Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Exclusion Rules in Qumran and the Response of the Lucan Jesus

Jesus shared a world view that spiritual beings existed which can interact with human beings. The evil spiritual beings do harm to human beings and also lead them into disobedience to God. Jesus accepted the belief in the existence of disobedient evil spiritual beings that were under the control of Satan. Jesus believed that this control will end at the time of eschatological salvation.

Judaism believed in the eschatological idea of a period of tribulation which would occur before the arrival of the messiah. Birth pangs and labor pains signal destruction in sight with new beginnings promised from the ruins of that destruction. According to the War Scroll the final age was to be preceded by a period of tribulation or “birth pangs [of the Messiah]” (1QH 3:7-10), which “shall be a time of salvation for the People of God ...” (1QM 1)(B.C.E.). (See also Matt. 24:8; Mk. 13:8).

This view is expressed by Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14 in these words: “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Ico'nium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Paul, as indicated in the above quotation and in 1 Th. 5:3, Matthew and Mark all believed that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” represented by the birth-pangs of a new beginning. In Schweitzer's view, believers will enter the kingdom of God without experiencing the tribulation, because Jesus by dying on the cross spared his followers from having to suffer the tribulation. Only Luke recognized this victory.

The Qumran sectarian writings anticipate this eschatological defeat and destruction. However, the community believed it was necessary in the interim period to enforce strict exclusionary rules. These evil spiritual beings were believed to be the root cause of illness and physical disability and deformity. Judaism believed that those persons who have committed sins become susceptible to evil spiritual beings.

The expanded exclusion lists compiled by the community of unacceptable blemishes, including but not limited to the blind, lame, dumb, simple minded, the possessed, the alien, mamzer, proselyte and eunuch can be found in the Damascus Document, the Rules of the Congregation and the War Scroll. These lists are based upon Leviticus 21:17-23 which enumerates physical defects that make persons ineligible to serve in the Temple. The Qumran community using “you shall be to me a kingdom of priests” from Exodus 19:6 constituted itself to be a kingdom of priests. The community believed that the exclusion rules provided a kind of protection and combat against evil spiritual beings.

The Lucan Jesus came healing people with blemishes and preaching the good news that proclaimed everyone who repented could be included in the community of the believers and followers of Jesus. In Acts, Peter and Philip demonstrate that the good news includes the man lame from birth lying outside the gate of the Temple, the eunuch and Cornelius, the God-fearer. Only in Luke is the Devil defeated.

The testing in the wilderness was the first confrontation with Satan. Only Luke emphasized that it is simultaneously a confrontation between the Holy Spirit and Satan. Luke alone mentions that Jesus returned to Galilee “in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Luke also records a number of incidents involving the healing and the casting out of demons. In Luke 11:20, Jesus uses the phrase, “the finger of God.” Woods explains the Jewish meaning of “the finger of God” in these words: “Behind the Beelzebub periscope, (Lk. 11:14-26), remains the issue of whether Jesus is a ‘true or false prophet.’ The true test is found at Deut. 13:1-5. It is not an issue of ‘signs or wonders’ being performed, for Jesus’ exorcisms were not denied. The true test was a theological one. It related to the revelation of God at the Exodus. Against this background, Jesus’ reference to the ‘finger of God’ because it also answered the charge of Deut. 13:1-5 by stating that his exorcisms were performed by none other than the God of the Exodus. This established him as the true prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22), mighty in word and deed (Lk. 24:19; Acts 7:22). At this point Luke engages a pesher ‘This is that’ argument before a Jewish audience. Such an audience would have regarded God as the true author of miracle (Acts 2:22), in a typical Jewish fashion."

The remark of the Lucan Jesus that he saw Satan “fall like lightning from the sky” is another example of the victory motif wherein Satan is thrown down from his position of control. This appears to be an allusion to Isaiah 14:1-27 that tells the story of fall of the mighty king of Babylon and the defeat of Assyria that precedes the restoration of Israel. In his second book, Luke demonstrated that the disciples could defeat Simon Magnus, Bar Jesus and the Seven Sons of Sceva, all further examples of the victory motif.

