Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Book of Zechariah and the Passion Narratives

It is difficult to do research to write a short piece because that research invariably provide new leads and ideas for yet other short pieces making for was intended to be an easy assignments harder to complete. The research on priority has uncovered considerable material that has not previously been considered in this context. For this reason, my recent article, Matthew misread the Book of Zechariah, was a difficult article to write. I finally decided to prepare a separate article on the contributions and the significance of the Book of Zechariah on the Passion Narratives of the four gospels.

We begin with the most famous passage from Zechariah 9:9 which Matthew and John quote and to which Mark and Luke allude. The fact that Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem on a colt was probably understood as a fulfillment of Zechariah even in the absence of a quotation.

The next quotation appears in Matthew when he tells us that “they weighed out for him thirty pieces of silver” (Matt. 16:15). In Zechariah 11:12, the prophet tells us that when he asked to be paid for the services he had rendered as “shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter”, his employers “weighed out” as his wages “thirty shekels of silver.” Matthew is the only one to specify the sum of money which Judas was promised by the chief priests for his undertaking to betray Jesus to them.

After a busy week “teaching in the Temple to all the people” Jesus and his disciples celebrate the Passover meal. At the conclusion of the Passover meal, Matthew and Mark both include the following but not Luke:

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of me this night; for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” Matthew and Mark both quote the Zechariah 13:7 MT.

The last of the direct quotations appears in John’s passion narrative. Just before sundown on Good Friday, the soldiers broke the legs of the two men who were crucified on either side of Jesus, before removing their bodies but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear. John quotes scripture: “Not a bone of him shall be broken”. Another passage says, “They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (John 19: 33-37). The quotation from Exodus 12:46 designate Jesus out as the true Passover Lamb. The latter comes from Zechariah 12:10, where, after the defeat of the nations who take part in the end-time siege of Jerusalem, Yahweh says:

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.

“These direct quotations distributed among three of the Evangelists” demonstrate Zechariah 9-14 was one of the “primary sources of testimonies” used by the early followers of Jesus. More importantly for our purposes, they demonstrate some of the additions made to the Lucan passion narrative by Matthew, Mark and John.

Copyrighted © 2011.

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