinai and Zion covenant traditions.

Exile is specifically listed as a biblical sanction for disobedience in both Deuteronomy and Leviticus of the Sinai tradition and in 1 & 2 Kings and Psalm 132:11-12 of the Zion tradition. Yet these passages also included the idea that the sanctions for covenant disobedience also include the idea that the land be desolated and the cities ruined. Joel Kaminsky has shown that the ideas of corporate responsibility “flow out of the covenant theology that is so important to the whole structure and ideology of the deuteronomistic history.” Breach of covenant creates both individual and communal liability.

Persistent obduracy, divine wrath and holiness violations were still issues in the first century. Therefore corporate responsibility was still an important concept.

As an analogy, consider the global warming that is occurring. The climate is changing and man is helping to make that happen. The response to global warming must be a collective effort to be effective. If the response is not effective, then all people living on planet earth will suffer the consequences. This analogy is influenced by the idea that because God is holy, he requires that the people maintain the purity of his environment. These brief statements indicate that corporate responsibility is still an important concept. I will return to this subject.

Copyrighted 2007

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Access to Salvation

As noted earlier, Pope Benedict has initiated a new round of discussions about Christ’s defective church. The problem I see with such an assertion is that it invites a review of the historical basis of the claim of continuity going back to Peter and the rock on which the church stands. Already the internet has responded by making available The Criminal History of the Papacy which is too graphic for me to even mention the details. Perhaps someone will provide the Reader’s Digest version of the chain of succession and the how the church rewrote its history to excise its excesses and eliminate the interruptions, called “vacations” totaling more than a hundred years, so as to “document” its claim of papal continuity. There is also some question as to whether Benedict should be recognized as the 16th legitimate pope to bear this name. It baffles me why a church that had four popes at one time would assert that my church is defective.

It would be more helpful for us to recognize that we, humans, are unable to define the persons who are the true members of the one true church. The question of defining access to the sanctuary did not start with the church that the followers of Jesus created. It was a question debated by the prophets. Luke also participated in that debate.

Copyrighted 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007

Until this day

In the late 7th century or early 6th century BCE, someone who used the phrase “until this day” created his literary masterpiece that we have identified as the Deuteronomistic History. Biblical scholars would probably call this person an editor or redactor and may argue that there were many editors and redactors involved in this process. I, for one, believe Jeremiah is the person who wrote this piece and did so during the time of Josiah.

This phrase has long been recognized as a clue to the origin of Hebrew scripture. It was cited in one of the earliest studies in a discussion about the location of Moses’ grave unknown to this day. The history of this research as told by Jeffrey C. Geoghegan in The Time, Place and Purpose of the Deutronomistic History is a fascinating read.

The phrase was probably employed to assert that in the author’s day this object still exist and can be verified. Matthew uses the phrase for the same reason that Jeremiah did. A hundred years after Matthew penned the words in verse 28:15, Justin Martyr wrote in the second century that the discussion of the theft of the body was still current among the Jews.

It has been said that the Deuteronomistic History was created during a time of national crisis. Does this logic also apply to the writing of the NT? Did the NT writers use phrases like “until this day” that reveal clues about the origin of the NT?

Copyrighted 2007

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Covenant Lawsuit

Having tried cases where the presiding officer acted as both judge and prosecutor, I decided to investigate the covenant lawsuit, also known as the prophetic lawsuit, where Yahweh acts as both judge and prosecutor. Usually the face saving solution, adopted to avoid the ugly consequences of an appeal, is the entry of a verdict having no consequences, such as guilty with probation.

The various examples of the covenant lawsuits identified in the Prophets are based on the form of the ancient Hittite treaty lawsuit. Although Mendenhall was the first to note the Hittite treaty/Sinai Covenant parallels, he minimized the importance of the suzerainty treaty for Israel. Julien Harvey argued that the formal setting of the covenant lawsuit is found in international law, in an action for breach of treaty between a lord and a vassal. Huffmon noted a resemblance between the saving acts of Yahweh recited in the covenant lawsuits and the gracious acts of the suzerain toward his vassal in the historical prologues of the international treaties. Renaud observed that the wronged suzerain played the roles of plaintiff, accuser and judge much in the same manner as shown in the covenant lawsuits of Yahweh. In the Hittite proceedings, one or more messengers would be sent to the vassal breaching the treaty attempting to warn the violator by announcing the consequences of default.

Kirsten Nielsen suggested in Yahweh as Prosecutor and Judge (1978) that the essence of the covenant lawsuist is in these four elements: the calling of witnesses, the lodging of an accusation, the consideration of a defense, and the issuance of a judgment. The initial comparisons were made by Mendenhall between the Hittite treaty lawsuit and Deuteronomy. In fact, some have even suggested that Deuteronomy is based upon the structure of a Hittite form of suzerainty treaty. This treaty type was not used after 1200 BCE. It is apparent that the comparison is also valid as to the covenant lawsuits in Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah.

The prophets were messengers of Yahweh to the people who have breached the covenant with Yahweh. The prophets also announced the consequences of default. The messenger theme carried over to the new covenant announced by Jeremiah and proclaimed by John the Baptist and the Prophet like Moses who followed him telling parables about the Good Samaritan and the Wicked Tenants.

In the covenant lawsuits, unlike the experiences of my clients, the consequences are real and devastating. Micah was the first prophet to foresee Jerusalem's destruction as a punishment for the city's sins against the Lord. “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.” These prophecies were fulfilled by the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in about 586 BCE.