In reading the Passion as recorded in the synoptic gospels, one can not help but notice that Satan has disappeared from Matthew and Mark. Luke tells us: “Then Satan entered into Judas” and then Judas met with the chief priests and agreed to betray Jesus. Satan is the chief instigator in Luke but has no role in Matthew and Mark. Satan is also mentioned in the Lucan scene where Peter’s denial is predicted. The last mention of Satan in Matthew and Mark is the Confession at Caesarea Philippi. Not only is Satan missing in the Lucan version, so is the name of the location of the place where Peter makes his confession.

What is the role of Satan in Luke and why is Satan more prominent in Luke than Matthew and Mark? Perhaps, Luke makes Satan more prominent so that the Demise of the Devil is more significant.

The Lucan Paul explained that it was his mission to persuade Gentiles to “to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Although Paul acknowledged the power and presence of Satan in Romans 16:20, 1 Cor. 5:5, 7:5; 2 Cor. 11, 11:14 and 12:7, and Luke has an extensive and thematic treatment of Satan in his writings, Matthew and Mark in their rewriting of the Passion story, wrote Satan out of the script. Neyrey states: “The conflict between Satan and Jesus, the apostles and the Church is of major importance for Christians, for it stresses the cosmic significance and radical importance of Jesus’ work.” Jesus proclaimed the ruin of Satan in these words unique to Luke: “I saw Satan fall like lightening.”

In the next chapter, the Lucan Jesus told the parable of the strong man to explain what is meant by the fall of Satan. Many in the audience believed the parable referred to “that fox”, Herod Antipas.

Herod Antipas was one of many people who speculated about the true identity of Jesus and whether or not he was the Prophet Elijah who had returned. The Prophet Elijah was the subject matter of considerable speculation appearing in many texts of ancient Judaism including Malachi, Sirach and 4th Ezra to name a few.

Recorded history saves memorable impressions of prophetic religious leaders speaking to the centers of power against the king's excesses and religious practices that had gone awry. These events were worth recording. The Herod Antipas made a point of seeing Jesus much like Babylonian King made a point of seeing Jeremiah. There must be a fascination about men like Micah, Jeremiah and Jesus speaking to the centers of power that attract men to them like the Hezekiah, Sennacherib and Herod Antipas.

Jesus tells the Parable of the Strong Man. It is generally agreed by the commentators that the message of the parable is that “The absence of positive attachment to Christ involves hostility to Him.” None of the commentators have suggested that the background to this parable may be one of the Dead Sea Scroll documents.

In the Apocryphon of Elijah (4Q382), Elijah is said to be returning as the Man of Might to conquer the powers of the nations. The return of Elijah was a concept that the people, who went out into the desert, strongly attached to the missions of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth. Each was seen as a threat. Both were executed to eliminate the threat. The nature of the threat may have been based upon the perception that John the Baptist and Jesus were both perceived as Elijah returning as the Man of Might to conquer the powers of the nations.

With this background, one can better understand how Jesus could tell a parable depicting himself as the Man of Might and therefore “the stronger one” predicted by John the Baptist who was able to overcome the strong man.

The Parable of the Strong Man answered the question that Herod Antipas asked: “‘John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?’ And he sought to see him.” Luke also recorded: “When Herod [Antipas] saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him.”

Herod Antipas was perplexed. Lack of understanding is a theme resonating throughout the Gospel of Luke. Herod Antipas was also a strong man. He was the son of Herod the Great and became tetrarch of Galilee on the death of his father.

We can now offer an explanation of the enigmatic verse in Luke 23:12 which states: “And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.” Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate apparently agreed that it would be better for them if Jesus were crucified so that the threat to national security would be removed. Little did they realize that their decision made it possible for the stronger man to conquer death and proclaim the feast of victory for all. The final irony needs to be stated: The so-called strong man was eaten by worms.

