Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Mystery of Jesus Revealed

Josephus was also aware that because of the corruption of the priesthood[i] many believed that in the future an ideal faithful priest would reign. This belief was based in part upon the prophecy contained in 1 Samuel 2:35, where God promises to bring Eli’s “house” down and raise up a faithful priest, for whom he will build a “sure house” (2.35).[ii] Josephus rewrote this prophecy to state that “the sons of Eli shall die on one day, and the priesthood shall be transferred into the family of Eleazar.”[iii]

Did Josephus obscure the reference to the High Priest he identified as “Jesus, son of Sie” because he knew “Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man” was born during the high priesthood of Jesus, son of Sie?

Jesus was born approximately 4 BCE – 6 CE, the exact date is not important, only the time frame is, when Jesus, son of Sie, was serving as High Priest. The first hint that Jesus is the new eschatological HP is his name which is given to him, not in accordance with Jewish custom but given to him, by the Archangel Gabriel, during the period of time when Jesus, son of Sie, is serving as the HP. It is unlikely that Luke knew the name of the High Priest or attached any significance. Most Excellent Theophilus knew.

At the age of twelve, Jesus is in the Temple answering the questions of the elders. Luke states: “all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers (Lk 2:47).” One can say with absolute certainty that the news of this most unusual teaching session reached the ears of the man serving as the High Priest at that time. His name was Ananus and he served as High Priest from 6-15 CE.

Luke 2:40 and 2:52 act as bookends for this pericope: “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” These statements are reminiscent of 1 Samuel 2.21; 2.26; 3.19: “And the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord.” “Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men.” “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.”

Lee Dahn has suggested that these bookend statements in Luke 2 and “The numerous metaphorical references to ‘house’ in Jesus’ teaching likewise find commonality with the story of 1 Samuel 2-3, where God promises to bring Eli’s ‘house’ down and raise up a faithful priest, for whom he will build a “sure house” (2.35). Dahn has further suggested that Luke by his Jesus in the Temple story at the age of twelve, with its allusion to 1 Sam. 2-3, has introduced as a background literary theme “the issue of the unfaithful and disobedient priests.”

As noted earlier, the account of Josephus for this time period is not clear. Josephus may have created the confusion in his account so that no one would suggest that Jesus was born in the time period when Jesus, son of Sie, was serving as the High Priest.[iv] However Mason was not confused. He stated that Jesus, son of Sie served as High Priest until AD 6 citing Ant 17.341.[v]

It is obvious that Josephus deliberately obscured the records because a word search for “Jesus” in Josephus reveals two entries in close proximity both of which are mentioned in this article: one about the appointment of Jesus, son of Sie, as High Priest and the second about Jesus, a wise man. By the time Josephus wrote his Antiquities of the Jews, he is aware that the followers of Jesus have proclaimed Jesus to be that “ideal faithful priest.”

This two part article is a work in progress. Additional footnotes need to be created.

Copyrighted 2009. All rights reserved.

[i] See for examples the following material which was well known to Josephus: T. Mos. 10:1 (where the existing priesthood is corrupt - 5:4; 6:1-3, cf. 7:3); Qumran community (for whom the Jerusalem priesthood is corrupt and the true priesthood is already in place (lQSb, 4Q400-405)); the so-called Fourth Philosophy (that is led, in part, by the Pharisaic priest Zadok as an alternative for the nation's priesthood over against the high priest of Roman choice, Joazar son of Boethus (Josephus Ant. 182-4)).

[ii] Luke considered the echo in his gospel of this prophecy to be important: see Acts 3:22-26.

[iii] Ant. 5.10.4.

[iv] Ant. 17.13.1 to Ant. 18.1.1.

[v] Josephus and the NT, 127.


Blogger Unknown said...

Deep stuff. So your point is Josephus didn't want people to confuse Jesus the Christ with Jesus Son of Sie?

Reminds me of a South American pastor once who said he always prayed in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. There are lots of people named Jesus in hispanic culture, and he said he wanted the devil to know exactly Who he was talking about. Heh.


1:57 PM

Blogger Philip G said...

Thank you again for a very thought provoking blog. I have just been studying the pericope relating to Gabriel's appearance to Zechariah and was struck with the obvious parallels with I Sam 1 and 2. Hannah's song of praise is also a template of sorts for the songs of Elizabeth and Mary. Hannah - passionate in prayer - dedicated Samuel to God
and thereby rescued Israel from corruption in the high priestly family and was ultimately used by God to enact the anointing of King David.
Do you think that Luke was emphasizing that a righteous and prayerful Jew (Zechariah) was chosen to be an agent in God's plan to purify and reform the temple?

I wasn't familiar with Josephus' reference to Jesus Son of Sie and I'm not sure I 'get' the relevance. I seem to remember Ben Witherington did say that from his study of Jewish ossuaries Jesus was not an uncommon name.

5:51 PM


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