Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Days of their purification

Bock states that “The better-attested text reads the plural (auton, their), which relates the purification to both Mary and Joseph, . . .” At the end of this paragraph, Bock asks the question: “How could the purification be associated with both, when only the woman needs the purification?”

Exegetically the plural pronoun “their” creates a problem.The law for purification after childbirth only applies to the woman. Therefore some manuscripts change “their” to “her.” However, as noted by Bock, some scholars believe that if Joseph participated in the delivery of the child, he is also unclean for forty days.

Part of Luke's message is that new rules of purity are concerned more about one's relationship to God and less concerned by rules such as the 40 day period observed following birth. My proposal, set forth in the preceding article, resolves a translation problem in Luke 2:22. Scholars did not appreciate why Luke wrote “their purification” but if you recognize the possibility that Yom Kippur is in view, then “their purification” refers both to the purification of Yom Kippur and the purification rules observed following birth and correctly includes both Mary and Joseph.

Thus Luke is exegetically correct but on Yom Kippur he reaffirms the angelic proclamation of the birth of “a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” by having Simeon inform the parents “mine eyes have seen thy salvation” and Anna “spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” This reaffirmation is appropriately announced on Yom Kippur.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Date of the birth of Jesus according to Luke

The ministry of John the Baptist began, according to Luke in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. The imperial rule of Tiberius Caesar began on the 19th day of August, 14 C.E. when Caesar Augustus died. 14 + 15 equals 29 C.E. Scholars have suggested a number of explanations to justify an earlier beginning date so that they can maintain the three year ministry of Jesus began when he was about thirty years of age and ended on the cross in 30 C.E. These explanations are not supported by the text or by the evidence.

At this time of the year I usually wonder about when Jesus was born. Ernest Martin says on the Day of Triumphs, Rosh Hoshanna; but I think Luke says 40 days before Yom Kippur. Luke dates the birth of Jesus in late September early October. He tells us that Mary came to the Temple on the 40th day after the birth of Jesus. Anna is fasting which is appropriate for Yom Kippur and perhaps even for the forty days before.

Yom Kippur is sometimes referred to as the day of fast or simply νηστεα . Luke uses this Greek word in Acts 27:9 for Yom Kippur using it as a chronological reference point to indicate that travel past this point in the year was dangerous. Luke’s casual usage is also an indication that Luke and his audience consider the Fast as part of their religious experience because they observed it. Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra has stated in The Impact of Yom Kippur on Early Christianity that “In the late Second Temple period, νηστεα had become the most common Greek name for Yom Kippur.”[1]

The theme of prayer being common in Luke-Acts has distracted our attention from the possibility that Anna fasting is a significant date marker.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2008

[1] The author also notes that Yom Kippur appears in Lev. 23:27; 25:9 and Isa. 1:13-14 LXX as “day of atonement.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In Jesus’ Name

The prayer began and ended with these words: I Jesu namn.

I Jesu namn

till bords vi ga

valsigna Gud den mat vi fa.

Gud till ara, oss till gagn

sa fa vi mat

i Jesu namn.

In Jesus' name

to the table we go

God bless the food we receive.

To God the honor, to us the gain.

So we receive food

in Jesus' name.

This Swedish prayer recited at our meals for many years has lost its meaning to descendents who no longer speak the native tongue of their ancestors. The prayer that had so much meaning to me for many years is meaningless to my children and has become meaningless to me because I no longer recite it at our meals.

In reading Acts, I recognized that the powerful introductory words of my Swedish prayer are an important part of the message that the early church proclaimed. The commission the apostles received required them to proclaim repentance and forgiveness in Jesus’ name. Jesus has received new authority that makes his name a powerful source of benefits. These benefits include healing (Acts 3:6, 16; 4:7, 10, 30), and through baptism in Jesus’ name the people will also receive release of sins and “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38).

Copyrighted 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bless his holy name forever

We listen for the Word in the words of the prophets but sometimes we hear and read the Word in strange places. Yesterday, on Santa Lucia Day, I read these words form the Book of Tobit at the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition at the Jewish Museum in NYC: “they will bless his holy name forever.” The Septuagint version reads: “And the blessed will bless his holy name forever and ever.”

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Date of the Crucifixion according to Luke

According to Luke, the crucifixion of Jesus occurred on Friday, 3 April, 33 C.E. This date was first proposed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1733.

Peter gives a speech on the day on Pentecost containing an important statement about an event that had happened seven weeks earlier. Peter said that the prophecy of Joel had been fulfilled in that the sun “turned into darkness and the moon into blood.”

As noted by Humphreys and Waddington (1983), the phrase “turned to blood” has been used to describe lunar eclipses since the third century BCE. Furthermore, Humphreys and Waddington have also established, astronomically and by calendar studies, that the only lunar eclipse visible in

Jerusalem on Friday, April 3rd, 33 CE. Humphreys (1990) later demonstrated that Schaeffer’s conclusion that the eclipse could not be seen from Jerusalem was not accurate.

Soards wrote that “The quotation from Joel is freely cited version of the Septuagint tailored to fit the act of Christian proclamation at Pentecost.” According to Munck, “the quotation from Joel 2:28-31 is a free rendering and exists in different versions in the Western and Neutral texts.” Hemer stated “The text of the quotation from Joel agrees in B almost exactly with the LXX, where D has its form apparently adapted to the present occasion.”

Recently I attempted to learn a little about discourse analysis. Steven E. Runge discussed the Joel quotation and the text-critical implications of some of the variations from the LXX in a recent SBL paper. He concluded “the variations evince a consistent attempt to provide grammatical clarity in the message communicated.” Runge stated earlier with respect to the outpouring of the Spirit that “the temporal frames recast the promise for a generic later time into a specifically eschatological one.”

Although Runge does not so state, it is clear that the crowd on the day of Pentecost would undoubtedly understand Peter’s words, the moon turning to blood, as referring to this eclipse which they had seen on the day of the crucifixion.

Steven E. Runge, Joel 2:28-32a in Acts 2:17-21 and Steven E. Runge’s blog, NT Discourse

Copyrighted 2008