Luke tells us that Philip used the passage from Isaiah 53:7-8 LXX that the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading as the starting point of the good news of the suffering Jesus as the Isaianic suffering servant of Isaiah 53 LXX. Philip’s explanation probably included the story from the 24th chapter, where Luke tells us that Jesus began with Moses and the prophets to explain to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus the things about himself, especially that “the Christ should suffer these things and enter his glory.”

Margaret Barker has noted that “There is nothing in the MT of the prophets which describes a suffering Messiah who sees the glory of God, so the story in Luke presupposes the Qumran version of Isaiah.” Barker had earlier stated that “The Qumran Isaiah describes an anointed one who has been transfigured, suffers, and then sees the light, presumably of the Glory of God.”

It is no wonder that early Christian theology saw in the symbolism of the cross the expression of glory, irresistible power and divine efficacy. The victory motif was held in high esteem in the early church.

In 1930, the Swedish theologian, Gustaf Aulen wrote Christus Victor wherein he noted the importance of a Divine conflict in which Christ “fights against and triumphs over evil powers of the world, the tyrants under which mankind is in bondage and suffering, and in Him God reconciles the world to Himself.” Aulen states that this emphasis on the victory over all enemies, Christ and ours, in death and resurrection, which he calls the classic theory of atonement, dominated the thinking of most early Christian writers. Leon Morris, writing in 1965, indicated that Aulen recently asserted that “The paying of penalty, the offering of sacrifice, and the rest (ransom) are discarded. Victory is all that matters.”

In the economy of salvation, marketing the brand is important. This is as true today as it was in the first century of Christianity. We know that the victory model of salvation was widely used successfully in early Christianity. This is probably because both Jews and Greeks knew a world dominated by hostile powers. The resurrection is the trophy of victory in this theme. It is an integral part of the defeat of death. Salvation by divine victory over the adversary is a Lucan theme with deep scriptural roots.

Soteriological themes are linked with Christological terms. This soteriological idea of victory would work best with the savior who is God in person, but the firm monotheism of the first followers of Jesus would find such a figure impossible to incorporate into the theme. The paradigm shift did not take place overnight. Initially the followers of Jesus presented the idea in a typically Jewish fashion. In discussing the “finger of God” it was noted that Luke engaged a pesher “This is that” argument before a Jewish audience. Such an audience would have regarded God as the true author of miracle (Acts 2:22), in a typical Jewish fashion. Luke, in the same fashion, stated that “God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

Andrew Criddle, posting at Hypotyposeis, noted that the earliest Christian artwork was not the depiction of a suffering Christ on the cross but a Christ victorious on the cross. Criddle, writing at another site, wrote: “Early representations of the crucifixion are generally of the Christus Victor type with little indication of suffering and death and with Christ almost 'reigning from the cross'. Later the Christus Patiens type becomes prominent with the suffering and death of the crucified savior made more prominent. This later develops particularly in the Western tradition after 1000 CE into images emphasizing the pathos of the crucifixion and designed to encourage meditation on Christ's suffering.”

In Acts 10:36-38 we read: “You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), the word which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Why does Peter mention “preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ”? Luke uses the Greek word ερνη for peace more times in Luke-Acts than any other NT writer.

Dunn has indicated “the language [of verse 36] is clearly built round or two deliberate scriptural allusions.” Dunn mentions Psalm 107:20 which has “he sent out his word and healed them” and Isaiah 52:7 “those who preach peace.” Dunn also indicates that “Psalm 107:20 is echoed again in 13:26 and Isa. 52:7 is cited in Romans 10:15 as part of a catena of texts.” It is important to note that in verse 36 Peter proclaims the word was sent to Israel but Peter clarified his explanation to Cornelius by adding that Jesus Christ “is Lord of all.” Thus, in the words of Soards, “the universality of God’s work and Jesus’ lordship are emphasized.” Turner has established that there are linguistic parallels between Acts 10:35-38 and the Nazareth pericope in Luke 4. The statement in verse 38 that Jesus was “anointed” is an explicit allusion to Luke 4:16.