Copyrighted 2007

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Entrance Liturgy

The Temple is the sanctuary of God. A song was probably sung at the threshold of the Temple as the entrance liturgy. Psalms 15-24 may represent the psalms that constituted the entrance liturgy, arranged in chiastic fashion with Psalms 19 and 24 as the two bookends.

Entrance liturgy terminology is also used in discussing the conditions for access into the sanctuary. This question is addressed to the priest who has responsibility in such cultic matters (Isaiah 33:14; Psalms 15:1; 24:3). The priestly response informs the people of the requirements of Yahweh for access (Isa. 33”15-16; Pss. 15:2-5; 24:4-5).

Understanding that entrance liturgy is really about who can enter through the “gates of righteousness” may assist our interpretation of difficult passages. Last week, Pope Benedict reminded us that the debate about entrance requirements continues. The papal proclamation was both a distraction and the source of insight.

The Book of Micah is also about entrance requirements.

Copyrighted 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

Who appointed the Judges in 2nd Temple Judaism?

Who appointed the unjust judge appearing in Luke 18:1-8?

Both Micah and Jesus criticized the judges. I am asking this question because I saw this on


You Shall Appoint Judges: Ezra’s Mission and the Rescript of Artaxerxes, in J. W. Watts, Persia and Torah: The Theory of Imperial Authorization of the Pentateuch, SBL Symposium Series (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2001): 63-89.

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 suspect that the HP and the temple establishment appointed the judges but I am only guessing.

Copyrighted 2007

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Miriam according to Micah

Miriam was their equal. Miriam is the first woman in Hebrew scripture described as a prophetess. According to
, “Micah’s statement reflects an ancient tradition that affirms that Miriam had a very significant leadership role in early Israelite history, a role that in later writing was downgraded partly in order to promote Moses as the prominent leader of Israel.”

Perhaps, Luke’s favorable view of women was influenced by Micah and Miriam.

Copyrighted 2007

Friday, July 06, 2007

the great one

Although the Prophet Micah condemned the entire establishment, in Micah 7:3 he directed his accusation to an individual designated “the great one utters the evil desire of the soul.” The cultic setting and the concerns regarding conditional access into the sanctuary expressed in the defense to the covenant lawsuit strongly suggest to me that “the great one” is the head of the temple establishment.

It is more likely that Luke used the Book of Micah as a model and source if this Book was directed to a person in charge of the temple establishment. Recall that this author believes that most excellent Theophilus was the High Priest and head of the temple establishment from 37 to 41 C.E. Thus the Book of Micah by Micah, prophet of the poor and oppressed and critic of the establishment could have influenced Luke in the presentation of material addressed to Theophilus the High Priest. Admittedly, Micah may merely be another source utilized by Luke because of its sacerdotal concerns.

In Weeping Jesus it was noted that the bold you in Luke 19:44 is in the singular suggesting that a portion of the verse, “because you did not know the time of your visitation," was directed to most excellent Theophilus, the addressee of the Gospel of Luke. “The great one” of Micah MT is emphatically singular. The “your” as in “your watchmen, your visitation” in Micah 7:4 is masculine singular apparently addressed to “the great one.”

Of additional interest, Micah MT 7:4 includes the Hebrew words for visitation and also perplexity. The Micah LXX does not include either the Greek words for visitation or perplexity, the reason for which is unclear. It may mean that Luke had access to the MT since ἀπορίᾳ is a Lucan hapax (perplexity; Lk 21:25) and ἐπισκοπή appears once each in Luke, Acts, 1 Timothy and 1 Peter but frequently in the LXX.

Jesus, as an astute Jewish prophet and Luke as a sophisticated theological writer, purposefully relied on ancient biblical texts. The question we address in this instance is which texts: MT or LXX and which book in the MT or LXX?

Copyrighted 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

Weeping Jesus

It is not surprising that Luke recorded that Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. Jesus wept "because you did not know the time of your visitation." Micah, prophet of the poor and the oppressed, wept because "the day of your watchmen, of your visitation has come . . . ." What is surprising is that Matthew, Mark and John did not record this event. Matthew, Mark and John did not appreciate that the radical act of ritual mourning by Micah and weeping by Jesus and then by Jerusalem is part of the prophetic symbolic act that filled the act with the requisite doleful pathos.

The judgments threaten by the prophets are conditional; if sinners repent they will be saved. This is the teaching of Jeremiah and Jonah. Micah concludes his book by telling us that Yahweh, as a faithful covenant seeker, will cleanse his unfaithful partner by hurling their iniquities into the depths of the sea if they repent and return to Him.

Herod Antipas was perplexed. Lack of understanding is a theme resonating throughout the Gospel of Luke. This lack of understanding is strongly expressed in words never previously properly elucidated: “and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring sea and waves.” According to the Prophet Micah, the role of “the depths of the sea” is to be the repository for the iniquities of the people to be hurled into it. In Luke, “the roaring sea and waves” is impatiently waiting to become the repository of the iniquities of the people. In the OT, Yahweh disposes of all the iniquities of the people who repent and return to Him. Thus both Micah and Luke are describing God's forgiveness of his people's sins by the metaphor of his subduing the Egyptian army at the Red Sea.

The nations in their distress did not understand. Jesus told the women of Jerusalem who bewailed and lamented him, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but for yourselves and for your children.” Micah told the Daughter of Zion to weep.

Copyrighted 2007