In Romans 10:15 we read: “And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!’” There is no question that Paul is alluding to Isaiah 52:7 which reads: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” Is Paul also alluding to Luke-Acts?

What message about the gospel of peace did Peter impart to Cornelius? The most comforting part about the gospel of peace that Peter preached to Cornelius was that Cornelius was also a member of the people of God.

Schweitzer recognized that the need for repentance and its related requirements are very important to Jesus. In fact, the Lord’s Prayer in the Petition that says “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” seems to place emphasis on this so much that Schweitzer said “Even if the Servant passages suggest it, Jesus cannot regard his death as a sacrifice necessary for the forgiveness of sins. His view of the unconditional forgiveness that comes from God’s compassion precludes it.”

This petition of the Lord's Prayer is a demanding one. Not only do we ask God's forgiveness for our daily offenses, but we link God's forgiveness of us with our forgiveness of others. Forgiving others is not always easy to do. We need God's help to do it. But it must be done or we ourselves cannot receive God's mercy. There is no indication according to Schweitzer that Jesus changed this.

The pervasive call to repentance of the Lucan Jesus has economic and political consequences. The Lucan Jesus rejects the false peace gained through war and violence as exemplified by Roman imperial might, Maccabean zealotry, Hasmonean dynasty and Herodian kingdom. Peace and justice is established not by violence but by the transforming understanding of the real meaning of peace. This transforming understanding is provided by the Lucan Messiah of Peace.

Although Luke states that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to David, he qualifies this by presenting the Lucan Jesus’ humble royalty. At the birth of Jesus, the chorus of angels are singing peace and when Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey the chorus is singing “Blessed is the king that cometh in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” This was a different kind of victory procession. A humble king riding on a donkey with an army carrying psalms is not a threat to Pax Romana.

“And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.’”

They did not understand the ministry of peace nor did they understand that “God bestows salvation on the people in the form of peace.”

Especially important to the understanding of the ministry of the Lucan Jesus, according to Tannehill, “is a group of texts in Isaiah which lists in series some of the same disabilities as in Luke 7:22 and proclaims they will be removed.” The preaching of the good news of God’s reign (Lk. 16:16) is presented as the beginning of a new age where the healings and exorcisms of Jesus represent the “release of prisoners” from the bondage of evil spiritual beings. The mighty acts of Jesus represent God’s visitation which is associated with redemption and salvation. In Luke, the list of those who are unexpectedly invited to the banquet is similar to the list of those healed in Lk. 7:22. It is the arrival of the ministry of Jesus, which is continued by the apostles, which brings salvation.

Only in the writings of Luke are the themes of peace, repentance, exclusion, the existence of evil spiritual beings and the defeat of Satan are presented as integral parts of the gospel message to all people with blemishes of the victory in death and resurrection over all enemies. The victory announced in the writings of Luke later became a pyrrhic victory.

This is a nine page snapshot of a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2009


Blogger Philip G said...

I enjoyed reading your article. I have been reading some of the 'forgiveness' texts in Luke 5 and Luke 7. I wondered about the emphasis on the violent reactions of the Pharisees/rabbis and thought that Jesus' teaching of forgiveness was challenging and undermining the temple-centric cultic traditions. I noted the references to forgiveness in prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. I wondered how important concepts of forgiveness were as an eschatological symbol of the new covenant kingdom in Qumran texts and in searching for information I stumbled upon your blog. I see you have commented on how radical the Lord's prayer is in its call to forgiveness a symbol of membership of the new covenant community. 'Forgive them for they know not what they do' must be the ultimate victory anthem of love over hate. I would love to read more about your investigation of the Qumran texts and the book of Enoch.

5:23 PM


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